The long arms of the Hungarian government
Originally I wanted to talk about Rudolf Ungváry, father of the historian Krisztián Ungváry, who wrote a piece in today's Népszava about his own political development from conservative to liberal. Ungváry writes extensively in the Hungarian media on political matters although by profession he is an engineer. What he is writing about in this article is the fairly common realization on the part of people who always thought of themselves as conservatives that they can't possibly identify with the Hungarian right. I find this phenomenon especially interesting in the case of Hungarians living in the United States who are conservative when it comes to American politics but liberal when the topic is in some way connected to Hungary. Their split political personality is perfectly understandable; what is going on in Hungary has nothing to do with conservatism.
Although Ungváry's "transformation" is of great interest and I'm convinced that many people will follow him, I will have to postpone the topic for another day because something else happened that might be of interest to non-Hungarian-speaking readers.
I volunteered my services to Zsófia Mihancsik, editor-in-chief of Galamus.hu, to report the names of the people György Bolgár interviews each day on his program. Galamus transcribes these interviews. On Mondays someone else usually takes over the program, but when Bolgár didn't show up on the late Monday night television program Újságíró Klub I figured he must be on vacation. I checked the Tuesday program, there was still no Bolgár. So, I assumed I was right, he was off somewhere on vacation, and I had a little free time in my schedule.
A few hours later I heard that Bolgár, along with two other Hungarians, was invited by the Swedish Pen Club to talk about the current Hungarian political situation. The others from Hungary were Mária Bogdán, a university lecturer of Roma origin, and László F. Földényi, a literary historian whose volume of essays just appeared in Sweden.
In the first half of the program there was a new television interview with Imre Kertész. Someone then read a short excerpt from the book of György Klein, a holocaust survivor. And finally Ervin Rosenberg, a well-known translator from Hungarian to Swedish, said a few words.
In the second half came Bogdán, Bolgár, and Földényi. All the talks were in English. The audience of about 200 listened politely and applauded enthusiastically. All went well until the end. When everybody thought that the event was over, a woman got up and announced that she would like to ask a few questions. The Swedish moderator announced that this is not a forum or a debating club and they were not planning to have a question and answer period. The woman wasn't satisfied and kept raising her voice; by the end, according to Bolgár, she was screaming in Hungarian. The whole audience got involved. Someone turned toward the speakers and yelled: traitors! From the other side came the reply: fascists! An unfortunately typical Hungarian scene in the middle of Stockholm. But that brouhaha is less important than something that happened even before the lectures began.
A television crew showed up saying that they represent Magyar Televízió. The Swedish organizers were taken aback because television crews usually arrange things ahead of time, but not the Hungarian crew. The Swedes originally didn't want to allow them to film the event, but the naive Hungarian participants saw no reason to exclude them and thus the organizers changed their minds. One must understand that Hungarian Television has no official correspondent in Sweden. A crew had to be sent from Budapest to Stockholm just for that occasion. It is likely that MTV or somebody higher up knew ahead of time that there would be a ruckus at the meeting of the Swedish Pen Club. Is it possible that this particular "event" was organized in the same way as other protests were, for example, when Ferenc Gyurcsány appeared in public? After all, we know by now that Fidesz is quite ready to pay people for services rendered. Think of the clapping 500 on March 15.
The expense of sending a television crew to Stockholm had to be considerable, and the only benefit to the Fidesz government was a brief segment on the evening news. The reporting was naturally quite slanted, and it seems that the chief target was György Bolgár because the story transformed him into the most important speaker at the whole event. However, from Bolgár we know the details of the program. The Hungarian visitors were allotted only a few minutes.
The TV report, entitled "Report from Hungary–Indignation in Stockholm," gives the impression of a general outcry over the false assertions about the Hungarian government. Moreover, MTV's evening news intimated that this event was organized by Hungarians for Hungarians. However, that wasn't the case. It was organized by the International and the Swedish Pen Club. The proceedings were all in English. MTV claimed that in Sweden there is "censorship" because the Hungarians present were not allowed to ask questions.
The Swedes are astonished and somewhat shaken. If some people in the audience thought that Bolgár and his fellow speakers were exaggerating, now they could see with their own eyes how the Hungarian government and the so-called independent public media function. As Gábor Kuncze, who was substituting for Bolgár on his talk show today, said succinctly: "We export all of our stupidites for the whole world to see."
As for MTV, allegedly an independent public television station, according to people whose opinion I trust Fidesz now has a third channel beside HírTV and Echo TV. Most of the old reporters have been sacked and in their place reporters from HírTV and Echo TV have been hired. MTV didn't have a large audience ito begin with, but since the personnel changes they have further lost viewership. Why not? With government propaganda oozing from the screen from reporters who wholeheartedly and unabashedly serve the government's purposes, the whole thing is a sham.