Orbán in Great Britain: Spreading the gospel

By now, I’m sure, you are fully aware of my disdain for politicians whose speeches display a woeful lack of knowledge. Viktor Orbán certainly had ample opportunity to be properly educated, but he was more interested in football than in learning. He himself admitted that in high school he wasn’t good enough in either the arts or the sciences to get admitted to university. So he decided to go to law school. In law school, according to his college friend Gábor Fodor, Orbán’s passions were football and politics.

Unfortunately, his lack of a broad liberal education is painfully obvious. He picks up bits and pieces of information from assorted sources but doesn’t know how to integrate them into a coherent whole. Moreover, he uncritically accepts questionable theories and spurious facts that support his views on, say, religion, economics, or history.

One could go and on about the embarrassing mistakes he made in the past, but here I would like to concentrate on his latest speech at Chatham House in London. The speech itself was surprisingly brief because he wanted to have time for a debate of his ideas afterward. But even this short speech was crawling with factual errors and conceptual confusion.

A day before the trip Adam LeBor, a British journalist living in Budapest, wrote an amusing piece in The Economist. It was “a confidential briefing note from Mr Cameron’s staff to prepare him for Mr Orbán’s visit … as imagined by our correspondent.”

Orbán offered up his own briefing note as he tried to describe his worldview to the audience at Chatham House, also known as the Royal Institute of International Affairs. I can only imagine what the learned foreign policy experts thought of Viktor Orbán’s “theses.”

Orbán likes to call Hungarian a “unique language,” even though this is essentially a meaningless expression; every language is unique in its own way. Orbán, however, in this speech glided easily from linguistic uniqueness to Hungarian “exceptionalism” (in all fairness, a word that he did not use). He illustrated his point by claiming that Hungarians are great inventors. Hungarians invented the espresso machine, the ball point pen, and the computer. I suspect that there were not too many people in his audience who rushed home to check on the accuracy of these claims. Or at least I hope not too many did because in no time they would have discovered that neither the espresso machine nor the computer are Hungarian inventions. The modern espresso machine is the result of more than 100 years of improvements of the original 1888 patent by Angelo Morondo. It is true that among the many who improved it there was a certain Francesco Illy who was originally from Temesvár but who left Hungary after World War I and settled in Trieste.

As for the computer, once again many inventors contributed to its development. János von Neumann and others wrote (and he edited) the First Draft of a Report on the EDVAC in 1945; the IAS machine later built at Princeton was based on the computer architecture described in this report. But it’s a major stretch to say that von Neumann invented the computer. Orbán was right about the ballpoint pen. It was the invention of László Biró who with his brother escaped from Hungary in 1943 and settled in Argentina.

Orbán’s view of the world, which he outlined to his audience, is not worth repeating. We know it only too well. Europe is in decline, the Europeans are lost and have no answers to their economic ills, close integration in Europe is inadvisable, nations are important, the death of the welfare state is near, and European leaders lack leadership and vision.

He did, however, elaborate on what he called the “red and green attack against traditional values: against the church, against family, against the nation. ” Moreover, he wanted his audience to believe that “democracy in Europe is democracy based on Christianity. The anthropological root of our political institutions is imago Dei, which requires an absolute respect of the human being.”

Democracy Index 2013. Hungary is labelled as flawed democracy

Democracy Index 2013. Hungary is labelled as a flawed democracy

Naturally, Orbán never learned any Latin, but lately he has been dropping Latin expressions right and left. Especially when it comes to church affairs. Just the other day he portrayed Hungary as a “church-building country” and dropped a few Latin words, Soli Deo gloria, for good measure. Perhaps he wants to sound learned, perhaps he wants to identify with Catholicism. In any event, in English we talk about “the image of God” and not “imago Dei.” Wrong words in the wrong country with the wrong church. Moreover, just as Endre Aczél rightly pointed out, Orbán delivered this message in a country which is perhaps the least concerned in Europe with religious matters and where only 4.4% of the population attend church at all.

