Sunday, March 4, 2012

Stop Blaming the Jews (Again): Bieganski in a Surprising Location

An essential tool in Polonia's battle with Bieganski the Brute  Stereotype

I recently enjoyed the pleasure and the privilege of reading the pre-publication manuscript of a new book addressing Polish-Jewish relations.

I was allowed to read this pre-publication manuscript thanks to the publisher's generous favor to me, no more no less.

I was not invited to serve as editor, advisor or fact checker.

The author of the book in question is a very big name, the kind of name that occupies page one of the New York Times. The topic of the book is a very big topic, the kind of topic that commands prime-time specials and university courses and international diplomacy at the highest level.

The book includes an endorsement by another big name in Christian-Jewish relations.

I would love to tell you the name of the book, author, and publisher, but I never will – for reasons that will become obvious.

I sat down with this book in a state of eager excitement and cozy pleasure. I could not wait to read it.

It wasn't long before I found what struck me as an isolated typo. Odd, I thought; this book is meant to be ready for publication – I was reading page proofs as they would appear in the finished text. I reported the isolated typo to the publisher. He thanked me and expressed relief that I had stumbled across this typo in time for him to correct it before the book went to press.

And then I went on to finish the book.

Isolated typo shmypo.

That wasn't no isolated typo.

Ooooo no it wasn't.

I lost count of how many errors I found.

There were misspellings. Misspellings of common, everyday vocabulary words. Misspellings of place names. Misspellings of the names of political leaders, misspellings of the names of archetypal mythic and fictional characters, misspellings of the names of geographic locations where historic events transpired.

There were errors of fact on cultural material so great honking huge that my jaw hit the floor.

Errors in the dates of world historical events.

Errors in the grammar of foreign language phrases.

Heck, they even managed to get the food wrong.

These objective errors were not the end, of course.

Of course this book addressing Polish-Jewish relations relied unquestioningly on the Bieganski the Brute stereotype. This book will serve to perpetuate Bieganski, that false, revisionist, misunderstanding of Christian-Jewish relations, immigration history, World War II and the Holocaust.

This next part won't surprise you.

The factual errors in this text all concerned Poland, Poles, and Polish culture.

A publisher who couldn't recognize key errors in fact about Polish history – who couldn't spell the names of Polish kings correctly, or even recognizably, or accurately date the Warsaw uprising – who didn't even know what Poles eat – will be publishing a book that perpetuates the Bieganski the brute stereotype.

At moments like this, all too many in Polonia point the finger.

They blame the Jews.

There are Jews out there, they insist, who say bad things about Poland in books, movies, newspapers, museums, TV shows, on university campuses. According to this theory, if it were not for these bad Jews, Poland's history would be well and accurately known.

I'd like to extend a little wake up call to those Polonians – the press publishing this upcoming, deeply flawed book on Polish-Jewish relations is Catholic.

That's right, all you dedicated conspiracy theorists who insist that some diabolic outside force controls Polonia and is solely responsible for the Bieganski image. A significant, influential, and historic CATHOLIC publisher was ready to send to press a book addressing Polish-Jewish relations that didn't even spell the names of Poland's political leaders in a recognizable fashion.

I was able to correct factual errors in the book, but I cannot sway it away from its central promulgation of the Bieganski stereotype.

I live in academia and among writers, editors, activists and politicians. I live in New Jersey, a wildly diverse state. When I encounter scholars discussing who gets hired and why, when I huddle with activists to plan political actions, when I chat with editors, publishers and writers and discuss the content of upcoming publications, when I confer with school administrators about what books get put on syllabi and on library shelves, I hear the same concerns addressed with utmost seriousness, and handled with priority and urgency:

"How will the

African Americans

Jews

Women

Gays

Hispanics

Asians

Muslims

Italian Americans

React to this?

Maybe we better factor in their sensitivities and change our plans accordingly.

Maybe we better call in an expert from that community.

Maybe we better hire a consultant.'

