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The Rhetoric in Hungary

A Hungarian friend sends along an image demonstrating the tone of political debate in that country.

Take a look at the poster on the right, which can be found all over Budapest. It advertises a new book by three intellectuals affiliated with the ruling, nationalist-conservative Fidesz Party. The book’s title is, Who Attacks Hungary, and Why? No need to read the book, for the answer is contained in the cartoon beside it. There stands a giant black boot—with the European Union logo impressed on the sole—stomping down. 

Now take a look at the image on the left. It is a famous, anti-fascist poster created by a Hungarian graphic designer. It too features a stomping boot, but this time with Swastikas emblazoned on the sole, and the command “Never Again!” written on the top. The poster was created in 1955 to mark the 10th anniversary of Hungary’s liberation from fascism, and it is the realization of George Orwell’s unforgettable description of 20th century totalitarianism: “If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face—forever.”

So there you have it. In the view of three leading Fidesz ideologists, the European Union’s mild criticisms of a raft of controversial laws passed by the Hungarian government is the equivalent of the Nazi assault on Hungary. Such reductio ad Hiterlum arguments are always obnoxious, but they carry a particularly vile tinge in Europe, especially in a country where 450,000 Jews were sent to Auschwitz. Adding to the insult, is that this poster was plastered across Budapest on the day the speaker of the Hungarian Parliament wrote a terse letter in reply to Nobel Prize Laureate Elie Wiesel, who recently announced his decision to return the Hungarian government’s highest state prize after the speaker attended a memorial service for a deceased fascist writer and politician.   

Harking back to past struggles is a tried and true tactic of Fidesz and its leader, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban. Yet, having earned his chops as an anti-communist student activist, before maturing into the conservative leader he is today, Orban tends to paint his enemies as being of the left, often times associating them with the communists who invaded and occupied Hungary. See, for instance, the speech he delivered earlier this year on Hungary’s National Day, in which he likened the EU to the Soviet Union, declaring, “We are more than familiar with the character of unsolicited comradely assistance, even if it comes wearing a finely tailored suit and not a uniform with shoulder patches.”

Leading figures of Hungary’s ruling party are clearly displeased with the European Union, and some are starting to ask why their country remains a member. They might soon regret if leaders in Brussels start asking the same thing. 

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