Hungarian Spectrum 2007-2013: 2,156 days and 2,000 posts

Readers of this blog didn’t, couldn’t, realize that yesterday was a special day in the history of Hungarian Spectrum. Yesterday I posted the two-thousandth (yes, #2,000) article. My first post appeared on June 27, 2007, almost six years ago. In case anyone is interested in a more precise calculation, there were 2,156 days between June 27 and yesterday. So, there were very few days that Spectrum offered its readers nothing new.

blog.minimonos.com

blog.minimonos.com

Perhaps I should explain why I started the blog in the first place. I became interested in current Hungarian politics in early 1994 when the Internet was in its infancy. There was no possibility of reading newspapers, listening to radio stations, or watching television online. There were no social sites, although people gathered in small groups, mostly centered around Yahoo, to discuss politics or other topics of common interest. Those using AOL had to be very careful how much time they spent online because the basic AOL service was only ten hours a month.

As soon as I had Internet access I signed up for the two or three discussion groups that dealt with Hungary, and eventually I started a group of my own. But it was almost inevitable that the members of these groups would either become tired of one other or bored with the topics members brought up and that eventually these discussion groups would fall apart. Mine didn’t for a very long time, but finally the discussions became less interesting and less instructive and I became increasingly frustrated. I began to feel that I was wasting my time. As a group leader of sorts I felt that I was responsible for keeping the conversation going, and I spent hours combing the Hungarian media to come up with timely topics. Eventually I had to admit that no amount of effort on my part would keep the group discussion vibrant.

It was at this point that a friend of mine said to me: “Why don’t you start a blog? You are wasting your considerable knowledge of Hungarian politics here. You’re reaching very few people who are not even interested in what you have to say.” I knew very little about blogs and had no experience with the kind of writing that one expects from a blogger. My first draft attempt met with scorn: “You’re not writing a historical treatise in a periodical. Loosen up!” Finally, on June 27, 2007 I was ready to go live.

Well, I might have been ready to write a blog but people were not quite ready to read itI don’t remember how long it took before there were even 100 readers a day. I do know that the first days were agonizing. One day there were only nine hits, as it turned out all my own. But eventually there were even comments. I started getting letters telling me that expats and foreign newspapermen in Budapest had become avid readers of Hungarian Spectrum.

Lately there has been some discussion about the purpose of Hungarian Spectrum. I think that first and foremost it should inform people, especially those who don’t know Hungarian, about day to day Hungarian politics. No American, Canadian, British, German, or French paper will ever cover Hungarian affairs in any depth, if at all. Yet, judging from the size of the readership of Hungarian Spectrum today, there are a lot of people out there who are eager to know more about the country.

Second, I think that Hungarian Spectrum as an English-language blog opens the door to a country where information directed at the outside world is scarce, be it official government publications or the messages of the opposition. That’s why I spend a great deal of time translating material. Just lately the decision to translate the Tarlós-Orbán conversation made a difference. Even Portuguese newspapers picked up the story from Hungarian Spectrum. My decision to translate Viktor Orbán’s unfortunate remarks about the German cavalry in the form of tanks was picked up by the German press.

Third, I wouldn’t do all this work if I didn’t enjoy it. I do, and I enjoy the lively discussions that follow the postings.

Hungarian Spectrum is often described as a “liberal blog.” Indeed, it is if by liberal we mean “not limited to or by established, traditional, orthodox, or authoritarian attitudes, views, or dogmas; free from bigotry.” I try to present the facts unvarnished, but the opinions expressed are my own. It cannot be otherwise.

Yes, I’m proud of the road we’ve traveled in the last six years: Hungarian Spectrum has become an important source of information on Hungary. It is more than I ever expected. Thank you, dear readers, for your support and your comments.

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73 comments

  1. Thanks Eva for piercing the bubble which surrounds this wonderful country and making it seem a little less like a Looking Glass world! Its a great achievement to maintain this blog at such a standard for so long and, I presume, with so little help. And a great service to so many. I hope that you will get much wider recognition for it.

  2. Fidesz’s quasi-monopoly in the news.

    News time about opposition and government (as measured by the Media Authority itself) in April 2013.

    Overall:

    76.2% Government+Fidesz+KDNP
    4.2% Jobbik
    19.6% MSzP+Egyutt2014+DK+LMP [democratic opposition]

    *******************************************
    Public Televisions
    MT1
    75.3% Fidesz
    7.2% Jobbik
    17.5% democratic opposition

    Duna
    82.3% Fidesz
    4.3% Jobbik
    13.4% democratic opposition
    ***************************************************
    News channels close to Fidesz

    HirTV
    70.9% Fidesz
    3.8% Jobbik
    25.3% democratic opposition

    EchoTV
    80.5% Fidesz
    5.8% Jobbik
    13.7% democratic opposition

    ————————————
    The only “opposition” channel, owned by an evangelical church [!]
    As you can see, this is the only balanced news source on television

    ATV
    50.5% Fidesz
    0. 2% Jobbik
    49.3% democratic opposition

    ***************************************************

    Commercial television

    RTLKlub
    60.1% Fidesz
    2.1% Jobbik
    37.8% democratic opposition

    TV2
    72.1% Fidesz
    0.0% Jobbik
    27.9% democratic opposition

    **********************************************************

    Remark: In the “public” channels and Fidesz channels, the news about the opposition is mainly negative.

