Viktor Orbán: “No significant minority among ourselves”

A day before yesterday I wrote about the Hungarian reaction to the terrorist attacks in Paris. Or, to be more precise, about Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s long-held views on immigration and multiculturalism and the right-wing media’s attitude toward freedom of the press. Orbán is against immigration, and right-wing journalists blamed the victims for the tragedy.

A few hours after I posted my article we learned that Viktor Orbán, along with many other prime ministers and presidents, was invited to join the Paris march against terrorism and on behalf of freedom of speech. All told, 44 high-level politicians from all over the world gathered in Paris yesterday, Viktor Orbán among them. The Hungarian media immediately reported that Orbán would fly to Paris on the private jet that belongs to OTP, Hungary’s largest private bank, and that on the way back he would stop in Zurich, apparently to attend a gala gathering of FIFA (Fédération Internationale de Football Association) today.

From the very first moment, news of Orbán’s attendance was received with misgivings in the opposition media. Zsolt Sebes in Gépnarancs  was one of the first who questioned Orbán’s right to be among those marchers who are committed to liberal democracy, to freedom of the press and freedom of speech. He is anything but a democrat, in fact he himself admitted that he wants to build an illiberal democracy, the journalist pointed out. “Orban n’est pas Charlie, what is he doing in Paris?” asked Sebes. Sztárklikk considered Orbán’s attendance one of “his most hypocritical gestures since 2010.” This march was about “the republic, freedom of the press, unity of Europe, about everything which is the essence of Europe. What is Orbán doing there?”

But Hungarian opposition papers were not the only ones who considered his presence in Paris incongruous. Le Monde expressed its surprise at seeing such politicians as Benjamin Netanyahu, Sergey Lavrov, Viktor Orbán, Ahmet Davutoğlu, and Ali Bongo in the front rows of the march. Le Monde‘s criticism of Orbán focused on his government’s attacks against the media. Le Monde was not the only paper to object to the presence of certain politicians. Libération and Metro followed suit. And The Independent had the same kind of negative opinion of Viktor Orbán: “In Hungary, Mr Orban pushed through a law in 2010 which restricts independent media and gives the government extensive power over the flow of information.” In brief, he shouldn’t have been among the marchers.

The French president’s reception of Orbán seems not to have been the warmest, as Hungarian opposition papers gleefully pointed out. It stood in sharp contrast to his warm embrace of other dignitaries. Indeed, judging from the pictures taken at the scene, Hollande extended his hand at a moment when Viktor Orbán was still quite far from him, two steps down. Apparently a sign of distancing in the world of diplomacy.

Hollande and Orban

Viktor Orbán is not the kind of man who, when encountering resistance, tries to keep a low profile. On the contrary, in situations like his unwelcome presence in Paris he makes sure that he further incites ill feelings toward him by making inappropriate pronouncements. The rally he attended was “in support of free speech and tolerance in Europe” yet Orbán right on the spot told the Hungarian state television that the Charlie Hebdo murders should make the EU restrict access to migrants. According to him, economic immigration is undesirable and “only brings trouble and danger to the peoples of Europe.” Therefore “immigration must be stopped. That’s the Hungarian stance.” He added that “Hungary will not become a target destination for immigrants…. We will not allow it, at least as long as I am prime minister and as long as this government is in power.” As he said, “we do not want to see a significant minority among ourselves that has different cultural characteristics and a different background. We would like to keep Hungary as Hungary.”

These words got extensive press coverage in the last couple of days not only in Hungary but also abroad because they go against the common values of the European Union to which he himself officially adheres. As the spokesman for the European Commission tersely said: “I don’t comment on statements of any prime minister but the Commission’s viewpoint in connection with migration is unambiguous.”

All opposition parties criticized Viktor Orbán’s nationalistic, xenophobic statement with the exception of Jobbik, whose spokesman praised the prime minister for speaking “almost like a member of Jobbik.”

Lajos Bokros was perhaps the most eloquent. Bokros is the chairman of the Movement for a Modern Hungary which he describes as a liberal conservative party. He wrote an open letter to Orbán, published on Facebook, in which he told the prime minister that he should not speak in the name of all Hungarians. “This is the view of you and your extremist xenophobe allies.” He asked the prime minister why he went to the rally when he does not understand what the whole thing was all about. Bokros repeated Orbán’s words about Hungarians who don’t want to see among themselves people who are different from them, who have different cultural characteristics. It is “terrible even to repeat these words…. If Hungary belongs to the Hungarians, then why doesn’t Romania belong to Romanians? Or Slovakia belong to the Slovaks? What would happen to Hungarians if the neighboring states thought the same way you do?”

