15 Dec 2018

It is no accident that Xenophobia is on the rise in Hungary 

New research confirms that Hungarians are quick to reject any immigrant, even when he comes from a fictional country. Though this sentiment is not new to Hungarians, it is being skillfully inflated by politicians.

Ivett Körösi
Ivett Körösi Nepszava, Hungary
Source: Nepszava
It is no accident that Xenophobia is on the rise in Hungary  - NewsMavens
Arrested refugees-immigrants in Fylakio detention center, Evros, Greece.

Why this story matters:


Hungarians don’t like to be labelled xenophobes. Although a significant portion of the population would rather refugees stayed away from their country, they would never consider themselves xenophobes.

In an interview with Nepszava, Endre Sik, renowned sociologist, claims that xenophobia has always been more present in Hungary than many other European countries. Sadly, he knows what he is talking about -- in 2006 he led a research team that assessed people’s attitudes towards foreigners and immigration.

A polling company, Tarki, asked Hungarians how they felt about Arab, Romanian, Chinese and „Pirez” migrants. Interestingly, 59% of the respondents were against opening the borders to the citizens of Pirez.

You might be wondering -- where exactly is this mysterious country? Well, it isn't anywhere. Researchers included a fictional ethnicity in the questionnaire in order to measure the extent of ill will towards foreigners.

People fell into the trap. Despite having no knowledge on Pirez culture, they refused to see them in their country. 

According to Sik, xenophobia being on the rise is not the only explanation for recent scandals. In one of them, the residents of a small town Kömllo notified the police after seeing a „suspicious”, „foreign-looking person”. A rally organized by inhabitants of another village, in protest against refugees spending holidays there, was no less scandalous.

To understand the phenomenon, we should investigate Hungarian's general attitude towards themselves and the world more thoroughly. 

„We are far from loving each other. In general, Hungarians are pessimistic, distrustful and full of fear, which stems from insecurity. We are not confident in the world,” Sik told Nepszava.

It is not an appealing description of Hungarians, but without a doubt one that should be taken seriously. Unless we want to be fooled by politicians, of course.

For Sik believes that when, in 2014, the masses took to the streets to protest against the planned internet tax, the government realized that they need a common enemy to turn the people’s attention away from fighting for their rights. Thus, immigrants became their enemies of choice. An easy one, as it played upon deeply rooted, existing xenophobia. 

If you want to know what moral panic is and what happens when it cannot be toned down, click on the article below.

Details from the story:

  • Endre Sik, born 1948, is an award-winning economist and sociologist. He is professor emeritus at Eotvos Lorand University.
  • He founded „Menedek”, an NGO that helps migrants.
  • Sik explains that media manipulation is dangerous but billboards, like the anti-migration and anti-George Soros billboards scattered all around the country, are even more effective because they are unavoidable. 

Project #Femfacts co-financed by European Commission Directorate-General for Communications Networks, Content and Technology as part of the Pilot Project – Media Literacy For All

The information and views set out on this website are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official opinion of the European Union. Neither the European Union institutions and bodies nor any person acting on their behalf may be held responsible for the use which may be made of the information contained therein.

NewsMavens is a media start-up within Gazeta Wyborcza, Poland's largest liberal broadsheet published by Agora S.A. NewsMavens is currently financed by Gazeta Wyborcza and Google DNI Fund.
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