Tag Archives: terrorists

The “Let’s stop Brussels” questionnaire: Orbán’s silver bullet?

I haven’t analyzed Viktor Orbán’s speeches for some time, but yesterday he delivered a fairly important speech to parliament. So I think it’s time to take a closer look at the Hungarian prime minister’s state of mind.

As usual, he is on a war footing with Brussels. But if I’m correct, his posture, despite his belligerent tone, is more defensive. His position within the European Union has weakened considerably since the Brexit referendum and the French election. More and more voices can be heard within the European Union calling for financial retribution as a form of punishment for countries that refuse to cooperate when it comes to the refugee crisis. For the time being Jean-Claude Juncker would like to avoid such a drastic step, but the announcement of a looming infringement procedure can be expected any day.

Obviously, Orbán has been expecting such a move on the part of the European Commission. Right now the only bullet in his defensive arsenal is “the national consultation,” with which he wants to “stop Brussels.” But not all bullets are equally effective. The “Let’s stop Brussels” campaign and its imbecilic, deceptive questions have annoyed the Commission from the beginning. I very much doubt that the Commission will be impressed by the responses the Hungarian government received arguing against any interference by the European Union in what Viktor Orbán considers purely national affairs.

Before I turn to the actual speech, I would like to say something about the “success” of this particular consultation. The claim is that the “Let’s stop Brussels” questionnaire was returned by a record number of citizens. Indeed, if we take a look at the Wikipedia entry on “Nemzeti konzultáció,” we can see that this year’s questionnaire was returned by a greater number of people than any of the other five campaigns previously staged. However, we must keep in mind that no independent body counts the returned forms. We have only the number the Orbán government provides.

Given the lack of accountability of the government, I have long had my doubts about the government’s figures in connection with these consultations. This time I’m even more suspicious than before. The consultation drive began on April 1, and on April 19 Antal Rogán’s propaganda ministry reported that 140,000 questionnaires had been returned. But then, on April 25, six days later, Csaba Dömötör, undersecretary in the prime minister’s office, announced that 380,000 questionnaires had been received. Quite a jump, I would say. Two weeks after that, the same Dömötör triumphantly announced that “more than 1,130,000” citizens had already returned their questionnaires. In two weeks the numbers had almost tripled. But if the drive was such a success, why was it necessary for Lajos Kósa, as leader of the Fidesz parliamentary caucus, to ask for an extension of the deadline from May 20 to May 31? In any case, Viktor Orbán at the beginning of his speech in parliament yesterday claimed that 1.4 million people are practically unanimously standing behind the government in its fight against Brussels. This number, by the way, by the end of speech became 1.7 million. So, who knows?

Altogether 8.1 million questionnaires were sent out to all citizens over the age of 18, and therefore it doesn’t matter how you slice it: 1.4 or 1.7 million returned questionnaires, take your pick, shouldn’t be hailed as a great victory. But what is really annoying is that Viktor Orbán blithely turned the official government figure(s) of a 17%-21% return rate into a pro-government response rate of greater than 50% when he said that “the majority of Hungarians think that Brussels is going in the wrong direction.”

What do the government and the “majority of Hungarians” want, according to Orbán? They want “a Hungarian Hungary and a European Europe.” A couple of years ago Jobbik’s Gábor Vona announced with great fanfare that “Hungary belongs to the Hungarians,” and it seems that Viktor Orbán now agrees with him. I wonder what he would say if the prime minister of Slovakia or Romania announced that he wants to have an ethnically pure Slovakia or Romania and the Hungarian minority has only two choices: emigrate or assimilate. I assume there would be an incredible outcry, and with good reason. As for the “European Europe,” we all know what Orbán has in mind. A white Europe.

