Hungarians are eager to eradicate mosquitoes, but it seems that the government is reluctant to collaborate with its citizens in doing so.
Mosquitoes are a big problem everywhere. Not only do they annoy people with their hums and the itchiness of their bites, but also spread a lot of diseases. Therefore, when I visited rural Hungary, I inadvertently served as an open buffet for a cloud of these pests while conversing with someone from a small Hungarian village.
The story this person shared with me was captivating, so much so that I momentarily disregarded the feeding frenzy of these winged nuisances. I was told that this year’s crop failure was not caused by frost but rather by an elusive group that surreptitiously mixed some exterminating agent into the kerosene used by airplanes flying overhead. Moreover, some of these planes might even be Ukrainian!
Ukrainian origin. Hopefully, you are aware that these claims hold no truth. Unfortunately, over 40% of Hungarians believe in conspiracy theories, including the notion of a clandestine entity pulling the strings and controlling the government, which was shown in a study. Moreover, there is a correlation between the conspiracy theories, trust in institutions, and the strength of democracy.
One prominent conspiracy theory, called the chemtrail, warns that airplanes spray toxins on Hungarians or their crops for various purposes, such as warfare tactics to stop agriculture, poisoning, or rendering them infetile. us or make us sterile. Of course, it is nothing more than hot air.
However, while the person I was talking to was vehemently revealing these “hidden truths,” the mosquitoes were merrily sucking our blood. Ironically, despite the absurdity of chemtrail conspiracy theories, there is indeed a chemical agent that the government sprays to control the population—a neurotoxin. But it is for the control of the mosquito population.
Although this toxin does not harm humans or crops, it can contribute to an increase in diseases, because it is ineffective against the mosquitoes. It is crucial to exterminate mosquitoes more efficiently, especially as new species emerge in Hungary due to climate change, potentially spreading diseases like the West Nile virus.
In Hungary, it used to be commonplace to spay cities from airplanes with chemicals to kill mosquitos, but since 2020, such practices are only legally permitted in the EU under special circumstances (a loophole Hungary aptly exploited).
Despite Western trends favoring biological control, which entails targeted methods of locating breeding grounds and utilizing bacteria, birds, or other biological means to eliminate mosquitoes, Hungary still relies on chemical mosquito control sprayed from the ground. Unfortunately, mosquitoes are developing resistance to these chemicals, rendering the approach less effective.
Biological methods are more cost-effective as smaller areas need to be targeted, more effective, and thus it is healthier yet it requires something incompatible with the illiberal Hungarian government: the trust in citizens.
Trust is essential for cooperation in mosquito control, as breeding grounds on privately owned lands require cooperation between citizens and authorities. Even a bucket of water can spawn mosquitos. However, trust and cooperation would mean that the government relinquishes total control, which it cannot afford to do lest the illiberal house of cards collapse.
This is a two way street: the government does not dare to trust people, but the people in turn do not trust the government because they are increasingly removed from decision-making.
So mosquitos will continue to annoy us, causing diseases instead of just itchy bumps. The government will continue to annoy Hungarians, and more and more people will turn to conspiracy theories due to growing distrust in institutions – a sad side effect of growing illiberalism.
The choice is clear: Hungarians either strive to take back democratic control or they have to resign themselves to conspiracy theories buzzing in their ears in a swarm of mosquitoes.