As West Fears the Rise of Autocrats, Hungary Shows What’s Possible

Several men urged caution. But Viktor Orban, the prime minister-elect, disagreed. The voting result, Mr. Orban continued, had given him the right to carry out a radical overhaul of the country’s Constitution.

.. Nearly eight years later, Mr. Orban has remade Hungary’s political system into what one critic calls “a new thing under the sun.” Once praised by watchdog groups as a leading democracy of post-Soviet Eastern Europe, Hungary is now considered a democracy in sharp, worrisome decline.

.. Through legislative fiat and force of will, Mr. Orban has transformed the country into a political greenhouse for an odd kind of soft autocracy, combining crony capitalism and far-right rhetoric with a single-party political culture.

.. At home, he is pushing new legislation, this time to place financial penalties on civil society groups that help migrants.

..  He is arguing that Europe’s postwar liberal consensus “is now at an end” — and his vision is being emulated in Poland

.. Mr. Orban is emblematic of a strongman age. He has courted President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia and praised President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey. In 2016, he became the first Western leader to endorse the Republican presidential nominee, Donald J. Trump.

.. “Orban has pioneered a new model of single-party rule that has spread through Eastern Europe

.. defended Mr. Orban’s actions as a determined effort “to get rid of the remnants of communism that are still with us, not only in terms of institutions but in terms of mentality.”

.. Mr. Orban is undeniably popular with many Hungarians

.. he also has positioned himself as a buffer against what he portrays as modern-day threats: such as European Union bureaucrats; or George Soros, the liberal Hungarian-American philanthropist; or, above all, migrants who seek to settle in the country.

.. Migration fits into a wider agenda about the protection of the Hungarian people,” said Andras Biro-Nagy, a politics lecturer at Corvinus University of Budapest. “He’s protecting us from everything.”

.. Weeks later, Mr. Orban and his lieutenants began a legislative assault on the Hungarian Constitution, curbing civil society and, to less fanfare, diverting billions of euros in European Union and federal money toward loyal allies.

.. First, he moved simultaneously to curb the Hungarian media and the judiciary. Next came the erosion of the country’s checks and balances, which has helped Mr. Orban share the spoils of power with close friends and important businessmen.

.. And then, came the electoral process. The restructuring of Hungary’s election system, including a redrawing the electoral map

.. During the next five years, Fidesz used its two-thirds majority in Parliament to pass more than 1,000 laws, many of them enacted after a few hours of debate — and often presented by low-ranking lawmakers who had neither written nor read them.

.. The laws allowed Mr. Orban to appoint his own candidates to lead the country’s two main media regulators, while simultaneously giving those regulators more power to fine and punish independent news outlets. (Most of those outlets have subsequently been bought by allies of Mr. Orban.)

.. Mr. Orban put ex-Fidesz politicians in charge at several institutions, including the State Audit Office, which monitors government expenditures, and the State Prosecution Service, which oversees criminal prosecutions. His supporters also now control the board overseeing the National Fiscal Council, an independent body scrutinizing economic policy.

.. Yet it is Hungary’s judiciary that has perhaps been most affected.

.. Judges had to be nominated by a committee staffed by representatives of all the parties in Parliament — ensuring that all judges were chosen by consensus.

.. But Fidesz voted to give itself complete power in choosing the candidates. Eight years later, the court is made up entirely of judges appointed during Fidesz’s tenure.

.. Homelessness is once again a crime in Hungary.

.. “It’s not a totalitarian system,” Judge Szepeshazi said. “But it’s very autocratic.”

.. Mr. Orban has been able to accrue so much power in Budapest partly because he met little effective opposition from Brussels

.. The main problem was that the founders of the European Union never considered the possibility that a member state would backslide, and did not create procedures to deal conclusively with such an event, Ms. Reding said.

.. Mr. Orban has subsequently claimed to have tricked European officials into believing that he had made substantive changes, even though they were largely cosmetic, a tactic he has publicly described as the “dance of the peacock.”

