And in the 10th year of His reign, the Lord declared his 11th commandment to a group of his closest loyalists. And it was that no member of his gang must ever say bad things about a fellow gang member – not even when he’s wrong or a downright criminal. Especially when he’s wrong or a criminal.
After all, no one needs to appeal to loyalty when he is right.
“Don’t say anything bad about your fellow Fidesz party members! We need to practice this one,” said Orbán at the 28th party congress of his Fidesz in September 2019.
According to Him, it was Ronald Reagan’s 11th commandment and this is what is needed in politics today. Not expertise, not the desire to make things better. Not to understand and improve reality. Not the desire to serve the public. No. Unquestioning loyalty and gang mentality.
“This is why we are on top and the liberal left that always betray each other are down.”
Apparently, reporting someone for a crime is “betrayal”. Outing someone for corruption is “betrayal”. Disagreeing is “betrayal”. Dissent is “betrayal”. Having different opinions is “betrayal”. What betrayal? Treason!
The problem with his approach is that once the truth is subsumed to gang interest, you will get a lot of gangsters in your party and you will never stop having to defend them. Because as Orbán himself said, loyalty is not about standing by each other’s side when we are right. It is not defending the innocent among us. You don’t need to be loyal to do that.
“It’s easy to be loyal to me when I’m right” – said Orbán.
Loyalty is only ever needed when someone is wrong – but wants to be defended anyway. Loyalty is only ever needed in politics when they are criminals, when they make mistakes, when they commit crimes. Then they need loyalty – not honesty – to keep them from the consequences.
“Which one of us was never wrong in the last 30 years? But we stuck together, we were honest to each other, and we got out of every hardship eventually.”
At least he is honest about the right place for honesty in his world: be honest to him, not to outsiders.
Orbán’s party only has a party congress for form’s sake. Every other year they even stage a mock leadership-election that Orbán always wins without contest. The Party is He and He is the Party. And now that the Party successfully captured the state’s institutions, Orbán is also the state. Pardon, the nation, as he puts it (which is an ethnic term, it doesn’t mean just a country in Hungarian).
Even the name ‘Fidesz’ means loyalty. Not truth, not honesty, not integrity – loyalty. The thing that every strongman wants from his men, above anything else: unquestioning, unconditional loyalty and the closing of ranks behind every wrongdoing, every crime, every murder they commit. Not if, but when.
Because when loyalty becomes your top priority, there will be a lot to be loyal to: scandals, gangsters, criminals, murderers will proliferate in those circles and you will have nothing left but to close ranks behind them and defend them because of tribalist group-loyalty.
It signifies what really matters: the grabbing and keeping of power. The access to other people’s resources that the state grants those who hold position. Immunity that politicians wisely awarded themselves. Privacy that their peasants are no longer allowed. And access to public funds. That is the priority and that is why they run for office. That is why they are willing to attend tedious public hearings – not the opportunity to serve the public which they deem sheep anyway. They aren’t doing all this farce only to humbly serve. They are doing it for the opportunity to commit crime – and get away with it.
So what is, indeed, the point of yapping about each other to the public? This public? These idiots? When did they deserve to hear the truth, anyway? They are not very keen on it. They do nothing for it. And the ones who do, the civil society that still tries to make us accountable – Orbán had whipped most of them into submission. SO why would anyone in his Party break ranks and go to the stupid public? Or the justice system, that never works against a Fidesz member, anyway? Why be silly when you could stick together and steal together, and get rich together? As long as you put the Party above truth, reality, honesty, the public, the country, the nation, the state – whatever your thing is.
Replacing people with integrity with ass-kissers and loyalists is nothing new in history. Every autocrat needs do do it. In Hungary, it happened right after Fidesz came into power in 2010. Orbán had a complete blueprint to take over and capture the state infrastructure, and they started implementing it without delay.
One of the first visible signs of something seriously wrong was when they replaced everyone in public administration, down to the last receptionist. This is not an exaggeration, even the cleaning company had to be replaced. Apart from the complete shake-up of ministries’ organisational structure, even the lowest-ranking bureaucrats and the service personnel was replaced, down to the kitchen staff in the canteen. The new ones were loyalists. Their top and only reason to get the job was that they didn’t belong to anyone else and they were willing to do anything.
To be precise, they were willing to do anything when they were ordered – and did absolutely nothing when they weren’t. No responsibility taken, none permitted. Things can rot on their watch, but they won’t ever lift a finger to fix them unless told so. The only thing they ever spend time on is office politics.
Many fresh graduates found themselves in serious positions after the 2010 elections, some had no clue what his (newly minted) ministry was doing. Another graduate I met couldn’t decide which job to take because “he had no clue which one does what”, but he wanted as high as possible and he had the connections so he was going to become a high-ranking bureaucrat straight out of university. I will be the last one to argue against young people’s promotion, but this was not about youth and dynamism. It was about blind, unquestioning loyalty, fueled by ignorance an inexperience.
Many I knew left their fancy jobs once they discovered – to their horror – that they were expected to sign fraud and carry out shady or downright illegal things. Like manipulating statistics, staging fake public procurement tenders, lying to people, or intimidating subordinates into doing so.
But they were just the small fry. The really big fish were the oligarchs and the local strongmen, who were also hand-picked by Orbán to lead towns and cities and to win astronomical amounts of public money through tenders. And these people know they can do no wrong – as long as Orbán has their back, they are untouchable. So they are loyal, their only job is to do as they were told, not to steal more than their cut, and try not to get into scandals (like the mayor who was caught accepting millions of euros for supposedly assisting someone to buy government bonds). But when they do, they never resign. Orbán may be pissed at them but he also needs to demonstrate that a the public has no power over the Party. And thus they are even firmer in position after a scandal. Like the guy who was filmed shutting a gypsy worker in an industrial incinerator and throwing a match after him. Or the above mentioned mayor who is as dumb as asphalt and clearly embarrassed even Orbán – but he will not be let go.
There you go. Loyalty. The place where these people thrive and multiply. Shelter for the corrupt and the incompetent. Loyalty to a leader may benefit the leader – but not the country.