Tad Stahnke: Don’t be duped by Orbán’s charm offensive!

Tad Stahnke is the vice president of a Washington, D.C.-based organization called Human Rights First, which has launched campaigns advocating for the closure of Guantanamo Bay, as well as for LGBT rights in Vladimir Putin’s Russia and for anti-human trafficking initiatives. This time, the group is speaking out forcefully against a major visit to Washington D.C. by Hungary’s far right Jobbik party. They have issued an excellent Fact Sheet on the background of far right extremism in Hungary. But in this piece, Mr. Stahnke argues that the overarching problem is Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s decision to tolerate the far right and to build an increasingly authoritarian state in the heart of Europe. The author calls on lawmakers in Washington not to be “duped” by the current Fidesz government, no matter how colourful its “charm offensive.”

The Magician / Vesa Peltronen.

The Magician / Vesa Peltronen.

Guess who’s coming to Washington? If your answer happens to be Europe’s most powerful ultra-rightist, antisemitic party, you’re right.

Parliamentarians from Hungary’s three largest parties are in Washington, and the second largest is Jobbik, a neo-fascist party that won 20 percent of the vote in a recent national election. A shadowy lobbying group has arranged the visit, which is cloaked in mystery, but the fact alone that Jobbik is trying to build ties in Washington should be cause for alarm.

Jobbik is cultivating extremism both in Hungary, where Prime Minister Viktor Orbán grows evermore authoritarian, and in the European Parliament, where extremist, far-right parties have formed a bloc. Across the continent, a resurgence of ultra-nationalism and neo-fascism threatens the rights and safety of ethnic, racial, and religious minorities. Along with Greece’s Golden Dawn, Jobbik is the bloody tip of Europe’s far-right spear.

Jobbik has ascended largely on the strength of its vicious anti-immigrant, anti-Roma agenda. Its leader, Gábor Vona, recently criticized Fidesz, Orbán’s ruling party, for ignoring the “problem” of Roma living together with the mainstream population. The parliamentarian who will represent Jobbik in DC helped found the now banned Hungarian Guard, a paramilitary group that used to storm through villages inciting violence against Roma as it recruited members for Jobbik.

Antisemitism is also inherent to Jobbik, which is thriving in a country where, according to a 2013 poll, 50 percent of Jews have considered emigrating because they feel unsafe. A few examples of Jobbik’s anti-semitism: A Jobbik mayor claimed Jews controlled the country and called for the execution of several liberal politicians; a Jobbik parliamentarian, in the name of national security, called for the creation of a list of Jews serving in the government; the head of Jobbik’s youth arm recently complained about a mandatory class on the Holocaust at a Hungarian Catholic University.

Despite declaring a “no tolerance” policy on anti-semitism, Prime Minister Orbán generally hasn’t challenged the extremism of Jobbik; on the contrary, he’s co-opted many components of its agenda, exploiting the very hatreds on which Jobbik subsists. The policy research outfit Political Capital compiled a list of ten Jobbik proposals that Fidesz implemented at least in part. These include efforts to whitewash Hungary’s role in the Holocaust, crack down on immigrants, reinstate the death penalty, and strengthen ties to authoritarian regimes.

Orbán’s embrace of Jobbik’s policies is part of a broad increase in repression under his rule. He’s changed the constitution to increase his power and restricted the ability of civil society activists and independent journalists to operate freely. He’s not coy about his intentions; he’s declared his desire to create an “illiberal state” within the Russian sphere of influence, and he’s well on his way, as evidenced by Vladimir Putin’s visit to Budapest earlier this year and a massive energy deal with Russia.

Hungary is an important ally for the United States, and in the past year senior U.S. officials from President Obama on down have expressed their concerns about Orbán’s leadership. They should continue to do so. They shouldn’t allow a charm offensive from Hungarian politicians to soften their support for human rights and Hungarian democracy. Hungarians deserve better.

As Jobbik gains power both in Hungary and the EU, Mr. Vona has been trying to give his party a makeover, downplaying its racism in favor of an anti-corruption message. But policy makers in Washington, whose validation Jobbik seeks, shouldn’t be fooled.

