There are some people in Hungary who refuse to utter the name of Zsolt Bayer, a notorious anti-Semite and a "journalist" of sorts. His style, as you will see here, is beyond what can be considered appropriate to appear on a printed page.
As was suggested by a reader of this blog, it is worth looking at Bayer's biography. It's important to recall that he was one of the thirty-seven students who established Fidesz. Despite his venomous writing, the old Fidesz leadership never disassociated itself from Bayer. Yearly there is a Fidesz birthday bash which is proudly attended by the founders, among them Zsolt Bayer. A few years ago after a particularly outrageous anti-Semitic attack, I think on Imre Kertész, Viktor Orbán made a special effort to be photographed with Bayer as they were amiably enjoying some private jokes. It was Orbán's way of saying "Bayer is our boy, we stand by him."
András Schiff's letter to the editor of The Washington Post gave Bayer a wonderful opportunity to vent against Hungarian Jews. I will translate some passages, but I'm not sure whether I will be able to give the flavor of Bayer's writing in English. It is hard for me to be that base.
The piece, entitled "The same stench," begins this way: "A stinking excrement called something like Cohen from somewhere in England writes that 'foul stench wafts' from Hungary. Cohen, and Cohn-Bendit, and Schiff. Népszava appears with the red figure of the man with the hammer and demands freedom of the press. Most people think that this is something new and that war like that didn't take place before. Nonsense. There is nothing new under the sun. Unfortunately, they were not all buried up to their necks in the forest of Orgovány." A brief explanation. Orgovány, a small village on the Great Plains, was the place of massacres committed by the leaders of the Hungarian White Terror in 1919-1920. In plain language, Bayer is expressing his sorrow that not all the Jews were killed in those days.
Bayer is trying to make the case that today's social democrats are admirers of the leaders of the Hungarian Soviet Republic of 1919 who escaped to Austria. There were those, according to Bayer, who never wanted to return, and he brings up the example of Imre Roboz, "the writer" who swore that he never wanted to see Hungary again. "András Schiff is his kindred soul." Perhaps I'm wrong but to my knowledge Imre Roboz was not a writer but a theater director and he lived in Budapest until his death in the Budapest ghetto sometime in January 1945.
But even worse than Roboz were those who were actually waiting for the opportunity to return. And "the stupid chancellor of Austria, Renner, and his even stupider undersecretary (sic), Otto Bauer," gave Béla Kun and his fellow communists political asylum. Naturally, Otto Bauer wasn't the chancellor's undersecretary because chancellors don't have undersecretaries. He, as the head of the Austrian Social Democratic Party, was foreign minister of the coalition government formed after the collapse of the monarchy. "These two Bolshevik lovers were waiting for them with open arms…. And these foul-smelling excrements openly attacked Hungary."
The emigration, which Bayer calls a "red cesspool," remained in Austria and "began to blacken the name of Hungary." Bayer quotes Elemér Mályusz (1898-1989), the medieval historian with right-wing sympathies, that in Hungary these people didn't have a chance because the inhabitants of Horthy's Hungary were solidly behind the new regime. Thus they tried to overthrow the legitimate Hungarian government with foreign help. The communists, the liberals, the Bolsheviks, and ordinary criminals united just like now in an attempt to ruin Hungary. The greatest traitors were Jenő Landler, Zsigmond Kunfi, Andor Gábor, Ferenc Göndör, Vilmos Böhm, and Zoltán Rónai. All Jews naturally. Their organs were Népszava; Rothe Fahne, the Austrian communists' paper; and Bécsi Magyar Újság, the Hungarian emigré paper in Vienna. "It was in these publications that they lied about the horrors of the 'White Terror'."
"Has anything changed since? No, it hasn't. Western public opinion can see Hungarian events only through the distorting mirror of the emigration." Bayer's advice is to read all the foreign press in this light. "These people didn't change a bit. We will have to be very strong and very patient."
I'm happy to announce that István Mayer, a physicist, turned to the new National Media Authority and asked them to investigate Zsolt Bayer's article. In his letter that is available on the Internet he claims that it is the Authority's duty to investigate because this article is an incitement against Jews. He added that it is most likely also the Authority's duty to report the case to the prosecutor's office. We will see what happens.
Éva, could you add a few details for me please.
When was Schiff András’s letter to the Washington Post and what was it about?
Where and when was the piece from Bayer published?
As someone married to a Hungarian with strong Fidesz sympathies, but who is also a pianist who worships Schiff, I need to have my facts straight before I dare mention any of this!
Paul: “I need to have my facts straight before I dare mention any of this!”
Sure, the Bayer letter was published yesterday in Magyar Hirlap:
The Schiff letter can be read here:
It’s quite an eye opener to read the online comments on the The Washington Post letter. Many are so extreme and unhinged that half way through I had to go back and read the letter again, just to check I hadn’t clicked the wrong link!
