If you came this far lowering your standards and shedding integrity to work for the propaganda machine – why would you quit now?
I’m sure you have all read the news. Mamoudou Gassama, a 22-year-old refugee from Mali scaled four stories to rescue a four-year-old child dangling from a Paris balcony. The affair was recorded on camera, watched millions of times, Gassama had already met the French president and was promised to be rewarded for his courage. Hard to miss news, heartwarming, perfect media fodder.
But Origo.hu, part of Fidesz-media in Hungary found itself in a pinch nonetheless. They have been writing 23 outrage stories about “migrants” on average per day during the election campaign and the two years before that. Any stock photo or old YouTube video with dark-skinned men is immediately uploaded to their front page and a quick story fabricated on how these nasty, brown men urinate on the Paris subway (inspired by a photo of a man on the New York subway in 2015), eat children, and gang rape all Scandinavia every day before breakfast. Last week they managed to report about a piece on a German satirical website that joked that the German city of Essen (literally means ‘to eat’ will be renamed Fasten (‘to fast’) during Ramadan, because Muslims are taking over. The fact that it was satirical eluded them.
In this mental state it’s not hard to see why they were clueless when they saw a refugee (who arrived only six month ago) doing something human AND heroic. These are a big no-go in Fidesz media these days, they are under strict instruction never to use the word ‘refugee’, or show female or child refugees, lest they inspire empathy. One news anchor on public television once caught herself mid-word when she almost said the ‘R’ word. (“Ref… I mean migrant…”) She didn’t want to lose her job. She has to make a living, you know.
So they did what every spineless propagandist would do. They referred to the refugee as a man – not even as a migrant. Then they deleted the whole news item. (It went back up since.) Someone in that office was terribly undecided and probably frightened to lose his or her job. These are the things that get you fired these days – and unemployable anywhere else.
Why are they still working for these media outlets, you ask? At which point were they supposed to leave their jobs? They didn’t leave when their media outlet was taken over by a crony of Orbán – maybe they even got their seats then. They didn’t leave when they started receiving memos about words and phrases to use and not use – and news items never to be mentioned. They didn’t leave when entire articles were dictated to them. They were “just doing their jobs and had to make a living” when they were pushing vile government-propaganda in the run-up to the elections – then they were mortified that it worked. But after the election and Fidesz’ devastating victory, they had even less reason to leave. At that point why would they? There is no opportunity left in this country for someone who is openly not supporting Orbán and doesn’t swallow the uninhibited hate speech on government level.
And if you believe that you would be more courageous and left your job under these circumstances – imagine how you would feel with less than a month’s savings on your bank account. With a family. Which is still called ‘middle class‘ in Hungary (for statistical reasons).
As of the rest of the Fidesz-controlled media, they weren’t so shy. As Hungarian Spectrum spotted, “in an article titled “Skill of the fence-climbing migrant came in handy,” Gassama’s dexterity was described as something that “put a monkey to shame.” We also learned from the article written by a hack called Gellért Oláh that the spider man “was declared to be a hero by people on the left.” And what is the moral of the story? “One must look out for children and build higher fences.”
Now Gassama climbing a wall and saving a child doesn’t say anything about refugees (as such) this way or another – just like the fact that other people were not trying to climb up doesn’t say anything about the French (as such). But this is completely acceptable public discourse in Hungary today and it is a top-down phenomenon. The supply of racism and populism is strong, it will inevitably sway some susceptible minds – not to mention those who always wanted to hear it.
Disclaimer: These episodes are not outliers in the Fidesz-controlled media. I often get the criticism that I overreact and cherry-pick. But I only report about a few of these things – cannot keep up with 23 fake news and outrageous racist op-ed, per news site, per day. People abroad think that surely, if it were so bad, it would “get out”. Well, here it is, “getting out”. I am telling you – and you don’t believe it. So how exactly does it matter whether it gets out or not? Or you may think it would spark outrage – and outrage would have some consequence. But how exactly does your momentary outrage hurt an autocrat? Do you still expect them to be ashamed or retreat when you ‘catch’ them doing something naughty? It makes you such an easy target for an emerging autocrat…
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