Illiberalism and the Deinstitutionalization of Public Diplomacy: The Rise of Hungary and Viktor Orbán in American Conservative Media
Main Article Content
The promotion of Hungary and Viktor Orbán among American conservatives is often presented as a warning of conservative embrace of illiberal politics. While acknowledging the draw of Hungary’s illiberal policies as the motivating factor for American conservative interest in Hungary, our focus seeks to answer to what extent this embrace of Hungary can be considered a form of public diplomacy. We examined the frequency and substance of mentions of Hungary and Viktor Orbán in 1643 articles within 13 American conservative media outlets to track how the narrative around the country and the prime minister has evolved over the past four years, bearing in mind the impact of Tucker Carlson’s interview with Viktor Orbán in late 2021. We found both an increase in the quantity of articles focused on Hungary and Viktor Orbán as well as a largely positive trend defending and praising the policies of Hungary and the prime minister. We also observed a strong focus on Orbán as the primary actor of Hungarian public diplomacy and argue that this hyper-presidentialized focus exemplifies the deinstitutionalization of public diplomacy, along with other elements that contribute to the enhancement of Orbán as an individual public diplomacy actor.
Ankel, S. (2020, August 27). How Tucker Carlson went from a CIA reject to the most-watched person on cable news, accused of peddling prejudice to millions. Business Insider. Retrieved from https://www.businessinsider.com/fox-news-host-tucker-carlson-biography-of-right-wing-superstar-2020-7
Appel, H. (2019). Can the EU Stop Eastern Europe’s Illiberal Turn? Critical Review, 31(3-4), 255-266. https://www.doi.org/10.1080/08913811.2019.1647956
Bánkuti, M., Halmai, G. & Scheppele, K. L. (2012). Hungary’s illiberal turn: disabling the constitution. Journal of Democracy, 23(3), 138-146. https://www.doi.org/10.1353/jod.2012.0054
Bustikova, L. & Guasti, P. (2017). The illiberal turn or swerve in Central Europe? Politics and Governance, 5(4), 166-176. https://www.doi.org/10.17645/pag.v5i4.1156
Buzogány, A. & Varga, M. (2018). The ideational foundations of the illiberal backlash in Central and Eastern Europe: The case of Hungary. Review of international political economy, 25(6), 811-828. https://www.doi.org/10.1080/09692290.2018.1543718
Buzogány, A. & Varga, M. (2021). Illiberal thought collectives and policy networks in Hungary and Poland. European Politics and Society, 1-19. https://www.doi.org/10.1080/23745118.2021.1956238
Caldwell, C. (2019, May 13). Orban: Not Far Right, Just Right. Human Events. Retrieved from https://humanevents.com/2019/05/13/orban-not-far-right-just-right/
Carlson, T. (2021, August 3) Tucker: The mainstream media’s job is to defend the ruling class Tucker Carlson Tonight. Retrieved from https://video.foxnews.com/v/6266295237001?playlist_id=5198073478001#sp=show-clips
Carlson, T. (2022, March 14). Tucker Carlson: Everything that Tulsi Gabbard said about biolabs in Ukraine is true. Fox News Opinion. Retrieved from https://www.foxnews.com/opinion/tucker-everything-tulsi-gabbard-said-true
Çevik, S. B. (2020). Turkey’s Public Diplomacy in Flux: From Proactive to Reactive Communication. In N. Snow & N. Cull (Eds.), Routledge handbook of public diplomacy (pp. 350-359). New York: Routledge.
Cull, N. J. (2009). Public diplomacy: Lessons from the past (No. s 12). Los Angeles, CA: Figueroa Press.
Danube Institute (n.d.). Mission Statement. Retrieved from https://danubeinstitute.hu/en/content/mission-statement
Delbos Corfield, G. (2022, July 25). INTERIM REPORT on the proposal for a Council decision determining, pursuant to Article 7(1) of the Treaty on European Union, the existence of a clear risk of a serious breach by Hungary of the values on which the Union is founded. Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs. A9-0217/2022. Retrieved from https://www.europarl.europa.eu/doceo/document/A-9-2022-0217_EN.html
Deneen, P. J. (2019). Why liberalism failed. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.
