That image is a frame from a Dutch TV documentary about migrant presence in the Italian port city of Genoa. The speaker is an elderly Italian shopkeeper who laments what has happened to his city. The old part of the city, where he works, is now overrun with African migrants who sell drugs, he says. And this means the death of his country.
This is why Viktor Orban keeps being re-elected in Hungary. He has seen what the EU's migration policies have done to Italy and other European countries, and wants no part of it.
I know, I know. I know! You're tired of reading about Viktor Orban here. But you know, in the wake of Orban's Dallas appearance, there has been a lot of writing about him in the US, most of it tendentious and unreliable. As one of the few American pundits who has actually spent significant time in Hungary, I feel compelled to challenge this false narrative before it gets further entrenched. If you're bored with it all, feel free to skip all this, and to go with God. But I hope you will read on, if only to understand how the Narrative gets made.
The word seems to have gone out in Left circles to smear anybody who criticizes George Soros as an anti-Semite. Now they're going after Sen. Marco Rubio, of all people, for his criticism of "Soros-backed prosecutors." If you don't get the reference, George Soros spends a lot of money to get progressive DAs elected nationwide -- DAs who are soft on crime out of ideological principle. An example from the politically powerful head of an American teachers' union:
There's been lots of this on Twitter from the Left in the past few days. It's a lazy smear. Soros is a very wealthy man who has strong progressive political views, and throws a lot of money around to advance his causes. Hey, it's a free country! But one is also free to criticize him, even though he is ethnically Jewish. I did not notice people on the Left ceasing to criticize the late conservative skrillionaire Sheldon Adelson for spending his fortune to elect Republicans, even though Adelson was a Jew. In fact:
Hey, if you are a liberal or a progressive, it is perfectly understandable, and perfectly defensible, for you to have criticized Adelson back in the day. His Jewishness is not a shield against criticism for his political acts (though certainly if someone had used anti-Semitic language to do so, that would be out of bounds and worthy of condemnation). Neither is Soros's Judaism a get-out-of-criticism-free card for his progressive activism. American Jews should know that Soros's 2015 plan to bring a million or more Middle Eastern migrants into Europe to resettle them would have made Europe objectively less safe for European Jews, who face daily anti-Semitic attacks from Muslim migrants in European cities with significant Muslim migrant communities. As I keep saying, one of the safest places to be Jewish -- openly Jewish -- is Orban's Budapest. You don't have to like Viktor Orban's government one bit, but Hungarian migration policies make the country objectively safer for Jews than European countries that have sizable Islamic migrant communities. An inconvenient truth for liberals, but the truth all the same.
Orban has had to deal with this smear for years. Soros is immensely powerful, by virtue of his billions, and he has spent generously to try to change his native Hungary into a progressive, globalist country. Orban is his chief rival, and the one who prevents Soros from doing that. Naturally the pro-Soros people through everything they have at Orban, including false claims of anti-Semitism. Here is erstwhile neocon Max Boot doing it in the Washington Post a day or two ago:
But Orban hasn’t recanted his repugnant views, and right-wingers in Dallas thrilled to his denunciations of immigration, abortion, LGBTQ rights and “the Woke Globalist Goliath.” He even excoriated Jewish financier George Soros, a Hungarian native, as someone who “hated Christianity.” The racist and anti-Semitic signaling was not subtle.
