Damn the Torpedoes

Duly Noted

The title repeats the famous phrase coined by a great soldier of the “I shall return” class. Admiral Farragut knew that “torpedoes” exist (today we say “mines”) and that they cause damage. Nowadays, the governing elites –politicians, actors, publicists and professors- are in denial of “torpedoes” and pretend that, if they exist, they have a beneficial effect.

Mass migration has mobilized the moral-intellectual leadership of the West. This opposes the “populist” – “popular” is more accurate- reaction of Clinton’s “deplorable” masses. There is hardly an existential question in which, exposed to the consequences, the governed, could find it easier to form an iconoclastic opinion. The ground-level reaction to the uncontrolled inflow of integration-resistant masses, conflicts with the views of the political establishment. The response to “disobedience” creates bedlam among “insiders” and it threatens to terminate several political careers and to eliminate certain traditional parties.

The case –a commented article posted by Yahoo News- that is brought to you below, shows the desperate attempt to nudge people to “believe what we say, and not what you experience”. Some of the commented distortions are not only signs of anguish, but also of “artificially” created facts and of subliminal innuendoes to club the “enemy.”

Seemingly “local stories” can carry global messages. In Hungary, where a plebiscite on October 2nd asked whether its people wishes to accept any number of migrants that the European Union assigns to them without consulting her government. Aside of the Brexit-vote, other Europeans have no opportunity to express their view about a migration that they do not control either qualitatively or quantitatively.  (Allex, a small French town, has scheduled a local vote about the placement of migrants there. Paris forbade the vote on October 1st.) Thus, international opinion, and especially the opinion makers that serve the left-liberal cause are mobilized. Below follows a story that spans the Ocean.

How do you stop migrants? In Hungary, with ‘border hunters.’  (The term distorts what is meant. The correct phrase would be “Border Patrol.”) By Anthony Faiola October 1 2016.

GYOR, Hungary — During a recruiting fair at a police proving ground here, a gaggle of teenagers ogled a display of machine guns, batons and riot gear. A glossy flier held out the promise of rugged patrols in 4x4s, super-cool body-heat detecting equipment, night- vision goggles and migrant-sniffing dogs. ( Rampant militarism is the insinuated impression. In fact, the scene describes action at a recruiting station – one used to see in the US. The border patrol is to bolster the police and military assigned to hinder illegal infiltration.)

Because that’s how Hungary’s new “border hunters” roll. (“Border hunter” is a hostile translation of the original term. Literally translated, the phrase is correct. However, it does not mean what is implied. Meant is “Border Patrol” or “Border Guards”. “Hunter” often tags regiments, such as in the German “Gerbigsjäger” (jäger = hunter) which means “Mountain Division” and not “Mountain Hunter”. The implication that the Border Guard is to hunt down illegal entrants like hunters do wild boars is a distortion. Hostile intent or an “expert’s” lacking knowledge might by the explanation.)

This nation that once sat behind the Iron Curtain is offering a rare glimpse into a world where the build-a-wall mentality to keep migrants out rules the land. On Sunday, Hungarians will cast ballots in a national referendum on European Union quotas for accepting asylum seekers, with polls showing an overwhelming majority of likely voters poised to reject them.

They may as well hang a sign at the border, critics say: Welcome to Hungary – the migrant’s dystopia.

Donald Trump may want a wall, but Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban – a vocal fan of Trump’s immigration plan — has built one. Now, the nation is launching a massive recruitment drive for 3,000 “border hunters.” Their mission: beef up an already formidable migrant blockade, turning Hungary into a global model of how to prevent even the most determined asylum seeker from slipping through. (Oddly, Germany’s Chancellor who has “merkeld-up” Europe by an unlimited invitation to the Near East and Africa to settle in Europe, sold the plan as a “culture of welcome”. Merkel, who claimed “we will manage it” talks now about the defense of Europe’s outside borders. Currently, Germany is shielded by Orbán’s “wall” that closed Hungary as a transit for the mass that went to Germany where “mama Merkel” was expected to give one a house. Not long ago, the same Merkel’s official Germany called Hungary’s PM a Fascist for advocating what Merkel now approves.)