Poles? Polish Americans? I have never, not once, heard anyone but me express concern about how Poles or Polish Americans will react to anything.

Why? Because Polish Americans are not players. If they don't like what this Catholic publisher publishes about them, so what? What consequence will there be for the publisher? Has any Pole or Polish American had an impact on this publisher's work? Never, almost certainly.

Remember: this publisher is CATHOLIC. Poland has been called "Rome's most faithful daughter." Poland gave the church one of its most significant recent leaders: John Paul II.

And yet we Polonians exercise so little power, we have so little juice, that a publisher that represents the church Poles have been so loyal to for so long displays a stunning, almost certainly unconscious disregard for Poles and Poland.

A Catholic publisher did not deem it necessary to bring in a Polish fact checker to vet a book about Polish-Jewish relations. A Catholic publisher will contribute to the Bieganski the Brute stereotype.

It took me eight years to find a publisher for "Bieganski." Again and again publishers, including the publisher at a Catholic university, demanded that "Bieganski" be vetted by Jews. I pointed out that Jewish authors had supported "Bieganski." I was actually told – on the campus of a Catholic university – that "Bieganski"'s Jewish supporters were not Jewish enough, that their names didn't sound Jewish enough and that they didn't appear Jewish enough. Mind, in this one instance, it was not a Jew saying this to me, but a non-Jew speaking for a Catholic university.

Do you think for one second that any North American publisher has ever been kept awake by similar worries about how a book will affect Polish or Polish-American readers? Not a chance.

Don't blame others, Polonia. Look at yourselves. Look at how you've failed to become players who can have an impact on publishers, and look at how you can change so that you can become players. Start here: read "The Crisis in Polonian Leadership, Organization, and Vision."

23 comments:

  1. Well, I suppose no one else can be blamed but Polonia, because I suppose it was Polonia that has been publishing/passing Slavophobe stuff for a century. Who else could it have been? Gremlins?

    And Slavophobia is never expressed by real people (therefore they can't be blamed). It is expressed, promulgated --- well, it must be spontaneous generation, sort of like maggots magically appear on meat for example. It must just be in the air or something. It could not possibly be resident in real humans.

    I am not surprised at a Catholic publisher of such a thing. After all, to have currency among the academics, they have to think and believe what the crapademics think and believe.

    After decades of PC sifting out the incorrigibly resistant, what can you expect?

    The Catholic publisher (to be blamed, for sure), just becomes part of this larger zeitgeist.

    To figure that this kind of thing is restricted to one demographic (Jews) would be to underestimate the catholicism of its targetting, and supporters, and to underestimate its intent -- effective control of all sources of information to ensure that they are consistent with present, and future policy -- policy that empowers some while disempowering others. It really is a zero sum game Virginia.

    Nemo

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  2. "It took me eight years to find a publisher for "Bieganski."

    Imagine my surprise

    Nemo

    " Again and again publishers, including the publisher at a Catholic university, demanded that "Bieganski" be vetted by Jews. I pointed out that Jewish authors had supported "Bieganski." I was actually told – on the campus of a Catholic university – that "Bieganski"'s Jewish supporters were not Jewish enough, that their names didn't sound Jewish enough and that they didn't appear Jewish enough. Mind, in this one instance, it was not a Jew saying this to me, but a non-Jew speaking for a Catholic university. "

    obviously heavily co-opted. It's an academic disorder.

    Nemo

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  3. Hello again Captain Nemo, if your submarine periscope is just rising above the waves in the English Channel, that's me waving from the window. You say that for Catholic publishers to have currency among the academics, they must bow to the academic zeitgeist. Yes, the blogpost above suggests that to be true.

    Who/what, therefore, are Catholic publishers showing loyalty to? Is it their brothers and sisters in the worldwide congregation? Or is it "the world" which tells us who is "uber" and who is "unter" - who must be respected, and who can safely be disrespected?

    The above blogpost suggests it is the world.

    Therefore, though many Poles are loyal to the Catholic Church, is it loyal to them?

