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Is there a Hungarian bias behind Hungary’s bad image in the West?

January 21st, 2012

A young independent commentator believes that those Western reporters who accuse the Hungarian government of trying to dismantle democracy base their opinions on the narratives of left-wing liberal intellectuals.

“To read Western newspapers nowadays is to travel back in time to the beginning of the 1990s, when the ‘Democratic Charter’ promoted the menace of a ‘fascist threat,’ although our extreme right-wingers enjoyed no broader support than their Western counterparts,”– writes Bence Inkei in komment.hu.

The Alliance of Free Democrats, the party founded by former dissidents – left-liberal intellectual opponents of the Communist regime in the 1980s –-was defeated by a right-wing coalition at the first free elections in 1990. They immediately accused the governing forces of conniving with anti-Semitic and extreme right-wing elements and launched a joint movement with their former great adversaries, the Socialists. When the latter won the elections in 1994, the Liberals decided to join their government.

The early nineties “was the era when articles first appeared in prestigious German, French, Austrian and other Western broadsheets, in which Hungarian opposition intellectuals promoted the idea that xenophobia, anti-Semitism, and nostalgia for the Horthy-era were alive and well in Hungary – as though the country were back at the end of the 1930s,” – Inkei continues.

“Twenty years have passed, but Western newspapers still echo the same opinions, and the two most quoted interviewees are the writer György Konrád and the pianist András Schiff,” Inkei contends.  (Although Schiff did not make political statements in the early nineties. The celebrated pianist András Schiff created an international stir last January when a letter of his, sharply critical of Viktor Orbán, appeared in the Washington Post.)

Inkei admits that the opinions of György Konrád, one of the founders of SZDSZ and the Democratic Charter did matter 20 years ago – which is not the case anymore.”I have not met anyone for years who would have considered his opinions on Hungary important.”

The commentator describes the government’s performance as ‘tragic’, but thinks that those newspapers which echo Mr Konrád’s and Mr Schiff’s opinions about xenophobia, nationalism, chauvinism, irredentism and anti-Semitism fail to address the real problems.

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