For the record, Soros has said publicly that he is not a religious believer. Soros pursues some policies that are entirely antithetical to Christianity (e.g., he funds a campaign to legalize prostitution, and to normalize LGBT). I don't have any reason to believe that Soros consciously hates Christianity, but the effects of his progressive beliefs is to make life a lot harder for believing Christians. That said, here is a transcript of Orban's CPAC Texas speech. The only part that has Orban accusing Soros of hating Christianity was this one:
Let’s be honest: the most evil things in modern history were carried out by people who hated Christianity. Don’t be afraid to call your enemies by their name. You can play it safe, but they will never show mercy. Consider for example George Soros, as you call him here. In Hungary, we call him: Gyuri bácsi, which means Uncle Georgie. The wealthiest and one of the most talented Hungarians on Earth! Just a hint: Be careful with talented Hungarians! I know George Soros very well. He is my opponent. He believes in none of the things that we do. And he has an army at his service: money, NGOs, universities, research institutions and half the bureaucracy in Brussels. He uses this army to force his will on his opponents, like us Hungarians. He thinks that values dear to all of us led to the horrors of the twentieth century. But the case is exactly the opposite. Our values save us from repeating history’s mistakes. The horrors of Nazism and Communism happened because some Western States in continental Europe abandoned their Christian values. And today’s progressives are planning to do the same. They want to give up on western values, and create a New World, a Post Western World. Who is going to stop them if we don’t?
The claim is straightforward: Western civilization was built by Judeo-Christian values (Orban uses "Judeo-Christian" and "Christian" interchangeably). Abandoning Christian/Judeo-Christian faith and values -- Nazism and Communism were anti-Jewish and anti-Christian to the core, even though many Christians in Germany embraced Nazism, and Jews were hugely overrepresented in the leadership of Communist movements -- brought about total catastrophe. Orban believes that the only way Europe can be Europe is to hold fast to the religious values upon which its civilization is based. George Soros believes things that are antithetical to the Christian religion, and spends his fortune to hasten the advance of the now-established post-Christian order. In what sense is Viktor Orban wrong about the atheist left-winger George Soros wanting to move Europe away from Christian values? In what sense is Orban wrong about Soros passionately hating those values?
When it comes to Orban, you must always, always read the entire context of his remarks. There's a funny thing about American journalists and commentators: when it comes to Viktor Orban, many don't appear to have the slightest interest in fairness or accuracy. For example, here's the Associated Press report on the Texas speech:
His invitation to CPAC reflects conservatives' growing embrace of the Hungarian leader whose country has a single-party government.
A casual reader would assume that this means Hungary is like a communist country, in that only one party is allowed. This is a lie. It is true that Hungary is governed by the Fidesz party of Viktor Orban, which holds all the government ministries -- because it is a parliamentary democracy! In the UK, the Conservative Party is the party of government, because that's how it works in a parliamentary democracy. Whenever Fidesz loses the next election, Hungary will have a government of the opposition party, or coalition. And by the way, a Hungarian friend pointed out that technically, the Hungarian government is a coalition of Fidesz with a separate but allied party. None of this stuff matters to many American journalists. They believe what they believe.
Unfortunately even James Kirchick, one of the best journalists and commentators we have, fell into it in his report from CPAC (I had drinks one night with Jamie, whose work I have admired for years; he's a genuinely nice guy, but a Fidesz hater to the marrow). I'll come back to Jamie's piece later in this post, but here I want to point out a typical line of attack against Orban:
There been tons of hand-wringing over Orban’s incendiary, repugnant remarks about Hungarians not procreating with non-white people.
That is not what Orban said at all in Transylvania! Again: read the transcript of that speech. I completely agree with Kirchick that it was very wrong of Orban to cite the 1973 anti-migrant novel The Camp of the Saints, whose narrow insight about the self-hating nature of European elites opening the door to mass Third World migration does not justify the open racism of the thing. But again, it is a tendentious reading of Orban's comments to think he was referring to race in the biological sense, which is the only way we understand it in the US. He is referring to civilizations, which is why he said that in Europe, people of different ethnicities mix and intermarry all the time, as happened in Hungary historically -- but they are all part of the same "race" (= nation, civilization). In fact, in a subsequent interview with Patrick Deneen and Gladden Pappin, Orban admitted that he screwed up with his Transylvania remarks, and said that he believes that the United States would maintain its Western civilization because of migration from Latin America, which he considers to be a good thing.
Kirchick took a couple of sentences to wave away explanations of Orban's remarks:
Orban and his defenders would later protest that, by “race,” he was referring to culture, and that, per the usual, any misunderstanding was the fault of the globalist, progressive elites who routinely defame him and the Hungarian people.