    I left it many years ago, so I have already voted with my feet.

    I understand what Dr.Goska is saying, as it does seem that if we formed ourselves into a powerful lobby group with political clout and made sure there were commercial and career implications in reviling us, then wouldn't Catholic publishers be careful to treat us with respect?

    However, would followers of Christ revile people - especially those who are powerless in the world? The Bible tells us that we should treat everyone with kindness and respect, and be "no part" of the world and its attitudes. We have a template in Jesus. "When [Jesus] was being reviled, he did not go reviling in return. When he was suffering, he did not go threatening." —1 Pet. 2:23.

    So the most powerful way to change this is surely to try to get everyone to read their Bible and see and understand what it says? In other words, to carry on with the Christian preaching and teaching work, that Jesus left for his followers to do, and leave the rest to Jehovah.

    What, after all, is Armageddon for. Isn't it to remove the wicked from the earth- "to bring to ruin those ruining the earth"?

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    1. Waggling scope in response. Long experience, not just the above post suggests it is true.

      I doubt that Slavs figure prominently in the hierarchy of the American Catholic church. Those who do tend to be of that social class and element who are NOT of the "peasants" that Dr. Goska is partial to (as am I). Thus, the disparaging of things Slavic from an organ of the Catholic church is no surprise -- as always, imagine my surprise.

      I suspect that they are loyal to those who in response would say nice things about them, sponsor events, give donations, and perhaps just currying favor with those who control the educational establishment and the media establishments in the country, which is some, not others.

      Slavophobia is a certain type of scapegoating, similar to how some religious groups would put the sins of the community on a goat, and turn it loose in the wilderness out of the city. Then they went back to business as usual.

      Who are they showing loyalty to?

      Sometimes it will be specific ethnic and religious groups, never stated frankly, but it is also simply those who have in common those interests, worldviews, and mentalities and attitudes which by holding them, and implementing them, make their lives easier, and which make them feel good about themselves, intellectual and moral inconsistencies on their part notwithstanding.

      These are the processes always found in "the world", despite their aspirations to be above the world (and the rest of us in it).

      Since you are an enthusiast for things religious, I could say that Bieganski is very important in maintaining their belief in false gods. I have used the term "bowing to their gods" in the past.

      Performing the various Bieganski rituals and rites reinforces their faith in their own goodness -- they get to be the elect of God, or some variation on that theme -- essentially reinforces their faith in their own salvation, saving themselves.

      Performing their Bieganski rites, they assure themselves that they are saved, and their friends next to them reassure them too, and then they reassure their friends that they are saved. We are all really good people now, aren't we? Closed but consistentsystem, though delusional.

      (Bieganski is agood term for use by those in the know, but by naming a fictional character, rather than the nature of the process, its use can avoid pinning the blame -- sin, if you will -- on the persons, institutions, attitudes to whom that blame belongs.)

      Nemo1

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    2. The existence of the Polish National Catholic Church is a marker for Poles feeling the Catholic church did not return their loyalty.

      Yes if you did powerful lobbying, you might have clout, but any clout you have is weighed against that of others who do not have your welfare at heart, and whose interests are contrary to yours, and they know that too. Given that inertia, you would have to be willing to invest large amounts of time and money before you would see any payoff. Not saying that shouldn't be done.

      The first move is a boycott. Saves energy and money, rather than expends it. I think Slavs do this every day, resulting in the lack of book buying that Dr. Goska seems to mourn. It's understated too, since Slavs tend not to be big screamers, to this point.

      One need not revile people, but we need not be blind to their various transgressions, or not hold them accountable in some way.

      I am not much in favor of trying to get everyone to read their Bible, at least in the present milieu. I think it more likely that brain transplant vending machines would be more successful, if only we could find some donors.

      I am not much on various paradise on earth builders (this has been tried many times - someone in past posts thought this was a good idea, as I recall), who have often brought us purgatory, if not hell.