DK pointed out that Viktor Orbán’s politics have gotten closer and closer to the extremist attitudes of Jobbik. Orbán’s “chronic populism” has reached a point where he is capable of uttering anti-freedom thoughts at the march for the republic. Orbán’s statement is especially disgusting since about half a million Hungarians currently work in Western Europe and the British Isles. PM joined in, stressing the ever decreasing differences between Fidesz and Jobbik. József Tóbás of MSZP added that “Viktor Orbán sent a message to David Cameron and Angela Merkel to send those Hungarians working in their countries back home.”

If you want to reflect on the irony of the prime minister’s xenophobic position you need look no further than yesterday’s celebration of the country’s German minority, an event that occurs every year on January 11. For the occasion President János Áder made a speech praising multiculturalism. “During the one-thousand-year-history of Hungary it has become evident many times that the members of our national minorities became great Hungarian patriots who enriched our common values, cultures, language.” And he quoted, as is usual on such occasions, the famous line from St. Stephen’s Exhortations to his son Imre: “nam unius linguae uniusque moris regnum, imbecille et fragile est” (a kingdom where only one language is spoken and only one custom is followed is weak and fragile).

M. André Goodfriend, the U.S. chargé d’affaires, recalled this quotation in a tweet: “Over lunch, among other things, discussed St. Stephen’s advice about the benefit of diversity.” And he gave a link to the bilingual text available in the Hungarian Electronic Library. Lajos Bokros also asked Orbán: “Didn’t you learn anything from the history of Central Europe? When was the last time you turned the pages of St. Stephen’s Exhortations?” A very long time ago, if ever.

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120 comments

  1. @Marcel Dé (@MarcelD10)
    January 13, 2015 at 7:20 pm

    I respectfully beg to disagree with the contorted and convoluted argument you put forward in support of your position.

    May I also draw your attention to the instant and very loud condemnation of today’s not at all mocking cartoon of a weeping prophet Mohammed on the front page of Charlie Hebdo, by clergy from Egypt’s Al Azhar university, the world’s leading institution for Sunni Islamic studies, who consider it another unwarranted provocation, and far from just because its figurative depiction of Mohammed violates Koranic tenets.

    Even though Charlie Hebdo is transparently disingenuous in its totally false depiction of such a ‘humanitarian’ response from a religious leader, to whom in reality nothing would have been more foreign than such a ‘humanitarian’ response to a terrorist outrage.

  2. (BEGIN VIDEOCLIP)

    VIKTOR ORBAN, HUNGARY PRIME MINISTER, VIA INTERPRETER: We should not look at economic immigration as if it had use because it only brings

    trouble and threats to the European people. Therefore, immigration must be stopped. That’s the Hungarian stance. Hungary will not become a target

    destination for immigrants. We will not allow it, at least as long as I am prime minister and as long as this government is in power. We do not want

    to see a significant minority among ourselves that has different cultural characteristics and background. We would like to keep Hungary as Hungary.

    (END VIDEOCLIP) QUEST: Hungarian government spokesman Zoltan Kovacs joins me now on the line from Budapest. In the great scheme – in the great world of

    statements on days when people are talking about unity, your prime minister whipped up anti-immigration rhetoric. …

    QUEST: Finally tonight, the discussion on immigration in Europe and the Hungarian minister’s view it should be stopped – there is a debate

    about to take place in Europe over the future of immigration. The U.K.’s going to have it with UKIP, France will have it, Hungary will have it, and

    there is nothing wrong per se with politicians and countries having that debate. What’s worrying is when politicians start whipping up the

    rhetoric. `Hungary for Hungarians,’ – when it starts to become immigration must be stopped. Then you go into you’ve crossed the line. It’s no longer

    a debate about whether immigration is good or bad, it becomes one to whip up a ferment. History is replete with examples where this has happened,

    and anybody who tries to deny an innocent-sounding comment for what it could turn into in the future is simply misguided. And that’s “Quest Means

    Business” tonight. I’m Richard Quest in New York. Whatever you’re up to in the hours ahead, (RINGS BELL) I’ll see you tomorrow.

    END
    http://transcripts.cnn.com/TRANSCRIPTS/1501/12/qmb.01.html

  3. @Mike Balint

    I said I found useless and didn’t like (that’s an understatement) generalizations on people based on a single identity marker, in this instance “Muslims”.

    You retorted Charlie Hebdo was making such generalizations, then formulated the odd hypothesis that I did not criticize the magazine for that, accusing me of double standards.

