Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s March 15 Speech

March 15 is a day of particular importance in Hungary. It is  when politicians make speeches under the guise of commemorating the 1848 revolution, for whatever purpose they might see fit. Of the three big national holidays, this is probably the worst. August 20 at least has (mediocre) fireworks and October 23 is probably too cold and wet for major speeches and it generally goes by without much potential harm to one’s sanity.

The main event this year was the second Teachers’ Protest, which drew large crowds to Kossuth Square and ended with a threat of a one-hour strike in case the Prime Minister and the President fail to apologise for the way education is and was handled by the government. That’ll teach them, a full hour of striking! If I were the Prime Minister, I would have just apologised and took the wind right out of their sails. But not Mr Orban, noooo. His only reaction was that he found it all very funny.

The second most important event was a speech by the Prime Minister himself. It was delivered in front of a remarkably small group of loyalist pensioners and Polish far-right lunatics, with another group of dissident pensioners doing their best to make as much noise as they could. I tell you, it is REALLY hard to tell the two groups apart if you don’t speak the language. The speech was astonishing. Originally, I was about to publish a translated version here, with my annotations, but I got slightly nauseous and decided that basically anything was a better use of my time than to give that much attention to this text.

Fortunately, Hungary Today has made a full English translation (thanks!), which I will be using now, to show some of the juiciest bits. I would recommend that you read through the whole thing, it is one of the few texts that really need no explanation.

Well, let’s begin:

Just as then in the decisive battles of the Freedom Fight, now also Hungarian hearts are cheered by the fact that we have with us a Polish legion. I welcome the spirited successors of General Bem: we  welcome the sons of the Polish nation. As always throughout our shared thousand-year history, now, too, we are standing by you in the battle you are fighting for your country’s freedom and independence.

A few notes here: General Bem was a true internationalist (this will be important later), fighting in three different conflicts in three distinct European nations (Poland, Hungary and Portugal), without much sense of national pride. He was also a refugee who settled in the Ottoman Empire who converted to Islam and became the governor of Aleppo. It is rather amusing to form an alliance with other anti-refugee, Islamophobic groups under the aegis of a Muslim refugee.

Furthermore, I have doubts over the notion that Hungary and Poland always fought side by side for freedom and independence. Three words: Second World War. One of the major characteristics of this speech is casual forgetfulness regarding this particular minor squabble.

Yes, we Hungarians have two revolutionary traditions: one leads from 1848, through 1956 and the fall of communism, all the way to the Fundamental Law and the current constitutional order; the bloodline of the other tradition leads from Jacobin European ancestors, through 1919, to communism after World War II and the Soviet era in Hungary.

It is cute that he elevates his deeply flawed, ridiculously worded and hopefully completely insignificant Fundamental Law with actual historic events.

Also, he once again forgets about the Second World War. This dualistic view of history is fascinating. In his world, an anglophile nationalistic revolution led by the urban liberal intelligentsia against foreign domination, an anti-Stalinist, but still very much autonomist/socialist uprising and the introduction of a deeply Christian conservative constitution and the following Putinisation of Hungary are diametrically opposed to revolutionary republicanism and socialism. But let’s not try to get between a politician and his history.

Modern European history has preserved both Hungarian revolutions among the glorious memories of the world: two blazing stars, two national uprisings bursting forth in 1848 and 1956 from Hungarian aspirations and Hungarian interests. Glory to the heroes, honour to the brave. Chroniclers have also recorded the revolution of 1918–19, but the memories of that period are not preserved on the pages of glory; indeed, not only are those memories written on different pages, but they appear in a different volume altogether. The 1918–19 revolution can be found in the volume devoted to Bolshevik anti-Hungarian subversions launched in the service of foreign interests and foreign ambitions; it features under the heading “appalling examples of intellectual and political degeneracy”.

Fuck that, let’s get right in between. These appalling examples of intellectual and political degeneracy established, for the first time in history, an independent Hungarian republic. They codified freedom of speech and assembly, separated church and state and provided free education and language rights to minorities. Of course, these are all things Mr Orban despises. He probably also bears a grudge for the revolutionaries having killed Istvan Tisza, the former Prime Minister, who was a strong supporter of the Austrian aggression against Serbia that started WWI, the privileges of the landed gentry and an opponent of minority rights and extending suffrage. The ridiculously ugly statue of Tisza was one of the first things that were rebuilt on Kossuth Square by the current government.