      Since you like these religious things, there is a Hebrew phrase "tikkun olam" or repairing the world, which seems humbler and more appropriate. Older folks, not some dumb college kids, know that just keeping the world together is an act in itself, calling for frequent repairs, let alone major remodelling. (Maybe people who don't actually do their own repairs might not get this. These must be the ones who are always remodelling.)

      If this book is as bad as Dr Goska says, she ought to be able to write a scathing review of it. It might be studied by a book club interested in Slavophobia, based on that review. Bieganski might be studied by a book club as well. Again, this would pay you back personally with insight, and not require punching people in the nose, though some of them probably deserve it, no doubt. As for Jesus and "threatening", what about that ugly incident at the temple? I think it's OK to call a turd a turd.

      Nemo2

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  4. Start packing, Dr. Goska--it's the witness protection program for you. Damn!!!

    I still owe you a response to your three terrific posts on the crisis in Polonia. The last three months have been awful (death in my family, for one, a grandmother with deteriorating dementia, for another) and I have had little time to think about Polish-Jewish relations. Not wanting to give you the perfunctory "great job, Dr. Goska! Keep it up!" I opted instead to write a proper response as soon as things settle down. Until that time, all the best to you and yours.

    --Liron Rubin

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  5. lr thank you much, and please accept my condolences on the death in your family.

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  6. what can polonia do? in fact the blog post "there's hope! what you can fo about the crisis in polonian leadership, organization, and vision" outlines what polonia can do.

    start with this simple step, polonia: BUY and READ "bieganski."

    astoundingly, there are polonians who claim that they care about stereotyping of poles who are still so cheap and anti-intellectual that they can't bring themselves to purchase or read the one scholarly book on the topic available to them.

    after polonians prepare themselves intellectually, they can unite, support each other, and act strategically.

    other groups have done this; polish americans can too.

    they have only themselves to look to if they do not.

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  7. Dear Nemo2 - now I am getting confused. Just whose periscope was that in the English Channel this morning?!

    You say: "I am not much on various paradise on earth builders (this has been tried many times - someone in past posts thought this was a good idea, as I recall), who have often brought us purgatory, if not hell"

    Absolutely Nemo2. All these isms to bring about Paradise on earth have usually brought horror. The Hebrew Scriptures warn us that "It does not belong to man who is walking even to direct his step". Ignoring that warning has brought disaster.

    Our Creator asks us to be "no part" of the world, and to trust in Him to "bring to ruin those ruining the earth". Isn't that what we are praying for when we say the Lord's Prayer? We want God's Kingdom to come. We are not looking to human government to solve our problems.

    You also say: "Since you like these religious things, there is a Hebrew phrase "tikkun olam" or repairing the world, which seems humbler and more appropriate."

    Is it appropriate though to say that we can repair the world if our Creator has told us that we cannot?

    Surely in view of what the Hebrew Scriptures say it is completely inappropriate.

    Therefore I don't think we can solve the Polish media issues by political action. But I do think that it can be dealt with perfectly and constructively if we listen to our Creator and do what He tells us. Everything can be if we will do that.

    And, yes, I too think that everyone should have a copy of Bieganaski on their bookshelf - athough with the usual proviso that you read it along with Psalm 37.

    Sorry about the family tragedies Liron Rubin - especially the dementia which in the end is a kind of living death. If the Hebrew Scriptures are true, which I believe, then this was never meant to happen to us - getting old like this and dying. Which is why it is just about impossible to deal with.

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    1. Don't know whose scope it was, I'm the good looking one.

      In connection with my discussion of remodelling and religion, and your interest in things religious, and as you are in England, you might enjoy reading Kipling's Sons of Mary, Sons of Martha, a short poem, and much about peasants.

      Nemo3

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  8. Scriptures can be and regularly are abused. So I don't bother much with strict observance of these things, or concern myself with them, though they are sometimes enlightening, humanity logging its thoughts on the perennial travails.

