Clooney contra Orbán what the PPI shows about the Hungarian media situation Informing VS being informed Political Propaganda Indicator of Hungary, December, 2020

The PPI examines how efficiently the national brainwash works by evaluating the responses of 1500 representatively selected Hungarian citizens. The obtained data helps to evaluate to what extent the election results can be regarded as legitime in a seemingly democratic community, where the communication system rather hinders accurate information instead of helping to inform. The PPI shows what proportion of the electors are in the artificially created world of political propaganda, how many of them form their opinion about important issues of the World based on the messages of political propaganda, that is to say the scale of groups of the society important from the electoral perspective living in a virtual reality. This virtual reality is fake in both positive and negative senses. Partly aspects of the reality favorable to the government look nicer in it, and the other aspects on national or international level that are pictured as threatening by the political propaganda look dramatically worse. This distortion is also true the other way around, as all sides of the political spectrum utilize the toolbox of propaganda, only their accessibility to it is not of the same dimension. PPI is suitable for comparing the divergent access of the different actors.

At the end of 2020, we did research about what different prestigious international organizations, or personalities stated in certain issues, namely we quoted official statements from the sources, and then we examined how the society interpreted the same statement reframed by the political propaganda, how it was recognized by the community, namely which one of the two literally contradicting statements were captured by the different groups of the society.

The first one of the analyzed statements was the Hungarian and Polish veto related to the European budget. The background briefly: Hungary and Poland finally did not veto the Multiannual Financial Framework of the EU and the corona recovery fund. Everybody considered themselves the winner of the negotiations, although in Orbán’s opinion the debate was not over yet. The Brussels correspondent of daily Die Presse reported that the Hungarian and Polish blocking of the EU’s 7-year budget was resolved by a three and a half page-long resolution about the rule of law mechanism without legal binding.

The accepted text only anchored the already existing right of the EU member states that they could appeal to the European Court of Justice concerning any new EU legislation.

The other analyzed statement was an unexpected comment from George Clooney: the actor and director talked about his most memorable roles of his career in an interview to the GQ Magazine. At the end of his interview he mentioned the film The Midnight Sky that he directed and he also played the main character of. And here came into the picture Viktor Orbán and Bolsonaro. Towards the end of the interview Clooney argued that the atmosphere of the film was determined by the anger and hatred experienced by the people all over the World, “Look at Bolsonaro in Brazil, or Orbán in Hungary”.

For the research complicated public life issues had to be summarized, what was not so difficult this time.

The first original statement: The European Parliament has decided that in the future the EU-subventions will be linked to the rule of law criteria. (61% of the respondents heard about it)

The second original statement: Hollywood actor George Clooney mentioned Viktor Orbán in an interview talking about the hatred prevalent in the World. (54% of the respondents heard about this news.)

Compared to this it is interesting to see how the society perceived the variations of the original information “reformulated” by the political propaganda. In the case of Clooney a strange turn complicated the situation: Clooney replied, when he learned about what the propaganda told about him and sent a message back: “The propaganda machinery of Orbán lies. Full stop.”.

Government interpretation

Have you heard the government interpretation?

 (in the circle of those who were aware of the original news)

Have you heard the government interpretation?

(in the whole population)

Do you think that the government interpretation is true?

  (in the circle of those who have heard the original news)

Do you think that the government interpretation is true?

(in the whole population)

The purpose of the rule of law conditionality of EU-funds is to force Hungary to accept migrants





George Clooney talked about Viktor Orbán, because he is a good friend of the Soros family





Our earlier study (Tájékoztatás kontra tájékozottság, Médiakutató, 2020, nyár, ) has already shown that an important element of the functioning of the propaganda mechanism is to select which news should NOT get to the people. In the case of such important information that the rule of law criteria will be introduced “against” Hungary, as well, the 61% rate of being informed about it might seem very low. Especially that weeks passed by after the joint announcement of the Hungarian and the Polish prime ministers, when they confirmed their intention of using their veto against the approval of the EU’s budget and the recovery fund at several press conferences, if the EU would not revoke the application of the rule of law criteria. Finally they withdrew their veto threat, although the monetary sanctions related to the rule of law criteria remained in the final resolution of the European Parliament. Understandably the official propaganda suppressed this turn as much as possible that is why there is law awareness of this fact nation-wide.

It was also possible to prove with a previous research that in those cases where the government wants to drill some information that they can calculate with reaching out to over 80% of the population. In comparison it is telling that the information unfavorable to the government reaches only 61%, and 54% of the population. It is not surprising that a large proportion of those who have heard the original information also encounter the version of the message reframed by the government propaganda (84%). The most important data from the PPI’s perspective is the proportion of people who believe the government version of the news among those who have heard about the original information, namely the news from the public life, they are the so called homo politicus. This proportion is 44%. The PPI politicus: 44%. To make it clear: those who have heard the original information have also encountered the propaganda message of the government (84% of the 61%), and more than half of these people (44% of the 61%) also believed this message.   