Policymakers shouldn’t meet with a member of this extremist, antisemitic party. There’s no place for antisemitism in Europe, and there’s no place for it in Congress. And if they meet with the Fidesz parliamentarian, they should grill him on his party’s Jobbik-lite policies. They should ask: if you rub off the ugly stain of Jobbik’s blatant racism, is there a significant difference between Jobbik and Fidesz?

Tad Stahnke


  1. I can NOT understand why visas are given to neo-Nazis to campaign in the US and Canada!

    • Uhm, maybe because they are not neo-nazis?
      It is a typical cliché in the leftist media to call every conservative and nationalist party “neo-nazi”.

      • Just because they claim not to be Neo-Nazis, doesn’t mean they aren’t! If it walks like a duck, sounds like a duck…….. What is the real cliche, is the fact that people such as yourself refer to everything humanitarian or non racist to be “leftist”.

  2. Avatar András B. Göllner says:

    Well said, Tad Stahnke. We shouldn’t be fooled by the affinity fraud the Orbán’s government is pursuing in North America. People should speak up and unmask the scam that seeks ligitimation, trust and financial support through deception. The scam is currently targeting Canada, and seeks to scam Canadian Conservatives into supporting Putin’s Trojan Horse in the EU.

  3. Avatar György Lázár says:

    Thanks for this excellent piece. In my view, Mr. Stahnke’s recent Congressional testimony was an eye opener to many English speaking Americans of Hungarian origin in the United States. He voiced the concerns of the vast majority of Hungarian Americans.

    The Orbán government “duped”, misled and tricked the Hungarian speaking minority of the Hungarian-American community, and it is long overdue to take a closer look at the activities, financing and leadership of organizations like the Hungarian American Federation, Hungarian American Coalition, Lantos Institute and Hungarian Human Rights Foundation. Programs like the Kőrösi Csoma Program need more scrutiny, the activities of „Honorary Consuls” and the Hungarian Reformed Church in America need to be addressed. Also, the State Department should take a closer look at the activities and Hungarian diplomats in Los Angeles and New York including Ambassador Szemerkényi’s recent embracement of Jobbik politicians in Washington DC.

    This is not a new phenomenon. In the 1930s pro-Hitler Hungarian dictator Miklós Horthy planted lobbyists and tried to sway the Hungarian-American community. He was unsuccessful, and I hope that Mr. Orbán’s current experiment won’t succeed either.

    • The reality needs to be exposed and spread around like wildfire. I cannot stand the fact that these so called politicians who are serious about creating another holocaust in Europe are stopped! I strongly believe that Jobbik has been planted as a fake opposition and we will see them working together with Fidesz for a very long time. If Jobbik or Fidesz win elections, they both have won and they will keep power until they see the same fate as Hitler. We have unfortunately become soft on extreme racist and xenophobic parties due to the huge ISIS distraction all while Europe and North America developes deep racial tensions and hatred. Hatred toward minorities is increasing all over the world due to “conservative” parties playing the muslim card and in Europe we now have the refugee crisis. It all plays into the plan to make people fear and hate people from the middle east and Africa. The real opposition better get its act together and quick, if not, I don’t think society has a chance.


    “Marriage” (as opposed to civil contracts), and especially its overlay of fideist fanfare and flim-flam, has always struck me as silly, irrespective of what genders are involved.

    But it has also always seemed obvious that there should be an equal right to engage in such silliness, irrespective of what genders are involved.

    So I (always slow on the uptake) only started to realize the importance and significance of the LGBT rights movement when I noticed who was opposing it: For, virtually without exception, those who opposed LGBT rights were the very same ones who opposed all or most of what I hold to be decent and right.

    So here’s Jobbik, a party that embodies and celebrates all the uglier sides of humanity — ethnocentrism, racism, sexism, brutality, violence — putting on a “charm campaign” to try to make itself look electable to more than just the tail end of the normal curve.

    But perhaps the most important thing Tad Stancke’s timely report points out is that Jobbik is not the only foul emanation from today’s Hungary: The regime in power, Orban’s Fidesz party, has appropriated most of Jobbik’s ugly agenda — less out of conviction than out of opportunism and utter lack of either principles or scrupes — to attract Hungarian voter and expat support.

    And plutocratic Fidesz, too, is conducting a charm offensive in America to try to camouflage its affinity to its Charon.

