Tag Archives: Gábor G. Fodor

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

András Lánczi: What others call corruption is the raison d’être of Fidesz

Yesterday U.S. Ambassador Colleen Bell gave a speech at the Central European University about American perspectives on migration, security, and foreign policy. There was a lot of talk about the rule of law, democracy, equality, and human rights, and naturally about “the cancer of corruption.” The ambassador highlighted once again the obvious negative effects of corruption. “It hurts economic growth, it alienates and angers citizens. Business owners can’t compete when the rules favor a select few with strong ties to a government. Citizens feel betrayed when their taxes are being used to line the pockets of public servants, elected officials, and their family members, instead of providing the services and security that citizens pay for and require from the state.”

Of course, Colleen Bell’s description of the kind of corruption that exists in Hungary is correct, but I’m afraid that these repeated warnings will have no effect whatsoever on the systemic corruption of the Orbán government–for the simple reason that corruption is the raison d’être of the regime. This opinion doesn’t come from some ill-willed critic of Viktor Orbán’s political system but from the chief ideologist of the regime, András Lánczi, who was just chosen to be the next president of Corvinus University at Viktor Orbán’s request. An odd choice because Lánczi is allegedly a political philosopher and Corvinus is supposed to turn out economists.

Lánczi came late to philosophy. As a student he was a triple major in English, Hungarian, and history, and after graduation he taught high school in Budapest for years. In 1986, however, without any formal training in philosophy, he got a job as an editor of Világosság, a philosophical review which by self-definition was anti-religious. It was József Lukács, the editor-in-chief of Világosság, who invited him to join the staff. Lukács’s own “philosophical training” consisted of finishing the communist party’s Marxist “college” (pártfőiskola) in 1949.

It was only after the regime change that Lánczi’s scholarly career was launched. Attila Ágh, a political scientist today close to MSZP, invited him to teach at the institution now known as Corvinus. His first published works, translations of a couple of books of Leo Strauss, appeared in 1994. A blog writer who is highly critical of Lánczi described him as someone “who before the regime change had carried on about the necessity of communist-Christian dialogue but then quickly switched to the worldview of [the anti-Semitic] István Csurka’s dramas. This is how he became the leader of the half-educated Hungarian elite’s conservative section who now can lay the moral foundations of Viktor Orbán’s new order.” The blog writer compares him to Martin Heidegger, who all his post-war life tried to explain the inexplicable, why he offered his services to Hitler. Heidegger, however, can be understood without Hitler, but “Lánczi doesn’t even exist without Orbán.” After reading some of his “philosophical conversations” that have appeared of late, I have to agree with the blogger.

Lánczi gave a long interview to Magyar Idők, the slavishly pro-government paper, in December, during which he explained that the “alleged corruption” is not corruption in the ordinary meaning of the word.

Was the communist nationalization after 1948 corruption or the privatization of regime change after 1989? What [the critics of the Orbán regime] call corruption in practical terms is the most important policy goal of Fidesz. What do I mean? The government puts forth such goals as the creation of a domestic entrepreneurial class, or the building of the pillars of a strong Hungary in agriculture and industry…. [The critics] call that corruption…. Corruption has thirteen or fourteen different definitions, but among them there is no such thing as corruption when we do something in the interest of the nation. One can call it corruption, but whoever makes that claim is deceiving himself…. That’s why it is a mistake to use the expression “mafia state.” What comes to mind when one hears the word “mafia”? The physical annihilation of one’s enemies. Who got killed here, I ask.

Lánczi is right that the wholesale nationalization of most private property after 1948 cannot be called corruption. It was expropriation, confiscation, stealing. And yes, it was an important part of the regime’s very existence, which strove to bring about blissful communism. We can also go back in time and recall the Horthy regime’s resolve from its inception to curb the “Jewish predominance in industry, commerce, and the so-called free professions.” This resolve was eventually translated into the seizure of all Jewish property. Surely, it was part of the ideology of the regime. Did this make it right or acceptable? Of course not.

