Viktor Orban’s message to the American right, worshipfully gathered to hear him on May 20 on the banks of the Danube, was stark: do as I do.
It is a powerful exhortation for Mr Orban practises what he preaches.
In order to remake Hungary in the 12 years since he came to power, Mr Orban and his Fidesz party boldly sought four clear strands of dominance:
- The media
- Civic institutions
- Political maps
- Civil society
In Hungary, the prime minister and those allied with him have effective control of most media outlets, including state TV. There is hardly any space available to the independent press. Businesses allied with Mr Orban and his political supporters have taken control of the main outlets. In defiance of the European Union’s (EU) promise of privacy as a fundamental right, the government of EU member Hungary keeps track of investigative journalists, such as Szabolcs Panyi and Andras Szabo. It does this by means of Pegasus, military-grade spyware made by the Israeli firm NSO Group.
Not only that, Hungary makes no bones about penalising politically non-aligned media. The recent special meeting in Hungary of the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) – the major convening organisation of the US right – denied access to ‘The New Yorker’, ‘Vox’ Media, ‘Vice News’, ‘Rolling Stone’ and the Associated Press.
Hungary’s courts are stacked with Orban loyalists and unsympathetic civil servants have been replaced with more loyal ones.
The electoral map is gerrymandered in favour of Fidesz, so that Hungary goes to the polls freely but cannot make its choice fairly.
Civic society has been dealt with firmly. Hungarian-American financier George Soros, who has a history of philanthropy towards cosmopolitan causes, has been vilified as the enemy of the Hungarian state and people. A Soros-founded university was forced to relocate to Vienna.
The American right is looking – and listening. We’ll next explore its response.
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