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.