Unfortunately (or not), I can’t read the Bayer article, but if it’s anything like your translations, I assume somone who can read it will have referred it to the Media Council by now? This is surely exactly the sort of thing they were set up to deal with.
Oops! Somehow I managed to ignore the last para of your article on first read.
It will be interesting to see what happens to István Mayer’s complaint.
I listened to Mr. Bolgar’s interview with Mr. Feldmajer, President of Mazsihisz (Hungarian Jewish defense league I guess you could call it ) on Klubradio this morning. http://klubradio.hu/data/files/mazsihisz.mp3
(for those who understand Hungarian)
The gist of the interview is that at about the year 2000 the Hungarian Constitutional Court started to make judgments to the effect that in such cases as Andras Schiff only he himself as the target could initiate a case against Mr. Bayer, not any minority or organization. However under the new Media Law it is possible for a group to initiate a complaint. And one group already started one, a group with which I am not familiar, the Left Green. The new Media Authority will have to make a decision in this case. Interesting how they will handle this whole matter.
Also, most curiously today the Jobbik, specifically Novak Elod and friends (his name appeared in this forum once or twice) demonstrated in favour of Mr. Mong who was censured for his one minute of silence on National TV as protest against the newly enacted Media law.
To put in perspective, Mr. Mong’s political allegiances would be suspect from Jobbik’s point of view yet there they were taking up his cause as well as protesting against the new Media law.
I saw a photo of today’s demonstration where Mr. Novak is seen beating a tin drum with a Star of David on the drum head. Can anybody figure all this out ???Bizarre!
And then this : “Swedish BitTorrent tracker site The Pirate Bay is one of many sites that are taking part in today’s “Blackout for Hungary” protest against the country’s controversial new media law that took effect at the start of the new year.”
Things are getting curiouser and curiouser….
If this new media law can’t reprimand someone for blatant public anti-semitism, how can anyone justify it?
@Paul@ They can justify anti-Semitism today and even the deportation of about half a million Hungarian citizens after the German occupation of Hungary within 8 weeks. The dirty work of whipping always 80 unfortunate persons into the cattle truck was done by the royal Hungarian Gendarmerie, which was early in the 90ies rehabilitated.
The trick those anti-Semitic conservatives use is very simple. They point out that the leaders and some of the henchmen of the Hungarian Soviet Republic in 1919 which ruled 133 day were Jewish. And with that everything is justified. And that is also the logic of Zsolt Bayer.
I heard it time and time again, that “real Hungarians” had never advocated communism and that this was an entirely foreign idea.
The problem is somehow statistical. During Kádárs time except very few people belonging to the democratic opposition the mass of Hungarians kept the system alive. Some of the crudest anti-Semites like István Csurka were even informers of the III/III
So in Hungary a widely spread legend says the terror during Rákosi time (after 1949) was the Jews revenge for the Holocaust.
I wrote about that fallacy a short comment in 2008 in Élet és Irodalom about subject matter of hanging during the “Jewish” Rákosi period and hanging during the Kádár period.
Fact is Jews were in Hungary so assimilated that some participated in the Rakosi terror and some were victims. And the same goes for the Kadar-repression after 1956 some perpetrators were of Jewish origin and some of those hanged were also of Jewish origin. And one (Angyal) was even a survivor of Auschwitz.
If you speak to Fidesz people about Bayer they shrug their shoulders and say: Look we are not anti-Semites, some of Orbáns best friends are Jews, but we must let Bayer loose so as to get the votes and the sympathy of Jobbik adherents, we have to take out the wind of their sails.
The tricky part is that nothing that is printed now and between July 1, 2011 is regulated by the new law yet. However, Bayer’s article could clearly be deemed punishable by past and current Hungarian laws. However, in the past the interpretations of the law by the Hungarian courts suggest that nothing will happen. And curiously in a current case before the Hungarian courts gypsies are accused of committing racially motivated crimes against Magyar Garda (Hungarian Guards, an outlawed para-military racist organization). The law that supposed to defend minorities is used against minorities. That is how real life is in the country that gives the president to the EU! Mr. Bayer is keenly aware of these facts, he is not a brave man to break the law, he knows that even if the laws are not on his side, the people who are supposed to enforce them, are.
Paul: I wouldn’t read too much into the comments on the WaPo article. Comments on that site tend to be pretty unhinged no matter what the subject matter–if you look around at other articles you’ll see what I mean.
As for this Bayer person, I thought that sort of rhetoric was confined to the darkest corners of the Web. I can’t believe Fidesz hasn’t distanced itself from this guy.
@Julie: “I thought that sort of rhetoric was confined to the darkest corners of the Web. I can’t believe Fidesz hasn’t distanced itself from this guy.”
There’s an article on HVG drawing much the same conclusion: ‘Does Zsolt Zsolt perhaps know how much damage he does to his own kind when he writes such tripe?’ [“Tudja-e Bayer Zsolt, mennyit árt az övéinek, amikor ilyen hülyeségeket ír le?”]
