As every bad leader in history, Orbán needs a scapegoat. He is infamous for only thriving in war mode and the 2018 elections are going to be just that: a war. And the scapegoat that polled the best to keep the flock together? George Soros.
Soros-bashing is a result of some pivoting. Orbán and his propaganda machine have been experimenting with scapegoats for a while. They attacked NGOs for being ‘foreign’, dual food quality, “Brussels” (but not the “EU”) and there was a two-weeks run against women when every major (and minor) Fidesz and “Christian democrat” politician said something obnoxious into a live microphone.
But it started earlier. In around 2010-11 we used to be engaged in a “freedom fight” against the IMF, then we were at war against the national debt. Then we “defended” pensions – by nationalizing the private pension funds. During the 2014 election campaign, Orbán waged a war against utility costs. But those targets didn’t mobilize as well as migrants did in 2015. So they followed the migrant thread and today we dread Soros for trying to settle them down here.
In recent months, Orbán revved up his war on Soros – most obviously by trying to shut down the Soros-founded Central European University with spurious bureaucratic justifications. That has been put on hold for now but the campaign against Soros is in full swing.
There have been two sets of billboard campaigns (the first set was removed for Netanyahu’s visit – he may also hate Soros but the billboards still smack of anti-Semitism), supported by full-page adverts in the Fidesz media and now a letter sent to every Hungarian household on behalf of “the government of Hungary” to warn Hungarians about the threat of the alleged and much-quoted “Soros plan”.
“…the Hungarian government has clearly come to see Soros as a political threat. And Soros, for his part, has also advertised his intentions – having published books that set out his “open society” vision, which is a clear challenge to Fidesz’ nationalist, conservative principles.”
Just one correction to DW: Orbán is not a conservative. Orbán is a populist. Anyway, someone at the ministry read the completed works of Soros to find the “outrageous” quotes they can quote as evidence that Soros wants to hurt “our homeland”. All things considered I was impressed how lame their evidence was.
The “national consultation” starts with a plea from the prime minister Viktor Orbán that calls to arms in a dangerous historic moment that is unleashed by Soros and “Brussels leaders”.
It claims to “raise our voices” because “George Soros has a dangerous plan and an extended international organisation is working on its execution“. It starts with stating that Soros wants to settle one million migrants in Europe and
“according to the plan they would give 9 million forints to every immigrant from taxpayers’ money.”
That’s around 30 thousand euros. Apart from the irony that Orbán suddenly claims to be touchy about spending taxpayers’ money, it is worth noting that given low Hungarian wages and increasing poverty (government ordered to stop publishing poverty statistics when it hit 40% even by the lowest standards) 30000 euros sound like an awful lot of money. The average take-home salary is just over 6000 euros per year.
“What makes this plan extraordinarily dangerous is that numerous Brussels leaders are supporting it. If it came true, Hungary’s culture and population would irreversibly change.“
It is probably worth mentioning that even the admittedly dumb EU refugee quotas would only settle less than 1300 perfectly legal, security vetted refugees to Hungary (who do not want to come here). But demographic scaremongering is the perfect populist material everywhere in Europe: it has to do with sex, it is gut-level and it makes anxious voters grant any amount of power to strongmen.
“…countries countering the Soros plan are under all-out fire. Brussels wants to punish these countries. Brussels wants to punish Hungary because we protect ourselves and thereby entire Europe with a fence.“
NB: Hungarian schoolchildren spend a lot of time learning about Hungary’s role as “Europe’s shield” against the Ottoman Empire (aka. Turks). It is hard not to read this between the lines.
But Brussels wants us to bring down the fence and “admit as many illegal immigrants as they prescribe us.” Apparently, ‘illegal’ is just a word that we keep throwing around without any reference to laws or facts.
“The Soros plan endangers our communities and traditions. It endangers Hungary and the Europe we know and love.“
The letter is addressed to “My Fellow Patriots!” and is signed by Viktor Orbán.
The survey itself is not really a survey. This is where you learn your opinion from, please don’t insult your intellect by treating it as “asking people’s opinion”. We only infer what the Soros plan might be from these questions. You know, there is a mortal danger but our government can’t decide whether to solve it. So they ask us. They need our permission to tackle the “danger”. Or, as a Fidesz-friendly think tanker recently put it:
“The consultation sets the agenda, keeps the 〈Fidesz〉 voters together in one camp and it also works well as an argument in international politics… You can always just tell in half a sentence how many millions of people have expressed their wish.”
From the 1500-word mock questionnaire we learn what we should think about the Soros plan, not just that it exists. We learn that “Soros has been working for many years to change Europe and European societies. He wants to achieve his goal by the resettlement of masses of people of different civilizational backgrounds.”
Fun fact: the official English translation of this statement reads “cultural background”. I guess “cultural background” sounds somewhat less genocidal. But why a Jew would want to flood the continent with “of masses of people of different civilizational backgrounds” (aka. Muslims) remains a mystery never discussed in the letter.
We have also learned that Soros hates our border fence. So his support for a unified EU border agency must be fake. Anyway, the letter doesn’t care to mention.
On the issue of EU-wide refugee quotas the letter claims that “Part of the Soros plan is that Brussels would redistribute immigrants who accumulated in Western European countries into Eastern European countries in particular on a mandatory basis.”
So they want to dump them on us. Too bad it was not true. They quote Soros saying something out of context, but I could honestly not relate it to the above claim. Whereas even Soros didn’t support the inane refugee quotas and forcing of migrants to move to places they don’t want to. In the much-demonized Project Syndicate article he actually wrote:
“It is equally important to allow both states and asylum-seekers to express their preferences, using the least possible coercion. Placing refugees where they want to go – and where they are wanted – is a sine qua non of success.”
