Tag Archives: anti-refugee propaganda

Justin Spike: Hungarian village vents its hatred of refugees

Justin Spike’s article on the recent upheaval in the village of Őcsény first appeared in The Budapest Beacon under the title “Hatred of refugees has fundamentally changed the town–Hungarian village succumbs to state propaganda.” In a separate post to appear shortly, I’ll comment on the event and its aftermath.

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Residents of the Tolna county village of Őcsény in southwest Hungary held an emergency village assembly Monday evening. So many members of the roughly 2,000-person community attended that not everyone was able to fit into the community center. They had come together to discuss what they considered an imminent threat to their village: the arrival of several refugees, mostly women and children, for a few days of vacation.

The residents had gotten wind of the cooperation between a local guesthouse owner, Zoltán Fenyvesi, and the Migration Aid civil organization to bring four rounds of six or seven refugee children with adult chaperones to the village for a week of relaxation in the guesthouse and sightseeing tours in the region.

Upon hearing of the plan, residents convened the assembly, which Fenyvesi attended. The meeting was so hysterical and full of shouting, the guesthouse owner said, that he didn’t have the chance to speak.

The half-broken sign once read “European village” / Source: 24.hu / Photo: Rudolf Karancsi

Later that night, the tires on two of Fenyvesi’s vehicles were slashed.

“The people were so dismissive at the village assembly that the guesthouse owner and the civil organization couldn’t even say what their plans were,” said Őcsény mayor János Fülöp, who has since resigned. “They said things like, ‘These people are animals, they’re not even human. They’re terrorists, they’re going to blow things up and rape the children’.”

Hatred of refugees has fundamentally changed the town

Of all the many problems facing countryside villages – “no medical care, the closure of the savings banks and the post offices, no firewood” – what everyone is talking about nowadays is migration, mayor Fülöp said.

“This was only about 30 people, mostly women and children, that would have come here,” he said. “They would only have been at the guesthouse at night, because in the daytime they wanted to bring them to monuments, and to Pécs and the surroundings.”

Fülöp, who resigned his 11-year post as mayor of Őcsény Wednesday night after a special meeting of the local council, insisted that “not every refugee is a criminal and Islamist fanatic. These people received the protection of the Hungarian state, they went through a serious inspection based on international treaties.”

Fülöp said he’d resigned because the village had become divided, and he didn’t want to contribute to furthering the tensions.

“I’ve been mayor here for 11 years, and in that time I remember peace and quiet. No one spat on or cursed each other. That’s finished now,” he said, adding that he thinks the hatred of refugees has fundamentally changed the place.

Fenyvesi, the owner of the Csengettyűs guesthouse, agreed.

“I trusted that there would be a normal debate at the village assembly where I could convince the people, but I told them in vain that this was about children. There was no chance for a discussion,” Fenyvesi said.

“They’re not afraid, they’re horrified,” he told 444.hu of the residents. “They said they hate them! They really think that one migrant here will become six, six will become 12, and in the end they’ll take over all of Őcsény and all of Hungary.”

Őcsény residents told daily newspaper Magyar Nemzet that they didn’t believe the refugees would only stay for a few days. One woman said she’d heard they would be moved into vacant houses in the village, and was afraid they’d bring diseases. Another said she’d seen on television how the refugees behave: “They rape everyone.”

One local man on a bicycle approached a Magyar Nemzet journalist and insisted the residents shouldn’t interact with “political monkeys,” since every newspaper and television station works for George Soros. He considers Fenyvesi, the guesthouse owner, a “Soros agent” as well, he said.

A petition is reportedly being circulated in Őcsény which aims to ban migrants from the community indefinitely.

If the shepherds had not been from Bethlehem, but from Őcsény…

According to its website, Migration Aid is “a volunteer civil initiative providing live-saving emergency assistance for asylum-seekers who need it.” The organization recently ran into similar local opposition when it arranged to provide accommodation for refugees in a town near Lake Balaton. At that time, Fidesz politicians and government media insisted the organization was “settling” illegal migrants in Hungarian villages as part of the government-contrived, much-touted “Soros Plan.”

Fenyvesi responded to a Migration Aid ad seeking volunteers to provide vacation accommodation for refugees who have received the official protection of the Hungarian state. He offered his 9-bed guesthouse to the organization free of charge.

It’s not the first time Fenyvesi has used his guesthouse to accommodate disadvantaged people. He said he has often taken in “people in difficult social situations” to stay there for free.

“If I can accommodate poor Hungarian children, and among them very many Gypsy children, I would add, then why not suffering refugee families with children?” he asked. “I’d be really curious that if the shepherds had not been from Bethlehem but from Őcsény, then would Jesus lay down among the cattle to rest in the manger, or somewhere outside like a homeless person?”

But Fenyvesi’s goodwill was met with hostility in Őcsény: after the village assembly, he was threatened and his property was damaged.