( Source: http://hvg.hu/velemeny/20110106_bayer_orgovany_fidesz )
In my small rural village I just had the fourth elderly person since the cold weather started stop me on the street and ask for a loan for food.
Since we’ve been talking about high-mindedness in this discussion on the merits of asking that censorship law be applied to people we don’t like, I’d like to suggest that there are actually two kinds of high-mindedness.
One is when you’re so wrapped up in your education and liberal principles that you make the fatal mistake of not being able to understand those who disagree with you. This is the sort of high-mindedness that prompts people to promote, as the only viable alternative to Victor Orban, a man like Gyurcsany, a man who – in a country where old people are going hungry – amassed an immense personal fortune out of the purchase of public property at fire sale prices, and who shows tone deaf contempt for symbols like the crown, symbols that matter to people who have little else.
The other is the sort of high-mindedness that reminds you of the danger of getting so caught up in the struggle with your opponents that you start to imitate the very qualities that brought you to despise them in the first place.
That would be the sort of instinct that reminds you not to indulge in habitual rhetorical exaggeration because the other side does. That would be the sort of instinct that reminds you to avoid the human tendency toward toward considering every question in terms of how well it fits in with the party line. And that would be the sort of instinct that reminds you that censorship is social poison regardless of who is being censored.
Someone should absolutely be compiling a list of articles in the mainstream press like the Magyar Nemzet and the Heti Valasz that have escaped censure. Such a list would help make the case that the government is applying the law arbitrarily when an article in the Nepszabadsag or the Nepszava is sanctioned. But – though unfortunately it seems like it’s already been done – to actually petition the media authority to apply this law to anyone is a spectacularly stupid mistake.
The smartest thing the government can do at this point is to introduce overt political censorship by making sure the first application of the new law is to some anti-Semitic or anti-Roma swill they find in Barikad or some similar publication. The government will unfortunately be right in guessing that what little is left of the liberal intelligentsia in this country won’t be able to stomach making common cause with the Jobbik types. Then, when the law is applied against the liberals, the government will be able to say – rightly – that the liberals only care about free-speech when it’s their own. (And on the international front they can innocently ask what happens to people who publicly deny the Holocaust in Germany and Austria.)
Concerned about the spread of conspiracy-thinking, scape-goating and feelings of resentment and victimization? The answer isn’t to go after vicious little shits like Bayer Zolt. It’s – dare I say it? – to try to create a society where people feel less victimized.
The problem is that by sending a complaint to the Media Authority you seem to accept its moral right to judge. You cannot have it both ways.
It would indeed be a clever move by Fidesz to let the MA warn Bayer that he is now overstepping the line. That would show the world that all´s well in Hungary, especially since that is what the world really wants to hear.
Anyway, disgusting as it is, I think Bayers scribbling should not be a matter for the law. Besides calls to violence and infractions of people´s privacy opinions should not be brought to court.
There are a lot of idiots in this world, we just have to live with that.
Bálint, I very much agree with your train of thoughts, but I think it is important to point out the “‘little shits like Bayer Zsolt” because they are the ones who are dangerous. THey are the ones who stir up trouble and then ride the wave of popularity created by controversy.
Please, not for a minute think that I believe that the previous government did a great job. They had the power to stop people like Bayer, but they did not. I do not think that intellectual Jews of Hungary did enough under Gyurcsany either. They failed to put pressure on the government against hate speech, and hate propaganda. I also do know that old people who are asking for money today are not the result of the shortcomings of the current government’s 9 months, but the result of a much longer process. People like Bayer, Media Laws by Fidesz, comments that are coming from hundreds of Hungarians are disturbing because they are not isolated and truly they take away the pressure from real issues (like hungry old people). If the Hungarian Government would stick to their currently existing laws and would enforce those laws, that all that money that goes toward the Media nonsense could be put to better use, like social programs, etc.
Anti-Semitism exists everywhere, unfortunately, and not only in Hungary. At a recent Liberal Party leadership convention in Canada, opponents of a candidate for the post went around whispering into delegates ears: did you know that his wife is Jewish and he himself has converted? An obvious attempt to influence voting. Not very politically correct. The new meada law will target openly anti-Semitic publications like Csurka’s Weekly and child pornography. A step in the right direction.
@ Joseph Simon. You may remember the round of condemnation that followed the gossip about,Bob Ray. Which BTW was totally absurd, the gossip I mean. The man has already been a Premier of Ontario and his conversion to Judaism was not a “secret” even then. To suggest that situation was the same as the situation in Hungary is wrong. As you say, there are anti-Semites everywhere. In Canada such behaviour is considered uncouth (or not PC as you suggest)while in Hungary it is common currency. No comparison at all.
Someone:”I do not think that intellectual Jews of Hungary did enough under Gyurcsany either. They failed to put pressure on the government against hate speech, and hate propaganda”. While this statment may have some merit, I think it is not the Jewish intellectuals who are at fault. All decent people who keep silent in a country where antisemitism became so common as it is in Hungary are at fault. One who keeps silent among gulity people is himself guilty as well.
