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Dispute over Charlottesville violence

August 21st, 2017

Right-wing, libertarian and left-wing commentators interpret the Charlottesville events in the light of Hungarian politics.

In NépszavaGábor Horváth interprets President Trump’s ‘initial hesitation’ to denounce white supremacist and far-right groups for racist violence as an indication of the President’s effort to maintain his popularity among the violence-prone Neo-Nazis. The left-wing commentator draws a parallel between President Trump’s strategy and the politics of Fidesz. Horváth thinks that President Trump and PM Orbán are both afraid to clearly distance themselves from far-right radicalism. This strategy, Horváth suggests, facilitates the mainstreaming of extremist ideology.

A blogger writing on Mandiner under the penname Batiszkáf welcomes President Trump’s decision to resist the liberal demand to blame the Charlottesville violence on white supremacists. The conservative blogger finds those local authorities at fault who allowed right-wing protesters to mix with anti-fascist demonstrators equipped with helmets, paprika spray and improvised battle gear. Batiszkáf recalls that it was the anti-fascist demonstrators who violated laws and removed public memorials and statues without authorization. He also acknowledges that there were extremists among the counter-protesters trying to defend the statues as well. Batiszkáf speculates that a plot exists, set by liberal elites, to use the event to accuse President Trump of supporting violent racist groups.

Magyar Hírlap’s Mariann Őry blames liberals, including Barack Obama, for the increasing radicalization of public life in the US. The pro-government columnist accuses liberals of trying to divide society into two distinct cohorts through labelling as racist everyone who does not share liberal ‘politically correct´ ideas of positive discrimination and other symbolic issues. Őry thinks that while conservatives try to maintain a healthy distance from the radical right, mainstream liberals embrace the ideology of what Őry calls the radical left, including the Black Lives Matter movement. These groups, Őry maintains, claim to represent the lives of blacks, but in reality, they are ‘interested more in demolishing cities’. In conclusion, Őry thinks that a liberal ‘witch hunt’ in the media and universities, affirmative action and increasing joblessness are the main reasons for radicalization within the US population.

In Heti Világgazdaság, László Seres welcomes President Trump’s ‘somewhat belated decision’ to denounce racist violence. The libertarian pundit, however, finds it mistaken to attribute extremism only to the extreme right. Seres maintains that the left-wing Antifa and the Black Lives Matter movements are also responsible for the escalation of violence. Seres goes so far as to call the Black Lives Matter movement a militant, anti-white group advocating Communist economic ideology in their fight against putative systemic racism. In Seres’ interpretation, the Charlottesville turmoil is the result of the domination of public discourse by two fanatic illiberal groups that, despite their diametrically opposed ideologies, are highly critical of capitalism and individual freedom. In an aside, Seres notes that the emergence of illiberal radical ideologies in the US will help the rise of similar extremist groups in Europe.

Writing in the same weekly, Gáspár Miklós Tamás sharply criticizes Seres for suggesting that both sides share the responsibility for violence. The Marxist philosopher accuses Seres of embracing the Hungarian government’s rhetoric which tries to blur the difference between Fascists and anti-Fascists.

Kettős Mérce’s Zsolt Kapellner also finds nauseating the suggestion that both sides share the responsibility for the Charlottesville violence. The alt-left blogger recalls that Fidesz MP Szilárd Németh in a Facebook post explained the Charlottesville events as the result of ‘liberal-fascist’ ideology. Blaming the violence on both sides is the US and Hungarian Right’s strategy to claim that the Right represents the silent majority of moderate and centrist voters, Kapellner contends. All this, he continues, serves the interests of the current ruling elites to maintain their monopoly on violence. In a response to Seres, Kapellner claims that underprivileged groups can only improve their situation through demanding a complete overhaul of the political structures, as the current system serves the ‘material and spiritual exploitation or outright annihilation’ of the underprivileged. Kapellner accuses governments both in the US and Hungary of inciting racist hatred in order to mobilize against left-wing radical groups that envision an egalitarian world.

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