I'm sorry, but this is absurd. It really is true that there is a serious explanation for what Orban said; I and others have been offering it. In fact, in a subsequent interview with Patrick Deneen and Gladden Pappin, Orban admitted that he screwed up with his Transylvania remarks, with Orban adding that he believes that the United States would maintain its Western civilization because of migration from Latin America, which he considers to be a good thing.
There no doubt were a lot of people in that CPAC hall who would have disagreed with Orban on this point, had they known that's what he believes. But people who say that Orban is racist in the standard American sense of not wanting whites to procreate with people of color have to explain why he believes Latino migration is going to keep America in the Christian West -- and why that's a good thing. To be fair to Jamie Kirchick, he probably did not know of Orban's comments about Latino immigration, but he didn't have to do so to grasp that Orban was talking about culture, not biological race. All he had to do was read Orban's remarks in context.
Notice these remarks from Pope Francis in his press conference recently following his trip to Canada. From the transcript:
Brittany Hobson, The Canadian Press: Good evening Pope Francis, My name is Brittany Hobson. I am a reporter with The Canadian press. You have often spoken on the need to speak clearly, honestly, forthrightly, and with parrhesia. You know that Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission described the residential-school system as “cultural genocide.” This has since been amended to just “genocide.” Those who were listening to your apologies the past week did express disappointment that the word “genocide” was not used. Would you use those words and accept that members of the Church participated in genocide?
Pope Francis: It‘s true; I didn’t use the word because it didn‘t occur to me, but I described the genocide and asked for pardon, forgiveness for this work that is genocidal. For example, I condemned this, too: taking away children and changing culture, changing mentalities, changing traditions, changing a race, [emphasis mine -- RD] let’s say, a whole culture. Yes, it‘s a technical word, “genocide,” but I didn’t use it because it didn't come to mind, but I described it. It is true; yes, it’s genocide. Yes, you all, be calm. You can say that I said that, yes, that it was genocide. [In English] Yes. Yes. Thank you.
It would be absurd to talk about "changing a race" in the biological sense. The pope used the word in the same sense that Orban meant it: erasing people's concept of themselves as a particular people.
Anyway, here is Zack Beauchamp in Vox wailing that Orban is turning Republican Washington into "Budapest-on-the-Potomac." Here is Ana Marie Cox in The New Republic grieving that Orban's speech was one long "dogwhistle" (the standard word progressives use to dismiss right-wing claims that they dislike; it's like calling criticism of Soros "anti-Semitic" -- you don't have to address the substance of what's being said, only claim that you somehow know what the Right speaker is really saying, nudge-nudge). There's lots of stuff like this all over the US media today.
You would think that the American media would have wised up by now to the role they played in electing Donald Trump, but no, they're giving Orban the same treatment. They misquote him, distort what he really says, refuse to engage his substantive claims and arguments (because it's easier to comfort yourself by saying that it's all a big racist, anti-semitic, homophobic dog whistle), slander him -- and then wonder why people respond favorably to what the guy stands for. In his opening remarks at CPAC Texas, Orban said:
I can already see tomorrow’s headlines: “Far-right European racist and anti-Semite strongman, the Trojan horse of Putin, holds speech at conservative conference.” But I don’t want to give them any ideas. They know best how to write Fake News.
And lo, it all happened just as Orban predicted. Orban also said:
They hate me and slander me and my country as they hate you and slander you and the America you stand for. We all know how this works.
Precisely! Just read the coverage of Orban's Texas speech from the Left and neocon Right. These people are doing Orban's work for him, showing the US conservatives that the treatment from liberals and the liberal media that they have grown accustomed to over the years, especially during the Trump years, is the same treatment he has received from the liberal media. We all know how this works. We sure do. The more they lament the influence of Viktor Orban on American conservative politics, and do so with lies and slanders all too familiar to the American right, especially in the Trump era, the more attractive they make Orban to American conservatives.
