Why is Biden trying to remake Hungary in woke America’s image?
Stories of the insanity of so-called “woke” activists fill the pages of print, broadcast and internet media. The arrest of a British woman for the crime of praying silently outside an abortion clinic, or the confusion around gender and sports, the military and fear of defining “what is a woman” are just some examples.
The ideology is a mishmash of Critical Theory as represented by Michel Foucault and traditional Marxist doctrine, tuned to suit the US and Western Europe. Where Marx had oppressed factory workers, wokeism has people with dark skin, alternative sexual identities and women, but steers clear of many truly oppressed peoples, such as Christians in the Middle East or native minorities like the Saami and the Basques in Europe, none of whom get as much as a “by your leave”.
For many years, countries such as Poland and Hungary, which experienced totalitarian rule, including both Nazi and Communist dictatorship, have been considered immune to this ideology, articles and videos can be found underlining this.
However, some 30 years after the end of Communism, there are many people who never experienced the fear that came with saying the wrong thing or stomach cramps when seeing a policeman or official. The idea that you could be taken and thrown in prison for upsetting the authorities is still a reality to many in their 50s and upwards, but younger generations find it impossible to imagine.
While efforts are being made to educate children in museums like the House of Terror and others, there is now another element promoting woke ideologies. This effort, shockingly, is spearheaded by the United States government, in both overt and covert ways.
American interference in Hungarian elections
That this is not a fever dream of the Central European right is underlined by the US News and World Report wondering why the US was interfering in Hungary’s 2018 election, in which the US illegally financed opposition parties. But the last general election, proved a real flop for these parties due to the strategic error of placing ex-Communists in alliance with neo-Nazis. Nonetheless the US administration through, inter alia, the CIA, gave vast amounts of money to these people.
Recent investigative newspaper reports, and numerous Hungarian media and official investigations have shown the US interfered in the 2022 parliamentary elections even more, violating the country’s election laws, hardly exemplary behaviour! Besides that, the way it was done was dishonourable. The Americans used hidden financial assets for and supporting their favourite political parties and NGOs, just like criminals launder money from their drug trade, human trafficking or other nefarious activities. Surely, the United States can do better than this?
This is how the US did it.
The US National Endowment for Democracy (NED), founded by the US Congress in 1983 as a result of the Iran Contra Scandal, a result of which the CIA found its activities carefully scrutinised. The US Congress created the NED as a private NGO, which nonetheless gets most of its funds from the US State Department and USAID. A former acting president of the organisation, Allen Weinstein, put it like this:
"A lot of what we do today was done covertly 25 years ago by the CIA. The biggest difference is that when such activities are done overtly, the flap potential is close to zero. Openness is its own protection."
Well, maybe not always. The money from the NED went to a newly created NGO, called Action for Democracy, whose president is Dávid Korányi, formerly the chief of staff of Budapest’s left-wing mayor Gergely Karácsony. As of March, this year, Korányi was being investigated for using Budapest ratepayer money for his trips to the US.
Interestingly, Action for Democracy considers Hungary, Poland, Brazil and Italy to be “Key Battleground States” where democracy is under threat, according to its website. Apparently, countries like Venezuela, Syria or Mozambique are not a problem for this group of concerned citizens.
In what has become the biggest electoral scandal in Hungarian history (i.e., since 1848, when social classes were replaced by elected political parties in parliament) known as the “Rolling Dollars” Scandal, Action for Democracy gave a total of over 5 million US dollars to the Hungary for Everyone Movement (Mindenki Magyarországa Mozgalom, or MMM) founded for the purpose of supporting opposition politicians in local elections in 2018 by Péter Márki-Zay, and which funded opposition parties in the 2022 election. Strictly speaking, this is not illegal, but the transfer of foreign funds to political parties is illegal in Hungary.
Whether use of intermediary companies makes it legal will likely be determined by the courts, but the spirit of the law has certainly been violated.
Action for Democracy sent a total of over 7 billion Hungarian forints, (over US$8 million) to MMM and companies linked to Hungarian opposition figures, such as DatAdat, which bills itself a “boutique political consulting firm serving the digital needs of progressive leaders.” Hilariously, they claim the money is from “micro donations” from Hungarian Americans, but the trouble with that claim is the amounts discovered are vast plus most American Hungarians are conservatives as they fled from Communism.
