The election of their government brought them such tragic results that many Hungarians decided to channel their frustration into a competition of an entirely different kind. One Million for the Freedom of Press in Hungary – a civic organization demanding the restoration of media rights and democratic values to Hungary – is collecting entries for a protest art competition that serves both as creative outlet and as protest against the most recent instances of the government’s restrictions on the freedom of the press.
Most of the entries are manipulations of an image that caused photojournalists affiliated with two independent internet news portals to be barred from the Hungarian parliament. Though the official justification cites house rules (which themselves violate the rights of the press, the journalists claim), the move is seen as a retaliation for publishing this picture of Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s notes for his inaugural speech of the 2011-12 legislative session:
Mr. Orbán’s speech, just as his notes indicate, contained a few too many harebrained ideas. One of these – alleviating poverty by setting up a network of stores to sell goods packaged in cheaper materials – did not make it into the Prime Minister’s speech (you can see it on the left sheet, placed in a frame and scratched over). But another one, which forces banks to swallow losses associated with foreign currency loans held by a select (wealthiest) group of individuals did. Widely considered to be illegal and openly preferential to the rich, the latter was passed into law within a week.
Viktor Orbán is already known for his grabby fingers. Early into his government’s rule, he deferred the economic problems by laying his hand on the country’s private pension funds, nationalizing them in November 2010. Individual rights, democratic institutions, the country’s international reputation: impalpable as they might be, Viktor Orbán is interested in getting his hands on them regardless.
On their Facebook page, One Million for the Freedom of Press in Hungary called for a competition on the theme of just what else Orbán could, should, or might get his hands on. There are too many great ideas to give justice to all of the submissions, so I’ll limit my list to a short list.
Idea #1: Something that properly expresses the gratitude of the people.
It is almost as if a separate award category should be created for Mr. Orbán’s well-wishers among the Hungarian people. One of them, for example, suggests that the prime minister should place his hands on two sufficiently large hot plates; another thinks holding on tight to either a single (or even a pair) of rails might be a great idea, a third envisions Orbán clutching on the bars of a jail cell:
Idea #2: Knowledge.
Idea #3: The Royal Insignia.
He had already moved them from a museum to his regular workplace, the Parliament, perhaps it is time for Mr. Orbán to finally lay his hands on the royal insignia:
Idea #4: The Constitution’s Table.
On this picture, Mr. Orbán’s hands are not just on any table: they are lovingly touching the Constitution’s Table!
The Constitution’s Table has already inspired its own category of protest art: it has been smeared with ketchup, used for eating breakfast, and imitated in street art where it was used for distributing copies of the old, democratic constitution!
Idea #5: An Automatized Government.
Orbán’s governmental control panel contains too many references to Hungarian politics to allow for an exhaustive translation. Just to give a taste, however: the man who appears to look through black glasses (which are in fact tea cookies covered in chocolate, a Hungarian treat) is Pál Schmitt, the president of Hungary, and his buttons read “nods,” “signs” and “silence.” Next to him, the panel “FRAKCIÓ” is Orbán’s two-third majority in the Hungarian legislature; their buttons correspond to “yes,” “no,” “abstaining,” “applauding,” “whistling,” and “greeting.” The picture on the lower left is that of the Prime Minister’s spokesperson, Péter Szijjártó, who is known for his clumsiness; he is labeled “my left hand” in the lower-left corner. On the right the picture belongs to Finance Minister György Matolcsy, commonly referred to as Viktor Orbán’s right hand. The buttons next to each are their most well-known hackneyed phrases.
Idea #6: There is a speech Orbán has yet to give.
From left to right, the text on the pages reads:
“For this reason I resign the office of Prime Minister and request the President to dissolve Parliament and to announce new elections as soon as possible.”
“We screwed this up. Not a little. Big time. Obviously we lied throughout the past one and a half years. We made an enormous mistake with the flat tax.”
“We destroyed the Hungarian currency too. It is thanks to our own idiocy that additional taxes are necessary. We are not going to admit our mistakes. [the only text not crossed over] instead we are going to blame the Socialists for it.”
The competition is on-going here:
I believe it is publicly accessible for even those who do not have a Facebook account.