Translation of “The children believe that George Soros is the Devil” appearing in Hungarian online daily abcug.hu on March 6, 2018.
The government’s hate campaign has now infected the everyday lives of children, and they are repeating what they’ve heard on television about George Soros, Brussels and migrants. These children often don’t know what exactly a migrant is, but the word now counts as a swear word like “faggot” or “gypsy.” There’s a nine-year-old boy who is terrified that there will be a terrorist attack. A four-year-old boy pretends that he’s reading a story book about a coming war with Brussels. According to one educator, no moral or religious class exists that could compensate for this hatred.
Parents often don’t even have to discuss who George Soros is or what the situation is with migration with their children, since the few sentences youngsters glean from television programs or posters stick with them. “Migrant” has become a popular new term of derision among children, which they use for practically anyone that differs slightly from the average, like if they dress differently, for example. Teachers report that “Stop Soros” has become a daily topic in schools, and that the billionaire’s name comes up regularly in children’s games, eliciting much laughter in classrooms. Neither parents nor teachers know what to do about this phenomenon, but they too worry that their children have already begun to hate.
One mother described how not only the children were making jokes about migrants, but the teachers as well, which for her was the final straw: she pulled her daughter out of her school in District 12. At the peak of the 2015 wave of refugees, her daughter was in sixth grade when she went on a class trip. When the class arrived back at school, they got off the bus yelling, “The migrants have come!” The teachers played along, and told the children to be careful that no migrants jumped out when the bus’s luggage compartment was opened.
But it wasn’t just on school outings that the children teased each other for being migrants: it was a daily occurrence in the halls as well.
“Soros and migrant have become just as permanent an epithet as faggot or gypsy. If someone doesn’t know the answer to something during a lesson, they shout that they’re a migrant,” the mother explained.
Even after her daughter changed schools, the migrant epithets continued. A Chinese student who did not speak Hungarian arrived in the class, and the mother heard two teachers in the hallway complaining about how the child ought not to have come, and that if he wanted to live in Hungary he should learn the language. This all occurred despite the school making a priority of Roma integration. A minor scandal occurred after the mother spoke out about what she’d heard.
The mother says it’s very frustrating that educators often do not dare to openly take a position when they hear such things from the children, fearing that one of the students will tell their parents and they’ll be immediately attacked for politicizing in class.
“The children don’t even know who Soros is, but they know that he’s the devil,” she says.
Children’s rights activist Szilvia Gyurkó says that it is not a parent’s job to deny what their children see in propaganda, but to explain to them how to recognize political manipulation.
“For children, we adults create the truth, and we aren’t just educating and teaching them when we think we are. They are learning from us in every single moment that they’re with us. I find the ‘us versus them’ kind of communication, which creates an enemy even though there is not one, extremely irresponsible,” said the expert.
Parents often don’t care
Kata Sóstai also thinks that “migrant” has become a completely ordinary swear word among children. Two years ago, Kata’s daughter was seven years old when her classmates began taunting her by calling her “migrant.” The little girl loved anime stories, and so she dressed like her favorite characters. Instead of the typical pink clothing of little girls, she wore a leather jacket. This was enough to get the children to make fun of her on the playground, calling her a migrant. She cried because it hurt her feelings, but she had to ask her mother later what the word meant. The little girl and her mother have lived abroad ever since.
Kata could tell that many parents around her didn’t care that their children were politicizing without knowing what they were talking about. Her hairdresser, for example, took her children to a barracks carrying a sign that said “We don’t want the migrants” when there was discussion of opening a refugee camp there.
Another mother reported organizing a party for her son and his friends, which parents also attended. The mother noticed that the children were playing with their Lego toys as if they were migrants, and that in the game there was a master villain who was none other than George Soros. The mother, stunned, observed the events while the other parents simply smiled and said nothing.
The children are afraid of war and terror attacks
The government’s hate speech is not only appearing in children’s mockery and jokes, but can also elicit fear in them. One mother contacted us reporting that her nine-year-old son has been constantly terrified since last summer that an act of terror will occur in Hungary.
Students and teachers are always speaking about immigration in the boy’s school, and the children even composed a poem about migrants and George Soros. The boy’s parents have tried to explain to him that not all immigrants are bad, that there are many different kinds of people among them, but the boy continually insists on what he’s heard on television: that they must be stopped from coming here.
If the boy hears about an act of terror on television, then he is immediately afraid that the same will happen here too. His parents have tried to avoid this by only turning on the news after their children have gone to bed. But their son sees foreign university students on the street and fearfully asks his mother whether they, too, are like the terrorists. The boy doesn’t even want to go on vacation abroad, because he saw on television that there had been a shooting on a beach.
His mother says the saddest thing is that her son has a foreign classmate with whom he is a close friend, but at one point he began joking that he too should be driven out of the country. Even if it was just a joke, his mother saw the fear behind it.
Szilvia Gyurkó says the biggest problem is that these words inspire fear.
“The problem isn’t that they use the words, but that they don’t understand what they mean. They take them from the world of adults in a visceral way and actually attach feelings alone to them, and not knowledge. These feelings are negative, stigmatizing, and full of fear,” she said.
Another shocked mother took a video as her four-year-old son took a notebook from her hand and, imitating a speech, began talking about how Brussels was going to attack Hungarians and there was nothing Hungarians could do about it. The parents never speak about politics in front of their children, and the boy probably heard it from the television, which his grandfather watches a lot.
Educators’ hands are tied
The mother works as an educator, and she too encounters anti-Soros sentiments at school. There was one activity where the children were instructed to imitate the sounds animals make. Two boys, instead of animal sounds, began yelling “Stop Soros” at one another, which prompted great laughter from their peers. The teacher doesn’t dare to speak with the children about this because she feels that she cannot discuss it in a way that is free of political views, which would probably not please the school and parents.
Blanka Sulyok is a Hungarian-German high school teacher who has seen many times that adolescents use the expression “migrant” against one another as a term of derision, especially during campaign periods like the refugee resettlement quota referendum. Last year, she taught a Turkish student who said numerous times in class that he wasn’t a migrant, but had been born here. Not long ago she visited a children’s home where a little boy asked her nervously, “Why is that mean old man against the Hungarians?”
She tries to resolve this problem by talking to the students about whether they know what migrant means, what kinds of experiences they have had with them, and where they receive their information. She doesn’t want to suppress the anti-migrant sentiments by force, but she thinks it is important that students talk about it.
“The government’s xenophobic propaganda is fundamentally worrisome from an educational point of view. It gives rise to the view, as if it were some kind of ‘official forum’, that entire groups of people and entire cultures can be made responsible for our problems. This leaves a very deep impression on the common discussions and ways of thinking of young people. The government is legitimizing incitements to hatred and hate speech, and there is no obligatory moral or religious classes that could compensate for this,” the teacher argues.
A girl in the eighth grade described how current politics pops up in the lives of students, even when it’s not for the purpose of making jokes. Once, her friend showed her a newspaper article about how refugees were to be settled in their city. The boy became very angry and argued that it wasn’t true, that the newspaper was lying. His peers found his anger very amusing, and decided that the boy should start a morning talk show, prepare a “Balázs Plan”, and start his own anti-establishment party.