Fidesz style: Ulrike Lunacek versus Zsolt Bayer

I hope you have already discovered the link on Hungarian Spectrum to a well known German-language blog on Hungary, Pusztaranger. How aptly named. A ranger is a person whose job it is to patrol a certain area. Puszta is the flat lowland where not much grows. Puszta also means “waste.” We don’t know who Pusztaranger is, but we do know that the blogger is a keen observer of the Hungarian landscape. If you want to know more about the blog and its creator, read an interview in Tageschau, a German paper, about a month ago.

Yesterday Pusztaranger broke the news that Ulrike Lunacek, an Austrian politician, is contemplating reporting Zsolt Bayer, one of the founders of Fidesz and currently a journalist working for Magyar Hírlap and Echo TV, to the Hungarian Media Authority.

Ulrike Lunacek is a representative of the Austrian Greens in the European Parliament who has been the spokeswoman of the European Green Party ever since 2006. Otherwise, she is a journalist and a professional interpreter (English and Spanish).

At the European Parliament’s Committee of Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs hearings on “The Situation in Hungary” Ulrike Lunacek asked three times to be heard. In the course of her final remarks she said that “anti-Semitic and anti-European Union slogans could be seen on placards” carried by participants in the “Peace March” organized by some far-right journalists, among them Zsolt Bayer.

Certainly many anti-European Union slogans could be seen on the videos and, although I didn’t see any specifically anti-Semitic ones, there is no question that the people who came up with the idea for the “Peace March” are well known anti-Semites, including Zsolt Bayer.

Bayer has a program on Echo TV on Friday nights (Korrektúra). Last Friday Bayer along with two other right-wingers discussed the hearings in Brussels the day before. Our “silver-tongued” Bayer uttered the following endearing words about Ulrike Lunacek: “Then comes a half-witted [The Germans translated it as ‘brain amputeed’] impetiginous lying idiot, Ulrike Lunacek, and I expressed myself delicately … The whole rotten filthy lie from the mouth of a rotten filth bag.” In choice Hungarian: “Csak jön egy olyan agyament ótvar hazug idióta, Ulrike Lunacek, és milyen finoman fejeztem ki magam. … Az egész egy rohadt szemét hazugság egy rohadt szemét szájából.” I must admit I needed a dictionary to come up with an English equivalent for some of these words and there was at least one I couldn’t find even in the Magyar Értelmező Szótár.

Lunacek

Ulrike Lunacek

But it seems that Ulrike Lunacek has some friends in Hungary who happened to listen to “Korruktúra” last Friday night. Upon hearing Bayer’s description of her she wrote a letter to Echo TV in which she reminded the station of law XIV/2010 on press freedom and the fundamental rules of media content that are supposed to ensure that human dignity is respected (CIV/210 Act, §13(1)), that insist on truthful reporting §13(2), and finally §14(1) that are intended to safeguard human dignity.

In Lunacek’s opinion Bayer seriously breached these principles, and she urged Echo TV’s president to distance himself from Bayer. She expects a public apology and a written response within 48 hours. We will see what happens.

Let me add that the above sentences were not the only offensive ones uttered by Bayer during the same program. What about the following? “The Union not only has no ethos, it has nothing. The Union has Daniel Cohn-Bendit and Neelie Kroes, and that little green, one cannot even remember her name, yes, Ulrike Lunacek” (Az Uniónak nemhogy ethosza, de semmije sincsen. Az uniónak Daniel Cohn-Benditje meg Neelie Kroesa, meg hogy hívják ezt a kis zöldet, ezt meg se lehet jegyezni, ezt a nevet, Ulrike Lunacekje van). This is the kind of talk Hungarians are getting used to nowadays. With devastating results, in my opinion.

The following picture taken at one of the right-wing demonstrations is telling. Bayer is no better than the extremist brute he is standing next to.