Matt Taibbi is no conservative, but he understands how the liberal media pack worked to elect Donald Trump, and says they are doing it again -- this time, by positing Ron DeSantis as an acceptable Stop Trump alternative. Taibbi writes:
If pundits really wanted a Trump-free race, they would describe DeSantis as a fascist menace, a “Real Hitler, This Time” who itches to slit democracy’s throat and ravage its corpse. There would be campaigns to pressure Visa and Mastercard into refusing payments for Dreams of Our Founding Fathers, along with boycotts of Florida oranges, Dolphins highlights, Carl Hiassen novels, and anything else “Florida” that activists could think of.
DeSantis, who’s no dummy, sees how fraught this moment is, which is why he told the cast of The View to go fuck itself when they invited him on. Why, the DeSantis people asked, would the governor agree to sit with people who’d bashed him as a “homicidal sociopath,” a “fascist and a bigot,” and “anti-black,” unless they wanted to hype him as a less horrible buffer against Trump, who would never in a million years get the same invite? (That fact alone makes DeSantis look like a fake to Republicans). By trying to confer pseudo-credibility on DeSantis, these outlets are destroying the Floridian’s credibility as an outsider, leaving Trump the only choice for the burn-it-down vote.
The most damning evidence of impotence that year was that Trump gained with black and Hispanic voters in 2020 after four years of relentless messaging about Trumpism as literal white supremacy. Even tiny shifts of this type in Trump’s direction would have been impossible if traditional media had anything like net positive legitimacy.
Trump and Sanders both surged in 2016 when they described a country divided into a small corrupt establishment and everyone else, and declared themselves on the side of everyone else. The journalistic priesthood that’s spent the last 6-7 years denouncing these people and their voters has done the opposite, proudly aligning itself with the hated inside, celebrating credentialism, and worst of all, cheering a censorship movement that’s now proven to be an abject failure.
Do you see why the more that the journalistic establishment demonizes Viktor Orban, the more American conservatives will love him? I'm old enough to remember when this or that awful Trump gaffe was going to sink his candidacy. I myself thought that when the "grab them by the pussy" tape came out, Trump was done. Nothing Viktor Orban said, or allegedly said, to Hungarians at a summer camp in Transylvania are going to hurt him with Americans.
What is there to admire about Orban, for conservative Americans? As I see it:
1) he not only shares their nationalist, populist-conservative views, but he has been an effective advocate for them in his own country;
2) he grasps that the Left's ideological capture of institutions is a key battleground;
3) he understands that we are not in a normal political cycle now, but one in which we have to fight for the existence of our civilization -- and that the Left, as well as the globalist Right, are on the side of dissolving what makes the West special;
4) he believes in the importance of nations, and does not apologize for preferring his own people and their particular traditions, versus what globalists, immigrationists, and capitalists prefer;
5) and he does not apologize for believing that the natural family is the bedrock of civilization, and must be defended in law;
6) he is totally against "gender ideology," and is willing to endure the hatred of progressive international elites to protect Hungarian children from being propagandized by transgender advocates
7) he gets that fighting politically under the traditional rules of liberalism disadvantages the Right, because the Left controls the terms of discourse, and is fully engaged in the Orwellian project of remaking language to conceal meaning (e.g., anti-white racism as "anti-racism"; "diversity" as rigidly controlled thought, etc.)
8) he understands that mass migration means the end of nations -- though, as I pointed out above, Orban has a more nuanced view of this stuff than people think. He quite understandably believes that Hungary would cease to be Hungary if it became home to a large community of non-Hungarians. But he also more broadly believes that Western Christianity forms its own "race" and civilization, which is why he thinks that legal migration of Latinos (Catholic and Protestant) to the US -- which is not monoethnic, as Hungary is -- is on balance a good thing.
Now, if you are a liberal, a progressive, or a neocon, I understand why you would oppose Orban and all his pomps and works! But you should at least do yourself a favor and try to understand why he appeals to strong majorities of the Hungarian people -- and why he appeals to the kind of conservatives gathered at CPAC. If you satisfy yourself with pants-peeing emoting about "racism" and "anti-Semitism" and "fascism," you will totally miss the meaning of Viktor Orban, and only strengthen his appeal to grassroots conservative Americans.
