The pivoting for enemies for the next election is underway but no scapegoat works for Orbán as well as migrants did between 2015-19. So he is trying to demonize the 2005-09 prime minister as the threat.
Orbán always needs an enemy. That is Orbánism 101 – as well as autocracy 101. Over the years we have been at war with the national debt (only to see it soar to an all time high), utility bills (only to see them soar) and Brussels (you get the idea). We have endured shrill, nationwide campaigns against George Soros, Brussels and immigration – on our own taxpayer money.
In 2015, the anti-migration campaign proved to be an unexpectedly massive hit for Orbán – unexpectedly, since there aren’t any actually immigrants in Hungary and even the migrating masses from Syria and Africa don’t want to come here. (Fun fact: we are still in a state of immigration emergency and we have been since 2015.)
But the anti-migrant scaremongering became a bit tired by 2019 (indeed it lost Fidesz the municipal elections) so Orbán wanted to launch a new hate campaign in 2020, pivoting for new enemies. He was gearing up to incite against inmates, gypsies and judges – he called it the “prison business“ – in a nationwide campaign in March 2020. But then the pandemic hit and he had to mothball the idea. (Don’t worry though, he still spent the money on cronies, but they advertised the pandemic instead.)
During the pandemic there has been much saber rattling and hostile legislation against non-heterosexuals and astronomic sums have been spent on “family protecting” political Christianism – a theme that allows Christianist fundamentalist governments to attack a whole range of citizens from women and homosexuals, to single people and non-Christians. Small surprise that the Russian propaganda machine loves the idea and Ordo Iuris, the fundamentalist political Christianist group has descended upon Eastern Europe to soak up taxpayer money thrown at them by hijacked governments.
But Orbán still doesn’t have an enemy for the 2022 elections. The campaign is in full swing when it comes to handouts, one time payouts and much-advertised tax cuts (terms and conditions apply) but there is no theme to feed into the campaign juggernaut. There is no enemy. This is where an old prime minister comes in.
Between 2004-09 the prime minister of Hungary has been Ferenc Gyurcsány. Old news for anyone, especially under the age of 40, but that didn’t stop Orbán from using him as a go-to enemy for the last 11 years. Indeed, #GyurcsányWasWorse is one of the top arguments for Fidesz defenders online and IRL.
There is not much to defend on Gyurcsány – he is only less awful than Orbán. Gyurcsány’s government was also corrupt, but they stole several orders of magnitude less and there had been prosecution, investigations and courts when it was revealed. Today, corruption is much greater (thanks to the incoming EU funds), there isn’t much media left to uncover it (and when it does, it barely reaches people due to the near-blackout propaganda in most of the country), and when it does, there won’t be any investigation. Authorities are deaf to any evidence of corruption if it is OfFidesz. Indeed, Orbánists rub it in when they steal. Far from being shy about their new riches, Orbánists today are flaunting it and are open about the top-down distribution system of EU and public funds. And when they are busted, they double down and rub in their invincibility.
As a result, people today say things like “at least Orbánists have stolen themselves full, a new set would just start from zero” – in a glaring display of internalized helplessness. And with every new level of corruption, taking home public money and entire industries, the helplessness only gets worse.
There are other ways in which Gyurcsány is only better than Orbán, but still bad. He was suspiciously media savvy, the original populist. He once reenacted Hugh Grant’s scene from Love, Actually, and once spontaneously caught a spokesperson who fainted on live TV. And if his economic policy was dodgy – well, at least we could get angry at him.
Victims of Orbán’s economic moves today don’t allow themselves to get angry at him. It just causes an uncomfortable feeling that they should do something – but they feel helpless so they choose to not get angry and explain everything away instead. The mental state of this country has deteriorated a lot under Orbán. No one wants Gyurcsány back, but Orbán is worse.
Gyurcsány’s beginning of the end was a leaked speech he gave to his party’s leadership. The infamous speech contained “We f*cked up. We have been lying day and night” and then went on to implore the party to start doing good policy. But only the above mentioned sound bite stuck. And it stuck due to the hard work of Orbán’s communication team that made a huge deal out of the stupid speech.
It is hard to believe but the Orbánist propaganda machine dedicated an entire day to that dumb speech – in 2021, or 15 years after it happened.
There was an entire day of carpet bombing every Orbánist media outlet, papers, TVs, radios with the 15th anniversary of that speech. There is even a movie being made out of it on taxpayer dime – an no, making movies about contemporary politics is not normal or allowed in this part of the world. The money they spent on the 15th anniversary of an inconsequential speech is only the tip of the iceberg of how much effort they have put into demonizing that idiot during the last 11 years.
If Gyrucsány is the topic of the 2022 elections, then they have officially ran out of ideas. Orbán needs an enemy and Gyurcsány is all he can come up with. An inconsequential politician of the last 11 years, a has-been, and a fellow populist.
Try as I might I can’t get upset about that speech (or even Gyurcsány). It can be that I’m too young, but mostly because it was just a politician being honest for a change.
I can, however, get very angry that a moment of honesty can be used against politicians – reinforcing the lesson that only lying politicians can get power. I hate to live in such a world. And by the way, this is one more thing Orbán could get away with, but a non-autocrat couldn’t: If there was a tape where Orbán admits he was lying, his followers would nod that yes, a politician must lie, that’s the way it is. Seriously.
But that is not the point here. I can’t get upset about that speech because Gyurcsány is old news. So old, that some people who vote next year were only 6 years old when he was prime minister. They grew up in Orbánism.
And if I can’t get upset about that speech, how can anyone under 40? After the 2019 municipal election fiasco Orbán sent his lackeys to launch TV channels and talk to the so-called youth. Use hashtags or whatever it is these ungrateful MFs understand. Ever since then the Orbánist media is trying hard to be youthful and communicate the not-at-all-sexy message that voting for an ageing status quo party is hip and revolutionary. And they fail, obviously.
If Gyurcsány will be their 2022 scapegoat, a whole 13 years after he lost power, we can safely shelve the fear that the populist scaremongering machine is unbeatable. They just got lucky once.