    To the point where we can just as well speak of “Fidik,” the fusion of the current body politic with its orbiting doppelganger.

    The stance on LGBT rights is, as ever, the canary in the menacing magyar mineshaft.

    But there is hope. Because although enough Hungarians are drawn to the Fidik mentality to keep it afloat for now, the decent side of the normal curve is also alive — if currently ailing — in Hungary, protesting against the xenophobic wall of shame under construction, and using their meagre means to help the migrants: http://www.pressenza.com/2015/07/hungarians-protest-against-plans-for-a-wall-of-shame-on-their-serbian-border/

  5. Hallo there from the “hungarianfreepress”.

    To bad my English is far nor the best. But if you want and like, you could me understand. Because I can very well understand the English language and it should be made from made clear, that your autor Tad Stahnke is completely wrong, because he and some other there in Canada and the USA, are not only hostile to Hungary, they are spreading ANTIHUNGARIAN ANTISEMITISM against Hungary. If you let me, I would like to explain.

    This group, mostly Israeli, are not enemy to the killers of ca. 6 Million Jews – to the Germans – but to the Hungarians. Because after the occupation of Hungary on 19. Mach 1944 trough the Germans, the deportation of the Hungarian Jews to the German KZ. began. Till than the Jews at least were for their lives in save. The deportation was a German millitary imperative. Like in all other from Germany occupied country’s. Therefore the permanent hostility nevertheless a deportation to Germany should not mean from the side of the Hungarians equal to dead. But nevertheless, today only the Hungarians beside the Palestinian, are enemy’s for the Jews. The German murders are the best friends.

    What should be done for a friendly new relationship among the Jews and Hungarians? Because that hostile Jews style to the Hungarians is not the way.

    Let me make some proposal;
    First, also the intelligent Jewish people should feel sorrow for the Hungarians, for Trianon and the fait accomply against Hungary from 1918. As Hungary lost 72 % of the 1000 year old country. This traumatic is not others for the Hungarians as for the Jews the Holocaust. Because that is the Hungarian Holocaust, that’s mean , in meantime a 97 year old war against Hungary and it’s nation. That the Hungarian people are since 97 year exterminated over 8 kolonisaton Staates. Not over gas Ofen but with terrible terrorism and subtile administration method’s. That’s the pain of the Hungarians like for the Jews the German Holocaust. Who would do such a think if not the Germans and Austrians. Hungary were fighting them for about 250 years.

    The second proposal is:
    Some of your authors are on the one way ore other way 100 % by the NCA, CIA, FBI, MOSSAD, etc. etc. what is for me even so 100 % ok. Just therefore this proposal, because it has no any sence for anybody to make the USA hostile to the still only 28 % historic Hungary in the responsibility of the US from 1917. Because it would be more than stupid to make from that smallest Hungary some kind of country like, Somalia or Iraq. Because beside Israel, the only endangered country in the world is even and only Hungary, even like Israel.

    Here is the historic chance for Israel and the USA, to by the part of Prussia today under the Russian occupation. It could be the Nea-Judea in Europe. I am sure, Germany would support such a proposal, because Germany has of other choice, it has even because of the Holocaust, no voice at all.
    I guess, if Israel and the USA are offering for Russian about 50 billion US dollars, maybe the Russian would sell that occupied country for 100 billion dollar, by withdraw all Russian kolonist from there. At least this proposal should be tried out and maybe in 10 or 20 year it could be really. Mr. Göllner could be the second Theodor Herzl, if he would work on it.

    With regards
    Giorgio Magyaroni

  6. What you mean about “awaiting moderation”?

  7. Avatar Pierre Divenyi says:

    Great piece. Obviously, we in the US and Canada have our job cut out for us: we need a concerted effort to reach our respective foreign services and ask them to screen visa applicants’ history of racist and anti-LGBT activities they may have been involved in. And, if the screening comes out positive, refuse their visa applications. Simple.

  8. It is not “charm offensive.”
    Please forgive me for occupying this board with my amateurish silly views, once I mentioned this, today again.
    These are illusionist ricks.

