Hungarian Academicians Blast Government Over Inquiry Into Research Funds
by John Bohannon on 4 February 2011, 5:05 PM
AAAS Science Insider (February 2011)
An ugly political situation in Hungary has spilled over into academia, prompting an investigation of supposed financial misdeeds on one side and claims of harassment on the other. Humanities scholars are under investigation by the government for alleged misuse of research funds. But their supporters say they are the target of a government crackdown on critics.
It began last summer with what authorities describe as an anonymous tip to police that taxpayer-funded grants for philosophy research were being misspent. A police investigation began, but nothing was heard about it until last month. On 8 January, the office of the prime minister, Viktor Orban, announced to the press that it was launching its own investigation into the use of grant money awarded to five Hungarian philosophers. The scholars have received grants totaling 440 million forints—about $2 million—to support dozens of research projects, postdocs, and students. The commissioner in charge of the investigation, Budai Gyula, did not name specific charges but implied that there was evidence of wrongdoing.
Outside Hungary, some journalists have called the move a government attack on dissidents. But the right-leaning Hungarian media took a different tack, according to critics. "The press has depicted these philosophers as a criminal gang," says Istvan Bodnar, a philosopher at the Central European University in Budapest. One of the accused philosophers, Agnes Heller, has appeared on YouTube (in English) to make the case that they are being persecuted.
Academics have rallied to support the philosophers. "The goal of the accusers, says Bodnar, is "harassment." High-profile philosophers such as Jurgen Habermas have called on the European Union to investigate (in German). And an open letter is circulating, currently signed by over 60 scholars, most of them external or honorary members of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences along with several Nobel laureates. Their letter aims "to defend the accused, on principle, from this singling out for arbitrary retrospective harassment and to oppose the police-state-like interventions," says one of the signatories, Stevan Harnad, a cognitive scientist at the University of Quebec in Montreal. He worries that other politically outspoken academics in Hungary, including scientists, could be targeted next.
In a 31 January press release (in Hungarian), the president of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, physicist Jozsef Palinkas, called for restraint: "[W]ork in progress is threatened by unprofessional and ill-considered comments, and by deliberately generated political mud-slinging, be this from the world of academia, from public administration, or from the activities of the media."
But in an e-mail exchange today with ScienceInsider, Palinkas seemed to backpedal. "In one case, the misspending has been proven by the Internal Financial Auditing Office of the academy," he says. And when asked whether the investigation is politically motivated, Palinkas was adamant that it is not. "In one case, the principal investigator has made harsh and unfounded political statements about the new government, and now the political press are suggesting that this is the reason. But I do not believe this. I do not have any evidence from government officials that this would be the case."
Meanwhile, the Hungarian government is not backing down. Last week the investigation expanded to funding for history researchers.
BRINGING IT ALL OUT INTO THE OPEN
First, heartfelt thanks to John Bohannon for being the first English-language journalist to give these sad and worrisome developments in Hungary the international attention they so urgently needed.
Let me try to describe the situation in a nutshell in 14 points, and then encourage all viewpoints to express themselves here, openly -- and then let the world scientific/scholarly community draw its own conclusions.
1. Hungary is a small country with a difficult historical past and a language comprehensible only to its native populace and a very few courageous foreigners.
2. In this closed system an ever-repeating cycle has evolved in which there is extreme polarization ("us vs them") and blame for most problems is laid on the "enemy," with most efforts directed toward punishing the enemy instead of solving the problem.
3. The polarization divides roughly along right-wing and "left-liberal" lines, but these are not quite the same as they are in western europe and north america -- as will become evident if this discussion manages to bring the voices -- which are currently expressing themselves only in Hungarian -- out into the open.
4. I will point out only that the current government is right-wing, and has shown some inclination lately to control the press more than any other western democracy. I will also point out that the former government was left-wing, and highly corrupt. The government before that one was likewise corrupt, and that government happened to be the very same government as the current government. And before that was the communist government, for about four about four decades, likewise corrupt. And before that was the wartime Fascist government, likewise corrupt. . .
5. So mutual accusations of corruption are completely uninformative and unhelpful.
6. The present "philosopher affair" concerns this same recurrent pattern: The Hungarian research grant system is extremely inefficient (as it is in many countries, but probably even moreso in Hungary), as well as very low on funds (as it is in many countries, but probably moreso in Hungary) because of the global financial crisis. The philosopher affair concerns alleged irregularities connected with research funding.
7. All researchers, everywhere, complain about the funding system: It is unfair. It gives too much money to unworthy projects; it is biassed; some research and researchers are favoured over others. Let's call these these complaints that rival researchers (and rival research fields) make about one another all the time, everywhere, the "generic" complaints.
8. Researchers (and their institutions, and also their funders and funding systems) are also notorious for being sloppy and inefficient (they miss deadlines, they over- or under-spend budgets, they make accounting and reporting errors, etc.). This too is familiar. But researchers are also mostly honest, everywhere, and they try to remedy their sloppiness once it is pointed out -- or if the system becomes sufficiently efficient to make sure they are prevented from happening in the first place. Let's call these these complaints about the implementation and efficiency of compliance with the funding system "systemic" complaints.
9. In addition, there occasionally occurs a genuine instance of major and intentional misuse of research funds on the part of researchers. If researchers do something that is against the rules of the research funding, their funds are revoked and they may have to pay a penalty. Let us call accusations of having done something like this accusations of "rule-breaking."
10. If the intentional researcher malfeasance is not only rule-breaking, but against the law, then the researchers are taken to court. But such things are very rare, and serious, so charges of having done such things are not made lightly. Let us call accusations of having done something like this accusations of "criminality."
11. Now it can be stated what is at issue in the philosopher affair in Hungary: A small number of philosophers has been singled out and accused of a bundle of things, but it is not in the least clear whether the things in the bundle are in the first two categories (generic and systemic complaints) or the second (rule-breaking or criminal charges). The evidence has not been made known. The accusations are blurred and keep mutating. What is aired is mostly just generic and systemic complaints familiar to every funded researcher in the world -- and those do not distinguish the accused philosophers in any way from any other funded researcher anywhere on the planet -- and yet the blurred bundle keeps being treated as rule-breaking or criminal charges, and indeed police have been called in to investigate them (with no result, other than the harassment of police investigations). They have also been looked into by a governmental research funding overseer (Bela Gyulai).
12. The researchers involved are reputable researchers of long standing, some of them world famous. It is not stated why they were singled out for these accusations. The accusations and their targets are not the result of a systematic random audit to detect malfeasance, within or between fields: They are simply a heterogeneous and constantly changing bundle of ad hoc accusations, levelled against them out of the blue, and then turned into a sustained press campaign of vilification by the right wing press.
13. Since all the accused are of the "left-liberal" persuasion, and the two that are widely known internationally are also prominent critics of the current government (but also of past governments, including left-wing ones), the most likely hypothesis is that the accusations are yet again the result of Hungary's unfortunate tendency to blame problems (in this case the inefficiency of the funding system? the corruption of the prior government?) on the "enemy," and to punish the enemy for them -- instead of solving the problem (by reforming the funding system, if that is the problem).
14. All indications -- and of course this is the most worrisome aspect of it all -- are that the campaign of accusation, police-intervention, and press vilification are taking place with the encouragement and involvement of the government, bent, yet again, on punishing its predecessors, critics and other "enemies" rather than on using their turn in office to solve the ongoing problems of the country.
Discussion -- but temperate discussion only -- is invited from all sides. Important distinctions for this discussion:
COMP/MOOT/CRIM & PRO/DEN
I would like to suggest that we all use some abbreviations marking important distinction that will make this discussion easier for observers to follow and understand:
The allegations against the philosophers are of three fundamentally different kinds that need to be carefully distinguished. The first kind – "COMP" (for complaints) -- consists of the kinds of generic allegations that researchers everywhere often make about one another's funding and about the funding system (the allotments were unfair, the system was unfair, etc.). The second kind – "CRIM" (for crimes) -- alleges that either rules or laws have been broken by the philosophers in question. The third kind – "MOOT" (for moot) – alleges that there were egregious practices by the philosophers in question – practices against which there should have been rules or laws, but those rules and laws do not yet exist, and did not exist at the time.
If the reader does not keep clearly in mind the distinctions among generic and systemic complaints (COMP), allegations of practices that ought to be criminalized (MOOT) and allegations of criminality (CRIM), it will be impossible to follow the discussion or draw any coherent conclusion.
At those polarized points in the discussion where the COMP/MOOT/CRIM distinction is particularly crucial, let us call the two contending sides "PRO" (for proponents of criminal allegations [CRIM] against the philosophers) and "DEN" (for deniers of CRIM allegations against the philosophers).
It is the contention of PRO that the accused philosophers have committed crimes (CRIM) and that the deniers (DEN) are biased in favor of the accused, and trying to obstruct justice.
It is the contention of DEN that no crimes (CRIM) have been committed by the accused philosophers, but, rather -- for undisclosed reasons, suspected to be a government policy of retribution against its predecessor government's corruption and selective harassment of its current critics – COMP and MOOT have been systematically escalated by PRO into allegations of crime (CRIM) against the accused philosophers.
In commenting and responding, it will be a great help if everyone identifies clearly when they are speaking of COMP, MOOT or CRIM (and, where relevant, whether their own position is PRO or DEN regarding CRIM in particular).
The basic fact here is that we do not know the facts. There is a police investigation underway which will sooner or later uncover, or not uncover, facts. Then there might be, or not be, court proceedings. Then we will know what the facts, if there are facts, amount to. We have no reason to believe that the Hungarian judicial system is basically or systematically flawed. From a distance, it appears that a group of people who are closely interconnected have some years ago received an abnormally high amount of project sums, with unconvincing research topics. That at least some of those sums were spent in irregular ways might well turn out to be the case. -- I have been the director of the Institute for Philosophical Research between 1995 and 2005. Also, I am a member of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences. My own problem with the Heller group has nothing to do with the present allegations, which might turn out to be untrue, or even true (a nasty alternative). The controversy I for years had with them is about output in philosophy being subject to scientifiv criteria. They maintain it is not. I maintain it is. Obviously the answer here will affect jobs and money. This is the real issue - everything else is a smoke screen, a phoney discussion, and a martyrdom act.
Request 1. Where did you make your controversy with Heller and co public?
Request 2. You disagree with Heller and co. about "output in philosophy being subject to scientific criteria." I find this statement rather vague. What do you mean by this? Operationalisation? By pages or bits, or volumes, or content? I am sure you published about this opinion of yours where you specified the meaning of "scientific criteria" more precisely. Could you please tell us where can we read these studies?
Request 3. Could you please specify scientifically whom do you think are the "they"? For example where would you assign my humble person to? To the Heller group, or not? And where would you rank Borbely?
In 2001 under number 5/179 Kristof Nyiri himself got a grant of 48 million Forints, which - taking into account the inflation - is not less than any of the "abnormally high amount of project sums" he refers to.
See under No. 5 at
Dear Istvan Mayer, you must know perfectly well that I did not recieve anything of the kind you suggest. In my capacity of Director of the Institute for Philosopical Research of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, I submitted the research project "Reception and Creativity", which in an impeccable and transparent selection process won top points, and after three years published the (highly interesting and novel) research results in 7 ambitions volumes ( see http://www.phil-inst.hu/recepcio ). The actual research was co-ordinated by the Deputy Director of the Institute, historian & philosopher of science Gabor Pallo. We took care that there should be no financial connection between the project and my humble self. I am very proud of the project.
This is doublespeak. Every project had to have a title, and list a chief researcher. In the case of your project, it was you. Exaclty like in our case: "Philosophy of Religion and the actuality of religions in society". Chief researcher: G.Borbely. He (Borbely) never "recieved anything of the kind" the press campaign suggested. Like yourself. Your HUF 43 m grant (and let us not forget, your HUF 70 m grant in 2003 from the Ministry of Information Technology and Communication) was exactly of the same nature as ours - it was given to the Institute of Philosophy for a project. Where lies the structural difference then?
A minor point: I don't know whether you remember, but it was you who signed the project application since in those days (back in 2005) you were the director of the Insitute. You must remember then that the project had to contain a detailed budget, with a yearly schedule, plus performance indicators. These you approved then. The final memorandum in 2009 stated that the indicators have been fulfilled.
It seems Istvan Mayer has withdrawn his messages. I wish everyone would do the same. This is an entirely pointless discussion, following upon an entirely misguided article here, related to entirely spurious political allegations. Let us please return to work.
I have reinstated that comment of mine to which Kristof Nyiri has already responded. It was deleted by mistake.
THE HUNGARIAN PHILOSOPHER AFFAIR:
ON NYIRI ON MARTYRDOM
The following is posted with permission from a recent email exchange with Professor Nyiri:
NYIRI (Jan 28):
"Stevan, you are making a bad mistake. You should not protest when not knowing the facts. The facts are not at all unambiguous."
HARNAD (Feb 2):
"I am prepared to correct my mistake. Could you please write me the facts?"
NYIRI (Feb 2):
"Dear Istvan, the basic fact of course is that we do not know the facts. That is why I suggested that rush action should be halted. There is a police investigation underway which will sooner or later uncover, or not uncover, facts. Then there might be, or not be, court proceedings. Then we will know what the facts, if there are facts, amount to. We have no reason to believe that the Hungarian judicial system is basically or systematically flawed. --- On a less formal level, let me say that clearly a group of people who are closely interconnected have some years ago received an abnormally high amount of project sums, with unconvincing research topics. That at least some of those sums were spent in irregular ways seems to be clear. --- Finally, and this is something you should please not quote: Heller and company are, all contrary appearances notwithstanding, entirely continuous with Rakosi and Kadar. To this day, they are terrorizing Hungarian intellectual life. The issue is whether they will remain in a position to continue to do so. Warm regards, Kr."
NYIRI (Feb 2):
"On second thoughts, you can quote, if you want to, the Rakosi and Kadar bits."
End of email exchange.
The reader may wish to compare the end of the posted version of Professor Nyiri's statement with the end of the email version, below [EMPHASIS ADDED]:
NYIRI POSTING (Feb 4):
"My own problem with the Heller group has nothing to do with the present allegations. The controversy I for years had with them is about output in philosophy being subject to scientific criteria. They maintain it is not. I maintain it is. Obviously the answer here will affect jobs and money. This is THE REAL ISSUE - everything else is a smoke screen, a phoney discussion, and a martyrdom act."
NYIRI EMAIL (Feb 2):
"Heller and company are, all contrary appearances notwithstanding, entirely continuous with Rakosi and Kadar. To this day, they are terrorizing Hungarian intellectual life. THE ISSUE is whether they will remain in a position to continue to do so."
I leave it to the reader to judge the degree to which this sort of thinking is illustrative of the very sad and worrisome "us vs. them" score-settling tendency (stretching back 97 years or beyond, in the view of Professor Hornok) that I described in my opening posting "Bringing It All Out Into the Open."
(I will add only that it is not at all apparent how Professor Nyiri's response -- that he won top points in an impeccable and transparent selection process for a highly interesting and novel research project that was funded and for which he is very proud, no doubt justifiably -- answers Professor Mayer's observation that the size of the funding Professor Nyiri was awarded was no less than any of the "abnormally high amount of project sums" he refers to. But let us agree that bickering about this sort thing is common among rival researchers (COMP) and is clearly not about the high crimes and misdemeanors that we have agreed to call CRIM and about which we are concerned here.)
Fiscal accountability belongs to standard practices of science: scientists who use taxpayers money are responsible to the society for the use of the funds they receive for the purpose they were funded. Fraud must be unveiled, criminal practices must be prosecuted. It is the right of the society to probe whether the funds were used in an appropriate manner. It is the responsibility of legal entities to provide justice and prosecute (or acquit) those who violate the law. A group of international scientists launched an initiative in support of a group of Hungarian philosophers to interfere in a Hungarian inquiry related to possible abuse of public funds. In addition to fund abuse, criminal charges related to fraud and tax evasion are also considered. The authors of the initiative consider the allegations politically motivated and believe that these lack substance. In an open letter the president of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences (HUS) was requested to "take a prompt, prominent and uneqivocal public position in support of the research and researchers thus attacked...". This requests nothing less than jumping to conclusions prior to unveiling justice. Those, who know the situation best, i.e. the resident Members of the HUS, were not addressed assuming that in their homeland they might be prosecuted when they make their opinion heard. This is a ridiculous and politically loaded assumption. Meanwhile an emotional discussion broke out also in this forum. As external HUS member I urged the authors to withdraw their letter, and remain factual as opposed to arguing by using pompous rhetoric and hide the facts behind a smokescreen of general academic principles to which all scientists of stature subscribe. In my opinion they should wait for the outcome of the inquiries as if the accused have nothing to fear, justice will surely be provided. The group of the accused philosophers believe that they have been harrassed. The use of the harrassment argument may provide a smokescreen to divert the attention from the facts. The questions are whether the law was broken, and whether the fiscal responsibility of principal scientists has been abused. I pointed out that the open letter lacked facts. I believe that no one should rush into premature and unsubstantiated conclusions without facts. Professor Daniel Dennett, a world leading philosopher and one of the three signatories of the open letter meanwhile withdrew his signature as he recognized that he is not in the possession of enough information which would allow him to lend his name to this action. But do we have enough information? Has public money been abused? Has the law been broken? Has a group of scholars abused their influence? Let's see what the results of the inquiry will tell. Meanwhile my advise is for all those who support this initiative to remain professional, and stick to the facts, for ugly and polarized accusations surely will not help to unveil the truth.
