Viktor Szigetvári’s mistaken notions about current Hungarian politics

Heti Válasz discovered me. As it is clear from the article, the journalists of the magazine know who I am, but only as someone who formerly contributed to Galamus and who appeared a few times on Klubrádió. Both were years ago. For example, the last regular article I wrote for Galamus was in May 2011.

This is the first time my name appeared in Heti Válasz. Once before Tamás Fricz, someone who calls himself a political scientist, mentioned me in Magyar Hírlap in connection with his attack on Professor Kim Lane Scheppele of Princeton. The Heti Válasz piece is a variation on this theme.

I rarely look at Twitter. I simply don’t have time to follow thousands of tweets. When there is a crisis somewhere I may follow the comments of journalists on the spot, but otherwise I ignore the little bird. Therefore it was unlikely that I would have discovered Viktor Szigetvári’s pearls of wisdom that he finds time to dispense on Twitter. But Twitter decided that I had been neglecting them and sent me an e-mail listing some of the topics I might be interested in. The very first item on the list was a comment by Szigetvári from March 12. It read: “jogilag és tartalmilag kim lane scheppele-nél pontosabb és mégis visszafogott értékelés plankó és herczeg uraktól” (in legal terms as well as in content a more precise and more moderate analysis than that of Kim Lane Scheppele from Messrs Pankó and Herczeg). And he gave the link to an article in 444.

I could hardly believe my eyes. Not because Viktor Szigetvári the private person thinks that Messrs Pankó and Herczeg are better legal scholars than one of the most prominent experts on Hungarian constitutional law but because I found it astonishing that a politician could be so unskilled that he would make his criticism public. A politician should never turn against supporters of his cause. And Scheppele’s views more or less coincide with the opinions of the Hungarian opposition. They, like Scheppele, find many of the changes introduced by the Orbán government unconstitutional, undemocratic, and therefore unacceptable.

I’m trying to imagine a situation in which one of Viktor Orbán’s politicians would openly criticize a leading conservative theoretician who just wrote a glowing report on the Orbán government. I wonder how long this man or woman would remain part of the team. Not a minute, I’m sure. And I wouldn’t blame Viktor Orbán for getting rid of the person. In politics, party loyalty is important. If someone cannot adhere to this basic rule of the game he or she should get out of politics. This is a price you pay when you decide to become a politician. And this loyalty extends to supporters as well. A politician doesn’t weaken his party’s case by calling an argument supportive of that case imprecise and inferior.

confusion3

It was for this reason that I decided to engage in a dialogue with Viktor Szigetvári. If he had decided to admit his mistake I would have left it at that. But he insisted that his open criticism of Scheppele was a most normal and acceptable way of talking about one’s supporters. After all, he has the right to express his opinion. He is mistaken. He as a politician doesn’t have this privilege. He might tell his friends what he thinks, though even that might not be a smart move. In no time it can become common knowledge that X has a low opinion of Y or that X doesn’t agree with the party’s strategy. Soon we may hear from friends and acquaintances that there are huge political differences among the top leaders of the party or coalition. In fact, this kind of talk reached me from many quarters over the last few months.

One could retort that I’m advocating a  monolithic and therefore undemocratic party structure like that of Fidesz. But that would be a misunderstanding. I encourage broad debate, but only inside the party. Every time the opposition parties are accused of not having a unified voice, as is often the case, a pious explanation comes about the virtues of diversity. But that is no more than self-delusion. Especially when the stakes are so high and one’s opponent is a truly monolithic party. Under such circumstances one cannot afford the luxury of speaking in many tongues or criticizing one another in public. That’s why I said that Viktor Szigetvári shouldn’t entertain political ambitions. Unfortunately, as co-chair of Együtt 2014, he does.

From our exchange I came to the conclusion that Szigetvári’s main problem with Kim Scheppele is that she is too harsh on the Orbán government. It seems that Szigetvári still clings to the notion that one can come to some kind of understanding with Orbán’s Fidesz. It is time to wake up. One cannot make a deal with the Fidesz of today. I suspect that Szigetvári is one of the proponents of this mistaken notion just as he most likely had a hand in Együtt 2014’s mad search for the nonexistent “moderate conservative middle.”