    I demonstrated you were wrong in your assumption about the magazine’s content. You are unable to refute the demonstration. And now you’re engaging in whataboutery.

    Repeated attempts at ad hominem characterization, inability to admit you were wrong, and resorting to diversion are typical trollesque behavior.

    So I’ll say it: on certain subjects, you are a troll.

  4. Orbán has already said that he wants to abandon Liberal Democracy, so what was he doing at a demo supporting it? If Hungary wants to ‘regain’ control of the whole Carpathian basin, maybe the Welsh and the Gaels should reclaim the whole of the British Isles.

  5. @Marcel Dé (@MarcelD10)
    January 14, 2015 at 4:00 am

    One, demonstrated wrongness of assumption? You demonstrated nothing of the sort.

    Two, ad hominem? Trollesque? Talk about the pot calling the kettle black!

    Three, I won’t bother from this point forward with refuting anything you say or in any way to respond to your assertions.

    Couldn’t care less what you think, and I shall leave it at that, monsieur.

  6. @Mike Balint – What is wrong, in your view, with not assimilating? Why should Hassidic Jews or any other minorities assimilate? Why do you portray their resistance to assimilation as a problem?
    Or, to put it in another way, would you then say that the Hungarians of Slovakia and Romania should assimilate or get out of those countries?
    I would strongly object if you did. Indeed, I have signed petitions against the forced assimilation of Hungarians outside Hungary.
    What’s good for the goose is good for the gander.

  7. @Webber
    January 14, 2015 at 5:40 am

    There is a heck of a difference between assimilation and integration.

    Absolutely nothing is wrong with not assimilating. Assimilating or not assimilating is a personal decision by the individual.

    But bear in mind that there are majority societies that welcome the assimilation of foreigners with open arms, and those which don’t, or at least make the assimilation process very difficult for those outsiders who attempt it.

    The West European attitude to Moslem immigrants is a case were the road to assimilation is wide open, should a Moslem immigrant be willing to take it.

    Hungarian attitudes, on the other hand, even toward their own, native-born Jews or Roma, is a case where the road to assimilation is largely blocked, even where a Jew or Roma would like nothing better than to assimilate to the point of complete dissolution in the majority society.

    Refusal to productively integrate into an otherwise welcoming majority society is however an altogether different matter.

    Commited Islamists in Western Europe absolutely refuse to integrate, even if and where they are given every opportunity to do so.

    The Jews of Hungary, on the other hand, have not only shown over and over again their commitment to integration, but have proved it with their immense contributions in every field of endeavour to the modernization of Hungary over the past century and a half.

    The Roma also has many who fully and successfully integrated into the majority society in Hungary, however tough row to hoe it may have been for them.

    The majority of Roma of course form a special case, but I am sure that given the right conditions and incentives, they too could fully integrate into Hungarian society over maybe three or four generations.

    Successful assimilation in Hungary for a Jew or Roma would mean being seen, being welcome and being fully accepted by non-Jewish, non-Roma Hungarians as ‘true’ sons or daughters of the Hungarian Nation. That is essentially unattainable.

    On the other hand, successful integration in Hungary for a Jew or Roma means being productive citizens of the Hungarian State, and that is achieved daily by Hungarian Jews and a lot of Roma as well.

    Thus, for a Hungarian to assimilate into Slovak society is a personal decision, but to productively integrate into that society is a duty as a Slovak citizen.

    I hope we are now reading from the same hymn book on this matter.

  8. Mike Balint,

    Please understand that I am not attacking you, just trying to point out a few things that may make your life a little better.

    “Ad hominem” is defined in Wiktionary as:

    A fallacious objection to an argument or factual claim by appealing to a characteristic or belief of the person making the argument or claim, rather than by addressing the substance of the argument or producing evidence against the claim; an attempt to argue against an opponent’s idea by discrediting the opponent himself.
    A personal attack.

    You accused me of engaging in ad hominem arguments previously, and now you are doing so with Webber. Of course, things get personal here, but that’s usually because there are so many trolls and so many people who can’t keep their emotions out of the argument. I’m sure I am guilty of this at times, but, as any professor of writing or debate will tell you, ad hominem arguments are not necessarily wrong – in fact, sometimes they can cut right to the heart of the matter and save everyone some time.

    Here’s an example: you have portrayed yourself as someone who is staunchly libertarian, so anything you write is likely to be biased by your political beliefs. Therefore, if you make a statement that seems to be something that a libertarian would say without thinking about the ramifications of the argument (a knee-jerk response), then someone can point out your personal creed and damage your argument, without having to address the argument. Just because you’re libertarian doesn’t mean that what you are saying is without merit, but if you take a political stance, people can rightly assume that you are going to be biased in many instances, and therefore would require more evidence and argumentation before they would reasonably be expected to hear you out.

