Europe, Security, Top Stories, World Affairs

The Erdoğanization of Hungary

Earlier this week, ostensibly in light of the COVID-19 crisis, the Hungarian parliament granted the country’s prime minister, Viktor Orbán, rule by decree. With fewer than 500 confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus as of this writing, Hungary has not yet been badly hit by the pandemic, so this draconian measure was almost certainly unnecessary. Followers of European politics, however, are not surprised. Next month, Orbán will complete an uninterrupted decade in office (having previously served from 1998 to 2002), and his tenure has been marked by a series of moves to scale back post-Cold War liberalism hitherto embraced by Hungarians.

In 1956, as the second decade of the Cold War got underway, an anti-communist revolution erupted in Budapest. Stalin had died a few years previously and been replaced by Nikita Khrushchev from the pro-reform faction of the Soviet Union’s Communist Party. Khrushchev’s speech before the Soviet congress, in which he had condemned Stalin, led commentators and analysts across the West to wonder if tensions might be easing. In the winter of that year, encouraged by Khrushchev’s speech, Hungarians rose against their own communist government. András Hegedűs, the country’s premier, fled to the Soviet Union, and Imre Nagy, a reformist, replaced him. The revolution seemed to have succeeded.

Earlier that same year, Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser had nationalized the Suez Canal. Just a few days after the Soviet-backed government in Hungary had collapsed, the United Kingdom, France, and Israel attacked Egypt in order to reopen the canal without informing the United States. President Dwight Eisenhower was furious and responded by imposing sanctions on the United Kingdom, a move that put NATO’s superpower at odds with two of its most important members. The Soviets also sided with Egypt, seizing on the opportunity to destabilize the new Western alliance, and it was at this moment of Western division and discord that Soviet tanks rolled into Hungary and crushed its revolution.

Less than two weeks later, the war in the Middle East had also ended and NATO unity re-established, in no small part due to the reminder that the Red Army remained the greatest threat to the West and its interests. This episode gave Hungarians’ struggle for liberalism a unique significance. For the United States and its NATO allies, Hungary was not just another Soviet-bloc country. Its citizens paid a great price to liberalize, and the West almost did too, as their revolution caused Soviet tanks to roll over Europe once more. Soviet tanks had unintentionally rescued NATO from its first existential crisis.

After the Berlin Wall fell, so did Eastern Europe’s communist regimes. The new Hungarian Republic was founded in 1989 and a series of reforms were introduced. The Clinton administration facilitated Hungary’s admission to NATO, and it became a full NATO member in 1999. Hungarian refugees who had fled communism and Nazism now began to invest in their native country. One of those refugees was billionaire George Soros, who used large sums of money to promote liberalism in Hungary through his Open Society Foundation. Soros’s philanthropic works included higher education scholarships for young, bright, and talented Hungarians who wanted to study liberal arts at elite universities.

One of those recipients was a young Hungarian named Viktor Orbán, whose education at Oxford University was paid for by Soros. Eight years later, at the age of 35, Orbán would be selected by the Hungarian parliament to become the young republic’s youngest prime minister and the second youngest man ever to lead his country after the infamous András Hegedüs. Orbán’s first tenure as prime minister was not controversial from a Western point of view. The new republic joined NATO, despite Russian objections. Orbán initiated Hungary’s bid to join the European Union, and although his Fidesz party lost power in the 2002 parliamentary elections, they supported joining the European Union in the 2003 referendum. Hungary became an EU member the following year.

In 2010, Orbán returned to power with a landslide majority, overcoming opposition from the Socialist Workers’ Party on the Left and Jobbik on the far-Right. Orbán’s second administration, however, has been nothing like his first. In a series of laws, Orbán has centralized power and pushed through a new constitution. Over the objections of the European Commission, he reduced the central bank’s autonomy by requiring its vice presidents to be picked by the prime minister. In a move analogous to court-packing, he increased the membership of several financial councils in order to secure a favorable majority. And he tightened government control over higher education by appointing sympathetic government bursars at universities and slashing funding for the liberal arts.

