This reads like something out of an Ayn Rand novel.
An oligarch buys up half the country, including a thermal power station, backed by political favoritism. He has no clue how to run things, only how to squeeze the most (public) money out of them, so naturally, problems emerge. For years and years, price subventions and state subsidies keep him afloat until one day his power station starts emitting foul gases, weird liquids, people are getting sick, and birds are dropping out of the sky.
So the state steps in to save the day and the oligarch (but not the sick victims or locals) and it buys the power station from said oligarch. Not because he failed, but because it is such a great deal. The pollution continues, but now we get condescending and patronizing lectures on how we are all stupid. The air may discolor the coins in the pockets of everyone within a 10 mile radius, but the pollution is nothing. Zero. The measurement is zero. Nothing to see here.
Oh, and it’s all George’s Soros’ fault somehow, because he made journalists make a big deal out of this.
Now look at the photo of the press conference telling us that we are wrong, the pollution is zero:
In said press conference the comrades at the table argued that it was a great business opportunity to buy back the plant from Orbán’s oligarch (and business alterego) for the state, just when its leaking became public.
They also argue that the measuring equipment didn’t show any anomaly before people started getting sick and reported the leakage to the authorities. In fact, the comrades claim that the meter still says zero.
“It’s one thing what the locals observe and what machines measure.”
Between 6-12 November there was internal discussion of the problems, but no one breathed a word. (Actually, the plant has been leaking chemicals that killed the fish in the river and colored the water bright turquoise for months, but that’s just business as usual when a crony is at work.)
Only when employees became sick en masse did the media pick it up (the non-Fidesz part of it) and obfuscation started. The many uniformed (for some reason) participants of the press conference mostly just say that everyone is safe, the investigation is underway, stay calm, nothing to see here. But sometimes they blurt out some impatient, patronizing remark that doesn’t even make sense. Such as
“I don’t want to educate anyone on chemistry, but hydrogen-sulfate can be smelled even when the measurement is zero.“
There it is, folks. Can you smell it right now wherever you are? Chances are the measurement there is also zero, but you may still smell it. The point is that the authorities are smarter than you – and even smarter than their meters. If you want to read more exact details about the state of the pollution and the investigation, read here.
That dumb molecule…
There is always a point when the irrationalism of an autocracy runs into the brick wall of reality. People can be intimidated into denying their own senses – but molecules can’t.
For the longest time, a dictator can get away by bending reality to his own will. Bending people to his own will, to be precise. Kill the first opponent, and the others will know not to oppose him too hard. Imprison, intimidate, beat up, threaten or fire anyone who says something the dictator doesn’t want to be true – and there will be less and less people stupid enough to say the truth.
Decades in, you will get the familiar group of broken-in scientists and party loyalists in a room, arguing that the radiation is indeed 3.6 Roentgen, Moscow said so.
Scene from the series Chernobyl. When someone remarks the the air is literally glowing in Chernobyl, the scientist in charge says “The Cherenkov effect: it’s a completely normal phenomenon, it can happen with minimal radiation.”
But some people (and some things) are just not smart enough to understand intimidation. Like dumb iodine isotopes that keep radiating at 15.000 Roentgen, even though Moscow said 3.6. Or hydrogen sulfate. Loyalists can applaud themselves all they want for coming up with a great soundbite to deny it, but their faces will melt off and cancer will find their families anyway.
Every time an autocratic bully runs into the brick wall of reality, there is a showdown. Can he intimidate his way out of the situation? Can he rescue his reputation of invincibility from the assault of reality? Can he intimidate the humans into forgetting about cancer? Can he make them blame George Soros instead of him?
Many credit the Chernobyl disaster for bringing down the already ailing and overstretched communist dictatorship in Russia. Orbán just bought a nuclear power station from Russia. The Russians bring their technology, the Hungarian party will apparently supply the autocratic bullying, the cronyism and the mismanagement. Wait till they issue a decree on radiation levels…