News News from Hungary Tuck­er In Budapest: Blow­ing People’s Minds

Tuck­er In Budapest: Blow­ing People’s Minds

Tuck­er Carl­son and Hun­gar­i­an PM Vik­tor Orban, on Mon­day in Budapest


I see now that Tuck­er Carlson’s being here in Hun­gary for this week has blown the minds of lib­er­als and Estab­lish­ment con­ser­v­a­tives. I’m going to keep a run­ning tal­ly in this spot of some of the remarks I’m see­ing online.

Well, look, if one of the lead­ing neo­con­ser­v­a­tive intel­lec­tu­als who advo­cat­ed for dis­as­trous America’s war on Iraq, and who attempt­ed to excom­mu­ni­cate from the Right the “unpa­tri­ot­ic con­ser­v­a­tives” (his phrase) like Pat Buchanan, who opposed the war, hasn’t dis­cred­it­ed him­self enough, this tweet is the cher­ry on top. The idea that there is any­thing remote­ly com­pa­ra­ble in demo­c­ra­t­ic Hun­gary to those grue­some Com­mu­nist regimes is revolt­ing­ly stu­pid. And it shows just how unhinged Estab­lish­ment US think­ing on Hun­gary is. Giv­en how much Hun­gar­i­ans suf­fered under Sovi­et dom­i­na­tion, that Frum made that com­par­i­son is deeply insulting.

He goes on:

He vis­it­ed Hun­gary. I’ve lived in Hun­gary since April. I have nev­er seen that, even when talk­ing with peo­ple who despise Orban, and who had no qualms about say­ing so. I imag­ine it could hap­pen in cer­tain con­texts … but then again, a DC friend told me about his Trump-vot­ing fed­er­al bureau­crat who was afraid that the peo­ple he worked with in his Wash­ing­ton office would dis­cov­er that he sup­port­ed their boss, the sit­ting pres­i­dent of the Unit­ed States. This kind of thing hap­pens in woke insti­tu­tions — aca­d­e­m­ic, jour­nal­is­tic, cor­po­rate, etc — all the time. All. The. Time. Does that both­er Frum? Has he used his plat­form to attack those soft total­i­tar­i­ans in his (our) own coun­try who make peo­ple afraid to say what they think?

Any­way, a Budapest based jour­nal­ist and jour­nal­ism pro­fes­sor comments

I live and work here and have nev­er seen any­thing remote­ly like that – as a jour­nal­ist, inter­view­ing count­less peo­ple.

— Boris Kál­noky (@bkalnoky) August 3, 2021

And this great riposte from a libertarian

When was the last time you vis­it­ed Amer­i­ca, David?

— Ilya Shapiro (@ishapiro) August 3, 2021

Frum calls Orban a “for­eign dic­ta­tor.” You know how the Hun­gar­i­ans got Orban? They’ve vot­ed for him in every elec­tion since 2010. There’s anoth­er elec­tion in 2022. They might vote him out. Because Hun­gary is not Stalin’s Rus­sia, Mao’s Chi­na, or Castro’s Cuba. It is a democ­ra­cy in which peo­ple vote the way folks like David Frum wish they would not. They vote for Orban because they’re doing bet­ter under his gov­ern­ment eco­nom­i­cal­ly than they were before. They vote for Orban because he defends Hun­gar­i­an iden­ti­ty and sov­er­eign­ty by oppos­ing open bor­ders immi­gra­tion. They vote for Orban because like most Hun­gar­i­ans, he’s a social con­ser­v­a­tive whose views mir­ror theirs (though unlike most Hun­gar­i­ans, he is a prac­tic­ing Christian).

