Video footage of a Hungarian photojournalist kicking and tripping Syrian refugees has the world reeling in horror, but in focusing on the actions of Petra László it appears that we are missing a far greater problem. It is true that Ms. László repeatedly lashed out and kicked a number of frightened people, a number of them only children, but there has been little comment on the fact that the footage shows how comfortable she felt doing this in front of her journalistic colleagues and members of the Hungarian riot police. Perhaps it would be easier to see this vicious woman as Hungary’s answer to England’s Katie Hopkins, but even in the United Kingdom there are few people who would be willing to give public violent expression to their racism and xenophobia without fear of arrest. What we see from these clips is evidence of a culture in Hungary where even professional adults feel secure enough in their hatred to lash out and assault terrified children right in from of the camera. It is precisely this culture we should be looking at rather than the actions of one particular person when we ask just what the hell is happening in Hungary. We have to assume, from the evidence, that this episode was neither isolated nor limited to a single person.

Key to understanding the overt racism on display in Hungary at the present time is the rise of the ultra-far-right in central Europe. Since 1956 neo-Nazi militias have been a feature of life in Hungary; beginning as a force of resistance against Communism, and since the collapse of the Soviet Empire evolving into a popular Hungarian political front peddling anti-Semitism and hatred for the country’s Roma population. One of Hungary’s most fanatical far-right parties, Jobbik Magyarországért Mozgalom, is now the third most represented party in the state and has continually made gains in local and national elections, and has created its own thuggish paramilitary police force – the Magyar Gárda – which has made a name for itself ‘patrolling’ Roma villages and holding all-night torchlight rallies. In 2006 Jobbik had a mere two percent share of the vote in the general election, but buy 2014 this had risen to a twenty percent share, making it the third largest party in the National Assembly. With over a million voters, mayoral seats all over the country, and a growing support for it in the army and the police it is little wonder that Petra László felt so safe behaving the way she did. Why, we must ask, is our media not telling us more about the far-right in Europe?

Jason Michael
Blog Author

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