    I was a child, living in Hungary, when my daddy took me to the circus, it was the circus if my recollection is correct, where I could see the greatest illusionist ever, Igor Kio a guest star in Hungary. He did things of impossible. He performed two duck illusionist tricks,
    it cannot be seen in the video but he brought out a steel frame you could see through. An empty steel frame. Then the bottom and the side elements and assembled it in seconds. No ducks anywhere. Than as it can be seen in the video he filled the tub full with water and you can see he did the unimaginable.
    I told daddy that I love Kio but his tricks are truly simple and stupid. Dad didn’t have the clue how Kio made nor could he guess the secret.
    He asked me what it was. I told him and he didn’t believe me, he said it is to simple if it was so, Kio couldn’t make it ‘cos people are not stupid. I was pausing a second and answered.
    “They believe it, they believe everything because they payed for that.”
    Many years has passed when and every time i see an illusionist trick, or Orban’s illusionist tricks I ask the same question
    “where is the money, whose the money, who payed for this”

    But there’s something beyond money. Sometimes I ask people to guess the secret of famous illusionist tricks and I am shocked how stupid answers I got. I am shocked how people cannot see through and understand things that stab their eyes.

    And dad told me I am super intelligent. I protested and I told him I am just a stupid boy. He said – if you were stupid how could you solve such a difficult problem. I said – because I ask stupid questions that smart men would never ask and when I get the answer it turns out that the question was right. And I believe the answer and not what you teach. I believe what I see and not what you/they say.

    The cacophony goes on and nobody asks questions like : whose money is that, where does the money go, whose hand is in the glove puppet?

    In high school I was the favorite of my history teacher . He told me that history repeat itself.

    I said – no, it doesn’t, it’s just a same small group of privileged elite that uses the same tricks on the world for ages. And people love it because they pay for it, because they pay the price. Politicians, kings, emperors, prime ministers are only stooges. History should be a spiral like the DNA spiral because spiral is life and not a circle that repeats itself. Circle is vicious. Humans are caught in the vicious circle. Who did this to us?
    The stooges? The stupid stooges? (like Orban or Vona as of today). Don’t tell me that. There’s gonna be an answer. And I believe there will be.

    • Dear Mr. Adam, how I know and seeing, you are still a very young man and for you is therefore too early to get in “love hate” to the indigen hungarian reservat today of only 28 % of historic hungarian sovereignty. If you would spread hates against Canada they would you register as potential terrorist and maybe trow out of Canada. So if you are so clever like you are narcissistic writing and interested in history, please occup yourself with the question of the hungarian traumatic of Trianon. This is the Hungarian Holocaust. If you have some intelligent and maybe some friendly proposals to that mater it could make you for the Hungarians not only acceptable but also you as a real critical brain. But so you are spreading only antihungarian antisemitism and that is not nicely. Ok?

      • Oooh, Hi Giorgio,

        how nice to meet you. Care to make some sense? You replied to my post and called me Adam. Actually, my name is Richard. Alternatively, you might wanted to address me and just swapped the names by sheer accident, in which case, however, you are replying to points I have never made.
        Third possibility, you have expressed your disapproval about things written in that piece, in which case you missed the point again as it was written by Tad Stahnke. Huhh hard day, isn’t it.

        Well, in your post you wrote “To bad my English is far nor the best.” Dear Giorgio, it’s not the worst of it with you.

  9. Chris, please pull the plug on “Giorgio Magyaroni” and clean out the bathtub ring. More will just drag HFP discussion into the depths antipathy and absurdity.

  10. Dear Richard,
    I am sorry for the mistake and thanks for the more or less not so agly words as answer like this are doing some Romans or Slovaks, so like they would be “hungarians”.

    But dear Richard, was it not a nice joke to promote the dear in brain seek women like Eva is, in honoris causa to Dr. of “antihungarian antisemitism”?
    You know why? Because every where in the world to spread national intolerance like it is doing Eva with her incognit students like Petofi et. all, is will be punish. But their antihungarian propaganda is not else, as more as pur antihungarian antisemitism.

    The problem is, it is realy so, that the hungarian right is STUPID and the hungarian left is TREACHEROUS. And that is a civil war spirit. You have to choose between them? But what, stupidity ore treachery?

