Political correctness in Hungary

Hungarians don't believe in political correctness. They think that it is just one of those crazy American ideas. Not only is political correctness a ridiculous concept, it is also a dishonest practice. Through it leading members of society, intellectuals, politicians, force their own standards on others. More than that, it constitutes censorship. After all, there is such a thing as freedom of speech and by forcing people not to say certain things people are being restricted. How ridiculous that in the United States a coach got into trouble because he said something "innocent" about black players. In Hungary no such thing can happen. There was the case of a coach who announced after an African soccer team beat the Hungarians that it was a shame that such a thing could happen when these people not long ago were still up in the trees. No problem, it was just a turn of phrase. He didn't mean any harm.

Well, the first serious consequence of a transgression of political correctness may have taken place yesterday. The police chief of Miskolc, Albert Pásztor, gave a press conference (http://tinyurl.com/amhl4q) that is shocking to someone, like myself, who is accustomed to political correctness and who thinks that following the rules of PC might even have a beneficial effect on societal attitudes. The press conference was held in order to inform the public of the activities of the police force in the city. They investigated x number of murders, y number of thefts, z number of bank robberies, and so on. Why the police chief felt compelled to deliver a tirade against the Gypsy population of the city is a mystery to me, but he explained that one ought to tell the "truth." And the truth is that Gypsy children were responsible for eight attacks against elderly people (purse snatchings) and against youngsters with cell phones. He wanted to warn these people to look out for those Gypsies who might attack them the next time they step out on the street. "Many of those darling little Gypsy kids become ruthless criminals." But that wasn't enough. He continued: "We can state with certain assurance that all the robberies committed in public places are done by Gypsies. The truth is that Hungarians [meaning non-Gypsies] will perhaps rob a bank or a gas station, but all others are committed by them [the Gypsies]."

Well, even that would have been more than American public opinion would tolerate but what followed was off the charts. In Miskolc there is a hilly area (Avas) in which there are many large apartment buildings erected during the Kádár regime. From the police chief's speech it is clear that some Gypsy families purchased apartments in these complexes. In the police chief's opinion "these people don't even want to live in a place like that. They don't have any need for such apartments. It doesn't even occur to them that eventually the mortgage must be paid or that they will have to share with their neighbors the common expenses. It doesn't occur to them that here they have to conduct themselves in conformity with their surroundings…. Living together with them simply doesn't work. That's all." These were the closing sentences of his so-called press conference.

Well, this time the reaction was immediate. Tibor Draskovics, minister of justice also in charge of the police force, instructed József Bencze, chief of police of the country, to relieve Pásztor of his duties. As soon as the news of Pásztor's dismissal reached Miskolc, the whole city was outraged. The mayor is socialist, but he stood by the police chief, and all members of the city council followed suit. The people of Miskolc began organizing a demonstration against the dismissal of Pásztor. They demand the dismissal or resignation of Draskovics and Bencze instead. The socialist mayor went so far as to plan a trip to Budapest in order to convince Draskovics to change his mind. The socialist member of parliament from Miskolc is also on the side of Pásztor and against Draskovics. The MSZP caucus of the County of Borsod (Miskolc is the county seat) told the police chief to ignore the decision. Just go back to work on Monday as if nothing had happened. The socialist parliamentary member was certain that "by Monday night everything will be taken care of. If Tibor Draskovics wants to remain in his post he has no other choice" but to rescind his decision.

Albert Pásztor's supporters even include Attila Lakatos, the Gypsy "vajda" of the county. The vajda once had an important position in the Gypsy community, acting more or less as a judge. Whether today he speaks in anyone's name I really don't know. However, Lakatos announced that Pásztor is no racist. He was just telling the truth. The head of the Gypsy self-government of Mezőkövesd also stands by Pásztor. As for Draskovics, it is clear to me that he should not retreat, but apparently the minister is not very popular in socialist circles although he is a confidant of Ferenc Gyurcsány. Thus, Gyurcsány will be in a difficult position. On the one hand there might be an uprising within the party while his sense of justice is on the side of Draskovics.

