Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Polandball: The Bieganski Internet Meme. A Guest Blog Post

There is a particularly influential form of the Bieganski stereotype, and it is among the youth on the internet. It is known as Polandball. They are comics featuring small talking spherical entities that represent nations and peaked on the internet around 2010, although comics are still being created. While there are comics featuring all nations, it started as a satire of Polish internet users from a British perspective. There is a Facebook group about Polandball. I invite you to Google this internet meme and see for yourself.

At a fundamental level these comics dishearten me. Many of them are the same chauvinist mockery of everything Polish, yet are dressed up and presumably treated as intelligent, necessary satire. As 'wit'. My reaction is conflicted to this; I have been taught to laugh at these things, and in many cases I do, as "Poles are too defensive and think they are victims." We should just laugh at the Polack jokes and shut up, right?

But I still see underneath these comics the same old Bieganski: nothing witty or clever, or satirical, but simply the same old reinforcement of prejudice from ages past, a celebration of mockery of the other in cartoon form, an absurdist endorsement of the same old gray status quo, the ritual humiliation and dehumanization of the Bohunk. A reactionary distortion of satire: instead of the marginalized and embattled skewering the elite, here the elite skewers the marginalized and laughs. Can that really be called satire?

I find amazing the meme of Polandball. It's more or less a meme for the internet to project their complexes and fantasies into Europe's most politically correct effigy: Poles. This would have never been tolerated by the masses on the internet if it were any other number of countries: There would never have been a Africaball, Israelball or Mexicanball meme on the level and acceptance that Polandball has become.

I can't be offended by this, not just because I'm American and just have Polish heritage but I find alien the whole mindset of those people who enjoy cranking out these comics. Not the fairly clever ones, but the blatantly provoking ones. This schadenfreude must be a sweet indulgence because kids know they can get away with it. The imageboards would have only taken so much tolerance if this had been Niggerball, Spicball or Kikeball; though it wouldn't be as taboo as posting child porn, it would have ended up fairly close.

It reveals attitudes of UK economic chauvinism and a post-Cold-War ignorance of world affairs. It's supposedly justified by Poles' alleged kneejerk nationalism. I don't deny that exists; I've seen it plenty of times, but it has become a convenient scapegoat of sorts, as though the Poles are on some completely exceptional level when it comes to that sentiment.

Overall the whole meme provides the paradox of giving the user a feeling of politically incorrect rebelliousness – "Stick it to those foreign fuckers!" – while at the same time, as far as mainstream media is concerned, being perfectly politically correct; Poles are considered to be classified under the clumsy Anglo social construct known as "white," but they also "Eastern," so not exactly on the highest tier of "white," so at once they have the cultural stigma of both being depicted as alien, foreign and unwelcome yet not exotic or different enough to be taken seriously if they get offended by the way they're depicted.

I can't feel anything other than constant morbid curiosity and guilt about the whole thing. Guilt because I "ought to be offended" but I feel like it's some kind of karmic crime, too. It seems that something meant to sting and humiliate only seems to inspire me in many ways to understand the thought processes of these people that spread the meme.

Your book "Bieganski" connected with me on a profound level as it explained and made lucid a nameless dilemma that has lurked in my mind my entire life. It is eye-opening to deconstruct a lie that I see all around me culturally, one that is corrupt at the core.

The author of this blog post has chosen to remain anonymous. He has submitted the following examples of Polandball:

Poland isn't always the butt of the joke, though, the guest blogger reports:


  1. As with my post on the MAUS blog, I suggest a comeback cartoon, this time against the Brits. Here it is:

    Show some British balls prostrate, hiding, and shivering in fear. Above them, show some flying Polish balls shooting down Nazi German flying balls. Title this cartoon: ENGLAND 1940.

    Of course, this would distort the fact that Brits also fought against the Germans in the Battle of Britain, but would drive home the point about insulting characterizations, such as Poles being toilet cleaners.

    It would also call attention to the ingratitude of the British for what Poles had done--very possibly saving England in 1940.