“They literally threatened me, that they would separate my head from my body!” he told 444.hu. “In the night there was a huge bang, a brick was thrown at my van. We saw in the morning that six of my eight tires had been slashed. I ask you, if someone is banging someone’s car mercilessly in front of their house in the night, and they’d threatened them before…then will he feel terrorized or not? I wonder, is that terror or not?”

Fenyvesi has decided not to host the refugee children, “not because they terrified me or anything like that, but because I saw those mothers and how shocked and horrified they are and how much they hate, and a mother’s love for her children is above everything.”

He said he doesn’t blame the residents for what has happened, but government propaganda which has incited so many Hungarians to hate.

“And those who threaten me, I’m not mad at them,” he said. “Nor at the tire slashers. Because they’re actually really good folks. They go wild over certain topics and become unpredictable. I think I’m going to discuss it with them; we go to the same bar. Either we’ll come to an understanding or I’ll get life insurance and that’s it. You don’t have to live forever.”

September 29, 2017

The moral and financial cost of the Hungarian hate campaign

Today Publicus Intézet came out with another poll indicating that most likely fewer than 4,136,313 people, the number necessary to have a valid referendum, will cast their votes for a meaningless question on “compulsory” migrant quotas that would allegedly mean the eventual forcible settlement of tens of thousands of refugees in Hungary against the will of its inhabitants. Publicus conducted two polls a week apart. The one released today shows 8% fewer people intend to participate in the referendum than a week ago.

What would the fate of Hungary be if the people don’t support the government in its heroic efforts to save Hungary and Christian Europe from the Muslim hordes? Zsolt Bayer, in an opinion piece today, describes the dire consequences of population explosion in Africa and Asia and Europe’s significant population loss in the past and most likely in the future. “We, the European natives, European white people” are threatened. What is waiting for Europeans is “complete annihilation.” It is just a question of time before “European, Christian, white civilization will disappear forever.” Perhaps Europe, the continent Bayer imagines, already no longer exists because if one goes to Vienna, Munich, Rome, Naples one can only weep. “Go to the steps of Sacré Coeur where blacks who overrun everything sell their junk….  Our gorgeous Europe of yesteryear can today be found only in Prague, Cracow, Warsaw, Bratislava, Kosice, Sopron and Eger. Because we are Europe today. Europe was driven back to the despised, ridiculed, vilified Central Europe. This is the Europe we must defend. At any price.”

This racist rant is what is pounded into the heads of Hungarian adults and children. Viktor Orbán shamelessly announced the other day that without his government’s heroic efforts to keep the refugees out of Hungary Europe would have fallen already. He has already spent incredible sums on building fences along the Serbian-Croatian-Slovenian borders and employs 10,000 soldiers and policemen to guard them. In addition, in the last half a year he has spent a fortune on a hate campaign against the “migrants.” But, if we are to believe Bayer, when it comes to the defense of white Europe price doesn’t matter. So, let’s see just how much money Orbán has spent on the lead-up to this meaningless referendum.

The invasion of Europe according to Fidesz propaganda

The invasion of Europe according to Fidesz propaganda

According to estimates by atlatszo.hu, an NGO devoted to unearthing corruption and political wrongdoing, the Hungarian government so far has spent 15 billion forints or €48.6 million on this hate-filled campaign in a country of 9.9 million inhabitants. That is more than the €42.7 spent on both sides (stay and leave) of the Brexit campaign, where the organizers had to reach 64.1 million people. So the Hungarian government spent €5.00 per person on its single-sided campaign while the Brits spent only €0.66. Atlatszo.hu thus concludes that the Hungarian campaign cost the taxpayers 7.3 times more than the British campaigns did.

There is another way at looking at the numbers. The Hungarian government estimated that the upkeep of one refugee for a year would cost 1.56 million forints or €4,705 but the generous EU promised €6,000 instead.  If we divide the €48.6 million spent on the campaign by the 1,294 refugees Hungary would have been obliged to take, we arrive at the incredible figure of €37,642 per person. Or, in other words, about 7.5 years of their maintenance was spent on billboards, posters, and pamphlets filled with fear-mongering and incitement against the refugees, much of which went to loyal Fidesz oligarchs.

The greatest calamity of course is not the money spent but the damage done to the soul of the Hungarian people. A year ago, when refugees were pouring into the country, between 7,000 and 8,000 a day, anti-refugee sentiment was relatively moderate, somewhere between 45% and 55%. Today this figure is close to 85%-90%. It is heartbreaking to hear that schoolchildren call each other “migrants” as a pejorative term. One nine-year-old asked his mother whether he could carry a pocket knife when the migrants come. And a little girl who couldn’t even pronounce the word “migráns” envisaged being killed when they arrive in Hungary.

