The Radicalization of Media Discourse. The Rise of the Extreme Right in Hungary and the Roma Question

TitleThe Radicalization of Media Discourse. The Rise of the Extreme Right in Hungary and the Roma Question
Publication TypeWorking Paper
AuthorsVidra, Zsuzsanna, and Jon Fox
PublisherCEU, Center for Policy Studies
Place of PublicationBudapest
SeriesCPS Working Papers
Full Text

The aim of this case study is to better understand the strengthening of the radical right in Hungary, its openly anti-Roma discourses, and the reactions of mainstream political actors to this radicalism. We examine the media coverage of two murders, one in which the Roma were the perpetrators and in the other in which they were the victims. We also review public debate on the question of Roma integration and the end of political correctness as it appeared in the mainstream media. The two murders are significant for understanding how the Roma question became increasingly racialised. Our third case addresses the aftermath of the media representation and the public debates generated by the two incidents.

The findings point to a growing tendency of non-tolerant public discourse in Hungary that spread to almost all corners of the political spectrum. There are several political and social processes that contribute to this trend of non-toleration. First, the rise of radical racist discourses which has accompanied the political successes of the radical right wing party, Jobbik, has set the political and media agenda by thematising the ‘Roma question’. Second, non-radical political and public figures from both the left and right have responded to this thematisation of the ‘Roma question’ in a way that has not excluded non-tolerant racist discourses. By acting as partners in ‘breaking taboos’, they have simultaneously been breaking with the tolerant language that supposedly accompanied those taboos. Third, in the current non-tolerant climate, accepting the (cultural) difference of other ethnic groups has become impossible. ‘Roma cultural difference’ instead was ‘accepted’, though in a somewhat ambiguous way: its existence was acknowledged, but as grounds for deliberate exclusion. Finally, in Hungary as in some other post-socialist countries, non-tolerance has troublingly become a rally cry of a good number of political and public actors, often irrespective of political affiliation. State institutions, political parties and the media have joined forces to fuel suspicion of Roma difference, be it biological or cultural. As a result, tolerance as a value and discourse has suffered, embraced by only a handful of actors increasingly marginal to the political mainstream.

Center for Policy Studies (CPS)
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