See all those languages up there? We translate Global Voices stories to make the world's citizen media available to everyone.

Learn more about Lingua Translation  »

Hungarians Use Wit, Paint and Photoshop to Deface the Government's Anti-Immigration Billboards

Budapest, Hungary. 19 May 2015 -- A sign reads "My best friend is a migrant" during a protest against the immigration policies of Viktor Orban, Hungary's prime minister, organized by the Migrant Solidarity Group (MigSzol) in downtown Budapest. Photo by janoskisphotographer. Copyright Demotix

Budapest, Hungary. 19 May 2015 — A sign reads “My best friend is a migrant” during a protest against the immigration policies of Viktor Orban, Hungary's prime minister, organized by the Migrant Solidarity Group (MigSzol) in downtown Budapest. Photo by janoskisphotographer. Copyright Demotix

The Hungarian government has recently used giant billboards throughout the country to send a message to immigrants and those thinking of immigrating: “If you come to Hungary, you mustn't take away Hungarians’ jobs”, “If you come to Hungary, you must respect our culture” and “You must abide by our laws”.

The billboard campaign is an extension of a national consultation on immigration and terrorism, in which Prime Minister Viktor Orban and the ruling Fidesz party have again used taxpayers’ money to promote a hostile stance towards non-Hungarians.

However, since few immigrants actually understand Hungarian, critics point out that these warnings are more likely part of a larger push to rile up fear and win support among citizens for planned anti-immigration laws and measures.

Hungarians who oppose the government's right-wing views haven't stood idly by. Posters have been defaced, torn down and painted over, with activists competing to get to them first. A massively successful crowdfunding initiative raised over 100,000 US dollars within days to mount a poster-based counter-campaign, this time in English. Social media is also buzzing with hilarious, yet poignant parodies of the billboards. Some favourites are collected below.

‘What jobs?’

"If you come to Hungary, you can't take away the jobs of Hungarians!" "What jobs?"

Original billboard: “If you come to Hungary, you mustn't take away Hungarians's jobs!”
Amended with: “What jobs?”
Image widely circulated online.

‘Liver paté’

"You can't gobble up Hungarians' liver [paté]"

Original billboard: “If you come to Hungary, you mustn't take away Hungarians’ jobs!”
Amended to: “You can't gobble up Hungarians’ liver [paté]!”
Image widely circulated online.

‘You bitch!’

"Hungary, you bitch - Hungarian Insultation"

Amended to: “Hungary, you bitch – national insult.”
Image widely circulated online.

‘If you come to bat country…’

"If you come to bat country you have to abide by our laws!" - homage to Hunter S. Thompson and his novel Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

Original billboard: “If you come to Hungary, you must abide by our laws!”
Amended to: “If you come to bat country, you must abide by our laws!” (homage to Hunter S. Thompson and his novel “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas”).
Image widely circulated online.

‘Hungary needs culture’

"Hungary needs culture"

Amended to: “Hungary needs culture, not a consultation.”
Image widely circulated online.

…'he could not find his home in his homeland.’

"The fugitive hid, and towards him The sword reached into his cave Looking everywhere he could not find His home in his homeland" Excerpt from the Hungarian national anthem. (trans. Laszlo Korossy, 2003)

Original billboard is covered with the text: “The fugitive hid, and towards him
The sword reached into his cave
Looking everywhere he could not find
His home in his homeland.”
Excerpt from the Hungarian national anthem (translation by Laszlo Korossy, 2003).
Image widely circulated online.

‘Welcome’

"WELCOME!"

Amended to: “Welcome!”
Image widely circulated online.

‘Help ET!’

"HELP ET!"

Amended to: “Help ET!”
Image widely circulated online.

‘It's cool’

"If you come to Hungary … It's cool."

Amended to: “If you come to Hungary … It's cool.”
Image widely circulated online.

‘Come to Hungary, we are already working in London!’