His most controversial maneuver, however, was the 2011 Fundamental Law, which replaced the 1989 constitution, effective January 1st, 2012. Inter alia, new provisions reduced checks and balances, limited the judicial system’s power to review laws, and changed the name of the state from the Hungarian Republic to Hungary. This last amendment was the most controversial part of the new constitution. It was the only provision that did not have any practical ramifications, but it best symbolized the country’s transformation.

Since then, Orbán’s authoritarianism has only grown. His new reforms cost him seats in the 2014 elections, but he clung to his supermajority by a single seat in parliament. It was enough for Fidesz to retain absolute power—the supermajority has practically made the opposition irrelevant. Events then came to his aid. The 2014 refugee crisis spilled over from Syria and Libya into Europe, which made the conflagrations in the Levant and North Africa a European issue. Orbán immediately declared that he would take any measures necessary to prevent the influx of migrants from reaching Hungary, and re-fashioned himself as a populist strongman. He used this newfound political capital to declare that Hungary would henceforth be an “illiberal democracy,” and began to realign his party’s constituency to appeal to Jobbik supporters. He adopted a more pro-Moscow and anti-EU line and an increasingly demagogic social platform. He was rewarded with a new supermajority in the 2018 elections.

In the summer of 2018, Orbán formed his fourth government. His first move was to pass the “Stop Soros” law. In the United States, George Soros’s foundation has an extremely progressive reputation, but its European activities are largely devoted to investment in civil society. The new law required the Open Society Foundation to move its offices out of the country, and the growing campaign against Soros has increasingly become anti-Semitic. As Jamie Kirchick noted in the Jewish publication Tablet:

As a wealthy Jewish financier, it is inevitable that many of the attacks on Soros from European quarters would be laced with antisemitic insinuations. Nowhere has this nasty phenomenon been more apparent than in his native Hungary, where, in the wake of the 2015 migrant crisis, Prime Minister Orbán and his Fidesz party have transformed Soros into Emmanuel Goldstein, the target of a nationwide Two Minutes Hate, replete with giant billboards of the grinning billionaire and photos of his face laminated onto the floors of trams. Soros, according to the Orbán propaganda campaign, seeks nothing less than to destroy Hungary from within by overrunning it with Muslim refugees; last year, a Fidesz MP invoked “The Christian duty to fight against the Satan/Soros Plan.”

A month before the 2018 elections, Orbán gave a speech, in which he directly attacked Soros by name. He opened with the following words, which evoke historic tropes of anti-Semitic scapegoating and fearmongering:

Dear Ladies and Gentlemen! I know that this struggle is difficult for all of us. I understand if some of us are even scared. It is understandable because our opponent is different than we are. Not straightforward, but hiding, not direct but crafty, not honest but base, not national but international, doesn’t believe in labor rather speculates with money, has no country of its own because he feels the world is his in its entirety. Not generous but avenger and always attacks the heart, especially, if the heart is colored red, white, and green.

Plans to open a Holocaust museum in Budapest drew criticisms and objections from Jews and Holocaust survivors inside and outside Hungary who accused the Orbán government of trying to whitewash Hungarians’ participation in the Shoah. The decision to drop Nobel Laureate Imre Kertész, a Hungarian Jew, from the national curriculum produced a further outcry.

Nevertheless, Orbán has plenty of defenders among America’s conservative intelligentsia. Commentators traditionally among those most alive to anti-Semitism on the political Left have been eager to acquit him of this charge by pointing to his alliance with Netanyahu’s Israel. This has left them free to embrace and promote his nationalism and immigration restrictionism as a model for America to follow. Just two weeks ago, National Review ran a corner post by its editor-in-chief, Rich Lowry, entitled “We’re All Orban Now.” The magazine’s senior writer Michael Brendan Dougherty has been a proponent of Orbán for years. In 2018, Washington Examiner’s Ryan Girdusky wrote with some enthusiasm about Orbán’s popularity, which he contrasted favorably with the liberal centrism of European leaders like Theresa May, Emmanuel Macron, and Angela Merkel. Of course, none of these figures is as prominent as President Donald Trump, who has also spoken fondly of the Hungarian nationalist autocrat.

