Tag Archives: AfD

The Orbán government’s international conference on the future of Europe, with Milo Yiannopoulos

Yesterday the Hungarian media got wind of an international conference on The Future of Europe, to be held between January 23 and 25, 2018 in Budapest’s Castle Garden Bazaar. The conference is heralded as “an outstanding cultural and scientific event of the V4 Hungarian Presidency” and is being funded by the Hungarian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade. Századvég, the Fidesz think tank, and V4 Connects, the fancy name for the Hungarian presidency of the Visegrád Four, are “partners,” while the organizer of the affair is a foundation created during the first Orbán government under the watchful eye of Mária Schmidt, who still serves on its five-member board.

According to the conference’s webpage, it “represents an extraordinary opportunity to analyze the full array of political and cultural processes as well as to put our identity-creating cultural values in the limelight.” The conference is advertised as a gathering of leading politicians, renowned professors and well-known public figures [who] will share their views with each other and with the audience of visitors.”

There will be panel discussions on topics like the “cultural war for body and soul” of Europe, or, to put it another way, “shall we, out of cultural guilt or simple calculation, sacrifice Christianity, freedom and our way of life?” As for geopolitical challenges, the invited guests will discuss such issues as the nature of a European army. The question is whether this army “should consist of soldiers or machines and algorithms.” They will touch upon digitalization, which tomorrow “may radically transform humanity’s own identity or even our physical existence.” Finally, emphasis will be placed on the Visegrád Four as “the engine of Europe’s economy” and what opportunities the emerging giants of the world economy–China, India, Indonesia–offer the Visegrád nations. “Will our region be able to jump several stairs at once and make Europe become a leading force in the future world economy?”

When it comes to “the gathering of leading politicians, renowned professors and well-known public figures,” the keynote speaker on the opening day of the conference will be Milo Yiannopoulos, described as a political commentator, publisher, blogger, journalist, and the author of Challenges of the Western World. The next day Frank Füredi, author, commentator, and sociologist, will deliver a lecture on “Populism and the European Culture Wars.” In the afternoon, Götz Kubitschek, described as a publisher, publicist, and philosopher from Germany, will conduct a panel discussion on “migration, resettlement and the future of Europe.” The closing presentation, still untitled, will be given by Pascal Bruckner, a French philosopher and author of a book on France and Islam. The last day will be given over to such luminaries as Péter Szijjártó, who will deliver a speech, most likely on Europe’s geopolitical challenges, and Tamás Deutsch, who will inquire whether “artificial intelligence is our future.” Closing remarks will be delivered by Sándor Csányi, the president of OTP, Hungary’s largest bank, and the richest man in the country.

Who are these people? Let’s start with the lesser-known characters. Götz Kubitschek is a right-wing activist who espouses ethnocentric positions and is one of the most important protagonists of the Neue Rechte. Apparently, he was instrumental in the consolidation of the German branch of the Identitarian movement, commonly viewed as far right. He has been a frequent speaker at PEGIDA rallies in Saxony. He is also close to the Alternative for Germany (AfD) party.

Frank Füredi, as his name indicates, is of Hungarian origin. With his parents he arrived in Canada as a refugee after the Hungarian revolution of 1956. He has been living in the United Kingdom since 1969. In the 1970s he became involved in left-wing politics and was the founder and leader of the Revolutionary Communist Party. Nowadays, however, he shows quite a bit of sympathy for populist ideas. I suspect that he was invited to this conference because only a few months ago he published a new book titled Populism and the European Culture Wars, which “argues that the current outburst of anti-populist anxiety is symptomatic of a loss of faith in democracy and in the ability of the demos to assume the role of responsible citizens.” Even more importantly, the book focuses “on the conflict between the European Union’s Commission and the Government of Hungary” and “explores contrasting attitudes towards national sovereignty, popular sovereignty and the question of tradition and the past as the main drivers of the culture wars in Europe.”

Pascal Bruckner was most likely chosen because of his ideas on Islam and the white race, about which he wrote in La Tyrannie de la pénitence. His general criticism of Islam kindled an international debate about ten years ago when he wrote a polemical article titled “Enlightenment fundamentalism or racism of the anti-racists?” In it he talked about an “enlightened elite who deny the benefits of democratic rights to the rest of humanity.” This is an idea that fits in very nicely with the Fidesz ideologues’ hatred of the liberal elite.

