New opposition communication is shaping up in Hungary

In the last few days I have noticed an entirely different communication style from MSZP and even from LMP when it comes to their attacks on Viktor Orbán. It is much more forthright and unambiguous than before. A couple of weeks ago one couldn’t hear that “Viktor Orbán is a liar.” Instead, opposition politicians used milder, more polite words when criticizing the Hungarian prime minister. By now, however, politicians are openly questioning the mental state of Orbán. For example, Attila Mesterházy, who is often accused of not being forceful enough, said the other day that Fidesz’s “policies are unpredictable and [its] communication is insane.” In Hungarian it is also a play on words: “Az önök politikája nem kiszámítható, kommunikációja nem beszámítható.” Benedek Jávor (LMP) put it this way: “Whatever [Orbán] says is a lie and whatever he does is madness.” Someone heard an MSZP member of parliament commenting after Orbán finished his opening speech on the first day of the new parliamentary session that “this guy is mad; honestly, he is losing his mind.”

József Nagy in an article on Figyelőnet (Hír24) called attention to this new, more straightforward style and mentioned in passing that “an ultra-left overseas publication called attention to Viktor Orbán’s strange facial movements and suggested a possible diagnosis.” And suddenly Hungarian politicians started calling Orbán an idiot.

Mental state

I don’t know whether László Bartus’s article in Amerikai Magyar Népszava, because Nagy is talking about him, has anything to do with these new communication tactics, but I don’t think that the verbal campaign against Orbán needed help from anywhere. Since his return from a brief two weeks away from the daily routine of his office he has made several contradictory statements and was caught lying several times. It is enough to think back to his flip-flops about the IMF/EU negotiations for a loan. The same thing is happening with the release of the “national hero” of Azerbaijan. Every time either Viktor Orbán or any other member of his government opens his mouth we hear a different story. It is now apparent, however, that Hungarian government officials were fully aware of what would happen once Ramil Safarov arrived in Baku. Moreover, they also realized the international consequences of the possible Hungarian release of the murderer. Both the  Foreign Ministry and the Ministry of Administration and Justice advised Viktor Orbán against it. They even called his attention to possible national security consequences. Yet he went ahead. And, yes, he lied again. One day he said that the decision was discussed and approved by the cabinet, the next day he told reporters that he alone made the decision. As the latest documents attest, the latter claim was the true one.

So, to put it mildly, Orbán is behaving erratically. Yet there are some analysts who are trying to make sense of it. For example, an article appeared in HVG that claimed that all this confused talk about the IMF/EU negotiations was part and parcel of a well prepared communication plan that had been drafted secretly way ahead of time. The problem was that the great plan didn’t work. Hours after each lie the media contradicted Orbán’s version of the story. The famous communicator failed time and again. As Ferenc L. Lendvai wittily remarked, to be a Machiavellian doesn’t only mean that we learn from the founder of political science but that we follow the behavior Machiavelli prescribed for a successful politician. There must be success because it is not worth being amoral without it. “That the leaders of the Hungarian government and the government party are Machiavellians we have known for a long time but lately they have given two bewildering examples of incompetence.” Of course, Lendvai is talking about the IMF/EU and the Azerbaijan affairs.

Way back in April I read an interview with Jerrold Post, professor of psychiatry at George Washington University, in HVG. The journalist, Péter Zentai, wanted to know whether there was a generally accepted diagnosis of a dictator’s mind. Yes, was the answer: missionary zeal, a desire to find enemies, blaming others for his own faults, a not quite properly functioning conscience, and a unique talent for influencing people around him. A lot of people would find these traits in Orbán’s psychological makeup, but these traits don’t fully explain his behavior of late. Orbán’s old friend Gábor Fodor (SZDSZ) in an interview on ATV (July 26) talked about Orbán’s “complete psychological collapse” and accused him of “paranoid delusions.” Even earlier, after Orbán’s speech on March 15, DK politician Csaba Molnár brought up the possibility that perhaps something is not quite right with the prime minister’s psyche.