Else­where in his tweet­storm, Frum said Orban is cor­rupt, hav­ing alleged­ly stolen a bunch of mon­ey. I don’t know how accu­rate that alle­ga­tion is, but it seems clear from talk­ing to many peo­ple here, even sup­port­ers of the gov­ern­ment, that cor­rup­tion is a big prob­lem. That said, I have spo­ken to plen­ty of Hun­gar­i­ans who assume — as many peo­ple in the post-com­mu­nist coun­tries of this region do — that their lead­ers are going to indulge in cor­rup­tion. I shared a taxi with a cou­ple of young women not long ago, and asked them about the elec­tion com­ing up. One of them said that she doesn’t like the government’s cor­rup­tion, but believes that Hun­gary can live with it. What it can’t live with, she said, is the kind of cor­rup­tion that says it’s okay to teach chil­dren that they might be one of fifty gen­ders. That form of cor­rup­tion can destroy a society.

You ought to read a good book by the lib­er­al aca­d­e­mics Ivan Krastev and Stephen Holmes, titled,  The Light That Failed. It’s a very well-writ­ten analy­sis of why lib­er­al democ­ra­cy has failed to take off in post-Com­mu­nist Europe and Rus­sia. Here’s a key seg­ment, from pages 65 – 6 in the paper­back editions:

Orban’s break with lib­er­al­ism is often explained as either pure oppor­tunism (he moved to the right because that was where the votes were) or as a result of his grow­ing con­tempt for the lib­er­al Budapest intel­lec­tu­als whom he had ini­tial­ly admired, but who looked down on him with a trans­par­ent sense of supe­ri­or­i­ty. The moment that best cap­tures Orban’s tense rela­tion­ship with Hun­gar­i­an lib­er­als who, unlike him, came from Hungary’s urban intel­li­gentsia, is the wide­ly report­ed sto­ry of how, dur­ing a recep­tion, the well-known Free Demo­c­rat MP Mik­los Haraszti went up to Orban, who was dressed like the oth­er guests, and adjust­ed his tie with a super­cil­ious ges­ture. Every­one present remem­bers that Orban blushed and was vis­i­bly flus­tered. The young and aspir­ing polit­i­cal leader was mor­ti­fied at being treat­ed as an uncouth rel­a­tive from the coun­try­side. Stend­hal would have known how to describe what the young provin­cial felt at that moment.

It is tempt­ing, then, to reduce Orban’s dis­ap­point­ment with lib­er­al­ism to either polit­i­cal expe­di­en­cy or per­son­al resent­ment at his con­de­scend­ing treat­ment by Budapest’s lib­er­al intel­lec­tu­als. But it cuts much deep­er than this. Indeed, it goes to the heart of the lib­er­al under­stand­ing of pol­i­tics, includ­ing liberalism’s sys­tem­at­ic ambiva­lence about the exer­cise of pow­er. While Hungary’s lib­er­als were pre­oc­cu­pied with human rights, checks and bal­ances, a free press and judi­cial inde­pen­dence (all val­ued because of the con­straints they place on pow­er), Orban was inter­est­ed in using pow­er to upend the polit­i­cal order. While Budapest lib­er­als want­ed to win argu­ments, he want­ed to win elec­tions. His pas­sion for foot­ball taught him that what mat­ters in any con­test, be it pol­i­tics or sports, are killer instincts and unwa­ver­ing loy­al­ty. What mat­ters espe­cial­ly is that your fol­low­ers stick with you when you occa­sion­al­ly lose. The exem­plary leader is not the one who is judi­cious­ly fair to every­body but the one who inspires and mobi­lizes his own team or tribe.

To ral­ly his sup­port­ers, Orban harps sin­gle-mind­ed­ly on the stan­dard list of liberalism’s sins per­pe­trat­ed, he claims, by the servile imi­ta­tors of lib­er­al democ­ra­cy who mis­gov­erned Hun­gary for two decades after 1989. First, the lib­er­al pic­ture of soci­ety as a spir­i­tu­al­ly emp­ty net­work of pro­duc­ers and con­sumers can­not cap­ture the moral depth and emo­tion­al sol­i­dar­i­ty of the Hun­gar­i­an nation. Lib­er­als are basi­cal­ly indif­fer­ent to the his­to­ry and fate of the nation. In Orban’s boil­er­plate anti-lib­er­al rhetoric, liberalism’s lan­guage of human rights, civ­il soci­ety and legal pro­ce­dures is described as cold, gener­ic and ahis­tor­i­cal. Lib­er­als are so blasé about immi­gra­tion because they divorce cit­i­zen­ship from eth­nic descent and replace the ideals of sub­stan­tive jus­tice and the pub­lic good with bland and abstract notions of pro­ce­dur­al jus­tice, the rule of law and indi­vid­ual util­i­ty. From the pop­ulist per­spec­tive, cos­mopoli­tan dis­trust of eth­nic bonds makes mem­bers of the vast eth­nic major­i­ty in Hun­gary feel like for­eign­ers in their own coun­try. This is how uni­ver­sal­ism destroys sol­i­dar­i­ty. If every­body is your broth­er, then you are an only child. That is why Hungary’s reac­tionary nativists claim that no prin­ci­pled lib­er­al can take a gen­uine inter­est in the fate of Hun­gar­i­ans liv­ing out­side the country.

