Hungarian right in a frenzy over Coca-Cola's LGBT tolerance campaign

2019-08-05T133826Z 1209419260 RC18047657D0 RTRMADP 3 HUNGARY-LGB
2019.08.06. 12:15

Coca Cola's "love is love" ads depicting same-sex couples with the tagline "Zero sugar, zero prejudice" promoting LGBT tolerance did not land in Hungary quite as intended, instead, the ads served as fuel for the government's sneaking hate campaign against the homosexual community. An MP of Fidesz already urged people to boycott Coca-Cola and a petition to remove the ads promoted by charismatic church Hit Gyülekezete (Congregation of the Faith) has more than 30 000 signatures at the time of writing this article.

The outrage over the posters promoting tolerance first started on Friday when pro-government website PestiSrá noticed them at a Budapest subway station. Their piece noted that "Those who think the homosexual lobby will, for some unexplainable reason, stop at the Hungarian border are wrong, there is a well-identifiable, foreign-funded circle that ceaselessly works to upend our society's gender norms." Fearing for the "unsolidified sexuality" of Hungarian children, they wrote:

"Of course it doesn't spread through convincing! Just look at it in the underpasses, the streets, possibly everywhere, get used to it, so you don't flip out when your child is defiled by some middle-aged pedo."

This disturbing line of thinking conflating homosexuality and paedophilia is nothing new in Hungary though. Back in May, the Speaker of the Hungarian National Assembly and chairman of Fidesz's governing board László Kövér already likened homosexuals to paedophiles, though limiting this comparison to people fighting for same-sex couples' adoption rights, reiterated by Chief of Staff Gergely Gulyás at a press conference a little while later, who said that the parallel is that both groups (paedophiles and people who think children have a better place at same-sex couples than in state care) prioritise their own interests above those of the child. But this article went on railing about how homosexuals are, by default, few and far between, and therefore, they need ad campaigns to "expand the homosexual meat market" with impressionable teenage boys, and that big companies are eager to lend them a hand in that.

The Budapest public transportation company issued a press release the following day emphasising they have nothing to do with the posters, their ad spaces are handled by an outside agency, adding that a tender to see who will handle them in the future is already underway, with the goal of having a "simpler and at the same time, more accurately regulated contract."

Fidesz's MP who earlier called for banning Budapest Pride Parade "by any means necessary", István Boldog was quick to jump on the bandwagon. He urged a countrywide boycott against Coca-Cola on Sunday in a Facebook post. On Monday, seeing the number of comments under his post angry about the lawmaker's homophobia, he called for liberals to be tolerant, adding "I think there are more people in Hungary agreeing with me than with you. Hungarian future depends on Hungarian children!" 

The largest Hungarian charismatic church, Hit Gyülekezete (Congregation of the Faith) also spoke out against Coca-Cola's campaign, promoting a petition to get Coca-Cola to suspend their ad campaign while issuing a press release asking the beverage company, amongst other questions, why they are "alienating those who support the government" and like their products by forcing them on the same platform as the opposition, why they are corrupting the minds of children by exposing them to images of homosexuality, and why they are "raping the conscience" of consumers who have a different opinion in this "divisive social issue." 

On Monday, Coca-Cola issued the following statement:

"We believe that we are all equal, regardless of our nationality, religion, gender, age, ethnic background, or the languages we speak, or the hobbies and opinions we have. We believe that hetero- and homosexual people have the same right to love the person they love the way it is best for them. In our ads, posts, and messages, we express the principles we have, including our belief in the equality of all people. We think that a world founded on these ideals allows everyone to live freely and happily. Everyone has the right to love."

The petition mentioned above has 30 000 signatures so far. As one of our interview subjects in our report on the 2019 Budapest Pride Parade noted about the government's encouragement of homophobia: "The problem is that everyone has already been hated in this country. Somebody gets picked on every year, and they are running out of targets."

The first Budapes Pride without barriers

Cover: Bernadett Szabó / Reuters

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