Dreher, R. (2017). The Benedict Opinion: A strategy for Christians in a post-Christian nation. New York, NY: Penguin Random House.
Dreher, R. (2022a, April 30). DeSantis, Magyar Of The Sunshine State? The American Conservative. Retrieved from https://www.theamericanconservative.com/ron-desantis-viktor-orban/
Dreher, R. (2022b, August 4). Orban In The Lone Star State. The American Conservative. Retrieved from https://www.theamericanconservative.com/orban-in-the-lone-star-state/
Drinóczi, T. & Bień-Kacała, A. (2019). Illiberal constitutionalism: The case of Hungary and Poland. German Law Journal, 20(8), 1140-1166. https://www.doi.org/10.1017/glj.2019.83
Forte dos Santos, N. A. S. (2021). Presidential Public Diplomacy 2.0: Seven Lessons to Prevent Fire in Cyberspace. Journal of Public Diplomacy, 1(1), 36-56. https://www.doi.org/10.23045/jpd.2021.1.1.036
Fukuyama, F. (2022). Liberalism and its discontents. London: Profile Books.
Garamvolgyi, B. & Doczi, T. (2021). Sport as a Tool for Public Diplomacy in Hungary. Physical Culture and Sport Studies and Research, 90(1), 39-49. https://www.doi.org/10.2478/pcssr-2021-0012
Gass, R. H. & Seiter, J. S. (2009). Credibility and Public Diplomacy. In N. Snow & P. Taylor (Eds.), Routledge handbook of public diplomacy (pp. 154-165). New York: Routledge.
Greskovits, B. (2007). Is East-Central Europe Backsliding? Economic Woes and Political Disaffection. Journal of Democracy, 18(4), 40-46. Retrieved from https://muse.jhu.edu/article/223233
Grzebalska, W. & Pető, A. (2018, May). The gendered modus operandi of the illiberal transformation in Hungary and Poland. In Women’s Studies International Forum, 68, 164-172. Pergamon. https://www.doi.org/10.1016/j.wsif.2017.12.001
Güleç, C. (2021). NATO and public diplomacy: Opportunities and constraints of 21st century. Perceptions: Journal of International Affairs, 26(1), 100-120. Retrieved from https://dergipark.org.tr/en/pub/perception/issue/64385/977885
Gullion, E. (1965). Remarks at the dedication ceremony for the Edward R. Murrow Center for Public Diplomacy.
Hamilton, A. (2021). Conservatism as Illiberalism. In A. Sajó, R. Uitz & S. Holmes (Eds.), Routledge Handbook of Illiberalism (pp. 70-81). New York, NY: Routledge.
Ipsos (2021). Germany maintains top “nation brand” ranking, Canada and Japan overtake the United Kingdom to round out the top three. Retrieved from https://www.ipsos.com/sites/default/files/ct/news/documents/2021-10/NBI-2021-ipsos.pdf
Jasper, W. F. (2021, June 26). Globalists Mobilize “Woke” Soccer to Attack Hungary for Heroic Stance Against EU’s LGBTQ Onslaught on Children, Parents, Family. The New American. Retrieved from https://thenewamerican.com/globalists-mobilize-woke-soccer-to-attack-hungary-for-heroic-stance-against-eus-lgbtq-onslaught-on-children-parents-family/
Jenne, E. K. & Mudde, C. (2012). Hungary’s Illiberal Turn: Can Outsiders Help? Journal of Democracy, 23(3), 147-155. https://www.doi.org/10.1353/jod.2012.0057
Jungblut, M. (2017). Between sealed borders and welcome culture: Analyzing mediated public diplomacy during the European migrant crisis. Journal of Communication Management, 21(4), 384-398. https://www.doi.org/10.1108/JCOM-02-2017-0013
Kantek, J., Veljanova, I. & Onnudottir, H. (2021). Constructing Hungarian “Good-Will Ambassadors”: The Collaborative Soft Power Efforts of Hungary’s Balassi Institute and the Hungarian Community in Australia. International Journal of Cultural Policy, 27(7), 920-935. https://www.doi.org/10.1080/10286632.2020.1858068
Kelley, J. R. (2010). The New Diplomacy: Evolution of a Revolution. Diplomacy & Statecraft, 21(2), 286-305.
