Friday, September 14, 2018

The Anne Applebaum Piece in the Atlantic about the Law and Justice Party and Poland as a Sign of Bad Things to Come

My book, Bieganski the Brute Polak Stereotype, and this blog, are both dedicated to Western stereotypes of Eastern European Christian peasant-descent people. 

That being the case, I refrain from offering much commentary on Law and Justice. Current Polish politics is not my area of expertise. I can't comment on the accuracy or inaccuracy of Anne Applebaum's doomsaying piece in the Atlantic, entitled "A Warning From Europe: The Worst Is Yet to Come Polarization. Conspiracy theories. Attacks on the free press. An obsession with loyalty. Recent events in the United States follow a pattern Europeans know all too well." I can only offer scattered, subjective observations. 

I found the opening paragraphs hard to get through Applebaum shows off how hip she is, how rich, how connected, how deep, how caring. She owns a house that has a name. She has friends who are members of the elite. Good for you, Anne Applebaum. We knew that about you already. 

Applebaum writes, "the journalists, writers, and thinkers, including some of my party guests, who believe anti-Polish forces seek to blame Poland for Auschwitz."

This is an idiotic sentence, and there is no excuse for it. My book has been out for years. I have written to Applebaum herself and her husband about it. I received perfunctory replies. She has no idea what she is talking about here. 

I keep reading. Applebaum talks about what jerks her friends have turned out to be. This is just more showing off, and it is uncharitable. 

One of her friends is a crazy anti-Semite. Anti-Semitism is a bad thing. I really don't care that Anne Applebaum has a friend who is a crazy anti-Semite. I'm asking myself, why I am devoting time to reading this article? 

She mentions Radio Maryja. I reject Radio Maryja but not its listeners. I have met people, in Poland, who listen to that radio station, who are really nice people. 

I reject Trump. But I don't reject everyone who voted for Trump. 

If Anne Applebaum wrote a complex piece explaining that ballet -- how to reject bad ideas without rejecting people who embrace bad ideas -- I'd like to read that piece. 

Applebaum mentions that she and her husband have been the focus of anti-Semitic conspiracy theories. Well, that's something we have in common. I receive hate mail from people who identify me as secretly Jewish, and a Polish American who was once friendly to me denounced me in a right-wing Polish publication as an anti-Polish conspirator. 

Applebaum writes, "Negative international press coverage of Poland has grown much too widespread for a single person, even a single Jewish person, to coordinate all by herself."

Anne, if you had read my book, you would understand this phenomenon better than you do. 

Reading on. Applebaum mentions a pre-WW II Romanian writer, and she mentions the Dreyfus Affair. 

I think she may be missing the point. 

I understand her focus on anti-Semitism, but the elephant in the room that she's only touched on so far, is the mass, unvetted, migration of military age Muslim males into Europe, the question of assimilation and cultural change, and a rise in crime, including sexual assaults on women, and Europe's covering up of that news, and blaming the victims. See the British grooming gangs scandal. See the shameful treatment of coordinated sex attacks, in public, as happened on New Year's Eve, a few years ago. 

If you're not talking about that, you're not talking about anything. 

Will she mention a West that seems suicidal, as per Douglas Murray's new book title? 

We'll see. 

She's talking about Lenin's Russia, and Zimbabwe. Not helpful. 

Applebaum writes, "As Hannah Arendt wrote back in the 1940s, the worst kind of one-party state 'invariably replaces all first-rate talents, regardless of their sympathies, with those crackpots and fools whose lack of intelligence and creativity is still the best guarantee of their loyalty.'"

Anne, please talk to me about the political profiles of professors on American college campuses. Talk to me about real statistics about what percent of professors on elite college campuses are Republicans, or devout Christians, or come from a poor, white, rural background.

And talk to me about the student body. What percent of the student body at any elite American university is from a poor, white, rural, Christian background? You can refer to Espenshade and Radford's research on this matter.

Then get back to me about people being promoted because of ideology rather than quality.   My point: "liberals" in power in the US have systematically disenfranchised people whose religious identity, skin color, and political beliefs they disdain.   Anne praises "meritocracy and competition." I'm with her there. 

Law and Justice says it is cleaning up a mess left by communism. Anne writes, 

"But this argument, which felt so important a quarter century ago, seems thin and superficial now. Since at least 2005, Poland has been led solely by presidents and prime ministers whose political biographies began in the anti-Communist Solidarity movement. And there is no powerful ex-Communist business monopoly in Poland either—at least not at the national level, where plenty of people have made money without special political connections. Poignantly, the most prominent former Communist in Polish politics right now is StanisÅ‚aw Piotrowicz, a Law and Justice member of parliament who is, perhaps unsurprisingly, a great enemy of judicial independence."

This is the first paragraph of her piece that impresses me, and that I feel tells me something about Poland that I don't already know and could benefit from knowing. 

She's saying that one of Law and Justice's raisons d'etre, "We are cleaning up after communism, " is suspect. 

I'm reading onward. Anne mentions ... a person place or thing ... with which I have had personal experience. Anne likes this ___, and proclaims ___ as a voice of reason in a nation gone mad. 