But Orbán is not just a problem for Hungarians. He is a problem for the United States and NATO too, not least in the way that Hungary’s trajectory has followed that of Erdoğan’s Turkey in many important respects. In 2003, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan became the prime minister of Turkey on a center-Right, religious platform. Gradually, he made his move towards authoritarianism, and today he has established himself as Turkey’s dictator. His deepening alliance with Russia is particularly concerning because Turkey is a NATO member equipped with American weapons. Furthermore, Erdoğan has been acting against US interests in Syria by supporting Islamic State terrorists and attacking America’s Kurdish allies. He has even helped Iran to circumvent American sanctions and funneled funds from Qatar to the Palestinian terror organization, Hamas. Turkey’s most serious challenge to the West was his purchase of the Russian anti-aircraft S-400 missile system, for which the United States kicked it out of the F-35 project. American military experts are worried that it likely includes Russian spyware, and its use with Turkey’s NATO-integrated and American-equipped military risks exposing NATO’s secret capabilities to Vladimir Putin.

Orbán returned to power seven years after Erdoğan became prime minister, and so Hungary’s experience lags behind by seven years. But the similarities ought to be alarming. Both leaders have relied upon religious nationalism and anti-Semitism to facilitate an incremental power grab. More troubling, however, is their shared Russophilia. Since 2010, Orbán has adopted an “Eastern Strategy” which seeks to establish closer economic relations with Russia, China, and Turkey. As the West is increasing its support for Ukraine, Orbán’s ties with his country’s eastern neighbor have been deteriorating at the expense of stronger ties with Russia.

These developments have been making Western leaders increasingly uneasy. So far, they have not produced a military alliance with Russia, but if Turkey’s recent history is any indication, they will in time. Orbán has also spoken in favor of cooperation with the Chinese tech giant Huawei, which poses a unique challenge to the security of the United States and the West. This danger is considered so acute that it is threatening the US-UK special relationship—the United Kingdom’s recent contract with Huawei has brought congressional threats of sanctions and the UK’s expulsion from Five Eyes, the Anglosphere’s intelligence sharing alliance.

The United States should learn from the Turkey experience. More than a decade spent appeasing Erdoğan has only encouraged more bad behavior. Of course, American conservatives’ affinity for Orbán, unlike their resentment of Erdoğan, is clouded by the Hungarian autocrat’s reliance on Christian nationalism, as opposed to the neo-Sultan’s Islamism. Nevertheless, they are birds of an authoritarian feather who pose growing threats to US security interests, and they should be treated as such by all Americans.

In response, the United States should create a coalition of allies to isolate Hungary diplomatically and condemn his autocratic rule. They should engage the Hungarian liberal opposition and increase public diplomacy with the Hungarian people through the US Agency for Global Media and its subsidiary organizations Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. And, along with its European and non-European partners, the US should establish a clear red line to assure Orbán that any further moves against US interests will result in sanctions. In the meantime, it will be interesting to see how America’s populist conservatives react to Orbán’s latest power grab. Surely it is time for them to abandon their flirtations with illiberal autocracy. If they can’t bring themselves to defend liberal democracy, then hopefully they can at least bring themselves to acknowledge a growing threat to their own nation’s interests.

 

Shay Khatiri is an MA student of Strategic Studies at Johns Hopkins University, Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS). You can follow him on Twitter @ShayKhatiri.

Feature image: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (L) poses with Hungarian Prime minister Viktor Orbán after they met for discussions on Syria and migration on November 7, 2019 in Budapest, Hungary. (Photo by Laszlo Balogh/Getty Images)

Comments

  1. Viktor Orbán, whose education at Oxford University was paid for by Soros

    As far as I know, Orbán spent only one semester in Oxford on Soros’ money (studying, of all things, liberalism).

  2. George Soros is a trader in human misery. He crashed financial systems all so he could make a buck. https://priceonomics.com/the-trade-of-the-century-when-george-soros-broke/ In the early 90’s he pretty much almost destroyed the British economy in a single afternoon by shorting the pound just because he could and sent the country into a financial crisis. It was called “Black Wednesday”. Despite the suffering of the citizens it caused, he blamed the people in charge for making it possible for him to do that. Yes, it was our fault for not stopping him. That’s how a psychopath’s mind works.