I mean, look: we are in a moment in time in which the southern border is wide open for illegal migration; in which US public health authorities lost immense authority over their handling of Covid; in which inflation is destroying people's savings; in which people have to worry about their children's minds being colonized by radical ideologues planting thoughts in the kids' malleable brains that that might be the opposite sex -- and interposing the authority of the State between kids and parents; and in which a racist anti-white ideology has conquered all the major institutions of American life, such that it disadvantages half the people in America because of the color of their skin. We are dealing with all of this, but the liberal commentariat believes that the real threat is from a successful Hungarian populist who comes to the US to offer Americans friendship and advice on how to prevail in politics? Really?
Orban is also strongly criticized by US pundits for not going all-in on the Ukraine war. The standard line is that he is Putin's lapdog. That's it. As usual, go to an Orban speech (the one in Transylvania will do) to grasp the complexity of his thinking about the war. It's too long to quote here, but it's important if you want to grasp why Orban believes the things he does about the war. The Americans who slam him for being "pro-Putin" because he wants peace are the same kind of Americans who called conservatives like Pat Buchanan "unpatriotic" because they opposed the Iraq War. Have we not seen enough misery and suffering from the pointless American wars of the last twenty years to understand that we should at least listen seriously to the opinions of critics like Viktor Orban?
Europe is now facing a grave economic crisis because of its handling of the war. Russia has greatly diminished its natural gas deliveries to Europe, and may cut them off entirely. The European Union prefers not to use Russian gas, as punishment to Russia for the invasion. That's certainly the EU's prerogative, but you can't just turn that supertanker around on a dime. Hungary gets 85 percent of its gas from Russia. The EU demands that the Hungarians destroy their economy to support the EU's totally ineffective policy towards Russia. More importantly for the continent, Germany is so dependent on Russian gas that without it, whole sectors of German industry is at risk of shutting down. If German industry shuts down, so does the engine of the European economy.
Whether or not Germany, Hungary, and other European countries should have become so dependent on Russian gas is a very good question. But with winter coming, it's an abstraction. The fact is, they are, and Orban has warned that Europe could see mass unrest this winter, with governments falling. This is the real world for Europeans -- a world that they must live in, while American critics of Orban's realism don't have to worry about heat being rationed to their houses this winter, or a deep economic recession caused by German industries grinding to a halt.
In his piece, Jamie Kirchick -- a Ukraine war hawk -- faults Orban for "perfunctory" criticism of Putin over the invasion, but what does that mean, "perfunctory"? Obviously it means that Kirchick thinks Orban is insincere. But as someone who was living in Hungary when the invasion happened, I can tell you that I did not speak with a single Hungarian who supported the invasion, or had a good thing to say about the Russians. Rather, they thought it was foolish for NATO to get involved in the war, and were afraid that the fighting would spill across their border, and involve them. Again, the prospect of a modern war being fought on American soil is non-existent, but it was electrifying in Hungary. The Hungarians proved themselves in 1956 willing to risk everything to fight Russians for their freedom, but they correctly see the Ukraine-Russia war as rather more complicated (even as they condemn Putin's aggression, as Orban has done). I remember Western media coverage of the Hungarian election, with journalists certain that Orban's dissent from the main EU/NATO war narrative was going to bring him down. In fact, he spoke for the Hungarian people, who want a negotiated peace.
It's common to read among pro-war Americans the sentiment that tying Putin up in eastern Ukraine is worth the cost to us. That's cold as hell. I spoke the other day to an American who had received an intelligence briefing on the Ukraine war. He told me that the Ukrainians are marching into a meat grinder. The average time today between a Ukrainian soldier being sent to the front and coming home in a casket is ten days. Many of us Americans are willing to fight Putin to the last Ukrainian, it seems. Moreover, CBS News reported the other day that only a fraction of the tens of billions in military aid the US and other Western nations have sent to Ukraine is actually making it to the front; most of the aid is diverted by local warlords and oligarchs. (CBS has today updated its report to say that the delivery is improving.)
