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23 January 2011


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D.P. O'Connell

There was also an interesting interview yesterday in the German newspaper Die Tageszeitung (TAZ) with writer and historian Geörgy Dalos, who lives in Berlin. He mentioned the following: "Even intellectuals are persecuted in this way; at the present time, e.g., a whole group of philosophers are overrun with prosecutions by the tax authorities. In a small country like Hungary, where everything, even Philosophy, lives only by the state, this is threatening to their very existence." Here is the link, for those who want to read the interview (in German):

PS: John, btw, if you want any help with a translation, if someone else is not already on it, I'd be happy to turn one out later today.


I am terribly sorry, but we are talking about 500 000 000 forints! This is not about being Jewish or not. You know, in this country, it is very easy to cover their selves with the jewish or gypsy words. If a Jewish person - as we see - is confronted, because he or she is not able to come up with an explanation where the funds are at, they say - " they are attacking me because I am Jewish!" If a gypsy kills someone, and the police interrogates them, they say - " they are locking me up, because I am a gypsy!"
Let me ask you this...if I were the one, who can explain the whereabouts of 500 000 000 forints, what would you say? Nothing! And what would you do if I would say, that I am only being attacked because I am Hungarian? You would laugh your head off! This is very wrong! You should look after the news before yelling WOLF! Those prominent philosophers are not able to show, what they spent that money on! So...they should be punished, and it is not because they are Jewish. Anyway, you should know, that when I first heard about it, I didn't even know they were Jewish. They bought it up is bringing up their race? They are.

John Protevi

Ann, you forgot to add that some of your best friends are Jewish.


Pls. also consider that the facts under police investigation are the ways the money paid out in cases - member of the project issued invoice through his private company, paid bills for works that supposed to be done by the members of the consortium, got fund for projects from a grant that focuses on appliable and technology oriented research - not the investigation of Heidegger or Kant.
Also consider pls. that some of the philosophers 'under attack' got involved in the daily political arena for long and receive responses accordingly. Instead of cutting the case short and firmly stating their own innocence they started to speak of being hunted because of being Jewish thus stayed in the game of common political talk. Note, that no Jewis cultural institute, department at university or academy, other jewish researcher than the mentioned is under any attack. Moreover, taking this an "attack on Hungarian philosophy" is not only overreaction but also a misunderstanding of the nature of the arena they entered to and nobody is saved from the hits once enters the ring. And also restricts the Hungarian philosophy to a set of names.
Also consider, that nobody stated that the funds those projects received was spent to nothing and nobody stated that there are no outcomes of the projects - although in some cases the outcomes are not in accord with the grant's targets and the work done may leave space for questioning. None of the details investigated by the police - now under the supervision of the Prosecution - refers to the quality or quantity of the work done by these projects. And no one of the philosophers 'under attack' reacted to these clearly articulated details, unfortunately, or ligitates those with false claims.
It would be wiser to wait till the outcomes of the investigations.

Eric Schliesser

If an investigation can be fair and impartial when there is so much negative media attention and when a government signals so clear to prosecuters and judiciary what kind of results it wants to see...

Morbus Hungaricus

Exactly this is the idea, don't you see: When having trouble with the authorities, it's the best to start yelling that you are prosecuted because of political reasons. This is a perfectly rational behavior on the part of the prosecuted. What I don't understand, however, is why people like you are willing to swallow all the nonsense which is generated this way.

Eric Schliesser

Because the folks doing the prosecuting (and their Hungarian Nationalist admirers) seem to care little about the rule of law, impartiality, fair trials, etc. What seems to be the whole point is to generate maximum amount of negative publicity for the accused.
Nobody can object to investigations into (petty?) graft and questionable funding issues. But that need not be accompanied by a media campaign, the settling of political scores, and creation of a pro-government public reason (by silencing opposing fews).

John Protevi

That's easy. I know Lazlo Tengelyi personally, and I have judged that what he says is not "nonsense" and deserves a venue in which he can make his case.