THE HUNGARIAN PHILOSOPHER AFFAIR: ON VANCSO ON SMOKE-SCREENS
-- "Fiscal accountability belongs to standard practices of science: scientists who use taxpayers money are responsible to the society for the use of the funds they receive for the purpose they were funded."
It is important for everyone to note that all sides – both PRO and DEN – agree on this point. The inadequacy of the current funding system and the need for reform are not a point of disagreement.
(1) Research funding requires a system of reliable, rigorous accountability, to make sure that funds are properly used, in accordance with explicit funding rules and procedures, as well as with the law of the land.
(2) If the rules and procedures and/or the methods of auditing and accountability of the previous government's funding system were inadequate (as everyone agrees they were) then that system of rules and procedures and its methods of auditing and accountability need to be reformed. And if the prior law of the land was not adequate, then that too must be changed.
(3) But what is a first fundamental point of disagreement between PRO and DEN is that, if the prior system's rules and procedures and its methods of auditing and accountability were indeed inadequate and in need of reform (as everyone agrees they were) then what is needed is to reform the system, not to seek retroactive retribution against an arbitrarily targeted subset of scholars to avenge the fact that the prior system was inadequate.
(4) The second fundamental point of disagreement between PRO and DEN is that if retrospective recriminations and retribution are to take priority over reform, then that retribution can only be done even-handedly: That means that either a systematic total audit must be done of all prior funding under the old system in the time-frame in question (the past ten years) -- or at least the systematic audit of a blind random sample -- to identify whether and which research projects have either violated the old rules or broken the existing laws (CRIM).
(5) What is in no way acceptable or justifiable is to single out a handful of funded research projects a priori -- for whatever a priori reason, and certainly not COMP or MOOT reasons – for selective allegations of CRIM and selective investigations of CRIM -- without first having done a systematic and even-handed prior comparison with the rest of the research funded under the old system to see whether any egregious cases really emerge.
(6) For if all or most or even many of the funded research projects during this period show the same symptoms of the inadequacy of the current funding system, then selectively singling out the accused – merely on COMP or MOOT grounds – is merely arbitrary scape-goating and harassment.
-- "Fraud must be unveiled, criminal practices must be prosecuted."
Yes indeed, but has fraud (CRIM) been demonstrated? Has criminality been proven? Are these not rather strong words to be used when nothing has been proven and the only thing that seems certain is that the rules and procedures and the auditing and answerability of the existing funding system were inadequate? Performing in accordance with the rules and procedures and the auditing and answerability of an inadequate system (whether COMP or MOOT) is not synonymous with CRIM.
And if the presumption is that there have indeed been significant violations of the existing rules and procedures of the existing (inadequate) system during the time period in question (CRIM), then on what basis have the 5-6 accused philosophers in particular been singled out for this presumption?
Violations (if any) of the existing rules and procedures (CRIM) of an inadequate system could have been frequent or rare or anything in between. The way to find out is through a systematic audit (total or blind/random), across all funded fields.
-- "It is the right of the society to probe whether the funds were used in an appropriate manner."
This is indisputably true, PRO and DEN both agree on it, and if it had been decided to do an exhaustive retroactive audit of all research projects funded during the decade in question – or even a blind random sample across projects and fields – no one could or would have cried foul, either at the audit or the outcome (if the outcome was that some projects had either broken rules or the law [CRIM], whereas many or most had not).
It is a pragmatic question whether -- after 10 years of implementing a funding system whose rules and procedures, and methods of accountability, were inadequate -- the best use of time and funds is to do a total retroactive audit in order to find and punish prior infractions, or rather to channel efforts into designing and implementing a reformed funding system, with clear rules and procedures, and rigorous methods of ongoing auditing and accountability.
But whether the decision is for proactive reform or retroactive retribution, the methods have to be fair and unbiased. Singling out a handful of philosophers for selective scrutiny, with no population baseline for comparison, is at best an ad hoc fishing expedition and at worst ad hominem harassment.
-- "It is the responsibility of legal entities to provide justice and prosecute (or acquit) those who violate the law."
Undisputed. This is not the subject of disagreement.
-- "A group of international scientists launched an initiative in support of a group of Hungarian philosophers to interfere in a Hungarian inquiry related to possible abuse of public funds."
If the initiative in question here is the Open Letter -- by External and Honorary members of the Hungarian Academy of Science asking the President to support the accused philosophers and oppose those accusing them of unproven wrongdoing -- it is not at all clear why Professor Vancso describes this as interference in a legal inquiry.
If public accusations (PRO) of criminality (CRIM) against the philosophers by the press and public officials (including the President of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences) are not interfering with any legal inquiry, then how are public statements in their defense (DEN) doing so?
Is it not reasonable to ask why the inquiry was directed at this group of philosophers? what the basis for the selection and comparison was? and why the outcome is being pre-judged and the accused being vilified in the Government-supported press when there has been no factual or juridical outcome
-- "In addition to fund abuse, criminal charges related to fraud and tax evasion are also considered."
Charges (CRIM) are easy to make, but what is the evidence, and what is the verdict? Under Hungary's tax laws (I am told), it is currently legal (MOOT) and widely done (among laymen, professionals and researchers alike) for individuals to receive income in private corporations that are taxed at lower rates than personal income. That sounds like one of the laws worth reforming.
But it is not at all clear why these philosophers been singled out to be charged with this, since it is so widespread, and ostensibly legal (MOOT). Was a systematic audit done, and these philosophers turned out to be the only practitioners, or among the few? Or is the practice common, and they were singled out to be accused of it for another reason?
-- "The authors of the initiative consider the allegations politically motivated and believe that these lack substance. In an open letter the president of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences (HUS) was requested to 'take a prompt, prominent and uneqivocal public position in support of the research and researchers thus attacked...'. This requests nothing less than jumping to conclusions prior to unveiling justice."
It is not at all clear why claiming that crimes (CRIM) have been committed and proven (as is already repeatedly being done in this Forum) is not "jumping to conclusions prior to unveiling justice" (PRO) whereas saying they have not (DEN), is.
-- "Those, who know the situation best, i.e. the resident Members of the HUS, were not addressed assuming that in their homeland they might be prosecuted when they make their opinion heard. This is a ridiculous and politically loaded assumption."
The Open Letter is an Open Letter, and of course Internal members are free to co-sign. They were not explicitly invited in order not to put them on the spot, one way or the other. Surely this point is not difficult to understand.
-- "Meanwhile an emotional discussion broke out also in this forum. As external HUS member I urged the authors to withdraw their letter and remain factual as opposed to arguing by using pompous rhetoric and hide the facts behind a smokescreen of general academic principles to which all scientists of stature subscribe... they should wait for the outcome of the inquiries as if the accused have nothing to fear, justice will surely be provided. The group of the accused philosophers believe they have been harassed. The use of the harassment argument may provide a smokescreen to divert the attention from the facts. The questions are whether the law was broken and whether the fiscal responsibility of principal scientists has been abused... the open letter lacked facts... no one should rush into premature and unsubstantiated conclusions without facts."
The defenders against the accusations (DEN) certainly share Professor Vancso's belief that no one should rush into premature and unsubstantiated conclusions without facts. But it is unfortunately not at all clear that the promulgators of the accusations themselves (PRO) share that belief.
I am not sure what Professor Vancso means by "an emotional discussion broke out also in this forum" (if by forum he means the exchange of emails among the signatories of the Open Letter). Professor Vancso wrote his own response to the Open Letter on the day it was sent (January 28), branching it to the first 3 signatories and the President of the Academy. To my knowledge, the only other communication was my invitation to him (on February 5) to post his views to SciInsider (which he has now kindly done, for which many thanks!).
But what was the "emotional discussion"? Is Professor Vancso referring to the present forum (SciInsider?) (Perhaps there was another series of email exchanges to which not everyone on Professor Vancso's original CC list was privy?)
Apart from this, I would add that it is indeed true, quite symmetrically, that both the PRO and DEN lack facts. However, there is also an asymmetry that is not being very conscientiously acknowledged: the presumption of innocence until/unless guilt is proven. Already several who have posted to ScienceInsider have illustrated how confidently one can pass from acknowledging that no one knows whether crimes have been committed at all, to speaking of the obviousness of the crimes (CRIM) - indeed the long history of crimes - of the accused.
There is no "smokescreen of general academic principles" here (are principles smokescreens?): It is not known that anyone has committed any crime. Hence the only question is, why are so many people speaking about CRIM in connection with the philosophers in question? Why were they singled out? And why is there this polarization between PRO and DEN when everyone (including the Academy) should be taking the side of presumptive innocence until/unless facts prove otherwise.
-- "Professor Daniel Dennett, a world leading philosopher and one of the three signatories of the open letter meanwhile withdrew his signature as he recognized that he is not in the possession of enough information which would allow him to lend his name to this action. But do we have enough information? Has public money been abused? Has the law been broken? Has a group of scholars abused their influence? Let's see what the results of the inquiry will tell. Meanwhile my advise is for all those who support this initiative to remain professional, and stick to the facts, for ugly and polarized accusations surely will not help to unveil the truth."
Again, there is no disagreement at all that ugly and polarized accusations will not help unveil the truth. But let us not forget that the only accused ones are the philosophers in question, and they are accused of having committed crimes (CRIM); those ugly and polarized accusations against them are coming from their accusers (PRO); and the other side is defending (DEN) from them. Unlike the accused philosophers, no one is being accused (let alone prosecuted) of a crime by the defenders. (Please let us confuse the fact that (1) the two sides, PRO and DEN, do not always have the most flattering opinion of one another with (2) accusations of crime [CRIM].)
My own guess (but Professor Vancso can correct me on this) is that the "emotional discussion" to which Professor Vancso refers was in fact the "torrent of messages both condemning and supporting" his having signed the Open Letter that eventually persuaded Dan Dennett – the kindest and fairest of men, someone I love and admire, and to whom I am greatly indebted personally -- to ask me to transmit to the President of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences the message that "I simply do not know enough about the specific issues to have a responsible opinion about how the principles enunciated in the letter, to which I do fully subscribe, should be applied in this situation... I must withdraw my signature in order not to be drawn into this polarized atmosphere." (The resultant emotion in the PRO press all the ensuing week was jubilation! The polarized atmosphere is now on display here.)
My hope is that the ScienceInsider forum will show that when it comes to taking sides between accusing (PRO) of crime (CRIM) and defending against accusations of crime (DEN), the truth is not necessarily in the middle.
But first we need a few more iterations of this discussion to get all the prima facie allegations (COMP, MOOT and CRIM) (and the motives for making them) out into the open.
[Ed. Note: "Istvan Magyar" is a false name]
"The scholars have received grants totaling 440 million forints—about $2 million—to support dozens of research projects, postdocs, and students" This is just false. The fact is that an overwhelming majority of the money went into the pockets of well-connected and well-paid philosophers having two, three or in Vajda's case five other sources of income. This happened either through personal accounts or personal businesses, and frequently with an obvious violation of the law. The money didn't go into philosophical research. So before writing an article like this, one should perhaps explore the facts instead of asking one obviously biased philosopher, Bodnar, who is also listed in one of the projects. The recipe is well-known: ask the one who says what you want to hear, don't bother if he is part of the plot.
The evidence is entirely public, has been made so by the condemned press on the government's side. A move which the press on the left would never have made, as these facts are true but harmful to their favourite intellectuals, most of the time personal friends of the editors themselves. One should just think about the regular dinners Heller has with the editor of the "independent" Nepszabadsag.
So, what Harnad and Bohannon say is just ignorance. They don't mention the money that was pocketed by these philosophers through contracts signed with themselves, with their very own businesses, etc. All these facts are public, including the amounts that landed in their hands. And at least Harnad should be able to read Hungarian... especially if he is organizing resistance against what? A legal investigation... obstructing justice? If the facts made public by Magyar Nemzet were false, there should have been a lot of legal cases initiated, but there are none. Why not if all these facts, unknown to these combative intellectuals here, are false? So, contrary to Nyiri, we do know facts: stated by the press and undisputed by these philosophers. (By the way, there are several other projects and other businesses under investigation as well, not only philosophers' and historians'. So, watch out, there may be some other white-collar criminals needing your support.)
1. "The scholars have received grants totaling 440 million forints—about $2 million—to support dozens of research projects, postdocs, and students." This is TRUE. In our project there was one doctoral student (Vera Szanto), two postdocs (Peter Losonczi, Daniel Schmal), and 9 other researchers, for three years. This was only one project. It is up to the others to tell the figures of their projects, but Radnoti made all his contracts public, and as far as I know Vajda's project involved many people as well. Could you please specify why would these facts be dismissible?
2. "The scholars" (please pay attention to the subject) "have received" x amount, since, well, it depends on how you calculate the subject field. The whole Jedlik program granted HUF 11 bn. that year. The humanities projects received 1,5 billion HUF. A marketing research project (Thummerer) received 300m. A medieval music project (Dobszay) 50,3 m. And so on. Why do you count only the "philosophers"? Have all projects been investigated, and only these four found guilty?
3. "The money didn't go into philosophical research." False. I published one book with the Academy Press, edited one, contributed to two, plus one more book-worth set of studies available electronically on the website of the Institute of Philosophy, HAS. I am aware of two volume in Radnoti's project as well.
I think you should look for the facts first, and only then charge others with ignorance.
It is surprising to see that Istvan Mayer is identical to Himself Afraid (just check his profile). There is no good reason why he (she?) should conceal his identity. Rather he (she?) should step forward and discuss his views openly for the benefit of all of us.
ISTVAN MAYER vs. "ISTVAN MAGYAR"
Note to the perplexed reader: Please do not confuse Istvan Mayer and "Istvan Magyar"
Dr. Istvan Mayer is a bona fide chemical physicist at the Chemical Research Center of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, posting honestly, under his real name, and posting chiefly defences [Den] of the accused (though postings by individuals should not be assumed to represent the views of their institutions).
"Istvan Magyar" is one or more individuals posting accusations [PRO] of CRIM against the accused under a false name.
THE HUNGARIAN PHILOSOPHER AFFAIR: ON "MAGYAR" ON WHITE-COLLAR CRIME
--"The scholars have received grants totaling 440 million forints—about $2 million—to support dozens of research projects, postdocs, and students" This is just false. The fact is that an overwhelming majority of the money went into the pockets of well-connected and well-paid philosophers having two, three or in Vajda's case five other sources of income."
Reminder to the reader in this litany of allegations: Is this a claim that the law has been broken (CRIM)? Or that there were practices that were permissible under the current funding system that ought to me made impermissible (MOOT)? Or is this just a generic complaint that researchers have received more funding than I think they deserved (COMP)?
--"This happened either through personal accounts or personal businesses, and frequently with an obvious violation of the law."
Surely whether or not there has been "an obvious violation of the law" (CRIM) is for the courts to decide. Apart from that, all we have here is a confident accusation of criminality (PRO).
--"The money didn't go into philosophical research. So before writing an article like this, one should perhaps explore the facts instead of asking one obviously biased philosopher, Bodnar, who is also listed in one of the projects. The recipe is well-known: ask the one who says what you want to hear, don't bother if he is part of the plot."
It is not clear whether under these circumstances either PRO or DEN are a reliable source of facts.But is it obvious that if a philosopher is "listed" in one of the projects this means he is biased, or "part of the plot" (what plot?). Is this fact obvious in the same way that there has been "an obvious violation of the law" (CRIM)?
--"The evidence is entirely public, has been made so by the condemned press on the government's side. A move which the press on the left would never have made, as these facts are true but harmful to their favourite intellectuals, most of the time personal friends of the editors themselves. One should just think about the regular dinners Heller has with the editor of the "independent" Nepszabadsag."
The government-side press has been public about the alleged evidence of the alleged crime (PRO). That is undisputed. There is some difficulty, however, in following the logic of what follows: Should the non-government-side press (DEN) have accepted those allegations as proven? Should it have published an admission of guilt (CRIM)? Perhaps a disclosure of the cost of the dinners? What is the point?
--"So, what Harnad and Bohannon say is just ignorance. They don't mention the money that was pocketed by these philosophers through contracts signed with themselves, with their very own businesses, etc. All these facts are public, including the amounts that landed in their hands. And at least Harnad should be able to read Hungarian..."
