I think there might be a reason why government drivers keep crashing into everything that moves or not. Perhaps they felt encouraged by a recent case in Gorzów Wielkopolski where a blind man struck by a car on the pedestrian crossing suddenly regained his vision after 20 years and they believe that by crashing into people they can cure them? In any case, they decided to step their game up. They are no longer satisfied with crashing VIPs limos. Recently one of them crashed a truck. (Un?)fortunately crashed it not into someone, but into a wall, and the wall was not repaired – on the contrary, it has been badly damaged. Recent media action by Polish National Foundation – established to promote Poland, but known mostly for burning public money in a failed projects and companies of the PiS associates – was a truck-crash at similar scale. They’ve noticed that fake communicator conversation of the politicians created as a joke by a left wing portal donald.pl are quite popular, so to celebrate anniversary of the Auschwitz liberation they have designed a “joke” conversation between Hitler and Stalin. It turned to be not only in very bad taste, but also not funny at all, so they have removed it from their website, but the screens from it were appalling Polish Internet users for some time after.
But Stalin and Hitler were not the only one credited with some fake productions. It had emerged that one of the leading Polish internet portals, Wirtualna Polska, not only avoids publishing articles criticizing the government and its “reforms” of the justice system (allegedly consulting it with Zbigniew Ziobro’s wife) but also publishes several articles praising the companies that are government-controlled or in some way related to PiS. Non-existent journalists Krzysztof Suwart and Krzysztof Major were authors of over 400 such pieces. Could it be related to the fact, that Ministry of Justice purchased advertisements worth 125 000 000 zł from Wirtualna Polska?
The nervous reaction of the ministry shows that there might be something in it. The ministry contacted portal oko.press, that first wrote about it, and demanded for all articles in the matter to be removed within 3 hours.
It seems that the government really don’t understand how Polish press laws are working. If someone believes that information published in certain media is not true, he or she can demand for his clarification to be published. But what to expect from the Ministry of Justice if even PiS leading propagandist (a.k.a editors in public media) are not aware of it. After Gazeta Wyborcza published a piece about Kraków education ombudsman, known for her religious fanaticism and devotion to PiS, who claimed that sex education that speaks the truth about LBGT or masturbation is “illegal under Polish law” in which the author suggested that she says that masturbation is illegal, Samuel Pereira of TVP called his Twitter followers to flood its author with an TVP article negating this as a fake news in order “to force her to apologize for her lies”:
Zbyt często pozostawiamy gnojoną osobę samą. Dziś wzięli na cel @Br_Nowak, jutro mogą wziąć Ciebie, dlatego:
— Samuel Pereira (@SamPereira_) February 3, 2020
Meanwhile the issue of LGBT rights becomes more and more hot. Answering to appeals from leading right wing politicians, many local councils decided to declare their councilc “LGBT free zones”. As per January 2020, about 30% of Poland – mostly in Southern and Eastern, which correlates with PiS support. There is also one council that voted against “declaration LGDP and gender” which says something about how clueless they are. Nonetheless this behaviour is actively supported by the government – the Wojewoda of Lublin (local representative of the government) awards medals to councils that voted such laws in.
A Polish activist Bart Staszewski has made a big headlines after he started to place “LGBT free zone” plaques at the entrance signs to such councils and towns. The right wing media accuses him of damaging Poland’s image abroad, as Guy Verhofstadt for example initially believed that those sings are official. But who is really to blame for damaging Poland’s image abroad – those, who promote anti LGBT hatred, or those, who point it out?
Ideological projects of PiS often make no sense. While officially government says that they try to fight with pollution and climate change, the government run garages Orlen sell bagged coal. “Ekogroszek Patriot Plus – Energy from Polish Lands” says the packaging of the coal available in promotional sale. Parameters of the fuel though suggest, that it is a coal from Russia… Is anyone surprised?
After the media picked on that, the promotion was discontinued. But this is just one of many examples where PiS “patriotic” projects turns out to be not so good as planned. The infamous idea of digging a canal through Vistula Spit to allow access to small port in Elbląg without going trough Kaliningrad district took another blow: according to latest estimates the cost of that investment can be as big as 1 900 000 000 zł (over twice as much as originally estimated). If we remember that even at original 880 000 000 the economical sense of the whole project was at best doubtful, and that the construction has been opposed by EU institution – as the newly build canal will destroy invaluable areas protected under Nature 2000 scheme – it seems that PiS is going at another war that they cannot win – just as when they tried to chop Puszcza Białowieska a few years back, or build a motorway through protected Rospuda valley during their previous government. But who cares, it gives political fuel, and the bill will be picked by the taxpayer anyway.
