Election 2022

Mobilization in the post-truth world means something else

The opposition still believes that mobilization is about convincing voters with a message. Orbán, on the other hand, means something else by mobilization.

In the days after their crushing election defeat Hungarian opposition politicians kept coming up with theories of what they did wrong (and whom to blame). The recurring theme was that they should have sent a different message, had a different program or mobilized even harder.

Their words prove that they still think we live in a world where ideology and message mobilized and convinced voters.

Orbán’s campaign, on the other hand, has eschewed this premise a long time ago.

That is why he doesn’t have a program – and hasn’t had one in more than a decade. He doesn’t have messages either – save hatemongering against various targets. This time it was LGBT people and the opposition, in 2018 migrants and George Soros, and of course he has a decade-long hate campaign against the EU. He also operates with fearmongering. Now that he even bothers to talk about his opposition, he is shouting (not implying) that they would increase prices, cut off the gas and go to war.*

Controlling the media (i.e. everything people hear) is also part of the plan. Information control may not be complete in Budapest, but it is very close to that in the countryside. And it is not abut what they say – but what they can hide by controlling the media. The opposition, for instance, was completely hidden.

The opposition trying to figure out what they should have said differently is plain silly – considering that their messages were simply not heard outside of Budapest. If countryside voters heard about the opposition and its message, it was from Orbán and it was that they want war and to cut off the gas.

It doesn’t matter what your message is when your audience can not hear you.

But the really vicious tool, the one that won Orbán the election was his definition of mobilization. It is not about telling people whatever they need to hear to go out and vote (for him).

It is now pure, physical mobilization of every last voter – many of whom don’t even follow politics and who would never vote otherwise. It does explain the stupefyingly large participation as 10-20 percent of such apolitical (but poor and dependent) voters can easily be found in the villages. And that was the job of the local activists. To find and bribe, threaten and drag these people to vote for Orbán.

One particularly poignant example from the memoirs of vote counters was when an old lady came to vote for Orbán, but kept complaining the whole time that she could not get an appointment at oncology for a year now. You can guess what they told him to vote for Orbán: that if the opposition wins, there will be no appointments at all.

This is why you can put your logic to rest. Yes, it is Orbán’s fault that state healthcare is in such a dire situation. Yes, it was down to 12 years where he enacted the mother of all austerities in healthcare (and education etc.) But all that does not register with voters who are kept blind. If she complains about her health, scare her that it would get worse under the opposition. Same with poverty, education, you name it.

This is also why the opposition’s miracle weapon, sending representatives into almost every election district didn’t work. They only found that people who get through the doors are already primed to seek out Orbán’s name. Even if they can not read, even if they can not write, even if they need help drawing a cross, even if they are not lucid. There was no need to instruct them inside the voting stations by the local (very Orbánist) bureaucrats. It happened outside of the voting station, by activists arranging chain voting, arranging buses to the voting station, or going door to door with lists of voters who have not voted yet and telling them whatever they needed to hear to vote for Orbán. Or just give them cash.

You can’t fight this kind of mobilization with a prettier message. Not even with demagogy matching Orbán’s.

* Orbán managed to twist the hopeless situation of being Putin’s lapdog into a peace campaign and the accusation that the opposition would cut off the gas. And Marine Le Pen followed suit. Apparently Orbán sends her more than money.

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