My experience differs. Seven years ago I traveled to Poland. Someone with more influence than I gave me the personal phone number of ___. I contacted ___. I gave a brief introduction of my work. 

___ sent me hate mail that blistered and burned. This ___ hated me, someone ___ had never met, and denounced me as an obvious Nazi. Yes, I have been denounced as both a Jew and a Nazi because of my work on Polish-Jewish relations. 

I tell this anecdote for this reason. Anne insists that ___ is part of the best of Poland. I had a first hand encounter with ___ and ___ was every bit as hateful and nutso as Anne describes Law and Justice as being. 

Both sides have nuts. Both sets of nuts are obnoxious. 

I know this is terrible, but I have to stop reading now. I have to work for a living, and my time is limited. 

Yes, I tend to see more sense in the anti-Law and Justice position than in the pro-Law and Justice position. 

But I need a different article than the one Anne Applebaum wrote. 

I am resolutely anti-Trump, but I have little patience with much anti-Trump rhetoric. 

If someone rich and famous began an article about how rich and famous they are, and then went on to attack Trump, I'd be impatient. If that article then swerved into discussions of Zimbabwe, Lenin, and the Dreyfus Affair, I'd stop reading. 

One thing that is repeatedly left out of anti-Trump rhetoric, including in Obama's masterful speech given at a university last week after he won an award. (The speech is amazing and you should watch it, here.) 

The left gave birth to Trump. The left got Trump elected. Trump is a swing of the pendulum. 

Hitler's rise was a swing of a different pendulum. 

One thing I repeat in Bieganski and discussions of it. Ultimately, there is no they. There is only us.


  1. I am sorry that you disliked Anne's article. I personally am a huge fan of her (and of you, and you both are in my view brilliant writers).

    I get why you would be irked by her story about a party. I personally do not think she wrote it to show off. They live in a fairly typical Polish "dworek", which they bought cheaply when it was a complete ruin and renovated. It is rather popular in Poland. You need to be certainly very well-off to do that, but not crazy rich. I do not think she wanted to impress with her wealth and connections, it is just a story from her life and she lives among the politicians and journalists. Her points would stand either way.

    Anne has been a great friend of Poland for years and she has consistently fought against Bieganski stereotype. She has Polish citizenship and speaks Polish, reads our press and watches our tv. She also had to reveal that she had personal connections to the Polish politics, i.e. her husband is a former foreign minister and a political enemy of the Law and Justice (even though he used to be in their first government). Her articles appear from time to time in Gazeta Wyborcza.

    I think you are largely talking past each other. Poland has absolutely no refugees problem and no terrorism. None of this has anything to do with what the government of Law and Justice is doing. Polish universities, which have plenty of faults, allow the majority of population who wants to study to study. It was no "disenfrenchised" population which elected Law and Justice to power. Also, the former government agreed to accept a small number of Christian Syrian refugees which this government nixed completely. None of that matters for this article.

    The interesting thing is how much communism the Law and Justice wants to bring back to Poland. State-owned companies. State-controlled media. Party-controlled judges. President and Prime Minister as puppets controlled by an unaccountable party leader. Isolation from Europe. Destruction of our military. Loyalty to party over anything. No freedom of speech and only officially sanctioned, the oh-so-primitive history and public debate

    Another interesting aspect is how extremely divided we Poles are as a society. I think it has reached a level which will be very hard to reverse in the future.

    A third thing - we no longer have a constitution. It is at the moment a completely irrelevant piece of paper which you could as well as thrown in the trash. Try to imagine that.

    1. Piotr thanks for reading and commenting. I will respond at greater length later but for now

      "I think you are largely talking past each other. Poland has absolutely no refugees problem and no terrorism. None of this has anything to do with what the government of Law and Justice is doing."

      I totally totally disagree here.

      Let me just mention that none of that is happening in the US, either, and yet the migration sways voters here. Images of the mass migration are shared on Facebook and prompt much discussion.

    2. Danusha, thank you for your reply. I should clarify - the subject of refugees had some importance during the elections, when in 2015 PIS gained power. There is no logical link between the issue of refugees and the current effort by PIS to have completely politically-controlled judges. I think they have to targets: to have a puppet judge sentence Donald Tusk and other people from Platforma for their invented role in the Smolensk plane crash (this is a personal obsession of Jaroslaw Kaczynski) and also to have the option to rig the next elections (as the Supreme Court controls that).

  2. The so-called Round Table Agreement of 1989 allowed Communists to go unpunished (absence of LUSTRACJA), under the so-called GRUBA KRESKA policy. In fact, many of the Communists got to stay in power. They just relabeled themselves. Worse yet, the culture of corruption, including that of the judiciary, had never been corrected. Understandably, these people do not want the culture of corruption to ever be corrected; hence all this hysteria about the PiS government.

    For this reason, it is very disingenuous of Anne Applebaum to say that that there is "only one judge" left over from the Communist era. The problem with the judiciary and the legacy of Communism is much, much deeper than that.

  3. @Anne has been a great friend of Poland for years

    Very short Poland needs friends. Real friends not the likes of Miss Applebaum.