    You need to learn who George Soros is and you will suddenly start seeing the world in a very different way. He is the 15th richest person in the world worth over $25 billion. He’s also a full blown socialist who promotes completely open borders, devaluing the US dollar and replacing it with a singular global currency. Literally a new world order. (The term for this is “globalism”)

    George Soros is a convicted felon and was a Nazi collaborator who profited off the Holocaust. Not grammar Nazis, not soup Nazis, not feminazis, not neo-Nazis, but actual Nazis. The real deal, Soros was a no bullshit, turn in fellow Jews to be killed, collaborator. That’s what we are dealing with.

    Some people will try to lie and say he “survived” the holocaust because he’s Jewish… but in reality he “survived” by pretending to be Christian and taking a job with the Nazis where he stripped valuables from Jews then sorted through it as they were loaded onto cattle cars in front of his face. This wasn’t something he was forced to do, he was paid very well for it, and described it as the happiest time of his life. To this day he says he says he still feels absolutely no guilt or remorse for it. He also has denounced his Jewish heritage, and has donated to anti-Israel terrorist groups.

    But don’t believe me, watch the 60 Minutes interview where he confesses. Watch his reaction: is he ashamed, looking down, stammering? No, his eyes light up and he gets excited talking about his time as a Nazi collaborator. That’s the deal with psychopaths, they can’t recognize when they’re horrifying normal people. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8ZhIrYxOQsI

    He’s paying people to go out and riot in attempt to divide America and cause civil uprising. He has also single handedly funded Black Lives Matter and the Ferguson Protests, along with both of the “women’s marches” (the march for rights they already have lol). He funds all of it for the same reason… civil unrest… it’s a “divide and conquer” technique.

    He has billions of dollars worth of ties to over 30 major media news networks (CNN, the LA times, the Washinton Post… even NPR). Not only does he funnel billions into these media organizations, but his foundation called “open society” has funded various committees and boards which all the heads of these companies are members of (and the media is only run by 5 major corporations, you have News Corp (who owns Fox News), Disney (owns ABC) Comcast (NBC), Time Warner (owns CNN, HBO, TBS, etc) and National Amusements (which owns CBS and Viacom and everything they own).

    Open Society Foundations, Hungarian-born billionaire George Soros’ stated vehicle for progressive social change, orchestrated a well-funded attempt to secure a desired outcome in a U.S. Supreme Court case on illegal immigration enforcement, according to a newly discovered memo between the organization’s top U.S. officials and board members. http://dailycaller.com/2016/08/17/leaked-board-documents-soros-organization-tried-to-buy-supreme-court-ruling-on-illegal-immigration/

    A former portfolio manager for George Soros gagged, tied up, vicious beat and raped hookers in his $8 million Manhattan penthouse. He said, “I’m going to rape you like I rape my daughter.” In one session, he beat one of the women’s “breasts so badly that her right implant flipped,” the papers state. http://nypost.com/2017/11/03/portfolio-manager-accused-of-raping-beating-women-in-penthouse-dungeon/

    Here’s Chuck Schumer sitting down with a burner phone and meeting with the son of George Soros. Move along, nothing to see here! https://imgur.com/88Td3Zr

  3. Nah, because of the BoE’s adherence to the ERM, i.e. the need to maintain (almost) fixed exchange rate between the pound & the DM.

    The BoE overvalued the pound: some of the Briton’s consumption was financed by the German customer. Soros figured out that such is the case & said: “let the Germans finance me”, & started to short the pound (essentially against the DM).

    The BoE’s losses stopped at the instant they stopped defending the pound/DM exchange rate. Any profit of Soros & his co-investors (a cool billion dollars) was handed to them by the BoE.

  4. On the one hand, Orbán certainly has unfavorable illiberal and authoritarian tendencies, as described in the article. On the other hand, he is one of the much-needed counterweights against the even more illiberal and authoritarian tendencies in Brussels, where the “liberal centrism of European leaders like (…) Emmanuel Macron, and Angela Merkel” together with unaccountable bureaucrats threatens to gradually transform the EU into a kind of EUSSR.