The newspaper revelations led to the Hungarian Parliament’s Standing Security Committee declassifying a report by the National Intelligence Centre (Nemzeti Információs Központ, NIK). The report names, among others, former prime minister Gordon Bajnai, who owned stakes in some of the companies named in the secret service report, which has led to investigations by the tax authority as well as the media interest. Bajnai, a liberal and ally of former ex-Communist prime minister Ferenc Gyurcsány, has rejected as propaganda any involvement.
The fact that the United States is so clearly involved in these sub-rosa activities is unacceptable from a nation which claims to be the “leader of the free world” and a beacon of democracy, not to mention an ally. If democracy is to mean anything, then surely the people of a given country, such as Brazil, South Africa or Hungary should decide whom to elect to represent them and not America!
Pushing an LGBTQI+ agenda
But that’s only the covert side of American involvement. There is also an openly stated, overt side represented by the US Ambassador in Budapest, David Pressman, a former lawyer and Obama Administration apparatchik who was picked by President Joe Biden because of his openly LGBT positions, which he has made very public in Hungary. He is not a career diplomat, despite a stint as alternate Ambassador to the UN, whatever that is.
Pressman, who took up his post last August, has succeeded in insulting and angering veterans of Hungary’s 1956 Revolution, Hungarian Jews, Christians, conservatives, and the population in general.
That’s no surprise as his entire diplomatic activity has been characterised by crazy publicity stunts aimed at shaming and angering various sectors of the Hungarian public. For the first few months as ambassador, he was relatively quiet, but then in April, he got going by funding a deeply insulting campaign in which he spat on the memory of Hungary’s 1956 Revolution, in which Hungarians of all political and religious stripes united to overthrow the Communist dictatorship and start working on restoring their democratic rights. As is known, this was brutally overthrown by a huge Soviet force of tanks, armoured vehicles and aircraft. During the brutal Soviet invasion, the democratic, humanitarian, freedom loving Americans did absolutely nothing.
A key slogan of the Revolution was a play on the Soviet propaganda slogan “Yankee go Home”, which was reversed to say “Russkie go Home”. In Hungarian, that is: “Ruszkik Haza!”, spray painted on walls, windows and destroyed Soviet tanks.
Pressman sponsored a placard campaign all over Hungary, using this slogan, calling on Hungarians to get involved in the war in Ukraine, stealing their words of 1956. This caused a huge outcry throughout the land, especially among former victims of the Soviet’s repression of the Revolution. Some 14 organisations, in an open letter, called on the US Embassy to stop mocking the Revolutionaries who received not a stitch of aid, unlike the Ukrainians, who have received vast amounts of money, training and weapons. The 56 Freedom Fighters World Alliance, in its open letter, wrote:
We protest against the use of the slogan of 1956 and the history-falsifying posters that mislead public opinion!
Not that it made a bit of difference.
But the ambassador was just getting started. Next in his sights was the Jewish community. Having some Jewish roots himself (although he doesn’t practice), he no doubt felt this gave him licence to abuse them.
On April 5, Ambassador Pressman invited a group of people to his official residence for a Passover seder, (a traditional meal remembering Israel’s liberation from Egypt) and caused nationwide consternation by inviting far-right-wing politician Márton Gyöngyösi, who in 2012 in the colours of the extreme right opposition party Jobbik, called for Jews in Hungary to be listed. This man was not only invited to the seder, but was seated opposite András Heiszler, president of Mazsihisz, the largest Jewish organisation in the country.
FIDESZ founder member and MEP Tamás Deutsch, who is Jewish himself, wrote a letter to the European Parliament in which he summarised the various Jewish organisations’ reactions. Deutsch described the event as: “A shocking diplomatic and public scandal committed by the United States Ambassador to Hungary, David Pressman, which has provoked the unanimous disapproval of the Jewish denominations in Hungary.” In the letter, among many other angry responses, Dr Slomó Köves, head of the United Hungarian Jewish Community (EMIH), said that “Márton Gyöngyösi at the Passover seder table is like a paedophile guest of honour at a conference on kindergarten education or the leader of the Ku Klux Klan at a Martin Luther Day celebration.”