A few Photoshop masters have also swung into action, creating entirely new texts for the original billboard designs of the government campaign. Below is a selection of some of the more inspired work.

"Immigrants don't work and they are taking our jobs!"

“Immigrants don't work and they are taking our jobs!”
Image widely circulated online.

"We hate everyone"

“We hate everyone.”
Image widely circulated online.

"If you come to Hungary, don't steal! The government will not allow competition!"

“If you come to Hungary, don't steal! The government will not allow competition!”
Image widely circulated online.

"Come to Hungary, we are already working in London!"

“Come to Hungary, we are already working in London!”
Image widely circulated online.

‘I went to Chile, took their jobs…’

And the community of Hungarians living outside and “taking” other country's jobs didn't want to miss out on the counter-campaign either:

"We came to Germany and we took their jobs, one spot at the nursery, and now we are going after all the beer and pretzels!"

“We went to Germany, we took their jobs, one spot at the nursery, and now we are going after all the beer and pretzels!” Source: http://kommentne.tumblr.com

"I came to Chile, took their jobs and in a couple years we will also take vows. Orban can be grateful that I am not provoking at home."

“I went to Chile, took their jobs and in a couple years we will also take vows. Orban can be grateful that I am not provoking at home.” Source: Gyuri More info: http://444.hu/2015/06/14/gyuri-kivandorolt-elvette-egy-chilei-munkajat-es-most-meg-egy-chilei-fiut-is-elvenne/

The European Union and the international community have deplored the increasingly right-wing measures in Hungary. The conservative center-right European People’s Party (EPP) is the largest political party in the European Parliament and also includes Fidesz. On 10 June, the European Parliament adopted a resolution backed by the EPP, criticising the Hungarian government’s actions on immigration. The resolution noted:

[…] that these recent developments have led to concerns regarding the principles of the rule of law, democracy and fundamental rights in Hungary over the past year, which, taken together, could represent an emerging systemic threat to the rule of law in this Member State […]

The government’s billboard campaign also ran parallel to World Refugee Day on 20 June, dedicated to raising awareness to the plight of refugees around the world. To mark the day, the regional office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Budapest showcased individual refugees, who have successfully integrated into Hungarian society. These images stand in stark contrast to the fear-mongering attitude of the government.

“The only problem is I miss my family so much it sometimes hurts. I miss my parents, my little sister and brother” a 19-year-old Zeeshant, who plays for the little-known Hungarian national cricket team, told the UNHCR's campaign. He was forced to leave Pakistan because of the Taliban threat and travelled for nine months to arrive to Hungary in the cargo container of a truck.

"I want to play well for this country"

“This is the country for which I want to play well.” Image courtesy UNHCR

Sophie, who is from Togo, West Africa, works at a state-run kindergarten. She fled to escape forced female genital mutilation and would like to become a Hungarian citizen, according to the UNHCR campaign, but her application has been rejected twice. “I contribute to Hungary because I work and I pay taxes. I help children to learn to be open to foreigners and to people who are different,” she said.

"Children are full of trust, they are not prejudiced."

“Children are full of trust, they are not prejudiced.” Image courtesy UNHCR

Despite international condemnation and the rebellious attitude of many Hungarians, the government is pushing forward with its anti-immigration agenda. On 17 June, the Hungarian government announced its plan to erect a four-metre-high fence on its border with Serbia. As usual, memes quickly popped up to remind us:

"There is always further down"

“There's always further to fall!”
Image widely circulated online.

Read more of our special coverage: Streams of Refugees Seek Sanctuary in Europe

3 comments

Join the conversation

Authors, please log in »

Guidelines

  • All comments are reviewed by a moderator. Do not submit your comment more than once or it may be identified as spam.
  • Please treat others with respect. Comments containing hate speech, obscenity, and personal attacks will not be approved.

Receive great stories from around the world directly in your inbox.

Sign up to receive the best of Global Voices
* = required field
Email Frequency



No thanks, show me the site