András Lánczi / Source: HVG / Photo: Ákos Stiller

András Lánczi / Source: HVG / Photo: Ákos Stiller

Of late Lánczi has been giving one interview after the other. One such outrageous discussion took place in Gábor G. Fodor’s 888.hu. By the way, G. Fodor was Lánczi’s favorite student, with whom he even published a book in 2009. Lánczi outlined his belief that “we,” I guess Viktor Orbán and his followers, are working on “the moral foundations of a new order.” Their “morality” is not, however, what we normally think of. In his radically relativistic opinion, “everybody possesses morality. The only question is what he considers to be such.” Thus in Lánczi’s world, calling corruption part of the moral foundation of Orbán’s system is entirely reasonable and defensible.

Lánczi also has interesting ideas about public and private money. Critics of György Matolcsy are upset about the chairman of the Hungarian National Bank funneling huge sums of public money into private foundations, but Lánczi asks: “What is the money of György Soros? Where does a speculator’s money come from? Let’s say that through shorting one fleeces the British treasury. In that case, one creates private out of public money. Isn’t it so?” Or later on. “I’m no great Soros expert, but it is worth taking a look at his biography. He was a totally average fellow for some time until one day he appeared out of nowhere like a meteor. At that point something must have happened. Somebody for some reason put him in this position. He received such means that he managed to achieve fame and fortune.” What a primitive conspiracy theory, and what ignorance of the financial world. And this man is the chief ideologist of Orbán. We shouldn’t be surprised that the prime minister himself is so muddle-minded.

As one commentator remarked, Lánczi’s explanation of corruption means that “Fidesz steals not only our money but also our right to become outraged.” Indeed, in Lánczi’s world anything goes.

May 18, 2016

Another “traitor”: Fidesz gutter journalists attack Gábor Török

While the views of István Stumpf and Péter Tölgyessy, discussed in earlier posts, were ignored by the Fidesz media, this was not the case with Gábor Török, the well-known political commentator whose analyses have been closer to Fidesz than to the liberal side. Török, in a remarkable interview given to Magyar Nemzet, no longer even tries to hide his sympathies with the “national liberal, conservative liberal” side. I agree with him that there is no such thing as absolute political neutrality, but what is unacceptable is financial “dependence.” Unfortunately, in Hungary by now there are practically no independent political commentators in this sense of the word. Whether Török is truly independent or not, as he claims, we don’t know, but a lot of people accuse him of being in the pay of Fidesz. I personally doubt it.

How does Török see Fidesz, at least from 2002 on, a year he considers crucial in the recent political history of the country? He claims, I believe mistakenly, that prior to 2002 Fidesz was a party whose policies were driven by principles, that the unexpected loss at the 2002 election drove Viktor Orbán and his friends toward cynical and perhaps more realistic politics of sheer power. Since then party decisions have been driven by public opinion polls. “If I could change anything in Hungarian political life in the last few years it would be the results of the 2002 election,” Török said in the interview. It was at that time that Fidesz came to the conclusion that “power politics” should be placed ahead of principles and that the left discovered that with empty promises one can win elections.

Once the conversation moved to the present situation Török, who in the past had been extraordinarily careful to be “balanced,” a habit that earned him a lot of scorn from the liberals, decided to abandon his customary “neutrality” and show a much less forgiving side. I guess the Orbán regime’s many unacceptable political moves left him no choice. He now sees Fidesz as a party that cannot return to its former value-driven politics. “Fidesz will either be successful for years to come or will hit the wall…. The system that was built up in the last twenty-five years is extraordinarily stable…. There is no János Lázár or Antal Rogán who can unseat [Orbán]…. There will be a political right after Orbán, but it will have nothing in common with the present system.”

