Your time is gonna come, isn’t it?
All right, now I’m not suggesting for a moment that this, this tradition of bashing the Hungarians every time one of them dares poke their head above the parapet is something that has always been the way of things. And, further, I’ll state here and now that I don’t think this tradition will last until eternity, either. But, just to show you all what a hoary, old chestnut this is, let me delve into the archives, so to speak, and bring a piece of writing to your attention.
This happened a while back. In 2007, to be precise, from September, and it was a piece that was written by a travelling American, subsequently picked up and printed in The Guardian. It came to my attention when Magyar Nemzet referred to it in terms of incredulous belief, at which point I became interested.
The piece was written by a cliché of a woman. A woman who…no, let her introduce herself:
…an experienced journalist who brings the people of the world to your pages. Whether it's babushkas in Bosnia, silk spinners in Saigon, or commune dwellers in Copenhagen, McCracken gives voice to the goings-on around the globe. In her vintage London Black Cab, with her devoted Jack Russell riding shotgun, McCracken traverses the byways and back roads of Europe and beyond to reveal the stories behind the headlines.
Oh God, I think I’m going to be sick.
So, this woman set out for Eastern Europe, wandering that part of the globe, picking up (in her words) useless paper currencies, adopting stray cats and dogs, etc, etc. You get the picture. I’m just wondering what happened to her empathy…surely the people in those (doubtless horrible) countries didn’t have such a low opinion of their currency as she did. No matter, that’s all just background.
On her wandering route, she moved from Eastern Europe to Central Europe, and came to learn of Hungary. Directed, presumably, by others she wrote a piece about the creation of the Magyar Garda. So, as might have been expected, this was full of metaphorical hand-wringing and the like, but that’s not the issue.
No, the issue is the woeful misrepresentation of facts connected to Hungary.
This woman, Patti McCracken wasn’t even in Hungary when she wrote the piece which was run by the government. She was living in a village in Austria. Is it necessary to make the effort? I don’t know, but the distances aren’t that great. Surely she could have popped across, no?
Anyway, that’s neither here nor there, it’s her prerogative to not bother visiting the places of which she writes, obviously. The point is that her information was wrong. I’m not saying a thing about her opinions, they’re hers to do with as she sees fit, but her information, the information she presented as factual, that was miles away from the truth.
She stated that the Hungarians were still in a bit of a tizzy as a result of the country’s borders being dramatically redrawn following World War II. What? You’re kidding, aren’t you? WWII? Good God, it’s as though the internet was turned off that day. It was, I need hardly mention, following WWI that Hungary was carved up and lost 2/3 of its territory. That’s point one.
Point two is the fact that this woman asserted that Fidesz supported the idea of extending Hungarian citizenship to ethnic Hungarians living outside the borders of present-day Hungary. Supported? It was their bloody idea!
Okay, now, some might accuse me of nit-picking, but no, I reject that accusation. If we’re not going to bother with the actual facts, then what’s the point? That was we’re lying by default, aren’t we? Call it an unimportant detail? But surely all details are important, aren’t they? If not to me, then perhaps to you, or to her, or to him…someone, somewhere, undoubtably thinks that this one, particular detail is of great import.
So, to cut a long story short, I wrote to The Guardian to alert them to the factual mistakes in what they’d published. I was, I admit, somewhat surprised to receive a reply from one of their editors stating that they didn’t have the time to check every fact in what was published. You don’t have the time? But I thought that was part of an editor’s job!
So, if I were to submit a piece stating that I saw Stalin smoking a Cuban cigar with Tony Blair last week in Tbilisi, then they’d print it, just like that? Surely not.
The Guardian’s deplorable response is one thing. There were plenty of people who, like me, drew attention to the factual errors contained in the report. No matter; The Guardian’s too busy to deal with facts! So, inspired, for want of a better word, by the reaction from the newspaper, I wrote to the woman who penned the piece. Her reply?
"I stick by my article."
Well, what can you say? You stick by the factual errors that littered your writing. That does rather brand you as something less than positive, you know that, right?
So, as I said, this may not always have been the way of things. But, a combination of ignorance and people in the pay of those who’ve taken a dislike to Hungary’s democratically elected government’s policies leads to this…a situation where Group 2, the one’s receiving money for hatchet jobs, convince the members of Group 1, the truly ignorant, to write factually incorrect stories, fairy tales about us.
That’s not on. That’s not fair. And if you’re encouraging it, then you’re not being fair either.