Normally raising such questions in Hungary is met with great resistance. As if it were an inappropriate inquiry into some private matter. But I do think that the question of the mental state of a president or a prime minister is not just the concern of the individual, and I have the feeling that now that the topic is out in the open there will be more and more demands for the government to level with the public about Viktor Orbán’s mental state.

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40 comments

  1. I believe that Mr. Bartus’ article is outrages. His style reminds me to Zsolt Bayer. He is using the same logic. Comparing Mr Orban to Szalasi. Speaking about his mental disease as it was a fact rather than a possibility. Terrible article. I boycott the Amerikai Nepszava, we, liberals, shouldn’t quote or even mention this article as a reliable source.
    Speaking about the attacks against Orban, I think that the opposition hopes to divide Fidesz as it is already divided about the Azeri case.

  2. Dr Balogh: “Normally raising such questions in Hungary is met with great resistance. As if it were an inappropriate inquiry into some private matter. But I do think that the question of the mental state of a president or a prime minister is not just the concern of the individual, and I have the feeling that now that the topic is out in the open there will be more and more demands for the government to level with the public about Viktor Orbán’s mental state.”

    So solely disagreeing with Orban without giving alternatives for his plans of actions did not bring down the government. Now, mental stability needs to be discussed….of course mostly by the rabid opposition. There are some mentality related questions about his opposition also, like the handling of the famous MSZP speach, etc.

    What is the alternative program proposed???? Being solely against Orban is not a program.

  3. One has to be proud of Kalman Olga: right now, she’s like a bulldog on the Azeri affair continually hammering on the “why?why? why?” Today it has become clear, and Orban has admitted, that he alone decided to go ahead with the transfer inspire of being warned of the consequences. The WHY question now becomes ever more important because the political consequences of the act are grave. Olga has also uncovered the interesting fact that the Azeri’s have never in the past formally asked for the release because it is usual to inquire informally if the request will meet with success. Since the Azeris did make a formal request, it is now important to find out exactly when this was done and when, specifically, Orban gave the sign that a formal approach would be successful. If these could be woven together with Szijjarto’s trips…some interesting revelations may come about. Also, it would be important for Olga to investigate the degree of seriousness of the Turkish market adventure…

    In may democratic countries, these revelations would topple a government. Let’s see what happens in Hungary…

  4. For me it was sufficient to see Janos Ader “compassionately” watching the lunatic on 20 August. Magyar Nemzet even showed a photograph of this “mild smile” on page 1, apparently OV has been presenting himself in this way already for some time. (Louis, I think it is time you watch out for OV’s successor to get some information about what to think now about the IMF, Azeri case etc.) If Fidesz is divided about the Azeri case, this is even better. So we can be quite confident that some change is in the offing.

  5. The symptoms – and qualities – mentioned by Jerrold Post fit nearly entirely on sect-leaders too, hence it seems that far from coincidence the zeal what most Fidesz supporters presents.
    In person dear Viktor seems to me like someone with Grandiose delusions, disambiguation.

    My problem actually isn’t the mental state of Viktor Orban, rather the mental state of a social/political entity called Hungary!
    How on Earth in they right mind could they accept such person as their Almighty Leader?

    Even after the developments and countless lies of the recent week, the support just as good as ever..!

    In any self respecting country he should have been sacked, or at least a motion of no-confidence in the Prime Minister should have been adopted already, come on!

    If a biggest party with – nominal – two-third majority can not come up with a better candidate, then they shouldn’t rule! Personally I don’t believe, that there is no any sane and honorable person in the Fidesz with clear and sound moral principles who could lead the country much better, than Viktor Orban, not to mention the clear slate what it would present with all in the ongoing negotiations.

    So, dare to change, people, otherwise you may not only risking your Homeland, Hungary, but your hefty paycheck as well, because Viktor Orban is a disaster waiting to happen!

    And not that long, as is.

