Viktor Orbán reportedly orders Fidesz “mujahid” Árpád Szakács to stop culture war

Our readers may recall the Magyar Idők propagandist Árpád Szakács, who launched a series of articles aimed at “exposing” the many artists, musicians and authors deemed to be liberal who have in some way received support from the current Hungarian state, claiming as well that they had an unfair advantage and were engaged in a conspiracy to indoctrinate people through their art. It appears as though Prime Minister Viktor Orbán has rather lost his patience with Mr. Szakács’s strident displays of extreme loyalty to the regime and has instructed the editors at Magyar Idők to put a stop to the series. The controversial series seems to have vanished from the pages of Magyar Idők and has not been seen since 25 August.

Earlier this summer, a Fidesz source shared the following insight with the HVG weekly into how Mr. Szakács is received within Fidesz circles: “I know Árpád Szakács personally. He is a real mujahid. He is a ‘holy radical’ who takes seriously each and every sentence that he writes. These are the types that the Orbánists tend to throw under the bus, if Szakács’s battle were not in their interest.”

Árpád Szakács

According to multiple sources speaking with HVG, there was growing concern that this culture war, which also targeted respected right-wing artists deemed to be somehow too liberal, was sowing division and strife within pro-Fidesz circles. On 8 September, at a meeting for Fidesz loyalists in the town of Kötcse, near Lake Balaton, Mr. Orbán remarked that right-wing artists ought to produce better art, adding that money and all power is on the side of Fidesz, so any talk of waging a culture war is unnecessary. This was a spear through the heart of Mr. Szakács’s message that somehow even under the Orbán regime, liberals have remained powerful enough in the arts so as to discriminate against “truly” right-wing artists. The prime minister’s message, however, was clear: ideological loyalty, though important, does not always replace talent.

Mr. Szakács managed to irritate a number of artists presumed to lean politically towards Fidesz by using them as examples of alleged victimhood and to claim widespread discrimination against the right in high culture, at the hands of a still dominant left. Award-winning author, songwriter and film director Géza Bereményi was among those listed as being victims of such discrimination. Mr. Bereményi is recognized for his talent and achievement by Hungarians of all stripes, but he is often considered to be close to Fidesz circles due to his many years of artistic collaboration with the late composer Tamás Cseh, an overt supporter of Mr. Orbán. Commenting on Mr. Szakács, the author remarked: “it is clear to the naked eye that he is a very stupid man.”

Zsolt Bayer, Fidesz co-founder and publicist, came to Mr. Szakács’s defence, remarking in his blog: “Géza Beremény is indeed a living classic and nobody can take this away from him–not even himself, with his shit-in-his-pants, desperate to please, butt-stupid statement. He remains a living classic and genius author-poet despite the fact that I saw his picture. On it, he looks like an alcoholic old dick.”

Presumably this is the sort of in-fighting and tension in the family that Mr. Orbán finds unhelpful.

It’s clear that Árpád Szakács is a naive and unsophisticated foot soldier of Fidesz who aims to please. His problem is that he appears to think that people like Andy Vajna are bulwarks of conservative ideological purity and that the regime for which he goes to battle is as well.

This incident, however, is instructive for two reasons. First, it shows how editorial boards of the party media operate and from where they get their marching orders. Second, it is a reminder that those who succeed in the regime are not usually the purists and the mujahideen, but rather the people who know their place, keep their head down, are not particularly ideological, but when asked, can pretend to be just that, before disappearing again into the woodwork.

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