Monday, May 23, 2016

Hungary: Fidesz vice president walks out of interview after being accused of dog whistle antisemitism

Via Hungarian Free Press:
On Friday night, Fidesz vice president Szilárd Németh debated Viktor Szigetvári, president of the centre-left Együtt (Together) party on ATV, Hungary’s only centre-left cable news channel. Within minutes, the Fidesz politician was demonizing the refugees and migrants arriving in Europe, suggesting that “ordinary” Hungarians cannot co-exist with refugees in Hungary and implied that Hungarian opposition politicians were traitors allied to dark, foreign political and economic interests, because they oppose the upcoming Fidesz-initiated referendum on what the ruling party refers to as the European Union’s “obligatory settlement” of foreigners in Hungary. Mr. Szigetvári eventually suggested what, I suspect, many viewers were thinking: Mr. Németh was engaging in dog whistle antisemitism, coupled with explicit racism. It was at this point that Mr. Németh caused a stir, by getting up from his chair, unplugging his microphone and walking off the set–all on live television.


As of late, regular, uncharitable references in Fidesz–including by Prime Minister Viktor Orbán himself–to Hungarian-American billionaire George Soros, all serve as a type of dog-whistle antisemitism. Mr. Németh offered an easily recognizable version of this narrative in the ATV debate, and this is what ultimately led to the end of the exchange.

“They are using all means available against the referendum, including their prominent Hungarian politicians,” remarked Mr. Németh.

“Go ahead, and say it: the terrorists, right?”–retored Mr. Szigetvári, as he tried to unpackage the third person and the thinly-veiled insinuations in the Fidesz co-president’s sentence. László Kövér, the Fidesz party Speaker of the Hungarian parliament, had infamously referred to opposition politicians previously as being “pen-wielding terrorists.”

“They are using their prominent financial interests here in Hungary,” continued Mr. Németh, to which Mr. Szigetvári responded:

“And the Jews too, I’m sure. Right?”

At this point, Mr. Németh went silent, and then indicated that he takes great offence.

“Whose economic agent am I?”–continued Mr. Szigetvári. “Whose economic interests do I represent, Mr. Németh?”–added the Együtt co-president.

“Good-bye”–were  some of the last words uttered by the Fidesz vice president as he walked out of the studio on live television. “I’m not willing to sit down at the same table with a man like him,” said Mr. Németh, referring to his debate partner.

It is undeniable that the Fidesz vice president engaged in dog whistle antisemitism and overt racism on live  television. It should be stressed, that in today’s Hungary explicit antisemitism is not generally acceptable in most quarters, even in Fidesz. This is why coded antisemitism is used so often and quite effectively. While it may not be socially acceptable behaviour to verbally attack Jews, en bloc, in public, racism directed against other demographics is more than permissible. It is possible that Mr. Németh was not consciously intent on engaging in dog whistle antisemitism on air, but perhaps hearing Prime Minister Orbán and other prominent Fidesz leaders use this vocabulary on a daily basis (disparaging references to George Soros and his “nefarious” economic and political might, as well as the idea of a sinister world conspiracy against the Hungarian nation), obviously leaves a mark. I would suggest that dog whistle antisemitism and overt racism now flows as naturally when Fidesz politicians talk, as cold water from the kitchen tap.

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