.. Voting districts that had historically leaned to the left were reshaped to include around 5,000 more voters than districts that traditionally leaned right, according to an analysis by polling specialists at Political Capital, a Hungarian think tank. This meant that leftist parties needed more votes to win a seat than Fidesz did.

.. “All the characteristics and features on the surface are of democracy,” he added. “But behind it there is only one party and only one truth.”

Donald Trump: Middle-American Radical

Trump, he writes, “would more accurately be described as a ‘radical anti-progressive’” who is “at war with the progressives who have co-opted American civil society.” Moreover, Trump “is willing to go further than any other previous conservative to defeat them.”

.. “Radical anti-progressives” recognize that many institutions—the academy, media, entertainment, and the courts—have been co-opted and corrupted by the left. And as these institutions are not what they once were, they no longer deserve the respect they once had.

.. Trump sees many institutions as fortresses lately captured by radical progressives that must be attacked and besieged if they are to be recaptured and liberated. Cannon deals with three such politicized institutions: the media, the NFL, and the courts.

.. Trump does not attack freedom of the press but rather the moral authority and legitimacy of co-opted media institutions. It is what CNN has become, not what CNN was, that Trump disrespects.

.. These people are political enemies posturing as journalists who create “fake news” to destroy me

.. Before 2016, the NFL was an untouchable. When

  • the league demanded that North Carolina accept the radical transgender agenda or face NFL sanctions, the Tar Heel State capitulated. When
  • Arizona declined to make Martin Luther King’s birthday a holiday in 1990, the NFL took away the Super Bowl. The Sun State caved

.. Trump delivered a full-throated defense of the flag and called for kicking the kneelers off the field, out of the game, and off the team.

“Fire them!” Trump bellowed.

.. Before Trump, the FBI was sacrosanct. But Trump savaged an insiders’ cabal at the top of the FBI that he saw as having plotted to defeat him.

.. Trump has not attacked an independent judiciary, but courts like the Ninth Circuit, controlled by progressives and abusing their offices to advance progressive goals

.. it let the Supreme Court seize its power over social policy and convert itself into a judicial dictatorship.

.. Trump instead seeks to fight and delegitimize any institution the Left has captured, and rebuild it from the ground up.”

.. Trump supporters who most relish the wars he is waging are the “Middle American Radicals,”

.. After World War II, as it became clear that our long-ruling liberal elites had blundered horribly in trusting Stalin, patriots arose to cleanse our institutions of treason and its fellow travelers.

.. The Hollywood Ten were exposed and went to jail. Nixon nailed Alger Hiss. Truman used the Smith Act to shut down Stalin’s subsidiary, the Communist Party USA. Spies in the atom bomb program were run down. The Rosenbergs went to the electric chair.

.. Liberals call it the “Red Scare.” They are right to do so.

For when the patriots of the Greatest Generation like Jack Kennedy and Richard Nixon and Joe McCarthy came home from the war and went after them, the nation’s Reds had never been so scared in their entire lives.

The C.I.A.’s Fake News Campaign

for more than two decades during the Cold War, the public was bombarded by an enormous publicity campaign to shape American views of Russia and its foreign policy.

.. in 1950, it created Radio Free Europe, a government-sponsored broadcasting station. Ostensibly, it provided unbiased news for Eastern Europeans, but in fact the agency used it to wage a subversive campaign to weaken Communist governments behind the Iron Curtain.

.. how to hide the agency’s hand? How to account for the millions of C.I.A. dollars pouring into the broadcasting station? Simple: pretend that ordinary Americans are paying the bills.

.. a well-heeled and well-connected front group, the National Committee for a Free Europe. Each year it ran an enormous fund-raising campaign called the Crusade for Freedom

.. annual appeals resembling a hybrid of World War II war bond campaigns and contemporary NPR pledge drives.

.. Even newspaper delivery boys played a part, soliciting donations from subscribers on their paper routes.