Can we not at least consider whether or not our Ukraine strategy is working? Orban correctly believes that the Ukrainian government cannot prevail against Putin's military, and that Europeans are sacrificing their own economies for a lost cause. He further believes that the United States should be taking the lead in negotiating an end to the war. He's right about all of it, I believe, but even if his analysis is off, shouldn't it at least be taken seriously? Dismissing him as "Putin's lackey" and not taking what he's saying seriously is idiotic and self-harming.
What the Left and the neocon Right are trying to do to Orban is police the discussion, in part by caricaturing what Orban really believes and really says, in order to demonize him and his views to American audiences, who depend on them for information about Hungary. Orban coming to America and speaking, in English, directly to American conservatives, is a real breakthrough for Orban and his nationalist conservatism. American conservatives can read, listen, and watch for themselves to see if this Magyar is a "fascist," as he has been called. I hope that more and more American conservatives will travel to Hungary, where they will see a free country where people can say anything they like -- as an unwoke society, it is more free than the United States in that regard -- whose social values are about where the United States was in the mid-1990s (or even more progressive than where we were then, as same-sex couples in Hungary can have civil unions). Put simply, the US media, for the most part, lie about Hungary.
But they are talking only to themselves. With Orban, they are doing exactly what they did, and do, with Trump: missing the deeper meaning of their popularity. While Randi Weingarten and other prominent liberals screech about all the so-called anti-Semites criticizing George Soros and the progressive prosecutors he funds, ordinary people -- even liberals, as in the San Francisco voters who recalled progressive DA Chesa Boudin -- are getting sick and tired of being told that it's racist to be tired of crime. Many Americans (including liberals who haven't yet found the courage to speak out) are getting sick and tired of being told that to object to gender ideology being shoved down the throats of their children in school is bigotry -- and they don't see why Orban should be demonized for passing a law in Hungary making that illegal. Many Americans -- including Latino ones -- don't understand why it's supposed to be racist to oppose open borders; if it makes them "fascist" to believe that borders mean something, okay, then, they'll be fascist. And they don't understand why it is a pearl-clutching horror to oppose anti-white racism, or the demonization of Christianity, or why Jews are expected to hate European migration policies that make European Jews safer in their own countries.
And so forth. So, when Zack Beauchamp and his lot caterwaul about how the conservative movement is trying to make Washington into "Budapest-on-the-Potomac," more and more of us say, "If only!" We should actually be thankful to the liberal media for advancing the cause with its head-in-the-sand hysteria. The more they slander Orban as racist, fascist, homophobic, and so forth, the more attention they draw to him from normie conservatives, who know all too well that they have been denounced in the same way for believing things that most people believed in the day before yesterday.
One more thing. An American friend who has lived for many years in Europe, mostly in Italy, writes in defense of Orbanism:
Euro elites (like the Bushes with Iraq and Afghanistan) think they can impose their deracinated ‘European values’ on the Muslims pouring into Europe through some sort of osmosis (along with various “integration” programs). Italy’s Democratic Party (and their Bergoglian counterparts in the Church) have a quasi-religious belief in this. Despite the shocking scenes seen daily in Italian cities. Oh, they say, the fact that the old town of Genoa is overrun with North and Subsaharan African criminals is because of Italian racism and not enough “integration” programs. There are never enough integration programs, and there is always “so much more to do” to tackle racism.
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If you want to know what he's talking about, and why ordinary Europeans who have to live with the results of EU/Soros-style migration ideals, watch this section of a Dutch TV documentary about how Genoa is heavily populated with migrants. Here's an elderly Italian shopkeeper talking about how the old city is now overrun with migrants who sell drugs. As I said above, Orban has seen what uncontrolled migration has meant for other European nations, and wants no part of it. Can you blame him?