Orbánists abroad make sure that whatever you hate – they claim to hate the same thing. Whatever you struggle with – they claim to fight against that.
In this spirit, they love to trumpet the whole world full of how much they hate political correctness and cancel culture – and how it suffocates them – just to signal to western politicians that they are together on he path of righteousness. In truth, Orbánist cancel culture is the most vicious since the pre-1989 autocracy.
Hungary has never been advanced enough to incorporate any active form of political correctness. Nazis may have felt the shame of disapproval when they were overtly racist – and felt it unfair because they didn’t think calling all gypsies thieves was racist. It is just…
But even that disapproval was silent and passive. No one dares to challenge an aggressive person. Of course, your professor might have corrected you or asked to think deeper – and being challenged truly hurts. But anti-nationalist de-platforming or active anti-racism has never really been a thing here, no matter what they claim. It was truly in their heads – and maybe the media didn’t talk about them so they felt marginalized.
Pretending to be the great martyrs of politically correct social justice warriors is a pose assumed by nationalist power-seekers worldwide. And they might even have encountered active resistance – in the west. But claiming that it had happened in Hungary and Orbánists are fighting cancel culture – rather than perpetrating it – is an untruth.
Transplanting culture wars of other countries (notably the US) into eastern European domestic politics is not a new thing. Soviets did the same. Transplanting other people’s dividing lines into societies that have other dividing lines organically is like a stool transplant of bad ideas. It might be interesting to see if they can create the same monster elsewhere, where it didn’t exist organically.
But that’s not why they are doing it. Firstly, they are genuinely feeling the martyrdom – don’t we all? Secondly, it is a cynical way of bringing thinly informed western politicians to their side. (We are also fighting communists here, totally.)
And thirdly, they are all part of the nationalist internationale, a global organisation to help its national members gain and keep power and eliminate their enemies at home. Just like its communist predecessor, it provides ideological education, ready-made attack points and arguments, and anyone who engages them with the intention of denying them only makes them stronger. They destabilize the mental state of their respective societies, with the covert leadership of the same Moscow masters that helped the communists – but they genuinely believe that they are the opposite of communism.
But the only difference between today’s Moscow-run nationalists and yesteryear’s Moscow-run communists is that today’s illiberalists skip the public interest nonsense and don’t nationalize. They cronify – i.e. they steal entire industries into their own, private hands – rather than shyly nationalizing them and bossing over them as humble party “secretaries”. To hell with humility, they get it all under their own names and pose as self-made entrepreneurs and free-market champions – whatever makes corrupt Republican minds feel comfortable. Tis-private is their go-to excuse for whatever atrocity they are committing at home. Including cancel culture.
Cancel culture is a bad thing. But it is not a thing that blighted Hungary before Orbán.
Orbánist cancel culture takes the shape of deafening silence about what is going on and how we all looked aside or bent the knee one way or another. It is a frightened look on the face of pedestrians, scurrying away from foreign journalists who want to ask something on the street. It is your finger hovering above the ‘Like’ button, but not pressing it because you know that the arrogant and menacingly powerful political appointees have nothing else to do but scouring social media to see who interacted with opposition content. Your like may not just get you fired – you have the same surname as your family, your partner is clearly visible on your profile, and who knows if you would one day need a permission to refurbish your bathroom and the local bureaucrat would look at you funny and deny your request. And hit you with a fine for something, while you’re there.
Today, there are millions of examples when people don’t dare to speak their minds because of fear of repercussions. Entire universities, theaters, media outlets have been nakedly occupied by Orbán’s cronies and given to talentless loyalists who don’t even know what professional principles they are flouting. They happily spread propaganda and unconditional loyalism instead, or bully people into toeing the line while also teasing them with the hope that maybe they can get some of the spoils of taxpayer money (EU as well). They never fail to rub it in that Orbán and hos loyalists are the only ones who are allowed to dispose over EU and taxpayer money. Also, the tax office and any other authority that might find something to fine you for. Not to mention all public institutions that could act as counterpoint to unfettered rule of the executive power (that is Orbán).