Bayer3

Zsolt Bayer next to a Hungarian “patriot”

Hannes Swoboda, another Austrian politician and the leader of the Party of European Socialists and Democrats, demanded an investigation into the affair by the European Parliament. Swodoba pointed out that “such language makes inroads around here nowadays that are totally unacceptable.” Martin Schulz, the new president of the European Parliament, promised an investigation. He added that he will get in touch with José Manuel Barroso, the president of the European Commission, and will ask him to defend the good name of Neelie Kroes as well. That is about the last thing the Orbán government needed, but I must say I don’t feel sorry for them. Fidesz refuses to cut ties with the extreme right and in fact Orbán himself often encourages this kind of attitude with his double talk.Not surprisingly the Austrian press picked up the news. Both Der Standard and Kleine Zeitung reported that Ulrike Lunacek “most likely” will go to the Hungarian Media Authority and launch an official complaint. The papers emphasized that Zsolt Bayer is a close friend of Viktor Orbán. It was also mentioned that Bayer in the same program called Neelie Kroes “a miserable, pitiful idiot” (szerencsétlen, sajnálatra méltó idióta).  Der Standard even published an editorial in which Rubina Möhring called Bayer and his journalist friends “media scum.” Nice going!

Not long ago I wrote a letter to the editor-in-chief of a “moderate conservative” website complaining about the incredible comments that appear under practically every article they publish. The answer was a lecture explaining that I don’t seem to understand the concept of freedom of expression. I was told that they will not remove the objectionable comment. I decided not to leave it at that and wrote him another letter. Since the comment in question wished that someone had been killed in the Holocaust I asked what they would do if I wrote a comment saying that “I wish Viktor Orbán died a long time ago.” I used the verb “to die” that Hungarian reserves for animals (megdögölni). Would they leave such a comment on their site in the name of freedom of expression? I didn’t receive an answer but the objectionable comment was erased.

76 comments

  1. If you were an anthropologist looking for the ‘missing link’ between Fidesz and Jobbik, you’d do worse than to look in Bayer’s direction (if you can stomach it).

  2. With regards the last paragraph, the fact that the comment was removed was noteworthy. Perhaps your argument convinced him… more likely an attack of an inconvenient conscience struck.
    There *are* decent people holding conservative views in Hungary for whom the rabid anti-semitism of the likes of Bayer are an anathema- somewhere in the back of mind I recall even the arch Orban apologist and Fidesz’s token intellectual, George Schöpflin, making a criticism of his leader’s favourite bigot once.
    Keep putting them (the non-contaminated right wingers) on the spot with this kind of stuff and who knows where we might end up.
    BTW what happen to the earlier complaint about Bayer (where he had an anti-semitic go at the Guradian’s Nick Cohen) to the Media Council?

  3. This post is so funny. It seems like these people are incredibely thin skinned. Lunacek, Kroes and Swoboda, are complaining but they are yet to see a real attack in the press against them. See for example how the Greek press treats Merkel:
    http://bit.ly/AAhcKe
    These above descriptions about Kroes et. al are not so bad now are they? 🙂

  4. “Der Standard even published an editorial in which Rubina Möhring called Bayer and his journalist friends “media scum.” Nice going!”
    I think Der Standard is very restrained in their characterization.

  5. GDF: “I think Der Standard is very restrained in their characterization.”
    I guess they don’t want to sink to Bayer’s level.

  6. “although I didn’t see any specifically anti-Semitic ones”
    I have (unfortunately I can’t link to it).
    There was a poster in English, that said: “Hands off Hungary”. The illustration showed a rubbish-bin type thing, in which there was a red star, a yellow star and a starry blue EU symbol. Above the bin it said: “EU & IMF.” (The yellow star symbolized the Jews.)
    There might have been more than just this one.
    So Lunacek was right, and not only was Bayer using “unsuitable” language (to put it mildly), he was also mistaken when he said there hadn’t been any antisemitic posters.
    By the way, I have seen this “show” – I’d say it is the lowest of the lowest. They even contemplated whether it would be a good idea to take Lunacek to court…
    Sadly, the style is not uncommon in today’s Hungary when discussing public matters, and it is high time someone officially complained about it.

  7. There were indeed anti-semitic items on the Bayer organized “Peace March”
    http://tinyurl.com/6opn9w5
    I also recall that there were some anti-semite books were sold from small stands. Wasn’t one of the readers who pointed that out?