Klein, E. (2022). Transcript: Ezra Klein Interviews Patrick Deneen. The New York Times. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2022/05/13/podcasts/transcript-ezra-klein-interviews-patrick-deneen.html
Kormany.hu. (2020, July 17). Hungarian enterprises are strong enough to invest even during the crisis. Retrieved from https://2015-2019.kormany.hu/en/ministry-of-foreign-affairs-and-trade/news/hungarian-enterprises-are-strong-enough-to-invest-even-during-the-crisis
Kovács, K. & Tóth, G. A. (2011). Hungary’s constitutional transformation. European Constitutional Law Review, 7(2), 183-203. https://www.doi.org/10.1017/S1574019611200038
Krastev, I. (2018). Eastern Europe’s illiberal revolution: The long road to democratic decline. Foreign Affairs, 97(3), 49-53.
Krekó, P. (2022). The Birth of an Illiberal Information Autocracy in Europe: A Case Study on Hungary. Journal of Illiberalism Studies, 2(1), 55-72. https://www.doi.org/10.53483/WCJW3538
Laruelle, M. (2022). Illiberalism a conceptual introduction. East European Politics, 38(2), 303-327. https://www.doi.org/10.1080/21599165.2022.2037079
Malloch, T. R. (2022, September 29). Meloni’s Grande Nuova Italia. American Greatness. Retrieved from https://amgreatness.com/2022/09/29/melonis-grande-nuova-italia/
Manfredi-Sánchez, J. L. (2021a). Urban Diplomacy: A Cosmopolitan Outlook. Brill Research Perspectives in Diplomacy and Foreign Policy, 3(4), 1-90. https://www.doi.org/10.1163/24056006-12340012
Manfredi-Sánchez, J. L. (2021b). Deglobalization and Public Diplomacy. International Journal of Communication, 15, 905-926. Retrieved from https://ijoc.org/index.php/ijoc/article/view/15379/3357
Manfredi-Sánchez, J. L. (2022a). Vaccine (public) diplomacy: legitimacy narratives in the pandemic age. Place Branding and Public Diplomacy, 1-13. https://www.doi.org/10.1057/s41254-022-00258-2
Manfredi-Sánchez, J. L. (2022b). Thinking about Latin American public diplomacy. Latin American Policy, 13(1), 6-19. https://www.doi.org/10.1111/lamp.12242
McLaughlin, D. (2022, July 27). Viktor Orbán and His People. National Review. Retrieved from https://www.nationalreview.com/2022/07/viktor-orban-and-his-people/.
Mediaite’s 2021 Most Influential in News Media is: Tucker Carlson (2021, December 21). Mediaite. Retrieved from https://www.mediaite.com/news/mediaites-2021-most-influential-in-news-media-is-tucker-carlson/
Melissen, J. (2005). The New Public Diplomacy. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.
Mueller, S. (2002). The Power of Citizen Diplomacy. Foreign Service Journal, 79(3), 23-29. Retrieved from https://afsa.org/foreign-service-journal-march-2002
Nagy, L. (2012). Nyilvános diplomácia Közép-Kelet Európában. Közép-Európai Közlemények; Szeged, 5(3-4), 177-190. Retrieved from https://ojs.bibl.u-szeged.hu/index.php/vikekkek/article/view/12135
Nye, J. S. (2005). Soft power: The means to success in world politics. New York: Public affairs.
Raposo de Mello, A. C. (2019). Brazilian foreign policy on Twitter: digital expression of attitudes in the early months of Bolsonaro’s administration. Doctoral Thesis, Universidade de São Paulo.
Sadecki, A. (2014). Państwo stanu wyższej konieczności. Jak Orbán zmienił We ‘gry [The state of necessity. How Viktor Orbán has changed Hungary]. Warszawa: Centre for Eastern Studies.
Sajó, A., Uitz, R. & Holmes, S. (Eds.) (2021). Routledge Handbook of Illiberalism. New York, NY: Routledge.
