In this interview with Die Welt Orbán calls antisemitism a German problem (in a German paper) and claims that he is totally pro-Jew because he is against Muslims. He promises to replace retiring Jean-Claude Juncker with Franz Timmermans on his government’s hate posters soon, like that’s OK. He calls George Soros “the ugly face of globalism” who just happens to be Jewish and Hungarian-born. He calls christian democracy inherently illiberal and those who criticize him as “useful idiots”. He tries to lick Manfred Weber hard – despite Weber voting to start the rule of law procedure against Orbán – but threatens that Weber will need him after the elections.
And nothing happens…
Read some perfectly reasonable questions of the interviewer being twisted into something logical-sounding, but still outrageous by the new Carpathian genius.
“WELT AM SONNTAG: On our way to this interview we passed many billboards that show EU commission president Jean-Claude Juncker and claim he wants to encourage migration. Juncker belongs to the EPP, your party belongs to the EPP and is just starting the European electoral campaign. You put up billboards against the EPP, but at the same time ask people to vote for it. Is that not contradictory?
Orbán: I don’t see a contradiction. The problem of the EPP is that it has become too big. The EVP members from the Nordic countries are much closer to Macron than to the Germans. We Hungarians feel we are something like the CSU of the EPP. Unfortunately, here too, the subject of migration has sharpened the differences.”
NOTE: This is not an answer.
“WELT AM SONNTAG: Does that justify presenting the President of the EU commission as an enemy of the Hungarian people?
Orbán: The reputation of Mr. Juncker is completely different in the West than in the East. In Western Europe the EPP campaigns with the selling point that her new Spitzenkandidat Manfred Weber will continue the work of Mr. Juncker. That would be political suicide in Central Europe, because here Mr Juncker doesn’t enjoy much respect anymore. If the EPP wants to win in Central Europe, it must say: Mr. Juncker is the past. Mr. Weber is the future.”
Note that Orbán does not answer the question. Juncker’s political image is only as bad in Hungary as the billboards make it. The least informed part of society onle ever see Juncker there. They don’t even hear about opposition parties – unless Orbán’s media smears them.
Demonizing Juncker on billboards and in Orbán’s media only serves the purpose of demonstrating how evil the EU is, and if people don’t know Juncker’s face, even better: That just goes to show how obscure the evil-evil Brussels is. (Always “Brussels”, never “EU” because Hungarians are fiercely pro-EU, even if only Orbán and his cronies every see any of development money. EU is more than just corrupt development money for the elites. It is freedom for the individual, freedom to move, do business and maybe even have his human rights respected – unlike in Hungary.)
Then Orbán goes on to call himself a street fighter and Juncker a socialist migrant-pleaser, and a culprit for Brexit.
Orbán is using the “Left” and “socialist” to sidetrack from his own authoritarian tendencies. Russia today prefers you to believe that all that was wrong with its former empire was that it was called “communist”. And Orbán jumps on that thread, supporting Russian goals while avoiding the obvious accusations of bringing back the Russians by being fiercely anti-communist and anti-Left. The bad news is, both sides are equally wrong and your perfectly reasonable hatred for what Russia was standing for before 1989 can be used against you if you don’t look behind the simplistic labels. Socialism may be bad but so is Orbán and any other kind of collectivism authoritarianism.
Antisemitism is a German problem, says Orbán to a German paper
This is where it gets surreal. Orbán claims that antisemitism is only such a touchy issue with Germans. Why he needs to say this is a mystery though because he is also not antisemitic either, he totally likes Netanjahu.
“WELT AM SONNTAG: The poster that shows Juncker next to US investor George Soros reminds me of pictures that I know from history books. The presentation and context carry antisemitic features.
Orbán: You say that because you are German. Every nation carries its history around with it like a rucksack, but what’s in the rucksack differs from nation to nation. These pictures don’t remind anyone of antisemitism in Hungary. And we don’t view our Jewish compatriots primarily as Jews but as Hungarians. A campaign focused in on specific persons is not unusual in the Anglosaxon world, and here neither. It seems to me this is a German problem.”
Please show me hate campaigns against individuals. Especially ones that are not even running in a certain elections. How did George Soros, Judith Sargentini, or Jean-Claude Juncker end up on political campaign billboards in Hungary when they weren’t even running for office? Why do we have hate campaigns against things like brown people and Brussels even in non-election years? Maybe because the little street fighter needs a safe enemy to grandstand against?
“WELT AM SONNTAG: But the campaign against Soros has long become international. We in Germany also experience it. Our newspaper DIE WELT and individual reporters get personally accused of being directed by Soros. In Germany these accusations come from the radical right, who partly justify those allegations with your campaign.
Orbán: The international aspect doesn’t interest me all that much. Hungarian Jews enjoy the protection of the government. Also we conduct a consistently pro-Israeli foreign policy. Because we are convinced that the existence of a Jewish state is not only important for European Jews, but that the security of Israel is a key question for the stability of Europe.”