  6. “One has to be proud of Kalman Olga: right now, she’s like a bulldog on the Azeri affair continually hammering on the “why?why? why?” Today it has become clear, and Orban has admitted, that he alone decided to go ahead with the transfer inspire of being warned of the consequences. …
    In may democratic countries, these revelations would topple a government. Let’s see what happens in Hungary…”

    Armenian lobby met Ambassador Szapary
    http://www.armenianweekly.com/2012/09/11/anca-shares-outrage-over-safarov-extradition-with-hungarian-ambassador/
    Hungarian opposition calls for Orban’s resignation
    http://news.am/eng/news/120739.html

  7. I don’t think that Orban’s mental state has changed much in essence, as I always thought he had some kind of a personality disorder (whether it’s a clinical case or not, that’s a different question) … but he is definitely getting more desperate, acts more thoughtlessly and his lies are becoming more obvious.

    I agree that Bartus’s article should be treated with caution… it makes some very far-fetched claims based on very very little evidence (one video footage of strange mouth movements (?)) , and Bartus is all too prone to exaggerate.

  8. Generally I think it’s inappropriate to psychoanalyze from a distance. Only Mr. Orban and his shrink know for sure!

    That said, we CAN judge his actions and those of his government–erratic, to say the least. They certainly don’t seem to be governed by any sort of plan or philosophy save aggrandisement of power. What happens if/when Orban’s behavior jeopardizes that goal?

  9. Louis Kovach :
    Being solely against Orban is not a program.

    Well, how about creating democracy, and telling the truth. Would that suffice as a start? Unfortunately Orban had no program to begin with, except that he will bring Hungary into Canaan without any austerity measures. As we know that did not work. Orban destroyed democracy and on his way bankrupted the country, promised foreign diplomats the he will lie his way into getting elected, nationalized private pensions, released an axe-murderer for profit and threw domestically abused women “under the train”. The man lies non-stop.
    So, I guess any program would be better then this, wouldn’t you say so?

  10. I for one don’t think it’s a bad tactic to raise doubts about Orbán’s mental competence; it’s almost more charitable to suggest that he’s lost his moral compass (if not his marbles) through overwork, the incompetence of his lieutenants and the impossibility of the task he set himself than to say he never had a moral compass to begin with.
    But it’s still a lousy strategy and a symptom of Hungarian tribalism. In Parliament in the UK (once the model for Hungary), there’s less abuse (though a lot of sarcasm and grand-standing) because parties have to work together in committees, where so much of the real work is done. I don’t see how “politics can be different” without an appreciation that the other side of the House is composed of colleagues, who are also public servants.

  11. I agree that Bartus’ article is borderline tabloid but in his defense I’d like to say Orban deserves it. Just think about the “facts” about Gyurcsany’s mental capacity. “How is it feel when it’s you mother?” like the classic dirty joke says.

    What Bartus says is true: good shrinks could have saved millions of lives in history.

    The health of the prime minister should be public information (I’d like to buy a lot of Euros before they announce it). So it’s not inappropriate to ask. Denying the problems of course will be just a routine lie for them, so we wont know anything.

    Regarding the oppositions tone change I believe is a tone change across the board. The frustration has boiled over, the gloves are coming off. Even in case of moderate FIDESZ zealots. First they were quietly suffering from the disappointment but now they are getting in the flow of the Orban bashing jokes.

    These are all good signs. The country doesn’t take the FIDESZ seriously anymore. Look, the emperor is naked!

  12. Louis Kovach :
    What is the alternative program proposed???? Being solely against Orban is not a program.

    Ahh. Kovach. You again .. Like the dozens of knowledgeable people here on this blog explained a hundred times what should be done …

    What you’re saying is like calling somebody stupid then saying “hey, don’t just oppose me, come of with a better program”. Just doing the opposite what the FIDESZ government says is by itself a good political platform.

  13. “Mesterhazy believes Orban made the decision “without thinking” and is the only one to blame for the scandal. He also called to conduct a national security investigation into the transfer.” news.am
    Are they kidding me? All of his buddies are to blame (and put Kovach in there for good measure), they are the ones who feed the ego of this beast. THey are the ones who are scared like chickens to tell this impostor for a Prime Minister that he is a fraud.

  14. I’ve heard there were a lot of rumours that Orbán had a breakdown after the 2002 election, and was seeing a shrink in Vienna. It might have been in the news as well. I have no idea of their veracity.

