Two overconfident Hungarians decided to explore the parallel media universe of Fidesz – and naively believed they could do it without brain damage. They were wrong.
The rules of the experiment were simple: One of us (Lab Rat 1) would read exclusively Fidesz media for the whole week. The other (henceforth called Lab Rat 2) would act as the control rat and read only independent media. At the end of the week, we would compare how much we had learned about life, the Universe, and everything.
Turns out, our confidence was misguided. There isn’t anything that can prepare you for a week on Fidesz media diet.
In the words of Lab Rat 1:
“I think I realized some similarities between the drug lord Pablo Escobar and the now fired leader of the Fidesz media holding: both knew their products were not good for the user. Only Escobar wasn’t stupid enough to go on the record telling everybody that alcohol is better than coke…”
If you consume only Fidesz media, you will be scared.
You will be scared
- Of the world. Muslims, migrants, Jews, homosexuals, Brussels, Juncker, Sargenthini, communists, Soros, liberals, potent men who penetrate Europe.
- Of people who seriously believe what they hear in Fidesz media.
After all, hysterical admirers of Orbán do exist and walk among us, and if they really believe all these things (like that the EU is plotting to nuke Hungary), and are ignorant of pretty much everything that goes on in the world and even in Hungary, they are actually dangerous.
Dangerous indirectly, by voting for a strongman to do something against the painful sense of feeling threatened and feeling helpless about the threats. Or directly, when they decide to take things in their hands, or if they put their beliefs into action (such as believing that everyone who opposes Orbán is a traitor and that ‘liberals‘ genuinely wish the death of the nation. You can’t claim such things and expect that no one will act upon it.
If you only follow independent media, you will feel helpless.
You may think that whoever follows a more balanced media diet will feel the opposite – but that’s just superficial logic. Reality is more complex than that. Because even the independent media inadvertently fosters the sense of helplessness in its readers – by reporting about one outrageous scandal after the other, while nothing ever happens as a consequence. The prosecutor is sitting on his hands and only ever brings the journalists or the opposition politicians to court if they dare to file a lawsuit for the massive corruption cases. Fidesz loyalists can steal, brag about it, and enjoy complete immunity.
It’s been 9 years under this regime so you learn to keep your outrage at bay. It hurts to get angry – and then disappointed when there will be no justice. And the only way to avoid the disappointment is to not get outraged – because you are powerless to make consequences happen. First, you start to ignore the smaller scandals because they are small, and the biggest ones because they are big. No one can seriously believe that Orbán will ever be called to justice for his jet setting lifestyle or that his oligarchs will ever stop stealing EU and Hungarian taxpayer money.
After a while you actually get surprise when anything happens to them. Like when the Orbánist smear site published a distasteful piece drooling over the sexual prospects of an opposition politician’s under-age daughter – and the editor-in-chief got scolded by Fidesz. It was surprising that even so little consequence befell him – and of course he was all over the media the next day bragging that loyalists will always be rescued for their loyalty.
We were also surprised when the central bank obeyed a mere court ruling to publish the spending of one billion dollars (until 2016) that they simply transferred from the Bank to foundations. They even crafted a law that announced that such money “loses its public nature” as it gets transferred. But publish they did and it was outrageous. The book of the lunatic central bank president published and bought up, loft apartments for relatives, and of course plenty of government bonds. Of course, nothing happens, they never gave the money back, and for all we know had continued the scheme. But we were surprised that an institution obeyed a court ruling – at a time when they routinely ignore freedom of information requests, even when the judge obliges them to give access to public data.
We weren’t so surprised when the primitive software overpricing scam run by the royal son-in-law caused heads rolling at Microsoft – but didn’t even warrant an investigation by Orbán’s prosecutor. We only sighed when we saw that Orbán gave up contesting the obvious fraud charges brought by OLAF against the same son-n-law and paid 12 million euros back to the EU out of taxpayers’ pockets. The royal son-in-law was never even questioned, investigation didn’t happen, the towns the scam put into darkness by installing overpriced, indoor LED lights in the streets are indebted and silent. No one dares to raise a voice against the regime. You will lose your job, maybe even your family, and nothing changes.
Just this week, a protected site by the Balaton had been bulldozed, and the locals stayed silent because they knew it was the company of Orbán’s top oligarch, alleged front. That’s a headline we read every day, just with different locations and different oligarchs.
And what makes you feel more helpless than watching the Russian empire gobbling up Hungary – while your king wages a war against the free world.
Parliament votes Putin’s bankcomplete extrajurisdiction status and immunity into law, Putin has his own Vatican (March 5, mentioned by index.hu, hvg.hu, but not by Fidesz-media)
And of course, we know perfectly well that Orbán’s fans (and people who have no access to non-Orbán media to no fault of their own) have no idea these things even happened, let alone understanding the full depth of them.
