The following is a translation of an article written by journalist Noémi Konopás, originally published on Mandiner.hu.
The liberal faction of the Hungarian Psychiatric Association (Magyar Pszichiátriai Társaság, MPT) engaged in a power game against editor-in-chief at Psychiatria Hungarica Tamás Tényi, who wanted to publish a gender-critical essay written by a right-wing author. Cancel culture has appeared in the world of science, too—and the editor-in-chief of the journal had to resign.
It all started with an article, that is, an essay intended for a scientific journal, which fundamentally questioned the validity of gender theory, and which had been positively reviewed by three Doctors of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences (MTA) beforehand. This essay was supposed to be published in the last issue of 2022 of the scientific quarterly journal Psychiatria Hungarica. However, it was never published: neither in that one, nor in the next one, nor even in the current one.
The main problem with the essay was that the author’s name was Gergely Szilvay, a chief staff writer at Mandiner.
Of course, what happened is not unconnected with the fact that the Hungarian Psychiatric Association has also joined the attacks on the Hungarian Government over the Child Protection Law (although, as it turned out later, it was only the association’s presidency that stacked the deck by publishing its own opinion on behalf of hundreds of other members).
But let’s start with some basic facts:
- The MPT brings together a significant part of the Hungarian psychiatric profession;
- They have a prestigious Hungarian scientific journal titled Psychiatria Hungarica;
- Articles in Psychiatria Hungarica are published after being revised by two reviewers who decide whether they can be published with modifications or not, and if yes, in line with the internationally recognised peer review process, the article appears in one of the journal’s issues;
- The journal’s editorial board consists of nine members, the editor-in-chief of which was Tamás Tényi, deputy director of the clinic at the Department of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy at the University of Pécs, Doctor of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences (MTA);
- A wider editorial board, with a total of 31 members, also participates in the journal’s management. These individuals—and this is the main point—do not have the authority to overrule the articles accepted in the peer review process, and such overruling was in fact not something they would do, before the incident in question.
However, this is exactly what happened to Szilvay’s essay. To make matters worse, some of those objecting to his writing
admitted that they had not even read the essay.
Statements against the Hungarian Child Protection Law
This story, however, is not unprecedented: when the political battles were going on in connection with the Hungarian government’s Child Protection Law last January, the MPT, among others, got involved in the fighting as well, and fully supported the side of those who strongly criticised the law. At that time they said, among other things, that the aforementioned law would specifically harm the mental health of young people. However, it soon became clear that there was no real professional consensus behind these statements: they were issued by the presidency of the two associations, creating the false impression that they had the unanimous support of other members as well, even though, for example, the wider editorial board and the other members of the MPT had not been consulted. Gergely Szilvay also wrote an exposé about this, with which he understandably did not win the sympathy of the authors and supporters of the aforementioned statement (which, by the way, has since been removed from Facebook.)
As Mandiner wrote at the time, one of the main supporters of the highly unprofessional statement was Judit Balázs, the president of the MPT until the controversy, and her circle. Judit Balázs was the head of the Department of Developmental and Clinical Child Psychology at ELTE Faculty of Education and Psychology, but she left her position on 25 January 2022, a few days after the publication of the statement, and who wanted to push the statement through before her term as president. Back then, Mandiner also informed its readers that commenting on the association’s Facebook post, many people criticised the statement on a professional basis, so much so that after about 370 comments, the MPT closed the possibility of commenting, even though most of the commenters were professionals. Some members of the association also spoke up, such as Doctor of MTA Csaba M. Bánki, who also gave an interview to Mandiner at the time and a group now referred to as ‘The Ten’, consisting of ten renowned psychiatrist. A dialogue soon began within the MPT. Among the ten there was Tamás Tényi, former editor-in-chief at Psychiatrica Hungarica and one of the association’s founders, as well as Csaba M. Bánki. It is here that he story of our present article begins.