It is not at all obvious to what extent these are either facts or public. But what is most non-obvious of all is whether they are crimes (CRIM), i.e., illegal. And if they are not illegal, whether they ought to be made illegal (MOOT) – or whether instead they were legitimate uses of the awarded funds to pay for salaries or the conduct of research, and simply became the object of complaints (COMP) from those who were not awarded funds. None of this is at all obvious, whether or not one reads Hungarian, and regardless of whom one listens to. One can nevertheless form one's own provisional judgment, and that can indeed be based on something that is obvious: That there is no basis – obvious or subtle -- for concluding that any crime (CRIM) has been committed; and hence that those who argue that it is obvious that a crime has been committed (PRO) are obviously wrong. Their motive is unclear, but it is clear that the accused philosophers (and any others who become similar targets) need to be defended against such confident allegations of "obvious" criminality.
--"especially if [Harnad] is organizing resistance against what? A legal investigation... obstructing justice? If the facts made public by Magyar Nemzet were false, there should have been a lot of legal cases initiated, but there are none. Why not if all these facts, unknown to these combative intellectuals here, are false?
It is not clear whether "Professor Magyar" is alleging that the drafters and the signatories of the Open Letter are obstructing justice. (If so, I don't plan to try to sue him for libel!) As stated in the Open Letter, erroneous, hyperbolic and tendentious public assertions are made all the time in the media, worldwide, and are and should be ignored (especially when they are about (and by) researchers!). In Hungary today, though, it seems that certain kinds of tendentious public assertions (PRO) are not only given heed, but even acted upon (perhaps even encouraged) by the authorities. I know no reason not to have confidence in the freedom of the courts in Hungary; the grounds for confidence in the freedom of the press are perhaps not quite as firm. But is "Professor Magyar" suggesting that if things are alleged in Magyar Nemzet that makes them facts? Or is it things that are alleged without a subsequent libel suit that thereby become facts?
--"So, contrary to Nyiri, we do know facts: stated by the press and undisputed by these philosophers. (By the way, there are several other projects and other businesses under investigation as well, not only philosophers' and historians'. So, watch out, there may be some other white-collar criminals needing your support.)"
--We would have to watch out indeed, if this were to become the way that facts are now determined in Hungary. Our Open Letter was not written to obstruct justice, but to try to preserve it – from this.
Dear Professor Harnad, 'press allegations' are facts if substantiated by documents, which is apparently the case here. Documents are cited, even reproduced in Magyar Nemzet. Not a single philosopher has disputed their authenticity. Maybe from your angle there are no facts. But then I don't see why you, before organizing your open letter and this thing here, shouldn't have taken more care of being informed on what's going on. So, I don't diverge into conspiracy theory, I'm just asking the following question: why didn't you do so, and why did you start organising a campagin when apparently not knowing anything? Maybe you can give an answer that throws some rational light on this seemingly irrational move. (Defending principles is not a good answer: without knowing the facts you cannot know which principles should be defended.)
Well, I suggest you consult 7001/2005. (MK 170.) FMM-PM and 1992. 33. (KJT) Then you will see that criminal charges are not at all rebutted (which, by the way, should be judged by the relevant authorities and not philosophers not knowing the passages quoted above), and that cheating on taxes is a real issue here. Borbely just followed one of the usual paths in this interview by not answering a single central question. It was easy for him to do so, the interview was made by a friendly, leftist television, not asking relevant questions like: Have you signed a contract with yourself? Is it true that almost 15% of the project money has landed directly in your own hands? Is it true that a third of the project money has landed in the hands of government advisors and officials? Is it true that altogether more than two thirds of the money went to the pockets of carefully selected individuals -- and less than a third was spent on overhead and equipment (plus travelling around the world a bit)? And several other embarrassing but substantial questions are not asked by the press on the left, or the author of this stub, or Harnad. These are the only scenes where these philosophers are inclined to appear: they wouldn't answer a single substantial question coming from the press on the government's side. Well, they are not very good at following the laws, but they can preach about fairness without extending its principles to themselves.
Competing interest: see below
"MAGYAR": Well, I suggest you consult 7001/2005. (MK 170.) FMM-PM and 1992. 33. (KJT) Then you will see that criminal charges are not at all rebutted (which, by the way, should be judged by the relevant authorities and not philosophers not knowing the passages quoted above), and that cheating on taxes is a real issue here
BODNAR: You certainly should be more specific about 1992. XXXIII (Kjt), that is quite an extensive bill about civil servants. 7001/2005. FMM-PM, indeed, contains relevant passages – and the very fact that the granting agency approved that the project should be completed on a contractual basis, with the mini-enterprises of the participants, means that what should be accepted as a relevant authority judged this modus operandi within the context of the guidelines contained in 7001/2005. FMM-PM legal and valid.
"MAGYAR"'s proposed interview questions, numbered: (1) Have you signed a contract with yourself? (2) Is it true that almost 15% of the project money has landed directly in your own hands? (3) Is it true that a third of the project money has landed in the hands of government advisors and officials? (4) Is it true that altogether more than two thirds of the money went to the pockets of carefully selected individuals -- and less than a third was spent on overhead and equipment (plus travelling around the world a bit)?
BODNAR: These four questions would make a phoney interview, and repeating them ad nauseam in the press does not constitute fair and balanced reporting. All four of these questions should be placed in the relevant context – the context of the first has already been provided by Borbely in his interview; when answering the second one should measure what Borbely's involvement in the project was, as project leader and researcher; the third should be redirected into a question about the relevant academic merits of the participants (irrespective of their political opinions and affiliations). The fourth is a gem – Let me reformulate, and break it up into smaller bits: is it the case that philosophical research is mostly done by people doing philosophy? Is it true that you need to select the researchers of a project carefully? Is it true that the required amount of overhead was paid, and furthermore equipment was purchased? Is it true that philosophers need to travel to libraries and conferences?
"MAGYAR": These [the press on the left etc.] are the only scenes where these philosophers are inclined to appear: they wouldn't answer a single substantial question coming from the press on the government's side.
BODNAR: This is patently false – see Borbely's lines in the 11 January issue of Magyar Nemzet. Moreover, I find it pathological that Magyar speaks of the press on the government's side. Media outlets, in normal countries, have ideological and political leanings. But they are not on the government's side as such. Because if they are – as in the case of some newspapers, TV stations etc. here in Hungary – they cannot be independent fora of a free press.
"MAGYAR": 1. "Is it true that a third of the project money has landed in the hands of government advisors and officials?"
No. The allegation is false. I have finished my part-time advisory work in December 2002. There was not a single gvt official in the research group. Gyorgy Gabor in the first part of the project was part-time gvt. advisor, but he also resigned in 2006, if I remember correctly. He was no official either.
"MAGYAR": 2. "These are the only scenes where these philosophers are inclined to appear: they wouldn't answer a single substantial question coming from the press on the government's side."
Presumption, false. Agnes Heller appeared on MTV (and was mistreated ). I was never asked to show up to answer the allegations, despite the fact that I have sent faxes, even contacted via intermediaries Magyar Hirlap, Hir Tv, Magyar Nemzet. Magyar Hirlap was the only one which corrected a single false accusation (that I, being an employee of Borbely, would have signed his interim output report - a false statement made by the Special Commissioner, too). There was no approach from the others. Again, letters to the editor of Magyar Nemzet were not published, being critical of the charges (Gabor Gulyas, and others).
Competing interest: I am the director of the Institute of Philosophy of Eotvos University, where one of the accused projects was run, and I personally took some part in that project. Moreover, Gabor Borbely, previously director of the Institute of Philosophical Research, and leader of one of the accused projects works now in my Institute and within that, in my department (Department of Ancient and Medieval Philosophy).
"MAGYAR": (By the way, Palinkas didn't 'backpedal', he just stated what is true: he has first hand knowledge of one project (led by Bodnar's friend), where 'misspending has been proven' by his own administration before the government office did so. He knows, unlike the author here, the facts of the other projects, too, but those did not belong to the Academy. Also, Palinkas quite rightly has just raised the issue of cheating on taxes in relation to this project, just to add to the pool of criminal charges.)
BODNAR: Palinkas' remarks on ATV (3 Feb) and Duna TV (4 Feb) were helpfully corrected by Borbely in an interview on ATV (4 Feb), see http://atv.hu/cikk/video-20110204_borbely_gabor
For those who cannot follow an interview in Hungarian, some items: funds were spent exactly as specified in the contract which was concluded with the funding agency (NKTH) when the grant was awarded in 2005. Hence tax fraud, on the part of the researchers when observing this contract with the granting agency, is simply out of question. Overhead was paid, and equipment was purchased from the grant for the Institute of Philosophical Research, the institute headed by Borbely at that time. I guess this rebuts the charges of CRIM leveled against this project.
FULL DISCLOSURE: NO COMPETING INTERESTS AND NO PRIOR KNOWLEDGE OF ANY OF THE ACCUSED
May I cheerfully reassure Professors Magyar and Kovacs that I have no competing interests whatsoever and I have no prior knowledge of any of the accused or their work or even their reputations. My involvement is based purely on questions of principle, which is what we are trying to lay bare here.
Professor Kovacs, no, the attack is not on Hungary's "free press," it is on the accused philosophers, by (among others) Hungary's "free press."
"Professor Magyar", no, press allegations are not facts.
And may I respectfully suggest focussing on objective questions and answers (about COMP, MOOT, and especially CRIM, and the objective grounds on which these particular scholars were singled out as targets for investigations and allegations) rather than diverging into worries about conspiracies, whether in favour of accused individuals or against free presses?
"Humanities scholars are under investigation by the government for alleged misuse of research funds."
This is an outright lie. The investigations were started by the free press (Magyar Nemzet, Magyar Hirlap, HirTV, index.hu, origo.hu all wrote about the irregularities surrounding these grants) and continued by the Hungarian police. Neither the Free Press nor the Hungarian police is the government.
What is going on here is an all-out attack on the Free Press in Hungary. When the press writes about shady dealings and corruption of leftists or liberals, an immediate campaign is started to silence the press. It is clear that some people simply cannot accept these investigations by the press of corruption.
Do you think Zuschlag (MSZP), Hagyo (MSZP), or Hunvald (MSZP), could ever be jailed if the press could not cover their corruption in full detail? It is interesting that all the biggest corruption scandals were uncovered by the non-leftist press. All of investigative journalism by done by the independent and the right wing press as in the last 8 years the left wing press simply kept quiet about all of the MSZP corruption scandals. You could never figure out why so many MSZP politicians are in jail currently if you read Nepszabadsag, Nepszava and similar.
Contrary to what the article implies this whole investigation was started and maintained by the press in Hungary. You can try to silence them but it will not work.
What's more important is the participation of the Hungarian people. Hungarian internet forums blogs and web pages are full of outraged people writing about these philosophers. Believe me the Hungarian people were not happy when they found out that hundreds of millions of forints were spent for projects that produce no useful benefit, in a country where several dozen people freeze to death each year due to lack of homeless shelters. Where the lack of funding in healthcare is the cause of countless more deaths. Then people rightly feel that "philosophy" shouldn't be funded with such outrageous sums.
If the sentence: "Humanities scholars are under investigation by the government for alleged misuse of research funds." is a lie, than it is false. Could you please answer the following question: is it true, or not, that humanities scholars are under investigation by the gvt for alleged misuse of funds." If it is true, it is not a lie. If it is false, then I don't know what are we talking about. What is Special Commissioner Budai talking about reporting to the police his findings?
I just don't get Harnad's point. Here we have everything: COMP, CRIM, MOOT. All these can be known from Magyar Nemzet and from Budai's office (contrary to what is stated here, he did make public the facts his investigation revealed). Both state clear facts and those facts are undisputed as of today. Why should anyone invest time and effort into adding supplements to an article like this? Shouldn't the author of the article has taken good care of collecting all the relevant facts instead of presenting a couple of dozen biased lines? Why didn't he feel obliged to proceed that way instead of publishing this subnormally informed stub? Is this just another favour to friends in Hungary which we grew used to over the last couple of weeks, or rather years? So, instead of encouraging us to do the work you should have done after you had decided to write this thing here, please be so kind and publish disinterested reports that are sensitive to the facts (even if you are not interested in them, others may be). Or am I mistaken and that's not your aim?
(By the way, Palinkas didn't 'backpedal', he just stated what is true: he has first hand knowledge of one project (led by Bodnar's friend), where 'misspending has been proven' by his own administration before the government office did so. He knows, unlike the author here, the facts of the other projects, too, but those did not belong to the Academy. Also, Palinkas quite rightly has just raised the issue of cheating on taxes in relation to this project, just to add to the pool of criminal charges.)
The Hungarian grant system has been re-built according to West-European models after 1990 and this system now is compatible with that of the EU.
(i) Grants from the National Office for Research and Technology (NORT) and the Hungarian Scientific Research Fund (HSRF) support technological/industrial development projects and basic research, respectively. Calls for submitting new proposals are widely announced, the projects are evaluated by anonymous reviewers, opinions and suggestions of the reviewers are discussed by a scientific panel (their names are publicly available). The panel ranks the projects and the presidency of NORT or HSRF brings the decision on support or rejection. Reviews and comments are available for the project leaders. If the project proposal is accepted, a contract is signed by the sponsor (here the State), the project leader and his/her host institute. Interim and final reports are evaluated by reviewers and financial experts. Decision on accepting or rejecting the final report is again taken by the presidency. All documents should be retained at least for five years allowing a scientific or monetary auditing by the state or the EU (in case of EU grants).
(ii) Besides the so-called philosophers' projects, 10 other NORT-projects completed during the previous governmental cycle are re-examined by G. Budai, governmental research funding overseer. Such reexaminations are regular events and in no way are focused to philosophers' projects.
(iii) A serious misuse of the project money may carry disciplinary or criminal consequences. Such events are inconvenient for the project leader, who is responsible for the scientific or technological content of the work, but she/he is never accused by misappropriation of the money. A project leader spends not a single coin without the permission of the duly authorized financial officer of the institute and, therefore only this officer and the director of the institute can be indicated for crimes like embezzlement or fraud.
(iv) Nobody from the Hungarian scientific community (some 7-8.000 people with scientific degrees) argued against the scientific excellence of professors Heller or Vajda. Furthermore, it is an absolute nonsense to state, that members of the Orban-cabinet would harass these people. The most prestigious prize in Hungary is the Szechenyi Award, donated by the state in recognition of those who made an outstanding contribution to the academic life. Heller and Vajda received this state award in 1998 and 2001, respectively, during the era of the 1st Orban-cabinet (1998-2002).
(v) The philosophers who seemingly need some external protection from the Hungarian government received indeed all supports to fulfill their talent from this otherwise poor country. In fact they are appraised by this nation. Most people are appealed to see, why such prominent members of the Hungarian scientific life allowed themselves to be dragged into political scandals.
1. An important correction: Gy. Budai is not "governmental research funding overseer." Mr Budai is Special Government Commissioner for Holding the Previous Gvt. Accountable." ("Elszamoltatasi kormanybiztos - a term with a complex meaning.) Serious difference. Mr Budai has been assigned to a general political task, not a specific job.
2. "Such reexaminations are regular events and in no way are focused to philosophers' projects." Untrue. The projects were closed officially in 2009 by a final memorandum, after proper review and audit. Since the pre-approved project outcomes were fulfilled, it was closed.
3. "It is an absolute nonsense to state, that members of the Orban-cabinet would harass these people." No. The editorial of Szabolcs Szereto in Magyar Nemzet clearly listed the political "sins" Radnoti and Heller "committed". Jozsef Palinkas (president, HAS) told to at least three different people, mentioned in his interview, and in his response to Harnad that those who "say such things as Radnoti, should not be surprised to come under attack." The label used ever since the beginning of the press campaign: "left-liberals circle" speaks for itself.
