Tag Archives: Breibart News

Charlottesville from a Hungarian perspective

White supremacists, neo-Nazis, and Ku Klux Klan members rallied in Charlottesville, Virginia, yesterday afternoon “to fulfill the promises of Donald Trump” to “take our country back.” The event ended in tragedy: a full-fledged terrorist attack by a white supremacist. In the end three people were dead and 19 injured. This was the first terrorist attack on U.S. soil since Donald Trump became the 45th president of the United States, and ironically it was committed not by an Islamic extremist but by a man who is most likely an admirer of the president.

David Duke, the former KKK grand wizard who was one of the organizers, announced before the event that the neo-Nazi rally was the fulfillment of President Trump’s vision for the United States. Duke was an enthusiastic supporter of Trump as far back as the Republican primaries. In turn, Trump was reluctant to disavow him when asked to do so by the Anti-Defamation League. He claimed that he didn’t know enough about the group or David Duke. Just as he was unwilling to repudiate his white supremacist followers back in February 2016, he is equally averse now to name the real culprits of the terrorist attack. “We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides. On many sides,” he added for emphasis. Most Americans found Trump’s statement, which “couldn’t distinguish between the instigators and the dead,” morally unacceptable. David Duke was also unhappy, but for a different reason. “I would recommend you take a good look in the mirror & remember it was White Americans who put you in the presidency, not radical leftists,” he tweeted.

Some commentators believe that it was Trump’s public show of admiration for Andrew Jackson that told white nationalists their time had come. The Daily Stormer, a neo-Nazi website, considered it fitting that Trump was honoring Jackson, whom they call “a white supremacist extremist.” The group created a poster with a quotation from Bannon: “Like Andrew Jackson’s populism, we’re going to build an entirely new political movement.” Trump’s admiration for Jackson also lent credence to the position of Steve King (R-Iowa), a Tea Party conservative for whom America looks very much like the country from the days of the Founding Fathers. King does not welcome immigrants from Central and South America or the Middle East because “we can’t restore our civilization with somebody else’s babies.” I should add that Steve King is a great admirer of Viktor Orbán and his regime. In March-April, when Orbán moved against Central European University and the NGOs, Steve King was elated. “Prime Minister Viktor Orbán leads the way again,” he tweeted. “Marxist billionaire Soros cannot be allowed to influence U.S. elections either.”

Given this background, it is perhaps more understandable why some leading Republicans and Democrats are demanding the immediate removal of Steve Bannon and his sidekick Sebastian Gorka from the White House. These critics call both of them “alt-right neo-fascists.” For example, Richard Painter, who was the chief White House ethics lawyer in the George W. Bush administration, said in an MSNBC panel discussion that “Breitbart News is a racist organization…. This is Breitbart News that you’re watching on the streets of Charlottesville.” For good measure he added that “Bannon needs to be fired, Sebastian Gorka and the rest of the fascists or we have to remove this president.” Democratic Congressman Ruben Gallego called Trump “an absolute racist” on a SiriusXM radio show. He recalled that Trump had refused to comment on the attack or show his support for the American Muslim community in Bloomington, Minnesota. Moreover, his adviser Sebastian Gorka suggested on MSNBC that the bombing may have been faked “by the left.” One ought not to be surprised, Gallego continued, because Trump has surrounded himself with racists like Steve Bannon, Sebastian Gorka, and Stephen Miller.

So Sebastian Gorka is back in the news big time. Not that he has been quiet in the last few months, but at the beginning he was mostly defending himself against charges of being a member of the Vitézi Rend, a knightly order created by Miklós Horthy for heroes of World War I. I have written many articles on the subject, most of which appeared on Hungarian Spectrum. The Vitézi Rend wasn’t a fascist or Nazi organization per se, but after Hungary entered World War II the order ended up on the U.S. State Department’s blacklist of pro-Nazi institutions. On the other hand, given the anti-Semitic nature of the Horthy regime and the anti-Semitism of the governor himself, no Jews could be admitted to the order regardless of military valor. Gorka steadfastly denies his membership, but current leaders of the Vitézi Rend confirmed his participation in the group. We also know that Gorka was involved with an extreme-right group that made its appearance in 2006 during the long vigil of hundreds of people on the square in front of the parliamentary building. He was as well a regular contributor to the anti-Semitic Demokrata, a still existing periodical under the editorship of András Bencsik, a friend and colleague of Zsolt Bayer.

