You can’t fight hatred with hatred

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The articles published at Migration Aid’s site in the campaign “Empathetic Hungary” made great waves. The first article of this kind (Unexpected turn of events in the Hungarian asylum policy), received 2 thousand likes and many comments on Facebook. András Siewert, the mastermind of the campaign and the operations coordinator of Migration Aid answers the question: why it is useful to publish “fake news” about refugees in the name of Migration Aid.

Let’s go back to the years of the era called the regime change, which coincided with the Yugoslav crisis. Between 1988 and 1994 Hungary received about 250 thousand asylum applications, even from tens of thousands of Bosnian Muslims. In those days Hungary wasn’t only a transit country, lots of them stayed here. Can anybody recall from those days calling them migrants or building fences? Or crying about terrorism? Of course not … but why not? Because the governments back then – mainly Antall’s – handled it as a professional problem. They would never have dared to use other people’s misery for their own political fortune. The authorities responsible for refugees and national safety were in their places and the government trusted them to handle the crises, and they lived up to the challenge perfectly in that tough situation. 

Nowadays the situation is much different: there’s a political elite who has the 2/3 of the parliamentary votes and has been working for staying in power for long term for the past few years. It is a well-known sociological commonplace that the fight against a common enemy unites the people. But if there’s no real enemy – since the opposition is so fragmented in the country -, what to do then? This is what called for a conception unmatched in the Hungarian politics so far: if there’s no real enemy, we have to create one. There were some trials to form a common enemy before 2015 too, but the first groundbreaking success was the campaign against foreigners. The 2015 refugee crisis came at hand, because it really caused some logistics problems between the springs of 2015 and 2016, but this could have been handled by the relevant refugee and safety authorities without any trouble, just as they did so with the previous refugee wave from Yugoslavia. On top of that this time we were only a transit country, almost nobody wanted to stay in Hungary permanently. 


The refugees are ideal as enemies, because they can’t defend themselves. They won’t even understand those huge blue billboards everywhere around the country trying to make people accept: the migrant is a dangerous person, may steal your job, rape your wife, blow up a bomb at your house. The communication concept was perfect, it hit right on the spot. A significant part of Hungarian society found a new enemy. From then on they only had to follow up on the lead, build on the image of the enemy. Brussels, György Soros, the NGOs (who support migrants) are part of this puzzle.

But we have to see: this is not a classic political campaign. This is an information operation, contains several elements of psychological warfare and is part of the military terminology.

“Reality is what the people think to be real” – this is one of the main foundations of psychological warfare. Just have a look at the government propaganda of the last two years: it is built on this idea. Migration Aid faced this fact too in the last two weeks. The propaganda machinery linked to the government has been pushing information which isn’t even close to the reality. The peak of this campaign was broadcasted on TV2 on June 12 2017 in the news program “Tények” (“Facts”), which started with this statement: “One couldn’t even find out if it is at all (about Migration Aid)”.

As I have previously stated, the psychological/information warfare is an integral part of modern military operations. Its goal is to make the enemy unsure, demotivated, fearful. At any cost … 

So there’s a political elite in Hungary, which uses the tools of psychological/information warfare to secure its own positions of power. It assigns the definition of the enemy to different social groups, and sets that part of the society which is easier to manipulate on them.

These methods aren’t new, the communication strategies of Hitler or the ISIS are based on the same principle, even some parts of Donald Trump’s campaign. The real tragedy is that this communication strategy doesn’t only work for one or two terms, it may poison the life of a society for decades.

The prime minister and his troops like stating that Europe’s cultural homogenity and the unity of Hungarian nation can only be preserved by excluding the immigrants to justify the use of this communication strategy. Either it is willful mystification or ignorance, because its outcome is exactly the opposite. Their communication, which feeds fear, makes much deeper rifts in society then any possible intercultural engagement ever could. What is more, the fragmentation caused and constantly reinforced by this is the best way to anarchy and the disintegration of the nation.

What can a small organization like us do, which refuses every form of violence, doesn’t have the economic power to lobby for its interest, but finds itself in the crossfire of an information operation?

Years ago I incidentally found myself in a row which was so heated, I feared it would turn into physical aggression. As the passions grew violent, no rational argumentation would have helped, so urged by a sudden idea I stepped in. From the arguing parties I chose the one I saw stronger and more dangerous, I opened my arms and asked him if he would let me embrace him. I saw in his eyes that my question was so abrupt it unsettled him. He asked: ‘Do you want to hit me? Come on!’ – although his words were still aggressive, his body language showed precariousness dominantly. I said: ‘I don’t want to hit you. I have no quarrel with you. I just want to embrace you.’

His tone became more relaxed, he showed no sign of aggression, so I stepped closer and embraced him. After being unsettled came embarrassment. You see, our embrace wasn’t only a slap on the back, it has been about 20-25 seconds long. And then suddenly I felt that he gave up and returned my embrace. ‘I didn’t want to hurt anybody’ – he said. ‘I know you guys are all right.’ – This was already an explanation, the solution of the conflict.

Since this incident I had several other occasions to see that the laws of physics work on mental-emotional fields too. Cause and effect. One can not neutralize a negative emotional situation with negative emotions or thoughts. Fear begets fear, and if we answer hatred with hatred, we can easily find ourselves in a spiral of violence.

The government propaganda tries to influence people by inciting fear. If we, as the assigned enemy answer to this with hatred, they have reached their aim. We find ourselves exactly at the spot which they want us to be at: the enemy’s place, who hates and thus is eligible to be hated. It makes us possible to bear war against, and this is what they want.

The “Empathetic Hungary” campaign aims to show it could be different. The news could be about altruist policemen instead of policemen beating refugees. About taking off the fence instead of building it. And about a prime minister, who is able to see and feel the plight of others.

Let’s show that we believe in goodness. We can believe even about our prime minister is capable of such a volte-face. Let’s think of him with love, as if we would embrace him, even if he wanted to bear war on us. It seems that our apathetic, demoralized society, which fondles its fears and hatred could not be helped with rational arguments. Let us surprise hatred with an embrace …