Why should we be more moderate in our criticism of the Orbán regime? Why is the more moderate analysis of the electoral law preferable to the harsher criticism of Kim Scheppele? Whom is Szigetvári defending? Viktor Orbán? What is he defending? Orbán’s dictatorship? It looks like it. Szigetvári’s analysis is fundamentally wrong and can lead only to defeat. That’s why I decided to take him on in public.

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122 comments

  1. Thanks, Kavé!

    You said it much better than I could and I wholeheartedly agree with you.

    Again, besides our host’s detailed and knowledgeable posts the depth of comments I can read here is really illuminating to a stranger like me who lives in a village amongst really nice, but also not really deep-thinking Hungarians …

  2. Kiraly Rak :
    @Eva S. Balogh
    Attacking Szigetvári on Twitter, you just made a huge favor to Fidesz, exposing Scheppele’s affiliation with you and the Hungarian left. http://ferenckumin.tumblr.com/post/79978771132/the-hungary-expert-discredited-on-twitter
    My favorite part is when you write “We are working ourselves to death here, and you are ruining everything.” So much for the independent expert image. Who are that we besides you and Scheppele? Anyway, by all means, please continue! If anything, that helps Fidesz win 2/3 majority again.

    I did not know there was a secret that Eva has some “affiliation” with Ms. Scheppele. THis just shows hows uninformed some Hungarian voters are. Ms. Scheppele referred to Eva before and vice versa.
    Also, for the record, most of the stuff that have been coming out from Fidesz is via by hired PR companies. Who can forget the Hungarian government’s outsourcing (for taxpayers money) of its marketing to London and the USA. They said it themselves. How much more Hungarian it can get?
    If anything will help to Fidesz win 2/3 majority is the already in the pack. Trust me Fidesz bagged all there is too it.
    Fidesz already double spent what was allowed to be spend on the election.
    They pocketed the government and even the Kuria found that the government “selling” its slogan to Fidesz to use in the election was illegal (not the selling part).
    Orban probably pulled again the “do not listen what I say to win the election” but then again he runs the whole county for four years like that.
    Their cancellation of the two step voting and allowing the lists with unknown “parties” opened up probably one of the biggest election scam in Hungarian history.
    They allow certain outside the border Hungarian vote by mail, but refuse to allow others.
    Many outside the border Hungarians did not receive their voting rights, who have been always able to vote, while voters who never even stepped on Hungarian soil will mail their ballot.
    THe “independent” organization that is responsible to investigate election fraud, refuses to investigate possible election abuses already.

    ..and now you are saying that they need help to secure the 2/3? It will be like the vote in the Crimea. If Fidesz is not careful they will get more ballot then there are voters out there.

  3. oneill :
    “Deals with simple, but important issues not with grand intellectual issues like rule of law or human dignity.”
    Are you for real?
    You and Hungarians in general couldn’t give a flying for “Rule of law” and “human dignity” and that’s why they vote for Orban’s mafia?
    Then things are even worse than I thought they were- well ok, you go ahead and vote for the Fidesz/Jobbik fascists Hungary and you will get exactly the government you deserve!

    It’s not that rule of law is not fundamental. It is.

    However, the median voter does not give a shit about it. The median voter just doesn’t understand the significance of it.

    Is it hard to imagine the average Hungarian is not well versed in such issues?

    They are not stupid, it is just that they never have argued, read, contemplated these issues, like rule of law, human dignity, EU. These are complicated subject matters, not for the intellectually challenged median voters.

    They do however like and understand utility price cuts. That’s all.

    George W did not campaign with jurisprudence issues either. He promised tax breaks, small government, protecting gun rights — concepts people get easily.

