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?
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 Stanisław 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.