Of course, the two revolutions of 1918-19 were major clusterfucks. Especially the second one, which thought that mass killings of dissidents and violent disruptions of religious services were good for popularity (they weren’t) and that attacking Romania right after World War I would be a good idea (it wasn’t).

Also, 21st century historians don’t really think about the ‘glorious’ quality of events, just like how paleontologists don’t really discuss the ‘awesomeness’ of extinct animals. We, as a species, have been kinda over that for a good while now.

Today, as then, the heartbeat of this revolutionary tradition moves and guides the nation’s political, economic and spiritual life: equality before the law, responsible government, a national bank, the sharing of burdens, respect for human dignity and the unification of the nation. Today, as then, the ideals of ’48 and ’56 are the pulse driving the life force of the nation, and the intellectual and spiritual blood flow of the Hungarian people. Let us give thanks that this may be so, let us give thanks that finally the Lord of History has led us onto this path. Soli Deo gloria!

Under the rule of Mr Orban, of course, there is less and less equality before the law (for instance, there is currently a dude in a wheelchair and a blind old lady on trial for attacking the Hungarian police at a border crossing. Both refugees, of course.), an irresponsible government and national bank (thanks to almost approved legislation, the latter will be able to make “public funds lose their public nature”), the burdens are not shared equally (especially not by Mr Orban’s friend, a billionaire handyman turned, well, liege lord) and the respect of human dignity does not extend to women, refugees, minorities, the poor or even counter-protesters, as we’ll see later:

Not even the uplifting mood of a celebration day can let us forget that the tradition of 1919, too, is still with us – though fortunately its pulse is just a faint flicker. Yet at times it can make quite a noise. But without a host animal, its days are numbered. It is in need of another delivery of aid from abroad in the form of a major intellectual and political infusion; unless it receives this, then after its leaves and branches have withered, its roots will also dry up in the Hungarian motherland’s soil, which is hostile to internationalism. And this is all well and good.

The ‘making noise’ bit shows that this was a direct reference to the counter-protesters who, in a Radio Télévision Libre des Mille Collines-esque fashion, were called parasites by their Prime Minister.

Europe is not free, because freedom begins with speaking the truth. In Europe today it is forbidden to speak the truth. A muzzle is a muzzle – even if it is made of silk. It is forbidden to say that today we are not witnessing the arrival of refugees, but a Europe being threatened by mass migration. It is forbidden to say that tens of millions are ready to set out in our direction. It is forbidden to say that immigration brings crime and terrorism to our countries. It is forbidden to say that the masses of people coming from different civilisations pose a threat to our way of life, our culture, our customs, and our Christian traditions. It is forbidden to say that, instead of integrating, those who arrived here earlier have built a world of their own, with their own laws and ideals, which is forcing apart the thousand-year-old structure of Europe. It is forbidden to say that this is not accidental and not a chain of unintentional consequences, but a planned, orchestrated campaign, a mass of people directed towards us. It is forbidden to say that in Brussels they are constructing schemes to transport foreigners here as quickly as possible and to settle them here among us. It is forbidden to say that the purpose of settling these people here is to redraw the religious and cultural map of Europe and to reconfigure its ethnic foundations, thereby eliminating nation states, which are the last obstacle to the international movement. It is forbidden to say that Brussels is stealthily devouring ever more slices of our national sovereignty, and that in Brussels today many are working on a plan for a United States of Europe, for which no one has ever given authorisation.

It is so forbidden to say these lunacies, that he has been parroting them for about a year now. He has been really feeling the consequences. I can almost see some low-level Latvian bureaucrat in the bowels of the European Commission furiously typing away at the second draft of a proposal to discuss whether the gross human rights violations of Hungary should be discussed over the water cooler, for the duraton of maximum two sentences, by air-conditioning maintenance staff.

Also, notice the conspiracy theory in the background. It is not clear whether this planned overtake of Europe is orchestrated by the EU or someone else. Maybe Sauron? Maybe Chayim Sauronstein? We might never find out. I do hope so.

Europe is a community of Christian, free and independent nations; it is the equality of men and women, fair competition and solidarity, pride and humility, justice and mercy.