    As a current example, the European Court of Justice ruled today that the 2015 refusal of Hungary, Poland and the Czech Republic to bow to the European distribution mechanism and accept large quotas of asylum seekers was illegal. These so-called liberal centrists are determined to force-feed all European countries with illegal immigrants, even those countries where the majority of the population and their democratically elected governments have decided that they do not want this.

    I beg your pardon, but in a situation like this, Viktor Orbán is clearly just the lesser of two evils.

  5. «In response, the United States should create a coalition of allies to isolate Hungary diplomatically and condemn his autocratic rule. They should engage the Hungarian liberal opposition and increase public diplomacy with the Hungarian people through the US Agency for Global Media and its subsidiary organizations Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.»
    Here an interesting analogy arises. As far as I remember, Obama & Co actively intervened in the election process in Israel in the hope of removing Netanyahu.
    After Trump was elected president, the main culprits were Russians and the stupid American people.
    Apparently, those who are sure that they are on the right side of history consider it their duty to correct unreasonable peoples.
    The problem is that unreasonable peoples are often very puzzled by the results of these corrections. Libya and Syria are examples of this.
    Do not forget, the vast majority of Hungarians voted for Orban. I think they had reasons for this. Although I myself have certain concerns in Orban’s politics, I can understand the Hungarians who are tired to be teaching to think right by people who are not always able to think - Merkel is an example.
    I also have some doubts that attempts to fix the American people, who unreasonably chose Trump, will benefit the American people.
    What I wrote here is not at all a call to ultranationalism. Rather, these are cautious doubts in the minds of those who are too sure that they are smart. Numerous examples give reasons for these doubts.

  6. We often read here in the US press that Donald Trump is an “authoritarian leader” too, yet for some reason this would be dictator was not even able to remove one rather nasty reporter from the White House press briefings. Some authoritarian. Now, the would-be dictator just allowed for that same CNN reporter to take up about half of the time of a marathon presser just two days ago, Acosta getting 14 questions in. In fact, you would be very hard pressed to find even a single legitimate example of the current US president being an authoritarian, or even having leanings in that direction. Meanwhile, liberals are screaming for an endless national lock down. Maybe Trump would like to be more authoritarian (following the prior president’s example), but, thus far, he has not been allowed to in the least. There are no signs of him ever really doing so. Besides, it takes a veritable genius to corral a government as diffuse and complex as the American government. How could the “insane-buffoon-clown” Donald Trump ever accomplish this feat?

    I don’t spend a lot of time reading about Viktor Orbán or Hungarian politics, but I have noticed a great deal of hyperbole in the writings about him, and the details of his malfeasance are extremely thin or vague. When I look closer at the case against Orbán, more doubts arise about these claims, not about Orbán.

    How or why should I trust the same people who write such piffle about Donald Trump to be reliable when writing about Victor Orbán? Simple. I don’t. Since I do not have enough time or interest to learn more about Hungary, I will reserve judgement.

  7. Yes. But to be fair, we should consider both sides equally.

    What about the law introduced by Macron in France in 2019, which threatens people with up to one year in prison for “spreading misinformation” (the definition of which can also be stretched) in the three months leading up to an election?

    What about this year’s expansion of Germany’s infamous Netzwerkdurchsetzungsgesetz (network enforcement law), which now forces social media providers to report anyone whose comments could be considered hate speech to a central government authority for investigation and possible prosecution?

    In my opinion, these measures are much more threatening because these countries are much more powerful and influential. And, as you can see from the European Court of Justice ruling mentioned, they tend to impose their will on other countries.

    I therefore maintain that we are dealing here with two evils of which I consider them, in the present situation for Europe, to be the greater or at least equally great threat.

  8. There seems to be a glaring hypocrisy on the part of cosmopolitan liberals- if you are a Western country, then you should take-in as many economic migrants as apply to your country, on the other hand, if you are a non-Western country, then your culture can’t possibly be judged by Western standards. I don’t whether this is Cloward-Piven at work, or a cynical attempt to establish Left of Centre politics in perpetuity, through demographics, but we should apply the standards of State Sovereignty for peoples to choose their own form of Government and Culture evenly, or not at all.

    We can’t dismiss certain cultural and political choices just because we happen to disagree with them- that way lies antipathy and the eventual disintegration of the Western Alliance.