THE HUNGARIAN PHILOSOPHER AFFAIR: ON HORNOK ON 1919
Professor Hornok's posting gives what sounds like a very sanguine public statement about the health of Hungary's current grant funding system (although he neglects to mention how Mr. Budai picks his targets!). But reading Professor Hornok's account, one would wonder why Professor Palinkas, the President of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences (in a statement whose URL is helpfully provided by "Professor Magyar" in one of his postings) wrote:
PALINKAS (Jan 31):
The social science research programme launched by the Government on my initiative in the framework of the Szechenyi Plan in 2001 was substantially retailored by the next government in 2002. It became professionally unfounded, financially illogical and legally vulnerable. In the retailored programme curiosity-driven basic research was deprived of substantial funding, a move weakening Hungary's ability to keep her best scientists at home, while social science projects with only rhetorical relevance to innovation or Hungary's accession to the EU were eligible to much more considerable grants than usual. It is our common interest that such a deformed, incomprehensible and counterproductive system of research funding should be transformed to normalcy. What is needed is an up-to-date, thoroughly transparent research funding system that provides a balanced support of basic research, technical development and innovation. Among other benefits, such a turn would stop brain drain and would stimulate the return, and re-employment in Hungary, of those who had left. The success of the work we have begun could be seriously jeopardised by artificially induced, amateurish, inconsiderate, politically motivated mud-slinging whether it comes from the areas of science, public administration, or from the media. http://mta.hu/news_and_views/press-release-from-the-president-of-mta-126963/
It is especially reassuring to hear the following from Professor Hornok:
HORNOK (Feb 4):
"Nobody from the Hungarian scientific community (some 7-8.000 people with scientific degrees) argued against the scientific excellence of professors Heller or Vajda. Furthermore, it is an absolute nonsense to state, that members of the Orban-cabinet would harass these people. The most prestigious prize in Hungary is the Szechenyi Award, donated by the state in recognition of those who made an outstanding contribution to the academic life. Heller and Vajda received this state award in 1998 and 2001, respectively, during the era of the 1st Orban-cabinet (1998-2002)"
One becomes, however, a trifle less reassured, when one hears the following words from the same Professor Hornok, spoken (in Hungarian) in a rather different context (the Batthyany Circle of Professors) only a few days earlier (translated here):
"Dear fellow professors, It is not good for us to remain silent in this case (either), all the less because the enemy leaves no stone unturned. (It is not the "other side" but an enemy, a mortal enemy of the nation!). At this time external members of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences are being encouraged to collect signatures by philosophers of Canadian, American, and British citizenships who have been mobilized by the Heller group, and whom—to the great shame of the Academy—we previously elected as honorary members: Daniel C. Dennett, Robert Evans, Stevan Harnad. There is no need to argue with Agnes Heller's group. They must simply be ostracized! When we meet these characters we shall look them in the eye without greeting them, when they sit down next to us we shall stand up, for the only way to oppose the hatred in which they wallow to make their living is with silence and total contempt.. The "people," however, must know how we think about these issues. Regards, Laszlo Hornok PS: The spineless (sincerely patriotic) intelligentsia is also responsible for what has happened in this unfortunate country over the past twenty years. The organized and deliberate genocide that has been going on for twenty-one (or sixty-six or ninety-seven?) years has actually been completed." http://esbalogh.typepad.com/hungarianspectrum/2011/02/index.html
Hungary needs reform, not revenge. What foreign researchers and funders and expatriate Hungarian researchers need if they are to be attracted to Hungary is a clear, efficient, transparent new system of rules and procedures for research funding, with ongoing auditing to ensure that current and future research funds are indeed being spent according to the new rules and procedures -- not an arbitrary, retroactive, selective show-trial for research funds allegedly misspent long ago, under the old system of rules and procedures, under another government. (The same constructive focus on reform rather than the vindictive focus on revenge might help solve other problems Hungary faces as well...)
FAIRNESS, PROFESSOR HARNAD
Dear Professor Harnad,
The 'partisan press' you mention is an open forum and it is written in the official language of a country. The country whose taxpayers paid for these projects. Anyone interested in these affairs should take the pain and access the facts -- facts that are available in Hungarian. Who do you think should pay for the time and effort needed to make those facts available in English? And why? Because you and your friends were quick enough to protest against something you don't even know? I tell you what: It is you who are organizing protest campaigns, and write articles like this, who should have made yourselves informed. Have you written a letter to Magyar Nemzet asking for a summary of facts it has published? Have you written to Budai asking for his reasons? Of course not. You just wrote an open letter.
(By the way, almost without exception the 'results' of these projects were published in Hungarian, but you are convinced about their scholarly quality as it seems from the link you specified. You need the facts in English but you don't need their scholarship in English? Why don't you complain about spending all this money on research that is available in 'a language only Hungarians can understand'? And why do you want to discuss the 'charges' but not the quality of the results in front of the scholarly community? That would not be easy, all these things being in Hungarian...)
The principles you mention are just inadequate.
-- No one is deemed guilty by the press. But the facts are available, and it may not require too much legal intelligence to conclude that signing a contract with yourself is just against the law. But the press you condemn hasn't even said so, it just stated the fact that such contracts were signed in these projects. Is there a problem with stating this fact? (Again, undisputed as of today.)
-- The press didn't name charges (although it has written about what Budai has revealed), it expressed serious and factually well-supported reports, whose style may be irritating to you (if you have read them), but they were based on documents. These facts are sufficient for convincing anyone of an open mind that serious legal investigation is in order. This is taking place right now. Is this a problem?
-- I suppose it should be done in a legal process, but an article can complain about both. Can't it?
-- I just don't get your last point. What should be compared to what? And why? And by whom? Maybe you should have done so before signing your open letter.
I don't get your category 'trial by partisan press'. There is no trial, there are facts published continuously. What is the problem with that? Trials belong to the court, not the press (even in Hungary). Would you like to insist, Professor Harnad, to tell the press what it should and shouldn't publish? Or maybe what style of expression it should conform to? You, who are complaining about the alleged repression of the freedom of speech in Hungary?
The brute fact is this: you have initiated a campaign (and has written this article) without knowing the facts. Despite this you insist you are disinterested. Again, why would anyone disinterested start organising all this without knowing the facts and without even trying to collect them? Only after you had started your campaign you try to emulate an open discussion with an intention of revealing the very facts you should have collected in the first instance. Do you think this is fair dealing? And am I being all too impolite when supposing under such circumstances that you are not as disinterested as you claim to be?
Dear Professor Harnad, I suggest you make the proper inquiries at the proper places. Please don't try to get us making the job you as an activist and organizer should have done before starting your campaign. Should you have done so, I wouldn't suspect that your announced disinterestedness is not entirely genuine. You may not know these philosophers, but somehow you have been informed about their being 'treated badly', and I'm convinced that your sources of information are not unbiased, and you just didn't take the precautions necessary in these cases, and thus you let yourself be dragged into it.
PATIENCE, "PROFESSOR MAGYAR"
Dear "Professor Magyar",
All the interesting questions you raise will be answered, point by point, shortly.
Fortunately, this is taking place in an open, international forum, in an internationally understood language, and not in partisan press columns in a language only Hungarians can understand.
I have already posted detailed responses to your prior postings: http://openaccess.eprints.org
Those responses will also be posted here in ScienceInsider in due time. But first, I would like to give people who are directly involved -- or have direct knowledge -- the chance to respond on ScienceInsider.
As I have mentioned, my own participation is based on principles -- and principle. Those accused of having committed crimes (CRIM) and their defenders (DEN) are the ones to respond to the specific charges you itemize.
Yes there are principles that apply independently of facts. Here are a few:
-- The presumption of innocence until/unless crime is proven
-- Crime is proven in court, not in the press
-- Allegations of crime (CRIM) must be clearly separated from non-criminal innuendo (COMP, MOOT)
-- CRIM does not require a comparative baseline to justify prosecuting it, but COMP and MOOT, and selective investigations for COMP and MOOT do...
There are more.
Let me close by reminding you, "Professor Magyar", that whether or not crimes are committed is normally decided in a court of law, not in the press, partisan or otherwise. But as the Hungarian Philosopher Affair has so far been largely trial by partisan press, so be it. This open, non-partisan forum is as good a place as any to set the record straight, and give the rest of the world a clear view of what has been going on in the Hungarian press, and what the philosophers in Hungary have been facing, and going through.
Dear professor Harnad,
"-- The presumption of innocence until/unless crime is proven
-- Allegations of crime (CRIM) must be clearly separated from non-criminal innuendo (COMP, MOOT)
-- CRIM does not require a comparative baseline to justify prosecuting it, but COMP and MOOT, and selective investigations for COMP and MOOT do... "
If someone has complete control over the Hungarian media one can make the above demands. But until there is Free Press in Hungary. They can
-Freely mix allegations of crime, with allegations of MORAL and ETHICAL violations, negligence, improper allocation of funds, irregularities in how the grant money was spent or any other topic their journalists decide to write about that day
-While they can't presume guilt in CRIM, They can presume guilt in non-CRIM such as calling the conduct of the philosophers immoral or unethical, they can compare the outrageous sums they received with the pennies going to projects that produce actual end results beneficial to Hungarian science and society.
- The press does not need to justify any reasons for attacking anyone, if it needs to answer to a higher authority and explain reasons behind every article, it is not the Free Press any more
- If you don't like the fact that they are "attacking" (investigating) philosophers or anyone else you may sue
- Until the press is found CRIM in a court case, the presumption of innocence applies to them as well
I'm not saying it is a positive thing that the press behaves this way, I am saying that under present laws of Hungary they have every right to do so. Outside of the courts there is really no option to enforce any demands on the Hungarian press. The only way is to sue them.
We cannot believe for a minute that it's ONLY philosophers were EVER unfairly attacked by the Hungarian press.
When people are attacked in Hungary by some elements of the press (which is every day) they don't always have the international connections and friends to organize a campaign for their own defense outside of Hungary.
Thus the international community is aware of the case of the philosophers but unaware of any other cases.
Competing interest: I was the leader of one of the research groups, that the main Hungarian pro-government daily has been launching a broadside on for the past four weeks, repeating the aspersions and accusations in basically each and every issue, and ignoring the rebuttals. My name appears day to day at the first place among the accused liberal philosophers – however no accusation has been made against my group, apart from the one stating that we won on a tender among 24 different applicants in 2004 –, but I have nothing to deny since it was a fact put into negative light in my case.
Nonetheless, the blames against my colleagues do not seem quite reasonable either; if there are train tickets and hotel invoices included in the budget of a research, which can be easily explained by an international conference – a widespread term in science. Furthermore, if the daughter of the research leader is herself a renowned scientist on the field of the research, it definitely does seem valid for her to take part in the project. Defense is hard against aspersions and covert blames, and it is absolutely impossible against conspiracy-theories.
Professor Nyiri – who has been for the broadside from the first day, and gave utterance to his astonishment at the fact that some philosophers had won unreasonably high amounts of money in the tenders –, when it turned out that three tenders of the same level were won by his research groups, defended himself – and is defending himself here and now as well – in the same way as we did. He claims that the tender money was spent on serious research that he is proud of. He notes that many books and articles prove the successful outcomes of the research.
Though it is difficult to stand on the defensive against the slanders and defamations, it is clear and can be seen by everybody that from the more than hundred successful scientific tenders in humanities and social science in the given period (2001-2005) only those are to be criminalized whose project-leader is a so-called liberal. The same paper reveals the suspicious activity of representatives of other cultural fields, also liberals. I read the title in today's issue: The Mokep (the state-owned film-distributing company) has also been tapped by the "liberals". All these evidently suggest the possibility of a political persecution, which relates to the interpretation of the heavy victory in the 2010 Hungarian election as "polling-booth-revolution" by the winning anti-liberal party.
A revolution implies a change of the elite – with aggressive means if needed. Professor Nyiri – whose political preference has not been known until now – has already applied in a television interview for the position of the leading "conservative" philosopher.
You are member of the same department as Bela Bacso the main figure responsible for spending the money on your project. You two were (and still are) sitting together on several committees responsible for awarding various prizes in Hungary. And hardly anyone has doubts (apart from your own group) that your political preferences have been an important factor in your deceisions. You have given project money and donated prizes to one another on a habitual basis. Also, if anyone in doubt about the quality of research you have done, just check the project's website: http://esztetika.elte.hu/repr/
This is the webpage you present the audience with after spending all this money.
1) Of course I mean the passages on conflicting interests, you may have guessed. Otherwise what you are suggesting here is just absurd. Apart from the fact that there are no such documents (or if there were, why didn't Borbely present them?), you are not suggesting, I hope, that a granting agency can overrule existing laws in Hungary? What you are saying the granting agency approved is just against the laws mentioned here. They (or anyone) were not in the position of approving such a move, and it does not take a lawyer (although they had their very own lawyer paid by this alleged research project) to tell that a granting agency can't overwrite the laws.
2) No, these are among the relevant questions as these facts have been published by the press you condemn. So if you want to reject the charges effectively then they should be falsified and therefore these questions should be asked. Let's see: 1) Borbely didn't provide a response as there is none. It is just the law that as project leader/direcor you cannot sign a contract with your own company. Period. 2) Yes, he was head of the institute for a decent salary and in that capacity he should have managed the project. Instead he pocketed 15% of the money -- above his other sources of income.
3) What are you suggesting? Could you perhaps give a quick list of publications of these three people which testifies to their scholarly excellence? I encourage you to do so, becuase then it will be apparent to anyone that this money went to those whose scholarly excellence has not been proved (to say the least), and certainly not in front of the international community. (Just check the project's website, especially publications: http://www.phil-inst.hu/en/vallasfil/vallasfil.en.html Unfortunately, this is in Hungarian, so Professor Harnad should complain about it. Now I see they've published a volume in English, but with a Hungarian publisher... imagine the quality-control they've had.)
4) I'm glad you liked the fourth one. Let me then point out that the money went to personal and political friends, and participation was, once again, based not on scholarly excellence but on (non-scholarly) relationships. So, it was carefully selected so as not to maximize research output but to maximize income for some.
3) This is patently true. You mention 11 January as a single example. Could you please check it again? I did it. Borbely does not say a single word in that issue. There is, however, a smaller article on other fuzzy businesses of Gerbey, a main figure in Borbely's project. It turns out that he was a central figure in the questionable transaction of selling the Free Democrats' (they used to be the liberal party in Hungary) headquarters. One dubious business after another. Good company.
Your delicate capacities to detect pathology should perhaps be directed at 1) the present state of the press in Hungary (where there are indeed no independent journals, everyone is linked to this side or that side, financially, politically, personally etc), or 2) the corrupt research funding practices, and not at my humble person.
Only in Hungarian as yet, but I suppose Professor Harnad will have the English version. Please publish and circulate it in order to redeem the damage you've caused. Here are some of the facts, again, which were known well before you signed your open letter.
REPLY OF PROFESSOR PALINKAS, PRESIDENT, HUNGARIAN ACADEMY OF SCIENCES
Here is the URL of the reply by Professor Palinkas (in English):
And here is the URL of the reply to Professor Palinkas (in English):
And here is the URL for the Open Letter:
Dear "Professor Magyar",
As I think you will agree, these are serious matters, and serious allegations, involving publicly named persons' careers and reputation. I hope you will find it reasonable if I ask you to identify yourself?
Unfortunately "Istvan Magyar" is too frequent a name in Hungarian to be self-identifying! My own name, being anglicised from Hernad Istvan, is unique, making me rather easier to identify!)
(There *do* seem to be rather a lot if Istvans involved in this discussion... ;>)
With many thanks,
Canada Research Chair in Cognitive Sciences
Universite de Quebec a Montreal
University of Southampton
Dear Professor Harnad,
I turn to you as a philosopher whose job is to clarify notions that ordinary consciousness obfuscates and as a responsible intellectual dedicated to principles who feels obliged to protect human rights. Some of PRO has accused you of taking action without sufficient knowledge. I think they are right, although they have something different in mind. What I would like to call your attention to concerns principles that I think have not yet been sufficiently clarified either by PRO or DEN.
But let me first thank you for exposing the legal aspects of this affair so thoughtfully and exhaustively. Without your careful discrimination of CRIM, COMP and MOOT, neither PRO nor DEN could have clearly seen what the problem is about ugly allegations voiced in the media. And let me make it completely plain that I believe your analysis of what is at stake in legal terms is plausible and correct. Everyone has the right to the presumption of innocence, which was severly broken by the right-wing media, which sought to implicate people in CRIM with a clear poltical agenda. This in itself is a sound reason for protest for anyone promoting democratic rights.
Nonetheless, I would like to call your (as well as PRO's and DEN's) attention to an aspect of this affair that you seem to ignore, perhaps because you are under- or misinformed. This is not merely a political but also a serious moral isssue and these two aspects of the case are profoundly entangled. Thus, to your list I would like to add MOR, which stands for the moral aspects of the debate, for us to be able to clarify the case sufficiently.
MOR, as I see it, entails the following. The most prominent names on the list of PRO have given exclusive (or at least considerably biased) political and moral support to our previous left-wing Governments (the Medgyessy and the Gyurcsany governments) with whom the party they are associated with (Free Democrats) was in coalition. Now, since in the last election of 2010, when the people of this country made it clear in a democratic election that they were completely dissatisfied with left-wing Governments and voted in the Young Democrats (FIDESZ, the strongest right-wing party currently in Government), it must be clear even for outsiders that these left-wing governments were a failure, at the least in economic terms in Hungary (and let me make it clear, fundamentally not because of the world-wide economic crisis). Not only were they a failure, but the Gyurcsany government allowed (or might even have promoted) severe infringements of human rights in 2006, when the police harrassed a peaceful crowd of right-wing people celebrating the 50th anniversary of the 1956 revolution. Your proteges, though highly influential as leading intellectuals in our country, falied to mobilize the international media against such a severe infringement of human rights, nor even raised their voice in the national media.
