Recalibrating an Image


In general, the writer skirts topics that relate to his background. To be called wrong comes with the trade. Judgments related to a country of origin are to be avoided because the charge of prejudice can be raised. That is, if proven, much worse than being just plain wrong. Avoiding certain venues creates problems. With three countries to be prejudiced in favor of, -not counting locations from which the family originates- the principle, if applied, condemns one to silence.

The news, as presented by major sources, demand that an exception be made in the case of Hungary. Worriedly, this writer joins the crowd that discusses her.

Generally, small entities lack the weight to stick to the headlines. It is the big states, such as Russia, China, and the USA that dominate the news. To be noticed, it helps to be a nuclear power, possess indispensable natural resources, or to be a trouble-maker that can detonate bombs anywhere at any time. Being the hardline proxy of a major power attracts attention, and so will victimhood once it is too late to help. Tibet, possibly soon Taiwan, Jews in the past -but not the present- Armenians come to mind. A Cambodia had not had enough people to be massacred to stay in the news for long. Ditto for the victims of Soviet atrocities, such as Hungary in 1956, or Czechoslovakia ’68. Some European states with a recognized history, such as Italy, France, Germany, and England, rate as newsworthy.

Inattention, interrupted by an outburst of interest triggered by a crisis, has an impact on reporting. Countries located off the map of attention receive shoddy treatment. Even some experts will have a sketchy understanding of the crisis’ background. The knowledge gap will be filled by snippets from generalized treatments of the country’s region. The “secondary matter” will be discussed in perfunctory terms, mirroring prejudices that are accepted as fitting by the consensus of the unaware. Once the first pieces of semi-informed and superficial accounts appear -often penned by persons with an axe to grind- their thesis will be taken over by scribes that rely on the reputation of their seniors. Such copying thrives because the one in charge is unqualified to tell whether his trusted source is sound or not.

Among the neglected countries that have catapulted to newsworthiness is Hungary. Hardly a publication that will not mention it or its Premier Orbán. Usually the context is something like “rightist dictatorship”, “suppressed intellectuals”, or “xenophobe”. The list closes with “illiberal” as in “illiberal state” that Orbán claims to lead. That one might not impress all readers, but it does give the shudders to those that write and think PC, meaning that they do not think but follow.
If there is such a thing as an international villain, then Victor Orbán fits the role. In reacting, one is tempted either to chime in or to respond with a hagiography. What follows will attempt to avoid these traps.

In Hungary’s case, a front row role is unusual but not unprecedented. The ringing of church bells at noon commemorates a 1456 major victory over the Ottoman Empire. In 1848/49, when throughout Europe, democrats fought reaction, the Hungarians alone set-up a functioning democratic state. While the risings were defeated by police actions, the Magyars erected an army that forced the routed Habsburgs to invite Russia’s intervention. Hungary’s exiled leader, Louis Kossuth played an important role. It is expressed by the circumstance that the second foreigner (after Lafayette) to address a joint session of Congress was Kossuth. Following the defeat of the revolution of 1956 -inspired by “1848”- Hungary again dominated the “front page”. Restored Soviet control produced abundant executions and some reforms, so that the country became known as the “merriest barrack in the Soviet camp.” In 1989, the land re-emerged as newsworthy. By tearing down its section of the Iron Curtain, it hastened the collapse of the USSR’s outer empire.

The discourse about “attention” does not insinuate that Hungary strives for a leading role. Orbán prefers to be a silent force of influence, content if his phrases are echoed abroad without crediting their source. That makes him an igniter, not a soloist. The man is calm in interviews and during his weekly radio addresses. The only time he played the rabble-rouser was his ascent on the political scene. The hirsute kid spoke at the re-burial of Imre Nagy -a communist Premier executed on Moscow’s orders in 1959- to demand the removal of “Russian” troops. Oddly, that happened to be one of the deeds that got Nagy executed. (Wrongly, this writer was highly critical of the address because it provoked the Kremlin.)

Since then, Orbán became Premier and lost the post in a dubious election. Due to the left-liberal mismanagement of the economy, Orbán regained power with a 2/3 majority in 2010. In 2018 the 2/3 victory could be repeated and the country is doing quite well. Orbán/FIDESz can hardly be challenged which made the “liberals”, the left and, yes, the extreme right to join forces against “the one-party-state”.

Unemployment dropped from 12% to under 3.6%, wages are rising; the retired are lured back to work. FDI grows and, displeasing the EU, the corporate tax rate, sinks to 17.5%. Inflation is negligible, domestic consumption expands, the building trade grew 34%, and the debt sinks from 84% to 66%. Newly the budget is balanced.
To get a grasp of the Orbán phenomena some policies and phrasings need to be presented.

“Illiberal democracy” might head this list. Orbán sees in present day liberalism a force that had abandoned the classical liberalism that made modern democracy emerge. New liberalism advocates surrender when something worthy is to be defended. While the left and the all-forgiving center abuse the concept of compromise, the grave-diggers of western civilization equate statesmanship with appeasement. Separating the terms ”liberalism” and “democracy” intends to preserve a successful political-social-economic model. It also rejects the kind of compromise that hides capitulation, even if disoriented elites praise it as non-violent problem-solving. No deed of Orbán gets more venom than this challenge to the political class’ ideological foundation.

Orbán’s Hungary is not a foe of the EU, but it opposes centralization. Therefore: “What is at stake is Europe, the lifestyle of Europeans, European values, the survival or disappearance of European nations, and their transformation beyond recognition. Today, the question is not merely in what kind of a Europe we would like to live in, but whether what we understand as Europe will exist at all.” The main threat is seen as coming from uncontrolled migration and from statism. The EU is a rare entity that “condemns its own border guards”.

