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Jüdische Weisheit

Anti-Semitic Discourse in Hungary:
Five Questions - Five Answers

(Translated by Andrea Megyes)

We have followed the developments of anti-Semitic discourse in Hungary since 2000. The time that has passed and the publication of this present volume are bound to raise some questions.  

Question One: Has anti-Semitic discourse subsided or increased since 2000? The answer is apparently simple and unambiguous, but in fact there is no real good answer to the question. On first appearances, it would seem that it has subsided. It has, because – as it became apparent from our previous books – some institutionalized hubs of anti-Semitic discourse have disappeared and others were moved to the periphery of politics. Pannon Radio has practically ceased to exist, and the Hungarian Justice and Life Party was voted out of Parliament in the 2002 elections. This means that the institutionalized element that many instances of anti-Semitic rhetoric could be associated with before 2002 disappeared both from the radio and from Parliament.

However, the answer becomes less unambiguous if we consider that anti- Semitic discourse appears in other public channels in a tone stronger than before. Readers and browsers of various Internet forums will often meet content and linguistic structures which, either openly or in an encoded form, fall into the category of anti-Semitic discourse. Obviously, appearance on the Internet has a different quality than presence in Parliament, yet it definitely qualifies as publicity reaching beyond the private sphere. It is worth mentioning here that this collection of essays, in accordance with its philosophy, does not deal with private discourse, which could not be researched easily anyway. The subject of scrutiny is public rather than private discourse. Nonetheless, trying to answer the original question leads to a real methodological problem which cannot be solved easily.  

Question Two: Should we examine Internet forums? If we wish to perceive the spread of anti-Semitic discourse, the answer is unequivocal: yes, Internet forums must be included in our examination and research. However, this affirmative answer will again raise serious methodological problems which can hardly be solved in a fair way. Some topics surface, then disappear, and often cannot be traced. They are temporary and volatile manifestations. Often we don’t know whether there is one person or several people behind an entry, which obviously influences the handling and evaluation of a given source. Since people appear anonymously on Internet forums (hiding behind pseudonyms, which is a general feature of these forums), it cannot be ascertained whether their comments actually reflect their opinions or are simple intellectual provocations.

Another aspect to consider is the difficulty to grasp the full spectrum of Internet discourse: it requires rather extensive research, which then necessitates unconventional methods in source exploration. In short, changes should be made to the methods of document gathering in accordance with the changing structures of communication, but for the time being we have no adequate solution to handle the problem either in terms of content or methodology.  

Question Three: Is anti-Semitic identity included in anti-Semitic discourse? The answer here is a simple and clear ’no’: people engaging in anti-Semitic discourse do not regard themselves anti-Semitic, and refuse such identity in public. On the other hand, others regard people using anti-Semitic rhetoric as anti-Semites and associate such identity with them. In the approach taken by this book, this problem is sensed, but the present effort does not interpret itself in this dimension. It is a real issue why and to what extent the image of someone developed by themselves and by others are different. To us, however, the relevant problem is not this, but the manifestations and use of anti-Semitic discourse in public. Others can research the differences between self-image and the image formulated about one’s self-image with different research methods, and the analysis of anti-Semitic discourse might be necessary for such a research. Consequently, we won’t say how strong anti- Semitism is today in Hungary. This is not the question we pose, which means that we don’t have an answer to a question we never asked. We only believe that without mapping out anti-Semitic discourse it is not possible to answer other questions either.

Question Four: Do we have to repeat ourselves? Again, the answer seems easy: we don’t have to repeat ourselves. If, for instance, in our previous volumes we analyzed Magyar Fórum’s manifestations that fit in the anti-Semitic discourse, there is no point in doing it again. Nonetheless, our intention to avoid repeating ourselves does not mean that – for instance, again – the magazine mentioned above is not engaged in the same rhetoric for which we have already analyzed it. The fact that a topic is not 188 ANTI-SEMITIC DISCOURSE IN HUNGARY IN 2002-2003 included among these studies does not have any further implications. It could have, but it does not have now. Anti-Semitic discourse, in a few cases, shows continuity manifested in institutionalization as well. However, it is sufficient to indicate continuity, and it does not need to be analyzed each time.

Question Five: Do we tell everything? Yes, we tell everything that we deem to be important. However, it became obvious from the answers given above that these studies and the source base do not encompass the entirety of anti-Semitic discourse. What we don’t know, we don’t want to know. Here is everything that we think is important, without being fully comprehensive. Documents and analyses from us – and conclusions made by readers. This is what we want and what we do. Neither more and nor less.

Acrobat Reader herunterladenAfter the first collection of articles about the year 2000 [antisemitism-2000.pdf] and the second one about 2001 [antisemitism-2001.pdf], we have now compiled one volume for 2002 and 2003 [antisemitism-2002-2003.pdf]. 16-12-2003

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