John G: “To suggest that situation was the same as the situation in Hungary is wrong.”
Of course not. I suggest to read this MTI report on a conference held on nationalism. According to Pál Tamás, the percentage of “active anti-Semites” in Hungary is 33%. Only 20% are those who raise their voices against anti-Semitism.” See http://tiny.cc/kjik5
Thomas: “One who keeps silent among gulity people is himself guilty as well.”
I agree with you!
@Balint: I read your opinion with great interest. I wrote already the other day that I find it interesting that freedom of speech is interpreted so absolutely in Hungary. For me it seems possible not to support freedom of speech for Jobbik etc. in all circumstances (in particular if they interpret it as freedom to voice racial, national and other hatred) even if I am generally very much in favour of free speech. Freedom of speech is a basic right but it is one among many (and these can be conflicting). Another right is not to be accused or attacked out of the blue. To be linked to or outright made responsible for actions of people who lived 100 years ago only because we might share religious beliefs, I would not even call hülyeseg but a criminal act (for which one could be sued). To have my reputation damaged only because some people wish to air their racial hatred freely does not seem to be a fair deal to me. Clearly, in general one would expect that people such as Mr. Bayer are simply not taken seriously, they are somewhere at the fringes of society and therefore it is not worth the effort to restrict freedom of speech (it has no real consequences for the attacked), but that does not seem to be the case here…
First they came for the communists…
There are many things I don’t like about being British (the main one being that I am English, NOT British!), but there are also many blessings to being born and living here.
And one blessing I count every day is that British society is no longer anti-Semitic. We are no saints, there are plenty of people who (for instance) feel negatively towards ‘immigrants’ and their feelings are often expressed in terms that appear racist. And there are places where there is a lack of integration and consequently tension between communities.
But broadly speaking, we get along together. I live in what is still a fairly ‘white’ part of the country, but even here people are generally treated as just people, whatever their colour or religion. And if anyone doubts that multiculturism doesn’t work – come and spend a few days in London!
But, whatever racial tension you may encounter in some cities, or careless comments about Gypsies or ‘Eastern Europeans’ (that’s you!) you might overhear, you will almost never hear anti-Semitic remarks.
The new leader of the Labour party, and quite possibly (hopefully) our next Prime Minister is not only Jewish, but also a self proclaimed atheist. (And the latter is going to cause him far more problems when he becomes PM!)
But when he stood for election, I never heard one word from anyone, formally or informally, about him being Jewish (interestingly, the other main candidate was his brother, and therefore also Jewish). It is simply no longer an issue here.
Ironically though, because I am politically involved with organisations that support the Palestinians, and personally hold very strongly negative feelings towards the state of Israel, I am very often accused of being ant-Semitic. In fact this is always the pro-Israel lobby’s first line of attack, as it has such resonances of guilt in Western Europe. I have been on many demonstrations against Israel and the general Western anti-Muslim political outlook, and the majority of the people on these demonstrations are invariably Muslims, many with very good reasons (as they might see it) to hate Jews. And yet, even here, you very rarely hear anti-Semitic remarks. These demos are always headed by a group of orthodox Jews, clearly identified as such by their clothing, who are anti-Zionist (a surprising number of Jews are very critical of Israel), and these people are treated with great respect. On one occasion a group of youths with more passion than brains burnt an Israeli flag right next to this group and the demo organisers immediately apologised over the PA. The Jewish group replied that they took no offence at all, and the crowd gave them a huge round of applause. I will admit to having tears in my eyes.
Can anyone imagine any of this happening in Budapest?
Someone and Kirsten – We seem to differ on this. When I lived in the US (most of my life) I was a free speech absolutist – but for the US only. I felt that absolute free speech wasn’t necessarily right for every society.
Five years of living in Hungary have changed my mind decisively.
I could take the high-minded path and say that the legal suppression of freedom of speech has never changed anyone’s mind or stopped the spread of an idea, but I would be wrong. For instance, I get the impression that such measures acheive their desired effect very well in a society like North Korea. It’s true that no one (I hope) is suggesting that degree of control here, but I’ve come to feel that any degree of control exacts a very steep social price.
When I came here I had romantic ideas – mainly gleaned from Kundera novels – of a shabbily dressed but vibrant Central European intellectual culture. As my familiarity with Hungary and Hungarian improved, I became aware of the huge swamp of intellectual mediocrity that forty plus years of the communist control had inflicted on the country. The reams and reams of tendentious nonsense that two generations had to write and read – even if they were writing and reading between the lines – had an inevitable deadening effect that is, I think, still felt.
Stifling free debate is the surest step – even surer than non-stop reality shows and tehetseg kutatasok – to maim the fragile faculty of critical thinking.
