How Hungary Became a Haven for the Alt-Right

Carol Schaeffer, The Atlantic, May 28, 2017

Viktor Orban

Viktor Orban (Credit Image: © Jakob Ratz/Pacific Press via ZUMA Wire)

In February 2017, at the state of the nation address, Viktor Orbán, the prime minister of Hungary and the leader of the far-right, anti-immigrant Fidesz party, offered his vision for the country in the coming year. “We shall let in true refugees: Germans, Dutch, French, and Italians, terrified politicians and journalists who here in Hungary want to find the Europe they have lost in their homelands,” he proclaimed.

In reality, Orbán’s “refugees” have been moving to Hungary, and Budapest in particular, for years. A small clique of Identitarians, or aggrieved nationalists from Sweden, the United Kingdom, the United States, France, and elsewhere, all motivated by their disdain for their home countries’ commitment to liberal values, have found an ideological match in his Hungary, where two extreme far-right parties, the governing Fidesz and Jobbik, the largest opposition party, make up most of the National Assembly. Jobbik is the first European political party to champion a border wall.

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This transformation has allowed a system of far-right culture leaders to flourish in Budapest. Coming from all over Europe and the United States, they have created a structured propaganda circuit, in the hopes of spreading their ideas far and wide.

Panoramic View of Budapest

Budapest (Credit Image: Wikimedia)

At the center of the scene is a publishing house called Arktos Media. It is routinely referred to as the preeminent publisher of the alt-right by those within the movement and experts who study it, and is known for translating many canonical alt-right texts into English, including the first full-text English translations of Russian theorist Alexander Dugin—characterized variously on the left and right as “the intellectual guru of Putinism,” and “Putin’s Rasputin.” Dugin’s “ethnonationalism,” a belief in the creation of ethnically homogenous nation states, has been championed by white nationalists, who argue that Europe and America are innately white nations. Arktos titles largely promote a viewpoint it characterizes as “alternatives to modernity” that are critical of liberalism, human rights, and modern democracy.

Arktos originally began operations in India in 2010 when a Swedish businessman named Daniel Friberg absorbed a “traditionalist” publishing house run by American editor-in-chief John B. Morgan. Both lived in India for the first years of the company’s existence. In early 2014, both Friberg and Morgan moved to Budapest to continue to expand Arktos from within the European continent. (Morgan has since left Arktos and now works for Counter-Currents, a white-nationalist publishing house and website also partially based in Budapest.) Friberg, whose vision is central to Arktos, sees its mission as changing “metapolitics,” a term appropriated from 20th-century Marxist intellectual Antonio Gramsci.

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In Budapest, Arktos is surrounded by alt-righters who have made the trek to the increasingly illiberal Hungary. Michael Polignano, co-founder of Counter-Currents, moved to Budapest in 2016, and joined the nationalist scene. After moving to Hungary in January 2017, men’s rights activist Matt Forney wrote: “Imagine there’s no leftists. It’s easy if you try. No protests in the streets, and in front of us, only cute white girls. That world exists, and it’s called Hungary.” Ferenc Almassy, a French nationalist, has worked as a translator for Jobbik. He helps other French nationalists new to Hungary acclimate to their haven. Popular American far-right YouTube and Twitter personality RamZPaul, who has lived in the Hungarian capital off and on since 2013, tweeted in February to nearly 35,000 followers: “Budapest is like Paris of the 1920s. #Hungary.”

In addition to Friberg’s clique, other nationalists have also moved to Hungary. Although former British Nationalist Party leader Nick Griffin has claimed he is not affiliated with the “alt-right” ex-pat community, he has been deeply involved with a radical Christian organization called “The Knights Templar International,” which has offices in the U.K. and Hungary.

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The Knights Templar were invited to inspect the Hungarian border in 2015 by Jobbik party member and mayor of Asotthalom, Lazsló Toroczkai, and have started a resettlement campaign called “Operation Ark” for “refugee” South African Boers to relocate to rural Hungary.

But perhaps Griffin and company shouldn’t get too comfortable: on Friday, authorities expelled him from Hungary, calling him and his organization a “threat to national security.” While it is certainly premature to think that this represents some national reckoning, perhaps the country’s far-right ex-pats’ days are numbered.

For now, these groups will continue to expand their vision beyond Hungary’s party politics. In January 2017, Arktos’s team and Richard Spencer officially cemented their partnership when they teamed up to create AltRight.com, a “one-stop shop” for the emerging movement. Even Washington-based Breitbart is now rumored to be opening a Hungarian office in the near future, after acquiring the domain name Breitbart.hu. From their vantage, the possibilities of cross-border exchange look promising. In flocking to Budapest, these nationalist internationals are creating a sanctuary from which to broadcast anti-globalism across the globe.

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