  9. I couldn’t agree more. But I sense there’s two discussions going on alongside each other here. 1) Yes, there’s a lot of hypocrisy inherent in the EU’s behaviour. 2) Orbán is currently building an authoritarian state (at the least), by evading or weakening the rule of law.

    Both are to be condemned.

  10. As a Hungarian and a voter of Orbán/Fidesz since 1994, I can’t help but shrug readng more ill-informed Guardian-stlye Orbán bashing. Please allow me to fill in a few facts the artcle glosses over, such as Hungary’s scandal-ridden and catastrophic Socialist/Liberal period between 2002-and 2010 that ended with Orbán’s second prime ministership.
    In 2002, the otherwise popular Orbán lost the election by minimal margin as result of a cynically tasteless last minute smear campaign by the Socialists, who claimed that Orbán was about to hang people! They’d put it on wall-sized posters in Budapest, upon which Hungary’s former Communist then Socialist ex foreign minister Lászó Kovács posed under a noose. Needless to say, it was a lie that simply twisted a remark that was made not even by Orbán. Anyway, the newly elected PM turned out to be an entirely uncharismatic figure, whose spendings pushed the country’s economy on a slippery slope before he forced to step down to give way to Mr. Ferenc Gyurcsány, who turned out to be one of the most corrupted and damaging politicians of Hungarian history. He basically amalgamated the worst traits of Britain’s Tony Blair and France’s Macron: a good talker, and also a pathological Teflon Tony-style liar, who won the elections of 2006 (vs. Orbán) by campaining with the country’s “shipshape economy” and bright economic prospects to declare merely two weeks (!) after the elections “the inevitable austerity measures required by the precarious state of the economy”. It was a sad wake up call for many Hungarians and the popularity of the Lib/Lab coalition was nosediving. Gyurcsány, in a desperete attempt to stop the rot, (in all probablities) self-leaked a speech he delivered soon after the election at a closed party gathering, in which using the foul languges spoke openly about all his shennenigans to secure his win. (“We lied day and night”…“I pretended to govern while doing actually nothing to win…” “I brought this back to you - i.e his party - from shit.”, “this fu…g country” just to get the idea). While he considered the speech a rhetorical masterpiece, Hungarians thought otherwise and went out to streets to protest in massive numbers, which Gyurcsány treated á la Macron: with rubber bullets and tear gas. While the message that Hungarians wanted him out was loud and clear, he did not step down until 2009, by which time Hungary amassed massive debts and went bankrupt, (kept alive by the IMF), suffering from an unemployment rate of 12%. This was the country Orban took over in 2010.
    Fast forward 10 years, Orbán managed several crises (economic, migration, flood) well, often using “unorthodox” mesures for which he got lot of stick, but all proved to be the right moves on hte long run. By early 2020, the netional debt shrunk significantly, the growth of GDP regularly reached 4-5 per cent, being among the highest in the EU, while unemployment were reduced to around zero.
    In the meantime Orbán’s main challenger remains them same Teflon Gyurcsány, (and most lately his wife!) whose mere presence in politics is an insult to democracy (imagine a Tony Blair’s Truthful Tony’s Democratic Party today) and represents exactly what and whom Hungarians kicked out with both feet in 2010.
    At this moment Orban seems to handle the current virus crisis well, his measures, such as closing schools, cinemas, etc. - contrary to what the article suggest - were considered to be timely and necessary by most, even by his opposition, (we have seen enough of the Italian crisis for not wanting the same over here), the debate is mostly over the time limit. Now, this is clearly a symbolic issue. Bearing in mind that Orban enjoys a 2/3 majority, renewing the state of emergency fortnighly, bi-monthly, or as necessary, is sheer formality, and any slant assumptions that evil Orbán would keep up (the economically devastating) state of emergency and curfews, etc. endlessly, while the whole of Eurpe enjoys the sun in Iltalian beaches are nothing short of ridiculous. So I’d say wait, see, and - with due respect - mind your own crisis.

  11. I’ve visited Budapest a couple of times, last year and 15 years ago.

    Nice place - great food, great bars, art and culture, lots of tourists, especially Japanese and lots of young brits.