In connection with the ten-year jail sentence for “terrorism” meted out to Ahmed H. for using a megaphone to call for calm during clashes at the Serbian-Hungarian borders, Orbán accused “Brussels” of supporting terrorists at the expense of the security of the Hungarian people. Bernadett Szél (LMP) said in response that Orbán had “misplaced his medication.” George Soros couldn’t be left out of Orbán’s speech to parliament, and indeed the “American speculator” was pictured as someone who is directing the fate of Europe. The European Commission is under his influence. He asked the members of parliament “not to stand by Brussels in Hungary’s disputes with the European Union.” In addition, the parliamentarians “should stand by the Hungarian people in the battle between the Soros mafia and Hungary.”

Orbán announced that Hungary “can’t accept that [its] future is decided in Moscow, Brussels, and Washington.” As for the future, Orbán made some strange comments. Let me quote one of them. “The French election during the past weekend shows that the revolt of the European people has also reached France.” We know that when Orbán in the last couple of years was talking about “the revolt of Europeans” he was not thinking of Macron’s centrist movement. Macron’s victory is not a welcome piece of news for Orbán, which he tries to hide here. He also seems worried about a possible French-German “experiment to transform Europe,” which may take place after the German election. At the moment, “it is not clear whether these developments will help or hinder the realization of Hungary’s national interests.” Odds are, however, that hard times are coming, and therefore the national consultation took place at the best possible moment.

Let me express my very serious doubts that Orbán’s national consultation is the kind of silver bullet that will save the Hungarian government from the consequences of Viktor Orbán’s antagonistic, confrontational behavior and his flaunting of the core values of the European Union. Surely, in his sane moments he must know that those stacks of returned questionnaires are not worth a plug nickel when it comes to negotiations with the important political players of the European Union.

June 13, 2017

The greatly touted Hungarian terrorist story is a hoax

Last night Reuters reported from Budapest that the Hungarian anti-terrorist police had detained four people traveling toward Budapest with explosives in their car and later found “a bomb-making laboratory set up for a mass killing.” The source of the information was the director-general of TEK (Terrorelhárítási Központ), János Hajdu. In addition, Hajdu revealed that two other people had been arrested in a separate raid, in whose possession they found submachine guns, silencers, and ammunition. When asked whether the subjects were jihadist terrorists, he said “Let me reply to that in the next few days.” He also declined to disclose the suspects’ identities, nationalities or motives but indicated that the case had “an international dimension.” Reuters seemed to know that the “suspects had been formally placed under arrest.” In no time this Reuters report from Budapest was picked up in the major newspapers of the world. Fox News announced this development with a bright yellow sign behind the anchor reading “Alert!”

In Hungary, meanwhile, János Hajdu, the former bodyguard of Viktor Orbán, made the rounds at several television stations in addition to MTV’s M1 where he made his initial announcement. I watched him on ATV where he was a guest of Egyenes beszéd.

The news spread like wildfire. Since the initial announcement of TEK’s raids over the weekend hundreds of Hungarian media outlets painted lurid pictures of the possible dangers posed by these “bomb makers,” further disquieting an already jittery Hungarian public. Hajdu described a full-fledged laboratory in which the suspects were ready to manufacture bombs which they could either use themselves or make for others. There was talk of detonators, test tubes, disguised fire extinguishers filled with explosives capable of killing hundreds of people, and grenades of all sorts. He showed a picture of a contraption that was described as a starter mechanism for would-be assassins. The impression he tried to convey was that Hungary was in mortal danger. International terrorism had reached the country.

János Hajdu with his boss / Photo Népszava Péter Szalmás

János Hajdu with his boss / Photo Népszava / Péter Szalmás

There is only one problem with the story: not a word of it is true. There is no bomb factory, and there are no terrorist suspects. It is would be easy to conclude that members of TEK are staggeringly incompetent. The best example of their incompetence was the time they seized theater props arriving in Budapest for a film production, thinking they were real weapons. I wrote about that fiasco earlier. But this time it is almost certain that we cannot chalk up to incompetence what happened during this past weekend. Here we are dealing with the willful misleading not only of the public but even of the parliamentary committee on national security. The reason for the deceit? It is most likely a desire to help Viktor Orbán’s current propaganda campaign against the asylum seekers.

