Marching towards a dictatorship
I have contemplated a lot whether or not to write about the state of our public discourse or about where the increasingly aggressive remarks of our politicians or public figures may lead to. One reason for my uncertainty was the fact that this issue had regularly been used by certain political actors for their own agenda; typically with less than enough justification. The other reason was “let the cobbler stick to his last”: it is not necessarily a fortunate thing if politicians publish moral commentaries and try to take the bread out of the mouths of “ the professionals”, i.e., publicists and philosophers.
It’s never a good idea to talk of the devil but I am afraid there is much more than that here: we are no longer facing marginal statements, slips of the tongue or the occasional badly-worded sentence. Instead, it is a process with an unforeseeable end. That’s why we have to talk about it.
On March 15 last year, Viktor Orbán threatened anyone with even just slightly different views on the world with a moral, political and legal retribution. These words did not come from the mouth of a marginal, minor party leader or an inexperienced political upstart but from that of the Prime Minister. The sowed seeds seem to have sprouted and the members of the political side which used to proudly call itself civic are now a rich source of the seeds of hatred. Their message is that if you are not with us, you are simply a nobody. This was what Fidesz members sang in the evening of April 8, thus sending a message well in advance to anyone who was not a member of their branch. Now it’s part of Fidesz’ folklore in the form of a moderately sophisticated song. Of course, these things are still not enough for some people: the owner of Fidesz Membership Card No. 5, i.e., Zsolt Bayer keeps throwing much worse curses at basically anyone who is not a Fidesz supporter. (An online magazine recently published an article comparing some of his utterances with the radio broadcasts that instigated the massacre of 800 thousand people in Rwanda in 1994. The difference was not big.) I could go on with this list all the way to the latest harangue by the mayor of Érd.
Everybody have their bad days and since public figures are only human, they do make imprudent, bad statements on occasion, too. Not all genuinely or seemingly bad remarks are motivated by evil intentions and I would rather refrain from assuming the opposite. However, what we see in Hungary in 2019 is much more than some unfortunate slips of the tongue. What we see here is that the governing party and its leaders ignore the half of the country which did not vote for them. Aware of the dominant position arising from being in government, they shamelessly threaten or humiliate those other people, and use every available forum to make them feel ignored. The glaring examples of this attitude are the recent Soros-blaming communiqués released by the Hungarian Mail Service and the state-owned Volánbusz Coach Service or the condescending style of the State Audit Office, which is headed by Fidesz’ worn-out ex-lawmaker, László Domokos.
And where does all this lead to? The “good” scenario is that Hungary eventually gets used to this vulgar discourse while problem solving is replaced by cursing at each other. This is one way to do it but then Fidesz should not feel offended if the younger generation, growing up in such an environment, throws even more witty swearwords at them. Meanwhile, the country goes down the tubes.
The bad scenario is that some people begin to take these verbal assaults seriously, which we have seen examples of. The deteriorating public discourse has already led to the stabbing of a renowned mayor in Poland. Do we want to wait until all this name-calling and “retribution” leads to physical violence in Hungary, too? I could also mention how certain semi-criminal figures with ties to Fidesz are issuing online threats to the members of Jobbik’s Youth Platform. How far will we go? Will we end up where being involved in politics becomes a hazardous job? Just like in certain South American countries where assassinations are business as usual? Or will we go even further; to the point where we were in the 1950s?
The bad news is that we cannot see the end of this process. If public figures, politicians elected by popular vote can be threatened, called nobody and ruined without any consequence, what should the average joe expect? Should they just expect to be struck down by the government or a local oligarch? We have seen something like this in Hungarian history: after World War II, Communists gradually took over the country. They began to eliminate multi-party democracy, then they imprisoned or deported opposition politicians, followed by dissenters and finally everyone who didn’t fit into the picture. Eventually, keeping a low profile didn’t help either because just a few malevolent rumours were enough to get you indicted. “Don’t just guard them, hate them!” this was the slogan of the wardens working in the headquarters of the Communist secret police. Orbán and his friends are now toying with hatred. If you are not with them, they mark you for destruction. This path is a dictatorship’s path.
I hope we can still take a turn and make Hungary a reliable and safe European country again. That’s what Jobbik works for, and that’s what we will cast our ballots for in the European parliamentary elections on May 26.
Published on Márton Gyöngyösi's Facebook-account.