    Nemo

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  9. sue can't write as much as i'd like -- still working w/ one hand.

    sue u seem to think that this catholic publisher is evil, & is doing what he is doing out of expedience. he is not evil; he is one of my heroes. i will never do as much good in my life as he has done in his.

    he is publishing a book -- that was so full of factual errors about poland that my jaw hit the floor -- a book that perpetuates the bieganski the brute streotype BECAUSE HE BELIEVES IT TO BE TRUE

    and no one has taught him otherwise

    what could happen? concerned polonians could send copies of bieganski to the top ten catholic publishers in the us and demand engagement on this issue

    are polonians taking such action?

    no. there are no polonians educating this man.

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  10. Sorry about the one hand. It happens to me sometimes with the arthritis, but so far, thank goodness, for days rather than months.

    I wouldn't judge anyone as evil. I am not authorised to make such judgements. I don't even know this publisher, except from your blog article and it seems he has done much as any other publisher would do.

    Political Correctness decrees that you don't publish material that stereotypes groups who have PC protection, so a publisher would know it wasn't safe to publish such material even if he did happen to believe it. Whereas "the world" constantly signals it is safe to vilify Poles. In fact, I am beginning to think it is de rigeur.

    From what you say, the publisher decided to go along with the world. Many publishers would make the same decision. His being a Catholic publisher and Poles being - in theory - his Catholic brothers and sisters did not alter that decision.

    The point I was trying to make is not that I am judging him, but that I wasn't at all surprised. Its what I would expected. It would have been a lovely surprise if he hadn't.

    And there are plenty of Polonians who are working hard, against very heavy odds, to counteract this stereotype. You and John the Poet, and Jan of PMI, among them. I am grateful to every one of them. And I don't in the least blame those who don't feel able to do so. I understand. There was a time when I would not have been able to cope with it myself. And it is only thanks to the God of Abraham that I am able to do so now.

    And Captain Nemo - 1 or 2? - never underestimate the power of God's word. Yes, it can be twisted, and is, but a defence against that is to really study it and know it. If you want to PM me Danusha has my private email and she is welcome to give it you, or you can contact me via my blog.

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  11. sue --

    the blog post above describes two different publishers

    publisher one who shared the new book on polish jewish relations with me

    publisher two who tried to come up w/ a way 2 publish bieganski but could not

    you have judged and condemned both of them, saying that they've gone along with political oorrectness and being part of the world. in both cases, your judgment and condemnation are wrong.

    both of these men are good men. both tried to help me publish my work. both have done more to help me than 99.99 % of polonians.

    publisher one is unaware of the bieganski stereotype. you cannot blame him for polonia's failure to defeat this stereotype.

    sue, you say that polonians are working hard.

    polonians have not done anywhere near what they could. I know because I am on the front lines. discretion prevents me from speaking more directly here.

    but -- evidence is widely apparent. the bieganski stereotype is treated as canonical truth.

    the answer? polonians need to read and act on three previous blog posts, the ones beginning with the title, "the crisis in polonian leadership, organization, and vision."

    the answer is there. polonians just have to start doing that work.

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  12. Peter RechniewskiMarch 6, 2012 at 8:38 AM

    Danusha, I find it hard to believe that "publisher one is unaware of the Bieganski stereotype". What, is he a troglodyte or something? Whether American Polonia has been successful or not, in defeating the Bieganski stereotype the bloke should be able to recognise a stereotype when he comes across one. There are no possible excuses for him even if he is well meaning.

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  13. peter complete disagreement w/ ur post

    read the blog, read my mail -- again and again people say, I was completely unaware of this stereotype till i read your book

    peter, I was unaware of this stereotype till 1987, and i'd been polish american all my life

    i had no idea that people thought that poles were the world's worst anti-semites.

    i grew up among polish americans and jewish americans. we had jewish friends who came to the house regularly. we interacted warmly and completely.

    and I really didn't know that this image existed. of course i saw evidence of it, but i didn't put two and two together till 1987, when I participated in the kf summer session on polish jewish relations and people were suddenly asking me why i hated jews.

    my readers say very similar things. Peter, read reviews on amazon. reading "bieganski" is a terrific shock to people.

