Woke Derangement Symdrome-Infected Conservatives Board An Ethics Train Wreck To…Hungary??

This was late crossing my consciousness, perhaps because I do not trust Tucker Carlson and will not watch his allegedly sincere rants because we know, or should, that he is more interested in ratings than principles. The idea of prominent conservatives suddenly deciding the the U.S. can learn from Hungary, of all places, is ridiculous on its face, but I did not realize the extent to which the current wokeness epidemic has driven many conservatives and Republicans into the mouth of madness.

Carlson has been broadcasting nightly from Budapest, as he has interviewed and celebrated Hungary’s corrupt and authoritarian leader, Viktor Orban.There is no excuse for this, but Carlson thinks Fox News viewers will approve of his: Orban has defied the European Union on the issue of accepting illegal immigrants and refugees, and has installed harsh measures against trans individuals and LGBTQ people generally. He also has taken action to intimidate and control the news media. In embracing such a leader, Carlson (and others—I’ll get to them shortly) is realizing the worst stereotypes of conservative Americans.

Orban is a central-casting anti-democracy thug. Last year, he pushed the Hungarian parliament, which his party controls, to pass laws creating a state of emergency without a time limit, granting him the ability to rule by decree, suspending elections to fill positions that have become conveniently vacant between regular elections, and permitting prison sentences for spreading “fake news.” But his real appeal to Carlson and the Cro Magnon subspecies of conservatives is his persecution of gays and trans individuals. In 2020, Orbán’s government ended legal recognition of transgendered people, and his party has proposed legislation to ban “LGBtQ positive content” in movies, books or advertising.

Gee, what a great guy! Do conservatives comprehend the cognitive dissonance scale at all? This autocratic creep is so underwater on the scale, I’d say a minus hundred or more…

Cognitive Dissonance-SMALL

…that he would drag the Puppies Are Adorable Party below zero if it endorsed him. But on their own currently warped scale, conservatives’ terror over losing such culture war battles as the same-sex marriage debate and illegal immigration restrictions has wokeness so low on the their scale that an aspiring dictator who opposes gays and illegals appears to be in positive territory.

He’s not, though. And I doubt that Tucker Carlson really thinks he is, though the Fox News star has praised the Hungarian leader as a champion of family values and a model for the United States. Carlson’s father, Richard Carlson, is listed as a director of a Washington-based firm that has lobbied for Orban in the United States. In 2019, the firm, Policy Impact Strategic Communications, disclosed in a filing that it “coordinated an interview of Minister Szijjarto on the Tucker Carlson show.” Szijjarto is Hungary’s minister of foreign affairs and trade.

What a coincidence! As for “family values,” censorship, government control of the news media and treating people as second-class citizens because of their sexual orientation aren’t values in my family.

Never mind, though: apparently Tucker’s brand of Woke Derangement Syndrome (WDS) is extremely contagious. Rod Dreher, a usually articulate and thoughtful conservative pundit whom I have referenced positively on Ethics Alarms a few times, was moved to submit a fevered piece seconding Carlson’s man-crush on Orban. Oddly, Dreher never mentions in the piece that he also has been in Hungary since April on a paid fellowship at an institute funded by Orban’s government. Nor does he mention that Carlson sits on the board of his employer, the American Conservative.

Compared to his usual careful style, Dreher’s essay “Tucker To Hungary, Nixon To China” is a stumbling, illogical, embarrassing mess, beginning with the idiotic headline. Carlson going to Hungary has about as much in common, either in purpose, impact, context and significance, as me going to the 7/11. Over and over again, Dreher writes sentences like this one: “You don’t have to agree with everything that Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban has done in order to come here, study what’s going on, and think about what lessons it might have for American conservatives, who have been routed by the Left and the Establishment Right.” That’s the equivalent of the “Hitler did some good things” rationalization. What’s “going on” is that a momentarily powerful strongman autocrat is putting in place some measures that conservatives wish could be enacted here, through methods that Americans would justly find intolerable. Never mind the bad stuff, Dreher says, just look at how he’s put those uppity gays in their place!

