Gellért Rajcsányi and Tamás Pindroch — Two right-wingers react to Obama’s speech

If I had to define or characterize the reaction to the news of Barack Obama’s speech, I would call it frustrated and helpless anger. Right-wing pundits and some in government (Lajos Kósa or the Christian Democrats – KDNP, in specific) responded like an indignant teenager with a deep inferiority complex. KDNP politician Imre Vejkey wondered if the “fate of Ökotárs kept Obama up at night” and then added that “liberal activists” had teamed up with a “left-wing brain trust” tied to the Clinton family, in attacking Hungary. Naturally, George Soros and Gordon Bajnai’s Homeland and Progress Foundation got “honourable mentions” in Mr. Vejkey’s diatribe.

Much more interesting than a Fidesz-KDNP politician’s reaction, however, is how two right-wing and pro-government publicists responded to Mr. Obama’s scathing and succinct critique of the Orbán regime’s attacks on civil society. On one end, we’ll take a look at Tamás Pindroch of the far-right Magyar Hírlap daily paper, who appeared on ATV’s Hirvita program and debated Dávid Trencséni, of the left-centre news site. We can then contrast Mr. Pindroch’s reaction with that of Gellért Rajcsányi, a young blogger and journalist affiliated with, a moderate, but ultimately pro-regime blog and news site.

Gellért Rajcsányi, a blogger with the pro-Fidesz Mandiner site.

Gellért Rajcsányi, a blogger with the pro-Fidesz Mandiner site.

Let’s start with Mr. Rajcsányi, who must have found Mr. Obama’s comments so uncomfortable and troubling, that he produced nothing but a brief summary of what had transpired in New York City, and then for good measure included a list of countries in the same infamous club, in which Hungary now finds itself. The article was entitled “Western Closing” (Nyugati zárás). Mr. Rajcsányi’s list — which includes countries like Cuba, Senegal, China, Burma, Vietnam, Egypt, Cambodia, Venezuela and Hungary — was clearly meant to send a chill down the spine of any thinking Hungarian who saw their nation grouped in with this ignominious bunch, even if the author was careful not to elaborate or appear to explicitly agree with Mr. Obama’s characterization of the Orbán regime. After all, is a regular recipient of major government ads, including just two weeks ago, when the paper ran the regime’s ‘Hungary is Performing Better” campaign very prominently on its front page. Mr. Rajcsányi did, however, note that Hungary was the only EU and NATO member to appear on this list of authoritarian and/or failed states.

Mr. Rajcsányi is a 34 year old journalist who was once employed by the far-right Magyar Hírlap, having worked on the paper’s foreign affairs column. But he has also written for Heti Válasz, a somewhat more moderate pro-regime weekly, as well as previously for cultural publications like Zó and MúzeumCafé. He is now the assistant editor of Mandiner, a blog and news site which once started as a print publication entitled Utolsó Figyelmeztetés (Last Warning). Mr. Rajcsányi’s grandmother was victim of the Holocaust and he mentioned this in passing, when noting that some people did, indeed, experience the arrival of Soviet troops in Hungary in early 1945 as genuine liberation. He also once wrote briefly about his grandfather, who as a young man saw the horrors of both the eastern front and communist dictatorship. Mr. Rajcsányi’s personal blog is entitled “The Conservative Anarchist.” Perhaps in North America, he would just be a libertarian.

One gets the feeling from Mr. Rajcsányi’s writing that there is much that he would like to say, but cannot. If he intends to maintain his career as a Hungarian journalist (even if he is more interested in culture and arts than in daily politics), then he will have to learn to stifle himself. And from his most recent piece in Mandiner, he is mastering the sad art of intellectual asphyxiation, so as to remain acceptable (or at least tolerable) to the regime.

Tamás Pindroch

Tamás Pindroch (right)

In stark contrast to Mr. Rajcsányi, Tamás Pindroch of Magyar Hírlap has no qualms pledging  undying loyalty to the regime, even when appearing on the airwaves of the left-centre cable TV channel, ATV. One would hope for the occasional faint glimmer of a more nuanced viewpoint, perhaps some recognition that police and state investigators went too far and used excessive force in how they raided the offices of Ökotárs and other NGOs, and maybe some agreement that this understandably created a negative impression abroad. No such luck. Mr. Pindroch came across as the party’s chief propagandist and unwavering political attack dog. He observed that the NGOs in question are effectively chapters of the American Democratic Party, he suggested that they represented “fringe” groups, like homosexuals and ethnic minorities, and insinuated that they were likely nefarious agents of the United States. “As far as I know, we are not their colony,” Mr. Pindroch noted of the United States and the United Kingdom. He is steafast in his belief that the U.S. is trying to meddle in Hungary’s internal affairs.

The Obama-speech once again highlights that there are various shades of orange on the right. It’s just a pity that some of these shades are so faint, that they are barely visible in this vast marigold sea.

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