Austrian Chancellor Klemens von Metternich once observed that “when France sneezes, Europe catches cold.” A similar remark would be appropriate about the relationship between our leftist media and the political attitudes of Western Europeans, particularly those of the younger generation. Despite occasional griping that the United States is not woke enough, my impression is that Western European youth believe even more fervently than most Americans in the leftist propaganda with which our media bombard their continent. As someone who listens to European media (when my stomach can take it), it seems to me that exceedingly little separates their interpretations of reality from what our indigenous media churns out.
The effects of this indoctrination can be seen in a recent flare-up during the European soccer championship tournament between the Irish and Hungarian teams. Although the Europäische Meisterschaft and the organizations that participate in it supposedly have a fixed rule that no politics will be allowed to desecrate this solemn sports event, competing teams have begun to kneel in solidarity with Black Lives Matter. This ritual is now dutifully performed just before the whistle is sounded to start the soccer match. The soccer players also celebrate George Floyd as the paradigmatic fallen warrior against systemic white racism. Indeed, Floyd has now replaced the biblical Deity in the new religion of wokeness.
This ritual was going swimmingly well, until the match between Ireland and Hungary was about to commence in Budapest on June 8. The Irish players, urged on by their coach Stephen Kenny, took the knee in honor of the thugs who ravaged American cities last summer. But the recalcitrant Magyars refused to go along, and some of the fans booed the kneeling Irish players. The young Hungarians looked bewildered as the radicalized Irish youth performed their alien practices. The Hebrew term avodah zarah, which means an alien service, has been traditionally used in Jewish sources to describe idolatrous rites, which is what the offended Hungarians were observing. But the Irish coach indignantly responded: “The fact it was booed is incomprehensible really; and it must be damaging for Hungary. It’s disappointing and doesn’t reflect well on Hungary.”
Let us step back and notice which country is being put in a bad light. It is not the Hungarians who reacted to the “alien service” in a way Irish or Americans would have done until a few years ago. Since the 1980s, the Irish have increasingly abandoned traditional Catholic moral positions and embraced just about every social change coming from the Left. Irish youth are not only cool with these innovations but embrace them even more passionately than most other young Europeans. In May 2015, Irish voters approved gay marriage in a national referendum in what has been described as a “landslide.” While 62 percent of the voters approved the change, support for the measure among those aged 18 to 24 was almost hysterically affirmative. Not surprisingly, the Irish boast of being the first country in Europe to legalize gay marriage through popular vote.
Like their countrymen, P.C.-drenched Irish soccer players and their coach work tirelessly to undo the effects of their supposedly repressed, sexist, homophobic, parochial past; and they are pushing their revolt in what they view as a proudly antiracist direction. They seem deliriously happy that the Index for Social Progress ranks their onetime traditionalist people as “very socially progressive,” even ahead of the Americans, who rate as no more than “socially progressive.”
But perhaps we should not single out the Irish and their soccer team. Other European soccer leagues have also engaged in BLM worship and, like the Irish, invoke the slain porn star and drug addict George Floyd. Whatever foolishness we indulge in here may reverberate even more stridently elsewhere.
Like other Central and Eastern Europeans, the Hungarians are not rushing to conform to the latest politically correct directives. They are not ditching their national or religious heritage and certainly are not apologizing for their skin color. According to Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban responding to the “provocation” before the soccer match: “We Hungarians kneel only before God, our homeland, and when we are asking our beloved’s hand in marriage.”
This may be a critical difference between former Soviet-occupied countries—such as Hungary, Poland, the Czech Republic, and the Baltic nations—and their radicalized Western neighbors. Most Poles or Hungarians, including their youth, don’t swoon over our leftist fashions—or care about how they play out in the Western European media. Most Eastern Europeans live happily with their inherited identities. Much to the shock of American and European social progressives, a replica of the Statue of Liberty in rainbow colors with an arm raised in the black power salute caused a “mass uproar” in Budapest in April. The government took it down before the public assaulted this offensive object. Such woke art enjoys about as much favor in Budapest as Confederate statues do in our P.C.-afflicted Southern cities. Perhaps the statue should be moved from the Hungarian capital to Dublin or Minneapolis.