SAY WHAT? - In a "brain-melting" confluence of authoritarian crackpottery both domestic and foreign, America's right-wing confab CPAC just spread their malignant wings abroad for the first time to gather in Viktor Orbán’s Hungary, an anti-democratic bastion righteously battling "the woke revolution" in the name of God, nation, family and "Western civilization," aka old white men. Somehow - WTF - the demented meet-up of global neo-Nazis, anti-Semites, conspiracy cranks and garden variety bigots got startlingly little press coverage. But its choice of venue, in a self-described “illiberal” regime that's been called "a systemic threat to the rule of law," is ominous. With the support of his Fidesz party - and Tucker Carlson - Orbán has steadily undermined the country's democratic institutions, curbing the press, packing the courts, tweaking elections, silencing critics and spewing anti-immigrant, anti-LGBTQ, anti-any-form-of-other bile under the racist rubric of replacement ideology. Days after a sick kid in Buffalo murdered 10 innocent black people, Orbán marked his fourth term in office by arguing the western world is "committing suicide" by replacing "European Christian children with migrants," and don't forget "gender madness." Hence, one recent analysis: "How Democracy Died in Hungary."
Logically, then, enter our own wannabe authoritarians, CPAC ghouls dedicated to protecting "our Western civilization, God, nation and family" - like toxic peas in a pod, closely akin to Orbán's mission to "defend (our) Judeo-Christian heritage, western way of life and the traditional family." At Budapest's BÁLNA Conference Center, they held panels like "In God We Trust," "Culture Wars in the Media," "The Father Is A Man, the Mother Is A Woman," "CPACS All Around the World." Speakers, in person or video, included Candace Owens, Mark Meadows, Rick Santorum, Nigel Farage, Eduardo Bolsonaro, Tucker Carlson and Zsolt Bayer, a racist TV host who's called Jews "stinking excrement," Roma "animals unfit for coexistence," and BLM protesters "fucking niggers." In his keynote, Orbán called for a global conservative takeover: "We need to take back the institutions in Washington and Brussels, we need to find friends (and) allies, we need to coordinate the movement of our troops." He also urged a solely right-wing media to fight "the madness of the progressive left," like "my friend Tucker Carlson," who "should be broadcast day and night, or as you say, 24/7." Fittingly for an ever-aspiring tinpot, Trump appeared on video to celebrate Orbán. "He is a great leader, a great gentleman," he said. "I was very honored to endorse him."
Much of what transpired at the conference is unknown thanks to the absence of independent U.S. media - told earlier they'd have access but barred once they got there. The reasons for the ban were...vague. Said CPAC bigwig Matt Schlapp when VICEprotested the lack of independent press, "I really don't know what that term 'independent' means." Still, enough truth oozed out to get a flavor. Eager to jam every right-wing talking point into "one burble of bigotry," Schlapp went on to weave together abortion and replacement theory into one shiny, final, forced-birth solution: "If you say there is a population problem in a country but you're killing millions of your own people (sic) through legalized abortion - if that were reduced, some of that problem is solved." Above all, free from pesky critics, the event brought into sharp relief the truth of the American and Hungarian right's model governance: Not democracy, but putting/keeping in power a small band of people who think and hate like they do. "We are living (through a) societal catastrophe with gender confusion and transgenderism," said one Rod Dreher. Even if it violates "the spirit of liberalism," he noted approvingly, Orbán "wants to save his nation from this ideological toxin, and does not hesitate to use the power of the state to do so." Argues one appalled critic, "It's all over but the Nazi armbands."
Former GOPer Steve Schmidt offers another take on the spectacle of American conservatives joining a "snarling American Fascist movement," traveling thousands of miles to kiss the ring of "Pinochet on the Danube" in "an idiotic version of the Bund." Citing Hungary's historic links to fascism and anti-Semitism - "There was no shortage of Hungarian volunteers for the SS" - he calls Orbán "a blood and soil nationalist" who seeks to whitewash Hungary's past crimes even as he "dehumanizes (and) scapegoats" minority populations by rallying "one group of Americans against another." Attention must be paid, he urges, to the connections of "an extremist movement that is deadly, emboldened and growing." When news surfaced of CPAC consorting with the white nationalist likes of Bayer, CPAC whined of "a coordinated smear campaign on conservative leaders on both sides of the Atlantic." "We reject this unfounded reporting," huffed Matt Schlapp. "We have many speakers with independent views." Still, the dark fact remains: Hungary, "a racist, neofascist anti-democracy," is "where American conservatives decided to have a party." "This event was the American right wing stating as openly as it ever has that fascism is its goal for the United States of America," writes The New Republic. "After Budapest, we can't say they didn't tell us what they're gunning for."
(Abby Zimet has written CD's Further column since 2008. A longtime, award-winning journalist, involved in women's, labor, anti-war, social justice and refugee rights issues. Email: [email protected])