Orbánist Cancel Culture

Klubrádió going down

Klubrádió is a little non-Orbánist radio station. It is now losing its license.

There used to be a policy in the pre-1989 autocracy called TTT. It stands for Support, Tolerate, Ban in Hungarian and it referred to the devilish culture policy of late (soft) communism: to apply a slightly more sophisticated approach to culture than just ham-handed ban.

According to TTT, the minister whose job was to keep culture tamed and in line with the rulers’ rule, allowed certain cultural phenomena to exist (Tolerate), even if they were not friendly to the Party. There was a hand-picked comedian, for instance, who was allowed to crack (carefully censored) jokes at the expense of the Party, like this one.

Members of the central planning committee visited Jozsi in his village, wearing their nice, long, brown leather coats. 

“How many piglets will be born, Józsi?”

“Well… You know, no one can tell.”

“Shut up, you dirty peasant! Tell us the number! How many piglets will be born?”

“Well, I don’t kn…” Bang, they slapped Józsi on the face.

“Oh my, my…” cried Józsi. “How many is the Plan, comrades?”

“14.”

“Then that’s how many will be born.”

The piglets were born, but only 10. The Party secretary was frightened:

“Dear Holy Mary, what shall we do now? Only 10 piglets were born, but the Plan was 14. It may even be called a sabotage, what will happen to us?”

“I can’t make piglets” said Józsi. “But I can make statistics – Hungarian style! I’ll report 11 piglets. It’s not ten, after all. And it’s almost 14!” 

The paper with the statistics moved up to the commune level. 

“It’s outrageous, comrades! We can’t do this to the workers of the commune! So we will report 12 piglets.”

12 piglets it is, the Plan is going according to plan, the report arrives to the district.  

“12?” they said. “Comrades, that’s not enough. We will report 13.”

Report keeps moving up. 

“13, comrades? It makes me sad. Wasn’t there one more?”

So they report 14. The Plan is complete. Long live Comrade Rákosi! 

Comrade Rákosi, the Party Secretary of the Hungarian Communist Party addresses the workers:  

“I am pleased to welcome the world class quality results of socialist production, the 14 piglets. So we have decided to export 10 out of the 14 piglets – and we eat the rest!”

These jokes cut straight to the core of the absurd economic policies of the Party (because they were facts), but hearing them said out loud allowed the peasants to let some steam out and carry on in this absurd. This comedian is still cherished and beloved, even though he did the most corrupting work for the Party: the corruption of minds and souls with the power of humor. He helped to tolerate economically stunted existence under crushing mismanagement, he helped to sarcastically submit.

Similarly, there were musicians who were not Party-conform, but they were tolerated nonetheless as long as they were really bad, inconsequential, or their reach was limited to a certain urban crowd that was untameable anyway. Let it look like there is dissidence here, it is totally allowed – people just don’t want it.

It was a sinister way of corrupting souls. No outright ban or violence would have achieved what soft communism did with its nuanced approach of divide and conquer – or in the case of culture: support-tolerate-ban. You can still see its victims around us and the post-2010 autocracy is built on these broken, corrupted, sarcastic souls.

For a long time, the attempts to guess of Orbán’s mind included allusions to such sophisticated, late communist policies. He is clearly drawing his lessons from that era and building his empire on the foundation of those broken-in souls.

We have assumed that some tiny, inconsequential, niche media outlets such as Klubrádió are allowed to exist because they are inconsequential and limited to a fringe, urban audience who are inconvertible anyway. Here, let the whole world see that we totally have dissenters here, people just don’t want to hear them.

Klubrádió was not Orbánist, even though it had some odd ownership lately. It has been in the crosshairs of authorities and lost its regional frequencies in 2011. The authorities also wanted to shut them up in Budapest (despite several court rulings in Klubrádió’s favor), but eventually granted a 7-year license in 2013.

Today, when Klubrádió’s name comes up, urban non-Orbánists under the age of 60 tend to frown and dismiss it as a place where aggravated pensioners can call in and vent. But we all assumed that it is allowed to live because it is inconsequential and we are living in a neo-communist TTT era, when the pre-1989 autocracy’s culture policy has also returned alongside many other facets of pre-1989 life.

Turns out, Orbánist henchmen in the media council are too petty to be this sophisticated. Or maybe they just wanted cookie points. Or maybe they are scared that they accidentally don’t go far enough. At any rate, this system is built on every last apparatchik looking for targets to eliminate to prove his loyalism and the media authority has proved itself time and again.

So a few days after they shut down digital radio technology  (because the new technology didn’t allow outright state control by the distribution of frequencies) they announced that Klubrádió’s license to broadcast will not be renewed. The excuse: they have sometimes failed to provide data on which songs they have played exactly.

That is because we have a policy that mandates radio stations to play at least a certain amount of ethnic Hungarian music, and they have the corresponding bureaucracy of logging and sharing playlists, calculating air time and Hungarianness of certain songs and submitting data to the majestic authorities. Due to technical issues this data has not always been submitted on time and so the channel must die.

It is all perfectly legal. The media council has been one of the first things to be created and filled with loyalists of Orbán and they have consistently worked to allow Orbánists media mergers and stopped non-Orbánist transactions. (In other words, if Jeff Bezos would wake up one day and decided to buy a Hungarian TV channel, he wouldn’t be allowed.) The media council was instrumental in the creation of KESMA, the biggest media conglomerate in Europe that is now under Orbán, since their supposed owners simply surrendered them to Orbán one day.

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