Samantha Power & Color Revolution In Hungary
It's never a good thing when Samantha Power says she's in town, and ready to help:
"Locally driven initiatives". Right. According to a US Embassy press release, here's why the USAID Administrator was here:
I remind you that Hungary is a democratic country that is a member of the European Union and the NATO alliance. It is led by a government that won re-election in a 2022 landslide that was widely recognized as free and fair. This is also a government that does not support the United States-led strategy to prolong the Russia-Ukraine war, does not believe in globalist principles on open immigration, does not support same-sex marriage, and will not permit LGBT propaganda to be presented to minors.
Clearly it is ripe for a Color Revolution -- and Samantha Power is here to help.
We all like the things that Power says she's here to advocate, but unless you fell off a turnip truck, you know that these terms are code for "do things the liberal globalist way." The fact that the Hungarian opposition parties are in such lousy shape is not a sign that Hungary is anti-democratic, for example. As I wrote here last year when I was living in Budapest during the election campaign, it was easy to find voters everywhere who had lots of complaints about the Viktor Orban government, but who said that they planned to vote for him because they didn't trust the opposition's competence. A friend of mine actually voted for the opposition, but told me later that seeing how Orban has handled the war situation, he wishes he had voted for Fidesz. To a lot of globalist types, the fact that Hungarian voters keep choosing, in free and fair elections, the candidate that Washington and Brussels dislike, means that democracy is deeply flawed in Hungary.
Therefore, the Biden administration dispatches Samantha Power to "strengthen democratic institutions" in an allied country. I have not seen a list of the organizations that USAID is supporting in Hungary, so I hope I'm wrong about this, but I think the word "democratic" in Power's formulation is a synonym for "anti-Orban".
Or take Power's promise to "support independent media." Whenever Americans ask me about Hungary, they have this idea that the Orban government controls the media. It's absurd. Here is a very helpful explanatory essay of Hungarian media culture by Boris Kalnoky, a veteran correspondent for Die Welt in Germany, and now director of the media school at Mathias Corvinus Collegium in Budapest. He is well respected for his independence.
He begins by pointing out that journalism culture in Hungary is not like in the US:
It should be said at this point that the perception of the role and function of journalism is quite different in Hungary—indeed, in all formerly communist countries—from that generally held in the West. For Westerners, journalism is the ‘fourth power’ of democracy. It seeks to keep politicians honest. Free, independent media acts as a check and balance to political power. Independent journalism makes politics transparent and informs citizens in an objective way, so they can make informed decisions when they elect a new government. That is the theory. In reality, the credibility and honesty of modern journalism have become a subject of debate even in the West.
This, in any case, is not how most Hungarians view the media. Even many journalists themselves do not believe this. Certainly, no politician does. For them, journalism is not a check on power. It is an instrument of power. No matter whether they help the government or fight it, the media outlets are seen as weapons in the political power game. How else could it be, after the collective experience of media under communism?
Most political journalists choose sides. When I agreed to lead the media school of the Mathias Corvinus Collegium in 2020 (an institution viewed by most as being pro-government), my one wish was to hire journalists (as teachers) who were connected to no political camp, and who were universally regarded as neutral, objective, and fair-minded. All colleagues I sounded out on this matter agreed that no such person existed in Hungary. That says something about the journalistic culture of the country.
Kalnoky then explains the media culture in Hungary from the fall of communism until Viktor Orban's return to government in 2010, concluding:
The point I would like to make is this: Hungary’s media market was not a naturally evolved, healthy, and independent media environment before Orbán regained power in 2010. It was, to a significant extent, a political market, and that market had been cornered by the left. Such media as existed was as a rule connected to political parties or at least political camps in one way or another. Independent journalism in the Western sense of the term was rare.
The standard story is that after 2010, Orban started suppressing press freedom. It's not true, though to leftists and liberals who were used to having a monopoly on media discourse, diversity may look like suppression. More Kalnoky:
Describing the media market as being fully dominated by the governing party gives a very incomplete view of the story. The Hungarian media landscape has remained pluralistic, critical voices remain influential, and the spectrum of published political opinion remains broad. The biggest TV channel, German-owned RTL, is critical of the government. So is the biggest daily tabloid, Blikk, owned by Swiss publishing house Ringier, whose online edition ranks among the top four in digital ratings on most days. The biggest political weekly magazine is independent Hvg. The biggest political broadsheet is left-wing Népszava. Of the four biggest news portals—apart from Blikk—two are very critical of the government (24.hu and Telex.hu). Index.hu, under its new owners, has become more government-friendly, but not a propaganda instrument. Only Origo.hu is a decidedly pro-government news portal.