As for future prospects, Török believes that “the end cannot be anything but a total collapse,” which might be closer than we think. Even the 2018 election cannot be taken for granted. What if Fidesz is still the largest party but would have to form a coalition government either with Jobbik or with MSZP? Orbán in this case would find himself in an unenviable situation.

And then there are the domestic issues, which are becoming serious. The refugee crisis for the time being conceals the brewing domestic dissatisfaction, but how long will the Hungarian people believe that those beyond the fence are “dangerous zombies”? There are already signs of skepticism. When the scare tactics fade, a new miracle weapon will be needed. But what can follow? As for Viktor Orbán’s warlike rhetoric, “one day it will run counter to the actual state of affairs when even the semblance of rationality can no longer be maintained.” Fidesz politicians don’t seem to sense the danger and, since there is no strong opposition, they are not forced to offer “good governance.” Orbán’s system worked well as long as Orbán and Simicska cooperated. “Since their relationship was severed the whole system is crumbling.”

"Dirty Dozen's editorial: "Should we expel from Schengen?"

Dirty Dozen’s editorial: “Should we expel Belgium from Schengen?” / 888.hu

It was this interview that outraged the Fidesz loyalist political commentators, especially Gábor G. Fodor of Századvég, who became editor-in-chief of government financed 888.hu, “a political tabloid” specializing in gutter journalism. The title of G. Fodor’s article is “From ass-licking A: Gábor Török, our personal favorite.” In it G. Fodor carries out the usual character assassination of those who dare to express any criticism of Fidesz and the Orbán government. G. Fodor, who in the past had friendly political discussions with Török, now calls his colleague “a close political advisor of Jobbik.” G. Fodor accuses Török of being the man who is trying to bring Lajos Simicska, the former Fidesz oligarch, and Gábor Vona, chairman of Jobbik, together. Proof? It’s not necessary. The only thing we know about any possible connection between Simicska and Vona is that on some recent public occasion they had a 10-15-minute conversation. But this is how Fidesz gutter journalism operates.

The story wouldn’t be complete without Török also being accused of having some affinity with Ferenc Gyurcsány, the devil incarnate. So, while Török is trying to forge an alliance between the extreme right and Simicska, his view of the “migrant crisis” is identical to Gyurcsány’s. “The fundamental structure of his thoughts is in no way different from any one of the left-wing critics. The same fiction, the same mythological simplicity.”

Now it is up to us to decide whether Török is a socialist-liberal talking head or a man who is trying to convince Lajos Simicska to finance an extreme right-wing party.

March 26, 2016

It’s not corruption. It’s national interest

“Political thinkers” are a dangerous lot at times. There was Gábor G. Fodor, the modern-day Macchiavelli of the Századvég Institute, who almost a year ago described Viktor Orbán’s political career as nothing more than a series of manipulative moves devised to improve his standing in the polls. No grand ideas, only mendacious slogans that his stupid followers believe. Here, in politico-speak, is what G. Fodor said: “There are many among the right-wing intelligentsia who have the mistaken notion that the concept of ‘polgári Magyarország’ [a democratic Hungary based on middle-class values] was a political reality, but it was no more than a political product.”

A few days ago another “political thinker,” András Lánczi, uttered a few revealing sentences about Fidesz and corruption.

I’m always surprised when I read the biographies of certain high-placed Hungarians whose road to their present position has taken interesting turns. Here is Lánczi, for example, who majored in English and history and taught high school for five years. Then for five years he was the editor of a philosophical journal called Világosság (Light). With this background he was invited to teach in the newly established political science department of Corvinus University. While teaching full time he received the Soviet-style degree of “kandidátus” in two years (1993), which was then converted into a Ph.D. in 2002. At that point his career took off. Today he is described as a “conservative” philosopher, political scientist, director of the Political Science Institute at Corvinus, chairman of the Századvég Foundation, chairman of the board of the pro-government Nézőpont Institute Foundation, and adviser to the XXI Century Institute, another Fidesz creation. His son Tamás, also a political scientist, is a fervent Fidesz supporter who lately has even been involved in the business activities of Arthur Finkelstein and Árpád Habony.