The Circumstances of the Birth of the Ominous Essay
Mandiner asked Tényi about what had happened. Tényi recalled that he had proposed a compromise, suggesting that a special issue should be prepared in which studies supporting and criticising gender theory are both included. In order to maintain balance, he designated two editors for this task, Judit Balázs, former president of the MPT, under whose presidency the aforementioned statement was published, and associate professor Lajos Simon, who openly supported gender theory. At last, three studies supporting gender theory and three criticising it were published in the 4/2022 issue of Psychiatrica Hungarica. However, as there were still columns to fill, Tényi decided to ask Gergely Szilvay, who wrote his doctoral dissertation on some aspects of gender theory and two of his five volumes on this topic (Same-Sex Marriage: Criticism in the Light of Classicism, 2016; A Critique of Gender Theory, 2021, recently published in English), to write another essay in the 2022/4 issue. The title of Szilvay’s essay was An Outline of the Critique of Gender Theory.
There is nothing special in this, nor should there be: what one’s occupation is one thing, scientific activity or debate is another. In addition to Gergely Szilvay, Zoltán Veczán, and the journal’s editor-in-chief Zoltán Szalai, several of those who write regularly or occasionally for our paper also hold a PhD and write studies (and at least two of our external staff members are currently pursuing a doctorate degree), as do the employees of other media with perhaps completely different value systems from ours (for instance, Veronika Munk, formerly with Telex or Loretta Tóth, formerly with Magyar Nemzet).
As psychiatrist and MTA doctor Csaba M. Bánki, who is also involved in the case, told Mandiner:
‘Since learning is more important than the illusion of a know-it-all attitude, open public debates free from restrictions or ideological supervision must be allowed (and be appreciated, or perhaps even be enjoyed).’
Left-Wing Cancel Culture Set in Motion
In any case, freedom from restrictions did not seem so important to everyone: in opposition to Tényi, the two editors, Judit Balázs and Lajos Simon, did not want Szilvay’s 30-page study, completed in the meantime, to be published. Since they did have some reasonable arguments against it (for example, that the 3–3 ratio of articles supporting and criticising gender theory would have been overturned), the former editor-in-chief eventually postponed the essay’s publication. Meanwhile, the two reviewers invited by Tényi had revised the essay—one of them was Csaba M. Bánki, who considered it ‘thorough, very well documented, balanced and clearly formulated’. ‘I also believe it is commendable that the author being open about what his stance is, which is why I recommend the publication of this article. The other reviewer has suggested corrections regarding several details, but basically judges the article similarly and also recommends its publication,’ he said at the time.
That said, Tényi (and of course the author) had reason to believe that the essay could fit into the 2023/1 issue. However, as the former editor-in-chief confirmed, after some members of the MPT noticed Szilvay’s name in the table of contents of the upcoming issue, a stirring in the background started, with voices objecting not to the essay but to the person of the author because of his articles published on Mandiner.hu. Moreover, some editors spoke out against him without even having read the essay itself.
At an extraordinary editorial board meeting soon after, convened by the president of the MPT, these critical voices called Szilvay’s essay a ‘political pamphlet’. Tényi, whom Bánki described as ‘an exceptionally well-educated colleague, one of the finest minds among us’, however, did not give up even after that. Another compromise followed: the former editor-in-chief admitted that Szilvay had deeply divided the association, but at the same time, he respectfully asked the critics to read the essay first and offered that anyone could add a comment or criticism regarding its content, which would be published in the essay together with the article. At that point, the essay could have already been published only in the next, the most recent 2/2023 issue of Psychiatrica Hungarica.
On the other hand, Tényi did not accept it that some members of the editorial board wanted to completely override the decision of the reviewers and he himself, the editor-in-chief, who are all highly-rated Doctors of MTA, therefore he nailed down that
if this were to happen, he would resign from his post as editor-in-chief and leave the MPT as well.
