We have a new pastime in Hungary. Collages like this keep appearing in the non-Fidesz part of the media every time the local papers all come out with the exact same front page.
These centrally issued front pages typically occur before elections, referendums, or other occasions when Orbán needs his followers stoked, scared and angry. They tell people that the homeland must be protected before Orbán’s migrant-bashing referendum (that had no other purpose or legal point, just to stoke sentiment against scapegoats) or before the EU-elections this May.
Every interview projects the same image: our fatherly protector needs your vote as he is fighting the forces of evil opposition, evil Brussels, evil media, evil migrants, evil Soros, evil civil society. His tone is always calm but what he says makes your blood boil. You can’t help but viciously hate those who are trying to thwart his totally logical, necessary and noble efforts. Don’t they understand? Why don’t they all die and let this precious, self-sacrificing, self.risking father and protector protect us better?
As usual, the remaining independent media outlets cringe at the sight and assembled the obligatory collage of every paper in Orbán’s media empire appearing with the same front page.
But this time, the accused was quick to strike back. They lamented the totally unfounded accusation that their (identical) front pages are identical on central command, and that the identical lead articles are sent to them from the center.
In an identical article published simultaneously on all of them.
Naturally, it is all bait. Even I have spent valuable time writing about it. And it is also something that those, who live here already know – and those who want to deny will deny anyway. Like certain intellectually corrupt, power-hungry American Republicans.
The phenomenon sheds light on the radically different role of the media under an autocracy – vs under freedom.
In a free society, the media is let loose to sniff out wrongdoing by the power-holders. Bottom-up.
In an autocracy, a media is a mouthpiece to distribute propaganda and make it reach the subjects’ ears. Top-down.
The fact that the entire local media landscape was bought up by Orbán(‘s representative) and then brought under central control in KESMA speaks volumes about which role Orbán sees his court media in. But without local and bottom-up media we are all screwed.
The day after the EU-elections several editors of the above-mentioned loyalist local media mouthpieces have been fired. To no one’s surprise but their own.
Another non-Fidesz outlet had leaked a few weeks before that Fidesz is preparing to shut down local news rooms because there is no need for them once centralization is complete. There is no point keeping any stuff if they only write some small colors, so the whole purge can all be done in the name of glorious efficiency, so aforementioned Republicans can pleasure themselves some more.