So German nazis are emboldened by Orbán, but he has nothing to do with that. He just hired the same (Jewish, gay) spin doctor who was the architect of many homophobic and antisemitic hate campaigns on the planet. Also, he stands the same things as nazi parties everywhere in Europe.
Then Orbán goes on to blame antisemitism on Muslim influx. Which is partly true. Europe doesn’t accept countries with anti-democratic politics and xenophobic cultures – yet Europe accepts immigrants with such medieval and xenophobic (also, sexist, chauvinistic, primitive, antisemitic) values. And that’s a problem. But Jeremy Corbyn and his ilk and those who take sides in the Israel-Palestine debate based on their domestic mud fights… If there are real useful idiots in Europe, those people certainly are and Orbán is riding them gleefully.
“…in Hungary Soros incarnates the ugly face of globalism”
And then Orbán says it. That sentence even went through the pre-censorship that no doubt happened before the interview got published.
“WELT AM SONNTAG: Your campaign against Soros doesn’t fit here.
Orbán: It’s not my doing that the Hungarian citizen Soros is of Jewish origin! That lies with God. But it happens to be that in Hungary Soros incarnates the ugly face of globalism. On the one side stands Hungary, represented by its elected political representatives. On the other side the international NGOs financed by Soros and elected by no-one, who want us to follow a different migration policy. This is, from our side, not a campaign but normal behaviour.”
The little street fighter just drew up his corners. The way he wants you to see it.
He forgets to mention the real division here: Russia and its export of autocracy and corruption versus the west and the idea of individual rights, that feudalism is over, that rulers are not above the law and the little people can evoke the law when it protects them, that the political elite works for the people, not the other way around. Yes, there are sides and Orbán is on the wrong one.
Orbán is not even against migration, he couldn’t care less. Hungary is not an immigration target in the first place because it is poor and it’s getting poorer. Also, authorities are hostile and hunt down the little people. The language is obscure and the depression thick. The political culture is impenetrable – and everything is politicized so you can’t really get away without it. And at any rate, it makes you feel helpless if you internalize it.
And Orbén is not just neutral on immigration, he actively supports it when it serves his needs. Orbán is selling Hungary’s membership in the EU in the shape of golden visa and residency bond programs to tens of thousands of unchecked immigrants. The minister cashes is, property prices shot up, locals get priced out, the taxpayer foots the bill.
How is that for the ugly face of globalism?
“WELT AM SONNTAG: On your poster for the European elections we see Soros, a man who lives in the USA, and Juncker, a man who in a few months will be a political pensioner. That’s not a normal electoral campaign, it is a campaign to generate a certain mood in the Hungarian public.
Orbán: Politics is not a beauty contest and we make clear what’s at stake. There are elections where democracy is at stake. There are elections where the economy is at stake. At these elections migration policy is at stake. And both of them represent the policy that is friendly towards migration.”
Read: Orbán is against democracy, the economy and migration. After all, once you make sure your peasants don’t really get to elect who owns them, and once you own and fleece them without anyone pestering you with human rights and the rule of law, you also want to make sure they can’t escape your hellhole. That’s what the Berlin wall was about and I’m sure the East German Party secretary also gave an interview back then claiming that the stakes were democracy and freedom and the socialist people’s economy. Made as much sense as Orbán does.
Timmermanns will be next
If you haven’t earned yourself a hate campaign on Hungarian taxpayer money, you haven’t done much yet, have you? At some point during the conversation Orbán casually promises that once he got rid of Juncker, another European politician will be next.
“WELT AM SONNTAG: But Soros and Juncker aren’t even candidates…
Orbán: … yet we must inform for what they stand. In the next phase our party campaign will begin and then you will find someone else on the posters: Mr. Timmermanns. We will send Mr. Juncker into retirement and Mr. Timmermanns will replace him on our posters.”
If you wonder whether Orbán is really as non-vindictive as he claims to be in the interview, let me leave a little reminder here. Do you really believe that Mr Macho Man leaves this unreciprocated?
Orbán is great at disarming you by reframing the obvious into something you never thought of before. But that doesn’t make it true. A hate campaign remains a hate campaign. Corruption is corruption even if he rebrands it to “national bourgeois”. Russian expansion is just that – even if he never mentions it. Doing away with checks on his power has happened, even if he copied every single line of his laws from the constitution of still-democratic countries. And demonized individuals on billboards are not a sign of a mentally healthy political climate, whether it’s a mass murderer, a Jew, or a newborn baby. It is the moral poverty of EPP that they only get (mildly) upset when it’s their turn on the billboards – and because Orbán makes them look bad before elections. There isn’t much backbone there either.
Orbán or one of his employees may tell you things like the parallel court system with loyalist judges is fine because they took elements of the Austrian administrative court law word for word – but please be brave and dare to notice that it doesn’t say anything. And Viktorians abroad have such panels for everything. You either go “oh, I didn’t know that” or try to put up an argument pointing out that their answer is not an answer – and you’re immediately down the rabbit hole, just like these journalists were. After Orbán’s answer there is not much left to say. Except, you have to.