For a while, this method seemed to work: several editors indicated that they would use the opportunity to attach a critique to the essay.
However, as the former editor-in-chief told Mandiner, when the complete issue should have been submitted at the end of April, the ideological campaign against Szilvay restarted: only a single piece of the promised comments arrived (it was also in support of Szilvay and was written by Bánki), and the rest of the critiques were only a few sharply opposing objections against the publication of Szilvay’s essay arriving via email. Furthermore, two of the members even threatened to resign. Therefore, Tényi came up with the idea of writing a note in the editorial greeting that one of the pieces had deeply divided the editorial board, but since scientific debate is important, it would still be published—after doing so, he sent the final version of the issue to the president in good faith.
However, this plan did not work out either: in his response, György Szekeres, the association’s president, sent a chart instead of a commentary, stating that the majority of the editorial board was against publishing Szilvay’s article. According to the chart, nine members were against and seven were in favour of publishing the essay, citing academic freedom. As it that was not enough, the president even openly threatened the former editor-in-chief, stating that Szilvay’s essay was a clearly political article, and publishing such a thing would violate the association’s statute (which meant that, in principle, ethical proceedings could be initiated against Tényi).
An Odd Voting and the Resignation of the Editor-in-Chief
Of course, Tényi denied the accusations, pointing out that Szilvay’s essay is misinterpreted as it is rather
a theoretical philosophical text with a general critique of gender theory,
besides, it is completely interdisciplinary, i.e. it looks at its subject from the perspective of several disciplines, and there is no mention of politics in it.
However, the strangest thing about the matter was not this, and not even the fact that barely half of the 28 (31 in total) members of the editorial board ‘voted’, but that these were not even real votes, even though the president portrayed it to the former editor-in-chief as such. As Tényi pointed out, only text fragments of a few emails received in connection with the article were converted into votes, and the president also failed to ask several other members (such as Tényi or Bánki, who he knew supported the publication), thus he did not even include their opinions in the summary. In contrast, those who admitted that they had not read the essay in question were included. Also, nine plus seven make sixteen, which is much fewer votes than the total number of the editorial board’s members.
Since Tényi considered it unacceptable that the opinion of three Doctor of the Academy would be overridden with such a fake vote for the sake of ideological censorship, and that he himself would be covertly threatened, he made a difficult decision and
informed the president of the MPT in a letter that he would resign from all his positions and leave the association itself because he did not agree with either the threat or the censorship.
Tényi added that he was beyond disappointed that his willingness to compromise was met with the reaction that the essay was first postponed and then completely blocked. However, what upset him the most was that for many, the name of the author was enough to support an objection. The former editor-in-chief thinks that Szilvay’s essay would not have been published in the journal even if it had been a Nobel Prize-winning study—for Tényi, this evokes the Kádár era, when all the writings of, for example, politicians István Bibó or writer György Konrád would have been banned even if they had been love poems or cookbooks, simply because of their name.
Tényi also informed State Secretary for Health Péter Takács, President of the Hungarian Medical Chamber (MOK) Gyula Kincses, the Director General at National Directorate of Hospitals, the president of the MTA, and the rectors of the four medical universities of Hungary of his resignation and its reasons.
Within the MPT, the case was followed by a huge uproar. Many members indicated that they considered it unacceptable to compile a ‘voting’ from letters—after all, the chairman of the editorial board and five more of the nine members of the editorial board handed in their resignations, too.
‘They Did Not Want to Enter into an Argument’
Csaba M. Bánki told Mandiner that he is also quite unhappy about what has happened, as this kind of prohibition evokes dark memories in him and ‘means setting aside the much-vaunted principles of “democracy”, “freedom of speech”, “free opinion” and even classical liberalism’. And the essence of an open and transparent political position is nothing other than that only what pleases a certain circle can be published.
The editors did not want to enter into an argument with the author and his statements in the essay, so the only thing that was left was silence.