  4. Some1 :

    I did not know there was a secret that Eva has some “affiliation” with Ms. Scheppele. THis just shows hows uninformed some Hungarian voters are. Ms. Scheppele referred to Eva before and vice versa

    Actually it was Kim Scheppele who first became a reader of Hungarian Spectrum. One day she wrote an excellent comment which I personally thanked her for. At this point I didn’t know who she was. I immediately received a reply from her. She was glad that we managed to get in touch. That was back in 2011. Indeed, there is no secret here. We know each other and respect each other.

  5. The median voter just doesn’t understand the significance of [rule of law]… [T]he average Hungarian is not…stupid… just… never have argued, read, contemplated these issues, like rule of law, human dignity, EU… They do however like and understand utility price cuts. That’s all.
    George W did not campaign with jurisprudence issues either. He promised tax breaks, small government, protecting gun rights — concepts people get easily.

    But Americans (and Canadians and Australians and Europeans) would not vote for overt racists like Jobbik, nor multiply-exposed criminals like Fidesz. Just one out of the pensions grab, or the tobacconist or real estate scam, or the Felcsut stadium debacle, or the Trafik scam or the real estate scam — not to mention the media laws, the national bank travesty, the constitutional travesty, the undermining of the judiciary and more and more — would have been enough to oust Fidesz from office and put Orban and his cronies behind bars, their foully gained fortunes impounded in America, Canada, Australia or Europe.

    And in the free world the media are free and cover all sides, not owned and dominated by one political party. And their elections are free and fair, not shamefully and shamelessly gerrymandered, rigged and gagged, like Fidesz’s forthcoming travesty.

    Nor does it take years of trial and error experience for a population bell-curve anywhere to decide to do the right thing at the voting booth. But not if they are relentlessly brain-washed with mud-slinging by the captive media, punished for dissent in the workplace, and fed jingoistic prole-feed slogans about how the rest of the world (including the opposition party) is anti-Hungarian (and always has been), and it is their dear leader who is their defender against their misfortunes, rather then their perpetrator…

  6. Dr Balogh writes: “DZS, I’m warning you. We don’t use language here! Ok? Do you understand?”

    Welcome to the blog of 21st Century communication……

  7. Louie, Louie… we get it. You don’t like Eva or her opinions. It goes back a long time. We get it. You don’t really bring anything to the table beyond that. Not all forums using the “blog and comments” format have to follow your rules. As anyone who regularly visits here can see, a certain decorum is expected. No anyázás, no ad hominem attacks, if you want that there are lots of sites in Hungarian (and in English!) where rude language is not only tolerated, but encouraged. It is Eva’s right to maintain her standards of decorum on her blog, and that apparently extends to somebody telling a distinguished member of the Hungarian academic community such as Dr. Harnad that he is not worthy of licking somebody’s boots. It is Eva’s call, not yours.

    It is a welcome privilege to partake in discussions here, not a guaranteed right. I am sure you were raised you to be an úriember (a gentleman, once the accepted norm in Hungarian society.) Allow that others whose opinions do not match yours should be allowed to participate in a higher standard of discussion.

    Have you ever heard of Jaron Lanier, Louis? One of the founding developers of the interactive internet we are all so fond of. I suggest that you take a peek at this article in Smithsonian magazine, which contains this interesting observation:

    “Lanier… singled out one standout aspect of the new web culture – the acceptance, the welcoming of anonymous commenters on websites – as a danger to political discourse and the polity itself. At the time, this objection seemed a bit extreme. But he saw anonymity as a poison seed. The way it didn’t hide, but, in fact, brandished the ugliness of human nature beneath the anonymous screen-name masks. An enabling and foreshadowing of mob rule, not a growth of democracy, but an accretion of tribalism.”

    http://www.smithsonianmag.com/innovation/what-turned-jaron-lanier-against-the-web-165260940/?c=y&page=1

  8. “They are not stupid, it is just that they never have argued, read, contemplated these issues, like rule of law, human dignity, EU. ”

    The rule of law being stuff like your government not having the right to steal your pension? Or the concept of every having the right to be treated as equal by the state, cops and the judiciary regardless of your political or religious beliefs>

    Ok, if they genuinely don’t care then they are perhaps not stupid but instead something much worse and that is apologists for the criminals they have elected.

