Viktor Orbán: An international model for “authoritarian populism”? #Forum2000online

September 29, 2022

“Politics today is much more about the circus than about the bread”, says Péter Krekó in this week’s #Forum2000online Chat. Mr. Krekó, Director of the Political Capital Institute, joined Sascha Hannig, a journalist and Research Assistant at the Institute for Global Governance Research (GGR), Hitotsubashi University, Japan, to talk about Hungary, Viktor Orbán and the “informational autocracy”. Why are the losers of the regime the most enthusiastic supporters? Why is Orbán a model for illiberals in the world?

According to Péter Krekó, you will learn that:

  • The concept of “informational autocracy” or “spin dictatorship” has been coined by Sergei Guriyev and Daniel Treisman. The key to such regimes is the manipulation of information.
  • Modern dictators tend to use information today more than violence and direct repression to keep themselves in power. There are no mass imprisonments, no killed journalists or political opponents, no banned political parties. Rather than terrorizing the population, the rulers use the official media as a “highly efficient brainwashing machinery” that practically can bring citizens to a different reality.
  • There are more and more autocrats that look like democrats. They wear suits and not military uniforms, but at the same time can aggressively distort reality.
  • In countries like Hungary, the losers of the regime —those who sometimes have no jobs, no social benefits, no flat— are the most enthusiastic supporters. The regime can give them some kind of symbolic reward (national pride, entertainment through the clashes with the EU and the big globalist forces). “Politics today is much more about the circus than about the bread˝.
  • Upper middle classes are less happy about Orbán’s regime than the losers because they have more and better information and higher education.
  • Autocrats learn much more from each other than democrats do. The “autocratic international” of the populist forces works well.
  • Victor Orbán is increasingly a model for illiberals in the world because he shows the way to success. Donald Trump is still a great inspiration for many people.
  • If citizens do not have access to the basic information and live in an Orwellian world, in a totally distorted information environment, they cannot make informed decisions. And without informed decisions we cannot talk about democracy.
  • Regarding the situation in Ukraine, there are two stages in the reaction of the European politics to the war. The first stage was about sympathy, condemning Russia and moral outrage due to the genocide, but we are entering the second stage where interest about Ukraine is declining and energy prices and inflation are high. This gives more room for politicians such as Orbán, Salvini, Meloni or Le Pen who say “let’s stop the sanctions, let’s stop supporting Ukraine, let’s defend our own people”

The interview was recorded in Prague on September 1, 2022, at the 26th Forum 2000 Conference.