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From Oslo to Budapest

August 1st, 2011

Commentators on both sides of the political battlefield believe equally that Hungary must learn its lesson from what happened in Oslo on July 22. But they differ on what that lesson should be.

In a front page editorial, Népszabadság deplores the deep hostility separating mainstream left and right wing forces in Hungary, because it makes them incapable of acting jointly against rightist extremists. “Although, after Oslo, there would be more than sufficient reason to overcome mutual enmities or even disgust with one another. (Far right) Jobbik is gaining support and it is not the worst group of that ilk,” – warns the left wing daily, mentioning explicitly the 64 Counties Movement as an even more extremist grouping.

In his 1500 page manifesto posted on the Internet just before going on the rampage in Oslo, Anders Breivik (the man arrested for the killings) mentioned three Hungarian organizations as professing ideas worthy of his support, namely the now marginal Hungarian Justice and Life Party (MIÉP), as well as Jobbik and 64 Counties. The latter was among the few dozen groupings to whom Breivik also addressed a separate letter. Both Hungarian far right organizations vehemently condemned the Oslo killings. Jobbik chairman Gábor Vona admitted however that he partially agreed with Breivik on the problem of immigration.

In Népszava, veteran political commentator Péter Vajda points out that in the wake of the financial crisis, intolerance towards migrants from Asia and Africa as well as open racism are spreading throughout Western Europe. But, he adds, “we don’t have to travel that far to discover similar attitudes: in our unhappier half of the Continent, some people would contemplate a ‘simplified solution’ to the Roma problem… Certain segments of the political far right in Hungary are not separated from outright criminals by a Great Wall of China,” Vajda remarks, in a direct reference to the far right serial killers who took the lives of 6 innocent Roma, in late night attacks in 2008-2009.

A similar point is made in Élet és Irodalom by Gábor Kajtár, a lecturer on international law at ELTE University. He contends that Hungary does not have to wait for an Oslo type terrorist attack to happen, because it has already occurred in several villages in eastern Hungary, where those six Hungarian Gypsies died at the hands of a group of racist murderers, now under trial in Budapest. “It has already happened. But most of our society have hidden their heads in the sand.”

The left-liberal weekly Magyar Narancs finds “the language used by Anders Breivik, the Oslo killer, as well as the hatred it radiates, familiar to us as well. Let’s just replace the word ‘Muslim’ with ‘Gypsy’ or ’Jewish’, or again ‘Romanian’. Other names singled out for hatred, like ‘left wing political correctness’ or ‘multiculturalism’, don’t even have to be replaced.”

In Magyar Nemzet, the main pro-government daily, Zsuzsanna Körmendy deplores the impotence of the Norwegian police during Breivik’s rampage on Utøya Island and declares that “for the moment the mass killer is the number one beneficiary of the liberal state, for he was not shot dead on the spot and will not be executed… Impotence is the original sin of the disorderly state… We are at the beginning of the chaos; so there is still a way back. We should not wait for fanatical killers to find it. Unless we throw away the wretched blinkers of political correctness, we shall have left the issue of minorities to the extremists.”

On Galamus, a radically anti-Fidesz website, left liberal commentator Péter Niedermüller believes “we are the first who must learn the lessons of Oslo.” He accuses the government of conducting policies which arouse hatred towards  the left and left wing liberalism. Breivik could appear “as if from nowhere” in a rich, open and liberally minded society. “Hungary, Niedermüller believes, is the exact opposite of all that. So where does that leave us?”

László Szentesi Zöldi, deputy editor-in-chief of Magyar Hírlap rejects all ideological explanations of the Oslo tragedy. He believes that the likes of Breivik are not motivated by ideology, but rather by personal frustration. “The only thing we can do is to pay closer attention to asexual idiots playing with guns, living with their mums and spreading nonsense.”

Political scientist Ferenc Kumin suggests that unlike Western right wing radicals, Jobbik, Hungary’s extreme right wing party is unlikely to suffer a setback after the Oslo massacre. While Western far right forces are mainly anti-Muslim, such a policy would not be profitable in Hungary, where there is practically no immigration from Asia or Africa. Hungary’s right wing extremism singles out Gypsies as a more rewarding target, “given the rural population’s experience with poor law and order.” That in itself would not prompt Hungarian extremists to oppose their Western kins’ anti-Muslim policies. But they are also openly anti-Semitic. West European right wing radicals will have a tough time explaining why their ideas have nothing in common with Breivik’s. But their Hungarian counterparts can only be held responsible in an abstract sense: they are also intolerant and disrespectful of cultural and ethnic differences. Kumin ends his analysis with a tentative prediction: “I wouldn’t be surprised if Jobbik came out strengthened from this affair.”

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