By Matthew Tyrmand
At the end of October a new Polish government was ushered in having won a mandate to govern unilaterally without coalition partners for the first time in the post-1989 modern era. The election was won definitively by the former opposition, the right-of-center Law and Justice Party (PiS- “Prawo i Sprawiedliwosc”). This election served as a referendum on the corruption of the previous government (and its antecedents) and on 25 years of “post-communism” which saw a transition from Iron Curtain methodologies and governance structures that were never fully reformed and where functional contemporary democratic norms were not deeply enough embedded to serve the people.
The perception on the ground was that an elite class of “post-communists,” typified by the last ruling party, Civic Platform (PO- Platforma Obywatelska), was still plundering the country much as the former communists (many of whom “transitioned” successfully to “post-communist” after 1989 and joined PO) had done before and for the last 25 years this crony cabal controlled the government, the courts, the media, the economy, and many other unreformed and anti-competitive contemporary Polish structures. This election secondarily served as a referendum on tighter alignment with the European Union versus the strong desire for a renewal of national sovereignty and more robust self-determination. This was especially pertinent in the months leading up to the election as the Polish citizenry, seeing the havoc that unfettered immigration was wreaking all over Europe, gravitated dramatically away from Brussels and its refugee quota mandates even as the incumbent party, PO, pushed this Brussels line. In the view of many engaged Poles, these two referenda, on European Union integration and corruption were closely related.
The Western Press Opines
Despite this victory for the democratic electoral process in Poland the new government has been treated to a steady stream of condemnation and an outright propagandist accounting of recent events by an overtly hostile mainstream Western press. The media apparatuses engaged in this “agitprop” style of reporting, which is driven by the desire to sell a chosen partisan narrative rather than present a complete fact pattern for the consumer of content to draw their own conclusions from, are anything but objective. What follows is a demonstration of how biased, prejudiced, partial and compromised this treatment of the new government has been and, with the new government following its mandate in bringing about reform, how the coverage is becoming more and more vitriolic with less and less attention paid to delivering the actual facts.
The Western press does not exist in a vacuum. When political changes occur beyond the hinterlands of Washington, New York, London, Paris, Brussels and Berlin the largest global media platforms rely on their staffers, correspondents, and relationships on the ground in whatever far flung place needs to be reported on. For most of the Western press their intellectual capacities dealing with the on-the-ground reporting concerning Poland have all been culled from an insular circle. This cartel of group-thinkers is comprised of the employed agents of the Western media platforms themselves, contacts directly having served in the government, “thought leaders” of NGO’s and think tanks, “fellow journalist travelers” from the Polish press, and even the higher-ups making the editorial decisions at the headquarters in the aforementioned global capitols.
All the stakeholders of content creation that gets digested by far off readerships possess a strong ideological tie that binds- the belief in the euphemistic solution to what ails all modern societies: “more government.” This is especially dramatic in Europe where the preponderance of media openly weighs in favorably for the need for “more Europe” against the popular inclination for greater national sovereignty on the ground in this critical mass of once independent nations. The economic predilections of the European media cohort trend toward the socialistic and a governance structure that at best can be labeled technocratic or bureaucratic- where an uber-educated elite; rarely from the class of the commercially minded, entrepreneurial, or job creative; should control society’s many levers from remote- and unaccountable- centralized capitols where fellow sophisticates can congregate.
The Western press is now apoplectic that Poland, by popular mandate, has wholeheartedly rejected this set of philosophies in favor of stronger sovereign decision making capacity. The adjective that the Western press in both the US and Europe uses to describe this not-so-new governing philosophy is “nationalist.” These days this qualifier is often paired with “populist,” as if to suggest the will of the people is considered to be incompatible and even dangerous to the enlightened “free” society the elites strive for. (Reminiscent of the old not-so-funny joke: Politics is too important to be left to the people.) To sell the underlying point of how undesirable these characteristics are in our contemporary world, as ascertained by the incumbent media thought leadership, one rarely sees these two words unaccompanied by negatively charged descriptors such as: fascist, bigoted, racist, xenophobic, illiberal, anti-Western, anti-democratic, distrustful, angry, vengeful, etc.
