On Tuesday, Spiegel Online published an opinion article by Walter Mayr entitled “The Viktator.” According to the author, Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orbán has turned the country into a quasi-dictatorship that serves only the interest of the ruling few. If you’ve been paying any attention to western, mainstream media coverage of the prime minister and Hungary over the last nine years, you won’t find anything new here.
Mayr gives us an unnecessary reminder that Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s gravest sin is, having once been a liberal, that he became a conservative, even worse a staunch critic of modern liberalism’s failures and a promoter of the idea of Christian democracy. For liberals like this Der Spiegel writer, that’s a cardinal sin worthy of eternal damnation.
I won’t waste time pushing back on everything that’s incorrect in Mayr’s text (and there’s a lot). I’ve responded to many of these flimsy claims before (like here, here, and here). Instead, let’s talk about two important topics mentioned in the text that expose Spiegel’s biased perspective.
Prime Minister Orbán, according to Mayr, poses as a “self-proclaimed” defender of families, the nation, and Christianity. While it’s true that the priorities of the Hungarian government revolve around these three issues, the German weekly uses these phrases almost as if they were dirty words, as if there were something reprehensible about standing up for family, nation and Christian culture.
In their view, supporting Hungarian families so that they may raise more children is somehow secondary to importing masses of immigrants. They think that the idea of a United States of Europe, led by an unelected bureaucracy, is more desirable than standing up for the will of the people and the centuries-old value of national sovereignty. And while the pro-migration elite would like to see Christian values and culture swept out of the public square, in Hungary, we’re working on reinforcing it.
Contrary to the author’s claim, Hungary’s position is not the outcome of one man’s decision. It comes from the clearly articulated will of the overwhelming majority of Hungarian voters. This brings me to my second point.
Mayr calls out Prime Minister Orbán for being a different person than he was in 1989. While the person is the same, the circumstances in 2019 have, indeed, changed significantly since those tumultuous times before and just after the fall of the Soviet Union. Unlike the prime minister’s critics, most Hungarians understand that the traditional left-right division in politics has grown obsolete. Today’s political disputes in Europe revolve around other issues. Many of them occur between political parties that support immigration and those that take a firm stance against it, the latter including Hungary and several other EU countries.
I understand that among liberals, the liberal who betrays the liberal cause commits a grave offense. But Mayr commits the same mistakes we see so often in the western, mainstream media. He fails to appreciate that things have changed in central and eastern Europe since 1989, that our experience in modern times has been significantly different than what they lived through in Berlin and Paris – and that doesn’t make us any less European. Anyone who expects a European leader to behave the same way he did thirty years ago is either naïve or completely out of touch with reality.
Nevertheless, even as the challenges may have changed, Prime Minister Orbán’s primary goal has remained the same: to stand up for the interests of Hungarian people and the Hungarian nation and for a strong Europe based on strong nation states.