    I am quite pleased to say that I come from a civilized democracy which would have had a fascist like Orban and the rest of his mafia swinging from the lampposts if they had tried 1/100 of the crimes they have commited here. The day Orban and his henchmen are locked up and the key is thrown away is the day that Hungary will have the right to consider itself finally to have grasped the true meaning of democracy

  9. KV quoting the Smithsonian ““Lanier… singled out one standout aspect of the new web culture – the acceptance, the welcoming of anonymous commenters on websites – as a danger to political discourse and the polity itself. At the time, this objection seemed a bit extreme. But he saw anonymity as a poison seed. The way it didn’t hide, but, in fact, brandished the ugliness of human nature beneath the anonymous screen-name masks. An enabling and foreshadowing of mob rule, not a growth of democracy, but an accretion of tribalism.”

    Very good point, nearly 90 % of the commenters here (including yourself) are hiding behind false names. Gutless band of cowardss who are always attacking the poster and not the post.

    At times, I wonder if the names used, are still leftovers from the AVH “pseudonames” given to the informers….

    Whenever I posted substantive info, I was immediately attacked as a poster and barely any mention was mad of the posting. I learned well from those comments.

  10. Louis you’re getting funnier and funnier …

    Most of the regulars here aren’t “Hungarians” or they haven’t lived here during Kadar times, so where’s the connection to AVH?

    On the other hand it’s Fidesz that doesn’t want to make public the AVH files even after 25 years – interesting, isn’t it?

    And I don’t remember that you ever wrote “substantive info” here – so keep up the good work!

    PS: Have you ever seen “A Tanú” or “Egeszséges Erotika”? To me you sound like one of the black coats there …

  11. Louis Kovach :
    nearly 90 % of the commenters here… are hiding behind false names.

    Critics of Fidesz residing in Hungary have every right and reason to post anonymously. They have plenty to fear.

    Apologists for Orban, like yourself, whether resident in Hungary or abroad, have nothing to fear hence absolutely no reason to post anonymously. You do not post anonymously, but the Fidesz trolls do.

    My own reading of your prior posts and the responses to them has been that they are responded to substantively (especially by Professor Balogh) but that you are not much inclined to revise or even to test your opinions.

    I would agree, though, that anonymity does not bring out the best in people.

  12. Louis Kovach, I use a pseudonym both as a modest nod to the great tradition including Publius, the pseudonym of the three great American patriots (Madison, Hamilton and Jay) who wrote the Federalist papers, and out of honest fear for myself, family and friends in Hungary. You, being a supporter of the present regime, have little to fear for your property and livelihood, so being able to use your own name is a luxury I envy. The fear is real: I have had friends lose their livelihoods, for example, for having invested their life savings into a tobacco shop two years ago, only to find themselves without a license and not get a new license (presumably because they are not Fidesz members or members of any other party for that matter), or farmers in the countryside, who have worked the land for generations, only to have it collectivized by the commies and now leased, with big EU subsidies, to Fidesz biggies, reducing the people who actually work the land to indentured servitude, or see their voting rights in a credit union diluted to nothing with the majority now in the hands of a Fideznik who “bought” his majority share by borrowing against the banks assets (meaning financed entirely with their money), or see their private savings account taken away with the promise that nothing would happen to it, only to learn in the new year that it was all gone. I have also seen this government release an ax murderer to a hero’s welcome in Azerbaijan. The fear is real: you cannot talk aloud about these things, because your job, your family’s survival is on the line when you speak against Fidesz in Hungary today. And it’s not just Hungary today, but the Hungary of Hungary’s children and grandchildren who are faced with mountains of debt to Russians, Chinese, and in the world market at obscene rates because Orban and Co didn’t want the transparency demanded by the IMF for much cheaper credit. Do you really hate Hungary and its people so much that you accept any of this?