The psychiatrist cited the slogan of the left-wing Frankfurt School: ‘Occupy the universities and cultural institutions!’, which, as Bánki put it, ‘has now become mainstream and is slowly defining the way of thinking of the majority of the third generation, especially in the social sciences, with a militant ideology export.’ According to Bánki, this mainstream has failed in the east so now they are trying to push it on the west. He also emphasised that it is one thing that it has reached us, too, but the fact that ‘some people are not only trying to spread this trend here, but, when given the opportunity, they are also trying to break down every kind of counter-opinion, opposition, and defence with brute force, such as prohibitions and selections, instead of intellectual debate, only proves one thing: that they are still a minority (at least for the time being). The near future will show us whether they will succeed in compensating for this with sheer loudness, movements, and an appearance suggesting the superiority of belonging to the ‘vanguard’, and whether the Hungarian community of the profession will buy it or not.’
In any case, Bánki, who otherwise believes that differences of opinion are a natural state of things, fears that if Psychiatria Hungarica continues to operate in such a spirit and under such a strict worldview, it will create an ideologically homogenous community by eliminating differences of opinion, and from then on, they will be the ones to represent the whole ‘scientific world’. As the psychiatrist nailed down, ‘if half of the researchers involved in science are excluded on such grounds and if they are not allowed to publish because of such aspects, it will damage science itself.’
The website of Psychiatria Hungarica does not currently have a named editor-in-chief. Tényi has been the respected and recognised editor of the journal for thirteen years. Until now, the paper was never surrounded by such controversies.
Mandiner has already written about how left-wing manipulation and inaccuracy occur at the systemic level in social sciences, and how conservative scientists are forced out of universities. This trend seems to have reached our country as well, namely, cancel culture has appeared in science, too.
The MPT Considers Professional Issues to Be Its Internal Affairs
Of course, Mandiner contacted the president of the MPT as well.
The association’s answer, which we publish unchanged, went as follows: ‘The scientific journal of the Hungarian Psychiatric Association (MPT), Psychiatria Hungarica (PH), published a thematic issue in 2022 entitled “Critical Aspects of Gender Theory — Theoretical and Critical Aspects”, in order to provide a scientific overview of the debate that arose in connection with the previous position of the MPT.’ The statement also added that a presidential decision was made that the MPT considers the public debate on the topic closed with the publication of the thematic issue and is now turning its attention to other important topics.
‘In the first issue of PH in 2023, the editor-in-chief still wanted to publish an article on the subject. During the evaluation process of the draft of the issue, one of the two reviewers suggested a large-scale revision of the piece in question, which was ultimately not carried out. The editor-in-chief wanted to publish the article essentially unchanged. Three members of the editorial board resigned from their positions due to a process different from the regular scientific procedure. The publisher therefore repeatedly suggested considering whether PH really wishes to publish the article in its unchanged form. The editor-in-chief responded to this non-binding recommendation by resigning, and the chairman of the editorial board and five other editorial board members followed him as well. In accordance with its statutes, the MPT is committed to operating in a politically neutral way and based on professional evidence. The MTP considers the publishing of the paper and other professional issues to be its internal affairs,’ the answer read.
Is the MPT Not Telling the Truth?
According to the unanimous claim of those involved, ‘the statement [of the MTP] is not telling the truth, as one of the two reviewers found the text worthy of publication in its original form, and had only optional suggestions for amendments. The other reviewer did not recommend a complete revision either, only suggested one essential amendment and a couple of smaller ones. The author incorporated the suggestions of both reviewers into his essay and then re-sent it to the editor-in-chief. The two reviewers looked at the modified version and accepted it. Both the author and the resigned editor-in-chief are in possession of the exchange of e‐mails as well as the reviewers’ opinions related to the matter, so they can prove all of the above.’
Meanwhile, Citizengo has launched a petition in support of academic freedom and demanding the publication of Gergely Szilvay’s essay.
Click here to read the original article.