Currently the Hungarian government is in the midst of a ferocious anti-refugee campaign. Activists knock on doors gathering signatures to oppose the quota system that the European Union will most likely introduce to deal with the refugee crisis. It was only a few days ago that Viktor Orbán in an interview said that “of course, it’s not accepted, but the factual point is that all the terrorists are basically migrants… The question is when they migrated to the European Union.” The anti-refugee propaganda has been in full swing for months, and by now the great majority of Hungarians have been convinced that the world would come to an end if Hungary accepted even a single refugee. It looks as if it was TEK’s job to find a few terrorists in Hungary to heighten the fear that is already widespread.

So, let’s see what actually happened. There were two raids, both in or close to Budapest. The first took place on Saturday. It seems that TEK had been following two Hungarian men who, from the details Hajdu gave to Olga Kálmán of ATV, are “extremists” and who illegally had in their possession submachine guns, home-made silencers, and ammunition. I suspect that they are the ordinary neo-Nazi types who are unfortunately rather common in Hungarian far-right circles. The second raid took place on the highway, where they arrested four men. These are the ones suspected of terrorism. This is the case that, according to Hajdu, has “an international dimension.”

What is the truth? A young fellow who lives in Budapest is a World War II history buff who collects wartime memorabilia. This past weekend, with his father and two of his friends from Slovakia, he headed to some wooded areas around Veszprém with a metal detector to look for items like shells and old grenades. They packed the things they had found into the trunk of the car and headed home. Great was their surprise when they were surrounded by members of the Hungarian anti-terrorist group. TEK units, with their uniforms, masks, and heavy weaponry, are quite a frightening sight. A search of his parents’ apartment followed, where TEK grabbed everything that looked suspicious to them, including, for example, the above mentioned fire extinguisher. Naturally, the three boys and the father were arrested.

The case was so weak, however, that even the prosecutors asked for temporary custody only for Roland S., who is most likely the boy with such an interest in war memorabilia. This afternoon, however, the court ruled that none of the four should be detained, and in the press release the court stated that “there is nothing in the documents that would indicate that the suspect whose interest in World War II is no more than a hobby has any connection with other organized criminal groups or terrorist organizations…. In fact, everything indicates the lack of any such connection. There is no proof of any extremist views or any foreign connection with the exception that his two companions with a similar interest are from Upper Hungary [Slovakia].”

This morning János Hajdu and other high officials of TEK, who were asked to appear before the parliamentary committee on national security to brief the lawmakers on the background of the terrorist threat, lied. HVG learned that Hajdu talked about the Roland S. case as being of great importance. When the committee members left the conference room, they–including the opposition members–announced that TEK had done an excellent job. Hajdu never said that Roland S. was a collector of war memorabilia or that the so-called international connection was nothing more than two friends from Slovakia.

Try to imagine what would happen to János Hajdu if he pulled this trick at a hearing of one of the committees of the U.S. Congress. He would be charged with contempt of Congress. This is exactly what happened to Rita Lavelle, an EPA official, in 1983 when she was indicted for lying to Congress. She was convicted and sentenced to six months in prison, five years probation thereafter, and a fine of $10,000.

But rest assured, nothing of the sort will happen in Hungary. I hope that the opposition will have the good sense to raise hell and that journalists will follow up on this disgraceful story.

Ignorance and prejudice in Hungary

Tibor Frank, a Canadian-Hungarian economist who lives in Vancouver, just returned from Hungary after a longer visit where he gave several interviews. After his return he also talked to Kanadai Magyar Hírlap about his impressions. During the interview he expressed his amazement at “how someone can turn around his little finger a whole country, how he can enrich his whole family, how he can turn against the whole world and how he can still remain popular.” Indeed, he is not alone in finding all this difficult to understand.

