Der Untergang

Orbán’s Bermuda Triangle: Youth – Climate – Healthcare

Orbán cannot say a single thing about these issues without betraying his sizzling condemnation.

In a way, it is amusing to watch. For now. But make no mistake, his propaganda machine will iron out the details, spread the memo, consolidate the message and dictate the sound bites, and eventually work out … well, not how to fix the problem, but how to make critics look bad.

Mistakes have been made in Fidesz. Mistakes that led to the loss of half the cities in October’s municipal elections. Steps are being taken – but not too fast. Partly because the measures aimed at blocking the opposition even further would not win hearts and minds in Europe – and would thus get in the way of Orbán’s “peacock dance” to evade humiliation by EPP and the Article 7 procedure against him.

But blocking the opposition is not urgent anyway. He has until 2022 to rewrite the election law to make opposition paralyzed again. At any rate, their role in parliament is less than symbolic already.

But he has to tackle hearts and minds at home. And it means taking a long, hard look at communication mistakes that have been made. The three fields they have apparently identified where Fidesz is losing are

1) Youth,
2) Climate, and
3) Healthcare.

Orbán (and his stooges) simply cannot say a single sentence about these issues without betraying his sizzling condemnation for the plebs.

Just look at the farce that is OfFidesz strongmen offering their stale thoughts on so-called youth. Pure disdain and condescension, they can’t even conceal it.

With the issue of the climate, the phenomenon is even more ridiculous – the only difference is that Hungarians and Hungarian youth are notoriously uninterested in anything beyond their financial survival – a clear symptom of feeling helpless in all aspects of life and feel more comfortable to believe whatever the government wants them to – but economic survival is still something they have to keep looking at from their own point of view.

In the global trench warfare Orbán’s enemies have settled on climate as their communication dragon of choice, so Orbán and his ilk have been pushed into a defiantly anti-environmentalist corner. Many, no doubt, feels at home there, and others have a vested interest in anti-environmentalism, but the most important reason why Orbán is anti-environment is that the commies are pro-climate.

So when the post-election guesswork as to the possible reasons of their defeat was at its height and someone mentioned that not talking more about the climate might have been a reason voters turned on their king, some Fideszniks tried to talk about it. And they really shouldn’t have because the same thing happened as with youth.

Orbán’s maneuvering to correct the communication mistakes looks like an oil tanker trying to turn around in a hot tub in absolute secrecy.

After all, his communication absolutism has already covered the whole country, there isn’t any bandwidth left for anything else – not to mention that the simplistic, single-issue campaign was exactly the point. The Soros-migrant-hysteria didn’t just cost a sizeable chunk of tax revenues to create – it was also meant to be the cure-all for every problem, in every age group, and in all segments of society. It was the answer to every question raised, every doubt being had. Its shrill whistle tuned out every chance of rational discussion – like the ones regarding an actual, real threat to citizens’ lives: state healthcare.

Orbán’s stadium obsession and its contrast with healthcare disintegration due to lack of funding (from the same source as stadiums, so the comparison is very adequate) has even made it to the international media. It is a testament to the effectiveness of Orbán’s blanket propaganda that his core supporters, over-50s, haven’t chalked it up to him (yet) because a single visit to any medical establishment in the country would fill anyone with well-justified terror (unlike migrants).

Healthcare has been one of the issues identified as dangerous to Fidesz. But Orbán still couldn’t say anything that wasn’t completely tone deaf and didn’t betray his disgust with public healthcare users. (His magic seems to be gone, by the way. He used to charm the hell out of everyone – now he just depends on intimidating everyone to think what he wants them to think.)

At his only annual press conference (which is carefully crafted in a way that it doesn’t really pose a risk to him) he addressed healthcare, for instance. The mere fact that he did it was extraordinary – Fidesz simply ignores topics that are not in their interest. But the way he addressed it opened the penknife in your pocket – as Hungarians put it.

Instead of doing the usual (giving yet another meaningless promise that can be gutted and toned down during execution and eventually swept aside by his loyalists) Orbán decided to elaborate. And he really shouldn’t have. He promised (in true micromanaging, command economy style) to have every waiting room and ward painted in hospitals that have been painted more than three years ago.

Seriously. A lick of paint. And he seriously listed every type of room in a hospital a civilian might see on the inside – makes one wonder what should happen to the rest in his view and why.

Then he quickly finished the sentence adding that he won’t give any more funds for it – it must be covered by the funds given to development. In other words, you get a lick of white paint – but forget the MRI.

Then he finished his train of (angry) thought by blasting hospitals for daring to go into debt – i.e. keep ordering gauze and medications even though they are legally not allowed to get in debt. And that is the most outrageous thing in Fidesz’ view, the breaking of a law. Not the fact that patients are dying, not that relatives are already supplying medications, toilet paper, even hospital beds themselves, not that medical staff is chronically underpaid and exploited to death. No. Orbán is raging because hospital directors dare to keep ordering supplies – even when their funding runs short.

To say that Orbán’s take on healthcare incensed everyone (who heard) it is an understatement. Angrily banging the table with his shoe and scapegoating hospital directors won’t work this time – but scapegoating seems to be the only arrow in his quiver (that, and straight-faced lying, which he calls peacock dance and uses it in Brussels).

Since the construction industry is painfully crony-infested, it is easy to see how the waiting room decorating decree is just another corruption opportunity – the only steady fixture of every policy measure lately. And doing it at the expense of buying new MRIs, CTs or X-ray equipment is simply a testament of how out of touch Orbán became. Curious to find out if it will cost him something this time.

In a way, it is amusing to watch. For now. But make no mistake, his propaganda machine will iron out the details, spread the memo, consolidate the message and dictate the sound bites, and eventually work out … well, not how to fix the problem, but how to make critics look bad.

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* As far as the development hospitals’ diagnostic equipment is concerned, it is enough to look at this article, detailing how a bunch of OfFidesz public money sponge teamed up to cream off the EU’s funding for medical equipment, how they told the hospitals what (!!!) to order and the suppliers (Siemens GE, Phillips, how much to sell it for, setting up a cartel on both ends, then skimming the loot – pocketing 20-25 million euros. The court issued a few million in fines – Siemens even got a relief because it cooperated (even though its cooperation wasn’t necessary at all, everything is black and white in emails and documents). The loot is still eye-watering, and the message is clear: Keep stealing, the worst that can happen is that you may have to give a little of your loot back. (The same thing happens on higher political levels as well. They skim EU funds with immunity – except that the taxpayer pays the fines for them.) Next time a hospital uses ill-fitting diagnostic equipment on you (or you get a surgery because there is no MRI), don’t blame the doctors. Blame public procurement.




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