  8. What’s interesting in this story is how can a TV station survive with such low standards. Who is buying advertisement from these guys? Who is watching this trash? What they don’t see is that this story is stretching way farther than just a Lunacek Bayer affair. It says something very unpleasant about the Hungarians. Look who’s thrashing the country’s image …

  9. @some1 “there were some anti-semite book”
    During the peace march street vendors were selling Alfonz Luzsénszky books. Targeted marketing I guess.
    Alfonz Luzsénszky is a famous Hungarian anti-Semite writer.

  10. I would only take action at the EU level, against Bayer, explaining that I did not want to give the New Media Law credibility by invoking it.

  11. When a whole bunch of anti-semites get together for a protest, who are mist of the people who will march behind them? I mean if Ernst Zündel would organize a march for his government who would most the people be who show up? Also the German government would distance itself from this march so fast….

  12. g.stlllt: “second serving with kerényi imre”
    EVery time I look at the guy, there are two things I wan to do:
    1. Reach for a scissor and give him a haircut.
    2. Turn off the program. (Well I just did that. I just cannot listen to this poser, the server of any and all or more so the village idiot).

  13. I love Hungary: “I would only take action at the EU level, against Bayer, explaining that I did not want to give the New Media Law credibility by invoking it.”
    A very good point.

  14. A small point but ‘puszta’ does not mean ‘waste’. Its meaning is more like ‘kopár’, that is bare, bleak, barren, prairie.

  15. This morning’s KURIER includes an interview with the Hungarian ambassador to Austria, Szalay-Bobrovniczky Vince (http://kurier.at/wirtschaft/4485043-botschafter-ueber-ungarns-imageverlust.php). The usual fencing; but then at the end, something more interesting, a line or two about a (nominally private) letter from the ambassador to Albert Rohan, a senior Austrian diplomat, criticising a jury that Rohan headed for last year awarding a press-freedom prize to Vasarhelyi Maria and Renyi Pal Daniel (http://derstandard.at/1323222594859/Kampf-um-Pressefreiheit-Press-Freedom-Award-ist-Ungarn-gewidmet), whom he described as “controversial” and as having “in mind only how to damage Hungary and Hungarian-Austrian relations”. “I’ve drawn my own conclusions from the letter’s being leaked,” rumbled Szalay-Bobrovniczky darkly (http://kurier.at/nachrichten/4484761-ungarn-straeubt-sich-gegen-eu-auflagen.php). Indeed Hungary is beset by enemies on all sides, within and without. How can anyone view things differently?

  16. For once, I’m going to be swimming against the tide here. I think what Bayer said, however offensive, falls within the realm of free speech. It is quite mild compared to what I’ve heard people say about Gyurcsány. It is quite mild compared to what I would say about Orbán, if only I was invited onto a programme to air my views. I’ve heard far worse stuff said about Mrs Thatcher when she was in power by popular celebrities. Sure, Bayer’s comments show him for what he is. But the answer is, switch the bugger off! Trying to make a case of it as a breach of human dignity is totally ill conceived. I can’t help feeling that the woman is thinking “I’m an MEP, how dare anyone insult me.” Politicians should have thicker skins. To quote Joe Orton, “Scratch a liberal and find a fascist bleeding.”
    Please don’t read to above to suggest I’d defend Bayer on the grounds of free speech if he was making anti-semitic comments. I just don’t think that a foul mouthed rant at an MEP falls into the same category.

  17. No, kingfisher you are right. It’s free speech. But I don’t mind if the press is kicking Bayer and the EchoTV for a while for this.
    This news says a lot about Hungary: TV stations like the EchoTV with such quality programming survive and at the same time decent anti-government talk radios like the Klubradio are cheated out of their right to broadcast.

  18. Mutt Damon: “No, kingfisher you are right. It’s free speech.”
    It might be free speech except it is tasteless and gross. Fidesz politicians (let’s face it, Bayer carries the #5 party card) encourages this kind of public discourse. Look around how people “exchange ideas” on the internet. The level of Hungarian comments is very low. Just think of Johnny Boy. His every second word was “you lie.”

  19. Eva wrote:
    “The level of Hungarian comments is very low.”
    Yes, and there is nothing about this style which is conservative, as it fails to draw on the best aspects of traditional Hungarian language and manners: its civility, I-kiss-the-hand gentility and respect for the dignity of ones partners in discussion. Instead, there is a macho vulgarity and swagger, which may well sell used cars, and may well play to the usual Fidesz crowd where the men cheerfully show off the photos in their wallets (the wife on one side, the girlfriend facing) but it scarcely earns respect, let alone friendship, in the rest of the world.