Fortunate, not all conservative pundits have fallen victim to WDS—maybe they’ve had a vaccination or something. Conservative Jonah Goldberg’s calm, methodical explanation of why Carlson’s Orban lovefest is easily summarized by the “Murder by Death” clip above puts Dreher’s babbling to shame. He writes in part,

[T]he best argument against adopting the Hungarian model is practical: It won’t work. Indeed, it can’t work. So pretending that Hungary illuminates the path forward is just a huge waste of everyone’s time. A relatively poor, ethnically homogeneous (98 percent of Hungarian citizens are ethnically Hungarian), landlocked country, about the size of Michigan with the population of Oregon, with less than a robust democratic tradition, isn’t just a bad (and dumb) model for the United States. It’s an impossible model for the United States….“it worked in Hungary” is kind of a childish argument to make about a country almost nobody wants to immigrate to (including the people claiming it’s so awesome). Moreover, who needs to look to Hungary to make an argument for restricting immigration?

“…Indeed, as a political matter, if you actually want to persuade people that restricting immigration is a good idea, I’d argue that saying your point of view is inspired by Viktor Orbán is a really bad idea. Think of it this way: I think there’s a perfectly legitimate argument, at least in principle, for banning or sharply curtailing free and easy access to internet porn. That sort of argument has a deep tradition in America, again on both left and right. But if you were going to try to mount a serious campaign to censor internet porn, you wouldn’t frame your argument by saying, “Look at what they’re doing in Saudi Arabia!”..Flirting with a personality cult surrounding a corrupt, demagogic foreign leader who—justifiably or not—has earned a reputation as a wannabe despot is a great way to limit the appeal of your arguments and invite skepticism about your larger motives.

I especially like this…

I find all of this stuff to be a depressing sign of conservative rot. For my entire adult life, conservatives have heaped scorn—and rightly so—on progressives who looked to Europe for inspiration on how to transform America. “Europe banned guns!” progressives would exclaim. “So what? We’re not Europe,” conservatives would answer. You can substitute the progressive pleading about how “Europe has socialized medicine!” or “Europe has a massive welfare state!” etc., and the argument stays the same…I really can’t emphasize enough how much opposition to this sort of thing was definitional to conservatism. The Cold War honed and concentrated the arguments, but “We’re special! We’re different!” was at the heart of both the internationalist and isolationist strands of conservatism for more than a century. It’s also part of American character generally…This conviction was the very heart of the American exceptionalism debates a decade ago (and a century ago, and two centuries ago). Obama wanted to “Europeanize” America’s political system…Conservatives wanted to conserve what made America unique….

I still believe that…Even if the reality of Hungary is exactly what its right-wing fans claim (I am far from persuaded), I still don’t give a rat’s ass. Again, because it doesn’t really matter as a practical matter.

“Conservative rot” is about right.

So is ethics rot.

17 thoughts on “Woke Derangement Symdrome-Infected Conservatives Board An Ethics Train Wreck To…Hungary??

  1. laws creating a state of emergency without a time limit, granting him the ability to rule by decree

    Whom does he think he is, the governor of Michigan?

  2. I just goes to show that Ivy League schools turn out money makers not strategic thinkers.
    However, lumping watchers of his show as stereotypical bigots because he makes this bizarre claim assumes that his audience knows who Orban is; I didn’t and I try to stay current on world issues. If Carlson did not bring all of Orban’s undemocratic transgressions out in his program you cannot make the leap that his audience would celebrate Orban’s dictatorial behavior or his anti LGBTQ bigotry. Some may, but most? I find that hard to believe.

    • I’m puzzled at this comment Chris. I re-read my own post—I didn’t make any claims about Tucker’s audience whatsoever. The whole Hungary thing has been picked up by conservative pundits and blogs. Who called his audience “stereotypical bigots” or implied it?