András Lánczi agreed to give an interview to Magyar Idők which, presumably because of the holiday season, did not make a big splash despite its, to me shocking, message. I guess other interviews, like those of László Kövér, János Lázár, and Ákos, were juicier and thus received greater coverage. Lánczi’s interview elicited only a handful of comments, although what he is talking about is of the utmost importance. Among other things, corruption. Or rather, the lack thereof.

The interview is quite long and most of it is a defense of Századvég, which has been attacked as a money laundering arm of Fidesz. As things stand now, there is a valid court order that obliges the government to make public the studies that Századvég prepared under government contract. Naturally, Lánczi insists that the billions and billions of forints the government has been paying to the think tank have been earned honestly. As for the Századvég Foundation’s possible involvement in the bribery charges filed by Bunge, the American firm that produces Vénusz cooking oil, he denied any such involvement. Századvég is a respectable institution whose roots go back to the late 1980s when László Kövér, Viktor Orbán, and István Stumpf launched a periodical and later a foundation under that name.

There is nothing new in these denials, and naturally for the time being we will know the veracity of neither the allegations nor their denial. When the conversation turned to corruption, however, this rather dull interview became charged. Given the importance of the following passages, a verbatim translation is in order.

Magyar Idők: Talking about the elections. It is already clear that the opposition’s main point of attack will be the alleged corruption. How can it handle that?

András Lánczi: Was the communist nationalization after 1948 or the privatization of the regime change after 1989 corruption? What is called corruption is in effect Fidesz’s most important political aim. What I mean is that the government set such goals as the formation of a class of domestic entrepreneurs, the pillars of a strong Hungary both in agriculture and in industry. … That is what people call corruption, which is a political point of view. The word “corruption” becomes something mythical.

Magyar Idők: Is this some kind of broadening of the term?

András Lánczi: Yes, just like the word “left-liberal” in the usage of the radical right opposition. There are thirteen or fourteen sociological meanings of corruption, but among them we cannot find one that says that if we do this or that in the national interest it is corruption. One can call it that, but that is deception. One doesn’t like to assist one’s adversaries, especially not one’s enemies, so I will not tell them that they are in the wrong. That’s why the expression “mafia state” is a mistake. What does one think when one hears the word “mafia”? The physical destruction of one’s adversaries. Who was killed here, I would like to know?

Lánczi’s very first sentence is shocking enough. Does he truly believe that the brutal nationalization by the Stalinist Rákosi regime was in the national interest and therefore justifiable? Well, we might not call it corruption, but surely we can call it robbery plain and simple. The Hungarian Nazis might have thought that the dispossession of Jewish Hungarians was in the national interest, but did this belief make it right? As for the privatizations of the 1989-1990 period, they cannot in any shape or form be compared to what happened either in 1944 or in 1948. Yes, some people with government connections received state properties for very little money, but some of these properties turned out to be worthless. I remember seeing a very fancy government publication describing some of the left-over properties the government was desperate to get rid of. They were run-down, hopelessly antiquated small factories whose worth converged on zero.

thief

Well, if Lánczi insists, we can call what is going on in Hungary today “robbery” if he thinks that it is a more appropriate term than “corruption.” If I were Lánczi and his boss, I would prefer “corruption.” After all, corruption is considered to be a white-collar crime as opposed to “robbery,” which is normally committed by common thieves.

In fact, however, what we are talking about here is more than “corruption,” even more than common “thievery.” It is a political-economic strategy that the opposition will have to attack head on because it has led to a regime that has practically nothing to do with the third republic established on October 23, 1989.