There is virtually no global news on Fidesz media – apart from migrant scaremongering and the decadent West.
Lab Rat 1 took the biggest blow from sourcing his information exclusively through Fidesz media: “Real news that didn’t conform to Fidesz’ world view were filtered out. I expected to learn something new at least, maybe even rethink my previous views. But after one week on a diet of Fidesz media, I felt dumber, less informed and bored. Only after reading the other lab rat’s summary did I realize how malnourished I was when it came to real news, and how little the Fidesz media actually wrote about real events.”
“I have never been a fan of Orbán, nor believed his media. What surprised me was how little real news these outlets contained, and how much they resembled each other – despite being supposedly written by different journalist in competing news sites. Most of them felt like different variations of the same Fidesz or governmental press release. To be honest it was fucking boring. Not because I didn’t agree with their view, but because it was the same thing through every channel. In four words: Soros, migration, Soros, migration.”
Sweden is particularly a target of west-smearing migrant-scaremongering by Fidesz media. While Sweden has no doubt issues with integration (and suppressing the debate over that help nazis all over the world to claim the moral high ground), a new, gory horror story per day is probably a bit of an overstatement. According to Fidesz media, one mass murder, mass rape, church-burning falls on every day in Sweden – since 2015.
The media staple of communist media was the decadent West, crime-ridden, and impoverished by liberalism, and suffering from even bigger food shortages than we did behind the Iron Curtain. Today, this propaganda tool is back and it is everywhere. Even the wording is the same.
I have no doubt that the refugee situation poses huge challenges and integration is not a cakewalk, but headlines like this are on the front page of Fidesz media every day since 2015 (this is just Sweden):
- “Migrant criminals beheaded a woman in Stockholm”
- “Riots broke out in Stockholm’s migrant district”
- “Ever more no-go zones in Sweden”
- “Migrants waging war on authorities in Sweden”
- “Rape epidemic in Sweden”
- “Military intervention against migrants is contemplated in Sweden”
And it is not just that they do scaremongering. It is that there’s nothing else going on on the Fidesz-controlled media. Nothing. And France, Paris, Brussels and Berlin also get the propaganda treatment – possibly because their governments are not friendly to Orbán (France and Germany) or because we are at war against Brussels.
If you think that four years of this propaganda tsunami would not affect you – you are more vulnerable to it that you think. It took Lab Rat 1 only a week to give up on the will to live, even if he didn’t actually believe any of that. Now imagine people who read lies every day, repeatedly, for years, or for all their lives.
I remember a friend telling me about the 1980s: “We knew that official propaganda about the decadent West is all bullshit – but I was still surprised when I finally made it to New York and no one was shooting on the streets.”
Another one told the story of going into an Austrian supermarket for the first time and seeing more than one brand of beer: “I knew there were multiple types of beer in the West and I still started crying, I was so moved.”
Now imagine the people who only ever read arousing mass-rape stories and horror newsfrom the west going up in flames. Yes, they believe it. Even some people who live there and have enough food and no one rapes them believe it.
Alternative universe of Fidesz media.
Lab Rat 1 was generous with the benefit of doubt at the beginning of the experiment. But eventually, he was shocked how low-quality the whole propaganda was: “I’m just as bored listening to opinions I share, and I do enjoy listening to people I strongly disagree with, if the arguments are intelligent and well thought-through. Or at least entertaining. Fidesz media offers none of this. You may disagree with Jacob Rees-Mogg, for instance, but he cannot be called dumb or boring. In Hungary you have Szilárd Német and Lajos Kósa.”
Fidesz media was also spectacular in the sense that not even lip service has to be paid to facts anymore. Just a few things that were striking last week:
The crime rate: Fidesz media simply did not report about the cruel crimes and murders that took place that week in Hungary. Even though they were police facts. Instead, the image of the peaceful, Christian autocratic homeland is so strong, even western European nazi groups use Hungary as a poster child of of Muslim-free dream land.
In reality, Hungarian murder statistics are among the worse in Europe and the mindless and particular cruelty is not unrelated to the moral disintegration under an autocratic regime. Many murders are admittedly committed because the government took away the subsidies from relatives working in home-care and sick family members are now an unbearable burden.
Mindless aggression and ready-to-explode frustration is thick anywhere you go. Add to this the latent fear of each other – Orbámists of non-Orbánistst and vice versa – and you will feel like you’re sitting on a barrel of gunpowder and the king is throwing matches through the media every single day. In fact, our inbox is full of expat stories that try to describe exactly this. But you won’t believe that this is worse than what you hate at home until you come and try it. It doesn’t fit the stereotypes.