The most pernicious component of this dynamic is that those who purport to report news on the current Polish political scene veil their bias behind the credibility of the platforms in which they publish. In Poland many of the “authorities” describing to the Western reader what has been playing out after the elections have strong historical connections to the previous government. These connections at best are ideological (it is no secret that the largest media platforms consistently lean left), but it goes well beyond that. There are numerous examples of connections between the recently vanquished political class and the still-writing journalist class that are personal. There are journalists that are close friends with former government ministers that also serve as fellow board members at NGO’s. There are strong relationships between colleagues who have written for the same paper with colleague A taking cues from colleague B who have become intellectual agents of the last government (in the case of the Washington Post’s very own columnist, Anne Appplebaum, by marriage to the scandal plagued and disgraced former Foreign Minister, Radoslaw Sikorski). And of course, as is always the case, there are financial relationships existent with commentators that maintain their intellectual and professional domicile at “think tanks” that are funded by government- as so many in Europe are these days when receiving their sustenance from Brussels or their local nation state’s budget.
The close connections between the press and their subjects create embedded biases that should rationally mandate recusal from reporting the facts on the ground. Instead a reinforcement of a “group-think” narrative is galvanized whereas all “reporters” have the same ideas on every issue and present them the same way with the same inconvenient truths omitted. The great self-reinforcing tautology existent in this dynamic is that they then cite each other’s work every time they make statements about the widespread media condemnation of this issue or that action. This validation is especially rife in the back and forth citation between the domestic and foreign news apparatuses. The compromised mainstream Polish press ubiquitously quotes the widespread condemnation of the new government’s actions in the Western press never suggesting it was their input and relationships that catalyzed the condemnation in the first place (soon-to-be bankrupt Polish daily Gazeta Wyborcza is infamous for this, as well as for receiving bail-out capital through a back door investment by a state owned enterprise- PZU- to keep it alive to continue stumping for and covering up the last government’s scandals). This is even more brazenly dishonest when this is done by the Western journalists, who claim to hold themselves to the world’s highest journalistic standards. Yet consistently they make apologies for their comrades that were in the last government and editorially attack the new ruling party despite a cleanly won mandate in democratic elections. And of course the Western press complex cites the work of their friends in the Polish press when they input words like: “there is widespread condemnation in the Polish press.” Needless to say they never mention where these critical Polish press outlets get their funding, which as all Poles know, in the case of EVERY major national platform present during this past ruling government’s term, has been directly or indirectly bestowed upon the media industry by the government itself and thus lives off of the hapless taxpayer.
The un-Constitutional Tribunal
The presentation of a few examples of the major storylines playing out in the Western press coverage of Polish political action is instructive. The biggest story in the news, the one that has been the “tip of the spear” of the Western press complex’s agitprop operation and has given us so many headline variants of “the new Polish government’s assault on democracy” is the controversy surrounding the Polish judiciary and the Constitutional Tribunal (TK). The integral fact that consistently has been disregarded in the coverage of these “stacking of the bench” allegations against the new government was that the previous government attempted to do exactly this in the last weeks before the election. This rendered the court illegitimate from the moment the new government took power. This was an effort to block the new government from exercising its right to appoint replacement justices upon the conclusion of their terms which were scheduled to occur AFTER the election.
The incumbent party, Civic Platform (PO), wanted to make sure they would still be able to exercise control over the highest court, which is the arbiter of what is legislatively legal, even after they lost in October, thus stymying the PiS legislative agenda. PO’s October parliamentary loss was well telegraphed after the loss in the presidential race and with massive hostility from the citizenry toward this party having reached a fevered pitch (driven by all of PO’s sleazy corruption scandals). This was in spite of the mainstream press working double time to stump for the PO government and giving almost no television airtime to the the PiS opposition and when coverage was extended it was designed to make them look unappealing (and even downright buffoonish). Much of the citizenry was however able to glean the truthful narrative from the internet’s independent media platforms and through the democratizing information distribution that social media affords.