Thus, my first point is the following. (I believe I formulate the view of many who have not joined the current debate for one reason or another and of those who did and yet have failed to see this sufficiently clearly.) The main protagonists of the political harrassment have no moral ground to mobilize the international academic world and media on their side, least of all on the allegation that the "critical intelligentia" is being persecuted in Hungary. Genuine critical intellectuals do not support partisian politics without proviso, very simply because no government is perfect. Thus, as critical intellectuals (and I am referring only to those who were/are involved in the political power game at all), your proteges failed in my view. (They also failed morally in terms of academic policy, but since this could be conceived of as unrelated to the protection of human rights and it is an internal affair, it is more or less a sidetrack. It is a sidetrack not because academic policy is related to COM or MOOT, for I am referring to something that concerns MOR here.)
My second point is closely related. Since in political terms your proteges acted as power players rather than responsible intellectuals, anyone supporting (or attacking) them, i.e. PRO and DEN alike, is inescapably implicated in the power game, because this is the ground on which Power initiated their harrassment and on which the harrassed responded by mobilizing their international connections. I would respectfully like to call your attention to the fact that joining this game on either side helps to sustain the political polarization (the "us-them" discourse which you rightly criticize), which has done a lot of political and moral damage to this society. (You should also be aware that even those who remain silent as philosophers or academics within Hungary are implicated. In the eyes of PRO, because they do not criticize what needs to be criticized in the political demeanor of your proteges and in the eyes of DEN, because they do not voice solidarity with them. This is a highly polarized society.)
My conclusion is the following. It is in the interest of everyone, including PRO and DEN, your proteges and even the Government to keep this affair within strict legal (and, by implication, internal) confines to prevent further polarization. Perhaps PRO will not stop harrassment in the media because Power wants to take the game to extremes, but if this happens, then it is all the more crucial that at least those who consider themselves responsible and critical intellectuals remind themselves of the old political maneuver of divide et impera and corner Power by the help of the law.
P. S. I honestly hope that you find my points sound and unbiased enough to post it. If it is my obscure identity that prevents you from doing so, let me explain that I do not wish to position myself in the power game, that is not my purpose. My purpose is to insist on principles, just like yourself, and to prevent further polarization in my country.
All people of good will worldwide would welcome reconciliation. But it is not at all clear how abandoning the philosophers to their fate with PRO is a step in that direction, or compatible with MOR.
I can only repeat my reply to Professor Palinkas:
"[Perhaps] what the Hungarian government needs to do now is to focus on trying to reform its deformed funding system, rather than on trying to take revenge on its critics [and predecessors] for the deformities of the old system."
Dear Professor Harnad,
You are right, this raises serious MOR dilemmas. If the issue had been kept by everyone within legal confines in the first place, no MOR dilemmas would have arisen. It is difficult now to expect of PRO to consider MOR if your proteges come across to them as disregarding MOR. Also, I am afraid, it is difficult for Power to show self-restraint, once your proteges come across to them as powerful adversaries, because they mobilized international allies. And yes, of course, it is difficult for DEN what seems for them now to abandon their proteges. But I think the reason in each case is that it is difficult for everyone to back up from the power game, once they have entered it. The only way out, as I see it, is to stay on homeland ground and focus on legal issues and yes, on the reformation of the funding system.
P. S. I highly appreciate that you have posted my letter.
ABANDONMENT OF PHILOSOPHERS?
I might have not been sufficiently clear, sorry about that. I do not call for abandoning the attacked philosophers at all. I suggest that all parties focus on the legal aspects of the affair and stop playing or promoting the power game. DEN need to understand that sustaning the international pressure will not help their proteges and will enhance further polarization in Hungary (which might come across as serious intervention in internal politics and morals for many). It will not help them for two main reasons.
1) They might irretrievably lose their moral integrity in the eyes of PRO; PRO, then, is likely to go on harrassing them.
2) Power keeps treating them as power players (because they keep mobilizing their allies) and the game will go on.
Besides, DEN need to understand that the polarization they incidentally help to sustain is more harmful for the whole society than the infringement of the rights of some individuals, however worthy and respectable. This looks like an awful conclusion. Luckily, however, this does not mean that they should or need to be abandoned in terms of MOR. Homeland (this is underlined) DEN can and should watch over legal investigations, protest if any law is broken in the process and demand due apology and reinstatement if the attacked are proven innocent. As far as I can see this is the only option for them to comply with MOR in all its complexity and to prevent further polarization.
Of course, everyone needs to take a step back, including PRO and the Government. But it is the responsibility of each to make their own move, regardless of the move of the other, to abandon the power game.
Dear Professor Harnad, forgive me for not identifying myself beyond this name, and please consider my reason: Although your letter implies that these philosophers are unjustly persecuted in Hungary, the case is almost the reverse. These people have been and still are the most powerful and influential figures in Hungary's intellectual life (this case is precisely about abusing their power and influence), and not only there. Their international influence is also more than significant (as your own letter testifies to this claim). And believe me, Professor Harnad, my humble person, or as it seems "Lajos Tuske" (although his position is much less straightforward than mine), would not be defended by the international community against the rage of this group.
For this reason Magyar Nemzet is struggling to find intellectuals commenting on these cases: they reject commenting because of their existential fears. It is a fact, and for that matter very public, that these people sit on all the important committees, they are there in the relevant committees of the Academy, they constitute the presidency of the Hungarian Philosophical Association, they sit there in the main (and legal) humanities funding body (OTKA), they are heads of department and directors at most universities and institutes, they decide on grants, scholarships and prizes, they have splendid personal connections to important journals (like Nepszabadsag, ES, Holmi), and I can go on. If necessary I can support what I'm saying with publicly accessible information.
Under such circumstances no one who is not in an easily defensible existential situation thinks twice (at least) to say anything. And as I'm not a pensioner nor a member of the Hungarian Academy, I'm certainly not in that position. Let me add: I'm not a philosopher (but I consider myself an intellectual), and not even a professor, but I happen to know the cases very well. The reason why I started commenting here is that I'm outraged by the misinformation circulating around the world, and although my voice is much weaker than these philosopher's, I still hope that publishing some facts and asking some relevant questions may help in this situation.
PROSECUTER PERSECUTION COMPLEX
Dear Mr. "Magyar," you will have to forgive outsiders for having some difficulty understanding how and why it is those who are accusing and prosecuting and in government with a 2/3 majority and legislating press curbs who feel persecuted -- so much so that you yourself, an intellectual, are afraid to reveal your identity!
But this does seem to have echoes of Professor Nyiri's declaration that:
NYIRI: "Heller and company are, all contrary appearances notwithstanding, entirely continuous with Rakosi and Kadar. To this day, they are terrorizing Hungarian intellectual life. The issue is whether they will remain in a position to continue to do so."
And perhaps also Professor Hornok's cri-de-coeur that:
HORNOK: "The organized and deliberate genocide that has been going on for twenty-one (or sixty-six or ninety-seven?) years has actually been completed"
By way of reply, I can only repeat my advice to Professor Palinkas:
"[Perhaps] what the Hungarian government needs to do now is to focus on trying to reform its deformed funding system, rather than on trying to take revenge on its critics [and predecessors] for the deformities of the old system."
Dear Professor Harnad, I'm not in 2/3 majority, and I'm not prosecuting anyone. However, it doesn't take too much fantasy to imagine that a well established network whose members are friends and comrades, who control most of the funding bodies and universities, the relevant committees of the Academy, have excellent media connections etc. can do serious harm indeed. If you don't believe so, ask some other Hungarian friends of yours, not the ones you've been consulting recently. (I've checked: Bodnar is director at ELTE, assoc.prof at CEU, member of the philosophical committee of the Academy, Borbely sits on the same committee and also member of the OTKA philosophy jury, is/was until recently member of the Hungarian State Fellowship Committe, and president of some Szechenyi Istvan Curatorium which I haven't even heard of but it belongs to the Ministry of Education, and I could go on, Radnoti is equally influential, I could collect his positions as well). And unlike the present government they will still be here for several decades with their international and domestic connections. If Tuske insists on hiding his identity with his significantly milder opinion and you are not objecting to that, I don't see why you have problems with me not revealing mine.
Let me also note that your answer to Palinkas' letter confirms my conviction that you just don't know the facts of this case and you have been intentionally misinformed. Your questions clearly indicate that when you wrote your letter you didn't have sufficient knowledge on the projects, on the relevant laws, and on the situation in Hungary. Given this fact the only way to make sense of your motives is to think that you wanted to 'save' your friends (not principles), to do a favor to some, etc. Without presupposing this it was completely irrational to write your letter. One more thing. Before suggesting that there are political motives behind these criminal cases, you should perhaps ask first whether there were political motives behind giving money for these projects and to these figures. But you don't ask this question either.
As for your advice, you should have advised your defendants so as no to abuse the system for their own good. But for some reason you didn't intervene in the last couple of years. You are defending these intellectuals who took active part in corrupting Hungary, and you seem to forget that the 2/3 majority you hate so much is due to their 'efforts'. You shouldn't forget, many of these figures were advisors and officials of the previous government you are so satisfied with if compared to the present one. These projects are the very symptom of how rotten this intellectual elite actually is. But you shouldn't let yourself to be disturbed by the facts. The main thing is your preconception.
I do not think "Magyar"'s posting needs comments. The only reason I write is that I think someone has to defend the defender: Professor Harnad made a very simple case. If one thinks there are irregularities or even illegalities around a number of projects, a government commissioner with a very wide mandate is expected to check the projects run by an agency in a systematic fashion. Otherwise, the procedure amounts to selective targeting.
Moreover, the "investigation" of the Government Commisioner into these philosophical projects was a hatchet job, amplified by the surrounding press campaign, and the net result earned much ridicule from Hungarian academics (some highlights: a new series of translations of Plato was described as 'translating from Hungarian to Hungarian', because there had already been an (almost) complete translation of Plato into Hungarian; the Government Commisioner was shocked to find a hotel bill of 800.000 Ft – c. 3.000 euro – only to be found out later that that was the hotel bill of the foreign participants of an international conference spanning for several days; and there was even a train ticket to Paris! Among the receipts of a project! – "On occasion we even take a plane" – to quote Palinkas' amused comment on this one from an interview.)
APA Open Letter on the situation of philosophers in Hungary:
Declaration of interest: I was reminded to tell my interests. I am happy to do that. I am one of the names listed among "the Hellers". I am implicated as one of the beneficiaries of the alleged favoritism of the previous government. I argue against this allegation which is not just false, it is absurd.
1. I am not a member of the "Hellers", since I do not belong to the Lukacs school. Even the younger Lukacs school is a generation older than I am. I met Agnes Heller only once in my life before our joint interview two weeks ago. Same with Vajda. Sandor Radnoti is my relative, and I am proud to have him as my paternal advisor - but our fields of interest are separated by a wide berth.
2. I was not a project director. I find it telling that among the five names charged by the Special Commissioner two (mine, and Gyorgy Gabor's) were oddballs, since we were not of the same category as Heller, Radnoti, and Vajda. Neither of us (Gabor and Gereby) applied for grants on our own. We were participants of a project led by Gabor Borbely. His name would have been of the same category, as the others. Other project participants were not mentioned apart from us.
3. The language of the press campaign suggested that the monies (= grants) were given individually. However, in every case the recipient of the grant was an institution (in the case of our project the Institute of Philosophy of the HAS), and their regulations applied. The grant was closed by an audit and a proceeding which recorded that the performance indicators were fulfilled.
4. I had been advisor to minister Balint Magyar between 1996-98, and then in 2002 for about six months in matters of higher education. Gyorgy Gabor was advisor to the previous goverment between 2002-2006. This seems to have been the only reason why we were lumped into the group. The common denominator is "left-liberals". This is why I suspect higher political motivations behind the unprecedented attacks.
WHAT HUNGARIAN SCHOLARS ARE FACING TODAY
These are my last words to "Mr. Magyar," because upon reflection I find it ethically repugnant that someone keeps posting accusations, under a cloak of anonymity, against named, and increasingly persecuted scholars.
I find breath-takingly disingenuous your plea of fear of persecution as your justification for accusing anonymously.
I repeat (still cheerfully, but for the last time), that (1) I did not know any of the accused scholars, (2) nor their work, (3) nor their reputation, (4) nor their friends before I launched the Open Letter upon reading of the case in the (Western) press.
You may repeat the accusation that I did as frequently as you wish; you may even state it as yet another of the facts that is "obvious" because it has appeared in the Hungarian press (and no one has sued).
But it will remain as false as that your name is "Istvan Magyar"."
And this ScienceInsider exchange will remain as the barest foretaste, for the international scholarly community, of what their colleagues in Hungary are alas facing today.
"ISTVAN "MAGYAR" HAS BEEN DELETING HIS ANONYMOUS ACCUSATIONS
Readers should note that the anonymous poster "Istvan Magyar" has now begun deleting his accusatory postings when they have received replies casting his behaviour and veracity in an unfavorable light. This will make some of the replies (such as the one above) appear to be non-sequiturs (because the postings to which they were responses have since disappeared). Fortunately, "Istvan Magyar"'s" original posting, a series of accusations, many repeated from the Hungarian partisan press, have been preserved as quote/commentary in the earlier replies as well as on another site. This also illustrates why it's always best to respond in the form of quote/commentary: http://openaccess.eprints.org/index.php?/archives/792-The-Hungarian-Philosopher-Affair-On-Magyar-On-White-Collar-Crime.html
In the posting that follows below, I re-post a recovered copy of the deleted "Istvan Magyar" posting to which the posting above had been a response (recovered via ScienceInsider's "Echo" function).
The "IM" posting that appeared to have been deleted has now re-appeared, with its original date-stamp: Perhaps it is the Forum software that sometimes gets out of phase. (The IM posting in question was originally posted twice, identically, presumably in error. I'm guessing that what must have happened was that IM [or possibly the Forum software, automatically] deleted the duplicate instance, but that others had meanwhile already posted comments (then still under moderation) on the deleted instance rather than the instance that had not been deleted, which then orphaned the comments and temporarily suppressed the undeleted instance. The display software went temporarily out of phase, and then got back into phase.)
Had "IM" been a forthright poster, rather than someone making accusations while hidden under a cloak of identity, I would have apologized to him for having wrongly accused him of deleting postings that may have elicited responses he found uncongenial to his purpose. But one does not wrong someone whose identity is unknown. False accusations against anonymous posters are innocuous; anonymous accusations against real, nemed people -- and people who are already the victims of a systematic campaign of accusations, slander and harassment -- are anything but innocuous.
Please note that only the poster himself can delete or modify his own postings. No one else (except perhaps the ScienceInsider moderator) can do so (and I am not the moderator).
I don't mind terminating this hypocritical discussion in which you keep passing moral judgements on your adversaries but never on your own or your defendants' moves. I'm not posting charges, I'm just correcting your one-sided views with facts based on published and publicly accessible documents. You are not interested in it, that's your choice. However, condemning someone lacking domestic and international connections, going against all these influential and powerful people without any chance of being defended by anyone seems to be as one-sided as your previous moves. (What other motive, if not fear, could I and Tuske have?)
Like I said, the published facts are not obvious because they appeared in the Hungarian press, but because they are substantiated by documents. (By the way, you seem not to worry because of the credibility of the (Western) press from which you have taken your information. If what you are saying is true, then you took their words quite critically at face value and started organizing without asking your connections in Hungary. That does not seem to me very rational either. Did your (Western) press publish documents that falsified the 'accusations' (i.e. the facts made public)? Whom were they relying on in their reports? These poor philosophers (or the Hungarian press on their side) whose share in life is just grave persecution? No need to answer.)
Symptomatic that you, just like your defendants, are parroting that these facts are false, but you don't have a single piece of evidence. At the same time you are questioning all the pieces of evidence and the credibility of those presenting them (government, press, Palinkas, myself) on the basis of what? Let me ask again: Is this fair dealing? (No need to answer.)
It just hit me: Should I reveal my identity, would you volunteer for keeping an eye on my future and stepping forward when the necessity arises? Would you do the same for Tuske? (No need to answer.)
Please note that our accounts of the case and our motivations are significantly different. My purpose was to lay bare principles entailed in the case and to provide an unbiased analysis of this drama. Principles have no names. In addition, my anonimity is meant to serve the purpose of asserting for DEN that my motivation is not time-serving, because I wish them to consider my points that they might not like. Likewise, I do not wish to pay lip-service to PRO, rather, I similarly wish them to consider the points that they do not like in an unbiased way. I believe Professor HARNAD clearly understood all this. I highly appreciate his discretion, which indicates for me that he is indeed unbiased and dedicated to principles.
Well, we disagree on several things, but agree on at least one: we both have our reasons to keep our anonimity.
THE BLIND SCALES OF INJUSTICE
"LT," unlike "IM," is not posting anonymous accusations against named scholars who are currently being harassed by arbitrary government-instigated criminal investigations (CRIM) and vilified in a vicious hate campaign by the government-side press in Hungary.
What LT is advocating is that scholars worldwide should not take sides with either those who are accusing and harassing the targeted Hungarian scholars (PRO) or those who are defending them (DEN), but rather -- for "moral" reasons ("MOR") -- stay out of it, let matters take their course, and hope for the best.
