Part four of a thought experiment.
Predicting the future with imaginary hindsight is a fun tool.
It was inspired by talking heads who can always explain how the shocking things had happened – the day after they happened. These experts can tell you in detail how exactly the fall of the Berlin wall was inevitable – but only after it happened. Of course, these are ex post explanations with the benefit of hindsight – but they gave me an idea.
If Orbán’s regime would lose the next elections, what would these talking heads say the next day? Why did it happen?
7. Orbán loses control over corruption
Or any other crime committed in the service of maintaining his power.
His men are already proved to be reluctant to deliver bad news. It is not difficult to see that the mentality of going below and beyond proactively is not limited to football thugs who spontaneously choose to physically intervene in arcane, procedural matters, such as the submission of yet another referendum question for dismissal by the Fidesz-led election committee. Those thugs didn’t have to be ordered to turn up at 6 in the morning to block the entrance from an opposition MP – they might as well be paid for by someone way below Orbán. It is still Orbán’s system’s crime, it is in the nature of his regime, a feature not a bug. But he may personally have nothing to do with this particular piece of stupidity – or the immunity from the law of those who committed it.
It is not hard to see that one such action might one day backfire. As lieutenants are getting more and more desperate not to disappoint – while less and less talented politically and more complacent as they barely remember a time when Orbán’s will was not the ultimate law of the land – they will become more prone to commit atrocities that are not asked from them. Expected, maybe. But foot soldiers are rewarded based on proactive loyalty – until they are not.
It is enough to see the example of the public broadcaster’s reporter. A woman whose name no one knew before for a serious lack of viewers had suddenly invited an opposition politician to the studio (they were not allowed to give a second of air time to opposition elements, not even a regime-critical influencer cat) and asked him a series of breathtakingly hostile questions that sounded more like a show trial by a loyalist foot soldier than questions from a media worker. She had every reason to believe that she would be rewarded for her violent loyalism. No doubt it sounded like a good idea in the seriously out-of-touch editorial room that had been fine-tuned to conduct the political will, to feel every little resonance from above and never to miss an opportunity to kick in the opponents of the regime.
But this time it had backfired. Even Orbán’s spokesman scorned them for the blatantly biased non-interview. I can imagine their shock and horror. They were really under the impression that they are doing well. After all, they use unrelated footage to illustrate false claims about migrant-violence every day. They use poorly airbrushed images and made-up stories to discredit opposition politicians. They had even failed to report about protests taking place outside of their building and locked them into the studio, talking about a smart parrot, while protesters were demanding to read their demands on air. They had opposition MPs physically kicked out of their premises and even sued them after for tiring out the security guards who had to drag them out physically. They were legally and politically protected. They were rewarded – until they weren’t. And they don’t know where the line is.
This is why it is not inconceivable that Orbán’s men would commit blatant crimes in their effort to keep the show running, without even the knowledge of the Boss.
But it would still be a feature of the system, not a bug. The logical conclusion of the regime, not a few bad apples. Hiring willing liars to throw dust in the eyes of the public means you have also hired willing liars who would do that to you. Because that’s all they are good at doing, by definition. There is no one left to do the actual work – only to do PR.
And of course, when we talk about reality that is denied by PR – until it can’t be contained anymore – we must discuss the state of healthcare, and Orbán’s weird war on healthcare (instead of fixing it) that started after the October defeat.
8. Just how strong is Orbán’s grip on his followers?
Everyone assumes that his grip on his followers is absolute. But that rests upon the assumption that Orbán and his followers are on the same page as to the nature of his regime. And that may be unfounded.
One of the most surprising things after the October election defeat was the fact that some of his loyal mayors and loyalists immediately started to chatter to the independent media. They were not only defeatist about 2022 (after just one blow – that we know of) but they were immediately and openly critical of Orbán – as if he let them down, not the other way around.
Suddenly, Orbán’s words about loyalism as the utmost law of politics uttered just a few weeks prior at the party conference suddenly made more sense. He was reminding them that loyalism is not needed when he is right and things are going wrong. It’s need only kicks in when he is wrong, illegal or downright evil – that’s when the ranks are to be maintained at all cost. Reality, right, the law, morality don’t matter. Loyalty comes first.
Orbán knew he had to explain – but it still didn’t go through. And for the observers who understood the nature of his regime, it sounded like a redundant reminder – until local politicians demonstrated that they had, indeed, no idea. And still don’t.
In an unprecedented move, even “the centrum” (i.e. Orbán himself) has been blamed by local mayors. Openly. With their name. In the enemy media (i.e. non-Orbánist). After all, nothing is permitted without the headquarter’s say-so and all their centrally issued commands must be executed to the letter and without delays. So if they failed to send out the mayoral candidates to do door-to-door, if they gave them the wrong sound bites to repeat, or if they didn’t write better speeches – it is on the headquarters, not the minions. In a radically top-down organization like Fidesz, responsibility is always at the top.
And the next thing was that Orbán accepted full responsibility from them. He also thinks so.
The list continues…