If I wanted to imagine some cartoon villain that hates a nature, I could not think about anything more scary than PiS. Recently president Duda, breaking his electoral promised, signed the new bill that literally gives forests away to hunters to use as their private playground (including hunting in National Parks!). But while hunters have it better than any time before, the situation of teachers is still difficult. The government promised them pay rises, but despite opposition demands refused to secure funds for it in the budget. It might mean that they just want to push the cost of this onto the local council (which can be seen as a tool of influence, as the government has some freedom into assigning extra funds to them, which would allow for to “discipline” councils that are ruled by the opposition).
Meanwhile on the front of the fight for the independence of the judicial system the great battles were fought, but the outcome is still not clear. Paweł Juszczyszyn, a judge who was to be shown documents that could establish if newly elected judges were appointed legally or not was turned away from the doorstep after his supervisor (who himself is a subject of that controversy) took a break from his holiday only to call him back to his office. But according to president Duda it does not matter if those documents were valid or not, because he appointed this judges already, so it’s done and dusted. As prof Laurent Pech, a French legal expert who is closely observing the situation in Poland has put it:
Translation: “Even if Poland’s new National Council of the Judiciary has been established in obvious violation of Poland’s Constitution and its members unlawfully appointed it does not matter due to my divine-like powers”#LEtatCestMoi https://t.co/Ym0QA14PSI
— Laurent Pech (@ProfPech) February 2, 2020
By the way: Sebastian Kaleta, deputy minister of Justice, agreed to debate the judicial reforms with prof. Pech. It might be interesting debate – according to PiS Poles taught French how to use forks, now some inexperienced lawyer will be lecturing a renown legal experts on why their illegal changes to the judicial systems are OK. I wonder if Kaleta is going to take his outspoken colleague Radosław Fogiel – despite having only matura (high school diploma) he seems to have a lot to say about legal issues.
It seems that PiS is mostly supported by such “experts”. After the parliament voted the so-called “muzzle laws” according to which judges who criticize PiS changes and deny legality of the “judicial reforms” can be met with full range of disciplinary actions, the High Court in their full bench (59 of the best judges in Poland) ruled, that both illegally appointed judges and the disciplinary court created by PiS are not legal. That caused an outrage in PiS and prime minister Morawiecki asked Constitutional Tribunal, controlled by PiS, to rule on that ruling. Of course the Tribunal knew how to rule – after all its Chairwoman Julia Przyłębska had yet another private consultation with Kaczyński and Duda this December – and decided that the “ruling of the High Court is to be suspended”, but this is yet another absurd: experts point out, that the role of the Constitutional Tribunal is to check if legal acts are in line with constitution. It is not some kind of “uber-High Court” able to overturn the rulings of the other courts – it’s beyond its competences.
As for now then we have two parallel legal systems – while law abiding judges adhere to the ruling of the High Court and the European Tribunals, PiS abiding judges listen to Constitutional Tribunal and the ministry of Justice. Meanwhile Poland joined countries such as Albania, Moldavia, Russia and Turkey and it’s rule of law is now under monitoring of the Council of Europe.
This is obviously not good. Especially if we draw historical comparisons. During Auschwitz Liberation Anniversary Celebrations Marian Turski, a historian and Auschwitz survivor himself in his speech pointed out, that “Holocaust did not fall from the sky” but it was a result of a many minor steps made with the acceptance of the society. He called to stop persecuting minorities and protect democracy. The right took it as an attack on PiS. Samuel Pereira wrote on his twitter that “evil can be contagious” and brought up Turski’s communist past. Some people on the internet expressed their regret that there was not enough gas in Auschwitz to kill Turski. Also Krzysztof Bosak, right wing presidential candidate understood Turski’s speech as an attack on the government.
When I read all that an old joke springs to mind: a guy in the park climbs onto the bench and starts shouting: “Down with hypocrisy! Down with greed! Down with paedophilia” and one of the passers-by asks him “what is your problem? Why do you need to attack Catholic Church so badly?”. Those LGBT-free zone signs, those attacks on Marian Turski – this looks like the same mechanism, doesn’t it?
This piece was written for Britské Listy
Collage designed using public domain pictures.