In the first part of the article I told the story of the humble beginnings of the anti-migrant fear-mongering theme in Hungary. That populism was orchestrated by the incumbent party and the prime minister himself – despite being stable in his position. Today I tell the story of civilian resistance.
Because some citizens couldn’t quite agree. They felt ashamed about the hostile, petty slogans blaring from billboards on their behalf. Within hours of appearing, the billboards were vandalised in the most glorious of ways. The media gleefully reported on the funniest ones – and by the next morning a new national pastime was born.
Underprepared vandals simply covered the billboards in paint.
Others reimagined the messages using the letters provided – and turned them into glorious puns in their secret language.
But some went the extra mile and printed their own versions of the xenophobic slogans, such as:
“If you come to Hungary, you are welcome.”
“If you come to Hungary, please bring more blue paint.”
“If you come to Hungary, you can’t take our public work.”
“If you come to Hungary, you can’t take our Prime Minister.”
“If you come to Hungary, you are screwed.”
“We hate everyone!”
“If you come to Hungary, please bring a sane Prime Minister.”
Someone simply printed the corresponding section of the penal code (three years for inciting hatred against minorities), others went intellectual and quoted the founder of the country from the 11th century CE warning his son that
“…a country of a single language and a single set of customs is weak and fragile”
And my personal favourite – although in a meme format:
Again, this all has happened within hours – but authorities were vigilant. Some police chiefs were extraordinarily eager to protect and serve their masters and ordered plain clothed policemen to watch the remaining billboards. We know this, because the emails were leaked.
When pro-migration activists learned that some district police went as far as to collect DNA samples from vandalised billboards, they started to turn themselves in “to save money to fight actual crime”.
The Hungarian Civil Liberties Union even released a manual on your rights when arrested for pro-migration billboard vandalism. (Never damage the frame of the billboards. Those are expensive and you get charged with a crime, instead of a minor offence.)
At times when everything is absurd, comedians tell the truth.
The little country’s satirical joke party (Two Tailed Dog Party) took the challenge and launched a crowdfunding campaign to put up their own version of the pitiful government billboards.
Indignant citizens, some of them abroad (and frustratingly out of reach of a billboard to personally rectify) collected EUR 100 000 in just two days. It bought 1000 billboards. (Curiously, when they buy it, a billboard costs the fraction of the price.)
The have set out to remind people of the issues that the horribly expensive, official anti-immigrant campaign was supposed to distract attention from. The state of the healthcare, the economy and corruption.
On popular vote, they chose the billboard that is to stand outside the Prime Minister’s country home:
“If you are the Prime Minister of Hungary, you must obey our laws.”
Referring to state capture – when corruption is made more or less legal.
The campaign started on 1 July 2015. Billboards went up in cities where the country’s emigrants live (London, Berlin, Vienna) to show that the inhabitants of Hungary are not all jerks.
The government is never talking on everyone’s behalf.
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