At the moment the refugee question and the government’s response to the arrival of migrants is the hottest topic in Hungary, something that sharply divides society. The campaign of fear and hate conducted by Fidesz politicians continues unabated. Just to give one example, here is László Kövér, one of the founders of Fidesz and best friend of Viktor Orbán, who wonders whether the large number of refugees arriving in Europe is not so much a simple migration as Orbán described it but “an invasion organized with a secret purpose in mind.” Terrorists arriving in Europe “may make the next decades the age of dread.” So, it’s no wonder that a barely literate man, who lives right on the Serbian-Hungarian border, says on a video taken by HVG that “Europe is kaput,” or that “something is going to happen here,” which I take to be a primitive summary of Kövér’s fear-mongering vision.

It makes a difference what kinds of messages the population receives from its political leaders. Hatred mixed with fear has spread like wildfire all over Hungary lately, the sources of which are Fidesz and Jobbik politicians. And the seeds of hatred find a perfect breeding ground in the backward region where most of the refugees cross the Serbian-Hungarian border.

ignorance

What do these people know about the new arrivals? The older woman on the HVG video knows absolutely nothing about them and has no desire to learn. “It’s not my business,” she says. The police should take care of them. The man on the video thinks he does know something. According to him, the refugees are Kurds who are “cigányok, Roma” and, showing off his knowledge of English, adds “Gypsies, you know.” He is originally from Subotica/Szabadka where they call these Kurds “talibánok” because they come from “Tália or something.” He may be ignorant but he has strong opinions. He is not afraid of the migrants because after all he has a “shovel, hoe, and pitchfork” which “unfortunately” he didn’t have to use yet. Why unfortunately? “Because I can’t stand them.”

And I suspect that not too many people in this region have more accurate information about the refugees than these two.

Yesterday we talked about the generally low level of medical knowledge among Hungarians. One of the comments to the post talked about unhealthful eating habits. Indeed, it is a major problem that should be dealt with on the highest political level. But as a commenter pointed out, there is no government campaign to change the dietary habits of Hungarians. The result is obvious, as it should be to the prime minister himself who has put on a great deal of weight. Obesity is a huge problem in the United States, but Barack and Michelle Obama have been actively promoting a change in dietary habits. Obesity is also a problem in Hungary, but there the population only sees and hears how much the prime minister likes “Hungarian  cuisine.”

And finally, let’s talk about another area of ignorance, the nature of homosexuality. This topic has been in the forefront of discussions lately, mostly because of the very successful Budapest Pride, a week of celebrations for the 20th anniversary of the first gay demonstration in Budapest. Although this was the largest Pride ever, the majority of Hungarians still entertain virulently homophobic attitudes. Again, some of these prejudices stem from ignorance. And I’m talking not only about ignorant laymen. I’m talking about a doctor who, on top of everything else, is a DK politician in Baranya County. His name is László Sütő, and he is a general practitioner (háziorvos) in the village of Baksa, population 800. To DK as well as to Gyurcsány personally, who is a supporter of the LGBT community, he became a major embarrassment.

Sütő spread his ignorance on Facebook where he claimed that “the science of medicine considers all chromosomal abnormality illness. There can be no exception for sexual chromosomes.” After this pseudo-scientific announcement he expressed his true feelings with the worst kinds of obscenities. It turned out that Sütő has gone through many parties since the regime change in 1990. Originally he was a member of the Smallholders, which before the appearance of István Csurka’s MIÉP was considered to be the quintessential rightist party. Later he joined MSZP and, when Gyurcsány left the socialists, Sütő followed him to the newly established Demokratikus Koalíció. Sütő apparently also held views not exactly compatible with the ideas of his party on the Russian-Ukrainian conflict, when he took a pro-Moscow position.

One could say that a single ignorant doctor means nothing. The trouble is that he is not alone. I  myself encountered a Hungarian psychiatrist who believed that homosexuality is like smoking. One can take it up and one can give it up. And just yesterday another learned physician felt compelled, on György Bolgár’s program, to support Sütő’s position. So, I was glad that today a real scientist and an expert on the subject was invited to report on the state of scientific research into the genetic component of homosexuality.

Unfortunately, getting rid of ignorance, which fuels prejudice and hatred, doesn’t serve the interests of the present regime. Actually the more ignorant the better; they will believe everything the government tells them.