The Hungarian government online

Partly because of the feud between Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and his former friend and financial guru, Lajos Simicska, an entirely new media structure seems to be in the making. Lajos Simicska, a very rich businessman, was the linchpin of the so-called Fidesz media empire, at least since 2002, but even earlier he acquired a large portion of the public advertising surfaces that served Fidesz’s political purposes, especially at election times. This cozy relationship between the party and Simicska’s media and advertising empire is now crumbling. But this is only half the story.

Viktor Orbán, who is not exactly known as an internet guru, decided that Fidesz should have a larger presence online. This decision was quite independent from the Simicska affair. One of the government’s projects was to develop English-language news sites that can influence international public opinion. Perhaps the most successful site in this category is Hungary Today, a rather unfortunate name since it reminds everybody of the Russian propaganda news channel Russia Today. It is a publication of the “Friends of Hungary Foundation” that was established with massive government funding (between $15 and $20 million) in November 2012. The publication’s editor-in-chief is Szabolcs Nótin. Nótin started his career at Nézőpont Intézet, a think tank that supports the government party. After a short stint there as an analyst, he moved on to be “operative manager” of the Friends of Hungarian Foundation. After less than a year in this position he was named editor-in-chief of Hungary Today in June 2014. The site is professional and must cost a great deal of money. Obviously the Orbán government finds the investment worthwhile.

Much less transparent is a site called Daily News Hungary, which I discovered only a few days ago although it has been in existence since December 2013. Judging from the lack of comments, the site can’t have too many visitors, yet it covers politics, business, culture, society, and sports and is always up-to-date. That can’t be done without a professional staff.

In addition to foreign-language news sites, apparently the government would like to have a presence in the blogosphere. Some of the better-known Hungarian blogs have a large readership and are quite influential. But most of them are written by liberal-socialist-moderately conservative bloggers. I assume that by creating a number of blogs affiliated with hirado.hu, the government is trying to combat the influence of the existing blogs. Taking a quick look at these newly established blogs convinced me that every penny the government spends on this endeavor is a waste. The “government blogs” are apparently the brainchildren of Attila Várhegyi.

The Hungarian governments' blogger are different

The Hungarian government’s bloggers are different

Várhegyi used to be a very important person in and around Fidesz. In the 1990s he was mayor of Szolnok and a member of parliament. He also was in charge of the party’s finances. After Fidesz won the election in 1998 he became undersecretary in the Ministry of Culture, a position he had to leave in November 2001 when he was found guilty of a breach of fiduciary responsibility. His political career seemed to have evaporated overnight. In the last few years, however, he reappeared as a high official in MTVA (Médiaszolgáltatás-támogató és Vagyonkezelő Alap), the government organization where propaganda news is created and distributed to the various state media outlets.

The blogs appear under hirado.hu, the site of the official news that one can hear on state TV and radio. I rarely bother to even look at their news items, and I assume that I’m not the only one who finds propaganda disguised as news less than palatable. On these blogs one cannot comment, only read. By the way, unlike most bloggers, these people get paid.

One of the blogs, named “Látószög” (point of view), is written under the watchful eye of Mária Schmidt, director of the House of Terror and the controversial new Holocaust Museum, the House of Fates. She admits in her introductory remarks that one of the purposes of the blog is to acquaint readers with the work that goes on in the House of Terror. She published a somewhat abbreviated version of her lecture in praise of her idol, Viktor Orbán, on this blog. The other contributors, mostly historians, focus on such topics as victims of communism, prisoners of war, and the deportation of class enemies from Budapest in the 1950s.

Another blog, called “Mozgástér” (room to maneuver), deals with political science. The editor of the blog is Tamás Lánczi, president of the notorious Századvég Intézet that might be implicated in the corruption case that led to the banning of six Hungarians from the United States. The political scientists are much more active than the historians. The last post is by László György, who tries to convince his readers that “the Eastern opening is a necessity.”

