Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Bieganski in The New Yorker: Poland is Retreating from Democracy

The New Yorker informs its readers that Poland is retreating from democracy. Well, what would you expect from a nation of Bieganskis. Read their predictable article here.

Bad, bad Poland. From the New Yorker. 


  1. The good thing now is that the stereotype of Bieganski will extend to other countries, because "populism" and "threat to democracy" increasingly become universal traits

  2. Prayer at sunrise

    I will accept Your every hard sentence
    I will humble myself before Your power
    But protect me, Lord, from contempt
    Guard me from hate, God

    After all You are the vast goodness
    Which words won't express
    So from hate defend me
    And from contempt keep me

    What You decide, let come true
    Let Your will be done
    But save me from hate
    And rescue me from contempt Lord...

    Author: Natan Tenenbaum
    (original text is in Polish, I did the translation)

  3. For many decades, American journalists expressed little concern that Poles were living under the yoke of Soviet-imposed decidedly-undemocratic Communism.

    And now--low and behold--when Poles are finally standing up for their interests, American journalists are all of a sudden concerned about the state of democracy in Poland.

  4. Mr. Jan has already said everything. I would like to add some minor details: Until recently NO ONE gave a damn that the Polish judiciary system, unfair and catastrophic. I guess they would have cared A LOT had this been about "valuable" people like islamic migrants from Chechenia. But it was only about Poles, so who cares? Now the new government wants to improve it. Ups, how DARE they to do what they were elected to do by some smelly Slavic peasants? I am not even overdoing it, this is the tone this stuff gets discussed in Western Europe. I find myself siding more and more with the Muslims there. Yes, their culture is utter crap. BUT they seem, at least, to be honest about it.

  5. The article itself is not bad and, apart from maybe once or twice (e.g. Poland as a "student of European liberalism", as though it did not have its own liberal and democratic tradition), it does not really appear to make much use of the Bieganski stereotype, at least in my view.

    The question in the article's title is justified, because the quality of Polish democracy is truly being eroded in a very worrying fashion. It is sad that this time we Poles appear to confirm the hostile stereotypes about us. However, it is nobody's fault but ours.

    1. "The article itself is not bad "

      True enough.

      Further, I disagree with Jan's comment about American journalists not caring about communism.

      The NYT won a Pulitzer for its Solidarity coverage. The New Yorker, iirc, ran good pieces.

      Here's the problem. the article doesn't need to be "bad" to convey the stereotype, because the stereotype is so deeply ingrained.

      I don't have funding to carry out a study -- I am not supported by Polonia. But I can wager that the average reader reads Bieganski into this text.

  6. I think Ms. Zerofsky misses the larger point. This article, like the vast majority of similar articles in the Western European and American press, unfairly disparages Poland. Democracies are by definition messy affairs and Poland, like other European countries, continues to evolve and shape its democracy.

    Ms. Zerofsky’s examples of Poland’s democratic decline include its judiciary reforms, government-appointed state media heads, refusal of EU-mandated refugee quotas, and harassment of opposition politicians and judges.

    With respect to judicial reforms (and in contrast to most reporting), Ryszard Legutko, co-chairman of the Conservatives and Reformist Group in the European Parliament, points out that the Law and Justice party was elected on a promise to reform the Polish judicial system because a majority of the population was dissatisfied with how the courts work. He notes that judges who sent anticommunist activists to prison in the 1980s still sit on the Supreme Court and some are former members of the Communist Party. He also explains that many judges are unabashedly partisan by attending political rallies, making public statements on partisan issues, and openly working with politicians to advance certain policies. (I also read recently that, after a Supreme Court judge was caught shoplifting, he was given probation and remained on the bench.) Legutko further reveals that the judiciary was run like a medieval guild, with judges nominating their own successors. On occasion, the sons of existing judges would get preferential treatment over qualified law professors. Judges have also protected one another from lawsuits and pay freezes like members of a self-governing union. Legutko further points out that the process for staffing the court system is a collaborative one between the legislature and several professional associations representing judges. In most European countries the goal is to incorporate political input while maintaining judicial independence; however, in Poland the judges have been granted carte blanche to fill out their own ranks.

    As for government-appointed state media heads, Legutko says the accusation that Poland controls the media is absurd. He maintains that Poland has a robust and independent media that represents a far larger spectrum of opinion found in France or Germany. He also notes that Poland is one of the few countries in Europe where political correctness has not managed to stifle the public discourse.