As for democracy in Europe being based on Christianity, that’s total nonsense. We all know about the ancient Athenian roots of democracy when it was led by Cleisthenes in the fifth century BCE. The earliest Christians, Greek educated, knew about Athenian democracy, but early Christian teaching was not influenced by these ideas. The origins of modern democracy go back to Great Britain’s parliamentary system; from there it spread to the North American continent where a strict division between church and state was introduced. Perhaps (if I were to be charitable) Orbán was thinking of the Christian socialist movement sometimes called Christian democracy, but I doubt it. I think he’s simply hung up on this “church, family, nation” idea and tries to construct a history to support his image of a nonexistent world.

Advertisements

133 comments

  1. Somehow, I doubt whether Szilard, von Neumann, or other intelligent minds would be particularly impressed with ‘Science’s contributions here.

  2. I wonder why I had to go through texts like “Politics of backwardness in Hungary” during my studies.

  3. Science, this is why we are here mate! We love Hungary, we want it to fulfil its potential, we recognise that Hungarians have immense technical and artistic creativity, ingenuity and innovativeness. Long may that last! And long may the rest of mankind benefit from that as it has in the past.

  4. Kirsten :
    I wonder why I had to go through texts like “Politics of backwardness in Hungary” during my studies.

    Backwardness is a very relative thing. Perhaps the author compared Hungary with the leading industrial powers (USA GERMANY UK etc…) of the era with Hungary,

  5. Eva S. Balogh :

    Kirsten :
    I wonder why I had to go through texts like “Politics of backwardness in Hungary” during my studies.

    If these people would just realize how ridiculous they sound.

    Of course, the authors of the reference books (Cambridge Oxford Yale and other universities) are silly and ridiculous. Of course You know it better than economic-historian experts of leading universities.

  6. Eva S. Balogh :

    Kirsten :
    I wonder why I had to go through texts like “Politics of backwardness in Hungary” during my studies.

    If these people would just realize how ridiculous they sound.

    Excuse my (it might my memory is wrong) but where are you from? From a balkan country?

  7. “Face the facts: The contemporary high tech (second industrial revolution) branch of industries in Bohemia were weak.”

    Either I do not understand well the word contemporary, or you have not yet enlightened us about the contemporary high tech industries of Hungary. Nobody claimed here that Bohemia was as rich as the UK before WWI, but it was more industrialised than Hungary. With or without a “second industrial revolution”.

  8. Kirsten is a Swedish, Danish and Norwegian form of the name Christina.
    Did you know that this northern countries were how poor before the 20th century, your history is full with famine? You have only steel industry, and mines.

    I’m interested about your contribution in medieval early modern poetry painters writers, architecture sculpture, but they were insignificant.

    Just a short video about the culture of medieval Hungarian Kingdom (our the largest cathedrals and castles were destroyed during the Ottoman wars) but it can explain the huge difference in wealth between old Hungary and poor Scandinavian region.

    Watch in Full HD!

  9. Kirsten :
    Science, I am from Prague.

    I’m not interested about your present-day inhabitancy, but about your native country (why do you use scandinavian given name?)

  10. Science :

    Kirsten :
    Science, I am from Prague.

    I’m not interested about your present-day inhabitancy, but about your native country (why do you use scandinavian given name?)

    If you don’t stop this you will be forbidden to participate here.

  11. Kirsten :
    “Face the facts: The contemporary high tech (second industrial revolution) branch of industries in Bohemia were weak.”
    Either I do not understand well the word contemporary, or you have not yet enlightened us about the contemporary high tech industries of Hungary. Nobody claimed here that Bohemia was as rich as the UK before WWI, but it was more industrialised than Hungary. With or without a “second industrial revolution”.

    ERA: 1880-1920

    More industrialized with cheap light industry factories,and mines but the second industrial revolution were weak in Bohemia. That’s why Czechoslovakia had to transform its economy/industry radically in the 1920s and 1930s.

    Just imagine how many people (millions) need socks pants jackets sweaters shoes, cutlery, glassware, cups, games, home improvement tools, mowers hoes handles locks carpets wooden furniture industry, umbrellas etc.

    How many early 20th century people are needed to produce (or how many used) Locomotives bridges, automobiles , trams, industrial generators , electric generators submarines battleships. Just a very few.