“Hungary does not need a single migrant for the economy to work or the population to sustain itself or for the country to have a future,” said Orban, who likened migration to “poison.” He added, “Every single migrant poses a public security and terror risk.” (The Hungarians estimate that, while her borders were open, thousands of IS followers had passed it. Orbán’s real point trumps the feeble quote here. It is something like: we wish to preserve our identity. So we must be able to determine with whom we live together, and will not leave that decision to the bureaucracy of the European Union.)

Yet in a country where the Gestapo once hunted Jews and Cold War-era secret police ferreted out dissidents, some here say that the government is in danger of instilling a different kind of fear. (Indeed, after the country’s German occupation in 1944, the Jews were hunted –not without local cooperation. Nevertheless, the holocaust in the countryside –most of the Jews of Budapest could be saved- is unrelated to the closing of the borders to suspected Islamists that are not the friends of the “Zionists”. Even so, the innuendo is well placed and creates the desired sentiment of a Nazi revival among the uninformed.)

Orban’s government is fueling the public rebellion against the mostly Muslim migrants, critics say, by financing a multimillion-euro campaign asking voters to reject E.U. quotas. Opponents call it the rise of state-sponsored hate speech. (True, referendums are not cheap. The advocates of not limiting the entrance of “mostly Muslim” migrants are the remnants of the left-liberal parties that achieve around 20% of the vote.)

In a widely distributed flier, the campaign is echoing Trump’s claim last year that aggressive Muslim migration has turned some European neighborhoods into “no-go zones.”  (In fact, several big cities have districts that the police and taxis avoid.) In one series of national ads, billboards in cities, towns and villages asked Hungarians, “Did you know?” before answering their own question:

  • “Since the beginning of the migration crisis more than 300 people died in terrorist attacks in Europe.” (Most of the killers in Paris and Belgium had passed through Hungary)
  • “Since the beginning of the migration crisis, harassment against women in Europe increased dramatically.” (It might not be PC; nevertheless, the claim is documented.)
  • “The Paris attacks were carried out by migrants.” (Well, Martians they were not.)

Critics concede it is within the limits of freedom of expression for anti-migrant supporters to make such blanket claims. But what is extraordinary, they say, is the zeal with which the government itself has become a mouthpiece for ethnic and religious caricatures. (Yes, the government urges a “No” vote to imposed settlement. It seeks to have an argument to resist EU pressure. Numerous other governments (Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia) support Budapest, and others hope that a precedent will be created that they can utilize.)

The Orban government, they argue, is mainstreaming racism.

“They have launched this extremely vile campaign to portray migrants as rapists and terrorists who can only be stopped if we put up walls to protect our Christian identity,” said Márta Pardavi, co-chair of the Hungarian Helsinki Committee. “To them, it doesn’t matter that it’s not true what they’re saying. They have created a great opportunity for racists.” (The politically dead “opposition” –it has its TV stations and press- hopes to activate forces abroad to de-legitimize the country’s government.)

‘Setting the agenda’

Europe’s migrant flood of last year has slowed to a trickle, in part because of a tenuous E.U. deal with Turkey as well as a move by Balkan nations to shut their borders. (This elegantly ignores Budapest’s role and that Turkey might soon open the gates to Europe.)

But hundreds of migrants are still slipping through, and more than 100,000 are stranded in the entry countries of Greece and Italy. All nations in the bloc, E.U. officials say, must share the burden and resettle a certain number of migrants determined by country size, population, economy and other factors.

But Hungary -along with Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia — is suing the E.U. to avoid taking in the 1,294 migrants the bloc says it must resettle. Sunday’s referendum is ostensibly to block future quotas. But it has effectively become a referendum on migrants themselves. (The quoted numbers appear to be insignificant. However, a principle is involved and the precedent threatens to have to share the millions that desire to come.)

Orban this week suggested one solution: setting up a “giant refugee city” in lawless Libya to process asylum seekers. (He also suggested stabilizing the country.)

Balázs Hidvéghi, a spokesman for Orban’s Fidesz Party, defended the “no” campaign and the hiring of border hunters, rejecting criticism as political correctness.