        • Jack,
          I do not watch Carlson anymore or any of the talking head shows but from the post I concluded that much of the what would “drag the Puppies Are Adorable Party below zero if it endorsed him” was left out of the information given to viewers. If Carlson is advocating we do as Hungary does without providing the total context then it simply proves that he is a talking shill that knows how to make himself and his employers money which was my original point. If he provided that information and advocated that we impose similar controls he is no better than the leftists who seek to become lord and master of Americans.

          Most of the viewers of these shows tune in because of habit or desire to have their beliefs validated not a great desire to learn great truths. This is true for both the right and the left. For years I watched him and O’Reilly religiously out of habit. I knew no profound information which would lead me to alter my views would come from it. It was for that reason I stopped watching. Like cigarettes and Diet Coke, when something no longer gives value I stop consuming it and just like that I tuned them out.

      • You are correct I misread the post or at least misarticulated my thoughts. Perhaps it was the line “In embracing such a leader, Carlson (and others—I’ll get to them shortly) is realizing the worst stereotypes of conservative Americans.” You did refer to some as sub-species of conservatives but that was all other than the reference to Carlson’s assumption that Fox viewers would give him a pass on this. In which case, it would be Carlson that assumes his audience is a bunch of bigots.

        The purpose of my comment was to defend the character of those who see a broadcast and support some of what is being stated without knowing the entire back story. Posts such as these serve as pointers for me to investigate the back story because there is little reason for most of us who are not foreign policy wonks to understand with whom or what we are dealing. Reading objective journals of events is far superior to agenda drive punditry shows which are still superior to agenda driven140 character tweets and retweets. I have lost trust in virtually all media to give me the unvarnished truth.

        I rarely watch punditry shows anymore because I have to spend more time finding out what they left out in order to support their narrative. In some cases (many), this applies to Covid reporting as well.

  3. Last year, he pushed the Hungarian parliament, which his party controls, to pass laws creating a state of emergency without a time limit, granting him the ability to rule by decree, suspending elections to fill positions that have become conveniently vacant between regular elections, and permitting prison sentences for spreading “fake news.”

    I remember when this happened.

    There were so many comparisons to that infamous scene in Attack of the Clones.

    Weeks later, public health officials assumed the same kind of dictatorial powers Orban was granted.

  4. I can surmise another reason for cozying up to Orban right now, is that he is sticking it to the EU, which is a prime globalist institution, so it plays to the right’s anti-globalist bias. I agree with Goldberg’s thoughts about this weird cozying. But for an average conservative, Goldberg is in negative cognitive dissonance territory because of his substantial never Trump bona fides, that it would take willful effort to engage with him. He had to start his own site, The Dispatch, because his never Trump brand was probably even too much for National Review. That’s saying something. In conclusion, Goldberg can make a salient point, but his own cognitive dissonance scale rating can make his reach and influence falter. Other examples, David French, The Bulwark website, Bill Kristol, George Will, etc.

        • Because Hungary’s always been pretty much a proverbial canary in a coal mine? Like Poland, it’s been a shuttle cock between the Soviets and western Europe. It’s also been the battleground between Western Christianity and Muslim hegemony? Like the Poles, a great, brave people trying not to be crushed?

            • Because, like Trump, he’s willing to fight.

              The very real problem that MANY of these Never Trump types have is they failed to address a long list of stuff: Border security, the targeting of Prop 8 donors, Operation Fast and Furious, the IRS targeting the Tea Party, the “John Doe” investigations in Wisconsin, Operation Chokepoint, and a host of other issues. At the same time, as the Left has lied (see the antics of John Lewis over the last 25 years) about how conservatives are racist, many of those Never Trump types never stood up for the people they purported to represent, be it as holders of elective office or as media figures.

              Put it this way – when the IRS sandal broke in 2013, both John McCain and Mitt Romney had an ethical duty to speak out on behalf of their supporters who were targeted. Both were silent.

