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Wrong Way Down the Danube

How Hungary's Democratic Backsliding Threatens Europe

In January 2011, the government of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban announced that the 82-year-old philosopher Agnes Heller and four other academics would be investigated for the misuse of nearly $2.5 million in public grant money. The same day, the country's leading conservative newspaper, Magyar Nemzet -- a supporter of Orban -- published a bracing attack on the professors. Other right-wing publications and television channels followed suit, derisively referring to the "Heller gang" which had "researched away" government money. The investigation, such as it was, lasted for nearly two months before being quietly put to bed with no evidence of wrongdoing. 

Agnes Heller did not strike me as the sort of woman who would pose a threat to Orban when I visited her small, messy flat in a Budapest apartment overlooking the Danube River in February. She is about four feet tall and seems more like a doting Jewish grandmother than a

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