These are the most recent statistics: in September 2021, the most-viewed news site was the independent, politically critical portal 24.hu with almost 3.6 million real users. Second, third and fourth were centrist Index.hu, pro-government Origo. hu and the foreign-owned, politically independent website of the Swiss-owned tabloid Blikk, each with around 3.3 million real users.
He goes on to give lots of figures showing how strong the opposition media are, contrary to the received opinion among US and Western European elites. More:
Altogether, the media market of 2021 is less politically one-sided than that of, say, 2005, when the eight-year socialist–liberal era of 2002–2010 was at its apogee. Hungary’s media continues to make life difficult for any government in power.
The simplest reason for this is Hungary’s legal guarantee of press freedom, enshrined in the constitution as well as in the media law of 2010. This legal guarantee duly reflects the political mentality of a country that liberated itself from communist totalitarianism in a peaceful revolution in 1989–1990. The very practical consequence of this is that the market will always move to satisfy the demand for critical reporting. There is always demand for media that is critical of the government of the day, whoever may be in power.
If some critical media outlets disappear, the market share of other publications which satisfy that demand will grow. For instance, the circulation of left-wing daily Népszava tripled to more than 20,000 after the former market leader Népszabadság was closed by its foreign owner. When the news portals Origo, and later Index, stopped being vocal critics of the government, another critical portal, 24.hu, rose to the top of the internet rankings, while a new website, Telex.hu, quickly ascended to the top ten.
If you want more details about the media situation here, read the whole thing. The idea that the US Government needs to spend taxpayer dollars to support opposition newspapers in Hungary -- again, a democratic NATO ally -- is insulting and manipulative. How would you feel if a country with the financial resources of China dedicated tens of millions of dollars to promoting its own ideological interests in the United States? One thing American conservatives learn very quickly in this part of the world is that when the United States, especially under a Democratic administration, talks about neutral-sounding things like "rule of law," "independent journalism," and "strengthening democracy," that language is a cover for advancing US strategic and ideological interests. Laws, journalism, and democratic practices that result in outcomes that globalists do not like are bad. Democracy is only democracy when the people vote how Washington and Brussels want them to.
Of course I have no idea what Samantha Power's ideas about media are back in the US, so it would be unfair to attribute the beliefs of someone else to her. Nevertheless, it is probably significant to note this recent essay in the Washington Post by Len Downie Jr., the Post's former executive editor, in which he detailed the findings of a big survey he and a colleague, the former head of CBS News, made of journalism leaders in the US. They discovered that the captains of newsrooms are now abandoning traditional professional standards built around "objectivity" in favor of a subjectively left-wing bias. This, Downie believes, is a good thing, a progressive thing. What the essay shows is the coalescing of liberal elite opinion around the idea that media only tells the truth when it reports from a left-wing point of view. Again, I cannot say what Samantha Power's take on this is, but we can at least say that if her opinion in that regard is representative of her professional class, then she will not think that the ideological diversity of mainstream media outlets in Hungary -- arguably a greater diversity of opinion than we have in the US -- is a good thing. So, when I read that Power is here in Budapest to support "independent journalism," I read the word independent as a synonym for "left-wing" or "anti-Orban".
Here, from a December 2022 USAID press release, is how the US Government is going to "help" countries in Central Europe that are democratic members of the EU and NATO alliance:
Furthermore, advancing wokeness is part of USAID's strategy, according to its 2022 Joint Strategic Plan:
It's not enough that liberal elites are busy screwing up America with DEI and other manifestations of wokeness. They have to export the revolution to Central Europe.
A few years ago, I wrote about how USAID partnered with George Soros's philanthropy to the tune of funneling $5 million to the country of Macedonia, to support activism there. Among its accomplishments: translating Saul Alinsky's Rules For Radicals into the local language, and distribute it widely there. This is what the radicals of the Obama administration consider to be "international development." And I highlighted at $300,000 USAID grant proposal to send culture-war mercenaries into that small, conservative, religious Balkan country, and queer it. That's what America does, you know.
Anyway, good luck, Hungary! In the Obama administration, national security council member Samantha Power, along with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and UN Ambassador Susan Rice, was a principal advocate of American support for armed intervention in Libya, which toppled the Qaddafi dictatorship, but that turned Libya into a warlord zone, ISIS haven, and human rights catastrophe. Obama later called the Libya debacle his worst mistake.
Power's reputation in Washington is as a passionate idealist. Beware liberal idealists who come promising to help your country be a better place. What they really want is a Color Revolution.
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Ms. Power is here to bring the blessings of American liberty to the poor benighted Magyars: