“We believe in what we are writing. For example, I believe in the Soros-plan. I wouldn’t have worked at this newspaper otherwise.”
–Young worker in Orbán’s media
444.hu published a set of anonymous interviews with young employees of the so-called right wing media. Having followed the pro-Orbán media for almost twenty years, it contained few surprises for me. The quote above stuck with me only because it summed up the attitude of the Fidesz-media towards journalism and reality:
It’s enough to believe, there is no need for hard evidence.
Orbán today looks more like a cult leader than an immensely popular and powerful politician. Cults are typically religious but that doesn’t mean that nominally secular entities cannot have cult-like characteristics.
Rick Ross, a cult specialist has listed ten warning signs of a cult, several of which are applicable to Fidesz in my view.
Warning signs that you may be dealing with a cult:
1. Absolute authoritarianism without meaningful accountability.
Orbán has been the undisputed leader of Fidesz for 25 years. Under his rule pluralism, criticism have been eradicated from the party. There is no known independent or rival power base in the party, no one can become a candidate with out his approval.
2. No tolerance for questions or critical inquiry.
No one dares to question Orbán’s leadership or decisions within his party. Sadly, this attitude has been widely adopted outside of Fidesz since Orbán returned to power in 2010.
The leader of the pro-Orbán media holding lost his job and was attacked when he dared to question the quality of right wing journalism in Hungary, where the independent media and NGOs are labeled as foreign agents and traitors, and where suspected cases of corruption linked to Fidesz politicians or Orbán’s family cannot be mentioned.
3. No meaningful financial disclosure regarding budget or expenses, such as an independently audited financial statement.
Despite laws regarding campaign finance, it’s an open secret that adequate funding for any party can only be secured through hidden channels, giving unknown and unaccountable forces political influence. Nobody takes politicians deceleration of assets seriously.
4. Unreasonable fear about the outside world, such as impending catastrophe, evil conspiracies and persecutions.
According to the Fidesz media, Hungarian independence is under constant threat from Brussels, an immigrant invasion is under way, all orchestrated by the evil genius Soros. The news from the West is apocalyptic, focusing mainly on the migration crisis, the threat of terror and social unrest. In a recent statement the Speaker of Parliament , László Kövér, claimed that the enemy is working through infiltration as a network.
“Journalists” in the Fidesz media tell us constantly how they are still a suppressed minority. One of them, who was clearly born after 1989, proudly explained how they had to hide copies of the daily paper Magyar Nemzet in school from their communist teachers. Another remembered how he defiantly bought the same paper at his presumably left wing news agent every day, and during his commute on the metro – as if it was a subversive act – and sometimes exchanged secret nods with fellow Magyar Nemzet readers. (EDITOR’S NOTE – 1989 was the year Russian (aka. communist) oppression ended in Hungary, left wing oppression thus doesn’t make any sense for anyone born or schooled after 1989.)
After almost ten years in power, Fidesz-backed intellectuals claim that there is still a left-liberal cultural hegemony, and that is the reason why so-called national and conservative writers and artists are not successful enough.
5. There is no legitimate reason to leave, former followers are always wrong in leaving, negative or even evil.
This cult-ish characteristic also applies to Fidesz. Former Fidesz members and disillusioned supporters are vilified as traitors, being deluded or called corrupt. They are often subjected to character assassination and harassment from the Fidesz media.
6. The group/leader is always right.
As mentioned above, Orbán’s leadership and his decisions are never questioned within Fidesz or in its media. People who commit this mistake risk loosing their jobs, or at a minimum, their dignity.
7. The group/leader is the exclusive means of knowing “truth” or receiving validation, no other process of discovery is really acceptable or credible.
Although Fidesz is not the only right wing party in Hungary, and there are plenty of conservative intellectuals who don’t support Orbán, in Fidesz media-speak, the words “right wing”, “national”, and “conservative” are synonymous only with Fidesz and Orbán.
In my view, Fidesz is not cult. But it should worry everyone that the governing party of an EU-country show increasing signs of behaving like one.