Of course, the most controversial character among the invitees is Milo Yiannopoulos, a former senior editor of Breitbart News. He is a critic of feminism, Islam, social justice, and political correctness. He is often described as a member of the alt-right movement, a label he rejects. But in October 2017 leaked emails revealed that he had repeatedly solicited neo-Nazi and white supremacist characters for feedback and story ideas for his work at Breitbart. The same emails also revealed that some of his Breitbart articles were ghost written. His book, which was supposed be published by Simon & Schuster and for which he received $255,000, was eventually rejected and the contract broken. A few days ago an article was devoted to the editor’s notes on Yiannopoulos’s rejected book, which reveal the man’s total inability to write something publishable. One of the funnier remarks by the editor was that the author needed “a stronger argument against feminism than saying that they are ugly and sexless and have cats.” A recent article compares him to Donald Trump in the sense that he “grew out of a grotesque convergence of politics and the internet, and thrived by turning hate speech into show business.”

Milo Yiannopoulos

Well, this is not how the Fidesz far-right looks upon him. Yesterday Pesti Srácok published an article in which Balázs Dezse, the author, talked about Yiannopoulos’s visit to Budapest as a “historic moment” which “for many people is a dream come true.” Dezse is obviously is one of them. According to the admiring author, Yiannopoulos played a key role in the election of Donald Trump as president of the United States. The argument is that it is hard to label this man as a Nazi because, after all, he is openly gay, he prefers African-American partners, and he is partly Jewish. As for his firing from Breitbart for his controversial remarks about pedophilia, this was an attempt by liberals to silence him. He had been molested by his own father, and his remarks about the case were simply twisted by his enemies. Dezse, in an earlier article, also published in Pesti Srácok, describes Yiannopoulos as “the most exciting and most controversial figure of the alternative right.” With great enthusiasm he covers every step that Yiannopoulos has ever taken, showing a deep familiarity with the man’s career and the foreign-language sources that have covered his activities. The article is titled “A brilliant and dangerous fagot, evil doer of the internet alt-right.” (Yiannopoulos called himself a “dangerous faggot.”)

The more mainstream Fidesz papers, like Magyar Idők and Magyar Hírlap, have so far remained quiet about the conference. Mária Schmidt’s Figyelő couldn’t quite ignore it since, after all, Schmidt was involved in the organization of the event. So, an article attacked the liberal media’s criticism of inviting people like Milo Yiannopoulos to an international conference organized by the Hungarian government. The author rejects the label of “extreme right,” which is an arbitrary designation that is given by the so-called independent media and a few liberal politicians. These people complain that “Yiannopoulos as a newspaperman considers his chief mission to be the criticism of feminists, left-wingers, and human-rights activists. This is 100% correct and that’s why we love him.”

Zsolt Jeszenszky, who described himself as a political hobbyist and who has a Bannon 2020 banner on his Facebook page, called the criticisms mere hysteria by the “Hungarian alter egos of Guy Verhofstadt.” In his opinion, “the fellow is extremely well educated, well informed” and often makes fools of his opponents. He is “the greatest enemy of the liberal establishment.” Jeszenszky in this article intimates that conservative Republicans were behind Yiannopoulos’s downfall at Breitbart, taking advantage of his comments on his pedophilic experience.

As time goes by, Viktor Orbán is becoming increasingly open about his far-right ideology and orientation. Looking over the participants of this conference, I find it hard to imagine a group further to the right, unless Viktor Orbán’s Fidesz will decide to invite white supremacists and neo-Nazis to their next international conference on the future of Europe.

December 29, 2017

Donald Trump’s victory made Orbán “the man” in Europe

The study of Hungarian politics can take you to the most unexpected places. Here is, for example, a lengthy interview of Viktor Orbán by Gábor G. Fodor, Hungary’s modern Machiavelli and the recently appointed editor-in-chief of 888.hu, a fiercely pro-government tabloid. The title of the interview is shocking enough: “Ki a faszagyerek?—Orbán Viktor.” It sent me to a slang dictionary to be sure of the meaning of “faszagyerek.” Probably the closest translation would be “swinging dick,” but I wasn’t happy using that phrase in the title of this post. And so, from the slang dictionary I moved on to the American film industry, where I learned that a 2005 movie titled “The Man” is called in the Hungarian dubbed version “A faszagyerek.” Good enough. “The man” he is. G. Fodor must have loved the picture or its character because he has a whole series of “faszagyerekek”–for example, Zsolt Bayer, István Tarlós, and, of all people, Connie Mack. By the end of the interview, we learn from Orbán that his own “faszagyerek” is Öcsi Puskás. Who else?

Some Hungarian observers consider this interview to be as important as Orbán’s infamous “illiberal speech” in Tusnádfürdő/Băile Tușnad on July 26, 2014. That speech made an incredible splash at the time. Western politicians and members of the media began to understand that Viktor Orbán is a man with dangerous ideas and intentions. I doubt that this interview will create the same worldwide sensation for the simple reason that by now the Hungarian prime minister is widely identified as the “pocket Putin.” So his plans to expel the few remaining NGOs from Hungary will not come as a surprise.