You on the other hand are an pseudonymous commenter. I could just as easily speculate that it would only be "perfectly rational behavior" for the Hungarian government to pay people with no scruples to peddle their shoddy line on English language websites.

Given the quality of your argument, that seems more likely than that Tengelyi, who, you will note, is NOT one of the accused, has been fooled by those "having trouble with the authorities" as you so delicately put it.

There's a common saying on the Internet which seems applicable here: "Better trolls, please."

Morbus Hungaricus

You know Tengelyi personally, that's great because it means that you are familiar with what you are talking about, so my comment really missed the point in your case. Sorry about that. My general experience is, however, that this is usually not the case. People are ready to jump to conclusions based what reaches them through the "western" mass media which, as you might also admit, tends to report in a very seriously biased manner about the doings of the current Hungarian government.

It is not true that Tengelyi or any of the "accused" have no venue where they can make their cases. You probably don't read Hungarian, but if you run a google search with their names in the Hungarian part of the internet, you might be able to estimate how many times they were able to state their case and the amount of articles/reports/etc. which appeared in their support in the Hungarian media.

I am not sure what your problem is with the quality of my argument. It was addressed to Eric Schliesser who remarked how an "investigation can be fair and impartial when there is so much negative media attention" and I was trying to say that it might not be clever to judge the fairness of an investigation based ONLY on information from those who are investigated against because it is their primary interest to make you think that the investigation is not fair.

About being a troll. I am commenting anonymously, because being myself part of the Hungarian "academic world", I don't want my name to appear here. Sorry about that. (I might be paranoid.) I used to attend a class of Tengelyi myself, 20 years ago when I was studying at the university, and I have absolutely positive memories about his class and his person, and although I work in a quite different area, I am sure that what he does is valuable.

To come to my point again, I am trying to tell you that I don't believe that the "folks doing the prosecuting (and their Hungarian Nationalist admirers) [...] care little about the rule of law, impartiality, fair trials" (E. Schliesser below) I believe that they do care about all this, and I would like to make you a little bit more open to arguments of the "other side", whatever that might be. (I also know that it has no use, but I try it anyway.)

Eric Schliesser

First, I have spoken to half dozen Hungarian sources, all of whom seriously unhappy with Heller, Tengelyi, et al. They supplied me with the basic narrative of the case here:
None of the published comments by you (or others) have corrected ANY FACTUAL DETAILS in my account! I would be delighted to improve my presentation of the facts.

Second, you provide no evidence to contradict my claim that this case, which may well have started with a concern over petty graft (if there was any), got blown out of all proportion to settle political scores and send a message to opponents of the current democratically elected, but fundamentally illiberal Hungarian government.

Third, your anonymity proves that you are worried about score settling during the next changing of the guard. So, you undermine your own point. Anonymous innuendo do not contribute to the rule of law, the creation of public reason, etc. There is a cancer in Hungarian academic (and national) politics and this case proves it. No doubt this is more widespread in Europe--I keep my head low in Flanders (where I am a state employee), while happily contributing to public debate in Holland (although I have received my fair share of hate-mail there).

Morbus Hungaricus

What "started with a concern over petty graft (if there was any), got blown out of all proportion"

That's right. The question is, who started blowing it out of proportions, what was the message, and who was it addressed to. My personal opinion is that it was not the government who started the "blowing", although I admit they also made some pretty nasty moves later.

"your anonymity proves that you are worried about score settling during the next changing of the guard"

No. What I am worried about, is score settling by Heller and co. and their supporters right here and right now. Because there was no "change", they are still the "guard". This in some sense undermines my point, but at the same time it doesn't, because it might demonstrate that it is not them who have to fear, irrespective of the intentions of the current government.

"Anonymous innuendo do not contribute to the rule of law, the creation of public reason, etc. There is a cancer in Hungarian academic (and national) politics and this case proves it."

You are absolutely right.

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