Here are some bizarre official and semi-official pronouncements on the refugee question. A well-known rock star claimed that “it’s 1,000% sure that they will rape all the women. They came here to occupy this land but they don’t want to work. I will not dare to let my children and grandchildren outside.” The deputy prime minister, Zsolt Semjén, came out with this brilliant observation: “If we make a mistake now it can never be remedied. If many hundreds of thousands of Muslims come here we will never be able to get rid of them, and our children will attend school with girls with hijabs and we will have to live under the threat of Sharia law.” In Nógrád County an organization sent out a short message that said “we hold on to our pork, good wine, and a little pálinka,” which naturally are threatened by the migrants.

I don’t know how long it will take to undo the damage Viktor Orbán’s political ambitions have inflicted on the country. I’m afraid it may take decades, especially if this man is allowed to continue his dictatorial rule for many more years.

October 1, 2016

Let’s Invalidate the Hungarian Refugee Quota Referendum!

“This is our country: Let’s invalidate the referendum!” is the title of the common statement of 22 NGOs protesting against the inhuman politics of the Hungarian government against refugees.

The Hungarian government has unleashed a xenophobic hate campaign ahead of the refugee referendum on October 2. Twenty-two NGOs are urging citizens to reject the government’s fearmongering and invalidate the referendum.

Hungarians will go to the polls on October 2 to answer the following question: Do you want the European Union to be able to mandate the obligatory resettlement of non-Hungarian citizens into Hungary even without the approval of the National Assembly?

We, Hungarian NGOs and citizens with a sense of responsibility for our country, believe in a country where our common matters are managed with humaneness, solidarity and mutual respect. We are concerned about seeing the government threaten our common values, therefore we speak out against the referendum scheduled for October 2, as well as the hate campaign surrounding the vote.

We decided to start a campaign to invalidate the referendum, which fails to promote our common concerns and is both pointless and inhuman.

Pointless question

The question put to referendum fails to promote our common concerns. It does not offer a solution either to the situation of refugees or the future of the European Union. It rejects solidarity with our fellow human beings in plight, just like with the other European member states. It has no intention to create a framework for peaceful coexistence. We are convinced that nobody can feel safe in the long run where public discourse is defined by hatred.

The question put to referendum is pointless. No provision on compulsory “resettlement” quotas has ever been adopted, let alone discussed, in the EU. If such a question were put on the agenda in the future, Hungary would have a place at the negotiating table.

Moreover, the response given to the referendum question does not entail any specific legal consequences, nor does it make clear exactly what entitlement the government asks for from the citizens, as this has never been revealed.

Shattered solidarity

The question put to a vote is also inhuman. The goal of the referendum and the accompanying campaign is to incite hatred against refugees. Its only potential consequence is the further weakening of the already shattered social solidarity, thereby reinforcing the government in continuing with its hate campaign.

The real question that is going to be at stake on October 2 is whether this country will ever be able to become a humane community. This is the goal we work for 365 days a year — on October 2 and on every other day.

Some of us will cast an invalid vote, while others will boycott the coerced anti-refugee referendum. Our goal is nevertheless the same: to invalidate this referendum.

Join us, share our statement, talk to your friends, colleagues and neighbors. Convince them, too, thus we can prove together: our country is based on humaneness and solidarity.

Artemisszió Alapítvány
Eleven Emlékmű
Eötvös Károly Közpolitika Intézet
Előadó-művészeti Szövetség
Gyerekesély Közhasznú Egyesület
Hálózat a Tanszabadságért
Hívatlanul Hálózat
Platform Egyesület
Közélet Iskolája Alapítvány
Magyar Helsinki Bizottság
Magyar Női Érdekérvényesítő Szövetség
Magyarországi Európa Társaság
Magyarországi Evangéliumi Testvérközösség
Migration Aid
MigSzol
Oktatói Hálózat
Oltalom Karitatív Egyesület
Opera Közhasznú Kulturális Egyesület
Segítsünk együtt!
Szépírók Társasága
Társaság a Szabadságjogokért

Anti-refugee hysteria in Hungary

The “real” referendum campaign began only after September 4, when Viktor Orbán and the Fidesz parliamentary delegation met for the weekend in Balatonfüred to discuss the political tasks ahead. Of course, the most urgent job is to whip up sentiment against the “migrants,” thus making sure that enough people vote, preferably “no” to the question “Do you want the European Union, without the consent of Parliament, to order the compulsory settlement of non-Hungarian citizens in Hungary?” I’d wager to say that the majority of citizens who are ready to participate in this hoax believe that what they are voting for is “No, we don’t want to have a single migrant in our midst.”

After three weeks of intense campaigning, with government and party officials on the road day in and day out, a veritable hysteria has enveloped the country. It is a frightening reminder of how an unscrupulous demagogue can take basically decent people and instill in them the worst possible instincts about people they know close to nothing about (and the little they think they know comes from dubious sources).