And a year later in Foreign Policy, he wrote it again:
“The union cannot coerce either member states or refugees to participate in these programs. They must be voluntary; a matching scheme could elicit preferences from both refugees and receiving communities so that people end up where they want to be and where they are welcome.”
But the “consultation” letter doesn’t bother with alternative facts. Instead it raises the stakes and envisions unlimited (no less) refugee quotas in the future:
“in 2016, the European Commission made a proposal to make it possible to redistribute an unlimited number of immigrants (IP/16/1620.). … If resettlement quotas become effective, Hungarians will not have a say in whom they live together with in the future.
Do you support this point of the Soros plan? YES /NO”
And then a little petty envy-stoking and claim that Soros (and Brussles) wants our taxes even higher.
“Based on the Soros plan, Brussels should require every member state, including Hungary, to pay 9 million HUF in mandatory state aid for every immigrant…. According to the billionaire, this sum should be paid from loans. Soros proposes that taxes should be raised to pay the loans back. The billionaire would raise the value-added tax and taxes on gasoline and tourism. Last year, in Brussels, Soros also recommended that the EU, in order to overcome the migration crisis, should decrease agriculture and cohesion funds for Central European countries.”
So Soros wants my blood and my taxes. He must also be behind the 27% VAT and the 50% personal income tax wedge as well. Oh wait…
And did you know that immigrants have such an easy time in Europe? While we crack under mind-boggling laws and regulations they can just get away with murder? No? That’s because that’s not true but the writer of this letter found a way to spin it:
“George Soros wants to achieve that migrants received lighter sentences for the crimes they commit. George Soros, funds numerous organizations …that … defend immigrants who have committed unlawful acts. Such is the Hungarian Helsinki Committee which argued with regard to the prohibited crossing of the border closure that “the application of heavy legal consequences with regard to unlawful entry is concerning.”
The English version of the letter claims the Soros-funded NGOs protest “strict legal consequences” of unlawful acts by migrants – whereas the Hungarian original refers to overly “heavy consequences”. The Helsinki Committee was protesting that Ahmed H – who was mentioned in the letter as throwing stones – was charged with ‘terrorism’ because he organised the breakthrough of refugees through the border. Illegal indeed, but charging him with ‘terrorism’ is not exactly of the same gravity as “throwing stones”.
Then comes some language-related scaremongering. Voters who don’t speak foreign languages are especially good targets for xenophobic populism. They have either tried to learn a language and failed, or never even tried. Some might have seen their emigration ambitions thwarted by lack of language skills, and thus frustrated. All three groups are anxious that the only language they speak will somehow, despite this, become extinct. So why not claiming that Soros wants them to go extinct faster – only to help the immigrants.
Add some incensing little remark about idiotic Westerners removing their “Christian symbols” so as “not to hurt the sensibilities of immigrants” and everyone reaches for their long-lost rosaries in rage while mumbling something about common sense and Christian roots. And removing your crosses is the “open society” as we learned it.
And if you think irony is dead, just read the Hungarian government – great seller of “high-skilled, low-paid workers” when they pitch Hungary abroad – trying to incense same low-paid workers by comparing their salaries to the EU penalty (pardon, “attacks”) on countries that stand in the way of the Soros plan.
“The biggest obstacles in the execution of the Soros plan are governments that make a stand for national independence and take action against illegal immigration. … Soros and Brussels decision makers attack our homeland because of that. According to a proposal of the European Commission, member states that do not participate in the resettlement program would have to pay a 78 million HUF penalty for each migrant (2016/0133. (COD)). A Hungarian worker would have to work for decades to earn that much.”
Do you support this point of the Soros plan? YES / NO
Fun fact: they replaced “national independence” (in the Hungarian version) with “national sovereignty” in the official English translation.
(Underlined emphasis mine. Bold is theirs. Read the full text of the letter here.)
This is not about migrants or even Soros
This is about grabbing power and building an autocracy on the back of the lowest instincts and deepest fears of the population – who are otherwise all but cut off from any other source of information or news. Especially international news.
The questions incense on every level. From the inestimably petty (removing your crosses because of “immigrants sensibilities”) to money envy (how much indeed has a Hungarian worker work for how little?) and to the downright apocalyptic (the vision of ethnic death is a staple of Hungarian education and political discrourse, now stretched to cover all Europe).
You can see how Angela Merkel’s welcoming policy and the EU’s schizophrenic and slow response to the refugee crisis was a godsend for the likes of Orbán who can now enjoy unconditional political support from nationalists everywhere for his “tough immigration policy” which is in reality a mere stoking of xenophobia and distraction from domestic problems. And in Orbán’s case, it also distractsfrom the building of an illiberal and authoritarian nation.
Orbán is not alone attacking Soros and the list of Soros’ haters speaks for itself. Presidents Xi Jinping of China and Vladimir Putin of Russia to Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey, Abdel Fatah al-Sissi of Egypt, Hun Sen of Cambodia, Nicolás Maduro of Venezuela, Viktor Orban of Hungary and Ilham Aliyev of Azerbaijan, kingpins of using their countries for their own benefit. And every bad leader needs a bogeyman. I don’t need to be paid to take Soros’ side against these strongmen. But yes, I will be accused of exactly that. And worse… But with enemies like this Soros must have done something right.
“IF A person is to be judged by his enemies, George Soros can feel proud. Autocrats across Eastern Europe, including his native Hungary, as well as those from China to Egypt and many in between, have expressed fear and loathing — and taken action against — the civil society organizations that Mr. Soros has generously supported for three decades. Dictators do not like Mr. Soros at all…”
– Washington Post, 2017 October