It is not out of discretion that I am not making an issue of LT's anonymity; it is because LT's faux-symmetric stance, taken at face value, is so amoral that it is virtually self-caricaturing (even if we don't do the obvious reading between the lines, where LT gives hints -- moral failings in the accused for which they might have had their punishment coming -- that reveal his own fealties despite himself). The identity of the advocate of such a stance is hardly a matter of consequence one way or the other.
(One does wonder, though, what it is that those who purport to be fearful of revealing their identity to scholars worldwide in this international forum have in mind: that they are at risk of being accused or charged of a crime?)
Sir, you've started a campaign before knowing the facts and you're the one talking about 'harrasment', 'arbitrary investigation' and 'vicious hate campaign'. This is exactly what you are doing without having any interest in revealing facts or any intention for fair dealing.
I'm someone with knowledge of the facts. Unfortunately, I'm not as well-connected or influential as your defendants therefore I'm vulnerable. As you see for yourself, we are talking about former government advisors and officials. I'm really sorry if you cannot imagine that this can be dangerous to someone knowing the facts.
Please note that Bodnar avoids responding to the questions I posed.
1) No need to comment.
2) You were "scientific director" of that project, and in that capacity you received the second highest payment within that project, almost 8 million HUF (more than 30000 EUR at that time). The money went to a company owned by you, so you had to pay lower taxes (if this is legal or not we will see). For this amount you produced a collection of essays most of which had been published before your project even started (i.e. before 2005). Anyone can check here:
Please go to the list containing the places of original publication.
3) I don't see the point. Yes, the money went to Borbely's institute and then he payed it to you and himself (and some other figures). Borbely was a high-ranking official, you and Gabor were advisors of the ministry whose office gave you the money.
4) No attack from the government's side, just checking your finances. Entirely legal, entirely in order. It should have been done earlier, but no surprise that your government didn't do so.
By the way, nothing is deleted. Anyone can see, Harnad's accusation is (once again) false. What he 'restored' is still down there, see Yesterday, 19:02:24. And my response to his 'last words' is also there Today 09:57:11. But I must be grateful to him: these things cannot be repeated frequently enough. (Although I don't see clearly why he is so enthusiastic about doing so. But given that he is, it may shed light on his other irrational moves like writing an open letter before knowing the facts.)
Readers should note, that I haven't deleted anything from this page, and also that I did respond to Harnad's "last words" which did not appear hear.
Please note that my post beginning with "I'm not in 2/3 majority..." has disappeared again, and also that I didn't delete it. It should be right below Gereby's posting of the APA letter.
Now it is there again. I don't know what the problem may be.
THIRD RESPONSE TO ANONYMOUS ACCUSATIONS BY "ISTVAN "MAGYAR"
Declaration of Interest: I am one of the accused philosophers. These are responses to points raised in the anonymous accusations of "Istvan Magyar" ("IM"). They are not intended as answers to "IM" because it is both unjust and morally repugnant for publicly accused individuals to be answerable also to anonymous accusers. The replies are intended for this forum of international scholars and scientists, to give a clear, honest idea of what is going on in Hungary currently.
"ISTVAN "MAGYAR" wrote:
1) No need to comment.
2) You were "scientific director" of that project, and in that capacity you received the second highest payment within that project, almost 8 million HUF (more than 30000 EUR at that time). The money went to a company owned by you, so you had to pay lower taxes (if this is legal or not we will see). For this amount you produced a collection of essays most of which had been published before your project even started (i.e. before 2005). Anyone can check here: http://akkrt.hu/download.php?pdfid=22014&url=http://static.akkrt.hu/media/2/2/0/1/4/22014.pdf Please go to the list containing the places of original publication.
3) I don't see the point. Yes, the money went to Borbely's institute and then he payed it to you and himself (and some other figures). Borbely was a high-ranking official, you and Gabor were advisors of the ministry whose office gave you the money.
4) No attack from the government's side, just checking your finances. Entirely legal, entirely in order. It should have been done earlier, but no surprise that your government didn't do so.
1) ("I am not a member of the 'Hellers'.") Here "IM" seems to have acknowledged at least one basic (and intentional) misrepresentation of the case by the press. Let us now set that aside and move on to the other three accusations.
2) It is accurate that I have been paid about EUR 10.000 gross p.a. for my work. My company paid taxes on that sum. "IM" seems to imply that this practice may be illegal. It was not, and still is not. In Hungary today there are about 1,5 million (!) companies (for about 3,0 million active people on the labour market). 90% of these are microcompanies. A very large percentage of Hungarian scholars too, have such microcompanies, for exactly the same purpose. How widespread this practice is can be seen e.g. from the fact that the present director of the Institute of Philosophical Research (IPR) of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences (HAS) , Janos Boros has a company (Brambauer Kft); the former IPR director Janos Nyiri (who has posted to this list too) likewise has a company (Hunfi Kft).
I am pointing this out because it is absolutely crucial for the international scholarly community to know that this "incriminated" act (unusual, perhaps even illegal, in other countries) is currently proper, and standard in Hungary. In fact, this is a common way to (i) save on the research budgets of the institutions and (ii) it is a tax preference for research allowed by the state. (Of course, there are limitations and rules, but those were observed in the project. The contracts (a) were checked by the legal advisor, (b) were paid by the finance director of the IPR of the HAS, ( c ) were part of the original grant contract, and (d) were audited at the end of the grant's tenure.)
Since it is international practice, it was I who insisted to include the list of original appearance of the papers included in my _first_ (and physically published) book. Any intellectual property attorney can confirm that the joint publication of previously published studies constitutes a new copyright (since it is a unity). Scholarly publications often include chapters published independently elsewhere (verbatim or updated). But "IM" also seems to imply that some of my older papers were my only output. I am happy to confirm that this is not the case. My other book is available in electronic format at :
I apologize for having to bore readers with my publication list for the period (2005-9) in order to respond to "IM". I will just summarize: I edited one book, contributed an essay each to three volumes which were published in the Participatio series of the Academy Press. I published 7 English language papers, and 7 Hungarian papers in the period. Now the requirement at the IRP was one major article p.a. for a full-time researcher (which I was not; at ELTE, my university, there was no such formal publication requirement). This would imply that I was obligated to publish eight papers in the four years. In fact, I published fourteen.
3) "IM's" third accusation is also false, as I have stated on this list already. Now I must repeat again : I was *not* advisor to the minister etc. in 2005 or onwards. I resigned from my (very limited) responsibilities in 2002. Let us hope that international scholars taking the time and trouble to follow this sad episode will be spared having to hear this false accusation repeated yet again.
4) "IM's" 4th accusation is again false. This has been acknowledged even by Prof. Palinkas (president of the HAS), when he stated quite explicitly that those who criticize the government should not run for safety to the Academy.
1) Of course, you are not related. You're only a relative of Radnoti who is professor at the department where Bacso (the guy giving the money) is professor, and Heller is professor emerita. This is not an accusation, this is a fact. So, anyone can conclude, you have no relation whatsoever to the Heller group. (See also my 4th response below.)
2) 10000 p.a. equals to 30000 EUR over a three year project. The tax you paid was rather minimal given the tax scheme you have choosen. It is certainly not international praxis to get paid for a work in a project which has been done before the beginning of the project. And it is certainly not a practice in Hungary to be paid 30000 EUR for a collection of essays previously published. Most researchers are paid only their salary, and the extra money you received after tax was around a two-year salary of a Hungarian full professor (which you are not) after tax. By Hungarian standards you received a very substantial payment for work done beforehand. This is a fact, no accusation. So, anyone can conclude, you did the right thing. Also, can you perhaps explain to us, what you had been doing for your standard salaries (more than one) in the same period?
This is your list of publication: http://medstud.ceu.hu/index?id=12&cikk=337&rovat=6&fejezet=515
How many entries of this list (and how many papers of your project) did go through independent review? It seems that your list of publications hardly contains any internationally acknowledged forum. For an extra 30000 EUR it is not very substantial output... Bye the way, you are not suggesting, I hope, that you as an associate professor at ELTE (and CEU) do not feel obliged to conduct research and publish high-quality papers?
3) Would you like to suggest that you didn't have good connections to the ministry you advised before? And of course, you didn't have any kind of influence... Please note, that even if you were right and all your connections did disappear at the very moment you left the ministry, there is still Gabor and Borbely, advisor and official of the ministry at the time when it gave you the money. This is no accusation, this is a fact. So, it was entirely all right for you to have this money.
4) Your answer suggests a very strange logic here. This is not an accusation, it just states that all these investigations are in order. What I'm saying is that the government which gave you the money and relied on you as advisors and officials would not be interested in your ways of spending the money. (In other cases they were, but your project was not at all under control. The summary you submitted at the end of your 'project' contained wrong numbers. But the granting agency was not at all interested, they approved your summary. So much for auditing.)
I am terribly sorry that NOONE seems to take into account the full moral aspects (MOR) of this affair. Everyone is blowing their own trumpets without acknowledging that there is some justice behind the other party. It is sad that DEN do not wish to realize that there is MOR behind PRO: their (DEN's) proteges failed to act as genuine critical intellectuals when this was badly needed in 2006, when Hungarians' rights were severly infringed by a corrupt government. It is likewise regrettable that PRO fail to see that there is also MOR behind DEN: their right of presumption of innocence was infringed in this affair (also, some scholars have been brought into it all without violating MOR, for they never assumed the role of critical intellectuals). The blindness of both parties is the principal reason for the polarization and the ongoing aggravation of the crisis.
Everyone please stop campaigning, in the best interest of Hungary! None of you can win such a grim battle in the long run.
International scholars need to be aware that, contrary to the best of their intentions, they might contribute to further harrassment of the attacked and are definitely contributing to the aggravation of the crisis through intervening (see below). The attacked have their homeland DEN who will certainly be alert to what is happening in the ongoing legal process.
THE BLIND SCALES OF JUSTICE
Let me make it plain that my standpoint is not amoral at all, on the contrary, I am considering MOR behind both of the contending parties that both of them seem to remain completely unresponsive to. This is, psychologically speaking, understandable, for part of MOR is unfavourable to both of them. But is my stance faux-symmetric because I point out the MOR failure of both parties? It is not me who made of this a MOR matter in the first place, but the attacked themselves, together with DEN, who mobilized the international scholarly world on the allegation that "critical intellectuals" are persecuted in Hungary (and NOT on the claim that their right of the presumption of innocence was infringed). My point is that they have no MOR ground to present themselves as (genuinely) critical intellectuals, because they failed in that capacity (a point noone has challenged so far). Nevertheless, they do have a MOR ground to protest against the press campaign launched against them, for everyone is entitled to the presumption of innocence, regardless of their MOR stature. But this in itself would have most probably remained below the stimulus-threshold of the international scholarly community, unless it was supported by a clear-cut MOR ground. Yes, I am questioning that ground, and I am pointing out for the international scholarly community that their proteges are not as innocent as they unknowingly presume. You can call this a faux-symmetric stance or a self-caricaturing amorality, but I think that interpretation indicates a politically loaded bias for the attacked. That is what I am warning the international scholarly community against, for it contributes to the polarization in Hungary (and, incidentally, won't help their proteges).
It might well be that my stance will prove to be "hardly a matter of consequence". But the reason has got nothing to do with the soundness of my standpoint.
In the official answer of the president of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences to the open letter of the external and honorary members of this Academy you can read the following: "If a scientist or scholar goes into politics, and makes harsh political statements, she or he will get an answer, from the politicians or from political journalists, meted out according to the rules of their game. If one finds the answer to be harsh, she or he cannot be protected by fellow scientists. If a scholar publicly announces that he 'does not want to breathe the same air as the Prime Minister', he may expect criticism in the press. He should not run to the Academy to seek shelter against criticism. I can assure you that the members of the scientific community in Hungary are critical thinkers, and nobody harasses them for that. But if their criticism is of political nature, they will be treated as anyone else in the political arena. Some of your philosopher colleagues entered into political fights, and now they are licking their wounds." This is an evident and full interpretation of the "criticism in the press" i.e. defamatory campaign, harrassement and criminal charge against liberal philosophers in Hungary. B. t. w. the sentence quoted was written by myself.
You can be proud of your sentence. A real gem of your scholarly work that consists mostly in your efforts for dividing the country and representing it as a terrible antidemocratic place (except for your friends' governing).
[EXCERPTS FROM HUNGARIAN RIGHT-WING PRESS]
Few people enjoy wading in raw sewage, but readers of this forum might want to know the context in which the investigation against the Hungarian philosophers is unfolding. What follows is a sample of articles published in the right-wing media. I tried to convey the venom of the rhetoric, the inaptitude of the writing, and the occasional lapses into nonsense [explanatory comments in brackets].
The opening salvos were fired on January 8 in the daily Magyar Nemzet, generally considered the mouthpiece of the ruling party:
"A circle of liberal philosophers who put representatives of the conservative side in a moral pillory almost every day has acquired nearly half a billion forints in a morally and legally questionable fashion. The members of this group are Sandor Radnoti, Agnes Heller, Mihaly Vajda, Gyorgy Gabor and Gyorgy Gereby. The rumor has already been whispered around for some time that the National Office for Research and Technology (NKTH) founded and overseen by the former minister of education, liberal Balint Magyar, was used by the liberals not to promote scientific life and research in Hungary but as a kind of domestic cash box to reward the liberal entourage; however, documents proving this hypothesis were difficult to access prior to the change of government. Now a number of documents have come into our hands that show that in 2004 and 2005, during the presidency of Miklos Boda and under the oversight of Balint Magyar, almost half a billion forints were awarded in tenders run by the NKTH for grant applications submitted by the philosophers that should have been instantly rejected because their topics had nothing to do with the tender advertisements. [.]" What follows is a series of tendentiously assembled semi-facts.
On January 8 Magyar Nemzet also carried an opinion piece by Szabolcs Szerető. After some preliminary throat-clearing the author writes:
"[.] it appears certain that a well-defined group of intellectuals and philosophers has obtained support from the state in the amount of approximately half a billion forints in a legally objectionable manner, based on shameless pretexts. These figures have one thing in common, namely that according to their own self-definition and according to a general consensus they are liberals, and they do not content themselves with the role of the scholarly bookworm and with a scholarly audience but regularly make their thoughts and opinions known in a wider circle."
Continued quote from the January 8 piece by Szabolcs Szerető:
"Among the winners of this research support scheme we find the opinion-(de)forming elite that has for decades very effectively influenced and shaped public discourse in Hungary. To put it less delicately: these are pundits, and pundits of the more intellectual kind to boot. To be sure, we cannot claim that it was the half a billion forints wasted on them during the Gyurcsany era and with the help of unforgettable minister of education Balint Magyar that ruined the economy and unbalanced the budget; however, when there is a calling to accounts, this item cannot be passed over in silence."
"Anyone who has even passing familiarity with the work of these people knows: we are dealing with a small, professional cultural warfare brigade, which has since the regime change sought, no doubt out of conviction, to strike dead the democratic Right, with the bludgeon of the antisemitism charge, for instance. And lo and behold, the political power that stands to benefit from such efforts appears to some extent to encourage and reward this activity. None of which explains the tribal hatred raging in these people of the intellect. Why is Sandor Radnoti incapable of breathing the same air as Viktor Orban? Is it a sufficient answer that he has voted for someone else and disagrees with the policies of the government? But why wasn't he so squeamish when the police forces of the other government fired shots into the crowd demonstrating against it and beat up a representative of the rival political side? What are the standards guiding his judgment?"
"And what about philosopher of religion Gyorgy Gabor, who expatiates on fundamentalism in connection with Fidesz, and is always ready to use child abuse or secret police scandals to keep the historical churches under fire; and who, moreover, believes that in a historical sense the Holocaust did not end in 1945? And of course Agnes Heller is bound to make an appearance too, this great expert on populism, who thinks that Viktor Orban is a dictatorial figure and that the new government has dismantled the building of liberal democracy since last spring."
"Obituaries notwithstanding, there is freedom of speech in Hungary, and we must put up with these opinions. Yet we would also like quietly to ask a few questions. Where does the profound contempt come from with which these intellectuals view this country, even willing to contribute to the international pillorying of our country? What is the moral foundation on which they stand when they lecture to us about democracy, European ideals and values, these anointed priests of tolerance who—as it has now become clear—are also at home in the world of Hagyo [socialist deputy mayor of Budapest, arrested on corruption charges in 2010] and his like? [.]"
The (relatively moderate) conservative weekly Heti Valasz carried a number of highly tendentious pieces by Attila Michnai. An excerpt from a piece dated January 16:
"The real 'problem' with the Heller group, in case someone hasn't gotten it yet, is that, as the proverb says, if there's butter on top of your head you shouldn't stand in the sun, i.e. on the political stage. Or the other way around. And (this is the heart of the matter, I think) if as a vocal political warrior one has accepted the obviously obscure project grant conditions back then, and thereby even pocketed a considerable sum for oneself and one's circle, then one shouldn't pretend to be squeamish upon being confronted with the case."