A year ago 64% of Hungarians thought that “it is our duty to help the refugees” and 52% believed that the refugees should be treated more humanely than the Hungarian government was doing at the time. Today the second number has decreased to 38%, and only 35% think it is their duty to help the refugees at all. These are the results of the hate campaign the Orbán government has waged for months. This kind of propaganda blitz can be carried out only in dictatorships where all power is concentrated in the hands of the government and where there is no effective opposition, which by now is pretty much the case in Hungary. The fractured Hungarian opposition has no means by which to combat this one-sided onslaught.

So, let’s see what kinds of tricks the Orbán government is using to achieve its desired end. The most brutal words came from György Nógrádi, the government’s favorite “expert” on national security, who worked as an agent for the internal security establishment during the 1980s. He is apparently very popular as a speaker at the “town meetings” organized by the local authorities. He says that these migrants cannot be integrated, and if Hungarians don’t want “no-go” zones in Hungary they will have to go and vote. In one town the audience was in a total frenzy by the time Nógrádi finished with his stories about the horrid possibilities awaiting them. An older woman rose to speak, clutching the photos of her two granddaughters who will be raped by migrants unless Viktor Orbán saves them. At the end of the lecture Nógrádi suggested that the only way to stop the inflow of migrants is to shoot them as they are crossing the sea.

Zsolt Bayer frightens people by telling them that 2 billion people will be coming to Europe from Africa, even though the population of the continent is only 1.2 billion. Fidesz MPs have been going from town to town, terrifying people with the prospect that migrants will be forcibly settled in their town. In Gödöllő the Fidesz MP of the district told his audience that 1,500 migrants will be settled in the town, which means 220 families. Moreover, in time that number will be much higher because these people’s relatives will join them. The mayor of the town is suing the MP for scare-mongering. In Csepel the Fidesz deputy mayor announced that the residents “wouldn’t be happy if [the government] had to evict the tenants” living in municipal housing in order to make room for the migrants. Moreover, the district now spends 192 million forints on financial assistance for its citizens, and it would be sad if that money ended up in the hands of the migrants. Two lawyers decided to sue the deputy mayor, again for scare-mongering.

Roland Mengyi, the MP whose immunity was just lifted because of the corruption case unearthed by Attila Rajnai of 168 Óra, was asked to campaign for the referendum. No hiding in shame for him. At one of his meetings Gabriella Selmeczi, formerly a Fidesz spokeswoman, told the people of Borsod County that migrants will be settled there and that the “white people” will soon find out what it’s like having “no-go zones” if they don’t vote no. A gypsy in the crowd told the audience that “ten years ago at Olaszliszka these people would have killed not only Lajos Szögi but his daughters as well. Everybody.” In 2006 in Olaszliszka a group of gypsies beat to death a man whom they accused of killing a girl who ran in front of his car. More about the story here.

hysteria by s.butterfy / flickr.com

hysteria by s.butterfy / flickr.com

The official referendum booklet claims that the so-called “no-go” zones are areas of cities that the authorities are unable to keep under their control. Here the society’s written or unwritten norms do not apply. Saying that in those European cities where large numbers of immigrants live several hundred “no-go” zones exist got the Hungarian government into trouble. Not only was Szijjártó asked some hard-hitting questions in an interview with the BBC, but the British, French, German, and Swedish ambassadors together demanded a meeting in the Hungarian foreign ministry about this obviously false claim of the Hungarian government.

Meanwhile, others resort to violence. The Two-tailed Dog Party (KKP), which has collected about 20 million forints and printed several funny “counter-posters,” has several young activists who put them up on advertising surfaces. Pro-government individuals systematically tear them down or cover them with other advertisements. The following incident gives an idea of what’s going on nowadays in the country. Activists were in the middle of putting up KKP posters in Szentendre when a taxi driver went up to them and yelled “A zsidó kurva anyátokat” (Your f..ing Jewish mother). At that point the taxi driver tore down the posters one by one and, when an activist starting taking a video, the man hit him. The activist ended up on the ground. To everybody’s great surprise the police on its own laid charges against the man, who has since been identified as Béla P (63). He is being accused of battery.

The chief culprit is of course Viktor Orbán himself, who just today announced at a press conference in Vienna that in Egypt 5.5 million migrants are waiting to move on and that the EU-Turkish agreement might easily be broken. In this case the EU needs a new “script for the impending disaster” (vészforgatókönyv). I was especially intrigued by the 5.5 million migrants in Egypt since that is an enormous number of people about whom we should have heard sometime, somewhere. So I decided to investigate. I found the following information about the number of refugees in Egypt, as provided by the UN Refugee Agency: “As of 31 August [2016], 187,838 refugees and asylum-seekers have been registered with UNHCR in Egypt, with 116,175 Syrian (62%) followed by 31,200 Sudanese, 10,941 Ethiopians, 7,254 Somalis, and 7,000 Iraqis, among others.”

