Dignity for all – Here are the main exclusionists

Our view is that something we might refer to as a culture of exclusionary speech is increasingly gaining ground in Hungary. Politicians and public intellectuals who question the equality of certain groups in society experience growing levels of social support. Our goal is to stand up against exclusion, which is why during the campaign period preceding the parliamentary elections we will collect and analyse widely disseminated instances of exclusionary speech. Any type of communication that calls into doubt the equal status or equal dignity of any particular social group as compared to other social groups is exclusionary in our view.

In the first two weeks of the campaign the most exclusionary comment was Gábor Vona’s utterance concerning decent and indecent Roma. János Lázár’s remarks about the coexistence of Jews and Hungarians took second place, while Minister Zoltán Balog’s statement that convergence in educational attainment can be achieved in a segregated environment came in third.

Exclusionary speech is increasingly common in Parliament, in the media and in everyday communication. Exclusion questions the humanity of minorities or of individual groups within society by deeming them less equal than others. And where human equality suffers damage, democracy suffers as well. Hence our goal must be to lean on free speech and the freedom of expression in standing up publicly against exclusion.

In the course of the parliamentary election campaign we will conduct an ongoing monitoring of the most viewed, read and listened to media (evening news on TV2 and RTL Klub and m1, the Déli Krónika (Noon Chronicle) on Kossuth Rádió and the domestic news on Index.hu and Origo.hu), and every fortnight we will publish our evaluation of exclusionary statements that appeared in these media. Our ambition is not to read exclusionary sentiments in each and every public comment; indeed, we’d be very pleased to discover that there were no exclusionary statements at all in a given period. But we do consider as exclusionary any comment that questions the equality or equal dignity of any social group – or of individuals that belong to the given group – as compared to other groups.

An underlying idea of our analysis is that it is impossible to draw content-based distinctions between exclusions. All exclusionary messages question the equal dignity of persons belonging to certain groups. Hence in rendering our evaluation, we rely on factors that may influence the impact and social assessment of a given exclusionary statement. Each of these factors is assigned a weighted number value, depending on how we evaluate the relative importance of the given factor in terms of influencing the impact and social assessment of a given exclusionary statement. For each exclusionary statement, we add up the weighted figures and use the number arrived at as a basis for the final score given to each piece of exclusionary communication. Based on the scores thus established, we have a ranking of exclusionary statements in a given two-week period that helps us ascertain which were most and least exclusionary. The methodology is described here in full detail.

Dignity for all

1.

Gábor Vona, Jobbik

Divides society into decent and indecent persons, and argues that if the share of Roma among indecent people is disproportionate then that’s not Jobbik’s fault: “They will help decent Gypsies, but not the indecent ones”.

 120  points

2.

János Lázár, Fidesz

Referred to the position of Mazsihisz, the umbrella organisation of Jewish congregations in Hungary, on the Jewish community’s participation in the Holocaust Memorial Year as an ultimatum. He also added that this won’t be able to disrupt the coexistence of Hungarians and Jews.

 85

 points

3.

Zoltán Balog, Fidesz

Last April Minister of Human Resources Zoltán Balog appeared as a witness in Nyíregyháza. He defended the municipal school’s practice of separating students along ethnic lines, arguing that ensuring the educational equality of all students was possible in a segregated setting. All this takes, Balog argued at the time, was loving and well-prepared teachers and proper educational methods.

 75  points

4.

Tibor Ágoston, Jobbik

The chairperson of Jobbik in Debrecen and in Hajdú-Bihar county, and the party’s candidate for Parliament, spoke about the Holocaust at a public event, referring to it as “holo-hoax” or “holo-caste”, also criticising the programme compiled by the Hungarian Holocaust 2014 Memorial Committee.

 75  points

5.

Ildikó Gál Pelczné, Fideszd

“It would be a mistake to assess women’s involvement purely based on numerical ratios”. The words of Ildikó Gál Pelczné suggested that the fact that men take up 95% of all the slots among Fidesz’ single-member district candidates was the result of a conscious decision. It was apparently based on an internal survey which gave the party leadership the impression that voters would be much more inclined to vote for men than for women. Pelczné does not regard such a motive as problematic, noting that this is an issue of trust rather than prejudice. People discern that in the “prevailing political context men are better capable of realising their objectives.”

 65

 points

The statements mentioned above offer an accurate and representative image of the domestic culture of exclusion. Gábor Vona’s statement is exclusionary because it seeks to establish a connection between belonging to a particular minority group and committing criminal offences, thus casting doubt on the equality of said minority with others. All are namely equal before the law, and the administration of criminal justice is colour blind.

By distinguishing the majority and the minority, János Lázár rules out the possibility that members of the minority may adopt a dual identity that makes them part of both the majority and the minority communities in question. The division of people into Hungarians and member of a minority is not only offensive to the minority, but is also a fertile ground for exclusionary opinions. Even if there was no exclusionary intent behind this distinction, it still reinforces popular perceptions that divide people into “us” and “others”.

Zoltán Balog’s earlier statement, which was now quoted afresh, is also a typical example of exclusionary speech, since he makes his claim that segregation in education – thus the separation of minorities from the majority – is unproblematic from a position of public authority, as a government minister. The reasoning here is just reversed, arguing that segregation also serves the interests of the minority since it still allows for the possibility of reducing differences in educational attainment.

The statement of Ildikó Pelczné Gál seeks to narrow our ideas of what constitutes prejudicial thinking. She believes that setting the ratio of female candidates for Parliament at 5% is not a reflection of prejudice against women – it does not constitute discrimination – but is instead an issue of public trust since the facts suggest that the public trusts women more. Yet as we know, the majority’s opinion is not necessarily decisive in this context: The conscious exclusion of women from becoming candidates of the governing party constitutes exclusion even if the majority happens to agree with it.

Numerous statements protesting exclusion have also appeared in the press over the past two weeks. These protests show that even as the culture of exclusion is gaining ground, there are individuals and organisations left that will stand up for the dignity of others, the dignity of all. And that’s just what we would like to do now!