    Destruction of our military. Loyalty to party over anything. No freedom of speech and only officially sanctioned, the oh-so-primitive history and public debate

    Piotr,please remember how the Polish military was abolished more or less during the platforma era! PiS is doing it's best to rebuild it. right now we are having territorial self-defense forces. Should I have the possibility I will join them. There is no freedom of speech you say? Well my dear Piotr, please prove it! Also: Why do you think the public debate about history is "primitive"? Because it is not leftist/postcommunist only anymore? Because we have started talking about Polish heroism? pray tell why are French people allowed to do it although they have a history of horrible collaboration with Nazis Germans and we are not? Why are Jews allowed to skip the fact that there were many Jewish communists who did horrible things like Naftali Frenkel add Polish people should collectively feel guilty for some Poles being criminals?

    I am speaking Here as Someone Who is into marketing: it's called nation branding. For marketing purposes for example Americans talk about how they conquered the moon, how they won WW2, how America is the land of freedom. They do not promote things like The constant wars against the Indians.

    Wie Polish people have a brand we are also the country of freedom in Europe. A nation of Heroes like Pilecki. no one wants to visit a country of self hating people you know. no one wants to integrate into a nation who thinks badly of itself. I reject such insanity. This is the very reason while France or Germany are not able to integrate and assimilate foreigners any more.

    @ Poles are divided: the whole Western world is divided. look at what is happening in the US in Germany in France in the UK (like the 50% Brexit vote!). Whenever you have two blocks or two parties people will be divided because you can't be for both of them.

    @we no longer have a constitution

    You mean the badly-written constitution established by former communists like Kwasniewski? Good. It's time to have a new constitution. One that is less open to interpretation.

    @Poland has absolutely no refugees problem and no terrorism.

    WRONG. The guy who committed the terrorist attack in Sweden actually had Polish visa! On the eastern border masses of Chechens (as far as I know the monsters who had committed the Boston terror attack where from Chechnya...) Are trying to get into Poland. And Sorros forefront organisations are pushing for them to be let in. Yes indeed there has not been a terrorist attack yet. But the borders are open. Also I have listened to a podcast (Ator) word to Ukrainian parents are telling about how they're daughter was indoctrinated into radical Islam by cultural enrichment from Chechnya. This happened in Warsaw and I feel very sad for the parents, Ms Oksana & Mr Aleksander.

    Also: It does have a little bit to do with the current government you very clear I seem not to like for ideological reasons. They are not taking in the migrants Germany and France do not want. The last government was quite willing to do that.

  4. Dear Piotr, you are only chanting anti-PiS slogans. Please prove them. Otherwise it's just hot air.

    Also: Isolation from Europe.

    You mean isolation from a German dominated Europe heading into the Abyss of a future Civil War (when the economy will collapse and there will be no money left to pacify all those poor ilegal migrants who are feeling very entitled to the European material lifestyle, albeit not to the amount of work you have to deliver for getting it)? Good.

    1. Dear Hanna, I could easily answer all your points. However, I think it might be a little contrary to the purpose of Danusha's blog, to have lengthy debates about Polish politics.
      I will ask you about only two issues you mentioned - is it true that you live in Germany, not in Poland? I think this knowledge is important to judge your statements in which you criticize Germany and Western Europe harshly and defend the PiS goverment. I live in Poland, pay taxes in Poland and deal with the consequences of Polish decisions every day.

      Your point about the constitution - how do you know it is badly written? Are you a lawyer or a constitutional scholar? Which constitution in the world is not "open to interpretation"? Any why should we respect any constitution, if you have zero respect for the current one, approved by the nation in the referendum by many more votes than those given for PiS in 2015? Sorry, we can have disagreements, but if you support the bolshevik attack on the law and courts, than you are no conservative and no real right wing, but a bolshevik who simply wants to destroy our state.

    2. Piotr I'm frustrated because I have very little time, but I want to say, first, that I appreciate your courtesy in your posts here. Thanks for that.

      Second, I think you are really missing the point.

      If I have time I will come back and try to explain.

      It's been a crazy busy time since my brother died and I barely have time to brush my teeth.

  5. With friends like these...

    Anne Applebaum is that rare breed of commentator that blames Putin for every ill on the planet EXCEPT the Smolensk plane crash (she knew already the day after that it was an "accident" and would "bring the Russians and Poles together"). There are two possibilities. Either she is wrong about the KGB or the plane crash just happened during Obama's Russia reset which she (and, importantly, her husband) was in favor of (thereby, potentially, contributing to it happening).

    The supreme irony for a "friend" like Applebaum will be when Kaczynski gets in bed with Trump, Orban, Netanyahu and, by extension, the Russians - it was his brother and now it is his call. Thus, Applebaum's prediction of the after effects of April 2010 may yet come true, so to speak.

  6. I have a question for Mr. Peczkis. Has he read Pluralism On and Off Course by Stanislaw Ehrlich?

    Chris Helinsky


Bieganski the Blog exists to further explore the themes of the book Bieganski the Brute Polak Stereotype, Its Role in Polish-Jewish Relations and American Popular Culture.
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