    Source:
    http://nmhh.hu/dokumentum/158398/mediahasznalat_2013_aprilis.pdf

  3. Let us sort the data by Fidesz’s news time.

    82.3% Duna [public]
    80.5% Echo [oligarch Szeles]

    75.3% MT1 [public]
    72.1% TV2 [rumor has it that this is eyed by oligarchs Nyerges and/or Simicska]
    70.9% HirTV [oligarch Liszkay]

    60.1% RTLKlub
    50.5% ATV

  4. Thanks for the numbers, Tappanch!

    They just confirm my experience: Hungarian news on tv is abominable …

    The statistics would look even worse if they calculated the percentage of “real” i e political or economical news compared to those silly reports of the 6 kg baby and the latest high water – repeated for days, every day showing the same pictures …

    My wife says for her it’s enough to watch the news once a week – unless there really is something special and then we might watch it on a German or other international channel. Luckily we have a satellite dish in addition to the cable tv …
    Me, I’m happy to have the internet – especially Eva’s blog and pol.hu (which is always good for a laugh, considering the right wing trolls and loonies that abound there …)

  5. Eva, I absolutely enjoy reading your thoughtful posts. I think the work you do here is invaluable… not only you provide an intelligent discussion of Hungarian politics (that is so rare in today’s Hungarian media), but also open up Hungary to the English speaking world. Congratulation and thank you!

  6. Johnny Boy and his friends wanted me to thank you secretly, in their name, for the steady income they are pulling from the FIDESZ propaganda ministry!

    PS: They say in the near future the IP addresses of their posts may come from small tobacco shops, but that’s just a coincidence.

  7. Arrived yesterday in Budapest for a 1 1/2 month visit. On the plane ride two Hungarian men sat next to me. One a lawyer for a major international corporation and the other in the import/export business. When the conversation turned to politics they both expressed dismay with the tobacco contracts. Reading your blog allowed me to understand and even contribute to the conversation. Thanks for that!

    The lawyer, who was dressed in very pricey business attire, turned to me and said “You have the best situation. To visit Hungary and enjoy our beautiful country. Living here is not so good”. This from a wealthy lawyer.

  8. Kedves Eva,
    Gratulalok!
    En allando olvasoja vagyok a cikkjeinek. Csodalom munkabirasat, alapos, jol szerkesztett, valodi tenyeken nyugvo darabjait. Melyen egyetertek liberalis, (baloldali) nezeteivel.

    Sajnos azonban optimizmusat mar nem osztom annyira. Barataim tulnyomo tobbsege elfogadja az Orban fele demagogiat, hogy a Nyugat es a baloldal osszefogott Magyarorszag ellen, es az ellen kell harcolni.

    Tobbseguk egyetemi vegzettsegu ertelmisegi. Mikor en felhozom a nyugati sajtoban mejelent nezeteket, ok azonnal visszavagnak az otthoni, Orban fele hivatalos valaszokkal. Ilyen peldaul: “A tobbi orszagban is van media torveny”; “Azota mar tobb orszagban bevezettek a bankok hasonlo megadoztatasat.” “Mindeutt van neo-Nazi part.”

    A Kadar rendszer idejen ugyanezek az emberek kritikaval fogadtak a rendszer dogmait.

    Szerintem a Fidesz gyozelme a jovo evi valasztasokon nem ketseges.

    Az en optimizmusom odaig terjed, hogy Magyarorszag kicsi es gyenge ahhoz, hogy akar egy regionalis haborut inditson.

    Az otthoni helyzetnek meg sokkal tovabb kell romlania ahhoz, hogy a magyar tobbseg megerjen a valtozasra.

  9. Cjanos23: they believe in the slogans, because they want to and desperately need to believe in them. Why is that?

    There is no contradiction with your friends: they did not like Kádár’s slogans, because they wanted a country like present day Hungary, which they don’t criticize. They like the present day Hungary. A lot of people do.

    The future is bleak, really bleak, much worse then most liberals expect (because once Fidesz wins again, despite the most disastrous and chaotic government ever in the EU, everybody will realize that there is no hope, Fidesz’ grip is complete, and so even people wavering until now realize that they will have to align with Fidesz and express their loyalty), but this is what people (the plurality and perhaps a majority) want. They will get it.

    Like it was said, until the family/brotherhood of Fidesz top-echelon retires, it is simply impossible to deprive them of power, so complete and comprehensive their embededness is.

    Hungary is most certainly not a real democracy with fair elections, but the West will ignore the issue (Barroso wll continue to hobnob wit Orbán, or rather not, because Barroso will go away sooner), it’s not their problem, which is true.

  10. Come on , guys! Don’t be so depressive – this should be a kind of holiday for Eva and her acolytes (as one of the Fidesz trolls wrote once – don’t remember who it was …) – there’s always hope!