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    1. Peter RechniewskiMarch 6, 2012 at 11:17 PM

      I read the blog and I read the reviews on amazonUntil the 80s it would not have been apparent that such a stereotype existed to the degree that it did although, with hindsight, we can see that it went back much further. It was just about ok to make jokes depending on stereotypes until the late 70s but only about selected minorities. however, in the 50 it was generally ok. PC sensitivity wasn't created overnight.

      I read the blog and I read the reviews on Amazon. Amazon contains avariety of different types - idiots, bigots, the well-meaning and well read, Stalinists, right-wingers, white supremacists, Jewish supremacists etc etc. However, your mate the publisher lives in the here and now not in the 80s or 70s or even 60s, is educated (presumably) and has a responsible position in publishing. If he can't recognise a stereotype it is entirely his fault. American Polonia may be far too passive and silent on the issue, the American media may find the Bieganski stereotype convenient, sections of the American public may find it reassuring. All that may contribute to the perpetuation of Bieganski and thus the ignorance of the average American. However, publisher one can't reach there for his excuse.

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    2. Because the Bieganski label is pasted to you even before you enter more elitist social settings, you are already marked as suspect, lesser, and with negative social capital.

      What that means is that it doesn't matter if you are better at what you do, and what the task is, you will still be lesser, and not be promoted, found worthy for retention, etc.

      Because the lesser label is already pre-applied. Performance in the real world can't erase it because its application is applied often below the level of conscious thought, and the media and the educational establishments drum it in, subtly. It appears at the graduate student level, though the secret doors for the anointed start opening in undergrad.

      I recall reading a book on the RAF in WW2, and it was interested because in the index, under something like Polish pilot headings they had a subheading something like "machine gunning German pilots in their parachutes. There was about one other subheading, can't recall what.

      Under German pilots they had about 15 subheadings, none of them about Germans machinegunning Allied pilots, even though in the text, the author described that machinegunning the Germans was merely paybacks for Germans machinegunning Allied pilots (not to mention all the Polish civilians). Thus the author made it easy to find things portraying the Slavs as bad guys, but not the Germans.

      And this is subtle, subliminal even when not overtly present.

      You didn't see as much of it in your old neighborhood, because with people like you there, and not in the academy, they had no great need to find some way to label negatively, which goes a long way toward competing with you, especially if they are usually among friends and kinsmen anyhow. Easier to pile on that way.

      Nemo

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  14. There is nothing unusual about Catholic entities promoting various garbage. To begin with, far too many Catholic institutions (such as Catholic universities in the US) are Catholic in name only, or at least thoroughly steeped in un-Catholic thinking.

    Jan T. Gross' most recent Polonophobic screed, ZLOTE ZNIWA (GOLDEN HARVESTS) is published by Znak, a Polish Catholic publishing house. Need I say more?

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    1. i wrote to znak to suggest that they consider publishing "bieganki" in poland. I received no reply from them. i also wrote to znak when I was in poland, inviting them to my talks. again, no reply.

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    2. You might be interested in knowing that Znak supposedly got quite a few letters protesting their decision to publish Gross' anti-Polish trash. They defended their decision by saying that "His (Gross') position deserves to be heard."

      Go figure.

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  15. so, we have identified a problem.

    publishers who could and should be our allies are not.

    there is a solution.

    an organized committee of concerned polonians could identify the top ten catholic publishers in america. here is a resource: http://www.cbpa.org/members.html

    these polonians could give the editor-in-chief at each house a copy of "bieganski," ask that the editor read it, and schedule a follow-up meeting with the editor to discuss its implications for future publishing.

    progress of this project could be reported on a web page.

    you could do that, polonia. you could do that now, today.

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  16. I can only repeat that no I wasn't judging either publisher personally - in fact I hadn't even registered that there were two. We are not to judge each other. Your headline was about the Bieganski stereotype coming from "a surprising location". I was surprised that you were surprised.

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