RussiaOctober 26 2022, 12:49 pm

Another Western Academic Pushing Russian-Style Culture War in Eastern Europe- Peter Boghossian in Romania

An inves­ti­ga­tion by the Glob­al Influ­ence Oper­a­tions Report (GIOR) has iden­ti­fied anoth­er West­ern aca­d­e­m­ic sup­port­ing rightwing “cul­ture” war themes in East­ern Europe con­sis­tent with Russ­ian influ­ence oper­a­tions. Accord­ing to his Twit­ter feed, for­mer uni­ver­si­ty pro­fes­sor Peter Boghoss­ian was sched­uled to speak on Mon­day at the Math­ias Corv­i­nus Col­legium (MCC) facil­i­ty in Cluj-Napoca, Romania:

I’ll be lec­tur­ing in Roma­nia Mon­day, Octo­ber 24, 5:00pm. Fol­lowed by a fire­side chat w Roman­ian Par­lia­ment mem­ber Botond Csoma.

Boghoss­ian fol­lowed up his talk with anoth­er Tweet fea­tur­ing a Roman­ian stu­dent claim­ing there is a “big wave” in Roma­nia reject­ing the US and mov­ing towards Rus­sia because of the “wok­ism Amer­i­ca is export­ing to Romania.”

Boghoss­ian was described in a GIOR report on the Nation­al Con­ser­v­a­tive move­ment as:

…best known as a “rad­i­cal athe­ist” and for his 2018 role in the so-called “Griev­ance Stud­ies” or “Sokal Squared” hoax. As part of the hoax, BOGHOSSIAN and two col­leagues sub­mit­ted fake papers to var­i­ous spe­cial­ized aca­d­e­m­ic jour­nals to dis­cred­it gen­der and crit­i­cal race studies.

In Feb­ru­ary 2022, the MCC report­ed that Boghoss­ian was a guest instruc­tor at the MCC, a Hun­gar­i­an edu­ca­tion­al facil­i­ty asso­ci­at­ed with the gov­ern­ment of Hun­gar­i­an Prime Min­is­ter Vik­tor Orbán and head­ed by Balázs Orbán, Orbán’s polit­i­cal direc­tor (no rela­tion). Botond Cso­ma is a Roman­ian par­lia­men­tary deputy rep­re­sent­ing the Demo­c­ra­t­ic Alliance of Hun­gar­i­ans in Romani,  a junior rul­ing coali­tion par­ty. US media report­ed in June that sev­en UDMR law­mak­ers had ini­ti­at­ed a bill to ban minors from being exposed to so-called “gay pro­pa­gan­da” in schools and pub­lic life. Accord­ing to LGBTQ media:

The pro­posed law would pro­hib­it expos­ing minors to any sort of con­tent relat­ed to LGBTQ iden­ti­ties or sex­u­al and gen­der diver­si­ty – par­tic­u­lar­ly in edu­ca­tion­al set­tings. The law would also freeze the legal gen­der of minors, pre­vent­ing trans youth from chang­ing their legal names or assigned sex at birth on iden­ti­ty doc­u­ments, and from hav­ing their gen­der iden­ti­ty acknowl­edged by the government.

The par­lia­men­tar­i­ans sup­port­ing the bill said Roma­nia was under threat from gen­der the­o­ries that have “tak­en West­ern Europe by storm” and are “endan­ger­ing Chris­t­ian val­ues and the tra­di­tion­al Chris­t­ian fam­i­ly.” In Decem­ber 2020, Roma­ni­a’s Con­sti­tu­tion­al Court annulled leg­is­la­tion adopt­ed by par­lia­ment ear­li­er that effec­tive­ly banned gen­der stud­ies in the edu­ca­tion­al sys­tem. The pro­posed leg­is­la­tion was harsh­ly crit­i­cized by Roman­ian civ­il rights groups, who linked the effort to sim­i­lar poli­cies adopt­ed by the Hun­gar­i­an government:

“This is an absolute­ly inhu­mane draft law against a com­mu­ni­ty that has the same rights as the major­i­ty,” said Catal­in Teni­ta, a law­mak­er from the lib­er­al Save Roma­nia Union par­ty and a mem­ber of the Human Rights Com­mis­sion who vot­ed against it.“It is an illib­er­al pol­i­cy fol­low­ing in the steps of [Hun­gar­i­an Prime Min­is­ter] Vik­tor Orban,” he said, claim­ing that the law would be “used as an instru­ment against the LGBT com­mu­ni­ty, which will become a scape­goat…. [If] there are cas­es of pedophil­ia, [the law] will be used against them.”