What can we expect from a government whose the prime minister so brazenly lies about facts that can be easily verified? Not much. The result is a moral disaster.

September 24, 2016

“We must stop Brussels!” referendum booklet warns Hungarians

I’m grateful to the staff of  The Budapest Beacon for permission to re-post their English translation of the propaganda pamphlet the Hungarian government is distributing, in multiple copies, to every Hungarian household. I heard that it even mysteriously appeared on each desk in grade 12 classrooms.

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SEPTEMBER 7, 2016 BY THE STAFF OF THE BUDAPEST BEACON

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“Let’s send a message to Brussels so they can understand too!”

“We must stop Brussels!  We can send a clear and unequivocal message to Brussels with the referendum.  We must achieve that it withdraws the dangerous proposal.  For this we must vote no.” – Page 14.

The government of Hungary has sent 4.1 million, full-color, B4-sized booklets to Hungarians at home and abroad making the government’s case for why Hungarians should vote “no” in the national referendum on October 2.

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán has staked his political prestige (and that of his national conservative government) on the outcome of the referendum.  In order for it to be valid, one half of the electorate plus one must cast a valid vote on the question:

Do you want for the European Union to be able to prescribe the obligatory settlement of non-Hungarian citizens in Hungary without the approval of the National Assembly?

The national conservative government of Orbán is leaving no stone unturned in its quest to inform the Hungarian voting public of the dangers posed by illegal immigration so that the overwhelming majority of them will vote “no”.

Legal experts and opposition leaders alike argue that the referendum question is moot and the referendum itself is illegal, as Hungary’s “obligation” in this matter arises from international treaties and not from acts of parliament.  But this has not prevented Orbán from wallpapering the country with xenophobic billboards and bombarding the viewing and listening public with anti-Brussels advertisements at horrific cost to taxpayers.

For the benefit of our readers who reside in Hungary but do not read Hungarian, below is our translation of the 18-page booklet, including front and rear cover.

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Rear cover (left): Let’s vote no! Referendum 2016 against the forced settlement.

Front cover (right): Referendum 2016 against the forced settlement. Let’s send Brussels a message they can understand too! October 2nd

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Page 1 (left): We have a right to decide who we want to live with

Europa is living in times of crisis. In 2015, a country’s worth, more that 1.5 million illegal immigrants arrived in Europe.

Brussels, instead of stopping the people’s migration, plans the further settlement of tens of thousands of migrants.

It is unlawfully preparing for the member countries, including Hungary, to settle immigrants.

Page 2 (right):

We cannot allow our country’s future to be decided by others.

Only we Hungarians can decide with whom we would like to live.  To this end, the government has initiated a referendum against forced settlement.

The referendum question:

Do you want for the European Union to be able to prescribe the obligatory settlement of non-Hungarian citizens in Hungary without the approval of the National Assembly?

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Page 3 (left):  The migration of people is jeopardizing Europe’s future.

Year by year, the number of illegal immigrants is growing in Europe. The European elite deny the problem.

Europe does not protect its borders.

Brussels thinks that immigration is a good way to deal with population decline and labor shortages. Hungary rejects this approach.

Page 4 (right):  The Brussels elite argues that new labor is needed in Europe. However, the situation is that there are already 21.4 million unemployed seeking work in Europe, and of those 12.4 million are long-term unemployed.

Exhibit: The number of illegal immigrants arrived in Europe: 336,000 in 2012, 432,000 in 2013, 627,000 in 2014, 1.5 million in 2015

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Page 5 (left): Hungary protects its borders

The Hungarian government built a border fence for the protection of Europe and Hungary, for which the European politic and press launched a campaign against it.  In spite of this, more and more have come to support the Hungarian solution.

Instead of forced settlement, protection of the outer borders is needed, so that you can still travel unimpeded within the Union.

Page 6 (right): The southern safety border fence ameliorates illegal immigration. Nevertheless, the danger still remains, which is why we must protect the borders by any means. To this end, the Hungarian government has brought a 10-point plan of action to EU leaders called Schengen 2.0. In it, the government makes proposals for the strengthening of the border protection system.

“Many people are going to thank Hungarian Prime Minister Orbán for what he has done on his borders.” – Horst Seehofer, Bavarian Prime Minister, N24 German news TV

Exhibit: Number of arrived immigrants in 2015:  390,638 before securing the border, 746 after securing the border

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Page 7 (left): Illegal immigration increases the threat of terror

We reject forced settlement, because it would increase the danger of terror.

The immigrants largely come from places where European states are engaged in military campaigns. This significantly increases safety risks.

Terrorists consciously and in a well-organized manner take advantage of the lack of control, so that they can slip in with the crowds of immigrants. No one can say how many terrorists have arrived so far among the immigrants.