    Now something totally OT for those who live in Hungary or nearby and like good food:

    The German family company Vetter has been producing excellent asparagus for 20 years now in Hungary and they’re selling it at Tesco’s for 800 HUF a Kilo!
    Don’t be deterred by its thinness (usually first class Asparagus is thicker – but they’re selling this to Germany probably) – it’s a wonderful treat! Just add a liitle butter ans some ham …

  11. LOLcat: “this is what people want” and ” the West will ignore the issue”.

    It is very difficult to have any clear stance from outside as long as Fidesztan is “what people want”. What does “ignoring” mean in such circumstances? (Ignoring that Hungarians deliberately choose to ruin their country?) And what is so “undemocratic” in the whole situation if it suits people? It is these issues that should be clarified by Hungarians who are opposed to OV. What is wrong with OV – even if he can muster large crowds – and what should be done instead (against the will of the majority?). The alternative programme has to be presented to those people who currently support OV or at least say so. I wrote it already some weeks ago but it is not really surprising that people say that they buy into OV’s worldview if their is no credible alternative available. The examples of cjanos23 are highly relevant because it appears to be difficult to explain to the majority of people why these statements are twisted. Before petöfi says that this is just Hungarian DNA, I write that these examples are brought up by Hungarians including the criticism of such twisted argumentation. So, the DNA argument is not accepted. Even if this appears futile, the most productive pursuit currently is the identification of an alternative Hungary, even if the number of people supporting it outright is small. This alternative will be badly needed because the sokkal tovabb romlas is highly likely, and because all of the sudden people will be “disillusioned” by OV and desperately seek alternatives.

  12. Thank you Professor Balogh for the sheer effort and intelligence that you put into every post. I suspect it will provide an invaluable archival tool for future students when they try to analyse how an essentially decent people stood back and let a mafia of assorted corrupt opportunists and fascist thugs rape their nation.

    I would be more than happy to devote a few pounds each month if you decide to start up a tipping jar.

  13. Read Nate Silver’s great book, the Signal and the Noise. I think he cites the statistics (compiled by a prof from Berkeley, I think) that when all political scientists agree that there is absolutely no chance of something happening (in an election) perhaps, if I recall correctly, 15% of the time it still happens, and when they say something will absolutely surely happen 20-25% of the time it does not. So surely there is hope, even substantial. But the odds are against us.

  14. The odds are against you in particular if you wait for something to happen because there might be some likelihood. I am sure that this “likelihood” could increase immensely if people started to believe that it is they themselves who have to do this something.

  15. Mutt :
    Johnny Boy and his friends wanted me to thank you secretly, in their name, for the steady income they are pulling from the FIDESZ propaganda ministry!
    PS: They say in the near future the IP addresses of their posts may come from small tobacco shops, but that’s just a coincidence.

    Hilarious!
    Then again, how would we got some insight – or, at least a sneak peek – of the mindset of a devoted Fidesz puppet?
    We need the here for reference, that is!
    One need to know, what features mustavoid at all cost, after all.

  16. Two thousand Epistles by Eva. Great achievement but unfornunately your HS is not an important source of information for Hungary. These writings are very much biased, one-sided, the general tone is often arrogant. It is almost an ‘I hate Orbán Club’ run by Eva. Very much like the Jobbik in reverse.

  17. @ Joe Simon. Aren’t you the one that always brought up the American example? If so, I am not surprised about your reaction.

    And what’s wrong with an “I hate Orbán Club’? A politician who is ruining and isolating the country can’t really count on much affection, can he?

  18. Joe Simon :
    Two thousand Epistles by Eva. Great achievement but unfornunately your HS is not an important source of information for Hungary. These writings are very much biased, one-sided, the general tone is often arrogant. It is almost an ‘I hate Orbán Club’ run by Eva. Very much like the Jobbik in reverse.

    It is not a “great” achievement, it is an outstanding achievement. What appeares to you as bias and one-sidedness is just exposition and comments on facts that that you don’t want to be known. The general tone is civilised and attracts civilised readers. As for logic, the reverse of an “I hate Orban Club” is an “I love Orban Club” which is hardly a description of Jobbik.

  19. Better late than never. Eva, my congratulations for this excellent blog and your achievement.

  20. Somewhat belatedly I would like to thank all of you for the very kind words about Hungarian Spectrum. It was really heartwarming and I’m very grateful.

  21. London Calling!

    Dear, dear Eva – a big and deserved köszönöm!

    I have just got back from Hungary after a long stay improving a house – and have only had time to read, not comment.

    Your blog has enriched my, and my Partner’s life immeasurably – and has consolidated my love of all things Hungarian.

    You have also attracted a witty and erudite community of followers – and I too have become hooked!

    Someone said: History is the sum total of things that could have been avoided.

    Your blog is a litany of poor Hungary’s position – and I sometimes fear that your blog is that flickering candle in the wind.

    Flicker on please.

    köszönöm, köszönöm, köszönöm

    Regards

    Charlie

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