Because this is the main message of the interview. The outcome of the U.S. presidential election has emboldened Orbán. He is sure that his time has come and that his vision of Europe will prevail. He is planning to fight the old order with Trump behind him, cheering him on.

Trump’s name came up early in the interview, with Orbán introducing him into the conversation in connection with the “intellectual excitement” that exists in Fidesz, “which comes not from school learning but from character.” This, he said, establishes “some kind of kinship with the just elected American president” in whom “one can sense the mentality of the self-made man.” Just as “Fidesz is a self-made story.”

Using this spurious “self-made” analogy, Orbán found it easy to link the new United States and Hungary. The old European political elite, who no longer have answers to today’s challenges, look upon Trump as they look upon him, except that the United States is larger and therefore they consider Trump more dangerous.

Note Donald Trump’s picture on the wall of 888.hu’s editorial office

In the past Orbán always refrained from verbal attacks on the United States. He left that job to Péter Szijjártó and the journalists running the state media. But now, with the wind of a new era in Washington at his back, he openly complained about Democratic foreign policy not just toward Hungary but toward all Central European countries. American diplomats believe that in this region there are only two kinds of leaders: one kind is corrupt, the other is Putin’s man. Or perhaps both at the same time. Therefore, they have considered it their business to interfere. Their method has been “soft power, which is not just a theory but a devious action plan.” According to Orbán, this American “soft power” has been implemented through NGOs, foundations, civic organizations, and the media. The American government has believed, at least until now, that this “action plan” could be realized through George Soros.

First, a few words about “soft power,” which is not exactly a new concept. Joseph Nye of Harvard University coined it in 1990 and developed it further in a 2004 book, Soft Power: The Means to Success in World Politics. The idea behind “soft power” is that, instead of coercion, a smart government uses persuasion. “Soft power is the ability to shape the preferences of others through appeal and attraction…. The currency of soft power is culture, political values, and foreign policies.”

This is exactly what Orbán objects to when he criticizes the few civic organizations that act as defenders of human rights and democratic values. He is certain that the time has come to go against the Soros foundations with full force because Soros has “activated” himself against Trump’s plans to change the American political landscape. After all, it was only about a month ago that Politico reported that “George Soros and other rich liberals who spent tens of millions of dollars trying to elect Hillary Clinton are gathering in Washington for a three-day, closed-door meeting to retool the big-money left to fight back against Donald Trump.” After Trump is firmly ensconced in the White House, it will be safe to put an end to all those hated foundations in Hungary that day after day complain about the undemocratic nature of his regime.

During the discussion of Soros’s NGOs and their role as transmitters of American soft power Orbán brought up the Romanian elections in which, according to him, there were no anti-Hungarian voices because the Romanian socialists realized that it’s not the Hungarians who are the enemy but George Soros. “The winners campaigned against the Soros regime; the real opposition is not the small, inconsequential parties but the NGOs and foundations supported by Soros.”

I’m not familiar enough with Romanian affairs to pass judgment, but I am not aware of strong anti-American feelings in that country. On the contrary. However, I did find one article describing an interview that Victor Ponta, the former prime minister, gave to a publication called Stiri pe surse—Cele main oi stiri. There he explained why he had adopted an anti-Soros stance. His reasons seem to be identical to those of Viktor Orbán. Soros through his foundations produces “a certain type of people, pseudo-pseudo democrats for whom other countries’ interests are more important than the interests of Romania.” Doesn’t it sound familiar? How widespread this kind of thinking is among Romanian politicians I can’t say.

In Orbán’s opinion, all governments would do well to get rid of Soros’s foundations. “One can feel that already. They will find out where these monies are coming from, what kinds of connections exist with what kinds of secret service organizations, and what kinds of NGOs represent what kinds of interests.”

In addition to his plans for silencing the NGOs, Orbán sees other opportunities for next year. He is “convinced that 2017 will be the year of revolt, but it is another story whether the evil status quo politicians will repress these revolts or not. In Austria they managed to stop a successful march toward the radical right by rejecting Norbert Hofer as the future president of the country. But in Italy and the United States they couldn’t. Next year there will be elections in Germany, the Netherlands, and France. “A lot of things can happen.” Here Orbán clearly identifies his own party with far right parties: Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) of Frauke Petry, Front National (FN) of Marine Le Pen, and the Partij voor de Vrighelheid (PVV) of Geert Wilders. Orbán is keeping fingers crossed for these ultra-radical parties. I don’t know how often I have to repeat: Orbán’s Fidesz is a far-right radical party which is striving to turn Hungary into a one-party dictatorship.

December 17, 2016