Putinist rhetoric in Poland

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April 10, 2016 by AK

The Lavrov argument – “Who are you to f—ing lecture me?” – makes a certain sense when the lecturer is currently acting in ways similar to the auditor. Otherwise, it seldom works. Being lectured by David Miliband must be torture – but hey, so what?

“Your grandfather was a Nazi” is also used from time to time – by Moscow against Ukrainian nationalists, for one – but being essentially a smear, it only impresses feeble minds.

A cross between the two, “Your grandfather was a Nazi – who are you to f—ing lecture me?” seems to be gaining popularity in Poland. This year, two ministers from Poland’s Law and Justice cabinet could not resist its attraction.

The constitutional crisis in Poland is only getting worse as the cabinet is trying to bulldoze away the pesky supreme court. In the meantime, activist ministers are blaming it on the West. In January, a senior member of the cabinet disqualified Germans from taking part in the debate using the Nazi grandpa type of logic:

The Polish justice minister, Zbigniew Ziobro… invoked Nazi-era crimes in his rebuke to Germany’s EU commissioner, Guenther Oettinger, as the rule-of-law dispute turns increasingly ugly.

“You [Oettinger] demanded that Poland be placed under ‘supervision’. Such words, spoken by a German politician, have the worst possible connotations for Poles,” Ziobro wrote in an open letter, cited by the Polish press agency, PAP.

“For me, too. I am the grandson of a Polish officer who, during World War II, fought in [Poland’s] underground Home Army against ‘German supervision’.”

Ziobro described Oettinger’s remarks – made last weekend, by reference to an EU supervisory mechanism – as “silly.”

He also accused Berlin of media “censorship” in trying to “hush up” the New Year’s Eve sex assaults.

The last line sounds familiar: this is how the Kremlin often responds to Western criticism of its hostility to press freedom. (Pro-Moscow journos sometimes go further, creating unverifiable stories and accusing the West of not responding to them.) I am not praising the German media for openness or objectivity, but neither Moscow nor Warsaw are in a position to accuse Berlin of censorship.

Poland’s defense minister has also turned on the United States – not for being Nazi, fortunately, but for being insufficiently ancient to criticize his compatriots:

Antoni Macierewicz, the defense minister, was even more dismissive of the United States when speaking Saturday at a security conference commemorating Poland’s 1999 accession to NATO: “People who were only building their country in the 18th century are telling us what democracy is — a nation that already had structures of representative democracy in the 13th and 14th centuries.”

It’s worth taking a look at Macierewicz’s 2001 article, The Revolution of Nihilism (Polish version) attacking the historian Jan Gross, to get a feel of the defense minister’s worldview.


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