Page 8 (right):

Viktor Orbán “loudly announced what many leaders think but don’t talk about because of political correctness.” – Beata Szydlo, Polish prime minister, TVN24 Polish news TV

The Paris and Brussels attacks proved that there is a very close relationship between immigration and terrorism.

Exhibit: January 2015, Paris, 17 dead + 22 wounded; November 2015 Paris, 130 dead + 368 wounded; March 2016, Brussels, 32 dead + 340 wounded; July, Nice, 86 dead + 303 wounded.

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Page 9 (left): Forced settlement endangers our culture and our customs.

Obligatory resettlement would change Europe and Hungary’s ethnic, cultural and religious composition. Illegal immigrants don’t respect our laws, and they don’t want to share in our common cultural values.

If we don’t take action, in a couple of decades we won’t recognize Europe.

“I agree with Viktor Orbán that Europe needs strong outer borders.” – David Cameron, ex-British Prime Minister, in a joint press conference with Viktor Orbán

Illegal immigrants do not respect European norms, among others the rights of women. Since the immigrant crisis began the number of assaults on women has grown by leaps and bounds.

Page 10 (right):  Several hundred “No-Go” zones in Europe’s big cities

The so-called “no-go” zones are areas of cities that the authorities are unable to keep under their control. Here the recipient society’s written or unwritten norms do not apply. In those European cities, where immigrants live in great numbers, several hundred “no-go” zones exist.

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Page 11 (left): Brussels’ dangerous plans

Based on the European Commission proposal, those member countries that would not like to resettle migrants will be fined.

The size of the fine would be 78 million forint per immigrant.

By contrast, one Hungarian receives 1 million forints of assistance over a period of seven years.

Exhibit:  Brussels would impose a fine of HUF 78 million per immigrant on those member states that say no to the forced settlement.

One Hungarian gets HUF 1 million in under seven years.

Page 12 (right):  Brussels has proposed a fine of such a sum, that a Hungarian person on average must work 39 years to earn.

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Page 13 (left): Let’s send a message to Brussels!

The Hungarian government has initiated a referendum against forced resettlement.

The referendum is necessary because Brussels has proposed that immigrants arriving in the European Union should be distributed based on a predefined quota among member states of a compulsory nature.

Page 14 (right): Taking into account the current rate of immigration and family reunification, within a period of five years a city’s worth of people could be settled in Hungary.

Brussels must be stopped!

We can send a clear and unequivocal message to Brussels with the referendum.

We must achieve that it withdraws its dangerous proposal.

For this we must vote no.

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Pages 15 and 16 contain information about the referendum itself, including the hours polls open and close, what documents voters need to present in order to vote, and how to vote abroad.

Page 17 features a photograph of the Hungarian National Assembly.

Page 18 (right):  Let’s stay in touch:

Stay in touch with us and be informed of the most important governmental measures.  Fill in the attached form, put it in an envelope, and send it to us.  Address:  The Cabinet Office of the Office of the Prime Minister 1896.

Name:

Address:

Email:

Mobile tel.:

Land line:

Signature:

The form is followed by a lengthy disclaimer giving the government the right to use the information to contact the sender.

September 13, 2016

Despite an all-out effort, enthusiasm for the referendum is shrinking

A friend of mine just returned from a short trip to Hungary and phoned to report on her impressions. She is one of those American-Hungarians who closely follows Hungarian news and is well aware of the tremendous effort the Orbán government has put into ensuring that the referendum on the non-existent compulsory quotas will be valid and that it will pass with a very large majority. Even so, she was not expecting the barrage of giant billboards lining the road from the airport to Budapest. “You have to be there to feel the atmosphere this campaign creates,” she said. No wonder. According to reports, there is a billboard every 40 meters.

tudta-kampany

The intensity of the campaign has been growing steadily ever since, at the end of February, Viktor Orbán announced his intention to hold a referendum. For Orbán a successful referendum, requiring the participation of more than half of the electorate, seems to be a matter of life and death. This is not an exaggeration. Only two days ago, at the Fidesz picnic at Kötcse, he used the phrase himself. What is waiting for him is a fight with Brussels which must be won because otherwise the death of the nation will be waiting for Hungarians.

Gábor Török, one of the numerous political commentators, questioned the wisdom of the prime minister for putting so much emphasis on the referendum. What if too few people show up and the referendum is not valid? That would be a real embarrassment.

Why is Orbán trying so hard to get out the vote? Even if he didn’t reach the magic 50% + 1 threshold, polls last month showed that over 80% would vote “no,” as the government wants. This result would still show tremendous support for Viktor Orbán’s migration policies. One possible rationale for Orbán’s frantic scramble for votes is that this referendum is not so much about the migrants as it is about gauging (and beefing up) his current level of support.