    Light industry is very very labor-intensive, it produces cheap everyday products, which were bought by everybody. These factories are cheaper easier to build up, and you can put them in little cities, or even in villages.
    IT CAN TRANSFORM THE SCIETY, so in-this way very high ratio of people can work in the “industry”

    Until high tech industry like the machine industry and electric industry could not transform so massively the society.

  12. Eva S. Balogh :

    Science :

    Kirsten :
    Science, I am from Prague.

    I’m not interested about your present-day inhabitancy, but about your native country (why do you use scandinavian given name?)

    If you don’t stop this you will be forbidden to participate here.

    Haha Eva, in the reality you enjoy arguing challenge, otherwise you would not have chosen academic field.

    And I just rocked the (boring) water. :)))))

  13. Not because of me, I can live with being asked about my name, but because of these useless elaborations.

  14. Kirsten :
    Not because of me, I can live with being asked about my name, but because of these useless elaborations.

    Dear Kirsten Concentrate on our debate:)

  15. Science, mysterious things are happening in Europe. It is possible to have parents of different nationality. These parents (my in this case) can decide to live in one place first, and then move to another, even crossing borders. So hidd el hogy pragai vagyok és a nevem Kirsten. Your name is “Science” and I can only guess how progressive people must feel to provide a child with such name.

  16. Bowen writes: “Somehow, I doubt whether Szilard, von Neumann, or other intelligent minds would be particularly impressed with ‘Science’s contributions here.”

    I have known both of them and they were very proud of their Hungarian heritage!

  17. Science :

    Kirsten :
    Not because of me, I can live with being asked about my name, but because of these useless elaborations.

    Dear Kirsten Concentrate on our debate:)

    There is no debate here.You talk nonsense. These exaggerated claims have nothing to do with reality. As long as Hungarians refuse to see the world as is and as it was the country will never get anywhere.Hungary is way behind in everything and not just today. It has been for centuries. Most likely always. Even in the late Middle Ages And here I’m not talking about science and technology but in everything.

  18. Louis Kovach :

    Bowen writes: “Somehow, I doubt whether Szilard, von Neumann, or other intelligent minds would be particularly impressed with ‘Science’s contributions here.”

    I have known both of them and they were very proud of their Hungarian heritage!

    So, they would listen with great interest to all these exaggerations and untruths? I very much doubt it.

  19. Science, for more on John von Neumann (and, indeed, Leo Szilard, Edward Teller, Eugene Wigner, Arthur Koestler, Robert Capa, Andre Kertesz, Alexander Korda and Michael Curtiz), may I recommend to you the excellent book by Kati Marton, “The Great Escape: Nine Jews Who Fled Hitler And Changed The World”? It may open your eyes a little – to the darkness.

  20. Eva S. Balogh :

    Science :

    Kirsten :
    Not because of me, I can live with being asked about my name, but because of these useless elaborations.

    Dear Kirsten Concentrate on our debate:)

    There is no debate here.You talk nonsense. These exaggerated claims have nothing to do with reality. As long as Hungarians refuse to see the world as is and as it was the country will never get anywhere.Hungary is way behind in everything and not just today. It has been for centuries. Most likely always. Even in the late Middle Ages And here I’m not talking about science and technology but in everything.

    Again, as I said, “backwardness” is a very relative term. It based on the comparison. I don’t think that Hungarian science were backward in the 1880-1945 period. Hungary produced more Nobel-award scientist / capita than Germany USA or France. In the WW2 only three countries developed own developed radar system: Hungary UK Germany.
    Only two countries were able to build own-developed JET engines: Germany UK and Hungary.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jendrassik_Cs-1

    We invented the practical Transformer, parallel power distribution, :
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transformer#Closed-core_transformers_and_parallel_power_distribution

    Have you ever heard about WAR of Currents? (AC vs. DC)
    It was decided technically in Hungary:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/War_of_currents

    electricity meter?
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electricity_meter

    Kalman Tihanyi invented the iconoscope, the first workable fully electric television in 1924. (Not the Russian American inventor Zworykin (who copied his patents), and not the American Farnsworth (image dissector had no influence on any further TV-systems)

    See unesco’s memory of the word: http://www.unesco.org/new/en/communication-and-information/flagship-project-activities/memory-of-the-world/register/full-list-of-registered-heritage/registered-heritage-page-4/kalman-tihanyis-1926-patent-application-radioskop/

    When Kálmán Tihanyi invented the electronic TV, the British J.L.Braid make a mechanical TV , which had no future.

