Fireworks are beautiful, but are they worth it? Here’s what Hungary thinks
Budapest’s fireworks are the largest in Europe. The only thing larger than them are the scandals around them…
One of the biggest national holidays in Hungary is the 20th of August, when the country celebrates the foundation of the state and remembers its first king, St. Stephen. The tradition of adding fireworks to the celebration began in 1938, and by today, the fireworks in Budapest have become one of the largest of the continent, attended by thousands along the Danube.
This year’s celebration did not go smoothly though, as there have been several scandals leading up to the big day. With Neticle Media Intelligence, we have collected the public online mentions in the. topic of fireworks (tűzijáték) from the Hungarian web from the 15th of July and analyzed the reputation as well as the various opinions surrounding the events.
In this period, the fireworks had over 104 thousand mentions, unevenly distributed. The first large wave came after the 17th of July, when investigative news site Átlátszó.hu claimed that their public data request to find out about the cost of this year’s fireworks was denied, saying that the data was made confidential for 10 years. The next day, the Hungarian Tourism Agency gave a statement to Forbes.hu saying that Átlátszó’s article had been misleading, and that the gross value of this year’s main fireworks was 1.65 billion forints.
In the following days, when people began expressing their dislike about wasting so much money for a half-hour event in such economically challenging times, several city mayors announced that they were canceling the local fireworks and would be using the money saved on more urgent issues, such as supporting those unable to pay overhead charges, or feeding children in kindergarten. In parallel, a petition had been started to cancel the Budapest fireworks as well, not only because of the large costs but its effects on the environment, animals, and people’s health.
It was eventually signed by over 200,000 people.
Daily mentions of fireworks: the dispute in July was only the beginning
The second, and much larger wave of mentions came on the 20th of August, when the fireworks display was postponed by the operative staff. The decision was based on the weather forecasts that showed storms for the evening – however, the storms never arrived. Two days later, the Hungarian government fired the head of the national weather service (OMSZ) and her deputy, generating huge outrage. The fireworks were finally held on the 27th, a week later than originally planned.
Just how bad did the reputation of the fireworks get?
According to our sentiment analysis, over 33% of the 103 thousand mentions had a negative tone, while the positive ones contributed less than half of that, only 14%.
There wasn’t a single day in the whole period where the Web Opinion Index – which shows the mood of the internet regarding any topic or brand – would climb into the positive zone, and all the key topics had a negative majority as well.
When the daily Web Opinion Index looks the same as daily mentions inverted…
The events were mostly discussed on Facebook
There have been more than 12 thousand articles about the events surrounding the fireworks, and over half of those made it to the frontpage. Since comment sections under articles are mostly non-existent on the news sites themselves, the overwhelming majority of the discussion in such cases happens on Facebook. This can be clearly seen when we look at the share of platforms mentioning the fireworks: over 83% of the mentions came from Facebook.
After that, it is no surprise that all the most engaging posts are also Facebook posts. The next chart shows the top 15 of them, with the ratios of the different interactions (comments, shares and likes are blue, the reactions – mostly “haha” ones – are pink).
The most engaging post on the top of the list is the only one here in favor of the fireworks – it was published by the government of Hungary, and shows a collection of pictures taken during the fireworks themselves.
The others either talk about the cities that have canceled their fireworks, like Siófok, Miskolc and Salgótarján among many others – or they discuss the government firing the leaders of OMSZ. The remaining members of the weather service have all taken a stance supporting their fired leaders, and issued a statement saying the political pressure on them is too large to continue their work in a professional manner. They also gave out a warning for precipitation on the postponed date of the fireworks, too, which collected many “haha” reactions.
All in all, the negativity and the protests did not influence the decisions of the government, except for the local ones who have decided to cancel their fireworks and spend the money on more worthy issues. Both groups had their supporters, and defenders of the fireworks claimed that Hungarians deserved to celebrate, that this one event did not count when it came to protecting the environment, or that those against the fireworks were too sour to appreciate anything good that happens.
Will the 2023 fireworks be even bigger? We’ll see…