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Broken Democracy, Predatory State And Nationalist Populism In Hungary

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This article can best be interpreted through the dynamics of conflict theory. The ruling party is attempting to assert their authority over those whose political leanings are non-congruent with their stated values, and is inflaming discord among the voting populace by fanning the flames of a right-wing/fascist “strong leader” movement against the perceived threats of a resurgent communist party, liberal anti-family ideologies, and migrants changing the face of Hungarian culture. The ruling party is attempting to dictate the values present in Hungarian society, as well as simultaneously appealing to his base.

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This type of action helps create a divisive wedge between different blocs of the proletariat, preventing many involved in the ground-level conversations about the power in the country from being able to discuss without rancor the motives of a corporate-government fusion, which invariably end up being the acquisition of more capital. This also provides a means of possibly radicalizing the opposition to the ruling party. By attacking the intelligentsia and what the common person may view as a cultural “elite”, the ruling party may induce them to adopt rhetoric that may well drive away the centrist voters. I will readily admit that I am prone to view every single instance of any event or news involving governmental and non-governmental (eg corporate or religious) entities or institutions as by their very nature an expression of conflict theory, as power exists to propagate wealth and status upon its wielders by oppressing and silencing opposition.

Fragmenting the population into hyper-competitive blocs is a preferred tactic throughout the industrialized world, where ostensibly democratic elections are the rule of the land. In overtly authoritarian countries, the power can be wielded more openly, for example the shuttering of opera houses entirely, the disappearing of anti-government celebrities, and the closing down of news media until only a government-friendly stance is permitted. The slide of Hungary back into this style of repression is a sobering reminder of the struggles that Europe has gone through in the last 100 years. The data is primarily qualitative, consisting of fragments of speeches and editorials of figures involved publicly in the power struggle within Hungary. There is reference to hard, quantitative data, specifically the amounts of money and numbers of cultural institutions affected; however, the author does not explicitly give the hard numbers behind their assertions. The best way to understand the situation is a top-down macro approach, as the ruling party is clearly using both overt and subtle influences from within existing social institutions to dictate the values that are ascendant in Hungarian society, as well as simultaneously appease their rural/conservative base by striking a blow at the foppish liberals. The micro level approach, of how the policy shifts have been interpreted and interacted with by the average Hungarian, would certainly be interesting to explore, but this article does not delve into that perspective.

The primary sources being quotations from political speeches and reactions to proclamations and denouncements, which are generally not the most objective sources of information, invite the reader ingest the article through the distortion of whichever worldview they currently subscribe to. In this case, the publication seems to be using tone of voice to defend the cultural practices that are under attack by Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s newly restated policies, while simultaneously maintaining a facade of neutrality by avoiding stating explicitly whether one side or another is correct in this conflict over culture. I tend to agree with the assessment of the independent Hungarian media that this is a shocking maneuver, and perhaps a larger world-wide (American) media interest in this ongoing conflict would serve some good.

However, with the 45th President firmly in the pocket of the Russian machine, it would perhaps be difficult for any substantive political actions to be taken. It might however serve to further illuminate the breadth of Russian global ambitions in the 21st century and serve as an example of how Russian state goals are accomplished by manipulation of intrastate and interstate conflicts. The effects of such cultural hedge trimming will not be apparent on any short-term scale, but the issue will be interesting in a long-term academic perspective, though perhaps the liberal academics and cultural figures in Hungary may have more immediate short term consequences if the wider world does not step in soon. The media is covering this story to call out in published works the resurgence of fascism in modern day Hungary. The specter of Soviet-era state control looms heavily over the present day as well, and a well-read newspaper article can spark debate and change in the groups that it is written about. Hungarian national identity has been a complex issue since the pre-WW2 period, and Hungary continues to be a nation divided.

The resurgence of state control of media and culture is a reminder of the sobering reality of strong-man politician trends that multiple nations seem to be slipping back into across the globe as well as a great example of how state institutions can dictate the values of everyday life that are taken for granted in Western nations by controlling the institutions that actively or subtly influence people’s day to day lives. As an example of ongoing nonmilitary conflicts between nations, it will be interesting to see how the domestic developments in Hungary influence their political activities within the EU and whether such long-term strategies have any effect on the future of the Hungarian people as active participants in democracy, or whether their behavior as a whole will be changed for the benefit of other nation’s strategic interests and the long-term power of their far right party.

15 April 2020

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