Monthly disinformation roundup – George Soros remains public enemy number one in Hungary
In the past month several interesting stories were publised in connection with disinformation. Most of the fake stories were about George Soros and the Polish-Hungarian veto, but the coronavirus pandemic also generated some false narratives in pro-government media outlets. This is our monthly Hungarian disinformation review.
“The growing influence of Soros”
Not surprisingly, George Soros, the american billionaire is still the number one enemy of the current regime. There were several false narratives that appeared in connection with him, and the situation worsened when Hungary and Poland both vetoed the EU’s seven-year budget and the coronavirus recovery plan which was trying to link the funding to respect for the rule of law.
Even before the actual veto, articles were publised on several government-friendly news sites trying to put the blame on others. One good example is Hirado.hu, which stated that the Hungarian government is against the rule of law criteria in connection with the funding because it could easily lead to political bribe, especially against countries that don’t support immigration. Thats why the government and pro-government newspapers see this criteria as a punishment designed specifically for the countries that „refused to execute the plan of Soros”. According to the Magyar Nemzet, Soros is trying to undermine the alliance of the Visegrad-countries and he is targeting Hungary and Poland first.
However, the article of Hirado.hu is not only notable because of the well-known plan of the infamous billionaire, but because of the fact that it also presents a perfect scapegoat justifying the meausures of the government. The article accuse the rich EU member states (especially the northern ones) of being stingy saying that these countries have no intention to help the others who who are in financial trouble, but they wouldn’t like to lose their good reputation so they are waiting for us (the Hungarian and Polish government) to vote it off and be the ones that the other member states can blame.
It is not so much an abstract concept like “the rule of law” that Viktor Orbán and to a lesser extent Jaroslaw Kaczyński oppose, but a practical limit on personal and political corruption. https://t.co/7Sjnz488Lm
— George Soros (@georgesoros) November 19, 2020
On November 18th, George Soros commented the veto in his article of Project Syndicate, where he explained that the EU needs to represent their views on the rule of law more strongly and stand up to Poland and Hungary. As a response, Viktor Orbán wrote an article revealing that the greatest threat Europe has to face nowadays is the Soros network, which promotes a global open society and seeks to abolish national frameworks.„The Soros network, which has woven itself through Europe’s bureaucracy and its political elite, has for years been working to make Europe an immigrant continent.” The article also stated that Soros is the most corrupt man in the world:
„those whom he cannot bribe will be slandered, humiliated, intimidated and destroyed by the network through its formidable weapon: the left-wing media battalions.”
The Prime Minister even wrote in his Facebook post that his response was banned from Project Syndicate, and many propaganda sites stated the same. But the truth is – as the HVG uncovered – far more simple: the opinion page told that the only reason why Orbán’s article wasn’t publised is that it didn’t meet the requirements of the site. The page finds it important for a commentary to promote or even support public debate, and those pieces that doens’t meet this requirement cannot be publised on their platform.
COVID-19 is a hot topic
Just like in last month, the topic of the coronavirus pandemic is still an important issue in November as well. However, this means that disinformation narriatives also appeared regarding the pandemic: one remarkable example is connected to Viktor Orbán. The background of the story is that the mayor of Budapest announced in the beginning of November that the municipality of Budapest will begin testing at its own cost which means that they will purchase 100.000 rapid antigen tests, and the half of it would be distributed among public school teachers and other school staff for free.
However, a few days later the official coronavirus information page has publised an article by the National Public Health Centre (NNK) stating that the mayor’s statement is “a huge mistake and professionally unfounded”, arguing that antigen tests are unsuitable for mass screenings and that these types of tests are not as reliable as PCR-tests in showing the infection. Later on, Karácsony explained that there are several advantages of rapid antigen tests, and if it wasn’t reliable, the National Ambulance Service wouldn’t use it either. (In October, Gábor Csató, director of National Ambulance Service explained that the reliability of these rapid tests is 97%) Furthermore, it was also used in Slovakia on the whole population for mass screening.
Many government-friendly media outlets published the story trying to undermine the reputation of the mayor stating that the measures he has taken are useless. However, this is not the end of the story: a few days later Viktor Orbán made an announcement about the pandemic in which he talked about several, more serious measures taken in order to slow down the second wave of the pandemic which clearly affects the country much more then the previous one in spring. In his announcement he also mentioned that school staff should be tested regularly „even if I have to admit that rapid tests can only give us 50-60% safety”.
However, as the 444.hu wrote, the government mentioned previously that they have purchased „Abbott-Panbio-covid 19” tests which can detect infected people with 91,4% accuracy and non-infected people with 99,8% accuracy, so the numbers are not correct in our Prime Minister’s speech.
Fake news and conspiracy theories in Hungary
In November a study was publised by Political Capital, in connection with fake news and conspiracy theories. The sutdy revealed that the youngest (18-24) and oldest (55-64 and 65+) age groups are the most likely to believe fake stories and narratives in Hungary. The level of education and the residence of the person is also significant, but the single most important thing is the party affiliation which appears to have a strong effect on conspiratorial beliefs. Ringt-wing voters (even if they are connected to the oppositon, not to Fidesz, the current governing party) are overall more likely to agree with conspiracy theories. This was not only true for theories supported by the narratives of the governmental (like migration, the role of EU, Soros or NGOs) but also those concerning Jews and secret groups supposedly dictating world affairs. Left-wing central parties and their voters are the ones who usually remain sceptical and are the least likely to agree with these theories.
Written by Zita Szopkó
Cover photo: Facebook / Zoltán Kovács