“Reality shuts its mouth during campaign”
— Viktor Orbán, February 2018
Researchers at Corruption Research Center analysed 1 027 653 articles between 2010-2017 with statistical methods and the most pro-Fidesz pages were found to use Russian-inspired tools, phrases and narratives.
But you don’t need statistical analysis to see it. The above piece of “news” about cannibal migrants is typical of the kind of alarmist fake news that emanates from Sputnik and its ilk. It also reminds me of the blood libel – an accusation that Jews kill Christian children to use their blood in their rituals. Not sure if Russia also used to spread blood libel accusations to weaken Europe back in the days, but I wouldn’t be terribly surprised.
I am perfectly sure that individuals who also happened to he Jewish had committed crimes during history – although not ritual blood murders and not because they were Jewish. In the same way Muslim individuals had committed crimes – although probably not cannibalism. But many people believed the blood libel and went hysterical, just as people believe its contemporary equivalent and become easily manipulated to give all sorts of power to strongmen – neither of which has anything to do with migration. In this case, it is the shocking enrichment of the ruling clan that they don’t even try to hide anymore.
But once you suggest that the other option is migrants sleeping in your bath tub and raping your women, a kleptocratic elite suddenly sounds like the lesser evil. Plus, I dare you to engage in an argument with your parents about whether children are being eaten – or whether your government could possibly lie to you.
Then here is this poster. It says “Government Information” on the top but it contains no information whatsoever. At least not written information. The photo is the same as the Pro-Brexit “Breaking point” adverts and it is nasty and unsubtle. (“Government Information” refers to the fact that this thing was paid for by the taxpayer – not by Fidesz, the governing party that chose racism as its 2018 campaign theme.)
Our government is following its own directive here. During the 2015 refugee crisis, leaked memos from the public broadcaster showed the kind of central directives media outlets receive on how to cover the news. On the refugees, they had two rules: 1) Must not show females or children – lest they evoke some humanist sympathy. Male-only, preferably angry. 2) Must not call them “refugees”. They must only be referred to as “migrants”. Once a reporter had to catch herself halfway through the word. She nearly said “refugee”. Stopping herself mid-word was embarrassing, but preferable to facing disciplinary action from above.
Reality is not allowed to interfere in the Hungarian elections. Fake news, however, are welcome to do so. This leaflet was distributed in downtown Budapest yesterday. It is calling for apartment for rent or sale in the neighborhood for these kind terrorist people.
The public broadcaster and the rest of Fidesz-controlled media is going below and beyond in the meantime. These outlets as well as the people who still work there have no journalistic reputation to maintain – but they have everything to lose if Fidesz accidentally loses on April 8. (Unlikely, but in a war psychosis, nothing is too much.)
Facebook is also busy distributing paid propaganda. This is a collage of the list of videos that come up on the search query “migrant” in Hungarian. All misleading or fake vidoe about “migrant violence”.
But Fidesz politicians and members of the government are not above gut level racism either. One posted this word play on his Facebook. It refers to the famous 1848 revolutionary poem that every child must learn by heart: “Rabok legyünk vagy szabadok? Ez a kérdés, válasszatok!” Which translates to:
“Should we be prisoners or free? This is the question, you choose!”
The politician used a clever little pun to ask whether we should be “Arabs or free”.
I personally prefer the rendition of a schoolgirl, who forgot her lines and replaced it with the much more meaningful – “Magyarok legyünk vagy szabadok?” Which means:
“Should we be Hungarians or free?”
The examples in this post are not outliers. This is the new normal in government communication. I simply don’t have the time or the stomach to translate all of it.