Foreign affairs is covered by “Messzelátó“(far-sighted). The “chief blogger” there is Gergely Prőhle, who lost his job in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs after the reorganization and is now undersecretary in the Ministry of Human Resources in charge of European affairs. The last post was written by Ferenc Kumin, consul-general in New York. It is about US-Israeli relations. Pröhle also wrote an obituary of Boris Nemtsov on March 1.

On “Urbánus” mayors write articles about the problems municipal leaders face.  And “Gazda” (farmer) deals with topics related to agriculture.

Cink.hu talked to Károly Szita, mayor of Kaposvár who is in charge of Urbánus. Szita admitted that they have no idea about the size of their readership.

So, here is another feeble attempt to boost the government’s waning popularity. I must say that the Orbán government is grasping at straws nowadays.

And talking about blogs and bloggers. Gábor G. Fodor, who caused so much trouble for the government with his careless remarks about Viktor Orbán’s political strategies, decided to be quiet for a while. After February 23 he wrote nothing on GFG.blog.hu. Today he was back. “There is a situation. We are after Veszprém and before Tapolca. The question is: what is more important? Governance or election?… For the next three years governance has priority.” Did the government resign itself to losing Tapolca? This is what it sounds like to me.

Hungary’s modern Machiavelli: Gábor G. Fodor, the political thinker

At the moment I wouldn’t like to be in Viktor Orbán’s shoes. Let’s summarize briefly the troubles he has encountered in the last couple of weeks. First there was the less than successful visit of Angela Merkel, followed by his widely criticized meeting with Vladimir Putin in Budapest. His trip to Warsaw was a disaster. And then came yesterday’s stunning defeat in the Veszprém by-election, which caused such panic that today he called together the Fidesz presidium for an emergency meeting. In addition, nowadays criticism doesn’t come exclusively from the liberal papers. Magyar Nemzet has more or less found its voice as a conservative paper critical of the politics of the Orbán government. Even former colleagues, for example, Foreign Minister János Martonyi, voiced his disapproval of Orbán’s pro-Russian foreign policy.

On top of everything else, one of his greatest defenders, a so-called political scientist who describes himself as “a political thinker,” gave a long interview to Magyar Narancs in which he revealed details of the political strategies of the Orbán regime. These revelations were shocking, especially to right-wing followers of Viktor Orbán who thought that the prime minister’s program was a collection of high-minded ideas, noble goals for the good of the country. Well, Gábor G. Fodor, the political scientist in question, disabused them of this lofty view.

What offended the faithful to such an extent? G. Fodor in an interview described Viktor Orbán’s political career as nothing more than a series of manipulative moves devised to improve his standing in the polls. No grand ideas, only mendacious slogans that his stupid followers believe. His advisers look down on these people who can so easily be manipulated. Even his more sophisticated followers believe that Viktor Orbán’s concept of “polgári Magyarország” (a democratic Hungary based on middle-class values) was something the prime minister was truly aspiring to. Here is what G. Fodor says: “There are many among the right-wing intelligentsia who have the mistaken notion that the concept of ‘polgári Magyarország’ was a political reality, but it was no more than a political product. These people still think that Hungary between 1998 and 2002 was really ‘polgári.’ That is a huge mistake. This is at the bottom of their current aversion to the present regime.” Well, if G. Fodor is correct, Tibor Navracsics is among these duped right-wing Fidesz leaders because just yesterday he defined himself as someone who, I guess in opposition to current Orbán politics, believes in the “polgári Magyarország” that existed during the first Orbán administration. And if this is the case, as I believe it is, let’s hope that it will not be the “moderate” Tibor Navracsics who will save Hungary from Viktor Orbán. After all, Navracsics seems to believe in something that never really existed.

Hungary's modern Machiavelli, Gábor G. Fodor

Hungary’s modern Machiavelli, Gábor G. Fodor

Anyone who thinks that G. Fodor is not a faithful follower of Viktor Orbán is mistaken. He is one of the most loyal defenders of the Orbán regime. According to him, everybody who devotes himself to political analysis is “really a soldier” who “defends the truth of the government.” Later in the interview he spoke of Viktor Orbán as a political genius who needs no advisers.

