Meet the joke party that wants to 'Make Hungary Smaller Again'

Hungary's Two-Tailed Dog Party campaigns on an 'anti-anti-immigration platform, with slogans such as: “Sorry about our Prime Minister”, and “Feel free to come to Hungary, we already work in England anyway!”

As politics descends into dark comedy, comedians are getting serious about politics. It’s a worldwide trend: In America, late-night tv hosts are some of Trump’s fiercest critics. The Five-Star Movement founded by comedian Beppe Grillo is now a party in Italy’s new coalition government. And in Hungary, the Two-Tailed Dog Party uses graffiti, stencils, billboards and other forms of street art in a guerrilla war of sorts against the ‘illiberal democracy’ espoused by the right-wing government of Prime Minister Viktor Orban.

Founded in 2006, the Magyar Kétfarkú Kutya Párt (MKKP) is more than just a ‘joke party’. It uses absurd inversions of the government’s own slogans to combat the narrow nationalism – anti-immigration, anti-EU and generally anti-internationalist – currently holding sway in Hungary.

For the 2006 elections, the MKKP’s platform promised eternal life, world peace, a one-day working week, lower gravity, free beer and two sunsets a day (in various colours). The standard candidate fielded by the MKKP was a two-tailed dog called Nagy Istvan, the Hungarian equivalent of ‘John Smith’.

Other MKKP plans included building a great mountain to provide some relief (literally) on the otherwise very flat Hungarian Plain, and the promise, symbolised by this poster, to ‘Make Hungary Smaller Again’.

The Trianon Treaty of 1920 is still a sore point in Hungary: in dismembering Austro-Hungary, it reduced the Hungarian component of the Empire to 28% of its former size, and to one-third of its former population, stranding millions of ethnic Hungarians outside post-World War I Hungary.

This poster reverses the frustrated calls by Hungarian nationalists to enlarge the country to its former borders. Instead, it proposes a smaller version of the outline of ‘Greater Hungary’ as an even smaller version of the homeland.

Listing a number of arguments for its proposal, the poster proclaims: Let’s deattach unnecessary regions along the border! All of Hungary’s immediate neighbours get a piece: Austria (A), Slovakia (SK), Ukraine (UA), Romania (RO), Serbia (SRB), Croatia (HR) and Slovenia (SLO).

In 2009, the MKKP graduated from street art to street protest, gathering around 300 protesters to chant: “What do we want! Nothing! When do we want it? Never!”

In 2010, the MKKP attempted to field candidates in the race for mayor of Budapest, using slogans that parodied actual populist ones. The MKKP promised “Eternal life, free beer, tax-deduction!” and “More everything, less nothing!” Another poster slogan read: “We promise anything!”

As if to underscore that last point, the MKKP said it wanted to open up an interplanetary spaceport at Szeged, create a new animal species out of bits of extinct ones, and open up a Hungarian restaurant on Mars – to improve the country’s tarnished image across the solar system.

The MKKP has had difficulty obtaining the required registration to participate in elections, one judge finding the party too ‘flippant’ for official recognition. On September 8, 2014, the party managed to register for the local elections later that year just 16 minutes before the deadline – leaving it no time to nominate any candidates.

In the summer of 2015, at the height of Europe’s migrant crisis, the right-wing government of Viktor Orban launched an anti-immigration campaign with billboards proclaiming: “If you come to Hungary, you can’t take Hungarians’ jobs away!”

In response, the MKKP and others launched an ‘anti-anti-immigration campaign’, setting up more than 800 billboards with ironic slogans, in both Hungarian and English. Their messages: “Sorry about our Prime Minister”, and “Feel free to come to Hungary, we already work in England anyway!”

The MKKP doesn’t just target Hungary’s political elite, but also its public institutions. The Hungarian State Railways unsuccessfully sued the MKKP for stickers proclaiming: “Our trains are deliberately dirty” and “Our trains are deliberately late”.

Absurd humour may be one of the last weapons of the liberal, internationalist elements in the Hungarian political spectrum. The MKKP is one of its focal points. The ‘anti-anti-immigration’ billboard campaign was funded by public collection: at 33 million forint (about $120,000), it received 10 times more than originally projected.

However, the absurdist strain is not a mass movement, at least not yet: a February 2016 poll indicated the MKKP commands just 1% support among the Hungarian general population. Still, the Two-Tailed Dog Party persists. In the run-up to the October 2016 referendum on migrant quota, the MKKP mocked the government’s anti-immigration platform, putting up posters with slogans such as:

  • “Did you know there’s a war in Syria?”
  • “Did you know that one million Hungarians want to emigrate to Europe?”
  • “Did you know that in the Olympics, the biggest threat to Hungarian participants comes from foreign competitors?”

To protest against the referendum, the MKKP asked voters to spoil their ballot; they even released an app that voters could use to snap and publish their invalidated ballots – for which the party received a $3,000 fine. Eventually, 6% of the results were deemed invalid.