If you find that argument unconvincing, there’s a second one, perhaps less high-minded but more practical: prosecuting anti-semitic scribblers will not work. Prosecuting people like Bayer is shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted, and in Hungary, as you yourselves have pointed out, Bayer is practically mainstream: that horse has long long since left the stable.
Just how many minds will be changed among the anti-Semitic third of the populace by such prosecutions? What would they achieve at this point besides fanning the flames of resentment and feeding conspiracy theories? I’m hearing ironic echoes of Victor Laszlo’s great speech in Casablanca – “And what if you track down these men and kill them?…From every corner of Europe hundreds, thousands would rise to take our places. Even Nazi’s can’t kill that fast.”
Or to perversely paraphrase to fit the present context – even liberals can’t prosecute that fast.
The only hope of draining this cesspool is to stop – a very tall order I know – the economic disparities and insecurity that feeds it.
I despise both Gyurcsany and Orban. But they’re inevitably linked – the failures of the nominal left to credibly address or even acknowledge issues of inequality invariably led to the dominance of the (sadly very more than nominal) right.
Under the present economic circumstances – and not just in Hungary – populism is inevitable. If the left isn’t capable of delivering it in the form of social justice the right with their fake patriotism and real scape-goating will.
“The only hope of draining this cesspool is to stop – a very tall order I know – the economic disparities and insecurity that feeds it.”
Whilst I share your alalysis in broad terms, and it’s certainly true that more prosperous societies are far less likely to have such problems (Northern Ireland being a local UK example), I fear that the anti-semitism in Hungary is far too deeply ingrained for that alone to work.
As an outsider, the average Hungarian’s casual racism was (and still is) a huge shock to me. At first I assumed it was just a minority view, but, after 10 years of visiting and living in the country, I fear it is an almost universal view. The only thing that changes from person to person is the depth and sheer madness of the delusion that ‘others’ are always to blame (never Hungarians, of course).
All the Hungarian side of my family are anti-Roma at such a level of natural assumption that they are totally bemused that I don’t share their views. And my father-in-law, a decent, good bloke, by any other view, is a firm believer in ‘the international Jewish conspiracy’ – and in particular its impact on Hungary.
But, it gets worse. Over the years I’ve sort of got used to this, but over Christmas my wife (who has lived most of the last 15 years in the UK) had several quite heated arguments with her parents about racism. Expecting the usual anti-Semetic/anti-Roma stuff, I wasn’t too surprised about this, but I was staggered when I discovered that it hadn’t just been about Gypsies and Jews, but about other races in general – especially ‘darker skinned’ ones.
These are mild-mannered, generous, loving people, who, even in Debrecen, see enough ‘darker skinned’ people to be familiar with them, and who have several times visted England and seen how successfully mixed our society is. And yet they firmly hold the view that the darker your skin is, the more degenerate you are as a race.
My wife has black, Asian and Japanese friends and tried to put the counter argument – but to no avail. These ideas are so fixed and run so deep, that they will have them until death.
Of course, I might have just married into the last racist family in Hungary. But, now my Hungarian is ‘good’ enough to recognise anti-Roma/Jewish comments when I overhear them, I can tell you that, at least in the East, these attitudes are practically universal.
I would strongly challenge that 35% anti-Semetic poll finding. That was just those who feel so sure about their racism that they feel no shame in addmitting it. I suspect the true figure is significantly over 50%.
@Paul: I really do not like that you generalize based on your experience in Debrecen. I may be a Budapest snob, but I really think there is a difference between the two cities when it comes to racism and tolerance.
Mind you, I am not saying antisemitism and racism is not a problem there. In fact, these sentiments unfortunately has been getting stronger all over the country in the last 10 years or so, including the capital city. I also see that otherwise sane people who had no interest in Jewish conspiracy theories 10 years ago are now willingly subscribing to such nonsense. I don’t want to deflect the blame from the average Hungarian, but I also would like to stress that politics played a role in this state of affairs, in the fact that these sentiments could spread and could get a hold among such a large segment of the population. In some ways leaders do shape public sentiment, if in nothing else, by changing what kind of thinking and attitudes are acceptable in public discourse. Orban did nothing else in this past 10-15 years than pushing and stretching these boundaries, when he should have firmly rejected such ideas. If all major political parties would have stood firm that antisemitic and anti-gypsy sentiment can not be part of the public discourse of a country in the 21st century; this may not have gotten this bad.
I am afraid, all of you are a little bit pedantic about the “anti-Semites” of Hungary. Sure they hate Jews, they hate Gypsies too, after all it is a noble long-standing tradition. But this is not the real problem.
Every year a poll is being conducted in Hungary about the attitude of people about other nations and “races.” This poll includes the Pirez people as well and year after year the Pirez always garners a substantial, 15-20% of detractors, who readily admit that they actually hate the Pirez. The only problem is that there is no such thing as Pirez, it is an imaginary ethnicity and the Hungarians surely never have met any of them, and yet they readily hate them nevertheless.