    Kálmán Tihanyi: Invented and described the “charge-storage” physical phenomena, a pioneer in developing Electronic Television and camera-tube (1926) and invented the Plasma TV (1936) and Infrared camera (1929).

    In 1827 Ányos Jedlik invented the electric motor. He created the first device to contain the three main components of practical direct current motors: the stator, rotor and commutator. He built the first generator which used, instead of permanent magnets, two electromagnets opposite to each other to induce the magnetic field around the rotor.[1][2] It was also the discovery of the principle of “dynamo self-excitation”

    Tivadar Puskás invented the Telephone Exchange.

    In the era of the electrical telegraph, post offices, railway stations, the more important governmental centers (ministries), stock exchanges, very few nationally distributed newspapers, the largest internationally important corporations and wealthy individuals were the principal users of such telegraphs.[2] Despite the fact that telephone devices existed before the invention of the telephone exchange, their success and economical operation would have been impossible on the same schema and structure of the contemporary telegraph, as prior to the invention of the telephone exchange switchboard, early telephones were hardwired to and communicated with only a single other telephone (such as from an individual’s home to the person’s business).

    A telephone exchange is a telephone system located at service centers (central offices) responsible for a small geographic area that provided the switching or interconnection of two or more individual subscriber lines for calls made between them, rather than requiring direct lines between subscriber stations. This made it possible for subscribers to call each other at homes, businesses, or public spaces. These made telephony an available and comfortable communication tool for everyday use, and it gave the impetus for the creation of a whole new industrial sector.

    One of the first people to build a telephone exchange was Hungarian Tivadar Puskás in 1877 while he was working for Thomas Edison.[3][4][5][6] The first experimental telephone exchange was based on the ideas of Puskás, and it was built by the Bell Telephone Company in Boston in 1877. [7] George W. Coy designed and built the first commercial telephone exchange which opened in New Haven, Connecticut in January, 1878.
    David Schwarz invented and designed the first flyable rigid airship (aluminium-made). Later, he sold his patent for German Graf Zeppelin, who built the so-called Zeppelin airship.

    Theodore Kármán – Mathematical tools to study fluid flow and mathematical background of supersonic flight and inventor of swept-back wings, “father of Supersonic Flight”

    Albert Fonó invented the ramjet propulsion
    György Jendrassik invented the Turboprop propulsion
    Leó Szilárd: hypothesized the nuclear chain reaction (therefore he was the first who realized the feasibility of an atomic bomb), patented the Nuclear reactor, invented the Electron microscope and the linear accelerator (the first particle accelerator) and later invented the cyclotron[19]
    Tamás Péter Bródy invented the active-matrix thin film transistor technology which underpins the LCD and OLED displays commonly used today.

    József Galamb was the inventor of many parts of the Ford Model T and co-developer of the assembly line
    Sándor Just invented the Tungsten electric bulb (1904)
    Imre Bródy invented the krypton electric bulb.

    Kálmán Kandó invented the Three-phase Alternating Current Electric locomotive, and was a pioneer in the development of electric railway traction.

    Dennis Gabor invented the Holography

    Edward Teller hypothesized the thermonuclear fusion and the theory of the hydrogen bomb

    John Kemeny developed the BASIC programming language with Thomas E. Kurtz
    Ferenc Pavlics was one of two co-developers of NASA Apollo Lunar rover
    Antal Bejczy developed Mars Rover Sojourner

    Albert Szent-Györgyi discovered Vitamin C and created the first artificial vitamin.