.. They dutifully wrote checks to Radio Free Europe, and their contributions were magnified by gifts from many of the country’s biggest corporations, yielding, on average, about $1 million annually.

It wasn’t enough: The donations barely covered the cost of running the “fund-raising drives,” to say nothing of Radio Free Europe’s $30 million annual budgets. But that wasn’t the point.

.. the C.I.A. saw that it could exploit the fund-raising campaign as a conduit for domestic propaganda.

.. It provided the leitmotif for Reagan’s denunciations of the “evil empire” in the 1980s. One can even hear echoes in Donald Trump’s recent speech to the United Nations: His long digression on the evils of socialism seems drawn from the heated rhetoric of ads gone by.

.. The crusade blasted all information from enemy sources as lies and deceit — fake news, we could say. This counter-propaganda sought to inoculate the public from being receptive to anything said by the other side. It’s a tactic we’ve seen play out in real time on the president’s Twitter feed.

.. Radio Free Europe itself — which continues to operate out of its headquarters in Prague — has shaped Vladimir Putin’s worldview. Russia has long tried to claim Eastern Europe as its sphere of influence. Moscow hated the station for its meddling. As a K.G.B. officer, Mr. Putin no doubt spent many hours fretting over its activities in the Soviet bloc. It was a major irritant. He may even see the 2016 election hack as a way to even the score. If so, it’s payback indeed.

The revolution was betrayed! ‘Real’ socialism is a worthy goal! It’s never been tried!

The revolution was betrayed! ‘Real’ socialism is a worthy goal! It’s never been tried!

The problem is that there will never be a “true” socialist country because ruling classes are inevitable.

.. former Communists who understood that any attempt to create a “true socialist” society runs into the Iron Law of Oligarchy. Every organization requires some small group of people to make important decisions. They may use their special knowledge and power to help people, but it’s also a sure bet that they will use it to help themselves as well. A society without democratic institutions and market mechanisms by its nature will invest bureaucrats with enormous power to make choices about how other people will live.

.. It turns out that Russian meddling in the election wasn’t reserved for generating an army of MAGA Twitter bots: A social media campaign calling itself “Blacktivist” and linked to the Russian government used both Facebook and Twitter in an apparent attempt to amplify racial tensions during the U.S. presidential election, two sources with knowledge of the matter told CNN.

.. First of all, the notion that a totalitarian dictatorship that murdered and enslaved its own people actually cared about civil rights for Americans shouldn’t have passed the laugh test.

.. The Soviets, with the aid of useful idiots and even-more-useful agents, convinced large swathes of the world that the CIA created AIDS. During the Korean War, they fabricated “confessions” and other evidence that America used biological-warfare weapons. The Soviets undermined democratic societies — and developing countries throughout the world — with conspiracy theories planted in newspapers and TV shows and peddled by seemingly legitimate academics. Moscow’s Patrice Lumumba University (no really) granted Ph.D.s in Holocaust denial and anti-Zionist canards.

.. The Soviets loved black radicals in the U.S. not because they gave a rat’s ass about black empowerment or civil rights but because they wanted to sow unrest in America.

.. the campaign sought toThe revolution was betrayed! ‘Real’ socialism is a worthy goal! It’s never been tried!

sought to replace King with Stokely Carmichael, hoping a less pacifist leader would help spark a race war within the U.S.

.. the KGB approved a plan to release explosives in “the Negro section of New York,” with one KGB official suggesting bombing “one of the Negro colleges” as a back-up option. Following the planned bombing, KGB agents would then issue anonymous phone calls “to two or three black organizations, claiming that the explosion was the work of the Jewish Defense League.”

.. Second, for the conservatives out there who have suddenly developed a strange new respect for Vladimir Putin because he’s a “strong leader” or some other flaming garbage, you should keep in mind that the former KGB agent is an unapologetic creature of that evil empire, shorn of Marxist pretense. He is doing to America today what he was trained to do.