Hungarians are historically suffering from a messianic superiority complex and the more primitive a Hungarian is, the more he, or she hates others, because, let’s face it, the Hungarians are by definition superior to all others.
There is only one tiny, flimsy excuse in their favour. Namely that they are so insulated and so ignorant about the rest of the world that they are unable to comprehend the difference and the backwardness of their mentality. On the other hand, even educated people are susceptible to this “complex,” because it is so ingrained in the “culture” that they systematically rely on it to excuse the blatant shortcomings of the national character.
The best example to this is the occasional outbursts of the best of Hungarians, like Ady, or Szechenyi, who bemoaned this fenomenon time and again. The other is the obvious hatred showed against those countrymen, who managed to attain some degree of recognition abroad: they are deemed to be traitors. The latest examples of this are Imre Kertesz, Peter Nadas, Peter Esterhazy, and George Konrad, all brilliant men of letters, well-known all over the world, but considered as Jews and traitors by their Hungarian countrymen. A people of such mentality is truly undeserving of the fame these men had earned for the country. And the accession to Europe, instead of reducing it, rather increased the hatred. There is practically no nation on Earth the Hungarians haven’t ridiculed, besmirched or some way irritated at least.
An, I share your hope that my experiences aren’t typical across Hungary.
But just the fraction I encounter depresses me so much. Especially as many of them are university educated, well travelled professionals – not the stereotypical image of ‘Easterners’ at all.
And I’m afraid I have encountered the same attitudes in Budapest and other parts of Hungary, even in the far West. It’s not as evident in Budapest and the West, I grant you (although we might have to exclude the poorer areas of Pest from that), but I still encounter it to a degree that is truly shocking to a liberal Westerner.
@An: “Orban did nothing else in this past 10-15 years than pushing and stretching these boundaries, when he should have firmly rejected such ideas. If all major political parties would have stood firm that antisemitic and anti-gypsy sentiment can not be part of the public discourse of a country in the 21st century; this may not have gotten this bad.”
I couldn’t agree more. Moreover, there is every reason to believe that Orbán’s silence on the issue and failure to reject such views was calculated. That would be part and parcel of his ‘zero-sum’ attitude to politics, in which everything that’s bad for you is good for me.
It is also an instructive example of his readiness to put the party’s interests before those of the country, the fruits of which we are seeing now.
Paul, thanks for your extremely interesting comment. I can’t say in this respect that my experience of five years in the west have been much different from yours of ten years in the east, but I have to say this is a way of looking at the situation that I find far more depressing than the links you provided (they were very good, thanks) to the Guardian pieces in the thread just above this one.
Fairly recently Eva had a post – I can’t remember the exact title but it might as well have been “Are Hungarians Just Naturally Hopelessly F*cked Up?” – that I meant to comment on and didn’t. I kept on assuming that someone else would point out the obvious – how ugly that piece would have looked with the word “Blacks,” or “Jews,” or “Gypsies” substituted for “Hungarians.”
But, after all, perhaps Hungarians are hopelessly screwed up – there’s no a priori reason why they shouldn’t be just because the idea offends my liberal sensibilities (the same incidentally holds true for assertions like “Blacks are stupid” or “Jews are greedy”). Maybe some combination of gene pool, climate and culture does vary selection pressures from population to population and produce observable behavioral differences between them. Perhaps Hungarians are fated to laziness, stupidity, and a tendency to wallow in self-pity and resentment. In that case we’re all wasting our time worrying about the country and would be better off playing Farmville or practicing the piano.
Perhaps only because I can’t play the piano and would rather die now than play Farmville, I prefer to think that Hungary earned its most- screwed-up-nation-in-the-EU status through the great resevoir of resentment created by Trianon compounded by twenty years of belt tightening, increasing joblessness, and widening income gaps endured on the promise that transformation into Austria was just around the corner. Under those circumstances perhaps it’s understandable that a tendency arises among people to assume that there’s some malevolent group out there that’s doing this all on purpose.
Anyway maybe I’m wrong. Maybe there is some fatal interaction of living on flat land with the Hungarina genetic mishmash. Maybe, in the words of Doctor Seuss, “You can’t teach a Sneetch.”
In any case, my proposed answer is certainly less depressing, don’t you think?
(And in agreement with An: If the bankers continue to eat the British Isles alive – as there is every indication that they will – you may discover that levels of anti-semitism may start to change in that part of the world.)
Cheer up, Balint!
Remember, “But McBean was quite wrong. I’m quite happy to say. That Sneetches got really quite smart on that day”. Unfortunately, this only happened “when every last cent, of their money was spent”.
@Sandor Szecheny had a very ambivalent attitude to Jews. On one hand he would invite a wealthy Jew to his Casino on the other he would speak up against Kossuth and be against emancipation of Jews, saying that a drop of ink in the soup is spoiling it.
But then when a German mob after the revolution 1848 starten in Pressburg/Pozsony attacked Jewish shops and their owners he wrote in German (that was the language he spoke) “Das ist ein Angriff auf das Eigenthum” This is an attack on property. And property was holy.