    If someone here criticises Australian policy, for example, your defense of that policy can reasonably be viewed as biased, and therefore having less weight. If you stand up against criticism of Nigerians, you will likely have more credibility.

    Now if you accuse Webber of ad hominem attacks, it’s not enough to say that he is being unfair or bullying, since others probably just see him as saying that your credibility, based on your current and previous comments, has suffered some damage in this discussion. That is not enough of a reason to refuse to continue to his assertions.

    When you write: ” You demonstrated nothing of the sort”, you should say why you think that, otherwise you just sound defensive.

    When you write: “Couldn’t care less what you think”, that invites others to feel the same way towards you. I assume that you comment here because you want to engage in discussion, not monologue, otherwise you could just write in your diary.

    Please understand that when you write provocatively, people are going to assume that you are a troll. By trying to dispel that notion, you may win people over to your views. By childishly lashing out rhetorically, you are probably doing more harm than good to your own credibility, and, by extension, to those who share your views.

    Please comment responsibly – not for my sake, necessarily, but for the sake of your own enjoyment of this blog and for your like-minded fellow readers.

    For what it’s worth, while I disagree with much of what you wrote, I feel that you made a valuable contribution to this discussion, and I hope that you are open to seeing where you have made fallacious assumptions and generalisations. That, to me, is the true mark of an intelligent person, because most of us here are intelligent enough to know that we don’t really know very much. Our strength lies in being willing and able to be flexible in our beliefs and understanding of the world and how it works. The most valuable skill we can cultivate is the ability to listen critically to those who disagree with us, and change our minds when we encounter enough evidence to dispel our previous assumptions.

  9. Mike Balint,

    I’m glad to see, after I posted my previous comment, that you have decided against shunning Webber. You two have far more in common than not, I suspect.

    You wrote: “Hungarian attitudes, on the other hand, even toward their own, native-born Jews or Roma, is a case where the road to assimilation is largely blocked, even where a Jew or Roma would like nothing better than to assimilate to the point of complete dissolution in the majority society.”

    I disagree, and that’s due to my personal experience with Hungarian Society. Orbán himself is an excellent example of this. As mentioned previously on this blog (in this very thread, probably), there are many rumours that he is of both Roma and Jewish extraction, at least partially. This is true of many Hungarians, and there are supposedly people in my family who once had German surnames (changed during the Second World War). There was even a Jobbik member of the European Parliament (Csanád Szegedi) whose mother’s parents were both Jewish. He was fully assimilated, to the point that he was a leading member of Jobbik. Therefore, though it’s very difficult for Roma and Jews in Hungary to assimilate, it can be done, and very effectively, especially for the children and grandchildren of those who wish to assimilate. In other words, those who have successfully assimilated are invisible, because of the assimilation.

    Despite this, I find it tragic that either group should be considered outside of the Hungarian nation, especially since their ancestors have lived in Hungary for many hundreds of years, and they speak Hungarian as well as anyone. If Protestants and Catholics can co-exist after many years of warfare and slaughter (though far in the past), Jews should be able to, as well, especially since the Christian Old Testament is directly derived from a Jewish religious book. The main reason for the difficulty is their usefulness as an “outside” group to those who wish to profit from scapegoating.

    I believe that those who are considered to be Roma today are probably just a minority of those who are actually descendants of the original group who came from outside Hungary, and are composed of those who prefer not to assimilate or were unable to assimilate for various reasons. Even then, many people who identify as Roma have assimilated, but are still discriminated against by a minority of Hungarians because of their appearance, speech, or even their names. You obviously don’t consider those people to have successfully assimilated, though, based on your comments.

    We generally agree on this topic, though.

  10. @Mike Balint – In order: I don’t feel everyone has to agree with me, and I didn’t think there was anything offensive or objectionable in your last note addressed to me. Certainly, I didn’t see an ad hominem attack in what you wrote, and I was about to say as much to Googly when your next comment came up.
    Where did I attack you, personally? I took on one of your arguments. You pointed out how you felt I had misunderstood it. That was all fine.
    I object, however, to what you said to Googly when you wrote: “You accused me of engaging in ad hominem arguments previously, and now you are doing so with Webber.”
    Where did I engage in an ad hominem attack on you?

