The day Orbán openly condoned hate and bigotry

October 2, 2017

Photo: Facebook/Orbán Viktor

Prime Minister Viktor Orbán has publicly taken sides with those residents of the Hungarian village of Őcsény who threatened a local guesthouse owner and damaged his property for offering to host refugee children, 444.hu reports.

In the small Tolna county village of Őcsény, villagers fanaticized by the Hungarian government’s anti-immigrant, hatemongering propaganda threatened to murder the local guesthouse owner Zoltán Fenyvesi for offering to host refugee children who had been granted asylum by the Hungarian state. A brick was thrown at his van, and the tires of two of his vehicles were slashed.

The incident painted a dark picture of Hungarian society, many members of which have been deeply influenced by the government’s anti-immigrant propaganda. However, the reactions to the incident by Minister overseeing the Prime Minister’s Office János Lázár and Prime Minister Orbán himself went beyond anything most people imagined.

It’s not the propaganda but the society that’s to blame 

At a government press conference on Thursday, Lázár first put the blame for the events on the guesthouse owner Fenyvesi, arguing that had he informed  residents in advance about the identity of his guests, the attack against him might not have happened. Then, when a reporter from 444.hu asked Lázár whether the xenophobic government propaganda that has been going on for two years had something to do with the incident, after a short pause looking away from the reporter, Lázár gave his answer:

“In my opinion, no. I think that the Hungarian society is inherently like this.”

State legitimized violence 

Prime Minister Viktor Orbán was asked on Friday whether he places any responsibility on the government for the xenophobic sentiment that has taken over Hungarian society to such a degree that the villagers reacted so radically to the prospect of a visit by refugee children who had been granted asylum by the state. He responded with a poker face:

“I cannot find anything wrong in this. People do not want to accept migrants. They do not want to accept them into their country and they do not want to accept them into their village. They have been lied to so many times about migrants that they do not believe that only children would come. Hungarian people love children, and otherwise they are eager to help the fallen. But they have been lied to so many times about migrants that Hungarians say to this: first only children come, then their parents […]”

What Orbán neglected to mention is that it is the government that has been lying to Hungarians about the existential threat to Hungary posed by asylum seekers, and not some anonymous bogeyman. In so doing, he effectively exonerated the unknown perpetrators of the violence in Őcsény. Orbán’s comments were immediately and unequivocally condemned by civil leaders, liberal pundits, and what little remains of Hungary’s independent media as reminiscent of the darkest periods of Hungary’s history.  Online daily 444.hu went to far as to claim that Orbán’s remarks marked the day that he and his government took the side of violence, completely abandoning morality and human decency.

The events in Őcsény and similar ones in Esztergályhorváti suggest that the anti-immigrant propaganda of the last two years is now manifesting in public life. A number of experts agree that the government campaign has succeeded in instilling fear and hatred of migrants in the majority of Hungarians that will take decades to undo, even in the unlikely event Fidesz is not returned to government in next year’s election.