One of my favorite moments in all of the channel surfing I’ve done while sheltering in place occurred when Christiane Amanpour asked Hungarian Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó why Hungary’s parliament was closed. The foreign minister replied that he had just spoken five times in parliament that very week. Amanpour could only respond, “OK, that’s news to us.”
Amanpour wasn’t the only liberal media type to serve up fake news about Hungary’s response to the Wuhan coronavirus. John Fonte notes that, under the headline “Coronavirus Kills Its First Democracy,” the Washington Post’s Ishaan Tharoor reported that in Hungary “Parliament is closed, future elections were called off.”
Parliament wasn’t closed. It had been meeting in person, not virtually.
Nor, says Fonte, have future elections been called off:
[T]here are no plans to cancel elections. National elections are scheduled for 2022 and local elections for 2024. The only exception is if a current member of parliament dies or resigns there would be no special election to replace him during the emergency because of limits on the number of people permitted in public buildings and spaces during the pandemic.
Several American states, including Virginia where I live, have already delayed their primaries for similar reasons.
According to Fonte, “the Hungarian government is pretty much doing what everyone else in Europe is doing in terms of health guidelines on social distancing and stay-at-home orders.”
Other European states (those usually more EU friendly, one might add) are more intrusive than Hungary in restricting civil liberties and democratic practices.
France has a state of emergency. French President Emmanuel Macron’s government bypassed parliament to adopt controversial pension legislation by decree. Further, the French government has postponed the second round of local elections and drastically enforces household curfews with fines, imprisonment, and sometimes by physically forcing people back into their homes. . . .
Macron in his first two years in office has used rule-by-emergency decrees 84 times. Macron’s predecessor, François Hollande, used emergency decrees 273 times. I don’t recall anyone calling Macron or Hollande emerging “dictators.”
Italy has canceled elections. Spain is using drones to track citizens proclaiming “zero tolerance” for curfew violations. Belgium is run by a temporary caretaker government that lacks the clear democratic mandate of a parliamentary majority.
None of these countries are the object of criticism from the EU leadership, the mainstream international media, or foreign policy elites often described as “liberal internationalists” in the United States and in Europe.
It’s not surprising that the media and the foreign policy elites are serving up fake news about Hungary. These are the same people who attack Poland’s elected conservative, religious, and sovereignty-oriented administration; Benjamin Netanyahu; Brexit and the British Conservative Party’s embrace of democratic sovereignty; and, of course, President Donald Trump.
As Fonte puts it:
They are suspicious of democratically elected conservative governments that emphasize sovereignty and patriotism, especially if these governments are also friendly to traditional Christianity and Judaism. They portray these policy positions as backward and bigoted. Remember a recent (March 27, 2020) New York Times op-ed headline (paper edition), “The Road to Coronavirus Hell was paved by Evangelicals”?
While they loudly proclaim support for democracy worldwide, in practice they prefer the rule of judges and administrators to that of elected parliamentarians and executives.
And, as the coverage of Hungary I’ve described shows once again, the media mainstays who front for the foreign policy elites aren’t above straying from the facts to advance that preference.