    1. I've had a few ideas for some funny ones. I'd rather not tell you what they are as it would ruin the effect, but I'd like to draw them when I get the time- think of an elaborate pun involving CCTV cameras, bazookas, and an arrogant UK ball demanding Poland to 'clean my pipes!' ;)

    2. The thing is that this may be a deliberate attempt to cause bad feeling between Poles and Brits, and if we tackle this Jehovah's way, by not retaliating in kind, then we won't let it succeed.

      If anyone is brilliant enough to think of some funny cartoons tackling it without vilifying others, then I am all for it. Unfortunately, I am not talented enough myself.

      And re the political betrayal of the Polish forces after WW2, many people in England were aware of it, and are aware of it, and think it as disgraceful as it is. Many people in the UK were very good to my father and his Polish colleagues both during and after WW2.

      So, whatever we do, please don't let us give those driving this nasty agenda any success in making us act like them.

  2. Brian Koralewski (Brian Lewski)November 6, 2012 at 8:53 AM

    Well he misplaced Poland's colors...that's the first indicator of a personal brain glitch...or maybe he's not too bright to begin with.

    1. These comics aren't just from one person. It started off from a small group of people on a German imageboard but then grew to 'meme' status, so these comics are being made by all kinds of people, mostly anonymous internet users.

    2. Did you say "German imageboard"? which one-Krautchan by any chance? The German really gets to me...

    3. But please remember we don't know. And suppose this is an attempt to cause even more ill-will between Poles and Germans than there already has been?

      Once again, the advice in Psalm 37 has the power to overcome that - if we apply it.

    4. I agree... if you are going to make a cartoon meme then at least research to get the flag colors correct. Poland is white on top, red on bottom. The cartoon's colors are in fact Indonesia's flag. Doesn't matter if it's by different people.
      The last cartoon acknowledges the mistake, which makes it that much funnier.

    5. It is an ongoing joke about how Poland is "upside down".

  3. This is very deliberate - and I suppose a successful attempt to spread the agenda. Someone is putting in time and effort. Your book "Bieganski" is chillingly good on the politics of this.

    Its interesting the way Poland is continually sneered at for fighting on the Allied side during WW2. I only hope we can learn the lesson about staying neutral.

    I hope I will never forget it - even though Christian neutrals had a bad time at the hands of both sides.

    Is it possible to find out who is behind this? (I am not really of the internet generation).

    I can certainly grit my teeth and return good for evil by pointing out what the God of Abraham's standards are, and also what is going to happen to all or anyone of us who wilfully disobeys them.

    We are to treat all with kindness and respect, as we ourselves would wish to be treated. Its not rocket science.

    1. I don't think it is overtly 'deliberate'. It's mostly subconscious in the way most stereotypes in popular culture are disseminated among the youth (as most of these are from, presumably, younger people).

      I don't think the people drawing these are thinking 'aha, I am furthering the agenda of the Polonophobic media!'. More like 'lol Poland is funny my country is funny too'. Or they want to 'stick it to those foreigners'.

    2. Hello Anonymous, Have you read Danusha's "Bieganski"? Only she has some chilling things to say about the politics behind this.

      But I must add my usual important proviso. Please if and when you do read it, read Psalm 37 as well. It lights up very clearly the dangers of being goaded into retaliating in "the world's" way, and tells us clearly and simply how Jehovah, the true God, the God of Abraham, is going to deal with it.

      Once we come to know Him and trust Him, we know we can safely leave it up to Him. And He shows us the right way to deal with all the nastiness and cruelty of "the world", without letting it shape us in its image - and also how seriously He, the Creator, takes it. It is very very comforting.

  4. I agree-I hate this stupid meme.Also, the guys who are drawing this can not be thaaaat well educated-This should actually be about Indonesia.Or Monaco :-I.