This is how all anti-lib­er­als talk. But Orban’s recita­tion of the anti-lib­er­al cat­e­chism also reflects some region-spe­cif­ic con­cerns. For exam­ple, liberalism’s focus on indi­vid­ual rights obscured the prin­ci­pal kind of polit­i­cal abuse in post-com­mu­nist Hun­gary, name­ly the pri­va­ti­za­tion of the pub­lic pat­ri­mo­ny by for­mer regime insid­ers, a kind of indus­tri­al-scale cor­rup­tion that vio­lat­ed no indi­vid­ual rights and was indeed con­sol­i­dat­ed by the cre­ation of indi­vid­ual rights to won pri­vate prop­er­ty. This is what Orban means when he says that “in Hun­gary lib­er­al democ­ra­cy was inca­pable of pro­tect­ing the pub­lic prop­er­ty that is essen­tial in sus­tain­ing a nation.” Lib­er­al­ism, he also claims, ignored the social ques­tion and with­draws the state’s pater­nal­is­tic pro­tec­tion from the cit­i­zen­ry, argu­ing that “fee” indi­vid­u­als should shift for them­selves. This is why, in the two decades after 1989,

We con­stant­ly felt that the weak­er were stepped upon … It was always the stronger par­ty, the bank, which dic­tat­ed how much inter­est you pay on your mort­gage, chang­ing it as they like over time. I could enu­mer­ate the exam­ples that were the con­tin­u­ous life expe­ri­ence of vul­ner­a­ble, weak fam­i­lies that had small­er eco­nom­ic pro­tec­tion than oth­er dur­ing the last twen­ty years.

Krastev and Holmes go on to explain some­thing that most Amer­i­cans don’t real­ize. In the imme­di­ate after­math of Communism’s fall, it was the regime insid­ers who made out the best. They refash­ioned them­selves as small‑d democ­rats, and took advan­tage of the mon­ey, posi­tion, and con­nec­tions they had to get rich in the chaos after Com­mu­nism end­ed. Krastev and Holmes said that lib­er­al democ­ra­cy and mer­i­toc­ra­cy got a bad name because it was wide­ly seen as an ide­o­log­i­cal jus­ti­fi­ca­tion for defend­ing the priv­i­leges acquired by the old com­mu­nist elites.

They also explain that Orban’s hatred for lib­er­al­ism has most­ly to do with his resent­ment at the EU, which he believes (cor­rect­ly, in my view) cares noth­ing for Hungary’s nation­al iden­ti­ty, and wish­es to dis­solve it into a soul­less megas­tate. You hear this all the time from pop­ulists in oth­er coun­tries. A cou­ple of weeks ago in Budapest, I heard a vis­it­ing Ital­ian pas­sion­ate­ly denounc­ing the EU for forc­ing farm­ers in the far south of Italy who have been grow­ing oranges and olives since time out of mind to stop doing so, because the abstract eco­nom­ic plan­ners in Brus­sels had oth­er ideas. The tech­nocrats of the EU only saw these farm­ers and those peo­ple are wid­gets and num­bers. The Ital­ian said that oranges and olives are at the basis of an entire way of life.

