During my brief stint in England, I quickly discovered Brit news broadcasts were just as insane as their American counterparts. I found some reprieve from the TV news by watching children’s shows such as In the Night Garden with my son who was only three at the time. I still don’t quite understand what In the Night Garden was all about, but I found the intentional nonsense on CeeBeeBees less annoying than the intentional nonsense on the BeeBeeCee.
I visited Hungary a few times as a child when the country was still officially communist, and I clearly remember watching the state news broadcast in the evenings with my grandfather. Hungarian news during communist times was as dry and palatable as stale slice of week-old bread. I was usually bored to tears as I watched and listened to the news announcer murmur on about socialism's wonderful achievements as he sat before the camera in a stiff, ill-fitting suit he had been sentenced to wear for twenty-five years. Even as a kid I could tell how scripted and untrue the news the man read was.
When I first moved to Hungary as an adult after the collapse of communism, I immediately noticed the communist news announcer no longer dominated the news. Like the countless communist statues that had once held Budapest’s streets and squares captive, good old stiff suit had been taken down and stuffed into a memory hole somewhere on the outskirts of the city. But what replaced him was even worse. Deprived of the West for nearly half-a-century, Hungary drove headlong into emulating everything for which the West stood. Overnight, Hungarian news broadcasts became just as irritating and sensationalistic as other news programs in the West.
Upon moving back to the country four years ago, I made a point of avoiding the television news, which was easy to do because by that time avoiding the news on television came as naturally to me as breathing or sleeping. Nevertheless, when the migrant/refugee crisis began to swell in the summer of 2015, I began to watch the news on a regular basis. This lasted about six months. Since then, I have returned to my old custom of not watching televised news, but every now and then, usually when I arrive home late from work and feel too listless to do anything else, I plop down before the boob tube and passively allow the state broadcaster to inform me about the state of the country and the world.
On these occasions I have discovered the following regarding contemporary Hungarian state news – as is expected with any state broadcaster, it is rather propagandistic; however, the propaganda the Hungarian state news service now spews on a nightly basis is far more in touch with reality than it was nearly twenty years ago and is infinitely more in touch with reality than its Western counterparts. It addresses issues such as mass migration and sub-replacement fertility from a realistic perspective. That is, rather than rattle on about migrant rights, diversity, and empowering women in the workforce, the Hungarian state broadcaster acknowledges mass migration and sub-replacement fertility for what they are – crucial existential and spiritual problems. True, it uses both issues to bolster and fortify the policies of Viktor Orbán’s ruling Fidesz Party - which Western critics accuse of essentially taking over the media In Hungary - but beyond this veil of political partisanship there lies a core understanding of what these issues mean and the dangers they pose.
Of course, this does not mean I am going to start watching the news on a regular basis again. After all, Hungarian television news is just like any other television news broadcast – full of twisting and spinning and manipulating. But the twisting and spinning and manipulating the Hungarians are currently doing is far closer to the truth and to reality than the twisting and spinning and manipulating I remember watching when I lived in other countries in the West. There’s not much solace or encouragement to be found in that, but it is noteworthy, and it is better than anything I ever recall watching on CNN.
And does anyone out there have any idea what In the Night Garden is about? I still haven’t got a clue.