This will be a lighthearted post because, let’s face it, there are many occasions for laughter in Hungary, mostly at the expense of the government. It is enough to look at some of the Hungarian blogs or videos on YouTube to know that Hungarian humor is not dead.
Here are two recent stories that you may find amusing. One involves the infamous Terrorelhárító Központ (TEK). For those not familiar with this new police unit, it is the creation of Viktor Orbán for his own and the president’s protection. He made his long-time bodyguard János Hajdú brigadier general and handed him billions and billions of forints to develop a crack commando force. On October 13, 2010, I summarized TEK’s activities and a year later I related the hilarious story of TEK’s seizure of the theater props to be used in Brad Pitt’s film “World War Z” being filmed in Hungary. The more threatening side of TEK’s legal status was analyzed in detail by Professor Kim Lane Scheppele in The New York Times under the title “The New Hungarian Secret Police.”
This time around the entire neo-Nazi crowd is having fun with TEK and its knowledgeable brigadier general, János Hajdú. The case involves the far-right Szent Korona Rádió and its website masthead, a long list of phony names. Here are a few examples. The editor-in-chief is Gyula Ostenburg-Moravek, who has been dead since 1944. His name came up the other day when we were discussing Gábor Barcsa-Turner’s threatening letter to the Kanadai Magyar Hírlap. In a footnote I explained that Ostenburg-Moravek was the leader of one of the detachments in Miklós Horthy’s army that was responsible for the murder of two journalists of the social democratic Népszava in early 1920. Among the editors we find two other notorious detachment leaders, Pál Prónay and Iván Héjjas. The “journalists” include Mihály Szabolcska, a fifth-rate nineteenth-century poet; Marcus Aurelius, the Roman emperor; and Miklós Zrínyi, either the Ban of Croatia in the sixteenth century or the poet from the seventeenth century. Among the female “journalists” are Ilona Zrínyi, mother of Ferenc Rákóczi II, and Erzsébet Szilágyi, mother of King Mathias from the fifteenth century. In brief, anyone with even the most rudimentary Hungarian education should immediately know that this is a bogus list.
Yet János Hajdú, the brigadier-general, addressed an official letter to the so-called editor-in-chief Gyula Ostenburg-Moravek. In the letter Hajdú complains that Szent Korona Rádió published a photo of a member of TEK without his permission. “The Dear Mr. Editor-in-Chief” duly answered Hajdú. You can imagine in what vein. Naturally “Ostenburg-Moravek” explained the difficulties involved in receiving Hajdú’s letter since he has been long dead, but luckily “today’s Hungarian patriots often evoke [his] spirit.” “Ostenburg-Moravek” then gave Hajdú a few tips on how to run TEK. As for the paragraphs Hajdú quoted, “Ostenburg-Moravek” doesn’t recognize the validity of laws.
I don’t normally abide by the equal-time rule, but here I think it is appropriate to give equal time to ignorance. The real editors of Szent Korona Rádió don’t seem to know a lot about the former detachment leader because they claim that Ostenburg-Moravek died fighting the “the Red Horde” when, in fact, he died in Budapest at the age of sixty.
But historical ignorance sometimes comes with a price. It is truly staggering that the top commando leader knows so little about this far-right publication and radio that he doesn’t realize that the names listed on the website are bogus. As a cop he should be just a bit more informed about the far-right groups he is supposed to keep an eye on. So much for the intelligence work of TEK and other national security officers.
Another example of the total incompetence of the Hungarian police is what happened in Csókakő. Not long ago a Horthy bust was unveiled in that picturesque village on a square that used to be called Bánya tér (Mining Square) but that the far-right leadership of the village decided to rename Nagymagyarország tér (Square of Greater Hungary).
Early today one hundred policemen surrounded the town of 1,300. No one could enter or leave without an ID. Those inhabitants who were out for a weekend stroll and happened to leave their IDs behind couldn’t get back home. The police spokeswoman for the police of Fejér County explained that the police’s action was necessary “to prevent a criminal act that the police deemed probable.” She added that thanks to the police’s action the planned criminal act was averted.
Meanwhile, the far right is laughing its head off. Kuruc.info claims that they fooled the police, whom they endearingly call “the dogs of Pintér,” the minister of interior. One hundred and thirty new recruits were to be initiated into the New Hungarian Guard (Új Magyar Gárda) today and the organizers made sure that the police would be misled. The police in Fejér County received information that a memorial tour in honor of Horthy would take place in Csókakő. Even as the policemen hermetically sealed the little town, the 130 new guardists were initiated at some other unnamed place.
Behind the ruse was János Árgyelán, the Jobbik chairman of Fejér County, who spread the news that the local Jobbik was organizing a “memorial Horthy tour” in Csókakő when in fact it was only a maneuver to divert attention from the initiation of the guardists. Jobbik and other far-right organizations amused themselves watching the police prepare for a potentially serious confrontation. The police set up tents just outside of the city limits and even brought along grills. Checklist: food and shelter okay; the bad guys–oops, missing.
The super commando force that came into being allegedly as an anti-terrorist unit and the ordinary police force still have a lot to learn. One difference between the two, by the way, seems to be that the TEK personnel make about twice as much as ordinary cops do. Otherwise, TEK seems to be busy closing off the entire street where Viktor Orbán lives. Not for a day or two but for a whole month. What is Orbán afraid of? I hope not yet another ruse.