Any­way, I’ll stop. The point is that if you rely on David Frum and his sort of intel­lec­tu­al to tell you what’s hap­pen­ing in Hun­gary, and what it means, you will be bad­ly informed. You don’t have to love Hun­gary or its demo­c­ra­t­i­cal­ly-elect­ed ruler, but you should make your judg­ments about Hun­gary based on what is actu­al­ly going on in this coun­try, the good and the bad (for there is both).

Mean­while, the stu­pid­i­ty and bad faith of the Hun­gary haters is made manifest

They announce Hun­gar­i­an democ­ra­cy dead while also close­ly cov­er­ing Hun­gar­i­an elec­tions hop­ing the right side wins. pic​.twit​ter​.com/​K​g​s​0​y​e​k​Vao

— Richard Hana­nia (@RichardHanania) August 3, 2021

I feel like we should all talk more about how con­ser­v­a­tives’ dream is to make Amer­i­ca more like this much poor­er, rinky-dink lit­tle coun­try in Cen­tral Europe. pic​.twit​ter​.com/​o​W​k​v​H​m​G​UB1

— Matthew Ygle­sias (@mattyglesias) August 3, 2021

But this is a sol­id point

WRT to Hun­gary and so much else, the cen­tral prob­lem is that the rul­ing class has con­fused their pol­i­cy con­sen­sus of the last 30 years with “lib­er­al democracy”

— Inez Step­man ⚪️🔴⚪️ (@InezFeltscher) August 3, 2021

Orban doesn’t want Hun­gary to be woke, because he sees what that is doing to Amer­i­ca. He doesn’t want to open the bor­ders to migrants, because he fears that a coun­try as small as Hun­gary could lose itself. He doesn’t want Mus­lim immi­grants because he looks at the prob­lems the rest of Europe has assim­i­lat­ing them, and says, “No, thanks.”

I was present at a 90-minute inter­view he did with a group of vis­it­ing jour­nal­ists and intel­lec­tu­als back in 2019. None of us had pre­pared for the ses­sion, because we didn’t know we were going to meet the Prime Min­is­ter. I wrote about it here. Excerpt:

Orban begin our ses­sion with extend­ed remarks about Hun­gar­i­an and Euro­pean pol­i­tics, and the role of his Fidesz Par­ty in them. He said that when he was elect­ed in 2010, he had one mis­sion: to save Hun­gary from eco­nom­ic ruin. By the time Orban’s 2014 re-elec­tion bid rolled around, the econ­o­my was sta­ble, and he described the mis­sion of his sec­ond terms as “to say what I think.”

“I real­ized in 2014 that I was the only free man among the prime min­is­ters of Europe,” he said, explain­ing that by “free,” he meant that he had a strong, unit­ed par­lia­men­tary major­i­ty behind him. He added, “In West­ern polit­i­cal life now, you can’t say what you think.”

When the migra­tion cri­sis hit Europe in 2015, Orban famous­ly shut Hungary’s bor­ders to Mid­dle East­ern­ers. Orban said that Hungary’s was the only gov­ern­ment in Europe to respond to the cri­sis in its own inter­ests, and in the inter­ests of Chris­tian­i­ty in Europe. With a pop­u­la­tion of only 10 mil­lion, and as a coun­try where Chris­tian­i­ty, as else­where on the con­ti­nent, is frag­ile, the Hun­gar­i­ans con­clud­ed that allow­ing large num­bers of Mus­lims to take up res­i­dence here would mean the death knell of Chris­tian­i­ty in time.

This scan­dal­ized the Euro­pean polit­i­cal class. Orban doesn’t care. He told our group that he under­stands that he is deal­ing with elites who believe that being a post-Chris­t­ian, post-nation­al civ­i­liza­tion is a great and glo­ri­ous thing. Orban rejects this. He said the main polit­i­cal ques­tion in the West today is how frac­tious plu­ral­i­ties can live togeth­er peace­ably. He said, “Here the most impor­tant ques­tion is how not to have the same ques­tions as them.”