This is apparently not the first racist statement of the Miskolc police chief. Last September he talked about the impossibility of integrating Gypsies into the mainstream. At another discussion he claimed that Gypsies are forcing out Hungarians from certain parts of Miskolc and that should not be permitted. But the police chief is quite popular because the crime rate in Miskolc has decreased by 30% since he took office. He even received on August 20th last year one of the highest orders of the Hungarian Republic. So this is where we stand now. A rather unfortunate situation at the time of heightened tensions between Gypsies and non-Gypsies.

The solid support behind Pásztor is telling. There is no difference between right or left when it comes to their opinion of the Gypsies. Socialist or Fidesz makes no difference. They want the head of the man who wouldn't tolerate this racist talk, and they stand solidly behind the man who told the "truth."


  1. You can leave the quotes off from the “truth”, the police chief of Miskolc was absolutely (perhaps not politically) correct.
    Obviously you didn’t grow up in Hungary like myself, or if you did, you were lucky to live in a protected neighborhood.
    I could list hundreds of examples from my personal experience why it is in everyone best interest to be careful with gypsies.
    No one is suggesting that all gypsies are criminals, but unfortunately decent ones are the exception, and this government is incapable of dealing with the problem, so they make it illegal to even mention it.
    Political correctness in the USA is out of control. PC is frequently abused by phony “civil rights leaders” and all minorities. Seems like the majority no longer allowed to have a voice. If we give up our right to free speech only to accommodate hyper-sensitive minorities, it will not make the world a better place, only a dishonest one controlled by fear. Is this what you’re promoting?
    Hungary has a growing gypsy problem, we have to recognize it and make an effort to help those who need help, and I don’t mean handouts, but a chance for a more civilized lifestyle. Attitudes must be adjusted on both sides.
    What do you have to say about this:

  2. Op, and others,
    This is not a question of political correctness. While there is a major issue of anti-racism here, the basic reason why Draskovics has no other choice whatever the politics of it is legal and constitutional.
    Article 68(1) of the constitution states pretty clearly that “The national and ethnic minorities living in the Republic of
    Hungary share the power of the people; they are constituent factors in
    the State.” In other words a Hungarian citizen is entitled to equal treatment as a citizen whatever their ethnicity.
    What you have here is a senior police officer whose public statements and practices contravene a basic constitutional principle. I shouldn’t need to point out the dangers of creating a situation where senior public officials are allowed to get away with publicly flouting the principles of the constitution – especially when that public official is a senior officer of an arm of the state responsible for enforcing the law, and exercizing its monopoly of violence.
    Freedom of speech, Op? If you allow police commanders to get away with doing this – even when their positions seem popular, and they have support of the local authority – you’ll soon be in a situation where you don’t have any.

  3. Mark: ” If you allow police commanders to get away with doing this”
    The police chief is already reinstated. His comments were not rascist. They could be only misinterpreted. Incredible.

  4. Well, Mark, obviously you didn’t get the point. Political correctness vs. common sense, PC vs. free speech, PC vs. the truth and facts, what do you do when you have to choose between those?
    Where was PC when attacks against gypsies were automatically and publicly blamed on racism by the beneficiaries of PC, the so called “minority leaders”?
    Where is the “ethnicity doesn’t matter” principle when it comes to giving taxpayers’ money to gypsy authority, when it comes to supporting gypsies as a group?
    In case of crime and public safety the description of criminals is helpful. When a criminal is on the loose the public have the right to know how he looks like, white or black tall or short, whatever.
    As long as this government cannot provide a solution to the problem, they don’t have the right to blame anyone for talking about it. Why don’t you move into a gypsy neighborhood for a while and see how long your obsession for PC will last.