When the revolution was oppressed in 1849
Szechenyi wrote: What did we achieve with it: the emancipation of the Jews.
I do not think those orthodox Jews who are giving alibi to the collective hatred against the Jewish state are O.K. They went to the Holocaust denial conference in Teheran and they believe the Holocaust is the punishmernt of god, because Jews left religion. It is an outlandish reactionary group, here in Austria the antiimperialist fools and the extreme right had one alibi Jew who was also visiting Teheran and kissing the president.
Someone: Antisemitism is not only a problem of Jewish Intellectuals in Hungary but of the entire Hungarian society and even if I am not 100% in agreement with István Bibó, he was the first one after the Hungarian Holocaust to write about the responsibilities of Hungarian society for what has happened.
So while Fidesz is propagating Trianon (1920) as a national trauma. The Hungarian Holocaust (1944) is not shown as such. Why?
Because Hungarians were victims of Trianon. But in 1944 many Hungarians were perpetrators, the majority were bystanders and only very very few helped.
The reason? In my opinion Bibó described it, one of the main reasons was the antisemitic incitement during the 25 years of Horthy’s rule. But as Sándor Márai has described in his diary 1944 it was also the greed of the good “Christian” middle class.
I just want to make one thing clear, in every group (social, ethnic, religious) there will be good people and bad people (I know it is overly simplified), but I reject collective guilt or collective responsibility. (Hitler’s Willing Executioners, Pack of Thieves, etc.) It could be Germans, Jew, Hungarian, Muslim, everyone is responsible for their own actions when basic tools (education) is fairly provided.
I had the good fortune to watch again Lawrence of Arabia (on 70 mm transfer), and the whole “concept” is not lost. It is not about the war and request for independence of the Arab “tribes”. It is about universal quest for identity home and morals. It is about how moral and ethics can change and can be formed.
I think Hungary is no different. The tone the government set becomes the norm, and if there is no individual responsibility required, then everyone will be grouped according to race, religion, and political believes. THis is why is important to hold not everyone, but culprits responsible for their hate speech or their actions.
“If the bankers continue to eat the British Isles alive – as there is every indication that they will – you may discover that levels of anti-semitism may start to change in that part of the world.)”
I read your posts with interest, Bálint, but I read your final para with sorrow. This is just the sort of unconsious anti-Semetism that is so typical in Hungary – the assumption that banks=Jews.
Historically, you are right, of course, as this one of the few areas of commerce permitted to Jews, and consequently many of the great banks have a Jewish past – or even present. And you are right, the banks have shafted the UK (with quite a bit of help from the people), and they are universally hated for what they did (and do – they are about to pay out huge bonuses yet again).
But I’ve not heard or read one person over hear draw the comparison that you make so unthinkingly. To us banks are just greedy, uncontrollable institutions, to you (and I suspect many other, maybe most, Hungarians, banks are part of the hidden Jewish influence on the world, and especially Hungary.
Paul wrote: “But I’ve not heard or read one person over hear draw the comparison that you make so unthinkingly. To us banks are just greedy, uncontrollable institutions, to you (and I suspect many other, maybe most, Hungarians, banks are part of the hidden Jewish influence on the world, and especially Hungary.”
Unthinkingly, people will also say inane things like, “Well, you know what Jews (or Roma, women, Romanians, Chinese, blacks, etc. etc.) are like.
Several years ago I was going to Turkey and I chatted with a distant cousin in Hungary over the phone and she, in a most helpful way – or so she though, told me to be careful of the “brown people” there. And she’s never been there, for gawds sake, but she knew all about them. Sad. Very sad.
Paul, you misread Balint.
He did not suggest that Jews would RIGHTLY be blamed if “banks continue to eat the British isles”. He simply suggested that Jews would be blamed. There is nothing anti-semitic in such a statement. His statement is morally equivalent to saying “I think anti-semitism will increase in Ireland if the economy continues to nose-dive.” I have no idea if anti-semitism is (negatively) correlated to economic well being but I would be surprised if it is.
oops. that last sentence should be “but I would’nt be surprised if it is.”
It does not matter who fired the first salvo; Bayer’s articles are uncalled for, disgusting and damaging.
I have read that Eorsi is suing Bayer for a quote which was not written or said by this Eorsi. I hope he wins.
It is one thing to write such article; it is another to publish it. Magyar Hirlap bears the responsibility for printing this crap.
Long, convoluted discussion about Zionism or anti-Semitism does not lead anywhere.
Ba’lint: “Gyurcsany, a man who – in a country where old people are going hungry – amassed an immense personal fortune out of the purchase of public property at fire sale prices, and who shows tone deaf contempt for symbols like the crown, symbols that matter to people who have little else.”
I cannot understand the problem with people going hungry and somebody amassing a fortune out of the purchase of public property at fire sale prices. What’s the problem? Did Gyurcsany do something illegal? Did he do something immoral? If some people are going hungry, everyone has to go hungry? Or what?