Otherwise, as the White House “pit bull,” Gorka was often on television touting the greatness of Donald Trump, who was apparently thrilled every time he heard Gorka expounding on Fox News. Gorka’s first serious “political comment,” however, didn’t turn out too well. He gave an interview to BBC radio in which he said, in connection with Trump’s threat to North Korea, that “You should listen to the president; the idea that Secretary Tillerson is going to discuss military matters is simply nonsensical.” This comment went too far, and Gorka was forced to backtrack. He claimed that his words were misconstrued and that he was merely saying that the media shouldn’t ask Tillerson questions about military matters.

Gorka survived the Tillerson misstep, but this time he might be in more trouble because a couple of days ago, in a radio interview with Breitbart News, he belittled the danger white supremacists pose. “It’s this constant, ‘Oh, it’s the white man. It’s the white supremacists. That’s the problem.’ No, it isn’t.” And a few hours later comes the Charlottesville tragedy. Unfortunately Charlottesville wasn’t an isolated incident. In the decade after 9/11 the number of right-wing extremist attacks averaged 337 per year, causing a total of 254 fatalities, while Muslim extremists were responsible for a total of 50 deaths in the United States during the same period.

Is Gorka a racist? We have no idea, but some of his words are supportive of a racist culture.

The same question can be asked about Viktor Orbán, and pretty much the same answer given. Orbán’s views on the purity of European culture, which is under siege by outsiders, can easily be interpreted in a racial sense. Viktor Orbán is a devilishly clever politician who can rarely be caught saying something truly inappropriate or something that could be interpreted as a racial slur or as anti-Semitic. On the other hand, there have been innumerable occasions when he uttered sentences that were ambiguous, which only those who are familiar with the cultural context in which they are uttered can properly decipher. It is relatively easy to find Orbán speeches in which he talked about Europeans as a distinct group whose culture must be defended. At one point he even talked about ethnic purity, which his staff found too offensive and removed from the transcript of the speech, only to be found out and forced to reinsert it.

Racism is rampant in Hungary. According to a 2014 poll, 59% of Hungarians wouldn’t consent to a black neighbor and by 2016 80% wouldn’t want to live next door to an Arab. In the United States, according to the Brookings Institute, in 1958 44 percent of American whites said they would move if a black family moved next door; 40 years later, in 1998, the figure was 1 percent. By refusing to disavow white supremacists, Trump and his White House advisers may be helping to turn the clock back to the 1950s.

August 13, 2017

The Washington voice of MTI: Judit Járai

The two pro-government dailies, Magyar Idők and Magyar Hírlap, don’t express their editorial opinions on the U.S. presidential election too often. They seem to be satisfied reprinting the reports of Magyar Távirati Iroda/MTI coming from its Washington correspondent Judit Járai, who is a fully committed ideologue of the right, if not the extreme right. Járai arrived in the United States only a few months ago, but this is not her first stint in Washington. She was the correspondent of Magyar Rádió/MR between 2004 and 2010. She turned out to be a biased reporter whose knowledge of the English language and the American media was scant. After her return to Budapest, I wrote a Hungarian-language article about her incredible ignorance and her misrepresentation of the U.S. political process. If you know Hungarian and want to have a good laugh, read my piece in galamus.hu.

So, Járai is back and is continuing where she left off six years ago, except that now she can do much more damage than before. As the correspondent of MTI, which supplies news stories to all Hungarian media outlets, regardless of their political persuasion, her biased reporting can spread far and wide. The leadership of MTI must be very satisfied with Járai’s reporting because almost every article she sends to Budapest is designated as “Judit Járai reports from Washington,” something that was not customary during the tenure of her predecessor, Demeter Pogár.

Jarai

In my Hungarian article I noted that Járai doesn’t seem to know that a reputable journalist doesn’t rely on the notorious National Enquirer as a source. She still hasn’t learned which American sources are reliable and which are not. This resulted in MTI passing along misinformation, which has remained largely uncorrected.

