Hungary must resist America’s cultural imperialism
The Biden White House is desperate to export its identitarian ideology.
Samantha Power, head administrator of the US Agency for International Development (USAID), arrived in Budapest last week with one mission – to save Central European nations from themselves. Her main target was Hungary.
According to a press release issued by USAID to accompany her trip to the Hungarian capital, Power wants ‘to help support democracy in Central Europe’. And she wants ‘independent media to thrive and build new audiences’. ‘[A] free and diverse press is a cornerstone of democracy’, she tweeted, ‘and in Hungary, independent journalists are facing real challenges’.
By a ‘free’ and ‘independent’ media, what Power really meant are outlets that freely propagate the worldview of the Biden administration. Central to this worldview, it seems, are LGBT rights. That’s why USAID’s press release explicitly told the Hungarians that the US will ‘continue to stand as an ally with LGBTQI+ people and all marginalised groups in their struggle for equality’.
Power’s attempt to impose the White House’s obsession with LGBT issues on Hungary is not especially surprising. It is worth remembering that one of Biden’s earliest foreign-policy initiatives was to send the State Department a memo ‘to ensure that US diplomacy and foreign assistance promote and protect the human rights of LGBTQ+ persons’.
But of course, it’s not just LGBT rights driving the US’s intervention in Central Europe. Last December, when USAID announced its Central Europe programme, it also claimed it was going to support ‘new locally driven initiatives in Central Europe with the goal of strengthening democratic institutions, civil society and independent media, which are all pillars of resilient democratic societies’. For USAID, these ‘locally driven initiatives’ refers not to any grassroots organisations, but to NGOs. And through these NGOs, USAID claims it is building ‘the watchdog skills of civil society and media to enhance rule-of-law observance, combat corruption and increase access to justice’.
The use of the word ‘watchdog’ is telling. As is well known, a watchdog usually has a master – and one does not need a PhD in political science to guess that this watchdog’s master is not a million miles away from 2201 C Street Northwest, Washington, DC – the home of the State Department.
USAID’s promise to ‘support democracy’ and ‘strengthen democratic institutions’ is entirely cynical. In practice, USAID wants to use local NGOs and other institutions to translate Washington’s cultural narrative and political priorities into a local language. This is to create the impression that what’s ‘made in America’ appears as locally grown. In reality, of course, it’s nothing of the sort.
This represents a clear attempt on the part of Washington to erode the sovereignty and exert influence over the democratic decision-making processes of Hungary and other nations in Central Europe. The US is effectively assuming the role of a moral guardian of democratic life in Central Europe.
The arrogance is breathtaking. It seems that the Biden administration believes it possesses an inalienable right to influence the political and cultural life of Hungary and other Central European nations. The US State Department is certainly in no doubt that Budapest is a legitimate target for its propaganda. Back in 2019, its mouthpiece, the New York Times, reported that ‘Radio Free Europe’, the Cold War-era US radio station formerly broadcast to Soviet states, ‘is poised to return to a less free Hungary’.
For the US to pose as the liberator of a ‘less free Hungary’ is an insult to the people of Hungary and an affront to Hungarian democracy. It treats Hungary as a benighted nation whose wayward citizens are in need of civilising. Indeed, if you strain your ears, you can hear Power and her friends over at Radio Free Europe muttering sotto voce about the desirability of regime change.
No doubt Central European nations need to have good relations with the US. But if they want to preserve their sovereignty and way of life, they must resist the attempts by the Biden White House to impose its ideology on their societies.
Frank Furedi is the executive director of the think-tank MCC-Brussels.
Picture by: Getty.
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