  11. @Googly – You wrote to Mike Balint “I’m glad to see, after I posted my previous comment, that you have decided against shunning Webber. You two have far more in common than not, I suspect.”
    WTF???
    I’ll take responsibility for my own words, so please engage with them! (where have you done that?? What have I said that offended you so much??) I will not take responsibility for what others have said.

  12. @Mike Balint – sorry! I misread googly’s (first) comment. I thought you wrote it, because it seemed to start with your name. Now I see it wasn’t you.

  13. @Webber
    January 14, 2015 at 8:12 am

    I have no idea where Googly got the idea about me “attacking” you or you “attacking” me, ad hominem or otherwise. Why on earth would I do so? Or why on earth would you do so?

    Googly, who appears to be a bit of a confusion merchant in this instance, seems to have gone off at some wild tangent here.

    Who knows why, maybe the wine he happened to be tippling at the time was too good and he had a bit too much of it. …. 😊

  14. Googly wrote:
    “For what it’s worth, while I disagree with much of what you wrote, I feel that you made a valuable contribution to this discussion.”
    This might be the motto for much of the discussion here – as it should be in a democracy!
    I’m sure that it would be even more interesting if we could discuss live – maybe/probably technology will be available for this in a few years …
    At least we all know who it’s worth discussing with and can differentiate these people from the trolls …

  15. @googly
    January 14, 2015 at 6:43 am and January 14, 2015 at 7:39 am

    Thank you for your concern about the quality of my life.

    I think you got Webber confused with Marcel Dé.

    I am well aware of the exact meaning of the ad hominem fallacy, no need to try to teach me how to suck eggs.

    As to whether I engage or not engage in debating anyone will depend on my assessment of how productive that debate is likely to be.

    I do not decline debating with someone because of ad hominem attacks on myself rather than my ideas, I decline debating when I judge that it is unlikely to lead to any productive outcomes.

    I judged that engaging in debate either with Marcel Dé or yourself is fruitless and unlikely to lead anywhere, therefore I declined the pleasure.

    And I am not in the least inclined to worry about any consequent injury to my credibility on this forum or anywhere else. I really am utterly unconcerned about that these days.

    I write for pleasure and people can interpret or misinterpret what I write any way they like.

    I don’t have a dog in any subsequent fight.

  16. Webber,

    Sorry, I made a mistake, it was Marcel Dé he has decided to shun. Still a mistake, in my opinion.

  17. Mike Balint,

    You wrote: “Googly, who appears to be a bit of a confusion merchant in this instance”

    Ah, so you don’t mind engaging in ad hominem attacks, I see, you just feel that you should be the only one allowed to do so.

    You wrote: “I am well aware of the exact meaning of the ad hominem fallacy…”

    Just making sure, since you’ve misused the term in the past.

    You also wrote: “I do not decline debating with someone because of ad hominem attacks on myself rather than my ideas, I decline debating when I judge that it is unlikely to lead to any productive outcomes.”

    Your previous comments belie this statement of yours, but I suppose you actually believe it. It’s quite clear that when you write “I won’t bother from this point forward with refuting anything you say or in any way to respond to your assertions” without following with “it is unlikely to lead to any productive outcomes”, and “Couldn’t care less what you think, and I shall leave it at that, monsieur” it’s quite clear that your little feelings have been hurt and you have no reasonable response to give. Besides, shunning someone is not just childish, but shows that they have bested you – plus, how you could possibly preclude any possibility that Marcel Dé will ever have anything worth responding to “from this point forward”? It just goes to show that maturity does not necessarily come with age.

    I tried to be nice to you, but you, of course, got defensive and hurt. I understand how you could feel that way, but you should get used to being challenged in this way when you insist on being a racist.

  18. Mike Balint: The West European attitude to Moslem immigrants is a case were the road to assimilation is wide open, should a Moslem immigrant be willing to take it.

    “All other things being equal, Muslims have faced barriers to economic integration in France that are higher than they would have been if everything about them were the same save for their religion.” Identifying barriers to Muslim integration in France, 2010 (Adida, Laitin, Valfort). Also Muslims in France: identifying a discriminatory equilibrium, 2014. Using Senegalese migrants of Christian or Muslim affiliation.

    Evidence of ethnic discrimination in the Swedish labor market using experimental data, 2007 (Carlsson, Rooth). Using Swedish- and Arabic-sounding names.

    Ethnic discrimination in Germany’s labour market: a field experiment, 2012 (Kaas, Manger). Using German- and Turkic- names.

    Ethnic discrimination in the Italian rental housing market, 2011 (Baldini, Federici). Using Italian-, Central European- and Middle Eastern-names.

    And it goes on and on, study after study. But hey! The road is wide open.

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