All this reminded Hungarian commentators of Niccolò Machiavelli, who indeed was a very important political thinker, the father of modern political science. But his best-known work, The Prince, became notorious over the centuries. “Old Nick” for the Devil or Satan is no coincidence. Neither is the adjective Machiavellian, meaning cunning, amoral, opportunist, something or someone characterized by expediency and deceit. Here are a few fairly typical sentences from The Prince:

… those princes who have done great things have held good faith of little account, and have known how to circumvent the intellect of men by craft, and in the end have overcome those who have relied on their words.

[A prince must be] a great pretender and dissembler; and men are so simple, and so subject to present necessities, that he who seeks to deceive will always find someone who will allow himself to be deceived.

G. Fodor, who seems to be an excellent student of Machiavelli, I’m sure finds all these qualities in his idol, Viktor Orbán. And they are, to his mind, admirable qualities. But members of the right-wing intelligentsia were appalled by G. Fodor’s political analysis. As an unnamed Fidesz politician told Népszabadságif G. Fodor were a member of the government, this interview would be as devastating for Viktor Orbán as the Balatonőszöd speech was for Ferenc Gyurcsány. G. Fodor’s description of Orbán’s political methods further undermines the prime minister’s credibility. Barna Borbás of Válasz was obviously shaken and came to the conclusion that “we have to figure out what we have exactly. What is still reality and what it is that we have to let go because it seems that the System of National Marketing is truly no more than a product.” Note that he used the word “marketing” instead of “cooperation.”

Magyar Nemzet’s Zsombor György was equally shocked. He called the interview “an atomic bomb” because, if G. Fodor’s allegations are correct, then “the trust in the ‘polgári-keresztény’ governance is shaken to its very foundation.” All those values–like God, nation, family, Transylvania–were just packaged goods to be sold to the naive folks. György is upset by the Machiavellian notion that a leader’s primary duty is to make people do what he wants. “We must protest. This is not the mission of political leaders in a democracy.” Suddenly, Magyar Nemzet discovered that in a democracy “there must be transparency, information, dialogue and compromise.” György and his political allies want to believe that “GFG presents only his version of governance and that the greater part of the political leadership believes in polgári Magyarország.” Yet it seems that György is not convinced that G. Fodor is not telling the truth. “After all, Gábor G. Fodor is the strategic director of the political think tank that assists the government’s work. But reading this interview we can state: God save us from anyone listening to him. What he is talking about is a different world and another value system.” Is it?

I am shocked that these people seem to be truly shocked. It looks as if they honestly believed all the political marketing that was put in front of them when actually it was “Old Nick” who was guiding the hands of their great leader all along.

The Hungarian right’s latest: The Soros-Clinton-Obama axis

In liberal circles almost everybody is certain that the warnings of Bill Clinton and Barack Obama will not inspire Viktor Orbán to abandon his relentless pursuit to make the very existence of independent civil groups impossible. In fact, the smear campaign has only intensified in the last couple of days.

Official Hungary is quiet on the subject unless one can take seriously the comments of a newcomer to the ministry of foreign affairs and trade, Undersecretary Mónika Balatoni, who just can’t get over the fact that “western Europeans don’t understand us,” the freedom-loving people of Hungary. After all, already in St. Stephen’s time Hungarians “chose Christianity.” And there is Tibor Navracsics, whose “European commitment cannot be questioned.” This is, of course, merely a repetition of Szijjártó’s reference to freedom-loving Hungarians.

It is true that the Christian Democrats chimed in by repeating the government’s claim that Obama’s criticisms are groundless. In their opinion, the attack on Hungary is taking place because the Hungarian government opted for Christian democracy instead of liberal democracy. Jobbik naturally is on the side of the government with the difference that they say what the Orbán government does not want to: The president of the United States “openly admitted that his country constantly interferes in other countries’ internal affairs.” Since Obama talked about the United States’ national security, which is served by the existence of strong civil groups, Hungary in turn should restrict the foreign-financed groups which pose national security risks to Hungary.