  13. “Very good point, nearly 90 % of the commenters here (including yourself) are hiding behind false names. Gutless band of cowardss who are always attacking the poster and not the post.”

    Personally I post anonymously for the sake of my partner and her family.

    My family lived through the worst of the Troubles in Belfast and as a consequence I have the reckless bravado (and also a long-standing hatred of right-wing fundamentalist bigotry) to be a bit sometimes a bit OTT when posting against the party you support and their fellow travelers, Jobbik. The vast majority of the right-wing I have met here are out and out cowards and I would have no problem whatsoever standing up to them face to face, never mind online.
    Yeah, they’ll abuse and threaten a rabbi or a Roma mother out walking her kids but when they afterwards get challenged by anyone who isn’t quite so vulnerable, you’ll see a very quick tactical retreat by the Magyar patriots.

    The truth is when people do physically stand up to the Fidesz-Jobbik , then the reaction tends to be what happened in London recently when Vona was so frightened with UK and Hungarian expat anti-fascists that he locked himself in the toilets at Holborn station. I wish Hungarians in Hungary would follow a but more closely the leadership provided by their kith and kin living in the UK and elsewhere but that seems to be a bit too much to expect at the moment.

    Anyway, why I post on here anonymously… whatever my own stupidity, I do not have the right to expose my partner or her family to a potential Fidesz-Jobbik repercussions. There needs to be a a much wider outbreak of civic and societal courage to take on Orban and his mafia but it’s not up to outsiders like me to provide it.

  14. Louis, you seem to have ignored the point of my comment, which was that the “owner” of this blog can decide the level of acceptable decorum as she wishes.

    I post under an alibi precisely because some years ago my ethnicity was publicly “outed” in a comment string. A cursory read of garbage like Kuruc will convince anybody living here (I live in Hungary) that even in the Hungarian virtual world one is liable to threat.

  15. I just want to make an other point on using pseudonyms for the sake of our families. Yesterday somebody posted a link to an other blog. I did have time and the curiosity to go through the blog entry the “feedback” provided. A few things became clear. Although the original entry says that Eva is accusing everyone on the right of being anti-semite and homophobe, one of the early comments says “I asked her many times about her religion, but she avoided to reply. This means, she is a Jew. No more to say.” As you scrolled further down, someone actually called on the Hungarian Secret Police to finish Eva and the likes off. When you read many of the comments, it also became clear that few of these people were posted on Eva’s Blog and they were passing on the “duty” to each other. (They even gave a “pet name” to the blog.)
    This is just the beginning of the craziness that was posted on that Blog. So, there is no way that I would put my name up to these crazies, many who are regular visitors of this Blog.
    As I wrote before, Eva has my full name and contact, and if anyone wish to get in touch with me, Eva can easily connect us.

  16. Stevan Harnad: “Critics of Fidesz residing in Hungary have every right and reason to post anonymously. They have plenty to fear.
    Apologists for Orban, like yourself, whether resident in Hungary or abroad, have nothing to fear hence absolutely no reason to post anonymously.”

    If Orbán’s mercenaries of all sorts have any fantasy they are bound to fear what is going to happen to them after the inevitable collapse of the Orban rule. The trolls post anonymously for the same reason as the “security people” wear masks.

  17. Louis Kovach :
    Whenever I posted substantive info, I was immediately attacked as a poster and barely any mention was mad of the posting. I learned well from those comments.

    I don’t think, you did, Louis.
    Otherwise you wouldn’t mistake aliases with “false names”.
    You see, I consequently posting under the same name – this is my alias for various reasons, only one of them, that it much easier to use, let alone, much more unique than my real name, which is rather common in Hungary, but I have even find eleven (11) listed under the same name in the town first I lived in abroad, even it was/is a few thousand miles from my birthplace..
    So, in this respect my alias is rather more distinct than my real name, don’t you think, dear Louis? By the way, did your parents gave you the name Louis, or you just picked it yourself?
    Just asking, don’t make any big deal of it.