The majority of those who support the parties of the government coalition consider the version presented by the government propaganda true, although they can also encounter the original information in several other platforms that is fundamentally different from the version composed by the propaganda machinery. In the two examined cases we can conclude: one quarter of the population can be efficiently influenced. The PPI Public: 26%. The number of people barely or not at all aware of political news is the highest in the young age group: 28% under 30 years. Above 60 years it is only 8%.

The character of the analyzed statements and the issuing institutions are very different, therefore the applied propaganda techniques are very distinct. The values of the Political Propaganda Indicator however are almost the same. George Clooney is not the European Parliament, his opinion is one of an artist, who spoke about the worldwide danger caused by dictators in relation with his newly released film, and he mentioned Orbán in this context. The mechanism of political propaganda in his case does not transform the statement, but it reframes the connotation, the motive and pretends as if Clooney would be in the grasp of Soros, namely that the billionaire would pull the strings in his case, as it has been already done repeatedly in the case of civil organizations, or while criticizing opposition parties. 84% of those who heard the original statement have also met the government version of the message, and more than half of them also believed this version serving the purposes of political propaganda. To avoid any misunderstanding: 54% of those surveyed who had heard of it at all and 84% of them who encountered the government message. And 44 % of the same 54 % who believe the government’s message is true. The PPI Politicus is 44%, the PPI Public is 27%.

The numbers show that the opinion about the world of almost half of the audience active in public affairs can be easily shaped by government propaganda. Therefore it would be worthy to analyze where the limits of compliance with democratic norms lie in those countries, where the institutions of public information become the distributors of political propaganda instead of providing free flow of information. Can the public information system be transformed to the extent that the legitimacy of the elections becomes questionable? In the past decade, The Orbán-government has changed fundamentally and occupied the overwhelming majority of the Media system. (This road has been paved by the media directly owned by the state, and the Media, TV channels, news portals, radio stations, newspapers controlled by Fidesz-close oligarchs.)

The 1500 person representative sample allowed us to analyze other intersections, as well. We signaled the numbers with a dark red arrow in the attached figures, where we have found significant correlations.

The numbers prove the efficiency of the propaganda machinery, because no matter in which intersection we analyzed the results in every subgroup 80-90% of the asked people have encountered with the government messages among those who have read the original news.

“The purpose of the rule of law criteria is to force Hungary to accept migrants.” The efficiency of delivery of this message was between 80-90% - indifferently from the level of education, the party preference, or the location - so in all analytical intersections. It is especially remarkable that this ratio reaches the 90% in two groups: in villages and among the supporters of the ruling party. In case of respondents with skilled labor education, the ratio is also 89%. It is no surprise to see that the data’s for the supporters of the government and the supporters of the opposition are the each other’s’ opposite reflections, namely one quarter believes one statement and three quarter considers the other statement false, and the other way around depending on whether we ask them about the original statement or the version of the political propaganda. Regarding the statement about the EU it is noteworthy that two third (68%) of those who do not have a strong party preference consider the political propaganda false. Just for clarification: those who do not give any party preference, the size of the “hiding” group is 16%, not to underestimate. When we analyze the efficiency of political propaganda by the structure of settlement, then it is instructive that the best result was reached by the governing coalition when they wanted to communicate the message “the imposing of migrants to Hungary is behind the move disguised under the rule of law conditionality.” to the people living on “other cities”. (52%)

The statement of Clooney reached a bit more than half of the population. When the strategists of political propaganda ponder to what to react or not to react, then the scale could be one of the most important questions. Most probably they did not calculate with the possibility that Clooney would react, if his statement is compromised. At the launch of this research, we did not know whether this case would go on, but during the questioning period there must have been respondents who encountered Clooney’s sharp answer. It is also worth noting when analyzing the data. Another important data is the efficiency of non-disclosure of important information, as there were much more oppositionists who heard this news, than government supporters (67 VS 54%), and only 43% of the respondents without party preference. These numbers are telling compared to the fact that among those who heard the original news at least 80% in every subgroup encountered the comment of the political propaganda namely that Clooney talks like this because of his friendship with Soros.

Concerning the aim of the game, namely how deeply the propaganda succeeds to penetrate the conscience of the society, and what proportion of the political community accepts the messages of political propaganda, even if they are openly refuted: by means of political propaganda they have managed to convince three quarter (74%) of government supporters, and they have achieved a result of 26% among oppositionists and people without party preferences. Concerning the statement of the world famous actor the efficiency of government communication reflects well the results of the previous surveys. It was in the smaller municipalities, where the government propaganda was the most efficient, where half of the respondents believed that Goerge Clooney talked like because he is a friend of Soros (51%).

The Political Propaganda Indicator shows unequivocally that at least one quarter of the citizens take their decisions about the fate of the country being vulnerable to political propaganda to a large extent. The communication system does not offer them free access to information. The basic European right to access independent, free, and objective information is severely damaged in this communication system. 

The article was written based on the joint research of Závecz Research, Dimenzió Media Foundation and Mérték Médiaelemző Műhely. The author: Ferenc Vicsek