Umm. In the European Union, there are exactly four Christian countries with established religion (UK (though there are few people who would call the C of E a religion. It is more like a local library that you joined once for some strange reason you can’t remember but can’t even find from across the street), Denmark, Greece and Malta) and roughly half of EU citizens don’t believe in any god whatsoever. So let’s drop the superstitions, shall we?

Also, it is funny to see someone championing he equality of men and women who is also a staunch opponent of gender equality and marriage equality, whose government does not include any women, whose Speaker of the House stated that the “highest level of self-fulfillment for our daughters is when they give birth to our grandchildren”, establishing the paternal ownership of daughters and the societal role of women as child factories in one short sentence. And let’s not even mention LGBTQ+ rights.

We shall not allow it to force upon us the bitter fruit of its cosmopolitan immigration policy. We shall not import to Hungary crime, terrorism, homophobia and synagogue-burning anti-Semitism. There shall be no urban districts beyond the reach of the law, there shall be no mass disorder or immigrant riots here, and there shall be no gangs hunting down our women and daughters.

Says the man who just welcomed Polish far-right protesters at his own rally. Also, we should keep in mind that these momentous changes (especially homophobia and anti-Semitism, two concepts that are TOTALLY alien to Hungarians) would be brought on by the settlement of about 1500 refugees. Apparently, these refugees would work under the principles of homeopathy.

Of course I don’t have to spell out that none of these issues are caused by refugees, but finding the real answers would make for very bad race-baiting.

In 1848 it was written in the book of fate that nothing could be done against the Habsburg Empire. If then we had resigned ourselves to that outcome, our fate would have been sealed and the German sea would have swallowed up the Hungarians. In 1956 it was written in the book of fate that we were to remain an occupied and sovietised country until patriotism was extinguished in the very last Hungarian. If then we had resigned ourselves to that outcome, our fate would have been sealed, and the Soviet sea would have swallowed up the Hungarians.

This is just funny. He seems to have forgotten that both revolutions failed and Hungary remained a part of Austria until 1918 and deep within the Soviet sphere of influence until 1989.

These were just some choice bits that provoked some snarky thoughts in me that I thought I’d share here. Once again, I really recommend that you read the whole speech. It is an important document, a clear sign of how Mr Orban thinks, how he talks to the people who already support him.

In it, Mr Orban asserted the characteristics of Hungarians and that this and the cultural and ethnic purity of Hungary should be defended against foreign attempts at diluting it. He calls to arms against the European Union, against internationalism and using excessively hostile terms, attempts to excise social democratic, socialist, egalitarian and secular movements from Hungarian history. He asserts that the favoured nationalistic revolutions, which led to his power, were directed by the hand of God (therefore, I suppose, his power is also the result of Divine Intervention).

So, racist and racialist, agitating against international conspiracies and sub-human masses of ‘foreign’ people hell-bent on destroying the city on the hill he built with the grace of God, attempting to mobilise the people against for a struggle against these foreign threats. Also, aggressively anti-socialist, anti-republican and willing to manipulate ancient and modern history to serve his ideological purposes.

This really reminds me of a certain, wholly discredited set of ideologies that came to fruition exactly in the period Mr Orban forgot about. They had it really going between 1918 and 1945, but then their bastions lost the Second World War.

The same ideologies whose ardent supporters are being rehabilitated by the current Government of Hungary, that is attempting to erect statues of people who supported and/or co-authored the “Jewish Laws”. Whose historicising kitsch architecture is being reconstructed piece by piece, using astronomical amounts of public, mostly EU money.

I will give you a hint: Not the Sumerians. That would be BCE.

 

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Stand Up, Prisoners of Centralisation

The Hungarian educational system is a bloody farce, and it has been that way for decades now. It has long been suffering from the usual ills of the field: outdated and ever-expanding curricula that is subject to constant changes, low wages, excessive working hours and an aging workforce. These are the results of chronic underfunding, weak trade unions and the the Hungarian pathological fear of political action.

Hardly anyone wants to become a teacher and who can blame them? Who would want to work 32 hours (officially) and about a dozen more (at home) per week for ridiculous pay, in crumbling institutions that don’t even have money for toilet paper, surrounded by burnt-out colleagues who are considered dour even by Hungarian standards (the average Hungarian is about as cheerful as the death of Bambi’s mother), who can’t even be bothered to update their class outlines from 30 years ago.

The FIDESZ government, to their credit, has tried to change this situation. This is the most positive thing anyone could say about their attempts.

