Once again a rubbish article about Poland was written in British press. As was shown by the Polish media, a piece in Daily Mail (here) describing allegedly drunken Santa Claus in Ustrzyki Dolne turned out to be completely fabricated. The only true element of that article were photos, published by the British paper without consent of its authors. Can we and should we try to counteract such portrayal of Eastern Europe in British press?
The story of drunken Santa Claus written by the young intern Ellie Buchdahl would be really funny in The Onion but it has no place in the real paper. Not only the pictures are not showing a drunk, but a victim of the accident when the shied horse pulled the sledge into the wall, injuring it’s occupants. Not a single quote cited by Daily Mail is real. Both the photographer and the police spokesperson deny that they ever spoke with British press, none of them confirms the version of the story as reported by Daily Mail. Third person quoted by the British paper probably does not even exist. Absolute lack of understanding of grammatic cases suggest that Ellie Buchdahl does not posses any knowledge of Slavic languages at all.
Zdzisław Mołodyński, the author of the pictures depicting the outcome of the accident is outraged. As reported by the gazeta.pl portal he is afraid to leave his home, as many of the inhabitants of Ustrzyki Dolne believes that he defamed their little town for money. We tried to contact the author of the article but so far she wasn’t interested to speak with us.
Of course, it is not the first case when Daily Mail rides on the hatred towards the immigrants. Gazeta Elektroniczna has been writing about that in the past (here). It is the basic way how the tabloids operate: they address the lowest instinct of their readers. And it is nothing new that they go the easiest path: „It’s perfectly normal for the Daily Mail to invent huge chunks of the stories it publishes as News” – says Simon, a keen motor biker – „It has always done that. Bikers used to be their victim of choice. A fragmented group of individuals who couldn’t afford to fight back. Then Motorcycle Action Group appeared on the scene and grouped us together. MAG fought on our behalf, with our blessing and money and eventually they moved on to easier pickings, which now means Poles”.
The fight with the tabloids was not easy, it lasted many years and costed a lot of money. But the example of the British motor bikers shows that defending one’s good name against tabloids is possible. Meanwhile a biased portrayal of Poles appears not only in the rags but also in the more respected papers. Recent feature of London’s Eastern European community in The Independent (here) draws as true picture of them, as the picture of Scots written after brief visit to one of the most deprived quarters of Glasgow – Easterhouse.
Perhaps it’s time for us to stand up and to counteract to the flood of rubbish that British media publish about us? Of course the court battles are not the answer: Big media corporation employ armies of lawyers who specialize in covering their bums. It’s just enough to look how long and hard the path to the justice is for the victims of the phone hacking scandal. But what if we try to use the power of Social Media? Let’s start with this Facebook group, where we will stigmatize cases of the features that defame us. Then, after obtaining a base of such examples, which should not be too difficult, we could try to publicize the matter. After all, contrary to the picture painted by the British media, not every Eastern European is a non-English speaking kitchen porter. We do know some influential people – academics, bloggers, journalists, writers, celebrities…
Daily Mail and others do not care about that some of their features my harm insignificantly small group of people. But if we managed to break to the wider public about how much the „informations” published by them on one subject are really worth, maybe their readers start to wonder if they are to be trusted in other matters calling into question the credibility of their reports. And that, we hope, would be something that could not be ignored even by the most unconscionable editors and managers.
Article was published in gazetae.com