Saturday, February 3, 2018

Anne Applebaum: The Stupidity and Unenforceability of Poland's Speech Law

Anne Applebaum, in the Washington Post, condemns the stupidity and unenforceability of Poland's new law criminalizing speech about the Holocaust here

Applebaum mentions what is obvious to anyone with a clear mind: the law will increase, not decrease, accusations that Poles were the real Nazis. 

"The imposition, now, of a three-year prison penalty for anyone who participates in the conversation about the past in ways that irritate the current ruling party is simply ludicrous, even laughable. Will the long arm of the Polish state reach out to academic conferences in Tokyo or Buenos Aires if someone uses an incorrect phrase? Will people be punished for politically incorrect memoirs? 

In a pompous speech the Polish prime minister gave supporting the law, an automatic translation service made it appear as if he himself said that “camps where millions of Jews were murdered were Polish.” Should he go to prison, too? Should Google Translate?

The very stupidity and unenforceability of this law is what has brought on the Streisand effect: Beginning in Israel but moving quickly across all forms of social media around the world, the use of the phrase “Polish death camps” has suddenly spiked and has now been used many more times than ever before in history...

This government does not care how isolated or ridiculous the country becomes. On the contrary, foreign criticism offers another chance to solidify the support of “patriots” who oppose the “slander” of the country, against “traitors” who do not. One pro-government journalist gave the game away when he declared that the criticism of the law in Israel was an element in an international conspiracy against the Polish government. On cue, Polish social media has been saturated with the howls of anti-Semites defending their country against this terrible attack".


  1. Everything Applebaum says can be turned around. Thus:

    Laws criminalizing the denial of 6 million murdered Jews give more attention and credibility to the Holocaust deniers than they could otherwise ever have dreamed of.

    Existing Holocaust denial laws have gone beyond the six million Jews, and are therefore arbitrary and unenforceable. For instance, if a person pointed out that Hitler had Jewish friends, and that he spared them, could that person be charged with Holocaust denial? After all, according to standard Holocaust orthodoxy, the Nazi hatred of Jews was uniquely irrational.

  2. Anne Applebaum and a hundred other have signed a letter expressing concern over the law. The phrase "This is not the way to reclaim Poland’s collective dignity" was used. Have they been living under a rock? There is no dignity to reclaim. The nature of the accusation and the response of large segments of the Jewish people ensure that. Many people want nothing more than to permanently humiliate.

    Chris Helinsky

  3. I took the time to read the many comments under Applebaum's article. Far from a case of Poles shooting themselves in the foot, the Polish law, even if widely criticized, has nevertheless forced serious discussion about Israel's own policies.

    For example, one commentator wrote:

    "This whole brouhaha that was started by a complaint by Israel over the Polish law needs to be put into context of a similar law passed by the Israeli Knesset: The unfortunate Polish law is very similar to what Israeli Jews are trying to do, laughably trying to erase the sordid parts of their recent history and rewrite it by curtailing freedom of speech, denying history and making it a crime to point out Jewish involvement in the displacement of the Palestinians as the time of Israel's creation...‘Nakba law’ passes vote in Knesset committee..." (link...And now it complains about Poland?"

    "In USA , for example, the government of GWB restricted the public funds from some forms of embryonic cell research. (It couldn't ban the research, but it could cut Treasury's fundings for it). It is OT, of course."

    Another commentator pointed out that author Applebaum's family lost their privileges as a result of the PiS government being elected. No wonder Anne Applebaum is running down the PiS government. Sour grapes.

  4. Peczkis, here and under assumed names elsewhere, can only offer "whataboutery" as arguments. WTF has Israeli treatment of Palestinians to do with any of this?

    1. Just blogged about whataboutism

    2. Hmm. I thought that personal responses were frowned-upon on this blog. And profanity (WTF) too.

      But that's all right. So in answer to:

      "WTF has Israeli treatment of Palestinians to do with any of this?"

      In a word, everything. Calling out the multiple double standards. But OK, let's forget the Palestinians. Let the different Semitic peoples sort that out amongst themselves.

      Think: Jedwabne--big deal. Koniuchy--in an Orwellian memory hole. Think Shoah--the greatest crime in all of human history. And the Polonocaust--hardly registers at all. And so on ad infinitum...

      If there was a single standard governing all peoples, there would be no whataboutism.


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.
These themes include the false and damaging stereotype of Poles as brutes who are uniquely hateful and responsible for atrocity, and this stereotype's use in distorting WW II history and all accounts of atrocity.
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