Admittedly, if more than half of the electorate were to vote massively in line with the wishes of the government, his hand would be strengthened at gatherings of the European Council. “You see, my support at home is overwhelming.” Moreover, he could rest assured that he will remain prime minister for some time to come. But let’s say that only 37% of the electorate turned out to vote on October 2. Not only would he look weak in Brussels, he would look weak at home as well. Especially since the opposition parties more or less unanimously, if belatedly and in some cases half-heartedly, have finally agreed to support a boycott of the referendum. If 63% of eligible voters stay home, there is no way to know how many of them were just lazy or indifferent and how many were active boycotters.

Last week an article appeared in Élet és Irodalom by Mária Vásárhelyi, who is known to readers of Hungarian Spectrum because we have discussed her sociological studies extensively here over the past few years. It is titled “Népakarat vagy politikai manipuláció” (Will of the people of political manipulation). In it she convincingly argues that “in dictatorships and autocracies referendums are the most effective means of political manipulation,” an assertion she supports by pointing to the frequent referendums held in Hitler’s Germany. One of Hitler’s first moves after becoming chancellor was to change the law on referendums: they could be initiated only by the government. Vásárhelyi calls attention to the fact that the Orbán government in 2010 also changed the law on referendums and since then has done everything in its power to prevent holding any referendums initiated by the public. If a referendum in an autocratic regime is intended to increase support for the regime, the fact that the democratic opposition parties haven’t managed to come together and formulate one common message against the referendum “is an unforgivable sin against Hungarian democracy,” she concludes.

Vásárhelyi wrote those lines before the latest Závecz Research poll about the referendum came out. You may recall that a month ago I wrote an article titled “Orbán’s anti-refugee propaganda is a roaring success,” in which I reported on a survey conducted by the same polling company at the end of July. “The enthusiasm is tremendous,” I wrote. “At the moment the majority of the population (54%) plans to vote. If they actually follow through, the referendum will be both valid and, from the government’s viewpoint, stunningly successful. Only 19% of the population claim they will stay at home. Another 23% haven’t decided yet. Of those who intend to vote, 85-90% will vote ‘no.’”

Závecz Research repeated the survey at the end of August, when the opposition parties’ campaign hadn’t yet started. The hilarious anti-referendum posters of the Magyar kétfarkú kutya párt (party of the dog with two tails) were not yet on the streets. Nevertheless public enthusiasm for the referendum dropped considerably in the past month. Tibor Závecz now feels fairly certain that it will not be valid. The number of people who will vote to support the government has dropped and the number of undecided voters has grown. In July 54% of the electorate was intent on voting while today this number is only 41%. That is a very considerable change.

Here are some details. Support from Fidesz voters is pretty much unchanged. Sixty-four percent of them would go and vote “no.” But the number of those who would vote “yes,” that is against the government, has grown from 5.5 to 8.1%.

The changes that occurred in the month of August are most striking in the case of Jobbik voters, who in July were as enthusiastically supportive of the government’s position as Fidesz voters were (61.8%). That number in August has shrunk to 47%. The number of Jobbik supporters who will go and vote against the government has grown substantially, from 3.8% to 8.5%.

DK’s message has been very effective all along. It was a simple slogan: “Stay at home, stay in Europe.” Their supporters got the message. Seventy-three percent of them will boycott the referendum and 10.8% of them will vote “yes,” which is twice as large as it was in July.

MSZP with its mixed messages managed to confuse its already confused electorate. Their reactions are all over the map, but the upshot is that almost 15% of MSZP voters intend to vote “no,” which must be translated as support for the Orbán government. In addition, 20.2% of MSZP voters indicated that they would vote but claimed they haven’t decided how they will vote, which can easily mean a pro-Fidesz vote. About 20% haven’t decided whether they will vote or not and only 31% say they will stay at home, which is practically the same as it was a month ago. MSZP’s new leadership has proved to be an ineffective lot, perhaps because its members are split on the issue. Some of them share Orbán’s anti-immigrant stance, while others take the position that they have to keep in mind their supporters’ views, which are not exactly friendly toward the migrants. A good summary of MSZP’s attitude toward the referendum can be found in today’s 168 Óra.

A few days ago, in an interview, Richárd Szentpéteri-Nagy, a political analyst with the Méltányosság Politikaelemző Központ (Equity Center for Political Analysis), went further. He suspects that there are “a fair number of people within MSZP who are directly or indirectly maneuvered, instructed by Fidesz.” Mária Vásárhelyi puts forth another hypothesis. It is difficult to escape the suspicion that the “mischievous” MSZP is perhaps already thinking of a possible Fidesz-MSZP coalition.

That’s where we stand at the moment. Only DK and the two other small parties, Együtt (Together) and PM, are consistent and steadfast opponents of the Orbán government which, as a friend told me, is being encircled with “increasingly quiet hatred.” The question is what this currently quiet electorate will do and whether there will be anyone to turn to for leadership when the time comes.