The grand idea was that all the problems would be solved by centralisation. By bringing the day-to-day operation of schools under the control of a bureaucratic monster called KLIK that would dwarf the kaijus of Pacific Rim, they could cut costs and exert the kind of manual control that gives Viktor Orban a hardon. Did the chalk run out? Call KLIK. Measuring the performance of teachers? Call KLIK. Paying the janitor? KLIK. Approving schoolbooks? KLIK. KLIK. KLIK. KLIK.

The reform had other bold ideas. Principals would have to be appointed by the Ministry (which led to some non-loyalists miraculously losing their jobs to more ideologically compatible candidates, even if the process was handled illegally. If the government does it it’s not illegal. If anyone insists, they’ll just change the law). Everyday PE classes were implemented, even though no schools had appropriate facilities The result? Theoretical PE classes with written tests. That’ll make the little fuckers move. Religious education was also made compulsory, and godless savages were given a choice to send their kids to Ethics classes, where they’d be taught the right kind of ethics (= conservative religious education with less overt references to God)

The implementation of this plan was handed over to a ministry run by a Calvinist pastor and a Secretary of State who was most famous for her unintentional but strikingly authentic Dolores Umbridge cosplay. They appointed a rural vice-principal as the director of KLIK and the dream team was complete. Three years later, none of this

Not surprisingly, this was an unmitigated disasters. Schools were not resupplied with chalk. Teachers had to add hours of self-evaluative paperwork to their already impossible and unbearable work schedule. Janitors got paid a few weeks late. Horrifyingly bad, often factually incorrect and sometimes overtly racist and propagandistic schoolbooks were approved, which didn’t even arrive to the schools in time. The already cracking educational system started to completely fall apart. The performance and knowledge of Hungarian students kept sliding down the drain and I predict that very soon even Taliban-run madrasas will provide better education, because at least they teach a foreign language and the students leave with a thorough understanding of at least one book.

The situation is now so dire that the teachers actually started organising. I know it sounds crazy in the country where the university teachers and managers gleefully worked against the student protests, but it is happening. It started from a secondary school in Miskolc, the fourth largest city in Hungary (this is almost miraculous, not only political action, but one that is not started in the capital) and has gained the approval of hundreds of schools and thousands, if not tens of thousands of teachers. They are planning a protest on Saturday, we shall see how it will go. I am not holding my breath, I have been disappointed too often.

The government’s response was the usual. At first, they ignored the requests and continued parroting that everything was perfectly fine. Then they called a roundtable discussion, but only included their own loyalists, even if they had nothing to do with the matter. Later, they declared that the current hollow shell occupying the Secretary of State for Education post will be replaced with another hollow shell. They even went so far as to saying that KLIK, which they were praising until the last moment, will be disbanded. We have currently reached the highest known stage of government reaction: Viktor Orban has declared that the teachers must be following orders ‘from the outside’, because it makes no sense for them to protest.

What happens now could be exciting. A miners’ group has already declared that they’ll join the protest and railway workers are also preparing for an unrelated strike. I will not make predictions, but this could be a hopeful moment.

And then on Saturday, there’ll be hours and hours of boring speeches under EU flags, after which everyone will peacefully go home…

I sincerely hope that this time, I won’t be right.

The Day of Grumpiness and Boredom

As the continuation of the protests against the (now abandoned) internet tax, a mass demonstration was held at Kossuth ter, in front of the Parliament on Monday. The event was named “The Day Of Public Outrage” by its organisers, as a reference to the general discontent felt by anti-government folk over the horrendous policies of the current government.

There were some troubling signs right from the beginning. Hungarian protest organisers, maybe fuelled by an ingrained, subconscious attachment to the mythology of 1848, think that excessive amount of public oration is a good thing and no demonstrations can take place without speeches. On Monday, there were no less than six speakers, whose cause was not helped by the awkward titles they gave to their speeches, eg. “I am Nothing”, “I am Angry” and “We have grown up”. But hey, who was I to know in advance, they could have had six little MLKs lined up and ready to stoke up the flames.

I arrived near the starting time, when people were already gathering. The crowd was more mixed than before, at the anti-tax protests, with a higher number of older participants. There were a bunch of EU flags (damn, I really should write that bit about why I found this naive adoration of a deeply flawed and harmful organisation troubling), and, fortunately, relatively few Hungarian ones. I even spotted some teenagers with an anarcho-syndicalist flag, which was rather refreshing.