Here is the story. A right-leaning internet site, DailyCaller, published an article about Khizr Khan, the father of the slain Muslim war hero whose appearance at the Democratic National Convention was one of its most memorable moments. The author claimed that Khan had written extensively on Sharia law, which he considers to be superior to all others. It is unlikely that Járai read this short, not very coherent post, but she certainly discovered an article by Paul Sperry in the right-wing Breitbart News. On August 2, under the headline “Khizr Khan Believes the Constitution ‘Must Always Be Subordinated to the Sharia’,” Sperry offered a fuller account of two publications by Khizr Khan: a very short book review and a juristic classification of Islamic law. Sperry, I assume quite intentionally, completely misinterpreted Khan’s writings. On the same day, Khan appeared on CNN and in a conversation with Anderson Cooper explained that he couldn’t possibly be an adherent of Sharia law for the simple reason that there is no such thing. “There are laws of various Muslim countries which are a hodgepodge of British laws, French laws, Portuguese laws. In them, there is tremendous discrimination of genders which disqualifies them under the constitution of the United States.” Since then, a detailed critique of Sperry’s interpretation appeared in the Huffington Post titled “Breitbart Tried To Smear Khizr Khan, But Face-Planted.” By the way, Breitbart is still on Khan’s case. Now the site tries to besmirch his legal qualifications by talking about his age when he passed the bar exam.

Judit Járai most likely wasn’t paying attention to the fact that, aside from Breitbart News, no respectable American newspaper picked up the spurious story. Nor that Khan had explained his position on the subject on CNN two days earlier. Otherwise she wouldn’t have filed a report on August 4 taking the accusations against Khan as proven fact. And of course she didn’t take the trouble to check Breitbart’s sources, because if she had (and if her English is good enough) she would have discovered that Breitbart’s accusations were unfounded.

Járai makes no effort to hide her political bias in her reporting. Here are a couple of telling sentences from her Khan story. She describes Khan as “a lawyer from North Carolina who after the party meeting [pártgyűlés] arrived in Washington, where he continually delivers indictments [vádbeszédeket] against the Republican candidate, Donald Trump.” Her disapproval and sloppiness shine through.  For starters, Khan lives in Charlottesville, Virginia, not in North Carolina. And then there is her choice of the word ‘indictment.’ In this country a grand jury hands down an indictment only if it finds, based on evidence presented to it, that there is probable cause that a crime has been committed by the suspect. A loaded word, and one that is especially loaded in Hungarian. Khan was not delivering an indictment, he was expressing his opinion. In a democracy this is not a sin. As for the “party meeting,” it is an odd way to describe the party convention. As far as I know, the Hungarian word is “konvenció.” Or, here is another sentence by the “objective” reporter of MTI: “Khan, who is invariably introduced as a ‘Pakistani-American’ by the Clinton campaign team and the liberal media, is an expert on the doctrine of Sharia law.” What is wrong with describing Khan as a Pakistani-American? He was born in Pakistan and later in life he and his family emigrated to the United States where he became an American citizen. A perfect description of Khan’s status. But obviously Járai’s mind works differently. To her Khan is first and foremost a Muslim and a Pakistani. The unnatural emphasis on Khan as an American is a political ploy to drum up public resentment against Donald Trump.

Járai’s report was published by Magyar Idők and a couple of other mostly right-wing or extremist internet sites, Gondola, Hunhir, Dzsihádfigyelő, and a few independent ones whose editors were not careful. To my surprise, the next day Magyar Idők ran (well, actually, buried) a correction under the unlikely headline “The Clintons’ man is under fire.” Buried in the story is the crucial sentence admitting that Khan didn’t express his own opinions but rather “summarized legal arguments” on Sharia.

I’m sure that if one took the trouble one would find hundreds of subtle and not so subtle comments in Járai’s reports favoring Trump and denigrating Clinton. But, for now, Hungarians prefer a Clinton presidency by a large margin. Her biased reporting hasn’t changed their minds. More about this tomorrow.

August 14, 2016