  15. Orban has got his gelt and is ready to go…that is, if he ain’t fully committed to ruining Hungary. The better scenario is that he’ll fake a fainting spell and retire for ‘health reasons’. He’s set up this unstable, mixed up
    undependable persona so no one should miss him. Once he’s gone he’ll be laughing all the way to the bank…in Cyprus.

  16. I appreciate–to some extent–that Bartus raised the issue of the PM’s mental health, but his piece was based on very few, anecdotal observations about a single, short video segment and was also polemical and sensational in tone. One of the contributors to the Kanadai Magyar Hirlap wanted to produce something similar and I could not–in good conscience–publish it. I find that Eva’s references to observations by Orban’s former friends (Fodor) and examples of increasingly erratic behaviour are far more effective in suggesting that something may be wrong.

  17. While I agree that Mr Orban’s recent behavior has been unusually eccentric and that all of this amateur psychoanalysis may be entertaining — in the same sense that a horror movie is entertaining — I believe, however, that it is sufficient, urgent, and correct to indict Orban solely on the basis of his failed policies and incompetent administration of the nation’s wealth and institutions as well as to investigate thoroughly the possibility of corruption above and beyond the evident gross negligence in office.

    If criticism of political conduct in a democracy is to be effective, it has to take the high and serious road, no matter how strong the temptation may be to pursue personal enmities. The problems of Hungary are now so serious and urgent that effectiveness has come to mean more than any personal agenda. If we are serious about Hungary establishing itself as a successful member of the community of democratic, free market states, then let’s focus on the policy and performance of the government, not gossip and speculation. If we get stuck in the latter forms of discourse, then the government will have already won the argument for we will have rendered ourselves unserious.

  18. GW :
    While I agree that Mr Orban’s recent behavior has been unusually eccentric and that all of this amateur psychoanalysis may be entertaining — in the same sense that a horror movie is entertaining — I believe, however, that it is sufficient, urgent, and correct to indict Orban solely on the basis of his failed policies and incompetent administration of the nation’s wealth and institutions as well as to investigate thoroughly the possibility of corruption above and beyond the evident gross negligence in office.
    If criticism of political conduct in a democracy is to be effective, it has to take the high and serious road, no matter how strong the temptation may be to pursue personal enmities. The problems of Hungary are now so serious and urgent that effectiveness has come to mean more than any personal agenda. If we are serious about Hungary establishing itself as a successful member of the community of democratic, free market states, then let’s focus on the policy and performance of the government, not gossip and speculation. If we get stuck in the latter forms of discourse, then the government will have already won the argument for we will have rendered ourselves unserious.

    Hungarian politicians serious? GW, you must be sitting in a think tank in southern Cal.
    Of the 400 members you may have 3%..that is, 10-12 members who might qualify on the basis of ‘seriousness’ and integrity. Precious few. With so many rotten apples, the ones who stay clean get a knife in the back or, are marginalized. This is Hungary, man, get a grip on yourself.

  19. ALERT!!!

    Apparently, Martonyi has taken his mustache and gone home–his resignation will take place tomorrow morning.

  20. petofi :
    ALERT!!!
    Apparently, Martonyi has taken his mustache and gone home–his resignation will take place tomorrow morning.

    Hungarian Spectrum speaks, the world listens!

  21. “…but he is definitely getting more desperate, acts more thoughtlessly and his lies are becoming more obvious.”

    They are becoming only more obvious because of leaks within the State Administration and perhaps even within the party itself. Everytime he made a claim last week re the IMF or the Azer/Armenia case, soon a “confidential briefing” to Index or Origo would contradict him.

  22. Christopher :

    I appreciate–to some extent–that Bartus raised the issue of the PM’s mental health, but his piece was based on very few, anecdotal observations about a single, short video segment and was also polemical and sensational in tone. One of the contributors to the Kanadai Magyar Hirlap wanted to produce something similar and I could not–in good conscience–publish it. I find that Eva’s references to observations by Orban’s former friends (Fodor) and examples of increasingly erratic behaviour are far more effective in suggesting that something may be wrong.

    I found Fodor’s observations especially weighty. He knows him very well and he is a low key guy.

  23. petofi :

    ALERT!!!