Then the speeches started. I do hate being right all the time. They were horrendous. The PA system wasn’t really well thought-out and the sound bounced all over the square, creating a garbled cacophony that served no cause whatsoever. The six speeches went on for a whole hour, chasing away a significant number of people. Generally speaking, one would think that a demonstration is about the crowd demonstrating its common beliefs and shared goals and taking action to achieve its goals. Putting a bunch of individuals on a stage to project their personal opinions over thousands of people is not what mass demonstrations should be about. Talk for 15 minutes (Lincoln could summarise the American Civil War in ten sentences, expressing disdain for shitty and harmful policies really shouldn’t take a whole hour), fire up the crowd then hand out the torches and pitchforks and let the masses do the rest.

Instead, the masses were treated to an hour of tedium, then were told to go home. A few people, maybe two thousand or so, stayed and continued chanting. A vanguard of pensioners even broke through the barricades surrounding the stage and tried to enter the parliament, but were stopped by police. Thus started a few hours of mild scuffles, when a small portion of the already diminished crowd tried to force its way through lines of massed riot police. It is fascinating how the most furious and active participants of a supposedly “outraged” crowd didn’t even resort to actual violence. After a while, as the police grew more numerous and the number of protesters dwindled, the event just ended.

When it comes to protests, Hungary is sadly not Burkina Faso, nor is it Mexico or Greece. People here don’t know how to protest and have no concept of how direct action works. This is especially true of the organisers of public demonstrations, to whom the excessive babbling is the protest, after which they bugger off and disappear off the screen, when the real protest should be starting. If they actually want to achieve something with these protests (though, knowing the alternatives, the removal of the current government, however delightful, could turn out to be a complete clusterfuck), they have to re-think their methods. No government was ever stopped by people listening to awful speeches and then going home. There is a need for direct action that actually disrupts the normal functioning of the state apparatus.

I am not against such demonstrations, don’t get me wrong. I would ask every single person who reads this to attend as many protests as they are able, no matter how badly organised they are or how pointless this all might seem. I firmly believe that direct action is the single most democratic act any citizen can perform, much more so than even participating in elections.

But, and this is a big but, if the current movement does not reform itself, preferably from the bottom up, if it fails to transcend the liberal desires for being proper, well-behaved and generally unobtrusive, it will dwindle away and die just like the ones that came before it. There are promising signs. The crowds are big, the anger is building up and there is more disdain for the police than before (also, people are less afraid of the piggies). I do hope that they’ll succeed. And after that, what happens, happens.

A Tale of Two Protests

Keyboard Thrower

Hmm, this was interesting. In the last post, I mentioned that two protests were organised for last week. The first, on October 23 was meant to give voice to a general anti-establishment sentiment and intended to draw in the people who are more aligned to NGOs than to political parties. The second was about the mind-numbingly idiotic internet tax the Government is implementing so that, as it was revealed recently, they can finance a wage hike for the police and the armed forces.

The first one, which I did not attend, seemed like a regular liberal snoozefest, (I am always uncomfortable when I have to use terms like right, left and liberal in a Hungarian context, due to their fuzzy definitions and confusing layers of meaning) with a few talking heads giving speeches to a crowd of a few hundred like-minded people. The event failed to gain any attention whatsoever, but it was important to at least try to mobilise the voters who are sick and tired of the political establishment. After all, most Hungarians have simply stopped participating in elections and it is a fairly safe guess that this is caused by the terrible options presented to them.

The second one, on the other hand, was rather fascinating. The turnout was massive, about 8-10000 people, I popped down to have a look after the march started towards Heroes’ Square. The original plan was to ask protesters to bring obsolete IT equipment that would be deposited in front of the FIDESZ offices. It was a fun idea, but then the organisers decided to throw it out the window (lol) because it would count as littering, which is a felony, and Hungarian protest organisers have this perverse desire to be proper at all times. So there were loads of people with keyboards and even CRT monitors milling around. This will be important later.

