Fidesz and the EU
* “Chronic remorse, as all the moralists are agreed, is a most undesirable sentiment. If you have behaved badly, repent, make what amends you can and address yourself to the task of behaving better next time. On no account brood over your wrongdoing. Rolling in the muck is not the best way of getting clean.” ― Aldous Huxley
713 articles shared on Facebook sites belonging to government-controlled media outlets (GCMOs) indicate that the governing party’s European Parliament (EP) campaign messages mainly attack the EU elite and the bloc’s institutional system through the dissemination of manipulative information concerning migration, epitomized by its recently launched campaign against George Soros and European Commission (EC) President Jean-Claude Juncker. Several European far-right parties and the Kremlin’s propaganda machine uses strategies similar to Fidesz.
The EP-debate on Hungary initiated by the Greens was one of the most important Hungarian domestic political issues in January 2019. Although the Orbán government sent no representatives to the discussion held on January 30, the initiative offered a perfect opportunity to Fidesz to swif its EP-campaign into high gear.
While the majority of Hungarians want to remain a member of the EU, they are highly critical of the EU’s answers to the migration crisis, largely due to the fact that the government’s propaganda has been misinterpreting them since 2015.
This is not unique in the EU, but Fidesz is a way more dominant actor on the Hungarian media market than other European governing parties are in their respective countries.
Political Capital used the social media management tool Zoomsphere to examine 713 articles shared on the Facebook pages of GCMOs and pro-Kremlin outlets between January 1 and 31, 20191. We tagged all articles with a label indicating its tone (EU-critical /-neutral) and with at least one indicating a wider topic it deals with. All articles received an EU-critical tag if:
- their purpose was to negatively influence the population’s perception of the EU;
- they did not introduce the opposing side’s viewpoints or they were disproportionately underrepresented;
- they contained debunkable disinformation or unjustifiable claims.
In the media under examination, we found 540 EU-critical articles (76% of the total) and 173 ones that discussed the European Union neutrally (24% of all).
Looking at the given outlets independently, we can see that the outlet reporting on EU issues in the least balanced manner was the pro-Kremlin Leleplező Friss Hírek, but the GCMOs Hír TV, Magyar Idők, and 888 all shared EU-critical articles in over 80% of the reviewed cases. The public broadcaster’s Facebook site was also EU-critical in over 50% of the time.
The main topic featured in articles painting a negative picture of the EU was migration, followed by content biasedly criticizing the EU elites and articles concerning George Soros. Texts about the rule of law procedures and leftists/liberals were two other highly prevalent topics in the period under review.
These topics are all connected to the main campaign message of the government’s EP-election campaign, which claims that in the election “the patriots go up against the Soros-controlled leftist-liberal elite organizing migration, who are trying to punish anti-immigration member states under the veil of alleged deficiencies in the rule of law”.
The vast majority of neutral articles concern Brexit; other topics (the start of the Council’s Romanian presidency, migration statistics, EU foreign policy, and the rule of law) are almost unnoticeable in comparison. A few articles also discussed the EU infringement procedure launched against Austria for its amendments to its family benefit system and the result of the Union’s research on double standards in food quality in a balanced manner.
The government likely either deems these topics unimportant from a domestic political perspective or they are in line with the government’s interests; thus, in these cases we can observe balanced reporting in GCMOs as well.
Nothing Too Complicated
Fidesz’s EP election campaign is built on a very easily understandable narrative that can be pieced together from the EU-critical articles shared by the outlets under review. The government believes that “the socialist Frans Timmermans’s migrant settlement plan must be stopped.” The EC’s first vice-president is labelled as the “main confidante of George Soros” and the “Spitzenkandidat of pro-immigrant forces.”
In Fidesz’s narrative, “Soros’s people in Brussels” are present in all institutions, where they areworking on implementing the “migrant visa” and quotas, and legalize illegal immigration. In this world, George Soros operates like a “state,” which is essentially the EU, in the institutions of which they hold “Soros seances.”
This pro-immigration, leftist-liberal, Soros-friendly elite in fact “blackmails, threatens, punishes” countries that object to immigration using the rule of law procedures, threats of cuts to EU subsidies, and they would even “finance NGOs to find rule of law deficits [in these countries].”
The epitome of the Hungarian ruling party’s manipulative efforts is the recently launched public information campaign against George Soros and EC President Jean-Claude Juncker, which the European Commission quickly denounced as disinformation.
Fidesz is presenting a very simple view of the world to its electorate: the decisive dividing line on the European level lies not between traditional left-right party lines but between pro- and anti-immigration forces. This way, they suggest that there are only two choices when it comes to migration policy:
- the governing party’s solutions based solely on security policy related considerations and the “radical pro-immigration” policy taking only humanitarian factors into account.
- Thus, the Orbán government excludes any possibility of the existence of a policy solution factoring in both security policy and the humane treatment of refugees, making meaningful debate on the topic impossible.
Anyone who disagrees with Hungarian migration policies on even a single point is automatically put into the pro-immigration “mass” and thus gets categorized into the government’s black-and-white worldview.
- The publication is not an editorial. It reflects solely the point of view and argumentation of the author. The publication is presented in the presentation. Start in the previous issue. The original is available at: 4liberty.eu