    These "balls" seem to be personification of the specific national character of each nation, isnt it? There is s.th similiar, just slightly better drawn, from Japan.Perhaps You would like to see for yourself? (there is already an English translation...I myself bought it by chance in Japan, because I could not believe anyone would actually draw a comic about WW2).Its called "Axis Powers Hetalia" (Hetalia comes from "heta" (being clumsy) and Italia,one of the main characters) and..hmm...it has somewhat s.th do do with WW2 (but rather the writer is making fun of national stereotypes.Or,he tries to..). Now, in Japan, Japenese people mostly think well of Poles, their images is a rather romantic one (Chopin,Crakow ect),which is cool. How is Poland depicted? Hmm, kind of light-hearted,sometimes silly,but basically a good guy.Acutally, each nation is depicted in a silly way (Germany is a yelling unfriendly nazi-type figure,France is a pervert and a cheater, England is obnoxious as well.Japan is constantly loosing against Korea and is still a virgin,Russia is a psychopath and mugger (mostly) ect), probably because the author is not an expert on foreign relations,thoughs he seems to try...there is even a short cartoon based on his comic strips: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cVDI1NPCl-I
    (note:an English dub, in the Japanese original all characters are speaking in Tokyo dialect Japanese). Although I would have depicted each nation quite differently (probably,because I am a rather serious person), I dont think this to be toooo bad -it actually manages to get people interested a little bit in the characters background (like, the countries history, dishes,legends,foreign relationships ect.). I know, it has nothing to do with the Polandball meme (there is actually much good artwork with the Poland character on the internet) but perhaps You might find s.th interesting about it...

    1. Hello Hanna, another interesting post. Thanks. And, yes, if everyone is, or can be, satirised, and its funny and not too cruel, I am OK with it.

      There was a very funny cartoon about Poland in The Spectator, that I wish I had cut out and kept. It won't seem as funny written as drawn, but it went like this. There is a cartoon man holding a boxed set of Scrabble standing at the top of a small staircase. The next shot shows him slipping and falling. The final shot is him lying dazed at the bottom with the Scrabble letters scattered all round him. The caption is: The Man who invented Polish. I thought that was very funny - and a true observation, as to Brit eyes, such as mine, the Polish language does look strange, as most unfamiliar languages do.

      Language is a mysterious thing - and can sometimes be like a window in time.

      What I object to is the singling out of Poles to "unter" them. Though it does go to show that this constant memorialising of WW2 has taught us nothing of any value. The main lesson of it all would seem to be that, if the same situation should arise again (God forbid!) whatever you do, don't fight on the Allied side, or the reviling will never stop.

  5. I agree with Anonymous (this blog post's author.)

    The Bieganski stereotype is alive and well and we can change it.

    Check out the three-part blog post on the Crisis in Polonian Leadership, Organization, and Vision ,and what Polonians can do about it.

  6. Oh please, this Polandball phenomenon is a result precisely of everyone Polish bitching about how Poland "gets no respect". They're just trolling people like you! Moreoever, the Polandball is never portrayed as anti-semitic or bad - just kind of sad and pathetic - but also sympathetic!

    For that matter, see the description of Poles/Poland on Encyclopedia Dramatica if you want to be offended (or of Jews, Russians, etc.). All of it is grossly offensive by any decent standard but also (mostly) extremely well done and, yes, funny.

    1. I do laugh at mostly all of these (the ones that have thought put into them) but at once, my mind wonders why I choose to laugh at them, and why the joke was made in the first place, and why the person made the joke. The conscience cannot be so passive when questions like these come up.

  7. Hello there Albert - well, yes, its always our fault, I do know that.

    If everyone could be insulted on an equal basis, I wouldn't have a problem with it, especially if it was funny, but is that the case?

    I think the book "Maus" exemplifies the politics of this extremely well. Which minority group could be depicted as pigs/swine in a book and that book be publishable, let alone be lauded and applauded?

    Very very few I think.

    Have you read Dr.Goska's "Bieganski"? It is quite chilling. But at least it does strengthen me in my wish to continue to be "no part" of the current world system of things, and stay neutral.

    1. The inequalities and double-standards as to which group can be safely insulted--Exactly right.

  8. I have come up with another comeback-cartoon idea, and one which partly addresses those who feel that my earlier cartoon idea was too confrontational, negative, or militaristic. Here it is:

    A Polish ball named Copernicus is shown pointing to his new heliocentric chart of our solar system. Other balls--German, British, etc.--are shown mocking him, and saying, "So the sun does not go around the Earth; Hah...hah...The Earth goes around the sun...hah...hah...What will those dumb Polacks think of NEXT?"

  9. That is certainly a much more positive way to tackle it Jan. I think we should always stay on the moral high ground and keep out of Grimpen Mire (the deadly swamp in "The Hound of the Baskervilles", in case you haven't read it).