Orban point­ed out that the UK and France were once colo­nial pow­ers in the Mid­dle East. He added, “But Cen­tral Europe was col­o­nized by the Mid­dle East. That’s a fact.” He’s talk­ing about the Ottoman occu­pa­tion of Hun­gary, from 1541 to 1699. Orban told our group that the room we were sit­ting was part of a Church build­ing that had been turned into a mosque dur­ing the occupation.

Explain­ing his deci­sion to shut the bor­ders to Mus­lim refugees, Orban said what tipped the scales was con­sult­ing the Chris­t­ian bish­ops of the Mid­dle East. Orban: “What did they say? ‘Don’t let them in. Stop them.’”

Mid­dle East­ern Chris­tians, said Orban, “can tell you what is the [ulti­mate] end of a soci­ety you have to share with Muslims.”

Sit­ting at the table lis­ten­ing to the prime min­is­ter was Nicode­mus, the Syr­i­ac Ortho­dox arch­bish­op of Mosul, whose Chris­t­ian com­mu­ni­ty, which pre­dates Islam by sev­er­al cen­turies, was sav­age­ly per­se­cut­ed by ISIS. Arch­bish­op Nicode­mus spoke up, thank­ing Orban for what Hun­gary has done for per­se­cut­ed Chris­tians. Nicode­mus said that liv­ing with Mus­lims has taught Iraqi Chris­tians that they can expect no mer­cy. “Those peo­ple, if you give them your small fin­ger, they will want your body,” he said.

“The prob­lem is that West­ern coun­tries don’t accept our expe­ri­ence,” the prelate con­tin­ued. “Those peo­ple [Mus­lims] pushed us to be a minor­i­ty in our own land and then refugees in our own land.”

Under the Orban gov­ern­ment, Hun­gary fre­quent­ly extends a help­ing hand to per­se­cut­ed Christians.The arch­bish­op exhort­ed Orban to stay the course in defense of Chris­tians. For 16 years, he said, Iraqi Chris­tians begged West­ern lead­ers to help them. Address­ing Orban direct­ly, Nicode­mus said, “Nobody under­stands our pain like you.”

Philip Blond, the British polit­i­cal econ­o­mist, sug­gest­ed to the prime min­is­ter that he has a mis­sion to re-Chris­tian­ize Europe. Orban, who is 56 and part of the country’s Calvin­ist minor­i­ty, said that his generation’s mis­sion was to defeat Com­mu­nism. Reli­gious rebirth is a task for Mil­len­ni­als, he said.

Accord­ing to 2017 Pew research, though 59 per­cent of Hun­gar­i­an adults say they believe in God, only 16 per­cent pray dai­ly. As Hun­gary-based writer Will Collins wrote in TAC ear­li­er this year, only 12 per­cent of Hun­gar­i­ans go to church — a num­ber that is no doubt much small­er among Hun­gar­i­ans under 40. In my on the record inter­views and back­ground con­ver­sa­tions with Hun­gar­i­an Chris­tians these past few days, there is an acute sense that the Chris­t­ian faith is fast fad­ing among the young, who, like their co-gen­er­a­tional­ists across the for­mer Sovi­et bloc, are far more drawn to West­ern materialism.

Orban spoke frankly about the post-com­mu­nist reli­gious state of his coun­try. “It’s still not a healed soci­ety,” he said. “It’s still not in good shape.”

I asked the prime min­is­ter if he saw evi­dence of a “soft total­i­tar­i­an­ism” emerg­ing in the West today, and if so, what are the main lessons that those who resist­ed com­mu­nism have to tell us about iden­ti­fy­ing and resist­ing it.

He said that the Sovi­ets and their ser­vants in Cen­tral Europe tried to cre­ate a new kind of man: homo Sovi­eti­cus. To do this, they had to destroy the two sources of iden­ti­ty here: a sense of nation­hood, and the Chris­t­ian reli­gion. In order to sur­vive, said Orban, “we have to strength­en our nation­al iden­ti­ty and our Chris­t­ian iden­ti­ty. That’s the story.”

