Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Suzanne Moore in The Guardian UK and Bieganski The Brute Polak Stereotype

"Bieganski" argues that the Brute Polak stereotype is not an innocuous feature of ethnic jokes; it is not an innocent mistake. The Brute Polak stereotype, rather, is, inter alia, a culture-wide rewrite of the Holocaust, a recasting of Polish, Catholic peasants in the role properly occupied by German Nazis.

In response to a previous post, "Why Stereotype Poles? Why Distort World War Two History?" a blog reader alerted us to a Suzanne Moore article appearing in The Guardian UK entitled "Dirt Is Everywhere – In Sex, In Class, In Art, and Yes, Readers, In My Home."

In this article focused on dirt, Moore equates Poles with Nazis. Moore's exploitation of the Bieganski stereotype is in no way central to her main point. After blithely equating Poles with Nazis, Moore goes on her merry way. So do most of her readers. There are many reader comments, and most of them ignore Moore's rewrite of Holocaust history. Bieganski is so much a part of Western culture today, no one need pay any attention to it at all, even after some readers point out Moore's falsehood.

Moore wrote: "Racism nearly always depends on defining others as somehow dirty … A look at some of the antisemitic posters … should be on the national curriculum, as far as I am concerned. In pre-war Poland, antisemitism became medicialised. Jews were associated with disease. One shocking image reads: 'Jews are lice, they cause typhus.' Ethnic cleansing depends precisely on defining a whole swath of people as 'matter out of place', as a dirty disease that needs to be eradicated."

Racism is a bad thing. Poles are essentially bad people. Let's pin racism on Poles. Let's take a German, Nazi, wartime poster and re-identify it as a prewar, Polish poster.

Comments under the article talk about the benefits to be gained from various cleaning products. Some, though, are not so easily lead.

One poster wrote:

"Poles in that case are reduced into collective mass murderers of Jews, while Holocaust into singular crime that had nothing in common with German Nazis … S. Moore try to whitewash German nazis and blame Poles"

Subsequent posters don't care about this reader's outraged correction, and go back to thanking Moore for her "thoughtful article" and reporting on home dispensers of hand sanitizer.

One poster refuses to follow the herd:

"Suzanne Moore just managed to pull a very clever propaganda stunt. She took a German poster created during WW II, for Poles, in Polish, in Poland that was brutally occupied by Germany, and wrote that it was from prewar Poland. She did this in an innocuous article on cleanliness where this historical Faux Pas would enter the unsuspecting reader's consciousness without question. She should be severely punished, and the Guardian should be shamed into a public apology. The question is not whether she and the Guardian did this deliberately, but why?"

After this, reader comments return to vacuuming the house. And to Eastern European domestic servants: "Still, I imagine the Lithuanian domestic does her best."


  1. Conformer with a CauseApril 8, 2011 at 8:27 PM

    It took a while but the article has been corrected. It now reads

    "A look at some of the antisemitic posters in this exhibition should be on the national curriculum, as far as I am concerned. Germany's antisemitism became medicialised. Jews were associated with disease. One shocking image, a propaganda poster in occupied Poland, reads: "Jews are lice, they cause typhus." Ethnic cleansing depends precisely on defining a whole swath of people as "matter out of place", as a dirty disease that needs to be eradicated."

    With a note at the bottom noting the correction

  2. Conformer with a Cause, thank you very much, both for informing me of this article, and for informing me of the correction. Good news!

  3. Yes, this is great news! I have also sent a letter to The Guardian’s editor. This positive outcome gives me power and hope, that the Canadian Museum off Immigration will ultimately remove the disgusting movie from its theater’s program. I will not give up.



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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