At the parliamentary elections in 2018, the party got 1.73% of the votes, still not enough to obtain a seat in the Hungarian parliament.

Map found here at A Map A Day.

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New fossils suggest human ancestors evolved in Europe, not Africa

Experts argue the jaws of an ancient European ape reveal a key human ancestor.

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  • The jaw bones of an 8-million-year-old ape were discovered at Nikiti, Greece, in the '90s.
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Homo sapiens have been on earth for 200,000 years — give or take a few ten-thousand-year stretches. Much of that time is shrouded in the fog of prehistory. What we do know has been pieced together by deciphering the fossil record through the principles of evolutionary theory. Yet new discoveries contain the potential to refashion that knowledge and lead scientists to new, previously unconsidered conclusions.

A set of 8-million-year-old teeth may have done just that. Researchers recently inspected the upper and lower jaw of an ancient European ape. Their conclusions suggest that humanity's forebearers may have arisen in Europe before migrating to Africa, potentially upending a scientific consensus that has stood since Darwin's day.

Rethinking humanity's origin story

The frontispiece of Thomas Huxley's Evidence as to Man's Place in Nature (1863) sketched by natural history artist Benjamin Waterhouse Hawkins. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

As reported in New Scientist, the 8- to 9-million-year-old hominin jaw bones were found at Nikiti, northern Greece, in the '90s. Scientists originally pegged the chompers as belonging to a member of Ouranopithecus, an genus of extinct Eurasian ape.

David Begun, an anthropologist at the University of Toronto, and his team recently reexamined the jaw bones. They argue that the original identification was incorrect. Based on the fossil's hominin-like canines and premolar roots, they identify that the ape belongs to a previously unknown proto-hominin.

The researchers hypothesize that these proto-hominins were the evolutionary ancestors of another European great ape Graecopithecus, which the same team tentatively identified as an early hominin in 2017. Graecopithecus lived in south-east Europe 7.2 million years ago. If the premise is correct, these hominins would have migrated to Africa 7 million years ago, after undergoing much of their evolutionary development in Europe.

Begun points out that south-east Europe was once occupied by the ancestors of animals like the giraffe and rhino, too. "It's widely agreed that this was the found fauna of most of what we see in Africa today," he told New Scientists. "If the antelopes and giraffes could get into Africa 7 million years ago, why not the apes?"

He recently outlined this idea at a conference of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists.

It's worth noting that Begun has made similar hypotheses before. Writing for the Journal of Human Evolution in 2002, Begun and Elmar Heizmann of the Natural history Museum of Stuttgart discussed a great ape fossil found in Germany that they argued could be the ancestor (broadly speaking) of all living great apes and humans.

"Found in Germany 20 years ago, this specimen is about 16.5 million years old, some 1.5 million years older than similar species from East Africa," Begun said in a statement then. "It suggests that the great ape and human lineage first appeared in Eurasia and not Africa."

Migrating out of Africa

In the Descent of Man, Charles Darwin proposed that hominins descended out of Africa. Considering the relatively few fossils available at the time, it is a testament to Darwin's astuteness that his hypothesis remains the leading theory.

Since Darwin's time, we have unearthed many more fossils and discovered new evidence in genetics. As such, our African-origin story has undergone many updates and revisions since 1871. Today, it has splintered into two theories: the "out of Africa" theory and the "multi-regional" theory.

The out of Africa theory suggests that the cradle of all humanity was Africa. Homo sapiens evolved exclusively and recently on that continent. At some point in prehistory, our ancestors migrated from Africa to Eurasia and replaced other subspecies of the genus Homo, such as Neanderthals. This is the dominant theory among scientists, and current evidence seems to support it best — though, say that in some circles and be prepared for a late-night debate that goes well past last call.

The multi-regional theory suggests that humans evolved in parallel across various regions. According to this model, the hominins Homo erectus left Africa to settle across Eurasia and (maybe) Australia. These disparate populations eventually evolved into modern humans thanks to a helping dollop of gene flow.

Of course, there are the broad strokes of very nuanced models, and we're leaving a lot of discussion out. There is, for example, a debate as to whether African Homo erectus fossils should be considered alongside Asian ones or should be labeled as a different subspecies, Homo ergaster.

Proponents of the out-of-Africa model aren't sure whether non-African humans descended from a single migration out of Africa or at least two major waves of migration followed by a lot of interbreeding.

Did we head east or south of Eden?

Not all anthropologists agree with Begun and his team's conclusions. As noted by New Scientist, it is possible that the Nikiti ape is not related to hominins at all. It may have evolved similar features independently, developing teeth to eat similar foods or chew in a similar manner as early hominins.

Ultimately, Nikiti ape alone doesn't offer enough evidence to upend the out of Africa model, which is supported by a more robust fossil record and DNA evidence. But additional evidence may be uncovered to lend further credence to Begun's hypothesis or lead us to yet unconsidered ideas about humanity's evolution.