    The Hungarians know what it was to live under the heel of the Ottoman Empire, and they do not want to go back to those times, and unlike many Europeans further north have an absolute cultural memory of being subjugated by an Islamic power - the same is true of Southern Spain - and do not swallow the Islam is like any other religion bs. They like the Japanese, who strangely are not criticised for this - want to have a strong unified Hungarian culture, and unlike the Swedes are not naive enough to think everyone will instinctively and almost immediately realise the superiority of the host culture and immediately drop all their imported cultural baggage and fit right in. (Of course when they don’t they will say that the government isn’t doing enough.)

    Last time in Budapest, the place had become evidently much more prosperous. And everywhere it was Hungarian products, including superb Hungarian wine. Also the streets were perfectly safe to walk about late at night.

    Contrast to Berlin where my very good, but naive, German friends are all fleeing the centre because you know the schools, the new children ‘have lots of problems’, and of course they heartily disapprove of the AfD, but they have moved to an AfD voting area because the schools are much better.

    A Hungarian friend once told me that the Hungarians have a tendency to blame any calamity on the Jews, so maybe there is a string ant-semitic streak in the country, and maybe this is what Soros is reacting to.

    At the same time, like the Czechs, the Hungarians always resisted the communist takeover, and I sense have a cultural resistance to being told what to do. Merkel for Germany invited the refugees - many of whom as everyone knows are not from Syria, so are actually simply economic migrants - in without asking other European countries, and now retrospectively demands via the EU that they accept the consequences of a decision that was anything but democratic.

    The only thing that Hungary is guilty of is ‘wrong think’ for not wanting to welcome a new Muslim demographic. That is their choice. They have no moral debt to pay. There are not responsible for the war in Syria or Somalia or Afghanistan.

    Lastly Hungary is nothing like Turkey. Erdogan is a fascist. He rules for the Islamists only, and everyone who does not vote for him and what he represents is his enemy: the wrong kind of Muslim, the Christian, the Kurds. He is responsible for locking up thousands and suppressing the free press.

    The writer is foolish and wrong.

  12. I suppose this is a pretty good example of the old adage — if the facts are on your side, argue the facts; if the law is on your side, argue the law; if neither are on your side, pound the table. Or at least your keyboard, in bold :rofl:

    Look @Heike, I’m perfectly ok talking about Soros, he’s an interesting person with a significant influence on events, both for good and ill. But crackpot theories of Nazi collaboration or stolen gold really belong on Daily Stormer or Daily Kos or wherever else you picked them up. If you want me to even consider them, you need to provide credible evidence supported by rational argument. You haven’t even scratched the surface there yet.

  13. Comparisons are valuable in ascertaining the motivation of the person writing the article.

    For example, if I hate someone politically or personally, and complain that they’ve done X at a level of, say, 4.0 on the Richter scale, but ignore or discount situations where people I support politically or personally have done the same X at the same level, then my motivations appear to be political or personal.

    There are other ways to judge motivation as well. I this article, the left side of the spectrum is described using the terms “Left” and “progressive”, the right is “far Right”. From that I can automatically conclude that the author is on the “Left”. Or, to be more fair, “far Left”.

  14. This view began in early 2015, when then Federal President Joachim Gauck distinguished in an official speech between a Bright Germany (“Helldeutschland”), which supported Angela Merkel’s refugee-friendly policy, and a Dark Germany (“Dunkeldeutschland”), mainly located in the eastern part and where people are “full of hatred in their hearts” (his words).

    My impression is that a not insignificant number of Germans, especially those with higher education and from the western part, honestly believe that they are witnessing the beginning of a new Nazi Movement 2.0 and that they see this as the chance of a lifetime to reenact 1933, to finally smash the villains and to defeat Adolf Hitler this time once and for all.

    I think it’s a kind of shared delusion caused by the need to heal a terrible part of their history, perhaps understandable in some ways, but still utterly misleading and destructive.

  15. That’s an excellent point and one I hadn’t thought about. So thanks. It certainly would seem to apply to Hitler - Brigitte Hamann’s superb book Hitler’s Vienna (orig. German - Hitlers Wien) certainly paints a similar story in Hitler’s difficult upbringing and young adulthood prior to WWI.

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