  21. Ivan :
    Science, for more on John von Neumann (and, indeed, Leo Szilard, Edward Teller, Eugene Wigner, Arthur Koestler, Robert Capa, Andre Kertesz, Alexander Korda and Michael Curtiz), may I recommend to you the excellent book by Kati Marton, “The Great Escape: Nine Jews Who Fled Hitler And Changed The World”? It may open your eyes a little – to the darkness.

    Can they speak Hebrew? Did they live in Jewish culture at home? Did they considered themselves as Jew (there were no such a nation until the Foundation of Israel state.) NO NO and NO.

    Did you read the http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Science_and_technology_in_Hungary article, around 20% of the famous inventors/scientist were Jews. But Why is it interesting? They spke Hungarian as first mother language, (they can’t speak Hebrew ir Jiddish) They were not even religious, they grew up in Hungarian culture. So please do not consider arbitrarily their identity, They considered themself Hungarians, and we accept that. OR Are you antisemite or racist?

  22. Ivan :
    Science, for more on John von Neumann (and, indeed, Leo Szilard, Edward Teller, Eugene Wigner, Arthur Koestler, Robert Capa, Andre Kertesz, Alexander Korda and Michael Curtiz), may I recommend to you the excellent book by Kati Marton, “The Great Escape: Nine Jews Who Fled Hitler And Changed The World”? It may open your eyes a little – to the darkness.

    Kertész and Kapa Curtiz Koestler were not scientist.

    Read about the difference between Eastern civilization (eurasian prasvoslav orthodox) and Western civilization (catholic-protestant) HERE: educator.uw.hu

    Good reading!

  23. Eva S. Balogh :

    Louis Kovach :
    Bowen writes: “Somehow, I doubt whether Szilard, von Neumann, or other intelligent minds would be particularly impressed with ‘Science’s contributions here.”
    I have known both of them and they were very proud of their Hungarian heritage!

    So, they would listen with great interest to all these exaggerations and untruths? I very much doubt it.

    So if something is “untruth” than you can prove the mistake (onyl with academic sources, books!)

  24. Is this “science” guy the same who “proved” that Horthy’s wife was Jewish?

    He has a lot of free time it seems …

    In a way it’s funny that these guys (like Orbán!) always use Jewish Hungarians as proof for the superiority of Hungarian science, engineering, literature , film making etc – the same Jews that they chased out of the country or put into camps and in the end killed or tried to kill …

  25. Kirsten :
    Science, mysterious things are happening in Europe. It is possible to have parents of different nationality. These parents (my in this case) can decide to live in one place first, and then move to another, even crossing borders. So hidd el hogy pragai vagyok és a nevem Kirsten. Your name is “Science” and I can only guess how progressive people must feel to provide a child with such name.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Czech_republic#Science

    :)))))))

  26. wolfi :
    Is this “science” guy the same who “proved” that Horthy’s wife was Jewish?
    He has a lot of free time it seems …
    In a way it’s funny that these guys (like Orbán!) always use Jewish Hungarians as proof for the superiority of Hungarian science, engineering, literature , film making etc – the same Jews that they chased out of the country or put into camps and in the end killed or tried to kill …

    Loading…

    I’m not interested about Horthy Franz Joseph and Jews, nazis and communists fascist etc…. Only science and technology are important for me.

  27. Kirsten:
    “Paul just told us what he considers a prevalent approach of Brits towards this region, not his own opinion and also not his knowledge of the region. So calm down, we all know already the story of the country that was marched over a thousand times, produced an uncountable number of geniuses and which has always been misunderstood and maltreated by the rest of the world. Oh, and I forgot, a nation with outstanding knowledge of and impartial attitudes towards the “Balkans”.”

    Haha, brilliant! – Science person is not that good at reading comprehension. We were talking about how the average Brit perceives Hungary (E-Europe, Balkans etc), not where Hungary actually is.
    But he can come and lecture the British if he wants to become ridiculous.

    Great description of how neurotic and aggressive a lot of Hungarians get about their history, Kirsten! 😀

  28. Dr Balogh writes: “So, they would listen with great interest to all these exaggerations and untruths? I very much doubt it.”

    If you mean your blog, I am sure they would not rate it high.

Comments are closed.