    Regarding the EU-mandated refugee quotas, Poles naturally want to determine the future of their society rather than have it dictated by EU bureaucrats. It is always important to distinguish between refugees and migrants. Clearly, the majority are migrants and Poles rightfully view them as a security threat. By refusing the EU mandate, Poland has avoided the terrorist attacks frequently occurring in Western European countries. Poles also know that the culture and religion of migrants from the Middle East and Africa differ vastly from their own and this makes integration very difficult. Note also that, in contrast to Middle East and African Muslim migrants in Western Europe, Poland chose to accept Chechen refugees since the beginning of the second Chechen war in 2004. They have since been fully assimilated and identify with the Polish nation. Poland also chose to accept Ukrainian refugees fleeing Russian aggression. Over one million Ukrainians now live in Poland and many of these are refugees. It also should be recognized that, in contrast to the generous benefits offered by Germany and Sweden, Middle East and African Muslim migrants don’t want to come to Poland because of the paucity of benefits available from the government.

    As for harassment of opposition politicians and judges, I guess I’m blind. I didn’t see examples in the article. (Continued on next post)

  7. (Continued from previous post)

    A few more observations.

    The IPN bill is known as the Polish anti-defamation law. It is not, as Ms. Zerofsky writes, the “Holocaust bill” or the “Polish Death Camps bill”.

    Regarding the Warsaw Uprising, she writes that “…more than a hundred and fifty thousand Poles were killed”. According to Norman Davies, the figure is between 200,000 and 250,000.

    The statement that Karski used the phrase “Polish Death Camps” as the title of an article for Collier’s is irrelevant and inappropriate. Obviously, Karski knew the difference while Obama did not.

    Repeating what Israel’s Ambassador to Poland, Anna Azari, said about the Polish anti-defamation law, i.e., that it would criminalize Holocaust survivors for speaking about their experience, is inappropriate. Azari and Zerofsky apparently don’t care to know that the law made it a criminal (now civil) offense to state that the Polish government participated in Hitler’s mass murder of European Jews. Contrary to every other country under German occupation, there was never an official collaborative regime in occupied Poland. Meanwhile, any mention of widespread Jewish collaboration with the Soviets in 1939-41 and 1944 onward elicits hysterical accusations of anti-Semitism.

    No indictment of Poland is complete without Jan Gross’s canards about Jedwabne. All of Poland is guilty for the deeds of a few dozen who were motivated by revenge for Jewish collaboration with the Soviets, which resulted in the death or deportation to Siberia of fellow Poles. It is interesting to note that Gross has previously claimed Poles killed more Jews than Germans. Ironically, if Gross’s Catholic mother had not saved his Jewish father, he wouldn’t be alive to defame his native country.

    Ms. Zerofsky would have readers believe that many Cursed Soldiers were right-wing anti-Semites who murdered Belarusians and Jews returning after the war. Some supporting evidence should have been provided.

    Parroting most Western European and American press reports, Ms. Zerofsky portrays the thousands of participants in the November 11 Independence Day parade as far-right extremists. A little research would have revealed the opposite.

    Ms. Zerofsky writes that Timothy Snyder told her the following: Because Poles think of themselves as the greatest victims of World War II, Western Europeans don’t understand them and it is useless to talk to Western Europeans about it. Perhaps Ms. Zerofsky could have asked Dr. Snyder to share with her and readers the public opinion survey that corroborates his claim.

    1. Gene, did you publish this anywhere? If not you should have.

  8. All excellent and eye-opening points, Gene. Thanks for taking the time to post them.

    One thing to add: Left-wing agendas, especially those that lack majority support, are commonly advanced by the judiciary. So leftists see Poland's judiciary as the best way to force western-style hedonistic norms upon Poland. No wonder they are so mortally afraid of judicial reform in Poland and are willing to go to such hysterical extremes to stop such reforms. Their ambitions against Poland are at stake.

  9. Thanks for the information, Jan. Another relevant data point that I wasn’t aware of.

  10. 1. Gross incorrectly described Jedwabne crime, but he didn't descibe similar crimes committed by Poles.
    2. The number of dead civilians during 1944' rising was rather 150,000.
    3. The "reform" of Polish judiciary system is based mostly on replacing anti-PiS judges by other judges. Like we have tested many times the new people aren't any better. Any law contains errors and is being corrected several times. Is it too much to demand precision from our lawmakers?
    4. Many problems were created by Polish liberals, who despised the majority of Poles and lacked common sense. Now they defend the controversial constitution. They have plundered the superannuation funds system and manipulated Constitutional court elections.


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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