On the very same day (January 16), Michnai's opinion piece was adopted by the far-right portal Hunhir, where it was prefaced by the following remarks:
"Agnes Heller, the extremist, exclusionary hatred-mummy, talks in an offended tone of voice about a political attack, even protests the adjective 'liberal,' while keeping silent about the shady deals related to the distribution of funds. Well, liberal is indeed a feeble, powerless adjective to describe this foaming-at-the-mouth [literally: bloody-mouthed] cosmopolitical female personage enamored with a mass murderer."
This rant is followed by the complete text of Michnai's piece. Following Michnai's conclusion, to the effect that corruption cannot be excused even by the prestige of the Lukacs school, the anonymous commentator of Hunhir remarks:
"Let us not rush to the other extreme, dear author. Whoever takes up on any level at all the legacy of a Jewish mass murderer of the Israelite faith [redundancy in the original] has thereby proven her worth. At the personal orders of Gyorgy Lukacs, commissar of the Rat Republic [pun on the German term Raterrepublik, referring to the Hungarian Soviet Republic of 1919], the bloody Jewish terror detachments executed innocent Hungarians with brutal cruelty. To name a school after someone who was a murderer according to common law is at least as outrageous a slap in the face for our country as it would be to re-name the old Jewish district Mengele Apartments."
From a February 2 opinion piece by Attila Kristof in Magyar Nemzet:
"[...] Thales pondered the question concerning the cause and origin of all things (arche ton panton). His research in this area was presumably supported by funds received through a rowing technique research support scheme set up by the municipality of Miletus, and it set the direction for subsequent investigations into rowing technique undertaken by Aristotle, Plato, Kant, Hegel, Marx, Gyorgy Lukacs, Agnes Heller, Sandor Radnoti, Mihaly Vajda, and other aged youths cut from the same cloth [mixed metaphor in the original]. Yet thinking is virtually impossible without money, though to stimulate the brain a bit of asceticism can't hurt. If we consider that Aristotle objected to the fact that, in searching for the primordial origin, Thales (after whom the theorem is named) only interrogated things of a material nature, we can grasp that participation in rowing technique research support schemes is well-nigh indispensable for a philosopher [.]"
"When Anaxagoras, the first philosopher, first set foot on Athenian soil, the Greek city state did not need to rely on the IMF and taxpayers' money was earned through the labor of slaves, thereby enabling 'the many philosophers' to ponder those 'ultimate' questions which to this day nobody could answer, especially since God has been excluded from the egghead [misused metaphor in the original]. The way this happened is that Marx stood Hegel (along with Aristotle and Plato) on his head and declared that 'being determines consciousness.' Gyorgy Lukacs and his disciples could hardly question this, and so there is nothing surprising about the fact that some of them have mingled material with intellectual things, winning grants for 'rowing technique research schemes' to conduct aesthetic and philosophical probings as well as investigations into being and non-being. [.]"
"The bastard son of philosophy is undoubtedly ideology, the greatest divisive force on earth. So-called idealism and materialism is the great antithesis whose ebb and flow influences the quality of culture [sic]. For two generations, materialism has prevailed in Hungary, determining the direction in which the country was moving as well as its morals. It would be hard to dispute that, similarly to the whole Hungarian intellectual elite, the philosophical elite too has—in the broadest sense of the word—reproduced itself. The reputation of the Lukacs school has been undiminished, its intellectual and moral dominance incontestable up until now. This does not recall the dualism of Classical times. As for the question whether Plato and Aristotle would eat from the same bowl as 'the great Hungarian philosophical and political minds' of our age, I am not sure..."
Thank you for joining in with the MOR aspects. The passages you quoted from Professor Palinkas attest to MOR cynicism and is part of what I call the power game (which I suggested everyone having a MOR sense should renounce). I find them repugnant, just like you, I presume. But does that controvert my point that in MOR terms (see below), and as truly critical intellectuals the attacked remain culpable? I do not think so. Thus, my warning communicated to the international scholarly community stands unchallenged.
Cynical? Power game? What was Radnoti playing when he resigned so loudly from the presidency of Szechenyi Prize (the most prestigious award in Hungary) committee for literature? (Of course, he did this without being coordinated with five other, and to him unrelated, members of the same committee who resigned at the same time, including the money-guy Bacso.) Wasn't that power game?
*** ANONYMITY FAQ: "Istvan Magyar" and "Lajos Tuske" are posting under false names. Except in the case of whistle-blowing about genuine high crimes, by individuals who are genuinely at risk of reprisal, anonymous posting of innuendos and slander against named individuals is always odious. It is particularly odious when the named individuals are simultaneously being vilified in the government-side press and selectively targeted for police and government investigation. The points repeatedly made by "IM" and "LT" are all answerable, and many have already been answered in this forum, repeatedly. But to prevent this forum from being dragged into anonymous gutter-sniping, replies by scholars with real names and real reputations and integrity to uphold and defend will not be made to innuendos and slander posted under false names. Anonymous posters may shadow-box with one another as they please. ***
My posts do not contain innuendos, nor slander, since the basic difference of my position and that of "IM" is, as you point out below, that I am not accusing anyone of CRIM. Thus, I am not joining the choir of PRO, on the contrary, I give all my MOR support to the attacked as victims of slanders of legal nature (on the assumption that legal offences have MOR consequences). Nonetheless, I am openly challenging the MOR integrity of the attacked (so, there are no innuendos here) and the righteousness of the indignation of the international scholarly community for their sake on the very ground adduced in defence of them, i.e. that they are persecuted as "critical intellectuals" (which is a clear MOR ground). Is this slander? Slanders are vicious, false accusations meant to damage the reputation of someone. Obviously, I cannot convince DEN of my good intentions, nor, consequently of the fact that my purpose is not defamation. Thus, the issue that remains to be decided is whether my criticism of the attacked for their MOR failure is false or not. Noone has challenged me on that point to date.
I am aware that my MOR criticism of the attacked is harsh, but I believe "bringing it all out into the open" requires reference to such crucial MOR aspects of this affair, since all the righteous indignation felt by both PRO and DEN derives from MOR. I am also aware that my criticism might come across as campaigning (or gutter-sniping, as Professor Harnad now suggests) in the perception of some, something I emphatically warned against. But I cannot see how young people in Hungary might learn what acting as a responsible intellectual requires in MOR terms if noone points out such faults in the stance of those that are set before them as prime examples. Nor can I see how further polarization might be prevented if they (young intellectuals) and the international scholarly community remain blind to the MOR culpability of the principal targets of PRO. And finally, I cannot see how the attacked themselves could preserve some of their MOR integrity, if they do not aknowledge their MOR fault (at least to themselves), rather, they keep sustaining the power game through mobilizing their international allies (or at least through not stopping them) and contribute to further polarization (and slander) thereby.
I think a said enough and made my points clear. Thus, I stop posting before you ban critical thought on this forum on the allegation that it is vicious slander.
Sorry, I wanted to say "I am not joining the choir of PRO (i.e. those who voice criminal charges (CRIM) against the attacked)" in my second sentence of the post beginning with "My posts do not contain innuendos..."
THE MEANING OF OPENNESS
(1) Critical thought is not banned (and I am not the moderator of ScienceInsider, so I could not ban anything even if I wanted to!)
(2) It is absolutely true that "LT" has not accused anyone of crimes (CRIM).
(3) The points made by "LT" on the moral responsibilities of scholars would definitely be worthy of intellectual discussion if they were made openly, not under false identity, and if they were made in a forum devoted to the general problem of the moral responsibilities of scholars. (Scholars should, among other things, take responsibility for the positions they take; the first step is to take them in their own names.)
(4) But this discussion is devoted to bringing into the open what is going on in the polarized Hungarian Academy today, in which scholars are being targeted for accusation, criminal investigation, and press vilification, ostensibly because of their political orientation.
(5) This is not the time or place to use the accused scholars' plight as a case study for the general discussion -- no matter how high-minded -- of the moral responsibilities of scholars, especially not from behind a cloak of anonymity.
(6) But it does need to be acknowledged that "IM"'s use of anonymity is incomparably more reprehensible than "LT"'s, which is really just a small (moral) failing.
(7) This should not be construed as a re-invitation to "LT" to continue discussion anonymously...
Declaration of interest: I translated several articles by Prof. Sandor Radnoti and hold his, and the other attacked philosophers', work in great esteem.
I want to address the claim made by "Lajos Tuskes" that "there is MOR behind PRO: their (DEN's) proteges failed to act as genuine critical intellectuals when this was badly needed in 2006, when Hungarians' rights were severely infringed by a corrupt government." Let me postpone discussion of LT's assumptions about what happened in 2006 and highlight instead the general implication of his claim: insofar as a scholar has failed to act as a critical intellectual, it is morally permissible to accuse him or her of theft even in the absence of evidence. By yesterday LT seems to have changed his tack: "My point is that they [the accused philosophers] have no MOR ground to present themselves as (genuinely) critical intellectuals, because they failed in that capacity (a point noone has challenged so far)" LT's new objection to the international response is not that the charges against the philosophers are valid; rather, the new objection is that, although the charges are invalid, so is the line of defense taken by the scholars defending the accused! Why? Because according to LT the accused had acted in a morally objectionable way in another context, which damaged their "moral stature." In short, LT seems to suggest that, whenever a person of deficient "moral stature" is falsely charged with a wrongdoing, *moral* indignation over such charges is misplaced (though, presumably, one may still quibble over legal technicalities). I think this view betrays a very odd understanding of the term "moral."
LT's claim that the international reaction would be less intense if the accused philosophers were not regarded as "critical intellectuals" sounds right. But it is important to be clear about the sense in which it is right. If these unfounded attacks elicited such indignation, it is not because the targeted persons are considered saints or faultless paragons of morality but, rather, because they are all associated in one way or another with the political camp opposed to the ruling party. Note that the right-wing media has repeatedly mixed legal charges with political accusations, and even Palinkas claimed that the philosophers became free game the moment they entered the political arena. Let us assume that LT is right that some of the political acts, statements, or omissions of the accused philosophers were morally objectionable. I do not think that this is the case, but let's assume so for the sake of argument. Even if this were granted, the fact that political motives are clearly discernible behind these charges would give us plenty of reason for indignation; and it is especially worrisome in light of recent government measures that are widely (and I believe rightly) criticized for undermining the rule of law and dismantling the system of checks and balances.
Finally, a word about LT's assumptions regarding the moral significance of the events of 2006: "Thus, the issue that remains to be decided is whether my criticism of the attacked for their MOR failure is false or not. Noone has challenged me on that point to date." Indeed no one has, because there is no point in challenging such a bald statement on a complex issue. The burden of proof is on LT. Showing that the accused philosophers were guilty of moral failing would, however, require more than simply stating that they failed to speak up when "Hungarians' rights were severely infringed by a corrupt government" in the autumn of 2006. What LT does here is prejudging the notoriously difficult questions surrounding the 2006 riots. Many of us wish the day arrived when a non-partisan investigation could finally begin to clarify the role played by both political camps in the 2006 riots, but I'm afraid this won't happen anytime soon. And least of all is it going to happen in this discussion forum, so let's not even try to argue here for any definitive interpretation of the 2006 turmoil.
Suffice to say, then, that this was a highly ambiguous situation fraught with dilemmas, with respect to which perfectly decent people could adopt, and did in fact adopt, diametrically opposed positions—not because one of them was evil and the other good, but because different ways of weighing conflicting considerations could yield different judgments. But the recognition that political judgment involves the careful, and often agonizing, balancing of conflicting considerations seems incompatible with LT's, and many others' relentlessly partisan agenda. One may legitimately try to argue that for a public intellectual not to demand Gyurcsany's resignation in 2006 constituted an error of political judgment (I'm assuming that this is what LT has in mind); but one would have to argue for that claim, rather than simply taking it for granted. And even if one thinks that failure to demand Gyurcsany's resignation meant an error of judgment, it takes extreme ideological blindness to the complexity of the situation to condemn such a lapse (if indeed it was one) as a *moral* failure, a failure unworthy of a critical intellectual. Such a view of the conduct of Agnes Heller, Sandor Radnoti and Mihaly Vajda is all the less plausible because in the 1960s and 1970s they showed considerable courage and lucidity in the face of a regime that was, unlike the paralyzed and inapt socialist-liberal government in 2006, systematically repressive. Which makes the analogies between the past ordeals of these philosophers and their current harassment all the more instructive. That said, as I argued in my first post, the questions concerning 2006 have little bearing on the evaluation of the ongoing politically motivated harassment.
Declaration of interest: I am a physicist, not involved in philosophy. I know very superficially some philosophers on "both sides." I am acquainted for decades with Sandor Radnoti as a husband of a colleague; I have met Agnes Heller twice on some crowded
parties and I was a classmate of Gabor Pallo in high school 50 years ago.
A have got a copy of the letter of the Philosophical Committee of HAS, addressed to all Sections and Committees of the Academy, together with its cover-letter. I think they are worth to be read. (My translations from Hungarian.)
Owing to the size limitations, the letters follow in a separate post.
Subject: Letter to the Sections and Committees of the Academy
The Philosophical Committee of the HAS, at its meeting of 4th February 2011, has authorized me to forward the attached letter to the sections and committees of the Academy. It is my personal conviction that the press campaign against the scientific grants and the insinuations - also repeated, to my greatest consternation, by a leader of a research institute and by some of our fellow scholars - can be stopped only through the solidarity of scientists/scholars.
Please forward the attached letter to the members of the Section/Committee you are leading.
With thanks and deepest respect,
Agnes Erdelyi M.P.
Chair, Philosophical Committee, HAS
Secretary, Philosophical Committee, HAS
To the Scientific Sections and Committees of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences
Because of the one-sided charges that have been made in the last several weeks regarding scholarly research grants, we consider it important to point out the following.
In his press release, of 31 January 2011, Jozsef Palinkas, President of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, has clearly formulated and distinguished what matters are within the remit of scholars and what matters are within the remit of the legal authorities. We consider that failure to abide by this principled distinction poses grave dangers for all of science/scholarship.
(1) "The sole parties entitled to decide on matters of scientific/scholarly validity and to evaluate scientific/scholarly research outputs are the scientific/scholarly researchers themselves." (Constitution of Republic of Hungary, Section (2) of Paragraph 70/G). Therefore: awarding grants and judging their fulfillment may only be done by professionally competent scholarly bodies. This principle is not to be ignored in public press polemics.
(2) "It is the role of the authorities to investigate cases in which the law has been broken and to deal with violations in accordance with the law." Therefore: determining whether there have been omissions or legal infractions in the financial reports of grants falls within the jurisdiction of the authorities. Until any investigation by the authorities is completed, everyone is entitled to the presumption of innocence. This principle is not to be ignored in public press polemics.
We ask our fellow scientists/scholars to uphold these principles both in word and deed from this time forward.
With thanks and regards,
The Philosophical Committee of the II. Section
of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences
PRESS EXCERPT ON WHY PRESIDENT OF ACADEMY DID NOT DEFEND THE ACCUSED PHILOSOPHERS
Excerpts from article that appeared Thursday 17 February, 2011, in the daily "Nepszabadsag" regarding the presidential elections to be held at the Hungarian Academy of Sciences (HAS)
"The last period of the presidential cycle of Jozsef Palinkas [current President, Hungarian Academy of Sciences] has turned rather turbulent because of the appointments of the institute directors and because of the press attacks that broke out in connection with the philosophers' grants.
According to Jozsef Palinkas, further irregularities, lesser or greater, could still emerge because of the chaotic nature of the current Hungarian grant system. According to the Academy's own internal audit, the Academy's research network represents a calm, clean island in this respect. The irregularity found at the Institute of Philosophy is dwarfed by far in comparison with similar issues at other institutions.
When we asked why he did not take more of a stand in support of the fellow members of the Academy at the time they were attacked, Jozsef Palinkas said that the president of the HAS is not the leader of the HAS's trade union. He came forward - he added - when the press went too far. He also added that it is not his task to see
to it that justice is done."
(So, all accusations are about something which "is dwarfed" [messze eltorpul]?)
I have forgotten to include the link of the article in the daily "Nepszabadsag", from which the excerpts were taken:
SCHOLARS ARE BEING SELECTIVELY INVESTIGATED FOR ALLEGED CRIMES, NOT FOR "MORAL FAILINGS"
*** ANONYMITY FAQ: "Lajos Tuske" is posting under a false name. Except in the case of whistle-blowing about genuine high crimes (by whistle-blowers who are genuinely at personal risk), anonymous posting of innuendos against named individuals is reprehensible, particularly when the named individuals are simultaneously being vilified in the government-side press and selectively targeted for police and government investigation.***
The topic of this ScienceInsider forum is the urgent immediate and ongoing problem of selective legal harassment of scholars by the current government of Hungary, not leisurely political debate about historical events that occurred under prior governments and what moral stance scholars ought to have taken regarding those prior events.
The problem is that scholars have been singled out for selective accusation and investigation of crimes and for Government-press vilification because of their criticism of the present government (perhaps also because of their failure to criticize the prior government!).