Rus­sia passed sim­i­lar leg­is­la­tion in 2013, and Roman­ian crit­ics warned that the bill would “fuel Russ­ian pro­pa­gan­da and dis­in­for­ma­tion cam­paigns” and rein­state cen­sor­ship in the for­mer com­mu­nist coun­try. Catal­in Teni­ta, cit­ed above, went on to say:

“This lev­el of [Russ­ian] inter­fer­ence has been going on for six or sev­en years, fuel­ing fears about the tra­di­tion­al fam­i­ly,” Teni­ta said. “I can’t prove the [eth­nic Hun­gar­i­an law­mak­ers] are on the Russ­ian pay­roll, but their inter­ests dove­tail with Russ­ian interests.”

In Jan­u­ary, the GIOR report­ed on a speech by Russ­ian Pres­i­dent Vladamir Putin that close­ly mir­rored rightwing themes that dom­i­nate the so-called “cul­ture wars” in the US. In that speech, Putin claimed:

The fight for equal­i­ty and against dis­crim­i­na­tion has turned into aggres­sive dog­ma­tism bor­der­ing on absur­di­ty, when the works of the great authors of the past – such as Shake­speare – are no longer taught at schools or uni­ver­si­ties, because their ideas are believed to be back­ward. The clas­sics are declared back­ward and igno­rant of the impor­tance of gen­der or race. In Hol­ly­wood, mem­os are dis­trib­uted about prop­er sto­ry­telling and how many char­ac­ters of what col­or or gen­der should be in a movie. This is even worse than the agit­prop depart­ment of the Cen­tral Com­mit­tee of the Com­mu­nist Par­ty of the Sovi­et Union.

In July 2021, we report­ed that actors linked to Russ­ian dis­in­for­ma­tion oper­a­tions were tar­get­ing Amer­i­can far-right audi­ences on alter­na­tive online plat­forms employ­ing cul­ture-war themes.

In light of the above, the GIOR does not believe it is a coin­ci­dence that Boghoss­ian, a US aca­d­e­m­ic known for his harsh crit­i­cism of gen­der stud­ies and sup­port for Orban’s poli­cies, is being host­ed by the rep­re­sen­ta­tive of a Roman­ian polit­i­cal par­ty push­ing its own ver­sion of Hun­gar­i­an and Russ­ian leg­is­la­tion. The GIOR report on the Nation­al Con­ser­v­a­tive alliance explained the role of the MCC in the Orbán gov­ern­men­t’s strug­gle to con­trol Hun­gar­i­an high­er edu­ca­tion and to cre­ate a plat­form for rightwing fig­ures. The report also detailed the poten­tial role of the Nation­al Con­ser­v­a­tives in Russ­ian influ­ence operations:

The MATHIAS CORVINUS COLLEGIUM, a Hun­gar­i­an edu­ca­tion­al facil­i­ty, is a key part of the ORBÁN government’s strug­gle to con­trol Hun­gar­i­an high­er edu­ca­tion and is the cen­ter of Nation­al Con­ser­v­a­tive activ­i­ty in the coun­try. This facil­i­ty, fund­ed by a mas­sive gift of stock from the ORBÁN gov­ern­ment, has spon­sored events and teach­ing posi­tions for promi­nent US right-wing fig­ures. Rus­sia has already begun to employ Nation­al Con­ser­v­a­tive themes in its influ­ence oper­a­tions which will like­ly find a more recep­tive West­ern audi­ence than in the past. Hun­gary is par­tic­u­lar­ly fer­tile ground for Russ­ian exploita­tion of Nation­al Con­ser­vatism giv­en the exist­ing close rela­tion­ship between Russ­ian and Hun­gar­i­an elites and an exten­sive pre-exist­ing Russ­ian influ­ence network.

Read the full report here

Last week we report­ed that Boghoss­ian and anoth­er US aca­d­e­m­ic had record­ed a pod­cast in which they gushed praise for Hun­gary under Orbán’s illib­er­al rule.

Ear­li­er this week, we report­ed that the new Brus­sels cen­ter of the MCC will be co-direct­ed by Frank Fure­di, a Hun­gar­i­an-Cana­di­an aca­d­e­m­ic who is also a con­trib­u­tor to RT, the Russ­ian pro­pa­gan­da out­let. As not­ed in that report, Furedi’s RT con­tri­bu­tions echoed many of these same cul­ture war themes.


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