  20. There is a reason for why people like Mr Zsolt Bayer are used by the Viktator.
    The first is to boost the knuckle headed Nationalists within Hungary. the sort of member of the ‘Gorillaoid’ shown in the picture with the afore mentioned Mr Bayer.
    The second is to revolt what is described as the ‘moderate conservatives’ who are probably democratic in Hungary. This is being done to drive them out of politics.
    The third reason is to provoke an answer in kind from the ‘EU’. This will strengthen the Viktator’s hand in proving beyond doubt that the ‘EU’ is a deadly enemy of all Hungarians and of Hungary.
    What he does not realise is that people like “Iron Nellie’ (Neelie Kroes) are way above such insults. She knows that she probably has the Hungarian Government ‘On Toast’ over what she and her folk have un-earthed in the Hungarian Legislation. Her charges will be the second layer of charges.
    I am afraid that the ‘Gorillaoid’ in the picture in the article follows the ‘Standard Specification’ for such like. This is to be “very overweight, over muscled and vastly under brained”.

  21. I commented to day regarding how the German government would react for any attempt that has the slightest wind of anti-semitism attached to it. Coincidentally, I just came across from yesterday with the following news item: “Thousands block neo-Nazis in Dresden”
    http://www.thelocal.de/society/20120214-40717.html THose German citizens who blocked the neo-Nazis, recognized that the bombing of Dresden was the outcome of Germany’s government’s actions at the tim. THey do not try to make themselves look like the innocent bystanders (as many Hungarians, like Bayer and his followers try to do). Today’s Germans recognize their past, feel sorry what they have lost, regret the pain they caused, move on and are making sure that the ideology behind of WWII will never be accepted, and history will not repeat itself. I bow to the Germans and I am grateful to all of them who recognized the significance of what they are doing today is so important. Thank you!

  22. Paul you are not the only one, I read all his updates. Among others, his article on Malev was very well done and his coverage of the far-right is particularly well done.
    At the risk of beating a dead horse, I think he deserves a link here.

  23. PeteH: “At the risk of beating a dead horse, I think he deserves a link here.”
    Does contrarian have a link to Hungarian Spectrum?

  24. Prof Balogh, with regard to setting up links from blog to blog: You are pre-eminent; you can be generous without fear of loss or diminution (your readership will not desert you!); surely, noblesse oblige. One never stands so tall as when one stoops to help.

  25. Wondercat, as I said earlier, there is a certain internet etiquette involved here. When I was a new kid on the bloc I went from blog to blog and asked them whether they would put Hungarian Spectrum’s logo on their site. In return, I put their on mine. The blogs that are listed on Hungarian Spectrum were arranged according to this custom. And I receive a fair number of readers from Pusztranger, Galamus,JeTo-Tak, a Slovak site and I assume that a fair number of their reader comes from the Spectrum.
    The blogger in question refuses to have such a friendly arrangement. Only he knows why.

  26. “kingfisher you are right. It’s free speech.”
    Perhaps this is free speech but then people should be responsible for what they say. And exactly this is not happening here. Fidesz, and Zsolt Bayer in particular in his comments, are provoking the EU where they can. Raving about sovereignty while not making the according steps is a strange kind of free speech. It is also strange to be answered when asking about the “spirit of the treaties” that what counts is the written law. Bayer is rude knowing that the EU cannot appropriately answer – eg by excluding Hungary. So free speech without consequences, and that is repugnant.

  27. Prof Balogh, thank you. My understanding of the situation was incomplete. Please allow me to offer an apology.

  28. GW: “it fails to draw on the best aspects of traditional Hungarian language and manners: its civility, I-kiss-the-hand gentility and respect for the dignity of ones partners in discussion. Instead, there is a macho vulgarity”
    I did not want to copy the entire comment but very well said. Would be interesting to ask Zsolt Bayer for a definition of ‘Hungarianness’. (Great salesmen of used cars.) I was wondering whether he can feel to be in some aristocratic tradition. Arrogance and contempt have not been so alien to the aristocracy, even if perhaps put into less vulgar words. I am still thinking that the Hungarian blend of aristocratic and language based definition of the nation makes it difficult to accept the notion of equality between the individuals making up the nation. The aristocratic contempt for the ‘plebs’ can be transformed to the contempt for all ‘alien’ to the nation (freely defined) but what it means is that a basic principle of democracy is not easily embraced.