    In my opinion non of them, but what than? But the way of such stupid and treacherous propaganda, what is made over Eva Balogh, is more than perfidious. In any case, beside I never was citizen of Hungary, I love this nation and people and I am feeling with their Holocaust and that is Trianon. You can not ignore that! But a solution is possible in the case of a decolonisation of the historic Hungary. The possibility is today a other question.

    At least, I am waiting, writing and thinking from the left position, but that of Anna Kéthly. In the government of Imre Nagy, the leader of the hungarian socialdemocratic part until 1976 as she died in Brussel.

    What Eva Balogh and her flowers are calling “left wing” is exactly that of the MSZMP without one letter “M”. And 1956 exploded exactly because of neglecting any kind of national proud. Because of the occupation and treacherous servants. And 1989 the change was so uncompleted that the treacherous click came through.

    The USA has no any reason to support even this treacherous group around Gyurcsány and Bajnai and Co. Hungary needs protection like Israel or over that, because it is the most endangered state in the world.

  11. One sentence more Richard!
    You can see, this some very agly answer to me is a proof, that this enemy’s of Hungary have no any kind of arguments. If so, they are getting immediately mad and high, red in head. And you can also here make psychological difference: if it would happen in Russia, they would discuss with the knife, if in the US at least they would say, sorry I didn’t know.

  12. Pingback: Did Consul General Ferenc Kumin trick an elderly Holocaust survivor rabbi?

  13. Avatar Christopher Adam says:

    Mr. Magyaroni,

    Please refrain from these incomprehensible and irrational polemics, and refute the article factually, if you can. Comments on the HFP’s site need to be relevant to the given piece and must avoid ad hominem attacks.

  14. Dear Mr. Adam,
    Please, see first the so “friendly” non arguments of some incognit students of Eva Balogh. They have no arguments to answer any questions about the sorow problems of Hungary and the hungarian people. Look just on the resonance of the last attack on Hungary from Eva Balogh from this day. I was the absolutely first one to read her Polemik, because no one comment was still arived. In my mind was, should I immediately answer and attack her impertinence, or should I waiting. To see what would happen?

    The reaction on Evas antihungarian antisemitism was a totaly crazy making all of hungarians and Hungary. For spreading VOLKSVERHÄTZUNG – a English word I do not know – but I mean, national intolerance to promote, is a punishment act in all countries over the world.

    But what is making me feel very sorow, Eva is getting not only the hostile enemy’s against Hungary up, but in my opinion also hungarian intellectuals with very good English, to spread the same antihungarian antisemitism over the Internet in the world. And you know, not a simple worker is reading or able to make answer but the hungarian intellectuals who in the best English are answering with further horrible conclusions. Nevertheless that my English is far not good, my duty is to make appropriate position. To defend Hungary – like my definition – from ANTIHUNGARIAN ANTISEMITISM!

    Short to repeat the problem is not that how Eva Balogh is seeing the hungarian democracy as fraud and therefore not discutable, but in the necessarily reflect why the situation is so like it is? What is Eva Balogh realy doing is spreading of civil war spirit among the Hungarians. And that’s mean, with purpose or not purpose, antisemitism against the Jews in Hungary. And because of the Holocaust it is than a real danger, because simpler people are very easy to get ready for antisemitism against the Jews. In that way than also against the Gips, but the problems with them is, they are hostile only because of their big natality. So Eva Balogh is not knowing what she is doing. Therefore my intervention.

    That’s means Mr. Adam, in Hungary is by the day the right wing STUPID and the left wing TREACHEROUS. What should a man in thst case choose? It is because of the incomplete regime change in 1989.

    I am writing to you from the left wing position, but that of the Anna Kéthly kind, the socialdemocratic part leader until 1976. She was minister in the government of Imre Nagy and died 1976. But her party was totally destroyed from the MSZMP, the treacherous part with survived the change from 1989. But Eva Balogh and Co. are tretening this treacherous part with Gyurcsány and Bajnai, as the left wing. That’s means a in the hungarian people’s minds, the treacherous side.

    And my opinion is, without patriotism and hungarian feelings, it can’t exist a real left wing. That should also Eva Balogh try to understand.

    With regards

  15. Professor Balogh has now blacklisted “Giorgio Magyaroni” and deleted his/her posts.

  16. Avatar András B. Göllner says:

    Agree with Harnad. Macaroni’s gotto go. He’s indigestible.

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