              On the flip side, media figures like Kurt Schlichter and Dennis Prager have proven quite prescient when talking about the Left in America. As for Tucker Carlson, maybe he’s changed his viewpoints based on what he’s observed over the years. After all, if the likes of Max Boot and Jennifer Rubin can claim that, why not Tucker?

              The fact is, the bulk of those at the Bulwark and Dispatch – not to mention other Never Trump types – were figuratively fired for cause by the people they purported to lead/represent on grounds of non-performance.

      • Like all countries with a largely homogeneous population, sharing a common culture and history to begin with, the majority grow up holding similar ideas. It is not difficult to sway them one way or another and easier to sway to the more militant right when they feel threatened. And they do feel threatened in Hungary, not least by most of the rest of Europe for disconnecting from the EU and its policies. They are also threatened geographically by the powers to the East (the Soviets invaded in living memory; the Russians not exactly friendly now). It is not only surprising, but inevitable in that area that they should look for or at least accept, a strong (far right) leader. I am fairly familiar with Hungary’s prejudices: Antisemitism is so ingrained there that it isn’t even included in the present reports. A close friend of Hungary’s prime minister, journalist Zsolt Bayer has described well known artists such as Andras Schiff as “stinking excrement” and printed references to massacres in the 20s: “Regrettably we did not manage to bury all of them up to their necks in the woods of Orgovany,” Three years after this, Bayer was awarded Hungary’s highest honor. He continues with racist comments as well, such as “in the case of driving over a Gypsy kid, we should step on the gas.”

        In an example of the same syndrome, in 2016, Turkey succumbed quickly to a military coup by a would-be dictator, Erdogan, who inaugurated the same kind of government over a population whose urban centers (at least) had up to then enjoyed a relatively free, democratic, individualized and profitable society. Unlike Orban, Erdogan had to change and reverse courses many times to get to the place he is now, having destroyed all critical press, most of the judiciary and academic systems, jailed or murdered thousands of dissenters, designating all a “terrorists.”. This is a more complicated situation for the United States, which has an overriding concern as we consider Turkey a “valuable ally” in NATO. So we continue to ignore and rarely criticize Erdogan for his most egregious human rights violations, not to mention murders of his own Kurdish population and assassination of their political activists,and tolerance or protection of ISIS members (Turkey is primarily Islamic; Hungary Christian).

        I have always disagreed with Jack’s reiteration “that the U.S. can learn from [any other country in the world] . . . is ridiculous on its face”.[brackets mine] though I understand the lack of interest in keeping up with other than America’s Joneses is asking too much. I also agree that we couldn’t (even if we wanted to) adopt policies from elsewhere. We have enough trouble dealing with differences between 50 independent states, not even their causes. But to:learn:(almost always a positive) and even to learn-from (usually a negative example) is never ridiculous., Tokyo’s transit system is a dream; its crushing commuter experiences horrible. The same dichotomy exists with non-Americans, particularly young ones, who copy Americanisms from skateboarding to political freedom, without understanding preparation or consequences.

        I do (try to) keep up with what’s happening elsewhere, sometimes to the detriment of knowing what’s going on locally, but I find out as much as I can about candidates for city and state offices (we have a governor’s recall ballot coming up), and I am still involved with a neighborhood group so far failing to stop the nine-year boondoggle of an as yet unfinished and unnecessary new subway line that stops smack in the middle of the area.

        If nothing else, learning about (and in my case, very often “from”) other cultures and countries, is far more entertaining than television..

        • I have to call a foul, PA: I have never written, nor thought, nor believed, that “that the U.S. can learn from any other country in the world is ridiculous on its face”. There is always a context—gun control, capital punishment, national health care—and a specific country or region being discussed that would go in those brackets.

          For example, we can learn from Russia and China what happens when Marxism grabs the culture by the throat. And should.

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