  29. Re Contrarian Hungarian: He/she does not link with any other blogs. If there are links I have not seen them.

  30. Free speech cannot equal with distortion of facts or slamming someone in front of many based on facts that are knowingly and willingly distorted. If you would call someone a murderer based on evidence that you falsified you would be charged with falsifying evidence and slander. Also in business if you willingly distort the facts about someone or slander someone, get ready for a huge lawsuit.
    Also one more thing about the anti-semite elements of the Paece March: According to mandiner.blog.hu , in an article written by Dobray, who were present at the event, “Az meg, hogy volt pár Árpád-sávos zászlós csoportosulás, szerintem nagyjából mellékes, megszoktuk, nem zavarnak sok vizet. ” . The mandiner blog is not a a leftist blog, and for that matter I would suggest everyone to read it, as it is very interesting. At any case “…there were a few Arpad-stripes flags…” (Arpad-stripes flags used as the Hungarian Arrow Cross Party’s symbol.)

  31. Re Contrarian Hungarian – for heaven’s sake, we’re all on the same side. It can do no harm to HS to have a link to other blogs, whether or not they link back. And surely it is good to link all the opposition sites/blogs/whatever together?
    We argue about LMP not supporting MSzP, etc, etc, but we don’t even link to each other’s blogs because of ‘etiquette’.
    This isn’t a tea dance, it’s war.

  32. I disagree with Kingfisher about just letting this rest.
    Where does one draw the line between what is and is not acceptable public behaviour?
    And the key word is “public”.
    In the privacy of ones home people can express the most virulent racist stuff, if they feel the need to, but in more civilized countries, there are laws to prohibit public expressions of racism. This is the big difference between Hungary and other more evolved countries.
    Here, there are no consequences whatsoever. As for instance, the peaceful protest at the Új Szinház (New Theatre) which was disrupted by neo-nazis shouting “Filthy Jews, filthy Jews” for at least half an hour.
    No one was punished,no one incarcerated, no one brought to justice.
    The only people who were removed were a couple of thugs, when they went too far and were getting violent. But you can bet your bottom dollar that they will not be prosecuted for racism.
    I suggest a protest, with a specific focus for the enforcement in Hungary of anti-hate and racist laws. I am prepared to travel to Brussels or Strasbourg, with just this specific agenda in mind. Orbán and his government can turn a blind eye on such travesties of civilized behaviour, but the EU has more stringent codes of conduct in place.

  33. Paul: “? We argue about LMP not supporting MSzP, etc, etc, but we don’t even link to each other’s blogs because of ‘etiquette’. This isn’t a tea dance, it’s war.”
    Yes, in which we have to stick together. The emphasis on the together.

  34. prof balogh, regarding the above mentioned so called “second serving” what do you think about kerényi`s invitation to the bayer/lunacek-circle?
    thanks for answering

  35. g.stillt: “what do you think about kerényi`s invitation to the bayer/lunacek-circle?”
    Well, I can’t even imagine a Lunacek-Bayer debate but adding Kerényi to it? It would be a real circus, don’t you think? Then Lunacek surely would know that she found herself in a mental asylum.

  36. “Yeah, Lunacek will have a debate with Zsolt Bayer!!!!”
    She has been OFFERED by Echo TV the opportunity to have a live debate with Bayer.
    I see zero chance of that happening. Lunacek will never put her ‘knowledge’ to the test.
    The excuse will be Bayer’s offensive style.

  37. Well, JB, if you call that “offensive style”, I’ll have to call your posts here “The whole rotten filthy lie from the mouth of a rotten filth bag.”
    Sounds appropriate for an a**hole like you …

  38. I hope she will refuse it. It would be totally mindless circus. Bayer and his gang are not capable of debating actual facts.

  39. She needs no debate with scums. It is a flee circus, and any normal and intelligent person who would participate in this side show would only provide some legitimacy that they fully lack. SHe has no need to participate. Beyer and Kerenyi should sit down together and continue their bounding together. What freaks!

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