Orbán is wary of the “brusselism” which aims to prevent national states from solving their problems while “common solutions” are cited even if “nothing happens”. Taking power from the states, even if Brussels is unable to solve problems, weakens Europe. It is therefore important that not the bureaucrats shall determine the EU’s future. “There are bureaucrats in Brussels, they are as numerous as locust, they live in their bubble and they wish to impose rules that ignore real life. Ergo, leadership must be in the hands of the elected Premiers”. These are to lead Europe in a manner that respects its nations, preserves the Judeo-Christian heritage, and the member states’ independence”. Therefore, a leadership is required that “represents our interests and that respects us (central Europe’s ‘V4’ is meant)”.

Beyond pleading for a Europe of equal national states, to Orbán “Europe must be able to defend itself. Political correctness does not protect from cruel barbarism”. Thus, “a country that cannot control its borders is no country”. Orbán emphasizes that the EU needs to be led into a direction that, beyond stopping migration, shows respect for its nations, emphasizes the preservation of their cultural identity, and guarantees the economic independence of member states.

On the whole, the opposition to uncontrolled migration and the defense of Europe’s borders is a key theme of the confrontation with the EU. Orbán opposes the centrally mandated inflow of elements whose values clash with those of the indigenous. That Hungary is rated as the world’s 14th safest country is attributed to this resistance. Beyond that, Orbán insists that to really help peoples in trouble it is better to take help “there” than to import the trouble “here”.

It is hardly astonishing that Orbán enjoys a better reception among common people than in the intellectual elite. The reason transcends the preference that bases policy on the real-world experience of the mass, and not on the abstractions of the political class. Orbán ignores the latter and their solutions. The ire of the so shunted focuses on the alleged treatment of George Soros, an international VIP.

His origins might explain Mr. Soros’ special interest in Hungary. The multiplicator of that is that Soros grew into a combative left-liberal. His financial stake is considerable in politically failing liberal NGOs that feed and promote intellectuals globally. These vassals, albeit locally ineffective, exert, being certified as “experts” in the West, much influence abroad. Thereby they assure Hungary and Orbán of bad PR. This leads to exchanges that can be wobbly. Criticizing Soros brings the charge of anti-Semitism although that about Soros’ background is “never” mentioned. In fact, Orbán has a good relationship to Israel because it also defends its identity. Anyone who approves of “America First”, and says “Hungary First, will appreciate an “Israel First” policy. It is short-sighted, to make out of a critique of someone, who happens to be a Jew, a proof of anti-Semitism. Similarly, suggesting that surviving the Shoa with a faked identity is evidence of “collaboration with the Nazis”, does not fly. Furthermore, Soros’ fortune does not justify using it as evidence of crookedness.

Hungary’s conflict with Soros, his NGOs, with Brussels, and liberal gurus has a core. It is located in the management of third-world migration into the welfare state. The political survival of the chatterers depends on the continuation of the open-ended admission of all comers. Their mantra is that migration is a profitable moral obligation and that, anyhow, it “cannot be stopped”. Orbán’s international role began when in 2015, once hundreds of thousands of aggressive and disrespectful migrants overran Hungary. Orbán stopped the inflow and erected a “wall”. Grasping for moral leadership role, Merkel admitted the tide, and since then, she and the country are suffering from the resulting crime, stressed social services, and lost credibility.

All oracles condemned the erection of a fence that was said not to work. Since then, more borders are being fortified because that works. In fact, the critics of defended borders are beneficiaries of what they publicly condemn. If one cannot enter Hungary, one does not reach Austria, Germany, etc. The result makes it appear that the problem is less pressing than it really is. Furthermore, the reduced inflow mitigates the pressure on migration-committed multiculturalists. At any rate, Orbán has demonstrated that borders work on land and, following his example, Italy’s Salvini showed that the inflow can be controlled on the sea.

Let this end with Orbán’s abbreviated plan for a European Union enabled to protect its population, the identity of its peoples from centralists, and from being submerged by an integration-resistant invasion.

Migration’s management must be taken from the bureaucracy and returned to national governments. No country should be coerced to accept migrants. No undocumented person should be admitted to the EU. Nor shall Brussels continue to fund Soros’ organizations that further migration. Instead, compensate the cost of defending EU borders. No European shall be disadvantaged for identifying as a Christian. To do this, the EU is to be led by those that oppose unselective migration.

As the once silent majority begins to roar, and the populist revolt, personified by Orbán spreads, it might appear to the observer that the EU is tottering. In order to consolidate it, a return to earlier goals and procedures is needed. Yet, all signs point to a hardening posture of those in command. In the case of non-member and “encircled” Switzerland, the take-it-or-leave-it terms offered are spiced by threats. Britain, eager to regain the status the Swiss have not yet given up, is unable to negotiate the “non-negotiable”, and so she is headed for a “no-deal” or submission. Meanwhile, further crises are probable. A call by a leading a radical-liberal in a plenary session on Hungary -and by implications others- to leave the EU substantiate the forecast. So do EU proceedings initiated to suspend Hungary for violating European values and the censure of Poland.

This inflexibility is typical. Those who have a little power will be tempted to get more of it and then to “dig in”. Once this is achieved, the appetite for “more” rises. When that happens, it is difficult not to abuse might. Avoiding this development is difficult. It takes nearly superhuman farsightedness to voluntarily reverse the process, and to surrender in time the power captured. “In time” means here “before the fist-shaking “natives”, yielding axes and scythes, congregate at the office’ portals”.

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