    If we go further with names and true identities on the internet, I have a surprise to you, if I really want to, you have no chance to identify me, you better believe this. i can be your neighbor and still able to post from Japan or Australia or whatever.
    By the other hand those kind folks at the three letter organisations pretty well know even your mother maiden name – or mine, for that matter – if they intended to, so, I hate to say it, but your whole point irrwlevant.

    At the same time “false name” would be if I used “Louis Kovach” as a name in my posts, instead of yours truly, the spectator.
    I hope, I managed to make this a little easier to comprehend, didn’t I.

  18. But of course, “your mother’s” and “I” instead of “i” , etc.,- bunch of typos, sorry!

  19. @Mr.Szigetváry
    While I appreciate the candor to stand for one’s opinion, and I may chose to believe, that the post wasn’t really aimed to discredit Ms.Scheppele, I still have a few problem with it..

    One of them isn’t really personal, rather a general problem: being Hungarian!
    Sounds strange as it may, I’m yet to meet wit another culture, where the supposedly positive comment – or rather a comment of a sympathetic person starts like “yes, (you are right,) but…”.
    For some reason Hungarian people must always express some reservation, some hint of I know better”, or simply a “yes, but what if…” variation in order to appear more decent, educated, caring or whatever, but couldn’t just say “yes, you are right” – period.

    So, let’s assume, your intention was purely to call attention to the above mentioned work, no preconceptions, whatsoever – then you used a wrong expression to the purpose, too many comparative adjectives came between you and your intentions.
    I would say, the result of insufficient communications skills.
    Why?
    If I want to call the attention of another work without degrading the first one, I certainly would have said something like “if you want to read of another aspect / want to seethe problem from another angle / interested of more specific details, and so on, you certainly should read the works of XXX too. Unfortunately you didn’t, instead of you already evaluated it and declared your sentence to me, the supposed reader, and doing this you imposed your opinion on me in advance. This attitude inevitably call for resistance from everyone with own head and lead to unnecessary conflicts. After all, everyone knows, that your field if expertise lays elsewhere.
    If I was in your shoes I would have certainly apologized and expressed my regret over a misunderstanding instead of stressing on my innocence, and have moved over already – actually tis is a proof of the lack of political skills as well.

    Which is a pity!
    I have to tell you that in spite of the above, In my opinion you have made quite a progress in a few months, if one compares your earlier appearances with the recent ones, well, a way to go still. However, in my opinion it worth it, because there is a considerable brain-power between your ears, learn to use it right and learn to let go on things for a reason.

  20. I do not know you guys, but it seems you know Hungarians better then Hungarians themselves, Or you might think you do. Strange to see your arguments about Fidesz or how the people’s vision is blinded etc. You should try to speak with people living here, you do not need to understand but at least listen. But why do I care, with this attitude you made your friends here another 4 years away from government. Thank God for that.

  21. Anna Krisztina :
    I do not know you guys, but it seems you know Hungarians better then Hungarians themselves, Or you might think you do. Strange to see your arguments about Fidesz or how the people’s vision is blinded etc. You should try to speak with people living here, you do not need to understand but at least listen. But why do I care, with this attitude you made your friends here another 4 years away from government. Thank God for that.

    Well Anna, You would surprised how many of the commenters in fact do live in Hungary. You would also be surprised to hear how many of our relatives live in Hungary. We do not have to “try to speak with people living” there, as many call us and emails us in the daily basis. Maybe you should use a little travel outside of Hungary so you can set back, and look at things a ‘bit more objective. I assume your circle is full of Fidesz supporters as it does not seem that you know any people form the opposition, so you came onto this blog to find them. Get away for a moment from the Peace Marchers, the EU opposition, and a whole new world would open up for you. For beginners, read some factual, true data provided by one of the readers, so you can see how is Fidesz leis and publishes misleading information to Hungary’s citizens.
    Please do come back and tell us your opinion about the following page congaing factual info: https://hungarianspectrum.wordpress.com/2014/03/19/tappanch-viktor-orbans-phy-wars/

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