US media has profiled two us academics working for the Mathias Corvinus Collegium, a Hungarian educational facility associated with the government of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán. According to the New Republic report, former university professors Ilya Shapiro and Peter Boghossian recorded a podcast in which they gushed praise for Hungary under Orbán’s illiberal rule:
October 11, 2022 With techno music thumping faintly in the background, two infamously “canceled” American intellectuals drooled over Hungarian women, celebrated the way the country’s favorable exchange rates have kept the cheap booze flowing—one of the two men announced that he was on his ninth drink—and lampooned the mayor of Portland (“[He’s] a lunatic, he’s got pronouns in his bio”). They discussed the visiting man’s plans for his stay in Budapest, which naturally included a face-to-face with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s political director (“Dude, he’s great, you’re gonna love him”). And, serious students of vigorous debate and meticulous empiricism that they are, they capped off the evening with a probing discussion of some of society’s thorniest questions—including whether, as one of the men put it, “It’s the woke movement’s goal to, like, transition all gay people.” The two canceled men in question were Ilya Shapiro, who abandoned his new job at Georgetown Law School last spring after an investigation spurred by a racist tweet ended with his sinecure not being taken from him by force, and Peter Boghossian, who left his position as a philosophy professor at Portland State in September 2021. Two months after Boghossian released a widely shared resignation letter arguing that “illiberalism” had “fully swallowed the academy,” he became a founding faculty fellow of the University of Austin, an educational venture dedicated to restoring the “classically liberal university” and “reclaiming a place in higher education for freedom of inquiry and civil discourse.” Joining a time-honored tradition, both Shapiro and Boghossian have parlayed their sympathetic treatment in some quarters of the media into what can best be described as a “cancel culture speaking tour.” They made a joint appearance in March at a Princeton panel titled “Mob Rule: The Illiberal Left’s Threat to Campus Discourse.” Last week, they ran into each other in Budapest, and after Boghossian suggested Shapiro record their conversation as a podcast, the two settled down—Boghossian with a gin and tonic, Shapiro with a Hungarian dessert wine—for a “full, unvarnished discussion.” “I’d never [recorded a podcast] before, partly out of hesitation at the ‘process’ that might be involved, but then I threw caution to the wind, pressed the big red button on Voice Memo on my iPhone, and here we are,” Shapiro tweeted on Wednesday.
Read the rest here.
In September, the EU declared that Hungary had become “a hybrid regime of electoral autocracy” under Orbán’s rule and that its undermining of the bloc’s democratic values had taken Hungary out of the community of democracies. In April 2021, Boghossian appeared on the far-right Epoch TV YouTube show, defending Viktor Orbán’s decision to defund university gender studies.
A GIOR report on the new National Conservative alliance explained the role of the Mathias Corvinus Collegium (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
Bogossian was described in that report 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. The MCC is headed by Balázs Orbán, Viktor Orbán’s political director (no relation), and Boghossian has lavished praise on Balázs Orbán’s new book, The Hungarian Way of Strategy. In September of this year, GIOR reported on this year’s opening of the MCC, where Boghossian made a speaking appearance. Boghossian was also the star of a recent podcast sponsored by the MCC titled “Hungary Can Be the Gem of the World.
GIOR has also reported on the Russian ties and pro-Russian positions of Thierry Baudet and John Laughland, both leaders of the Dutch far-right populist political party the FvD. Baudet has his own relationship with the MCC, where Laughland is a visiting fellow.