“Meseország mindenkié” Book Shredding-Destroying “Homosexual Propaganda” or Inciting Hatred?

Lucio Massari: Saint Paul and the burning of pagan books at Ephesus //Public domain

Dóra Dúró, deputy leader of the Our Home Movement (“Mi Hazánk Mozgalom” far-right, national-radical mini-party), tore up and then shredded the book “Meseország mindenkié” (Storyland is for everyone) at a press conference in September.

She justified her actions by saying that this storybook should not be in the hands of children because it promotes an “abnormal” way of life, contains “homosexual propaganda” that threatens the healthy development of children.

The book features tale transcripts by seventeen contemporary authors with minority and disadvantaged heroes. Its message is that we are different, but the opportunity is open to all.

Behind Dóra Dúró’s actions, because of her political character, we also need to take a look at her latent goals. We often see in public life that politicians’ actions are not always backed by explicit goals, but by political gain.

The reason for her communication is that she is afraid of the healthy sexual/moral development of children and therefore did not want such books to fall into the hands of children. It is clear, however, that by destroying a single book, she will not achieve this goal.

Rather, it can be interpreted as symbolic act: the book-shredding maybe familiar to everyone from history. This kind of action occurred for religious reasons, such as during the Inquisition, the Jihad or, because of content contrary to the interests of power, such as the Third Reich. The common thing is that there was always some cultural, ideological diversity behind it, and the regimes wanted to oppress these cultures symbolically.

The destruction of literary values is also the destruction of science/culture at a given age, as literature reflects on the era they were written. Dóra Dúró’s book-shredding has now become symbol of aggression against homosexuals.

It should be mentioned here that many other marginalized groups (such as the disadvantaged, the disabled, ethnic minorities, adopted children) also appear in this book, so the stories are not specifically about homosexuals.

However, by observing the politics of Our Homeland most often homosexuals are attacked. By bringing this to the field of politics and media, Dóra Dúró made it suitable for incitement to hatred.

In general, we always see a divided public reaction to this kind of actions. It is no different with this case either and that brings us to perhaps the most interesting part of the story, its reception.

On the one hand, this book destruction has opened a much wider range of issues of social tensions and attitudes towards minorities, and their acceptance.

In particular, the acceptance of the naturalness of homosexuality. Public life was divided into two parts: on the one hand, some people think that at last someone has drawn attention to the excessive spread of liberal values and interpreted Dóra Dúró’s words as a real fear for their children.

On the other hand, some people interpret it as a hate speech and they see it more as a tool for political gain. The action divided the psychologist’s community as well as public life. Let’s take a look at the details of the two sides of the case.

Firstly, a petition was launched by anxious parent communities against the sale of the storybook. Their initiative was justified by the need to protect children from growing up in the sense that homosexuality and transgenderism are an example to follow.

Many of the reactions were most curious about Fidesz’s resolution, because Fidesz often treats the gender issue as an attackable target as well (for example, a new law excluding gender change in official documents), however commenters thought that Fidesz will condemn the shredding of the books.

Finally, Viktor Orbán refuted this in a statement on Kossuth radio: “Hungarians are patient and tolerant of this phenomenon. We also take provocation well. But there is a red line that cannot be crossed. Leave our children alone!” – said Viktor Orbán.

On the same day, a far-right demonstration was held at the book’s reading night. In the end, the case reached the point when the mayor of Mezőkő and Csepel banned the use of the book in the kindergartens of their municipality, which clearly violates pedagogical freedom.

Then came an interview with psychologist Emőke Bagdy in Magyar Nemzet, in which she talked about the need to create a gender harmony between biological and social gender for the healthy development of children.

She also stressed the role of educators and parents in childhood development: story-reading also plays an important role, because the child treats the stories as evidence, for example, when two boys fall in love in a fairy tale.

According to Emőke Bagdy, on the other hand, the important thing would be to raise them against “deflection”.

After the interview, signatures were collected, and more than 1,000 psychologists protested against Emőke Bagdy’s statements and stood up against hate speech. According to them, this book can be a good tool for teaching young children being accepting, and they also stress that they do not think that gender is deviance, or homosexuality is a disease.

Eight NGOs turned to the Ombudsman over Viktor Orbán’s statements, saying that this debate had turned into a “homophobic incitement to hatred by the state”. In fact, by not been firmly condemning this act by the Prime Minister himself, he legitimized hatred based on stereotypes.

This is why a cooperation was launched against the destruction of books and to make the government to clearly condemn this action, which was initiated by literary and artistic organizations.

One way or the other, the sales marketing of the book did not have to be dealt with by the PR department, as it was at the top of the sales chart even without it.

These were the direct reactions to the case, but in relation to such an issue, which has been the subject of public life for a long time, and on which everyone has an opinion, we obviously also need to talk about its long-term effects.

One of these could be the process of becoming the symbol, which we have touched on before. The storybook and “homosexual propaganda” have been blurred by the media.

This is a problem because in the future, there will always be this misguided example in the hands of the authority if, for some reason, it will want to take out the topic of gender. And the direct consequence of this is that these two things are also blurred in people’s minds.

It is quite possible that if, months later, the title of the book “Storyland is for everyone” comes up, people won’t remember to the details, just the parallel that this was the “homosexual propaganda” that’s dangerous to our children.

This simplification is particularly interesting because, according to the authors of the book, most people who criticized (or even supported) them did not even read the tales. This is because the stories have already been in the background, and the point is on the phenomenon as everyone interprets it.

We must also mention how Fidesz uses this topic for political purposes as a longer-term impact. The LGBTQ group may become the target of a discourse of enemy that could even lead to central, divisive debates in the 2022 election.

This analysis, on the other hand, would take our original subject very far, which would no longer fit within the framework of the article, so it is only touched at the level of mention.

Maybe the message we should all take with us from the story, in conclusion, is the message that the authors originally intended. Which is, anyone can be a hero in fairy tales as well as in life, regardless of belonging to a minority or the majority.

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Nikolett Halasz
Republikon Institute