Orbán couldn’t care less about migration. Fidesz media would have you believe that migrant is the horned devil, but Orbán’s government accepted over 111 thousand in 2018, plus tens of thousands on the residency bond scheme, plus all the quota migrants. All of them. Yes, Orbán is still grandstanding against migrant quotas and vetoes everything with the word ‘migration’ with it. But that is just sabotage and a bargaining chip for him. He does not care about migration. At all.
The independent media has, however, walked straight into Orbán’s trap by counting the guest worker permits issued last year. Accusing Orbán of admitting migrants cannot go in the same argument as accusing him of hatemongering against them.
OECD is also recognizing the Hungarian economy’s results (Magyar Hírlap)
The average pension is 135 thousand forints (approx. 430 euros) 444.hu
The parallel view of the economy amounts to gaslighting the viewers. As we reported about the price of potatoes (that got so expensive an supermarket started selling them by the piece, while the official inflation was 2.7%) everyday reality and the success reports of the economy in the Fidesz media are worlds apart. GDP-growth might be superb – too bad it doesn’t mean anything about living in a country. And that’s before statistics are manipulated – which they always are under autocrats. Even in democracies, just more elegantly, and to a lesser degree.
Care to applaud an economy where nurses quit en masse because they work 300-hour months for less than 94 cents per hour? And that is a fully state-funded health care system, not the evil greed of a non-politican some morons like to blame. Orbán loves football and showing off that he can do anything. So there is money for football and moving him into the Buda Castle. In the meantime 27000 Hungarians died (2018) just because hospital waiting lists were too long.
The week of the experiment was also the week when the media digested the leaking details of Orbán’s grandiose breeding plan for white Christian Hungarians. Breeding all those new Hungarians while letting educated, grown-up taxpayers die is as short-sighted as it gets, but autocrats hate people, they even hate children, they just happen to be an excellent tool to enslave and silence their parents.
Try to feel proud and dignified reading even the truth about what is happening. Let alone the lies that go down in the alternative media universe of Fidesz.
One of the most amusing example of parallel universe was the way the Fidesz media treated the Estonian elections. One day conservatives were conservatives, liberals liberals (and evil). The day the Estonian liberal party won, Fidesz media suddenly started calling them ‘conservative’, just to be able to claim their victory as part of the Fidesz-populist wave in Europe. The appearance of winning is paramount for authoritarian minds, and a good propaganda media serves that.
Not so much the independent media that may keep delivering investigative reports and scandals – but barely any triumphant news for sanity.
The alternative media universe was tangible on the week’s top issue: Orbán vs. the EPP.
The independent media discussed the issue every day, as news leaked or emerged. The Fidesz media, however, spent the first six days in complete silence about it. Then they started to blame it on Soros. Then they demanded that Orbán leaves the EPP.
The fear that they accidentally write something Orbán won’t be happy about seems obvious. But those who report from the trenches of Fidesz media say that they actually never write anything that wasn’t sent down to them from above. Not just talking points, phrases to parrot, but entire articles are centrally manufactured and the various outlets simply publish them. (When the politician doesn’t have admin rights to publish it himself.)
Their silence may just be that they simply haven’t received any instruction on what to write – and thus they didn’t. They first broke silence when Orbán’s Die Welt interview came out. Even then they resorted to writing articles and headlines detailing Orbán’s talking points. That was safe.
Fidesz media on the Orbán interview in Die Welt:
Juncker is the past, Weber is the future (Magyar Nemzet)
Government will continue the information campaign about Brussels (Hirado.hu)
Orbán: the relationship between Hungary and Germany is broken due to migration
Orbán : attacks against Fidesz coming from the left, with the aim to weaken the EPP (Magyar Hirlap)
Brussels want’s legalize and increase migration (Hirtv)
Brussels pro-migration plans do have a lot do with George Soros (Hirtv)
The independent media focused on Orbán’s statements from the interview that would fly at home, but will shock abroad, such as calling George Soros “the evil face of globalism” and Orbán’s EPP opponents lefties and “useful idiots”. Orbán was visibly out of touch and there’s a reason he hasn’t given an interview in years. The international field doesn’t suit him because Europeans are not as resigned and used to his verbal violence as his captive audience at home.
A day after the experiment ended, Magyar Nemzet (Fidesz’ restored mouthpiece) came out with an anonymous editorial demanding that Orbán leaves EPP, another accused Sebastian Kurz of being a traitor, prompting speculations that Orbán has opened the escape route for himself. If the EPP kicks him out, he will claim that this is what he wanted anyway.
Or as we say it in Hungarian: “Shut up! This is how I get off the horse!”