Zsolt Bayer is a founding member of Fidesz and the party’s publicist. For many, he is an excruciatingly obscene and intolerable racist. Most recently, after demonstrators appeared at a committee hearing in parliament (they quietly held up signs as the committee discussed the controversial new NGO-stigmatizing bill), Bayer demanded that future demonstrators be violently removed from the parliament and have their faces beaten.
“If people like this show up in the parliament’s building again and disrupt their work, then they need to be thrown out like shitting cats. If they need to be pulled out through their snot and blood, then they should be pulled out through their snot and blood….Their faces should be beaten apart, if need be,” Bayer said on his Karc FM radio program.
On Tuesday, the Hungarian Civil Liberties Union (TASZ) fired back at Bayer’s latest statement with a video in which they express their shock that he would incite violence against peaceful demonstrators.
“Before you would have us beat, why don’t we sit down over some coffee and discuss what you’re so afraid of,” the video closes.
István Tényi, a former Fidesz supporter who has made a name for himself by filing criminal complaints, has called on Hungary’s media authority to open an inquiry into Bayer’s statements. Politics Can Be Different (LMP) co-chair Bernadett Szél has also announced she would file a criminal complaint against the publicist.
The bigger picture
Given Bayer’s history of hateful, racist provocation, it’s not hard to dismiss his work as the nonsensical, rage-filled racist ramblings of someone who will say anything to incite his audience. But it is important to note that his hostile diatribes are only the tip of the iceberg of a rising pro-government trend toward violence and intimidation.
Balded-headed goons with no official ties to the state have made numerous appearances as Fidesz enforcers in recent years. Last year, for example, skinhead enforcers showed up at the National Election Office to prevent opposition politicians from submitting a referendum question. No charges were ever filed. There was also the time when “security” guards violently assaulted demonstrators at Budapest City Park.
Bayer’s violence-inciting maundering is emblematic of a much more serious problem — increasingly frequent open and state-funded hostility toward groups deemed unfavorable by Fidesz.
Back in April, Bayer published a piece on his blog in response to a series of large street protests around Budapest.
“You can be sure that we are going to go out onto the streets soon in defense of all that is important and holy to us,” he wrote. “And we will be angry. So, go ahead and be furious in the streets, you can try to break into parliament, the ministries, the Fidesz headquarters, the Office of the President, and attack the police and journalists — but only for a while. And then no longer. Because that’s when you will experience what it’s like to be persecuted and threatened. Hear these words: we, too, are very angry now. Do you understand?”
A few days later, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán said protests around Budapest had given many otherwise “upstanding and peaceful Christian people itchy palms,” an expression in Hungarian which suggests an inclination to commit violence.
A few weeks ago, an activist was forced to issue an apology on camera when a giant Chechen named Magomed informed him that he and his family were in danger after the activist threw paint on a Soviet memorial. Hungarian authorities were reluctant to acknowledge that such political intimidation was problematic.
Last week, during one of the government’s “Let’s Stop Brussels” National Consultation town hall meetings, a female journalist with 444.hu was allegedly roughed up and tossed out by Fidesz district politician Lázsló Szabó. When she cried out for someone to call the police, Szabó ran out the back door before they arrived.
Despite the increasing frequency of these incidents, it appears authorities are turning a blind eye to what could possibly turn into outright and open violence if rhetoric intensifies as Hungary moves into campaign season for the 2018 national elections.
On Monday, when Orbán was asked to comment on Bayer’s statement, the prime minister said: “I haven’t seen what [Bayer said], so I can’t comment on it. But I wouldn’t comment on [Bayer’s] statements even if I have seen them because that’s not my job.”
Later that day, Bayer issued a rather indifferent apology during a television program where he and other pro-government propagandists sit around analyzing the news.
“I am stupid. This is the sorry news I have for you. It is easy to provoke me. Sorry to everyone who was incredibly scared by my awful provocations,” Bayer said while his co-hosts chuckled.