It’s like under Stalin. A pro-Orbán smear site asked students to report professors for “unsolicited left-wing politics” at universities. And they did so.*
(*According to the site.)
Every pro-Orbán site wants to be the new Pravda these days. One keeps blacklisting opposition thinkers, liberals, “Soros-mercenaries”, and non-aligning judges – another asks students to report professors for their political views.
888.hu is a pro-Orbán smear site, founded by a former political philosophy professor, GFG for short, who decided to put Leo Strauss’ ramblings about a manipulative political elite into practice. His interpretation of Leo Strauss (and many others) was that political philosophy is full of prostitutes who are offering their services to any power that would buy them and catapult them into relevance. A political elite group has not only to rule but to create a myth that disables the resistance of the dumb public.
His scholarly background still manifests itself at amusing moments, when he explains in the media that catchphrases like “bourgeois Hungary” have been just that: political products manufactured by Orbán to throw dust in the eyes of followers. Which is true, make no mistake, but as a manufacturer and peddler of such products, aren’t you supposed to shut up and pretend that they are real – and not explaining the audience what’s up the magician’s sleeve?
When Orbán came back in power in 2010, many at GFG’s faculty (Orbán’s alma mater) quickly fell in line and offered their services to the new leader – as super-servile think tanks, court pollsters, and in GFG’s case, the editor-in-chief of a propaganda site. He quickly distinguished himself writing phallic, admiring sonnets to Orbán, adoring his masculinity on his blog. Then he started 888.hu and he tried to bring his own skills to the Fidesz media market: 888 tried to emulate what is commonly known as “humor” and so called “youthful tone” – with eerie results. The style is arrogant and aggressive, and when it tries to mimic the mocking tone of its liberal role models, the overflowing anger turns the mocking sour and heavy, bordering on menacing.
He resigned from teaching when his faculty started an ethical procedure against him for publishing sexist and indefensible smear on an opposition politician’s wife and daughter. The anonymous article drooled over the former modeling career of said politician’s wife and called her a “masturbation tool” and mused about whether their 14-year-old daughter would also become a model. Another article, written after the Cologne sexual assaults said that the same behavior is justified against migrant women. (After scolding from above) even GFG said that the article went too far, but seemed proud of himself. He voiced a basic wisdom of life under Orbán: no one ever got punished for going too far attacking the opposition or second-guessing Orbán’s will. You can not get punished for that. But you can get fired for not doing enough.
In an article titled “About conservative journalism” GFG nicely summarized the essence of authoritarian journalism: “It values greatness, it despises the lowly. It calls the bitch what it is…” I.e. kicking into the weak and sucking up to the powerful, staple authoritarian thinking ticks.
More recently 888 has been “revealing” the liberal leanings of academia and pouring acid at them. As part of a series of attacks on universities in general (CEU, Corvinus, ELTE, etc.) and professors in particular – in the good, communist/nazi tradition of personal intimidation through anonymously written articles – 888 had followed Orbán’s unspoken lead to attack the intelligentsia – another trusty tool of autocratic scapegoating.
And last week 888 yielded to another old communist/nazi instinct: it called for professors to be reported for their political views. Specifically, “for unsolicited left-liberal propaganda”. And before any misguided conservative starts gloating “good for them”, let’s just state here that I would totally be on that list, despite busting stateism and overregulation, and generally labelled as a state-skeptical, socially liberal “libertarian”, or even an “anarchist” by anyone who reads me. And of you think you are safe as a conservative, you are 1) still a fucking coward for not speaking up, and 2) naive to believe that you get to decide what you are. It’s the aggressor who decides what you are.
It also doesn’t matter what the consequences for the reported professors are – or if there are any. The intimidation had already happened. And an entire generation of impressionable students got to learn the age-old oppressive tactic of reporting on people.
It is not new for older generations. People living among us have lived most of their lives under a regime that made its citizens report on each other. It doesn’t matter what the content of those reports were, the mere act of signing a paper that you’re an informer and filing papers about the lives of the people you knew made you a rat. And knowing that anyone can be ratting on you made you a hunted animal, always on edge. Reporting systems have been used to erode social capital in the population these dictators oppressed. With social capital, they have lost their ability to resist or revolt, they censored not just their words, but eventually their own thoughts. And when those regimes ended, and the files about these reporting activities started to leak, everyone froze in horror, knowing the damage it is about to do with their social relations and personal contacts.
Society was quick to relapse into their old, unfree ways, exactly because their minds and backbones had been bent before. By tools like reporting on each other, officially or unofficially.