PO illegally appointed two new justices while simultaneously retiring two sitting justices before their terms were up is akin to Obama appointing two justices to replace SCOTUS Justices Thomas and Scalia in December 2016 by executive order. This was the real constitutional crisis in Poland that occurred (along with the end-of-term recent approval of the nationalization of the private sector managed segment of the pension system) yet nary a protest was heard/read about this travesty of law in any Polish or Western press platform. PiS recognized the illegitimacy of this body, which was so pliant for 8 years under PO and had provided a de facto rubber stamp on voluminous unconstitutional legislation. PiS set out to reform this vestigial legacy apparatus from communism times which was founded in 1986 as a Potemkin village court during the “softening” of communism that presaged 1989. One can see why PiS was not going to let this illegality stand and with 14 of 15 justices having been appointed by PO and one jurist having been appointed by PO’s junior coalition partner, the Polish Peoples Party (known acronymically in Polish as PSL) PiS knew that with the unilateral legislative mandate to rule the Sejm (Polish parliament) AND a recent presidential victory (and the president serving statutorily as the validator of judicial appointments) that now was the time for reform.
(A note on PSL- this is an agrarian socialist party- mockingly referred to as the Marxist farmers- with its roots in communist politics for the better part of the 20th century and a party that, given its rural footprint, always seems to have plenty of voter irregularity allegations swirling around it and manages to perennially hang on to just enough votes to breach the 5% threshold that gets them into parliament and funded out of the treasury, even when, as in this cycle- the far left and other true legacy communist parties are sent packing.)
PiS immediately reversed this illegal appointment decision and went further appointing 3 more judges and changing the “simple majority rules” voting procedure to now a two thirds vote being necessary to certify a decision. This weakened the court, still comprising of 9 PO judges, and given that the court had long ago ceased to be interested in constitutional law (but was obsessively interested in legislation expanding the scale of their lifetime pensions) and how disgusted most of the populace has been with the judiciary for decades, this reform was delivered just in a nick of time.
Republican ideals of rule of law are optimal. But this only applies when there is a rule of law to be adhered to. When the “watchers” and deliverers of oversight have been totally corrupted by politicization and the arbitrary “rule of man” by discretionary fiat has supplanted regulatory discipline, then their legitimacy is nullified by their illegal actions and reform is needed. With the people of Poland clamoring for these types of reforms (validated at the ballot box in both the presidential and parliamentary elections), reforms that uproot the post-communist status quo, PiS had a moral and political imperative to deliver them and one can see the seriousness in which they are taking their recent popular mandate.
Replacing a Previous Governments Appointees, AKA: “Censorship”
Another cacophonous bleating heard from the West’s well labeled “nattering nabobs of negativism” (to quote Spiro Agnew) is the alleged culture of censorship descending on the Polish public media. It is not censorship in any way, shape, or form. The new government, following their mandate to rid the airwaves of this cartel of the former government’s paid shills, is doing what is well within their rights (a right of post-election discretionary replacement that is even codified in other European nations such as Belgium). The new government, voted in to right the ship, has the responsibility to hire and fire those under its Polish taxpayer funded budget facilities. Polish television and radio staffs, hired by those appointed by the previous regime, have been hotbeds of propaganda in their omitting and covering up scandal after scandal of those who granted their employment. They are now deservedly getting their walking papers.
The hope will be that the new appointees will be more even handed in their roles but regardless the repopulating of these ranks is again, an integral part of PiS’s mandate to govern. Any visitor to Poland right now, asking John Smith and Jane Doe on the ground, would be hard pressed to find anyone who would say that ANY PiS appointee installed could be more biased than the taxpayer funded “journalists” that Poland has been forced to listen to for the last 8 years of Pravda-like comradeship with the last Polish government, its German “investors,” and its Brussels-agenda pushing elites.
One of the most highly paid (by taxpayers) so-called “journalist” of recent years, Tomasz Lis, is the Editor-in-Chief of Polish Newsweek (owned by the dominant German media conglomerate, Axel Springer), and was up until now a TV show host on public television. On his show he hostilely attacked and played tricks on right-of-center politicians (even going after the PiS presidential candidate, now President, Andrzej Duda’s daughter) while deifying PO’s most crooked politicians in interviews. His was like a tabloid variety show and he inserted himself into the debate and became the news himself. This was hardly what state funded media was supposed to create.