September 12, 2016

Hungarians torn apart by anti-refugee propaganda

The Publicus Institute has released the results of its poll, taken between July 1 and 6, on Hungarians’ attitude toward and assessment of the European Union. To put the results in perspective, the survey was taken a little over a week after the Brits voted to leave the European Union, the consequences of which seemed and still seem dramatic. The message Hungarians got from Brexit is that leaving the European Union can have grave consequences. If Great Britain, the fifth largest economy in the world prior to the vote, will have to endure severe financial and political dislocations, then regardless of what some Fidesz politicians say, Hungary’s place must be inside the European Union.

The last time the Publicus Institute conducted a survey on the population’s feelings toward the Union was a year ago, in June 2015, when 57% considered Hungary’s membership in the European Union advantageous to the country. Today that number is 70%. This is a dramatic change. While in 2009 only 48% and in 2015 57% of the population would have voted for EU membership if a referendum had been held on the issue, today this figure is 64%.

This recent Hungarian poll supports the conclusions of an opinion piece by George Soros that appeared in the July 8 issue of Project Syndicate. As opposed to his earlier pessimism on the fate of the European Union as a result of the refugee crisis, his spirit is now buoyed by “the grassroots involvement,” which he calls “regrexit,” that emerged in the U.K. in favor of the Union. “If this sentiment spreads to the rest of Europe, what seemed like the inevitable disintegration of the EU could be instead creating positive momentum for a stronger and better Europe,” Soros claims. The opportunity should be seized and the EU should be reformed. Soros urges a more closely integrated fiscal and monetary system for the Eurozone countries: the core EU “needs to have its own treasury and budget, to serve as a fiscal authority alongside the monetary authority, the European Central Bank.” He again urges the European Union to “put its excellent and largely untapped credit to use” not only to spend funds on the integration of freshly arrived immigrants but also, I assume, to revitalize the sagging European economy.

Almost simultaneously with the appearance of George Soros’s upbeat article on the future of the European Union, an article appeared in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung by Viktor Orbán. In sharp contrast to Soros, Orbán advocated a further loosening of the already weak bonds between member states. Orbán urged nation states to take back their sovereignty, which some Hungarian papers interpreted as a call to dismantle the European Union.

Although, as the Publicus poll shows, Orbán’s anti-EU propaganda isn’t working, his incitement against migrants is a roaring success. The Pew Research Center conducted a survey in ten EU countries, Hungary among them, to measure  attitudes toward Muslim refugees. Anti-Muslim feelings are the highest in Hungary, at 72%. The lowest is in the UK (28%). In Hungary 76% of the respondents linked refugees with terrorism, and  Hungary leads the way on the question of whether there will be an increased likelihood of terrorism because of the arrival of the refugees (76%). Moreover, 82% of Hungarians surveyed are convinced that refugees will be a burden on the social system. Viktor Orbán can be proud of his propaganda.

moral panic2

Perhaps in response to these findings Népszabadság approached Endre Sik, a professor of sociology and CEO of Tárki, a polling company. In Sik’s opinion, what the Orbán government is doing is creating “moral panic,” a sociological term described by Stanley Cohen as a response to “a condition, episode, person or group of persons emerg[ing] to become defined as a threat to societal values and interests.” According to Sik, this moral panic normally arrives quickly but also disappears rapidly. What is different in Hungary is the sustained existence of moral panic due to “an innovative, extremely wide and very brutal campaign built on the migrant case” by the government. Sik is unaware of similar efforts by any other government.

Sik contends that at the beginning of 2015, after Fidesz’s popularity had hit a low point, the government devised a complex strategy, intended to have long-term effects on Hungarian society. The government didn’t simply push the “moral panic button” once or twice. It has done so practically constantly in the last year and a half. It is a “Hungaricum” like pálinka or Tokaj wine because of its centralized nature and the techniques used by the Orbán government. As Sik explains, Fidesz “institutionalized scare mongering.”

The other day I wrote about the shortage of employable workers and the case study of a company that had to import workers from Mexico. When the eight Mexicans arrived in Szügy in Nógrád County, close to the Slovak border, the village folks wouldn’t greet them. They thought they were “migrants.” But once they learned that the newcomers were Mexicans, the children enthusiastically waved at them and the adults smiled broadly. The government propaganda is that effective. Even in a small village everybody knows about the evil migrants who may be dangerous terrorists. And how can anyone forget the ridiculous scene of a group of public workers, who might actually have been Gypsies, who were scared to death by some surveyors–and vice versa. They suspected each other of being “migrants,” a word that, thanks to the government’s efforts, prompts alarm and apprehension.

We don’t know what kinds of effects this sustained fear mongering will have on the psyche of the Hungarian people. If this “moral panic” is different from the garden variety, no one can predict its potential damage to Hungarian society.

July 12, 2016