As far as his contempt for the tone deaf contempt for the crown is concerned, is that a crime? Isf his contempt for the crown is such a revolting issue, how come he was elected into office?
Kormos: “Magyar Hirlap bears the responsibility for printing this crap.”
I agree. I don’t know what editors do in Hungary. Unless of course, the editor-in-chief agrees with Bayer.
I think I pretty much understand the doubts on whether the “West” would be so “civilised” to manage any future crisis without resorting to resentment against “foreigners”, “immigrants”, “bankers (of whatever origin)” and the like. Most probably not Jews, that is too obviously negatively connoted (very rightly so), but other groups could be attacked more easily (you, Paul, reminded us that we “East Europeans” are considered to be trouble-makers of sorts) and it would depend very much on the behaviour of people with strong influence on public opinion which assaults would or would not be acceptable.
But that is of course not meant to downplay the state of anti-semitic or anti-Roma sentiments in the east European countries. When I suggested that for me it makes sense to have some of these entirely unfounded accusations prohibited by a court, I meant that thereby the society clarifies which attacks on personal dignity it considers unbearable. It could make the system of values of a “democracy” clearer to people that may still have doubts. The more liberal part of the society would not simply quit the public space but offer an alternative interpretation of reality and also complicate the decision for those who like to side with the more powerful. But I agree with Balint that in Hungary that is difficult because the alternative is MSzP…
Paul – how little (you can be proud and relieved) you instinctively understand anti-semitism.
Anti-semitism is a faith. As such it it exists in a blissful Platonic realm untroubled by a need for facts or evidence or indeed by even an approximation of critical thinking. (Probably a Jewish invention anyway.)
Jews are by definition greedy blood-sucking parasites who care for nothing but themselves. Is it not clear to you that bankers (greeedy blood-sucking parasites who care for nothing but themselves) must – of necessity – be Jewish? Oh yes – and I forgot one very important thing – Jews are always preternaturally clever. And what normal person really understands credit default swaps? Or for that matter money itself? That clinches it. Bankers and Jews are one and the same.
Was it George Bernard Shaw who call anti-semitism the socialism of fools?
The same intellectual rigor evinced in the widely spread belief in Gyurcsany’s “Jewishness” He’s actually not Jewisht? And there’s not a shred of evidence that he’s a “crypto-Jew?” (For those of you who are unfamiliar with that term that’s a Jew who has been passing – all the better to further his dark ends – as a gentile, sometimes for several generations.) Well, as always, lack of evidence should be no impediment to coming to a conclusion. We know Gyurcsany is Jewish because he corresponds so perfectly to our idea of a Jew. (Clever? Check. Rich? Check. Selfish? Check. Fantasizes about melting down the Holy Crown and adding it to his hoard? Well, isn’t it obvious?) That’s all you need to know.
Ironically enough since we’re talking about stereotyping, you appear to have concluded from my name that I’m a “real” Hungarian.” and since (you seem to conclude) all “real” Hungarians are anti-Semites this has mislead you into thinking that in mentioning the identification of bankers and Jews I was actually asserting that identification. I hope i’ve made iit clear at this point that I wasn’t.
In any case, I’m actually no more Hungarian than you are. When I first started posting here I somewhat thoughtlessly signed in as Balint – the magyar equivalent of my name and the one I use to introduce myself in the Hungarian village where I live. I may have also been inclined to sign in as Balint by the existence of several regular posters here who sport improbably British-sounding names to go with their rather un-British attitudes. I thought the reverse might be fun. I regret now that I didn’t call myself something like Guy Who Needs to Stop Posting and Go To Sleep.
Kirsten and Someone – I don’t agree but I certainly understand your point. There’s a good faith argument to be made that prosecution has a theoretical place in defining social norms.
But at this point in the game there’s a very practical problem with that approach – economic misery and general insecurity have undermined faith in public institutions to the extent that were the Fidesz government to prosecute some selected anti-semitic droolers people would shake there heads and say that “even” our Orban has to throw the Jewish Moloch some sacrificial lambs, so mighty have the Jews become. And perhaps the next chance they have they’ll vote a little further to the right – just to keep Orban honest. If you think this government is scary can you imagine what a Fidesz – Jobbik coalition would look like?
Eva – please – for the love of God – ask your friend Gyurcsany to retire from politics before it’s too late for all of us.
@Balint: An improvement in the economic situation or general state of the Hungarian society is impossible without a (so to speak) “more practical” intepretation of the current state of affairs or the Hungarian nation. The rather disappointing development of Hungary in the past 10 years might be considered a cause of the obsession with Jewish conspiracy, but for me it could very much also be the other way round. It is very difficult to imagine a “thriving” society in permanent search for “crypto-Jews”. If people have no other theory of development or the origin of wealth, it may not be surprising that the living standard does not improve. It is a vicious circle…
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