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by Peter Franklin
Monday, 9
August 2021

No, Orbán is not the Chávez of the Right

There’s nothing equal about the odiousness of their respective regimes
by Peter Franklin
Viktor Orbán. Getty Images

Tucker Carlson’s visit to Hungary — some might call it a pilgrimage — has provoked a war of words between US libs and cons. 

The latest heavyweight to stick his oar in is the eminent political scientist, Ian Bremmer. This was his contribution to the debate:

At first sight this appears to be a balanced and reasonable opinion. It invites us to look at the crazy ideologues on both Right and Left — and recoil in horror. Except that in respect to Hungary and Venezuela there’s nothing remotely equal about the odiousness of their respective regimes. Any parallel to be drawn between their Right-wing and Left-wing sympathisers in the West is therefore a distant one. 

To be clear, one doesn’t have to approve of Victor Orbán (and I don’t), let alone regard his country as an anti-woke New Jerusalem (it isn’t), to view Bremmer’s equivalency as bogus.

The Chavista regime in Venezuela (under Hugo Chávez and his successor Nicolás Maduro) has reduced what was once the most prosperous economy in South America to penury. The latest desperate move of a desperate government is to slash six zeroes from the national currency — which tells you about its success in controlling hyper-inflation. Its human rights record is atrocious and, needless to say, the country’s democracy has been crushed.

From a European perspective, we should be concerned about violations of democratic norms in Hungary (for instance as documented by Alex Faludy for UnHerd). The enduring dominance of one party and one man over the life of a nation is not healthy. Nevertheless, there is no sensible comparison to the Venezuelan regime — not even before its full horror became clear.

Ian Bremmer has received some pushback on the equivalence issue — but, worryingly, much of it is in the wrong direction. For instance, this was how Erik Brynjolfsson — eminent economist and technologist — replied to Bremmer’s tweet: 

It’s odd that Brynjolfsson should consider this to be the asymmetry worth commenting on here. Personally, I’d have gone with the scale of human suffering not the relative importance of the West’s Orbán and Chavista fanboys. 

To put it another way, if you had to choose whether to live in Hungary or Venezuela, which country would you pick? The answer is obvious — whether or not you like goulash.

Of course, just because there are worst places in the world, it doesn’t mean that a particular government should be immune to criticism. But if you’re drawing a parallel between countries — and their respective sympathisers — stop and think before making it. 

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Simon Denis
Simon Denis
2 years ago

Typically shameless of the left to start using Chavez as a bad example long after the rest of us realised what a monster he was. Even more brass-necked of them to use him against Orban, when for years they either sang his praises or offered him muted support. But what completely takes the biscuit is that whilst Orban is a democrat, Chavez – quondam hero of the bien pensant – was a dictator; whilst Orban fosters healthy economics and social contentment, Chavez reduced his people to beggary – and not a squeak of protest to be discerned among the many flatulent noises of the Guardian or the New York Times. They may slap each other on the back and snap up each other’s joyless tomes as much as they please, but the idiot Left is just talking to itself in an otherwise deserted room. Who else would want to spend time with such crazies?

Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
2 years ago

There’s no reasoning with current crop of Leftists. If you so much as step an inch out of line, you are a right-wing extremist. While it seem to work in their favor for now, it will eventually become their undoing. Inevitably, much like the Soviet Union, they will fall to their own lack of internal consistency. Its these inconsistencies we need to focus on in order to push back against the mind-rot. Publications like Unherd do much good in that regard.