    Apparently, Martonyi has taken his mustache and gone home–his resignation will take place tomorrow morning.

    Wishful thinking, I’m afraid. He is loyal to the prime minister “in spite of his earlier opinion.” So, although he advised Orbán against the release of the Azeri murderer now after the prime minister decided otherwise he is sticking with him regardless.

  24. Eva S. Balogh :

    petofi :
    ALERT!!!
    Apparently, Martonyi has taken his mustache and gone home–his resignation will take place tomorrow morning.

    Wishful thinking, I’m afraid. He is loyal to the prime minister “in spite of his earlier opinion.” So, although he advised Orbán against the release of the Azeri murderer now after the prime minister decided otherwise he is sticking with him regardless.

    Or a more simple explanation, after Orban wiped his feet in Martonyi, Martonyi decided to stick around hoping that next time Orban will wipe his behind with him.
    On a certain way the two must have a never ending adoration for each other, as the level of conformity for power works in overdrive for both of both.

  25. It is easy to forget that the great majority of the Hungarian populace does not read the opposition press or have access to it. And the state organs ignore anything inconvenient. So Orbán craziness is viewed through a sympathetic filter and that way, its contradictions are less apparent. My mother-in-law is not a Fidesz sympathiser, she loathes them, but she only listens to Kossuth Radio (in the same way many English people listen to Radio 4 because they have always done so) and hasn’t the money to buy daily newspapers (and loathes MSZP, so unlikely to buy Népszava), so she is blissfully unaware of the agricultural scandals, and probably unaware of the IMF shilly-shallying.

  26. Some1 :
    “Mesterhazy believes Orban made the decision “without thinking” and is the only one to blame for the scandal. He also called to conduct a national security investigation into the transfer.” news.am
    Are they kidding me? All of his buddies are to blame (and put Kovach in there for good measure), they are the ones who feed the ego of this beast. THey are the ones who are scared like chickens to tell this impostor for a Prime Minister that he is a fraud.

    They’re not ‘afraid’.
    Let me paint the picture: do you know that symbol of Rome with these cherubs being fed by one she-lion?
    Well, that’s the Fidesz rank and file–just having their
    teat on mother-Orban’s largesse…

  27. Kingfisher,
    where I live, I often see pensioners buying Magyar Nemzet. And we get Metropol newspaper for free daily. While, in the library, they are reading “Blikk” “Bors” , my mother-in-law, included (the tabloids, not Magyar Nemzet)., same goes with the immediate family.

    Only me and hubby are reading news on the internet daily ; which I have to say is causing information overload. Sometimes I wish I could be blissfully unaware.

  28. Some1 :

    Eva S. Balogh :

    petofi :
    ALERT!!!
    Apparently, Martonyi has taken his mustache and gone home–his resignation will take place tomorrow morning.

    Wishful thinking, I’m afraid. He is loyal to the prime minister “in spite of his earlier opinion.” So, although he advised Orbán against the release of the Azeri murderer now after the prime minister decided otherwise he is sticking with him regardless.

    Or a more simple explanation, after Orban wiped his feet in Martonyi, Martonyi decided to stick around hoping that next time Orban will wipe his behind with him.
    On a certain way the two must have a never ending adoration for each other, as the level of conformity for power works in overdrive for both of both.

    I got the info on something called “Vincenblog”–I guess it’s a soap/gossip thing. Too bad. I was prepared to dole out a smidgen of respect to Martonyi for resigning. I guess once a freely-volunteered informant can’t really change his stripes and grow new roots of respectability.

  29. London Calling!

    80% O/T!

    Martonyi:

    “………The government deploys all constitutional and legal means in its fight against extremists, the minister said, noting as an example that the paramilitary Hungarian Guard had disappeared from the street.

    (My boldings!)

    If it looks like a duck; quacks like a…………

    What planet is he on? (I know Mutt! – Planet Hungary!)

    He also said no plans to rehabilitate Horthy inter alia…

    http://www.politics.hu/20120913/martonyi-govt-has-no-plans-to-rehabilitate-horthy/

    I think some on here are right – he’s Orban’s goon!