A former anti-communist activist turned populist nationalist, Orban last year took heat from his European peers for throwing up a fence to block the path of asylum seekers streaming into Europe from the war-torn Middle East. Yet Hidvéghi bragged that, for instance, the leader of Austria — who criticized Orban’s hard-line stance — is out of a job, while Orban is stronger than ever. (Orbán’s concept, without giving credit to the source, is becoming the policy of “civilized” western governments that are under the pressure of uncontrolled migration. Austria, which once subscribed to Merkel’s multicultural fantasies, is a good example.)

“We are setting the agenda,” Hidvéghi said.

One thing is relatively clear: Hungary’s migrant blockade seems to be working.

From a peak of more than 13,000 migrants a day, Hungary has more or less snuffed out illegal migration. About 30 legal migrants a day are allowed into transit centers for processing, and even the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) concedes that very few illegal migrants appear to be getting through.

That is partly because since July, Hungarian police and soldiers -about 8,000 of them- have begun “escorting” back behind the fence any migrant found within five miles of Hungary’s side of the border. Because the fence rests a few feet within Hungarian territory, the government says it is not technically expelling asylum seekers, a violation of international law.

The new border hunters will augment their efforts, officials say, by pairing with more experienced officers to spot migrants from towers and vehicles, track them and ultimately put them back behind the fence.

The UNHCR, however, says the policy appears to violate the Geneva Conventions. In addition, the UNHCR and Doctors Without Borders have documented allegations that the Hungarian police in more than 100 instances used excessive force to return migrants. Some migrants interviewed had showed investigators dog bites, severe bruises and other injuries. (Do some assertive migrants not act aggressively? Just listen to local peasants.)

“It is a basic right that if a person wants to ask for asylum, they have the right to cross the border in an irregular manner and make such a request,” said Ernö Simon, a senior spokesman for the UNHCR in Hungary. (Do ponder the reasonableness of such claims.)

Most migrants are simply seeking to transit Hungary to get to more generous nations such as Germany. But even some migrants who are permitted into Hungary are “treated like animals,” according a report released this week by Amnesty International. (Those that settle in poor countries might be told that they cannot expect more than what the “natives” have. Meanwhile, the “generous” Germans enjoy the relief brought by Hungary’s fence.)

In early August, according to Amnesty, more than half of the 1,200 asylum seekers residing in Hungary were under official detention. Former detainees reported beatings and threats of violence by Hungarian police and security guards. (Migrant claims are difficult to confirm because false document are widely used. Frequently, the papers that indicate citizenship in a safe state are destroyed in order to claim a favorable identity.)

Hungarian officials call such claims unfounded. Asked about allegations of mistreatment by migrants, Hidvéghi shrugged.

“Migrants have also said they came from Syria and turned out to be terrorists,” he said.

Opponents think the government may move to pass more anti-migrant legislation based on the outcome of Sunday’s vote. Polls show a large majority of likely voters set to reject the quotas – although turnout must exceed 50 percent to make the referendum valid. Some critics are calling for opponents to cast invalid ballots to try to nullify the results.

But whether because of the government campaign or not, many Hungarians seem to echo the sentiments of Daniel Kiss, a 17-year-old at the border hunters recruitment drive in this mid-size city. He is anxious to graduate high school next year, he said, and then become a border hunter to “defend my country.”

“There are some migrants with goodwill, but the majority are aggressive,” he said. “They just want to get across our border, and we can’t allow that.”

Gergo Saling in Budapest and Stephanie Kirchner in Berlin contributed to this report.

Postscript, October 3rd, the “morning after”. 98% of the 45% of the eligible voters rejected quotas. With inadequate participation, the referendum failed as a legally binding decision. To that nation’s shame, most plebiscites in Hungary fail due to her 50% rule. In fact, most referendums elsewhere, such as Columbia’s on the same Sunday, show low participation –as do many general elections. The failure is a negative for Orbán. However, the high rate of approval by those that did not assume that, anyhow,  their neighbor will go and vote, is a pale success. That, and the 80% of support that opinion surveys indicate, will have legislative consequences and Hungary –leading others- will resist “quotas”.


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