This selective targeting of critics is flagrantly undemocratic and would immediately be recognized as such in any other country in the EU or any democratic country elsewhere in the world: A democratic government cannot harass its opponents with selective legal investigation and incrimination, any more than it can punish its critics in the free press.
If the prior government's scholarly research funding system was indeed "chaotic" and "deformed," as the current President of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences has repeatedly stated, then that system needs to be reformed. If prior practices under that chaotic and deformed system are to be investigated retrospectively, then that must be done through a systematic total or random audit -- not through targeted investigation aimed only at the left-liberal opposition to the current government. The former is democracy. The latter, in a chaotic and deformed system, is vendetta, through targeted shooting at fish in a barrel.
To repeat, the present government needs to enact reform of its chaotic and deformed system, even-handedly, instead of seeking to exact revenge against its opponents (even for alleged "moral failings"), selectively.
Note: This is not an invitation to anonymous individuals to prolong the discussion of alleged moral failings of the accused, named scholars; the issue is selective accusation and prosecution for crimes (CRIM).
Many thanks for responding to the MOR side of this affair and not making an issue of my anonymity (which I believe is diverting attention from the real issue). And since you have addressed me, despite Professor Harnad's warning to the contrary (see below), I feel obliged to respond.
1) You attribute to me the following thesis: "insofar as a scholar has failed to act as a critical intellectual, it is morally permissible to accuse him or her of theft even in the absence of evidence." I have never said anything like that, which is clear from my post entitled STOP CAMPAIGNING below. Nor have I ever changed my viewpoint. From the very beginning I sided with the attacked in so far as I believe their right to the presumption of innocence was violated and I even agree that the campaign against them was launched on a political agenda. I completely agree that the right of the presumption of innocence must be granted to everyone regardless of their MOR or political stature. This is the reason I hold that there is strong MOR behind them and their defenders (DEN).
2) The reason I believe the MOR stature (i.e. their status as "critical intellectuals") of the attacked philosophers should be an issue and of concern for the international scholarly community is that the violation of their civil rights is presented in the international media as a persecution similar to what they suffered under a clearly totalitarian, regressive regime in the 60s and 70s in Hungary (for which they did and do deserve the full MOR support and ackowledgement of any decent person). You claim that the attack on these philosophers elicited the (I assume MOR) indignation of the international scholarly community "because they are all associated in one way or another with the political camp opposed to the ruling party". Well, if that is the sole reason for their indignation, then they should be aware that they come across to many in Hungary as defending thinkers on a partisian political, rather than MOR agenda and contribute to political polarization thereby in Hungary.
A purely political motivation for supporting people for harassment is ab ovo morally justifiable only if they are harassed by a totalitarian, repressive political regime, for in that case all the MOR rationale is on their (the opposition's) side on account of their political views alone, because the regime is morally so corrupt and illegitimate that anyone opposing it is ab ovo morally in the right. In democratic political systems, however, moral support cannot be ab ovo granted to anybody on account of their political views alone (whether they oppose the government or not), for justice is not unequivocally on the side of anyone who criticises anyone else. In such regimes granting MOR support to anyone in a political debate requires a "careful, and often agonizing, balancing of conflicting considerations", as you write. What I wished to call attention to is that the international scholarly community might not have all the information at their disposal required to pass a clear MOR judgement in the current situation. And since there are reasons to believe that their proteges failed to live up to their status as "critical (i.e. politically unbiased, morally concerned) thinkers" in serious MOR crises, granting full moral support to them might not be morally correct. (Thus, my standpoint and warning are not only compatible with "the recognition that political judgment involves the careful, and often agonizing, balancing of conflicting considerations" but directly derive from it.)
3) The reasons for my claim that Agnes Heller, Mihaly Vajda and Sandor Radnoti failed in their self-imposed duty as "critical intellectuals" in serious moral crises are the following.
The interpretation of the 2006 riots is indeed fraught with debates and the very fact that they have not been sufficiently investigated indicates that they are complicated. Nonetheless, there are a few very basic facts to do with human rights about them that deserves the attention of the international scholarly community. I would only highlight the following. In their action employed in sorting out the 2006 October "riots" the police employed illicit means, such as the so-called "vipers" (electronic equipements capable of paralysing people), rubber bullets shot at people's heads (some were badly injured), harassed peaceful by-passsers who took no part in rioting (grandmothers, young couples, journalists, foreigners, a Catholic priest, a person who complained that "you are beating up Jews again", a right-wing MP, etc.), broke into pubs and trounced visitors there, all this without wearing any ID (which is against the law, too) and in a systematic and intimidating fashion. (You can have a snapshot of some of their atrocities at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H2pMVPk3j7w&feature=related ).
All this happened in a politically highly intense atmosphere, with preceding demonstrations in response to the notorious "Oszod oration" of Socialist Minister President Ferenc Gyurcsany when he acknowledged that he lied to the nation and this leaked out. The investigations that were ordered by the Gyurcsany Government itself (!) found no transgressions, merely "technical anomalies" and Budapest Police Chief Peter Gergenyi was awarded by Liberal Democrat Lord Major Gabor Demszky. The complicity of the Government in all this illicit and most revolting action might or might not one day be revealed. But the very fact that this assumption was made by many or the incontestable fact that ordinary citizens' rights were severly infringed by the police should have deserved the attention of morally responsible, high-prestige intellectuals. It was for these reasons that Janos Kis urged immediate action with the Liberal Democrats then in coalition to "comply with the moral principles of democratic politics" in the MOR crisis and insist on an unbiased investigation of illicit police action (see Kis Janos: "Pengeelen 2" ES 2006/44 http://www.es.hu/2006-11-05_pengeelen---2 ).
Noone listened to him at the time, nor did the proteges of DEN join Janos Kis in his prudent moral and political assessment of the situation. This might or might not be regarded and forgiven as "an error of political judgement", but the consequences are clear: those who regard themselves as morally responsible intellectuals and kept silent at the time came across as supporting the morally compromised political side, i.e. as partisian politicians rather than "critical intellectuals".
4) All these events were, of course, related to the notorious "Oszod oration" of Socialist Minister President Ferenc Gyurcsany, which received highly conflicting interpretations in the national and international media. The full (and unbiased) analysis of this oration, its political background and circumstances await historians and political analysers. Yet, no pompous rhetoric could screen the fact that this oration did generate a moral crisis in Hungary that required immediate action by all the existing parties and a clear moral judgement by any decent intellectual. Janos Kis, again, provided a lucid, morally susceptive analysis of the situation and clearly warned against "making a moral hero of Gyurcsany" (quoting Peter Rauschenberger), rather than demanding his resignment (Kis Janos: "Pengeelen" ES 2006/40 http://www.es.hu/2006-10-08_pengeelen ).
Instead of joining in with Janos Kis, Sandor Radnoti argued against him and attempted to defend the indefensible (http://www.es.hu/2006-10-16_valasz-kis-janosnak-es-tamas-gaspar-miklosnak ).Yet, as it turned out, Janos Kis was right against Radnoti in his perception that "the evasion of moral issues entails grave political costs" ("Pengeelen"). The ultimate political cost was that the Socialist-Liberal coalition came to be defeated by a considerable margin in the elections of 2010, and the Young Democrats (FIDESZ) won 2/3 majority in Parliament. What I would like to add to the perceptive insights of Janos Kis is that the evasion of moral issues entails moral costs as well and this is what directly concerns the current issue. For their moral failure to respond unequivocally in moral crises the proteges of DEN now pay the price of being implicated in moral negligence. Consequently, they come across to many as partisian politicians rather than unbiased, responsible intellectuals.
If the international scholarly community supports them on the assumption that they unequivocally deserve their moral consent, they should be aware that their status as such is dubious.
My last comments in response to "Lajos Tuske":
1. LT writes: "those who regard themselves as morally responsible intellectuals and kept silent at the time came across as supporting the morally compromised political side, i.e. as partisan politicians rather than 'critical intellectuals'." Only partisan hacks deny that both the ruling parties and the opposition were morally compromised by their response to the crisis of 2006. Yet there's room for disagreement about the distribution of blame. Participation in politics means having to identify the lesser evil, which requires the exercise of judgment. Contrary to LT's claims, neither of the accused philosophers lent unqualified support to the left-liberal government in 2006. None of them tried to make light of the false campaign promises and the police brutality. Some did not take sides at all; others tried strenuously to reach an honest assessment of the situation and concluded that the country had less to lose from continued socialist-liberal governance than from the populist Right's rise to power. Whether they were right is a matter for discussion (elsewhere). But their stance was compatible with the role of a morally responsible critical intellectual.
2. I was *not* suggesting that everyone opposed to the ruling party is, by virtue of that fact, worthy of support. My point was that the accused philosophers deserve support because the connection between their political affiliation and their being attacked is not accidental; it is because of their political affiliation that they've been targeted. A government that singles out citizens for attack because of their political affiliation is abusing its power and violating the freedom of opinion. This basic point has nothing to do with the "moral stature" of the accused philosophers. In another context, it is perfectly fine to criticize this or that philosopher for his (or her) politics; but when he becomes the target of government bullying because of his political affiliation, the first responsibility of those who care about democracy is to protest such abuse and not to suggest, as LT does here, that he had it coming to him. What's at stake in this scandal is not the accused philosopher's "moral stature" or the integrity of their critical faculties but the ruling party's attitude towards the freedom of opinion.
3. There is no reason to doubt the sincerity of LT's claims about the 2006 crisis. But his assessment of Gyurcsany's speech and his representation of the situation that developed in its aftermath is seriously one-sided and partisan. There is a lot of unclarity surrounding the 2006 crisis and the role of *both* major parties in this conflict is unclear. The crisis brought to a head the ideological division that has plagued Hungarian society since 1990, indeed since 1919, and so it is much too complex a topic to be productively addressed in this forum. Nor does it have to be addressed here, because it is irrelevant to the scandal.
I think there is too much misunderstanding between us and too little tolerance for the motivations and interpretation of the other to sort them out on this forum. But I gather we agree that everyone should make up their minds on this issue on the basis of sufficient information and according to their moral sense. I merely wished to contribute to the former and clarify what is at stake in terms of the latter. Thank you.
To "Lajos Tuske":
Although your claim about "too little tolerance" between us doesn't rule out that you take partial responsibility for this lack, by default your formulation lets the blame fall squarely on me. So I'll just say this: bluntly worded statements are not necessarily intolerant, and all too often polite rhetoric disguises bullying and insinuation on the level of substance. I had to keep my comments short and to the point. It would have been easy to counter your account of the 2006 crisis with a thumbnail sketch as one-sidedly damning to the Right as yours was to the Left. Yet pitting one partisan representation against another doesn't advance understanding, and a balanced account would require dozens if not hundreds of pages. It also seems to me that neither you nor anyone else has given convincing reasons to think that this issue is relevant to the question of how best to respond to the harassment of the philosophers.
I do not want to add a personal comment to this discussion rather I want to report on some new developments regarding this case.
It was recently announced that the grants tied to Mr. Sandor Radnoti and Mr.Janos Weiss were found completely proper and fully "in order". As such the spending of public monney in connection with these two grants were cleared of any allegation of any misconduct or any irregularity even before a formal police investigation could begin.
This fact was reported by Magyar Nemzet here:
"kettő eseteben azt allapitottak meg, hogy nem tortentek jogszabalysertesek" "a ket palyazat, amelyet "rendben talaltak", a Radnoti Sandor, illetve a Weiss Janos altal femjelzett."
As such Radnoti is not connected to any such case or allegation and this should be made clear in any future articles.
ANONYMITY IS COUNTERPRODUCTIVE
Although posting that some of the accused have already been found to be innocent is welcome news, and although anonymity in posting benign information is not as reprehensible as anonymity in posting accusations, this is not the forum to be making anonymous postings. The situation is too serious, both for the accused, and for the prospects of democracy and fair play in Hungary.
I cannot influence the accusers (PRO), but I ask the defenders (DEN) please to refrain from posting under false names. Post to another forum if you wish to remain anonymous; here, protect your anonymity by not posting at all.
I am not the moderator, so I cannot enforce this; but I appeal to those whose motivation is benign, to refrain from anonymous posting voluntarily.
I call on you to stop your campaign and vicious attacks against the press in Hungary, such as accusations of:
"defamatory campaign, harrassement"
Open efforts to silence the Hungarian press. (stopping them)
"It is my personal conviction that the press campaign... can be stopped only through the solidarity of scientists/scholars. "
The use of biased and incomplete translations and other such tactics
"[EXCERPTS FROM HUNGARIAN RIGHT-WING PRESS] "
If you do not stop attacking the Hungarian Press, the consequences will be rather severe, I can personally promise you this. And I don't mean the comment section of a small traffic website in English.
I will probably be writing a follow-up article about this in the near future. I am interested in reporting on all sides of this issue, including the perspectives of all parties involved. Would you be willing to share your name and the publication you write for? Please make the case that the accusations against the Hungarian press are unfair. Your voice is very important in this discussion. Please be specific.
My name is John Bohannon. I wrote this article.
OPEN POSTINGS FROM JOURNALISTS FROM ALL SIDES ARE MORE THAN WELCOME:
ANONYMOUS POSTINGS ARE NOT;
AND THREATS -- ANONYMOUS OR NOT -- ARE ILLEGAL
Anonymous journalists are welcome to contact John Bohannon or anyone else online. They are not welcome to post to this forum, let alone to make personal threats on it. Non-anomymous journalists, openly posting under their real identity, are, of course more than welcome, from all sides.
To "Hungarian Journalist," who has the kindness to "personally promise" "severe" consequences, without identifying his/her person: if you think the translations are biased please suggest corrections. If your suggestions make sense, I will be happy to repost the corrected version. It is always possible to quibble with a translation and obviously no translator is immune to error, but I can assure you that I tried to be as accurate as I could be. Quoting parts of a newspaper article is widely accepted practice even in journalism, let alone in a discussion forum.
This is not an "open effort to silence the Hungarian press." No one is attacking the Hungarian press in general, and no one is calling for censorship (except some people on your side of the political divide). Protesting a barrage of denunciation issuing from partisan media outlets and bringing this campaign to the attention of a wider international audience is a fully legitimate and in some cases necessary form of exercising democratic rights.
For the past forty days or so the right-wing press has kept disseminating lies about the accused philosophers and demeaning them, without even acknowledging their detailed rebuttals. If you violently assault someone walking down the street and a passerby leaps to your victim's help, then your complaints about being attacked are not going to sound very credible. Yet this is exactly how the right-wing press has reacted to the fact that some people were not ready to put up with the campaign of intimidation directed at respectable citizens.
Your anonymous threats do a valuable service, however, in that they illustrate how your camp typically operates.
It is fine that two groups have been acquitted, as noted by "Anonymous", but one more has been incriminated, so now the activity of four groups of philosophers is investigated by the police "under enhanced prosecutor's oversight" according to the order of the country's Prosecutor General -- a measure usually applied only when investigating especially grave murder cases and similar ones. Link:
And all that for investigating some possible "irregularities" in grant accounting and fulfillment, which a few days ago Jozsef Palinkas, the president of the Academy of Sciences, characterized as "dwarfed by far in comparison with similar issues at other institutions" (see my respective post in this forum of four days ago).
In fact, Palinkas characterized as dwarfed the irregularities of grant accounting and fulfillment at the Institute of Philosophy, the same ones which have been discussed in detail and incriminated by Gyula Budai, the government's investigator; now these either consist of grave crimes requiring "enhanced prosecutor's oversight" or something which is dwarfed - but not both at the same time. Note that quite similar practices are incriminated for the other groups, too. As far as I can see, these "irregularities" consisted in a practice which may be not very elegant, but is not illegal and is used by hundreds of thousands of people in the country.
Here we shall realize that there seems to be an overall change in the situation. Originally the philosophers were incriminated (at least by the pro-governmental yellow press) for the mere fact that they got these grants. (Cf. Nyiri's reference to the "abnormally high amount of project sums" in this forum). That charge subsequently disappeared, probably because it was shown that similar and even bigger grants were distributed from the same source in 2001 when Palinkas was the responsible minister. (Gyšrgy Granasztoi, a right-leaning historian got over 90 millions, Nyiri 43, etc.) So, now the government tries to find fault with the grant accounting and fulfillment, and to incriminate a practice which is prevalent countrywide. (As far as I have heard, Nyiri had applied the same way of sub-contracting for which the liberal philosophers are now incriminated.) Note that - as far as I know - the accounting and fulfillment of the grants of the accused philosophers were already closed and cleared by the project agency. (Anyway, that is not in the primarily
responsibility of the philosophers but rather of the book-keeping departments.) This change in the direction of attack is striking, indeed.
"The international conference on philosophy in Pecs [South Hungary] has been canceled" Link:
The meeting has been canceled because of concern with the governmental attacks on Hungarian philosophers.
HUNGARY: Outcry over probe into philosophers
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