PC Press Digest

Weekly Press Digest – February 5

Political Critique's weekly selection from the Eastern European press.

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Michal Chmela’s selection

While the country is still reeling the disaster of last week’s elections, the processes intended for dismantling democracy are well on their way; one of the attacks aimed at public media took place at the Czech Radio, where a series of investigative reports into the companies of current PM (wanted by the police) Andrej Babiš was declared “biased” by the station’s General Director, René Zavoral, himself an expert on objectivity as evidenced by the fact he ordered three analyses of the reports in question made – only to completely ignore the two that claimed there was nothing wrong with the reports and only refer to carefully selected parts of the third. About two hundred journalists working for the station signed a public letter pointing at the questionable ethics of the whole thing only to be publicly told to shut up; seems Babiš has got himself another piece for his media collection – and he did not even have to buy this one.

A conspiracy to scam money from our heroic police by the homeless people was discovered in Mladá Boleslav – that is, if the local Chief of Police is to be believed. Given the fact he gave this as testimony in defense of two of his subordinates accused of abusing the homeless, he is not, still as far as covering up for police brutality goes, the story shows admirable invention and it would be extremely interesting to watch the police prove how the whole slew of victims, none of them knowing each other, came up with a scheme to sue two specific policemen as revenge for being chased out of public spaces…

And then there’s our favorite fascist fabulator, immigrant-hating immigrant Tomio Okamura and his latest slip: apparently, the Nazi death camp in Lety where Romani people were interned was not a death camp at all. Sounds familiar? It should, public statements to this effect keep popping up with alarming regularity from the mouths of various politicians; chances are they are a pretty good popularity raiser in a society where racism has become mainstream. A public letter demanding an apology was sent; expectations are not high.

Michal Chmela is a translator and journalist.


Anna Azarova’s selection

The government apparently have had enough of all the bad news coming out about Hungarian healthcare recently, and decreed what they do best: from now on, hospital directors have to present two published, “positive” media stories about their hospitals to the ministry per week – for “balance’s” sake. Must be annoying, after all these efforts to control media… On social media, however, they really don’t leave it to chance: a former Fidesz supporter described how the party is operating large groups of online “activists.” For example, these “digital personnel” receive at least one but up to three tasks a day; most of which are sharing pre-made content in support of a Fidesz candidate or discrediting opposition candidates, making their own memes (a process explained in 11 detailed steps), orders which candidates’ Facebook posts should be endorsed and which abused. Additionally, they get three messages per day: Excel files in the morning, afternoon, and evening, with messages from the headquarters and “recommended material.” On top of this, they also get a fourth message from the network boss, where they select some “good examples” to follow, and give opinion on the personnel’s work. If you do something wrong, or not well enough, you get a warning via text message. Although the network bosses are apparently dilettanti (despite allegedly striving to imitate Trump’s campaign), it’s nevertheless impressive that these unpaid volunteers have been involved – since before 2010.

So then here’s a success story: the propaganda has been so effective, that against all odds of our own traditional and institutionalised hatreds, Muslims are now hated even more than Jews or the Roma.

Anna Azarova is a graduate student in Budapest and a freelance translator.


Featured photo by Pank Seelen via Flickr.