Lis is also an unofficial leader on the ground of the recent protest movement (rumored to be funded by George Soros’ Open Society Foundation- more on this below) mobilized to undermine and destabilize the new government whereby they are frequently calling for Brussels intervention into Polish affairs. Lis IS the emblem of what the Polish public media has become the last 8 years. And it does not get nastier. One can imagine his agenda given his multimillion zloty TV show contract for his nightly gig funded by hapless taxpayers, most of whom abhor him. At his day job as editor of the newsweekly the government bestowed lucrative advertising contracts from State Owned Enterprises managed by government appointees with full budgetary discretion which served his ideologically and financially aligned German publishers quite well. Even now his rabble rousing “leadership” of the KOD protest movement yields frequent YouTube clips of this dignified “man of news” shrieking like a banshee who just smoked Walter White’s most potent new batch of New Mexico crystal methamphetamine. (The videos are on YouTube for any who might harbor disbelief at this evocative description.)
It is disingenuous of the Western media, knowing full well the congruent media purges enacted by PO from 2008-10, and the de rigeur practice of any new government in installing their appointees to public sector positions funded from the treasury, to vociferously condemn this appropriate cleaning of Poland’s media house and to describe it as “censorship.” This closing of the PO media age is widely desired by Poles (one of the main reasons for this political turnover) and this is necessary for the collective sanity of the nation. For the last 8 years these journalists had taken a page out of the Goebbels curriculum and the country was well worse for it. Now unfortunately this still persists at the hands, and the pens, of the Western press which has a similar toolbox and to the same degree lacks any sense of shame or responsibility in the spreading of dis- and mis-information motivated by shared political worldview, personal friendships, and financial self-interest.
The chattering class has repeatedly made further allegations of censorship by the new government. According to the Washington Post editorialist, and friend of PO party stalwarts (Anne Applebaum/ Radoslaw Sikorski): “The new Polish culture minister tried to order a state-funded theater not to stage a play by Nobel Prize-winning author Elfriede Jelinek, claiming it was pornographic. When a television reporter questioned whether his edict was legal, the minister promised a purge of the reporter’s network as well as other state-supported news media.” The operative words in this allegation are “state funded” and “state supported.” The new government having just received an unprecedented mandate of unilateral rule from the citizenry was well within its authority to defund this “play” put on with public monies. If the new caretakers of the Polish state do not believe the citizens want to fund this pornographic “theater” then this is within their mandate and what the people overwhelmingly voted for, which was clearly a “values” oriented political party. Bear in mind this production was openly billed as live sexual activity with scenes enacted by experienced Czech porn actors on stage and with many complaints from citizens. This is hardly an assault on free expression as no one is advocating making such performances illegal. But if the government is funding your operations as a theater then you are liable to adhere to the standards set by your patron- or go out and raise the capital elsewhere. I imagine that in the free and private marketplace, presenting this schlock, they would not last long. Proving once again, the protests are really all about the extraction of government money.
The further example of censorship cited by the WaPo was the point on the reporter who “questioned” whether the new Cultural Minister, Piotr Glinski’s, “edict was legal.” I wonder how many Western columnists actually watched the clip of the interview broadcast on TVP (main state supported public television station) by “reporter” Karolina Lewicka. In a 16 minute interview she spoke about half the time in a hostile and shrill tone and cut off the interview subject repeatedly to yell at him. She was more concerned with expressing herself and browbeating the minister than conducting an interview. Her suspension was well too light a sentence in my view and she should have been summarily dismissed immediately. That was not journalism in any sense of the concept. That was a debate which was not what the minister was invited to participate in. So by design the state media, again paid for by the taxpayer, blindsided a minister of the government that oversees their budget- not a prudent strategy but it demonstrates the perniciousness of their ideology. I fully expect her and many of her superiors will be terminated very soon (for those not already), and deservedly so, given the culture of leftist propaganda (and PO protectionism) they have been feeding the citizens at taxpayer expense for the last 8 years.