But the real dirty work is being left to the government media and so-called  pro-Fidesz “political scientists.” In the political scientist category there is Gábor G. Fodor, “strategic director” of the Fidesz think tank Századvég. According to him, Obama’s speech was not about Hungary and other authoritarian regimes but about the United States. The speech shows the weakness, not the strength of America. After all, the president spoke of “national security interests.” And because of Obama’s confession about American national security interests, “it’s possible the Norwegian monies don’t come from Norway.” In plain English, the United States is funneling money into Hungary and other countries through Norway.

Spiler, a blogger, goes farther than Fodor. He notes that George Soros and Norway are the most generous supporters of the Clinton Foundation, and the same George Soros and Norway support Hungarian liberal groups. With a leap of logic our blogger lays the groundwork for a charge of conspiracy. Perhaps Clinton’s critical comments are payment for the generosity of George Soros and the government of Norway. On the basis of Spiler’s blog, Szilárd Szőnyi of Válasz is already talking about George Soros’s “civilian armies.” He describes Spiler’s post as a reliable source on the Soros-Clinton-Obama-Reykjavík axis. (I trust he doesn’t think that Reykjavík is the capital of Norway.)

George Soros, the bogiey man

George Soros, the bogeyman

The attack on the Hungarian civil groups was intensified by an article that appeared in the print edition of Heti Válasz today. The author is Bálint Ablonczay, a journalist with the reputation of being a moderate Fidesz supporter. But it appears that when the chips are down and the regime he supports receives harsh criticism from important sources, Ablonczay becomes a fierce defender of the regime. In this article, which is not available online, he justifies the Orbán government’s harassment of the civil groups by trying to prove that these NGOs are not really independent but are “liberal activist groups.” After all, they approach the question of abortion only as a women’s rights issue. They are interested in families only as places of domestic violence. Or they concentrate on alternative lifestyles. Finally, he cites an article published by an Israeli organization, NGO Monitor. It was written last year by Alexander H. Joffe, who claimed that the Soros-supported NGOs were adding to Israeli-Palestinian tensions. His conclusion is that Soros’s network is a powerful international tool that works against individual governments through these civil groups.

Ablonczay did a lousy job at fact checking. Csaba Tibor Tóth, a blogger, immediately wrote a post with the title “Heti Válasz and the Israeli Right against Soros.” NGO Monitor’s founder and president worked for a number of years in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office. The organization is really an arm of the present Israeli government, which hates the Israeli NGOs about as much as Orbán hates the Hungarian ones. NGO Monitor finds all independent groups “extremists.” Even groups attached to the UN are extremists. According to Tóth, NGO Monitor is something like the Hungarian CÖF, except much more sophisticated.

Magyar Nemzet published an article today about an alleged Soros conspiracy. The paper learned that George Soros cast his net over the civil groups. It was George Soros who financed the organizations in charge of the disbursement of the Norwegian funds throughout Eastern Europe. The article lists Romanian, Polish, Estonian, Lithuanian, Slovenian, and Bulgarian NGOs somehow connected to George Soros’s Open Society Foundation. The implication is that there is a supranational network organized by George Soros to do what? To topple these governments? How is it that no other governments in the region sent a squad of policemen to the office of one of these disbursement centers or suspended the tax numbers of all of them? Are they not worried about this conspiracy?

The problem is not with Clinton, Obama, the Norwegian government, George Soros or the NGOs but with Viktor Orbán’s government. They can concoct conspiracy theories to their hearts’ content about a supranational global attack on Christian Hungary, but I doubt that anyone will fall for that nonsense with the exception of Hungary’s right-wing voters.