Journalist speaks on authoritarianism


Kelsii Kyto/NW Students prepare to listen to Carol Schaeffer, a freelance journalist. Schaeffer has spent much of her time in Eastern Europe, learning about the far-right systems in countries like Hungary. Kelsii Kyto/NW

Kelsii Kyto

For the second World Affairs Council Lecture, a full classroom of students and community members listened as freelance journalist Carol Schaeffer spoke about the rise of authoritarianism and far-right movements in Eastern Europe.

Schaeffer began the lecture by speaking about her definition of the far-right.

“The far-right has a preoccupation with race, ethnicity and genetic purity. These are things that signal the far-right versus the right way,” Schaeffer explained.

The threat of the far-left is not equivocal to the threat of the far-right, Schaeffer said. There is no such thing as the alt-left, she added, because the left fundamentally believes in democracy.

Schaeffer used her experiences living in Eastern Europe to share insight on the state of Eastern Europe.

In Hungary, she stressed how far-right Prime Minister Viktor Orban instills fear into citizens by saying that democracy in Hungary would be a form of Western colonialism. The authoritarianism of Hungary stands as a large threat to the concept of Europe and its values, she added.

“Orbanism is being repeated and spread out throughout the world in a number of populist authoritarian leaders. Of course across Eastern Europe, but a number of people have made comparisons between Donald Trump and [Orban],” she said.

Schaeffer additionally stressed that the hostility in Eastern Europe toward journalists is “very extreme.”

After the CEO of Arktos, a Hungarian publishing company invited Schaeffer to a party of his in Budapest, she got to see his social cohort and the real reason why he invited her.

“It was great for my reporting, but he took it as an opportunity to humiliate me, to insult me, to assault me in the end,” Schaeffer said.

Schaeffer also lived in Serbia, where she said journalists are also frequently intimidated.

“The politicians make a concerted effort to buy up or take control of the media there. There’s practically no free press in Hungary,” Schaeffer said.

The fake news rhetoric perpetuated by President Trump and other world leaders also contributes to hostility toward journalists, she said.

“Hostility toward journalists is something that’s been around in authoritarian leaders for a long time,” she said.

Schaeffer also criticized the international media for not taking the time to cover and legitimize the opposition that citizens have against their prime ministers, like in Hungary. Schaeffer doesn’t see much hope for the protests happening in Hungary, and the international media doesn’t care, she said.

“There’s just Trump TV all the time,” she said. “And it’s really a shame.”