New targets added to Fidesz propagandist’s “Stalinist” hit list

We have covered professional Fidesz propagandist, Árpád Szakács, and his list of targets before. He is the singularly vindictive author of an on-going series of articles in the Magyar Idők daily, which aims to name and shame left-leaning or liberal artists, and then advocate for them to lose any public funding or support that they may receive. Some five-hundred Hungarian artists, writers and thinkers of all political persuasions have signed a petition published on the website against the series, noting that the tone is strikingly similar to the atmosphere of Stalinism in Hungary, under Mátyás Rákosi. The petition includes an open letter to the editor-in-chief of Magyar Idők, Ottó Gajdics, noting that the hit list’s author clearly has no knowledge of, or interest in the various forms of art that he criticizes. He systematically misinterprets what he sees in order to prove his point, namely that liberal artists are trying to indoctrinate the Hungarian public through their art in a clandestine manner. Although not among the signatories of this petition, one of Mr. Szakács’s sharpest critics is the recently out-of-work conservative journalist András Stumpf, who is also a talented guitarist and musician. (Mr. Stumpf is one of dozens of good journalists who lost their job after the conservative Heti Válasz weekly went out of business.)

Mr. Szakács has now turned his attention to the world of pop music–this is the next area where he promotes the elimination of musicians who are not known to be Fidesz party stalwarts. What’s most interesting, however, is that his approach absolutely mimics the language of party organs in 1950’s Stalinist Hungary. “Musicians producing the most primitive and most obscene lyrics, those promoting drugs and debauched lifestyles, could be heard tens of thousands of times on the radio, and for this they collect millions in royalties,” wrote Mr. Szakács. As I read his piece, I started to wonder when he might publish reports on American youth, drugged up on Coca-Cola, displaying lascivious behaviour on the streets of the western world.

The issue, as the vengeful Mr. Szakács sees it, is that Petőfi Rádió is a public broadcaster, under the control of the regime, yet it plays songs from singers and songwriters known to have liberal leanings, while allegedly not giving equal airtime to singers who are seen as Fidesz supporters. In the right-wing category Mr. Szakács includes the likes of Vera Tóth, Csaba Vastag and FankaDeli (Ferenc Kőházy) who, according to Mr. Szakács, are victims of discrimination in Orbán’s Hungary. Writing about FankaDeli, Mr. Szakács suggests: “he explores patriotism and Hungarian national identity in the most trendy way, and sends out messages against drug and alcohol consumption, showing that there are alternatives. But of course these are hated ideas and words in the taxpayer-funded Petőfi Rádió…”

Some of the singers listed by Mr. Szakács as liberal or left-wing, and thus favoured by Petőfi Rádió, include Viktor Király and “MSZP-sympathizer” Tomi Fluor. Neither pop singer is actually particularly political at all, but Mr. Fluor rubbed Mr. Szakács the wrong way when he interrupted an interview conducted by the country’s public television broadcaster, today an explicit organ of the ruling party, and screamed into the camera: “Soros György!” at the top of his lungs. Mr. Fluor did actually pay a price for his “sin.” Songs of his popular band Wellhello were not played by Petőfi Rádió for weeks after the incident. But according to Mr. Szakács, this is hardly adequately punitive.

Tomi Fluor

Mr. Szakács is also concerned about Hungarian attempts at hip hop and at a growing Hungarian hip hop culture. He attacks a film on the subject by Anna Koltay and Eszter Turán, which focuses on the African American roots of this genre, for allegedly “cursing everything that is Hungarian.” Mr. Szakács is furious that the filmmakers received public funding through a grant called NKA Hangfoglaló.

But for Mr. Szakács, there is something worse than exploring music that stems from African American culture. He pointed out that a project aimed at promoting Hungarian rap, and specifically setting Hungarian poetry to rap, entitled “Pilvaker” is an insult to the Hungarian nation. The term Pilvaker refers to a symbol of the 1848 Revolution (the Pilvax Coffee House, where the 12 Points of the revolution were written) and the Roma slang word “vaker,” which can be translated to English meaning “spiel.” Pilvaker’s works have been given airtime many times on Petőfi Rádió as well, adding to what Mr. Szakács feels is an anti-Hungarian, left-wing bias.

Unfortunately for Mr. Szakács, some of the allegedly pro-Fidesz singers he brought up as suffering discrimination at the hands of a liberal conspiracy in Hungarian music and radio were irritated at being used to justify his hit list. Vera Tóth, who Mr. Szakács claimed is one of the victims, issued an open letter to the author after reading the article. She wrote:

“I warmly invite you to attend any of my concerts, just like anyone else, regardless of gender, age, worldview or politics. But I would ask one thing of you. Please do not use me as an example in an attempt to support your argument that there is a left-liberal dictatorship in the world of pop music. I don’t engage in politics. I do not feel that this is my responsibility…” Ms. Tóth goes on to say that criticism of Petőfi Rádió’s programming is legitimate, but their decision to favour certain singers over other ones is not based on political considerations or some type of concerted liberal campaign.

Undoubtedly, Mr. Szakács’s hit list will continue to grow as Hungarians return from their summer vacations and as politics heats up this fall.

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