The system is set up in a way that everyone has to make active efforts of loyalism, smoking out dissenters, delivering opposition elements to their masters, doxxing or harassing anti-Orbánists for game. They never get hurt for doing it – the victims can barely find any recourse. Courts are expensive and the triumph is symbolic. And a court win is just a cause for vengeance.
Loyalists on every level are thus running around, harassing and outing political dissent. If anyone believes that the culture of fear for our opinions has not penetrated to the deepest level of society, he is purposely acting naive.
In the next couple of posts we will show some documented examples when Orbánist cancel culture worked. The starter kit is a list from 444.hu – and then some. And please don’t say these are just rare examples. No one has the time to document 10 million cases for your contentment (not to mention it is not something that often gets documented), and every single one of these signals a problem that goes beyond the example itself. It would be bad enough if people just believed that they get punished for dissent. But it is not just in their head.
- When a TV crew didn’t find a single Hungarian on the street that dared to talk about politics.
- When a pensioner was arrested and charged with terrorism for posting a fact on Facebook.
- When someone was fired for a like.
- When a journal lost all its funding, and its editorial board was fired for an obscure economic paper that said unforgivably critical things like government intervention might distort the market.
- When a sport journalist thought that he can talk about sport freely even after Orbánists took over the channel he worked for. He was wrong.
- When linguists were fired just to show that the government doesn’t even tolerate dissent over the slightest (and most insignificant) nuance in the naming of Budapest airport (from as early as 2011).
- Countless teachers fired for speaking up against Fidesz-appointee headmasters, none of them having any talent for or interest in children (apart from one who was a child beater).
- The teacher harassed into depression and losing his job for mocking the teaching of sports from home in a cute video (that wasn’t even meant to criticize the lockdown, only poking fun at the absurdity of life).
- When a nurse who protested (alone) against the state of taxpayer-funded healthcare (by wearing black because they are not allowed to strike) and she was harassed into depression.
- The local journalist who was fired because he dared to mention the fact that there is a protest happening outside their building – as long as he doesn’t mention that it’s an anti-government protest. The local politician removed the post himself – turns out they have access to local papers’ website and social media.
- When a turbo-loyalist journalist thought that he can craft his own question and ask it from Orbán as long as it is so deeply subservient, loyal, and makes Orbán look like an even bigger hero. He was wrong. The order was ‘no questions off the list’.
- Another one who committed the same mistake on radio.
- When an entire university had to leave the country because they were ideological misfits but Orbán couldn’t just appoint a loyalist to silence them because they were not Orbán-funded.
- When a high school student liked something on Facebook that was critical of his school, he got harassed by authorities.
- When another high school student gave a speech at an anti-government protest, she was character-assassinated by Orbán’s media, harassed by journalists in person and with false claims, one even posted an underskirt photo of her, until her friends and classmates started to keep their distance from her because she became a prominent non-Orbánist and thus a threat to their future livelihoods.
- When a new regulation proposed that from now on the regime should oversee which profiles Facebook deletes, no one went “awww… our rulers are trying to protect us“. Instead people went through their public profiles and started deleting old likes and comments that might piss off the government’s social media army and get those profiles banned.
- And then some…
And on to the media outlets that had to be silenced or turned into shrill, mindless propaganda mouthpieces that distribute only misinformation and whatever they were sent from the Center (i.e. Orbán’s spin doctor’s office). Just the most significant ones, there is no space to list them all:
- All local papers in the country
- The biggest tabloids
- Magyar Nemzet
Orbán now disposes over Europe’s biggest media conglomerate (KESMA), with nearly 500 titles in it – that were given to him one day, in a single, coordinated move, as a gift from the assorted loyalists who bought them for him. But yeah, sure, it was all private…