  5. “PC vs. the truth and facts”
    Can you tell me where the independent evidence is that backs this up? I spent a long time last year trying to track down statistics on the proportions of those – by ethnicity – in the prison population; the proportions of those arrested by the police, and those prosuected and convicted by the courts. The Central Statistical Office doesn’t have them; the Ministry of Justice and Public Order doesn’t have them; and the courts don’t have them. So, on what basis do officials and the media make judgements – as they frequently do on the ethnic dimensions of crime? (Though I do understand there are very good reasons why public authorities do not collect such statistics, still less distribute them).
    We know the answer. Blind prejudice, homespun wisdom and anecdote reinforced by the same blind prejudice. If we are going to talk about “telling the truth” – let’s please have some evidence, collected in a scientific way. After all, generalizing based on anecdote is dangerous.
    You may say, Op, that you live in Hungary, and know this “truth” – but this reliance on common wisdom, or common sense based on “experience” can be pretty misleading. I’ve spent about a third of the past twenty years in Hungary, and durng that time I was attacked twice for my wallet (I’ve never been attacked for it anywhere else – could I/should I say on this basis that Hungary is the most dangerous place in Europe and North America? Of course, not). And on both occassions my attacker was a non-Gypsy (should I then attempt to generalize about the “criminal” nature of the whole population of Hungary? I think that would be gratutious, wrong and pretty silly)
    If you think my example is far fetched, we have a police officer here who knows that “Gypsy children were responsible for eight attacks against elderly people (purse snatchings) and against youngsters with cell phones” in a city of c.300,000 and has unilaterally decided on that basis that the entire minority are a bunch of criminals, despite the fact that not only does the constitution protect the rights of minorities (and indeed, explicitly states that those minorities are entitled to the taxpayer funding for their governments that you don’t like), and insists that those accussed of criminal offences are innocent until proven guilty.
    And Op, I don’t think you’ve answered my key point. How can you have a state based on the rule of law, if those responsible for enforcing that law are allowed to show such contempt for the principles on which it is based?

  6. Mark,
    I believe I could have a more productive argument with my mom about baseball than with you about the gypsy problem. You seem to know very little and I have decades of personal experience. How many time have you hired gypsies? Probably zero. See, I have tried to help them out and not once, not one of them was able to do a decent job, if any. They never even tried. What they tried many times is to sell me stolen goods, break into my place, rob me, beat me up for no other reason but to be white Hungarian, etc. The list goes on.
    You give me nonsense like “blind prejudice” and “scientific evidence”. It’s like I would come in from outside, soaking wet, and tell you that it’s raining. You would not believe me and ask for “scientific evidence”. Well, go outside and see it for yourself.
    As for the “rule of law”, ask your gypsy friends not to ignore it all the time, make an effort to fit in, and there will be no “prejudice” any more. Hungarians are not picking on gypsies because they have nothing better to do, they are just tired of living in constant fear. If we want to address the problem, get to the cause.
    You cannot treat an illness simply by telling the patient to stop complaining about the pain.

  7. It is very interesting that how this conflict was perceived in Hungary. This is a typical argument: http://konzervatorium.blog.hu/2009/02/02/elment_a_vonat_1,
    which blames political correctness for mishandling the roma issue, consequently responsible for the mounting problems.
    Now, the issue is that Hungary is in the brink of a major labour-market disaster due to the effect of the world wide crisis. That labour maarket disaster likely to upset the existing social compromises. The nervous reactions, the heated debate, and the demonstrations in Miskolc and at the same time in Budapest in front of the Parliament against Draskovics and the government is really showing that tensions are building up in the country.
    What is really necessary, is to overview what flaws had the pre-crisis Hungarian model, which allowed such a low level labour market participation and, as a consequence, the barring of low educated people, including roma, from the labour market. Hungary needs comprehensive labour market reforms, which would allow higher labour market participation. Only such reform could ensure that political correctness would be not only enshrined in dead letters of legal regulation and followed by a small elite.