The protesters were a mixed bunch, with the usual angry pensioners and alternative twentysomethings mixed with more average folk, families, well-dressed yuppies and even a few nazi here and there. There was a demonstration by football ultras earlier during the day and apparently a few of them joined the protest, though I really did not see any signs of them, and they are not the most discreet of all people. There was a moderate amount of chanting, some with troubling nationalist undertones, which are, unfortunately, a staple of Hungarian protest culture. There were EU flags as well, which betrayed the charmingly naive notion that many anti-government Hungarians have about the EU and the West as a whole as a positive, benevolent power.

The crowd stopped at Heroes’ Square, where everyone was asked to lift their phones in the air so that the drone could take a nice picture that can be used for bragging later. Then the organisers, after a brief speech and a little bit more shouting closed the protest by asking the assembled people to sing the National Anthem (Hungarians, why do you have to make everything nationalistic? The people on the other side of the debate are as much Hungarians as you are, this exclusion bullshit is really tiring. Especially if your campaign invokes the European Union, the epitome of (however failed) internationalist idealism in the 21st century.) and then peacefully disperse. Many people did not agree with the peacefully disperse bit and thought that, well, we were supposed to go to the FIDESZ headquarters, so we should go there no matter what the organisers say.

While most of the protesters went home, a crowd of about 2-3000 people stayed and surrounded the nearby party offices, that are located in a slightly dilapidated former villa just off the square. For a while, the people were just shouting at the empty building (which I found a rather amusing performative reimagining of Hungarian politics), but then someone threw a mouse at the blinds. slowly the pace picked up and the building was pelted with all kinds of IT equipment, from laptops to modems, but mostly keyboards. Hence the illustration.

There still was no notable police presence, at least not from my vantage point, which I found weird and troubling. As two of the blinds slowly crumbled under the hail of obsolete technology. At one point, a guy jumped up the balcony, tore off the blinds and kicked in the window. Then he stopped and got back into the crowd. Despite all the anger, the crowd never turned into a mob. Most of the damage was done by a few individuals, with vocal support from the rest. The building was never stormed and this timidity was another interesting bit of the events that I can’t really explain.

After a while the police showed up and slowly and steadily, without any violence, regained control over the street. The protest quietly dwindled away.

The reactions were disappointingly predictable. FIDESZ condemned the vandalism and claimed that they are open to discussion (HAHAHAHAHAHAHA) the pro-government press went into attack mode against the protest and the US Government as well, just for the hell of it. The opposition media declared a revolution, that this will break the back of FIDESZ and so on and so on. Yeah, sure. The opposition condemned the vandalism and said something not even they cared about. Former PM and monomaniacal madman Ferenc Gyurcsany tried to latch his failing party onto the protest, but it seems that he failed to poop into the punch bowl this time.

Myself, I will wait it out. There will be another anti-tax protest today. If that manages to draw the same or larger crowds, or causes more of a ruckus, I might start to believe that this could be a timid beginning of something.

Call me cynical, but I have no expectations about this place or its inhabitants.

Ooh, and, just to add to the Hungarian Political Zombie Outbreak, aka the Walking Dead Who Are Not Actually Dead But Everyone Wishes They Were Actually Dead and Gone Forever, disgraced former mayor Gabor Demszky made an appearance and sadly managed to sneak into a few photos in an attempt to fuck everything up once again. For those unfamiliar with him, he was a completely useless mayor who lead Budapest into ever deeper decay for over a decade while his closest associates and underlings stole everything. He is the kind of guy who, if the smiling MSZP official stole the chair from under him, just stayed there trying to maintain a sitting position while awkwardly clawing at the desk.

 

SCANDAL

Hahaa, now that’s a way to start a post. Two major scandals have erupted in Hungary over the course of the last week or so. While I am, as usual, highly sceptical of the outcome, anything that breaks the ice around the government is a welcome development.

The first one started when, as per usual practice, a government mouthpiece newspaper published, based on (intentionally) leaked information, an aggressive attack piece claiming that as a response to an upcoming tax inspection of US-owned firms, the vengeful United States has banned certain Hungarians from entering the country. Because amidst the crisis in Ukraine and Iraq/Syria, the ebola pandemic and an ever-growing rabble of insane Republicans, the Obama administration will surely find time to mildly irritate a completely insignificant country on the very edge of the EU periphery.

