There is something wrong about an 87-year-old man having to speak up against state-sponsored ethnic hatemongering eight decades after escaping Hungary for the exact same reason. But George Soros just did that.
Is it a boost to Orbán?
George Soros’ foundation and the NGOs he supports in Hungary are under intense national security scrutiny – after they and similar NGOs spent years under tax office scrutiny and harassment. Claiming concern for their safety he chose to publicly respond to the Orbán-government’s claims – that were sent to every Hungarian household in manipulative and scaremongering letters. In short, all the “questions” about his alleged “plan” to attack Hungary are false.
He wrote a letter to a Hungarian weekly, 168 óra, and gave an interview to the Financial Times.
Is it a boost to Orbán?
Orbán cannot go to war without an enemy and the migrants – although a very well-performing enemy – were getting a little tired. Migrant-based scaremongering has been constant in the Fidesz-media since the summer of 2015 – and the third billboard and direct mail campaign has been a bit too much.
Orbán needed a fresh enemy for the 2018 election campaign, so his propaganda team innovated and found Soros: a face for the migrant evil, personified scapegoat, Jewish, rich, and can be linked to the previously well built-up migrant-hatred.
Did Soros deliver a boost to Orbán with speaking up? After all, the enemy he predicted had finally shown himself. But then again, Fidesz would have won anyway.
Maybe, if his rebuttal came in Hungarian and if it were more accessible, it could have been a word of sanity. But in this out-of-touch way, Soros’ intervention was merely a boost to Orbán’s campaign. Far from defending his foundation in Hungary, he just proved that the enemy is real. And he just spoke up. We don’t know what, only that he denies the charges.
The enemy is real and active. That’s how much went through.
But who was the real audience?
CORRECTION: There was also a short video message in Hungarian that was sent to RTL Klub, one of the two countrywide commercial TV channels, and the one that is not yet controlled by Fidesz. That has broader access.
But who was the target audience? And how exactly is it going to protect anyone from personal attacks from the government? Was this the way to protect the employees of his university and his foundation in Hungary?
My guess is that Soros’ target audience weren’t the usual FT readers. Neither the English-speaking urban intellectuals in Hungary who can somehow still afford (and need) an FT subscription. They didn’t believe the propaganda in the first place.
If he wanted to support his cause and lessen the state-manufactured public fear from his NGOs, Soros should get the attention of the rural voters, millions of whom are cut off from non-state media, and don’t read English. They are not brainless fruit flies and many would actually love to read some facts – but don’t get access to them.
In fact, the infamous Project Syndicate and FT articles that were quoted in the government’s letter, aren’t even translated into Hungarian. Which is terrible for those who would love to read what Soros actually said. I googled for it – with countless other people, no doubt – but found only an outrageously incorrect “translation” by a loony Hungarian conspiracy theorist.
I looked up Soros’ articles in Hungarian and only found a translation of another recent Project Syndicate article (not the one that was quoted in the letters) and yet another paywalled article in ÉS, Hungary’s answer to The London Review of Books – only smaller and less read. Publishing anything in ÉS won’t ever get out of the echo chamber of the wealthier part of the urban intelligentsia – with or without a paywall.
Again, I don’t hate the urban intelligentsia – I just don’t dismiss the rest of the population either. And they are the ones incensed by the government’s campaign. Or intimidated by those who are incensed.
No one had the simple idea to have the articles translated into Hungarian and make them available, even just online, to the Hungarians whose brains are ravaged by the carpet bombing of government propaganda – and nothing else reaches them. People who doubt the propaganda didn’t even have a theoretical chance to read the original articles, to see the sentences in their context, and to defend themselves in an argument with their bloodthirsty fellow citizens who believed the propaganda.
A Hungarian translation of the incriminated articles doesn’t protect them from the frightened lynch mobs. But it could give them evidence that they are not the crazy ones here. It would give them the resources to defend sanity. An article they can read and share – or compare it to the claims of the government.
And the really sad part of the story? That we are discussing this nonsense at all.
Hungary’s problem is not George Soros, nor the migrants, nor the scapegoat we had before them
It is corruption and that the government has lost respect for the people.
George Soros is right about the Hungarian government crossing the line. His foundations do an admirable job in defending the rights of humans who are forgetting to demand rights for themselves.
Ethnic hatred and genocides are not safely in humanity’s distant past. The last European ethnic cleansing took place two decades ago, just a few hundred miles from here, and the perpetrator was just convicted earlier this week. If we accept that it was just a single, evil man, that is.
But in reality, ethnic violence is rooted in widespread ethnic hatred and preceded by hatemongering and hysteria orchestrated by politicians who don’t mind getting people killed and for whom nationalistic, ethnic, racist or religious hatred are just tools of politics.