  8. “You give me nonsense like “blind prejudice” and “scientific evidence”. It’s like I would come in from outside, soaking wet, and tell you that it’s raining. You would not believe me and ask for “scientific evidence””
    Until Galileo, people for centuries used to stand in the fields and watch the sun rise in the east and set in the west. And from that they thought it was obvious – what they saw with their own eyes proved the sun rotated around the earth. But they were proved wrong – the exact opposite was the case, their “common sense” just wasn’t founded on any “scientific evidence”.
    It was realizing that one can only generalize about actually existing phenomena on the basis of evidence that marked the transition to the modern era. Given that we’ve known this for nearly five hundred years, I find it surprising that people would generalise about the “truth” of phenomena that actually exist on the basis of unsupported opinion.
    Clearly, Op, you can believe in anything you want to. But if you want me to accept that you have legitimate point-of-view when you talk about the “truth” (which is not a matter of opinion), I think you need to explain – with reference to evidence – why anyone should think you are right.
    I’d actually maintain based on my own (considerable) observations of the issue in hand that you are wrong. My hypothesis here is that if we had the evidence it would most likely show that:
    1. Roma are no more likely to commit crimes than members of any other ethnic group who live in the same socio-economic circumstances. Therefore it is a distortion of fact to maintain there is an ethnic dimension to crime.
    2. That Roma are, however, more likely to be treated as if they were criminals by the police. That means they are more likely to be asked routinely for identification than members of other ethnic groups; more likely to be searched; more likely to be detained without due cause; and more likely to be maltreated when in police detention.
    3. And that by extension, Roma also receive a worse deal from other organs of the Hungarian state (the child welfare office, the education system, the schools etc.) than any other ethnic group.
    4. Therefore, the real issue isn’t that an ethnic group is more criminal than any others, but one of the most crucial human rights issues in Hungary today is that there exists one ethnic group who are Hungarian citizens, but do not possess the same rights as other groups in clear contravention of the constitution.
    I hope I’m wrong in my identification of the problem. But the challenge is clearly there, if you think I’m wrong, find the evidence and prove it.

  9. Mark,
    You keep showing how unfamiliar you are with Hungary. Do you even speak Hungarian? Do you travel much around the country? Guess not.
    Political correctness is a cover-up. If you are not allowed to keep criminal statistics based on race, then you don’t have statistics to show, therefore the ethnic problem doesn’t exist for those who prefer statistics and lies as opposed to observation. There are differences between races, you must be blind not to notice them. For example, you probably don’t have any issues with the fact that blacks are disproportionately represented in sports, but you would not accept the other fact that they are also disproportionately represented in criminal activities.
    Now let’s get to your 4 statements:
    1. Please visit a prison and a police station and ask. Go to a village where at least 10% of the population is gypsy and look around, talk to people.
    If you get on the road and keep your eyes open, you’ll find poor neighborhoods. A lot of gypsies were given brand new housing in nice areas. Most of them look like garbage dumps now. Poverty doesn’t prevent non-gypsies from keeping their houses clean and neat, you ‘don’t need much money for that and since you don’t have a job, you do have the time to take out the garbage and sweep up. You see the yards of elderly white peasants, there are fruit trees, they grow vegetables, have a few chickens and other animals, so they get by.
    The same yard in gypsy areas is filled with unwashed kids and garbage, they prefer to harvest the neighbor’s garden, and they usually get away with it.
    2. Police brutality is really “equal opportunity” in Hungary, they beat up peaceful protester more often than gypsy thieves.
    3. Many gypsies live on welfare, the more kids they produce the more they get.
    4. Gypsies seem to have a lot more rights than law abiding white Hungarians. People are terrorized by political correctness, they are afraid to discriminate in any way against gypsies because they may lose their jobs. And since our useless legal system doesn’t allow punishment under age 14, gypsy kids are getting away with murder.
    Pay attention now, this is important:
    I have never stated that ALL gypsies are criminals, or all white people are little angels. The issue here is why is it more likely for gypsies to commmit crimes than whites. No, it’s not poverty and not discrimination. I don’t know if it’s genetic, but I do know that it’s a cultural difference, gypsies live by different standards than whites. You can give them more free housing and they will destroy it, you can offer them education and employment, it will make little difference.
    So how do you change the mindset of an ethnic group? Ignorance (political correctness) will not do it. What other ideas you have?

  10. Oh dear …..
    “Do you even speak Hungarian? Do you travel much around the country?”
    Yes, and yes, I’m afraid.
    As I suspected you don’t have any evidence. All I see are lots of sweeping generalizations, peperred with lots of unoriginal racist stereotypes which will be familiar to anyone who has seen racism in other contexts. And none of them supported with a single checkable fact. Incredible.

  11. Denials, denials… Weak.
    You cannot possibly be as ignorant as you pretend to be.
    I wonder what is your real purpose. It cannot be good.

  12. Op:”Denials, denials… Weak.
    You cannot possibly be as ignorant as you pretend to be.
    I wonder what is your real purpose. It cannot be good.”
    You stop your insinuations. Otherwise your comments will be deleted.

Comments are closed.