But never mind. After the news broke and the opposition media went apeshit thinking that the long-awaited western redemption of the nation was at hand, that the same super-involved Obama administration has finally delivered a crushing blow to Orban’s fledgling evil empire, the government went on the defensive in the only way that they know: by claiming that the US Government has no idea what it is talking about, that they have yet to present any evidence and that this was a US attempt to protect their corporations from tax inspection. Then the US Embassy confirmed that a number of Hungarians were indeed on a travel ban list, due serous corruption allegations and that the relevant Hungarian authorities, the same that were screaming that there was no evidence, were extensively informed beforehand.

Now this scandal has died down, like all of them do and the newly appointed Foreign Minister, Mr Szijjarto, whose main claim to fame so far is a number of embarrassing photos from amateur football matches and a luxurious, tasteless villa that his parents bought for him (and whose utility costs are too high for him to afford from his declared income) is already in the United States to mount a charm offensive, where he won’t even meet the Secretary of State.

The list of people banned from entering the US has not been made public, but the rumors include two prominent figures: Habony Arpad, the mysterious high-ranking advisor of Mr Orban who once brutally beat a pensioner who dared to walk across the street in front of his luxury SUV and the head of the Tax Authorities. One of the reasons why, apart from gloating, this scandal will go nowhere is that the people rumored to be implicated all have a relatively low profile and are widely despised by the populace. No-one will turn against FIDESZ because someone they already hate did something shifty.

The other scandal is also very typical of the Hungarian state of affairs. Turns out that the new tax regulation contains a teeny-tiny addition that would introduce an internet tax. According to the proposed legislation, after every gigabyte of data, HUF 150.00 would have to be paid as a tax.

The extent to which this is completely out of line with the 21st century is astonishing, and I do not think that it needs to be explained why taxing the internet, especially based on gigabytes (a laughably small unit of measurement in the days of HD streaming) is borderline luddism. I don’t see any point in saying why an idiotic thing is idiotic, so I will not do that.

I find it highly entertaining to read the angry comments on Facebook, talking about the revolution that this will cause. How the small, internet-using minority is completely up in arms about the prospect that downloading an 1080p HDrip of the latest Game of Thrones episode would cost so much money (in fact, the twin bastions of nihilistic internet-savvy media, index.hu and 444 have already calculated the cost of online activities, with a special attention paid to illegal downloads). If this will be truly the cause of a popular movement, I will eat my shoe right after I finished laughing for about five straight days. Internet-using Hungarians in general feel entitled to their right to illegally download content from the internet (which is not helped by the fact that reasonably priced, true on-demand access to media is virtually impossible in Hungary), so this really ticked them off. Out of all the rights and liberties, this is the one they hold dear. Sweet Baby Jesus on a pogo stick, I can’t believe this country wasn’t created in a 18th century pamphlet of corrosive societal satire.

A protest has already been organised (it will be on Sunday evening, of all times), and over 10.000 people claimed to attend. Just to add a bit of perspective, Budapest Pride, protest against blatant, institutionalised discriminination and hate had 3000ish confirmed attendees. The main protest against the constitutional amendments that curtailed basic liberties and eradicated the system of checks and balances had 2500. The student protests sparked by the disastrous educational reforms had 2600 confirmed attendees.

The much more serious, Democracia Real Ya-esque anti-establishment protest tomorrow also has around 2400 confirmed attendees.

I will be very curious about where these two events will go. Please come along to both, if you can. Never waste the opportunity of a good protest.

Oh, I forgot about the oppostion reactions to these scandals. It wasn’t hard. At this point, even a half-decent press conference seems to be too much to expect from this bunch. I braved insanity and looked at the MSZP website just now, where one of the leading items is an attempt to grill the deputy speaker over perfectly reasonable comments made by an Iranian government official at an embassy reception in Tehran where both of them were in attendance. The Iranian chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee said that the USA and its regional allies bear the responsibility for fucking up the Middle-East and for the emergence of terrorism as a global threat. How scandalous, a reasonable assessment! This will surely be that one nicked scale on the dragon’s belly where the brave Socialist politician will deal the killing blow using his arrow forged by the dwarven masters of old.

Fucking idots.

Congress of Baboons is Back!

I am going to start with a seemingly controversial statement: in the time that the blog was on hiatus, nothing happened in Hungarian Politics. Nothing at all.

I mean things were going on, there was some character development and the plot got a bit more complex, but it’s all like that dreadful second season of The Walking Dead, with zombies and a lot of annoying dialogue and whining. There were some minor ‘scandals’, which the greater public ignored, and unvbelievable acts of stupidity and ignorance have been comitted by both the government and the opposition. I could make a list, but there is no point to write about these in retrospect, because they failed to affect anything.

