There is a type of double standard that really bothers me.
Lately, it has been deployed by people who use democratic standards to judge the opposition and Orbán’s own autocratic standards to judge Orbán. Like when Orbán is judged based on how well he retained power – no matter the tools – but his opponents are judged by democratic, first world standards.
And one particular subset of this fallacy is when people let Orbán’s institutionalized homophobia slide – but the same people get righteous and agitated when someone calls out allegedly homosexual Orbánists.
The entire independent media can be caught up for days in bashing the opposition for accusing Orbánists of not being heterosexual. They suddenly remember first world standards that they have completely forgotten to apply before 2019. And they don’t just remember them, they painstakingly analyze how it is wrong to accuse a rabid homophobe of not being a heterosexual himself. They spend days and weeks on it.
It is as if they were dedicated to spend as much air time on the crimes of a shoplifter than on a major mafia boss – in the name of being balanced. In the end they sound like a program designed by Orbán’s team to discourage opposition voters saying: look, your candidate is not perfect either.
First of all, where is that first world disapproval when Orbán is being a homophobe? Why are we helplessly giving him a pass and only judge him by his own, very low standards?
So Orbán launched an all-out campaign implying that homosexuals are basically pedophiles? That’s just how he is, they say. So Orbán accuses civil society of lurking around kindergartens to forcibly change children’s sex? Well, boys will be boys. (Pun intended.) So Orbán launched an anti-LGBT referendum together with the general elections and a whole “government” campaign to support it? What can we do, sigh the helpless intellectuals. They just analyze how well it had worked for him to eliminate the opposition and keep himself in power. They don’t even think of applying civilized standards at him anymore.
But when his opponents call out the alleged homosexuals in Orbán’s own government, the same intellectuals are outraged. How dare they? That is impure! We don’t use that argument in civilized society.
Excuse me if I feel that the only reason for this double standard is the fact that they feel helpless against Orbán – but feel safe to criticize his opponents. In other words, intellectual cowardice.
It reminds me of calling out the Jews among the nazi officials. Yes, it is a bad thing. No, it is not a bad thing to be Jewish so it doesn’t even make sense to call out someone for it – in a civilized society. But those who were doing so were not doing it because it is a bad thing to be antisemitic and they wanted the nazis to stop. They were pointing out the double standard, as they should. They did not benefit from it. They were just trying to appeal to the naked self-interest of nazi officials: at least don’t do that to your own kind because you, too, can get burned.
And whatever they did was different from doing it first. They didn’t have the luxury of deciding whether to bring up someone’s ethnicity or religion because the nazis were already doing it for them. All they could do was to attack back in self-defense.
After all, the moral value of our actions is not absolute – it includes context. Punching someone is bad. Punching someone who punched me first is a different thing altogether. The action itself is the same but the moral value is different. If the intent is to stop the offender, not to benefit from the situation – as he was – it is simply not of the same moral value.
It is the same with trying to stop Orbánists from hatemongering against LGBT people. We can no longer act like sexuality is not an issue because the government is making it an issue. They are benefiting from it politically. And the intent behind calling out gay members of the government is to stop the homophobic abuse – not to benefit from it, politically or otherwise. The only question is whether it could work to appeal to Orbánists’ self-interest – at least don’t incite hatred against your own kind – or it can’t.
And this is when intelligence and the intelligentsia can be told apart. Are they mindlessly applying internalized moral norms – but only on people they feel safe to apply to – or are they actually thinking this through?
I am not convinced that calling out gay members of the government (if any) can stop the homophobic state propaganda. But I am absolutely certain that dedicating equal bandwidth to criticizing those who try and to those who are stealing the country creates the wrong impression in media consumers. I know because I can see it.