    Its a very scary book (The Hound) - and heartbreaking - that poor ill-treated hound.

    If I were clever enough to draw your idea, i might just show the Ivory Towers of Academe and Religious Institutions (nationalities unspecified) issuing lofty pronouncements about how everything revolves around the earth, while there is some little Polish chap on the ground, with his Copernicus t-shirt on, quietly trying to point out that we are going round the sun.

    The Inspired Scriptures, in one of the earliest books, the Book of Job, describe the earth in this lovely way. They tell us that God is "hanging the earth upon nothing".

    Perfect. Exact, and so easy to understand, even for a non-scientist like myself.

    It took even scientists a while to understand and accept that the earth is indeed hanging upon nothing, but they did. And then we, in this generation, were privileged to see it, when we saw those wonderful pictures of the earth floating in space like a blue and white jewel.

    I took time out to say that because God's word is always right. It always guides us in the right way. And here is advice to hold on to: "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.

    We are being reviled and threatened, but we can deal with it effectively if we follow carefully in Jesus' footsteps - as if we were following a trusty guide though Grimpen Mire. We would put our feet exactly in his footprints - nowhere else. And if we did that, we would get safely through.

    And above all, we must know and remember that our Creator is going to deal with all who revile others and cause trouble for them. He has promised us that He will remove them from the earth.

    How else could the meek inherit it?

  10. What will dumb Polacks think of NEXT? Some suggestions,I dont know,perhaps we could start to draw them? Its not really high class style...: Petrol,bullet-proof vests, crazy mathematical stuff (Lukasiewicz), the Polonium (goes without saying), female rights (Polish women were among the first in "enlightened" Europe to be able to vote, along with-Turkish women), female bravery (there is but one statue in front of the Polish Army Museum in Warsaw-the one of General (!) Maria Wittek), a multi-cultural society that actually worked/s, decriminalisation of homosexuality just 37 years before beloved Germanball in 1932 (despised "homophobic" Turkey was even faster, around 1850,and Spain around 1820.Russia took until 1994(!!!),before that homosexuality was considered "a fascist plot to undermine socialist values" -.-).I would like to add that Poland never had this strange,how to call them? pendulum swings like in the West.ill explain: In the West,especially in England,there existed the thought that treating ones children too nicely would make them,I dont know, gay or s.th. The next extreme was the opposite-let children do what ever they want.Both extremes are bad,as any intelligent person could guess. The great Polish educator Janusz Korczak (murdered by Nazi Germans for the crime of also having the wrong religion (Judaism)) had another idea-the golden middle-ground.Also, Polish women, despite the ehm, "specter" of "Catholic backwardness" had more rights sooner than women in the "enlightened" West. So in Poland, we never had (and hopefully will never have) ehm,frustrated,man-hating, bra-burning "feminists".We also never went through the horrors of: mass witch-burning, mass progroms,confessional wars ect (of course, these things also happened in Poland, but never on a grand scale,thank G-d). Gosh, so many ideas, lets bring them into being :-D

  11. actually, the comic about "being integrated"-the third from above, is actually very much true-this is also the reason why Germans were so extremly over-the-top angry with the Turkish prime minister Erdogan who did a lecture during a meeting for German Turks in Germany.All German newspapers where like "he does not want Turks to be integrated into German society". Now,what did Erdogan say? He said things like "Parents, it is your duty to encourage your children to suceed in school,it is your duty to make them exceed in learning the German language...but "it is also your duty to teach them the Turkish language, to teach them about Turkey".He also spoke out against assimilation. This horrible chauvinist,how dare he to! Of course, Germany has no problems with using taxpayer money to keep German minorities from assimilating into f.e Czech,Polish,Romanian ect society. He also suggested setting up bilangual schools in Germany,open to all (of course, the Germans are quite fine with f.e a German school in f.e Namibia where pupils do not learn the local language at all.Bigotry? You bet) I think the Turks in Germany can be extremely proud of him-I wished Poland also had such a great statesman. Being integrated does not equal being assimilated-the only thing important is to be a part of the local society and to respect a countries laws :-)

  12. Those comics are good but they have good English spelling and have outlines between the colors. Anyways I know it wasn't created by you but they're still good and fine.


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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