Sata, R. & Karolewski, I. P. (2020). Caesarean politics in Hungary and Poland. East European Politics, 36(2), 206-225. https://wwwdoi.org/10.1080/21599165.2019.1703694
Schindler, C. E. (2014). The Lost American Tradition: American Foreign Public Engagement & the Origins of American Public Diplomacy, 1776-1948. Doctoral Thesis, University of Leeds.
Seán, H. & Vachudova, M. A. (2018). Understanding the illiberal turn: democratic backsliding in the Czech Republic. East European Politics, 34(3). 276-296. https://www.doi.org/10.1080/21599165.2018.1493457
Serhan, Y. (2017, June 13). Hungary’s Anti-Foreign NGO Law. The Atlantic. Retrieved from https://www.theatlantic.com/news/archive/2017/06/hungarys-anti-foreign-ngo-law/530121/
Sharp, P. (2001). Making Sense of Citizen Diplomats: The People of Duluth, Minnesota, as International Actors. International Studies Perspectives, 2(2), 131-150 . https://www.doi.org/10.1111/1528-3577.00045
Snow, N. (2009). Rethinking Public Diplomacy. In N. Snow & P. M. Taylor (Eds.), Routledge handbook of public diplomacy (pp. 1-11). New York, NY: Routledge.
Szondi, G. (2008). Country Promotion and Image Management – The Case of Hungary. In K. Dinnie (Ed.), Nation Branding. Concepts, Issues, Practice (pp. 201-204). Oxford: Butterworth-Heinemann.
Szondi, G. (2009). Central and Eastern European public diplomacy: A transitional perspective on national reputation management. In N. Snow & P. M. Taylor (Eds.), Routledge handbook of public diplomacy (pp. 312-333). New York: Routledge.
Toth, C. (2014, July 29). Full text of Viktor Orbán’s speech at Băile Tuşnad (Tusnádfürdő) of 26 July 2014. Budapest Beacon. Retrieved from https://budapestbeacon.com/full-text-of-viktor-orbans-speech-at-baile-tusnad-tusnadfurdo-of-26-july-2014/
U.S. Department of State (1987). Dictionary of International Relations Terms. Retrieved from http://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=mdp.39015028440827;view=1up;seq=5
Vogel, K. P. & Novak, B. (2021, October 4). Hungary’s Leader Fights Criticism in U.S. via Vast Influence Campaign. The New York Times. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2021/10/04/us/politics/hungary-orban-lobbying.html.
Waller, J. (2022). Intellectual Entrepreneurs Against Democracy: Theorizing Authoritarian Futures in America. https://www.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.4117901
Zakaria, F. (1997). The rise of illiberal democracy. Foreign Affairs, 76(6), 22-43. Retrieved from https://www.scasd.org/cms/lib5/PA01000006/Centricity/Domain/1198/FZakariaIlliberalDemocracy1997.pdf
Ławniczak, R. (2015). A post-socialist/communist perspective: From foreign-imposed to home-grown transitional public relations. In J. L’Etang, D. McKie, N. Snow & J. Xifra (Eds.), The Routledge Handbook of Critical Public Relations (pp. 213-225). London: Routledge.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
By submitting the article for evaluation and subsequent publication in Communication & Society, the AUTHOR exclusively assigns the rights of public communication, reproduction, distribution and sale for commercial exploitation to the University of Navarra through its Publications Service, for the maximum legal term in force -the entire life of the author and seventy years after his death or declaration of death-, in any country, and in any of the current and future edition modalities, both in print and electronic versions.
In the event that the article is not accepted for publication , this transfer of rights lapses with the communication of the refusal to the AUTHOR.
The AUTHOR affirms that the article is unpublished, that it has not been sent simultaneously to another publication medium and that the rights have not been transferred exclusively previously. He is responsible to the University of Navarra through its Publications Service for the authorship and originality of his work, as well as for all pecuniary charges that may arise for the University of Navarra through its Publications Service, in favor of third parties due to actions, claims or conflicts arising from the breach of obligations by the AUTHOR.