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‘We don’t need a woke America’
Pressman also took part in Budapest’s Pride Day of July 15, which he tried to turn into a month, because that’s how they do it back home. The trouble is, Hungarian guys generally like girls, and Pressman got hammered for practicing cultural imperialism. He naturally claimed the LGBT movement, imported from the West, was a natural homegrown movement and expressed the poor, oppressed LGBT folks’ desire for more “freedom”.
Obviously, there are people who are same sex attracted in Hungary as there are elsewhere and their “Pride” day, until Pressman came along, caused not much more than some jokes and a yawn. However, Hungarians are very protective of their children, and with the LGBT movement visiting kindergartens and young schoolchildren people’s hackles rose. The government had no choice but to bring a law aimed at protecting children from these activists and stopping the mutilation of children in the name of so-called “gender-affirming care”, which is neither affirming nor caring.
I found the English translation of Law LXXIX of 2021: on taking more severe action against paedophile offenders and amending certain Acts for the protection of children. The amended law, which covers a lot of ground, and creates a sex offender database, also tightens up punishments for sexual offences which were very lax. The controversial part of the legislation is placing films, TV, books etc., as being age-limited (to 18 years) and orders program producers of TV or other media that include same sex scenes, or overt sexual acts of any sort, to indicate it is not suitable for children under 18.
It’s important to note the films, TV series etc., are not banned, as you might think from reading hysterical Western media.
I did read the law in Hungarian and there is no reference to any sexual minority, merely to sexuality being kept for adulthood and children being left to be children. Seems reasonable to me, but not if you listen to some commentators and the US Administration.
All this has been noticed abroad, as visits from American conservatives to the country show, and the much less publicised fact of thousands of EU citizens from France, Germany and The Netherlands moving to Hungary indicates. The Heritage Foundation in an opinion piece asks:
“Why is the Biden administration funding agitation against Hungary, a NATO ally with a pro-American population? Why USAID is spending US taxpayer money in Hungary, let alone on Hungarian media outlets, should boggle the mind.”
The article’s author asked a Hungarian’s opinion on America’s political stance, and he gave an answer I hear a lot: “We need a strong America in a dangerous international situation. But not a woke America.”
Don't blame Jason Bourne
On a personal note, I have been a lifelong admirer and friend of America. I spent four years there, three of them at university and I travelled widely. I can’t count the number of times I have argued in favour of America against Brits, Central Europeans, South-and other Africans. I was born and spent the first seven years of my life in the UK, where in the mid-1960s everyone wanted to be American. Cowboy films were all the rage and we children played cowboys and Indians. This happened despite growing up with the knowledge that America had betrayed Hungary in 1956.
Later, I had a Czech friend who had fled his country in 1968 and saw the Portuguese sold out in Angola, Mozambique and Guinea-Bissau. Much later, in the South African Army, I spoke to Angolan soldiers of our 32 Battalion who hated the “Yanks” as much, if not more, than the Cubans and Russians who were all over Angola at the time.
I always knew about US shenanigans in Central and South America and heard a great deal of their backstabbing of Vietnam, Ethiopia and Rhodesia. But somehow, this is different. This hits closer to home. Maybe because you could argue that Rhodesia (and South Africa) were racist. South Vietnam was corrupt. But Hungary? A NATO ally?
The other day I watched The Bourne Identity. I’d always seen films, like the Bourne series and Mission Impossible as products of some Hollywood writers’ imaginations. But I don’t know anymore. If a US government can illegally finance foreign media and foreign political parties in an allied country, what is the next step?
Viktor Orbán is so popular now in Hungary the CIA could not organise a coup. But how about assassination? What if Viktor Orbán turns up dead tomorrow? To be honest, it wouldn’t surprise me, and I don’t believe it would be Jason Bourne, either.
Christopher Szabo is a freelance journalist based in Pretoria, South Africa.
Image credit: Ambassador David Pressman / U.S. Embassy Budapest on X (formerly Twitter)
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