After European media, CNN and the "Washington Post," now "The New York Times" critically and lopsidedly writes about the political situation in Poland, suggesting to the international reader that Poland is in the midst of unsettling change that has the potential to lead to squandering what the country has gained in the last 25 years since the collapse of the Iron Curtain.
In a „New York Times” article entitled „As Poland Lurches to Right, Many in Europe Look On in Alarm,” its authors Rick Lyman and Joanna Berendt say that in the last couple of weeks since the right-wing party has come to power, its leaders have undertaken „a series of unilateral actions that one critic labeled 'Putinist.’”
Just like other leftist media, the 'NYT' authors mention the pardoning of Mariusz Kamiński and an attempt to ban the production of a play by Nobel Prize winner Elfriede Jelinek. In the midst of doing so they do not go into detail and they omit a lot of contextual and cultural information. „Under their undisputed leader, Jaroslaw Kaczynski […] they threatened to impose controls on the news media; and declared, repeatedly and emphatically, that they would overrule the previous government’s promise to accept refugees pouring into Europe,” the article reads.
Here we we go again. The same things taken out of context, which turns them into lies,” said Matt Tyrmand, a journalist and political commentator. „They call Kamiński 'notorious'. What is he notorious for? He is a really honest guy, who went after corruption in his own party. The Civic Platform (PO) didn't like it, because they knew they would be next so they wanted to silence him,” Tyrmand adds.
According to him, the „New York Times” reporters used the arguments from the „Washington Post” editorial and made them facts, with no regard for all standards of journalistic protocol. „This article is totally one-sided,” he says.
Further „The New York Times” says that the „the largest flash point, so far, has been a series of questionable parliamentary maneuvers by the government and the opposition that has allowed a dispute over who should sit on the country’s powerful Constitutional Tribunal to metastasize into a full-blown constitutional crisis — with thousands of protesters from all sides taking to the streets.”
The authors do not bother to explain that the Sunday marches were pro-government, possibly leading the reader to think that both the Saturday and Sunday demonstrations were anti-government ones. While at the same time they suggest that Saturday's anti-government protests were attended by far more people than Sunday's march.
That's not true. Every person in Warsaw I talked too, as well as the Warsaw police, said that the Sunday pro-government rally was bigger. So what the 'NYT' says is a lie. But that's how it is. Both the 'New York Times' and the 'Washington Post' lie, they are poisoned and have their own agenda. That's why all of a sudden Ryszard Petru is getting coverage in the West,” Tyrmand says.
In his opinion the most disingenuous element in the „New York Times'” coverage is the video embedded in it. „They interview five different people from the protest on Saturday, but they don't interview a single person from the rally on Sunday. That says a lot right there. You have all those people saying that there was this incredible violation of the Constitution, but they don't mention the violation of the Constitution that set the stage, even necessitated, this one. So that's the double standard,” Tyrmand says.
„Poland’s rightward lurch under the newly empowered Law and Justice Party is unsettling what had been the region’s strongest economy and a model for the struggling post-Soviet states of Eastern Europe,” reads the NYT article. To make things look worse, just like Fareed Zakaria in his CNN piece, the authors quote Professor Andrzej Zoll, former president of the Polish Constitutional Tribunal, saying that he is agitated and depressed, because „twenty-five years of democratic Poland is coming to an end.”
Another highly critical comment cited by the „NYT” comes from Aleksander Smolar, President of the Stefan Batory Foundation. “They want very much to enlarge their power and weaken the institutions that control the political process,” he says.
The authors of the „NYT” state that the leaders of the Law and Justice Party did not respond to their requests for comments, but that in their opinion the critical comments by the opposition are overblown, and that they are „only fulfilling the legitimate desires of the constituents who put them in office.” Later the authors of the article say that „the leadership has often seemed to confirm its critics' worst fears,” namely that Law and Justice term will result „in significant changes in relations between Poland, the European Union, NATO and the United States.”
„I know PiS quite well. There are no fascist tendencies in PiS. They are democrats. PiS was the heart and soul of the anticommunist hardline and they believe in democracy. Law and Justice Party won the election, getting the unilateral mandate. That is, in my opinion, the biggest omission by the Times. There is no mention in the NYT piece that there is this huge unilateral mandate won, the largest in the III Republic of Poland since 1989. This party won, with its mandate to govern without coalition. Just them,” Matt Tyrmand says.
Prof. Marek Chodakiewicz from the Institute of World Politics comments, on the other hand, that the „New York Times” needs a lesson in democracy.
In 2009 President Barack Obama said: 'elections have consequences and I won.' He was referring to the Republican criticism directed at President. He was criticized for introducing laws and staffing positions with people of his choice. There is no difference between what Obama did back then, and which the 'NYT' cheered about, and what is happening in Poland now. That's what is called a political mandate,” Professor Chodakiewicz comments. „It is sad that the 'NYT' is faking objectivity in this respect and at the same time the paper clearly identified itself with the opposition and its narration,” Professor Chodakiewicz adds.
Why is that the Western media are running a smear campaign against Poland? According to Tyrmand, it is because „the EU is so threatened by the populism and the actual will of the people that they are trying to do everything they can to neuter it,” Tyrmand says.
He further explains that Poland is a crucial member of the EU. „Poland, with its 40 million people and multiple million in the U.S. and the UK, is a very important pressure setting force on European politics. When you have the sixth biggest economy in Europe saying 'you know what, we are done, we don't want what the EU offers as it comes with too much undermining of our national sovereignty and the mandarins in Brussels are absolutely frightened by this reassertion of independence. That's why Schulz is calling it a coup, and that is why Brussels is threatening to militarize,” Tyrmand says, adding that Brussels is acting like Moscow. „It wants centralized power and it wants to make decisions for its members at the expense of their sovereignty, and the Poles, as usual, are leading the fight for freedom because that's what they have been doing for a thousand years. The fight for freedom is ingrained in the Polish DNA,” Tyrmand says expressing his content about PiS being in power. „PiS is comprised of true fighters for independence and they will go down fighting. I support who they are in terms of their character and integrity. Polish democracy is in the best state it has ever been,” Tyrmand concludes.
Matthew Tyrmand is a journalist, economist, investor, and government watchdog through his NGO „OpenTheBooks.com” with the mission to put all government expenditures online for citizens to hold public officials and their spending behavior accountable. He grew up in Brooklyn and attended University of Chicago before working for a decade on Wall Street as an equity portfolio manager. His father, Leopold Tyrmand, was a well known Polish anticommunist dissident and writer. Matthew received his Polish citizenship in 2011 and is active in the Polish civil, political, and economic debates.
Prof. Marek Chodakiewicz is a Polish-American historian specializing in East Central European history of the 19th and 20th century. Professor of History at the Institute of World Politics in Washington, DC, where he teaches and conducts research on East Central Europe and Russia. His expert areas include History, Democracy Building, Communism, American Foreign Policy and International Relations. Since 2008, he has also held the Kościuszko Chair in Polish Studies at IWP. In April 2005, Chodakiewicz was appointed by President George W. Bush for a 5-year term to the United States Holocaust Memorial Council. Chodakiewicz has also served as Adjunct Professor of International Relations at Patrick Henry Collegesince 2008.
Autor: Leszek (Nick) Sadowski