West­ern peo­ples have decid­ed to cre­ate a post-Chris­t­ian, post-nation­al, mul­ti­cul­tur­al soci­ety. Peo­ples in Cen­tral Europe do not.  For Orban, re-estab­lish­ing a sense of nation­al iden­ti­ty and the Chris­t­ian faith are the same project. It’s an attempt to reverse the dam­age done by Com­mu­nism. The dan­ger, obvi­ous­ly, is that Chris­tian­i­ty becomes emp­tied of its spir­i­tu­al and moral con­tent, and is filled with nation­al­ism. On the oth­er hand, if a pro-Chris­t­ian politi­cian like Orban can at least keep the pub­lic square open and favor­able to the ances­tral reli­gious beliefs of the nation, reli­gious lead­ers can step into the space pol­i­tics cre­ates, and do their work of recovery.

Orban said that he wants West­ern­ers and oth­ers who share these val­ues to come to the Hun­gar­i­an cap­i­tal, where they will be free to speak their minds, and estab­lish a base. “I’m try­ing to cre­ate a free place in Budapest,” he said. “Please con­sid­er Budapest as a kind of intel­lec­tu­al home.”

Last week, Orban’s gov­ern­ment played host to a demog­ra­phy sum­mit here. Report­ing on it, the Guardian, as usu­al, called Orban a politi­cian of the “far right.” Orban is cer­tain­ly nation­al­ist and pop­ulist (and pop­u­lar here), but smear­ing him as some kind of right-wing extrem­ist only demon­strates how cut off the lib­er­al West­ern media are from com­mon sense. One can cer­tain­ly take issue with Orban’s illib­er­al meth­ods of pur­su­ing his pol­i­cy goals — and the prime min­is­ter does not deny that he is an illib­er­al demo­c­rat — but the man under­stands his small coun­try to be in a fight for nation­al sur­vival against glob­al­ist, anti-Chris­t­ian mul­ti­cul­tur­al­ism com­ing from Brus­sels and oth­er West­ern cap­i­tals. How, exact­ly, is he wrong?

Look, whether you are on the Left or the Right, or some­where in between, if you have a chance to vis­it Hun­gary, you should. I can’t say it enough: the real­i­ty on the ground is very dif­fer­ent from what you read in the US media, or hear from Amer­i­can and West­ern Euro­pean talk­ing heads. I had three months to go wher­ev­er I want­ed here. Nobody told me what to see, or what to say. I wouldn’t have come if that were the deal.

UPDATE: Read­er Peter Balogh, who is Hun­gar­i­an and who lives in Hun­gary, comments:

Thank you, Mr. Dreher. It irri­tates me to no end when, some self-appoint­ed West­ern “experts” on Hun­gar­i­an affairs call Orbán as Pres­i­dent; or when in their report on Hun­gary every­thing begins in 2010, and not a sin­gle word is uttered to describe how and why the “lib­er­al-social” oppo­si­tion as direct con­tin­u­a­tion of Sovi­et pup­pet sys­tem ser­vants have gained influ­ence, includ­ing their media con­nec­tions. Look at for­mer PM Gyurcsany’s net – him­self a high-rank­ing for­mer mem­ber of Com­mu­nist Youth orga­ni­za­tion (and as such, an informer who had denounced his uni­ver­si­ty class­mates for their anti-Sovi­et peace activism in in the ear­ly 1980’s); wife is the grand­daugh­ter of one of Kadar’s hench­men; moth­er-in-law an influ­en­tial fig­ure of a bank, pro­vid­ing pref­er­en­tial loans for pri­va­ti­za­tion of Kadarist clien­tele (that is, free rob­bery), and the nicest of all, the whole fam­i­ly lives in a vil­la con­fis­cat­ed from its wealthy Jew­ish own­er first by the Nazis, then by the Stal­in­ists. These peo­ple feel that they have a nat­u­ral­ly guar­an­teed enti­tle­ment for wealth, polit­i­cal influ­ence and pow­er at the same time. And they have had to put up with Orban’s streak of win­ning and win­ning and win­ning…. you can only imag­ine their frus­tra­tion and sim­mer­ing hatred.

Source: theam​er​i​can​con​ser​v​a​tive​.com