The amount of time the last government’s appointed media complex, in all their modes of “non” censorship, has dedicated to episodes like this theater kerfuffle has been many orders of magnitude higher than the time dedicated (usually none at all) to covering the many dozens of PO scandals. Scandals such as: a rigged election and vote counting in Gdynia last year, the protests that ensued and the suggestion that questioning electoral processes was treasonous by the President and Mayor of Warsaw (you would think journalists would be up in arms on such a stifling of free speech but they were not at all given their overtly biased sympathies), the “tapes scandal” where many high ranking officials of the last PO government were caught on hidden tape flagrantly breaking the law (including central bank chief Marek Belka caught coordinating monetary policy with his friends in PO to influence the coming elections), Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski spending taxpayer money on himself and friends wantonly, and many more (literally scandals by the dozen). So some “cleaning house” of the corrupt taxpayer funded media complex is certainly in order but don’t expect to hear this from Anne Applebaum or her friends in the West at platforms she contributes to like the Washington Post.
Poland Attacks NATO….As If
Another telling example of the spin coming out of the slanted Western press is the way the changing of the guard (literally and figuratively) at the NATO affiliated satellite office was treated. The fact pattern was so incompletely disclosed to the world that it did not merely border on dishonest coverage…it was outright fraud given the mandate to “report” the news. This office, not officially part of NATO, but a joint liaison with Slovakia, was privy to sensitive external security information and the changing of its staff was to be expected with a new government and a new Defense Minister/Ministry. So when the incumbent staff was dismissed and they plainly ignored the order to vacate this was a clear dereliction of duty. So the new minister and his staff did what was absolutely necessary with a sensitive component of the security apparatus and came at night and changed the locks on this rogue staff letting them know in the morning, with police present, that they were no longer welcome.
Given the lengths that the former government’s post-communist apparatchiks were going in many arenas to undermine the new government, and their many years of brazen corruption (it was even rumored that this staff was engaging in procurement “business” with the Russian security service, the FSB- which is the modern iteration of the KGB) it was imperative that the Defense Ministry purge these rogue agents from the security service. And how did the Western press portray this event? “New Polish government engages in unprecedented attack against NATO.” That was the line being peddled by the biased journalists of such platforms as the FT and Politico. Anyone with a rudimentary understanding of this new government’s foreign policy platform would know that closer NATO alignment is one of the top priorities of PiS given the weakening of Polish foreign policy under the last government and the ignorance of threats to Polish sovereignty from the East and the West. The last government cut military spending as the threat of conflagration was increasing in the East from Russia because there was lower hanging fruit for their institutionalized looting complex (such as EU monies for highways that never got built or new trains that would come in over budget and past timelines).
These headlines were anticipated by the former Minister of National Defense (Tomasz Siemoniak) and this “standoff” was set up by design to further the agenda of weakening the new government in the eyes of the west. After losing their position of power, which they have held in some shape or form for the entire post-1989 modern Polish era, they have no problem “scorching the earth” of their vanquishers and diminishing Poland’s standing in the world as they do not control the levers anymore. Knowing as well how reform minded the new government is and how there is a high likelihood that PiS looks to prosecute the post-communists for their very real criminal activity and hold them accountable for this frenzied decade of looting has been a further motive to undermine the new government in whatever manner they are able.
At the time of this “attack” on the NATO affiliated office (again, this was not an actual NATO outlet staffed by NATO officers but staffed by agents of the Polish government in a liaison role) Mr. Siemoniak was engaged in a battle with another amoral PO apparatchik (Grzegorz Schetyna) for leadership control of the Civic Platform party going forward. The “news” story that resulted from this standoff-by-design had the effect of getting his name in the international press and giving PiS a black eye which was certainly a desirable outcome for one in contention to lead the freshly relegated and diminished opposition. The fact that the press, again connected to the last government, would frame the story as an attack on NATO is emblematic of the commitment to serving up a less-than-comprehensive fact patterns for Western consumers of news.
Protesting Democratic Outcomes Not Going the Desired Way
One final dynamic that bears disclosure is the movement, quickly losing steam, to destabilize the new government by catalyzing street protests. KOD (Komitet Obrony Demokracji– the Committee for the Defense of Democracy) is a protest movement, much like Black Lives Matter in the US, that is being funded by outside parties with a vested interest in destabilization and optically making it look like there is a groundswell of antipathy toward the new government where little exists (as elections proved). George Soros, through his Open Society Foundation, is rumored to have had a hand in its initial development and it is well accepted that the organizers which include NGOs and think tanks such as the Stefan Batory Foundation (originally founded by Soros in 1989) which get their funding from the public sector (EU, national governments, and regional governments) all have a strong Eurocentric slant (the blue and gold flag is ubiquitous at the protests). So as the country voted for “less Europe” and the reestablishment of Polish national sovereignty and self-determination, that was previously sold by the last government to Brussels and Berlin, the protest movement is representing the interests of “more Europe.”
