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On the state of Hungarian media

March 23rd, 2015

A conservative political scientist contends that ‘gonzo’ journalism has become dominant in left-leaning media. A Marxist philosopher adds that mainstream media, both Left and Right unwittingly help Jobbik. A liberal commentator recommends that public media should be completely closed down since they always serve the interests of the governing side. A moderate commentator believes that political analysts have become mercenaries in the partisan debates.

In Magyar Nemzet, Tibor Löffler suggests that the left-leaning media in Hungary have increasingly adopted a tabloid approach. The conservative political scientist contends that popular opposition news outlets have become less objective in their reporting and try to mobilize voters through sensational reporting, gross simplifications and stellar exaggerations rather than offering factual and reasonable criticism. Löffler claims that ‘gonzo’ journalism tends to dumb down public life; as a result, voters will lose their ability to make rational judgments on any events, and will stick to their biases even if they lack any factual basis.

Commenting on the latest polls (see BudaPost March 19) in Heti Világgazdaság, Gáspár Miklós Tamás argues that the far-right Jobbik party capitalizes on mainstream Left and Right media strategies. Former Fidesz media mogul Lajos Simicska’s recent battle with the government weakens support for Fidesz among the middle classes and older generations, and pushes undecided conservative voters towards Jobbik, Tamás believes. The left-wing and liberal press is also guilty of not taking Jobbik’s challenge seriously, he claims. Superficial and sensationalist liberal journalism condemns and ridicules ordinary Hungarians and what is precious to them, which also plays into the hands of Jobbik, who can easily mobilize voters alienated by left-liberal elites. As a result, Jobbik is becoming increasingly popular, even without having its own media hinterland, Tamás concludes.

The public media should be abolished,” Sándor Révész writes in Népszabadság. The liberal commentator claims that in Hungary, consecutive Left and Right wing governments since 1990 have followed the old Communist practices and have tried to dominate the public media and use it as a propaganda tool. Révész suspects that this was the sole purpose of the government’s decision to relaunch M1 public television as a nationwide news channel (see BudaPost March 21). In conclusion, Révész proposes that the public media should be completely eliminated – there is no need for public media if it serves partisan interests alone, rather than the public interest.

Political analysis is dead,” Gábor Török declares. The political scientist known for his centrist and balanced opinions believes that Hungarian political analysis has become the prey of partisan propaganda spin doctors. Parties have realized that they can get their messages to voters by employing quasi-analysts acting as political PR managers, Török maintains. He adds that politicians also use pundits allied to them to confirm their own views and increase their own determination. Political analysts have become participants of political life rather than observers of it, Török remarks. The Hungarian public prefers partisan analysts with strong and one-sided opinions to balanced analyses which they often find simply vapid and boring, he concludes.

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