    Regards

    Charlie

  30. CLOSEST CLINICAL CATEGORY FOR ORBAN: SOCIOPATH

    10 signs for spotting a sociopath
    http://www.naturalnews.com/036112_sociopaths_cults_influence.html

    #1) Sociopaths are charming. Sociopaths have high charisma and tend to attract a following just because people want to be around them. They have a “glow” about them that attracts people who typically seek guidance or direction. They often appear to be sexy or have a strong sexual attraction. Not all sexy people are sociopaths, obviously, but watch out for over-the-top sexual appetites and weird fetishes.

    #2) Sociopaths are more spontaneous and intense than other people. They tend to do bizarre, sometimes erratic things that most regular people wouldn’t do. They are unbound by normal social contracts. Their behavior often seems irrational or extremely risky.

    #3) Sociopaths are incapable of feeling shame, guilt or remorse. Their brains simply lack the circuitry to process such emotions. This allows them to betray people, threaten people or harm people without giving it a second thought. They pursue any action that serves their own self interest even if it seriously harms others.

    #4) Sociopaths invent outrageous lies about their experiences. They wildly exaggerate things to the point of absurdity, but when they describe it to you in a storytelling format, for some reason it sounds believable at the time.

    #5) Sociopaths seek to dominate others and “win” at all costs. They hate to lose any argument or fight and will viciously defend their web of lies, even to the point of logical absurdity.

    #6) Sociopaths tend to be highly intelligent, but they use their brainpower to deceive others rather than empower them. Their high IQs often makes them dangerous. This is why many of the best-known serial killers who successfully evaded law enforcement were sociopaths.

    #7) Sociopaths are incapable of love and are entirely self-serving. They may feign love or compassion in order to get what they want, but they don’t actually FEEL love in the way that you or I do.

    #8) Sociopaths speak poetically. They are master wordsmiths, able to deliver a running “stream of consciousness” monologue that is both intriguing and hypnotic. They are expert storytellers and even poets. As a great example of this in action, watch this interview of Charles Manson:

    #9) Sociopaths never apologize. They are never wrong. They never feel guilt. They can never apologize. Even if shown proof that they were wrong, they will refuse to apologize and instead go on the attack.

    #10) Sociopaths are delusional and literally believe that what they say becomes truth merely because they say it! Charles Manson, the sociopathic murderer, is famous for saying, “I’ve never killed anyone! I don’t need to kill anyone! I THINK it! I have it HERE! (Pointing to his temple.) I don’t need to live in this physical realm..

  31. Mutt September 12, 2012 at 6:34 pm | #12

    “I agree that Bartus’ article is borderline tabloid but in his defense I’d like to say Orban deserves it. Just think about the “facts” about Gyurcsany’s mental capacity. “How is it feel when it’s you mother?” like the classic dirty joke says. ”

    All nations had some bad lucks with leaders.
    Eastern European nations had overproduced them.

    It is remarkable that the conservative Hungarians are going through life in sleep mode.
    They are cultivating a remarkable private sphere, but have no demand on their elected leaders.

    How is it possible that they nurture a positive memory on Horthy?

    Its shameful new reincarnation is Orban.

    Was Horthy also such a idiot?

  32. @Steven Harnad:

    Thanks for that fascinating link on sociopaths – even if we don’t consider any of Hungary’s leaders to belong to that group, it is a real eye opener!

    I recommend this to everyone, it’s only a few minutes of your time – but you’ll understand a lot …

  33. I think a more adequate comparison to Orban is Jim Jones (and not Charles Manson), the leader of the cult called “People’s Temple”, who took his American followers from California to the jungle in Guyana to build their “paradise”. When rumors abuse in the community surfaced, a US senator went to visit the compound, who got killed by Jones’ men. Jones ordered his followers on his compound to poison themselves, which they did (with the help of some of Jones’s men who administered the poison).
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peoples_Temple

    OV is a narcissist,and yes, you can argue that he may be reaching a stage of sociopathic narcissism.
    http://jonestown.sdsu.edu/AboutJonestown/JonestownReport/Volume13/Maynard.htm

    In the end, it really doesn’t matter… it is very clear, regardless of what issues he has, that what is doing is extremely harmful to the country.

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