Hungarians deface government’s openly racist billboards

It’s reassuring to see that there are some residents in Budapest who will take a bucket of paint and a brush to erase the words on the Orbán government’s virulently racist and populist new billboards, which tell immigrants (in Hungarian), and in no uncertain words, that they are not welcome. Two such billboards went up yesterday in Budapest’s 13th District, near the Dagály public pools, where children, families and pensioners in the neighbourhood cool off on scorching summer days. The billboard read: “If you come to Hungary, you have to respect our culture!”

The words are in Hungarian, so they’re obviously not meant for foreigners, but rather for local Hungarian voters to see what a tough, Jobbik-like stance Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s government will take with all the outsiders. It’s part of a “national consultation on immigration and terrorism,” which is an opportunity for the cabinet to connect the two together and once more demonstrate to wayward right-wing voters, who are slipping away to Jobbik, that Fidesz can be relied upon to keep Hungary racially pure.

"If you come to Hungary, you have to respect our culture!" Photo:

“If you come to Hungary, you have to respect our culture!” Photo:

Fortunately, there are many Hungarians, especially in Budapest, who find this completely opportunistic pandering to the far-right intolerable and embarrassing. After all, how long will it take until these same billboards and  “national consultations” are directed not against immigrants and refugees, but against Hungarian Jews or Roma? If it suits Mr. Orbán’s political interests, then it won’t take very long at all.

Within one day of the billboard going up, local Hungarian activists added a coat of paint to it, and erased their government’s totally tasteless and xenophobic message. Reportedly, both billboards appearing in the 13th district have now been defaced.

The government's defaced billboard on June 6th. Photo:

The government’s defaced billboard on June 6th. Photo:

There have been other forms of protest as well. Blogger and journalist László Cink decided to print one of the government’s planned posters, which reads “if you live in Hungary, you have to respect our laws,” and put it up in front of the luxury home of the leader of the Fidesz caucus in parliament, Antal Rogán. As well, a whole range of parodies and internet memes have been created, including one government poster, which reads “we hate everyone!”

The government, however, is taking its xenophobic initiative seriously…so much so, that based on the responses received from the first 100,000 participants in the “national consultation,” Mr. Orbán’s cabinet intends to “close Hungary’s southern border.” How they plan to accomplish this remains a mystery, but the goal is to turn away immigrants and refugees entering the country from southeastern Europe.

Meanwhile, government spokesperson Zoltán Kovács noted that 400,000 people have now participated in the anti-immigration national consultation, and that the bulk of the respondents expect a “more assertive and tougher” approach on the issue of immigration.

I wonder what respondents would say if and when the government decides to launch a similar national consultation on Roma and Jews.

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