What I find fascinating is that this lack of plot development does not mean a lack of activity. For a the first time in a long while, there are two long-running protests happening in the city centre. One is agains the horrendous Nazi Occupation Memorial which I blogged about before. Yes, it has been built and it is astonishingly bad art. And, what is my beef with it, bad anatomy as well: the sculptor obviously had no idea what a bird’s leg looks like and confused the knee with the ankle. Since its sneaky unweiling, which coincided with the likewise sneaky removal of the barriers around the Soviet WWII memorial (a smart move, as I’m sure the fascists still haven’t noticed), there have been daily protests by groups of opposition pensioners, with some help from politicians scavenging for votes. A small protest camp, with two tents has also popped up right in front of the Parliament. It isn’t quite Occupy Budapest, but it is always nice to see people using public spaces to express political opinions instead of passively accepting their fate like most Hungarians tend to do. Of course None of these protests will accomplish anything or achieve any measurable level of support even amongst the friends of the protesters.

The municipal elections are looming, and the Opposition is still fighting very hard to lose. For some reason, they still believe in the Grand Coalition, even though it failed miserably in two elections so far, just this year. It is actually getting really funny to see how this idea is disintegrating. For newcomers, the Grand Coalition was the idea that if the main opposition parties team up and form a united, democratic coalition, they will beat FIDESZ. The maths did add up, but reality kinda ruined the party. MSZP managed to seem temporarily alive by clawing its way up onto the rotten corpses of its coalition partners (I am dead certain that this Grand Coalition idea was a highly successful MSZP plot to avoid its long-awaited demise); DK, aka. disgraced former Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsany and his army of grumpy pensioners, chased away a lot of voters and Egyutt was quietly sitting in the corner, listening to the greatest hits of Coldplay. Fast forward to today, and the Coalition has become an even bigger mess. MSZP is very proud of its position at the top of the heap of rotten corpses, and it is refusing to compromise in many municipalities. While it got what it wanted, it fails to realise that by maintaining a shaky, but definite hegemony in the opposition, its presence is actively preventing the opposition from being able to actually oppose the government in elections. The inactive voters are the key to removing FIDESZ, and they are not going to vote for MSZP. Egyutt has completely disintegrated, its useless saviour Bajnai has once again left politics to collect humongous wads of cash at a French corporation and DK is hanging around. It gets chaotic in the capital and is downright insane in the countryside, where the even alliances with the fascists are not that rare. the Coalition has gone as far as to support anti-Roma hate speech in order to justify running a violently racist former police chief for mayor in the city of Miskolc, just because the guy is more popular than the FIDESZ candicate.

The best illustration of what a miserable bunch the Grand Coalition is would be their campaing for the mayor of Budapest. Their opponent is Istvan Tarlos, who isn’t really all that popular and is generally viewed as a thuggish asshole, who is a little bit of a renegade even within FIDESZ. The person they decided to run for office was Ferenc Falus, a distinguished doctor and former health chief for the country. This was Egyutt’s idea, and it was of course a terrible one. Falus was a disaster. Not only did he lack a political programme for a long time, he even embarrassed himself by trying to look like the awkward dad who thinks that he is down with the kids. And now, just today, it has been announced that even though he was hailed as the Coalition candidate for most of the campaing, he is stepping down in favour of socialist turned conservative turned sad joke and unrepentand Thatcherite Lajos Bokros. Since the campaign of Mr Bokros received most media attention when he was seen as a pathetic old loser begging for votes in public squares, I am not quite sure how these morons runnign the show are planning to build up a successful campaign for him in less than two weeks, but we’ll see.

As usual, FIDESZ will win, because with such opponents, they can basically do anything. Despite the ranting, the horrible policies, the creepily close ties with Vladimir Putin, despite everything. The good news is that the opposition is really on its way out and maybe after these elections, they’ll fade into obscurity and something less terrible will emerge. I maintain that a newly emerging political force could easily take FIDESZ down, as long as it stays far away from the current opposition and its enablers in the intelligentsia. Until then, nothing will happen in Hungary.

Unless there is a meteor strike or a vampire pandemic like in The Strain. God, that is one great missed opportunity series.

But I will write about these enablers in the next post, which will come very soon.