Despite dozens of scandals each one more egregious than the last, the media and those from the agitating big government left and protesting cohort did not lift a finger. Major constitutional breaches and even human rights violations (in free expression, due process, unreasonable search and seizure) did not galvanize even a word from the media, the student movements, and the perennially aggrieved. But with the new government exercising reasonable reform validated by clean elections a supremely well organized (even if not always well attended) protest movement then rises up to defend “European values” and democracy.
The KOD movement has had the effect of giving Brussels the cover they need to condemn the new Polish government over the Constitutional Tribunal action and the rightful termination of the last government’s bought and paid for media propagandists. They have even introduced the idea of formally sanctioning the new government under the Article 7 mechanism which would take away voting powers of Poland in Brussels for acting “contrary to fundamental European values” (as European Parliament President Martin Schulz has stated repeatedly in recent weeks) and “systemically threatening rule of law.” EP President Schulz has also stated that recent political developments under the new Polish government “have the characteristics of a coup” (after free elections) and that the government is running a “Putin-styled managed democracy.”
This overwhelming desire to sanction Poland by the EU has lost some steam in recent days given the fires raging in the heart of the EU’s “true believer” nations (such as Germany and France) and their own media complex having been caught in the act of censoring the truth of refugee criminal activity this past New Year’s Eve (and apparently at other times in other places). Meanwhile in Poland KOD is free to protest unmolested in the truest upholding of purported “EU values.”
This benevolent treatment by the new government was certainly not in practice by the last government in all their Eurocentric high-mindedness. They broke up many protests when people took to the streets to criticize the PO government; such as when the Election Commission took a week to count ballots after regional elections in 2014 (and 1000’s of irregularity complaints were lodged and ignored), or when permits were rescinded when people desired to take to the streets to protest EU migrant quotas. So the hypocrisy is rife. For governments critical of the EU, Brussels deems them anti-democratic. For those who buy into (or are bought by) the Brussels “centralization-of- power project” no level of anti-democratic behavior is deemed hostile to “our shared values.” And unlike the PO controlled media who never reported on anything that might make the ruling coalition look bad the PiS government HAS reported on the anti-government protests in its newly controlled public media. This despite the allegations that they are engaged in a widespread media “censorship” conspiracy according to EU funded media watchdog think tanks and EU apparatchiks like Martin Schulz, Frans Timmermans, & Gunther Oettinger (the latter pair being unelected but still having the temerity to condemn the democratic actions of a popularly elected government).
Democracy in Poland is Doing Superlatively Well
Democracy in modern Poland is the healthiest it has been in its quarter century history and without doubt it is certainly stronger than it was compared to the last eight years under the previous ruling coalition government. The people have finally purged, through democratic elections, the post-communist machine that was never held to account or reformed after 1989. After 26 years of the legacy corrupt system’s culture of self-interested and fraudulent behaviour, and a spoils-system “business-as-usual” government having flourished, the people emphatically said “No more!” Finally, real reform is now beginning to be delivered even as the bleating of the global media cabal attempts to create an undermining cacophony of propaganda. Needless to say the EU elites, seeing their philosophy rebuked and rejected and the power they held, political and economic, slipping away are motivated to utilize every anti-democratic mechanism at their disposal from media propaganda and the undermining of credibility in the court of global public opinion to sanctions and condemnations. But despite all this, Poles on the ground are optimistic and know what is being presented by the domestic Polish “news” platforms, bought and paid for by the previous government, and their globalist friends at major international media platforms (prejudiced by their personal relationships) at such esteemed purveyors of manipulations and lies such as CNN, the New York Times, and the Washington Post, matters not.
PiS, a consistently true anti-communist opposition, finally has the mandate to clean up the generation of post-communists resultant from a “transition” that retained all too much of the undesirable legacy communist behaviour of moral and financial corruption. The perpetrators are scared and desperate and it shows. This is great for Poland and as Poles know perfectly well, there is no death of Polish democracy but a glorious rebirth.