By Bartek Maj
The Polish Prawo i Sprawiedliwość (PiS) government is attempting to create division within the country through identifying a range of enemies and placing itself in a position of victimhood. PiS establishes scapegoats, and fuels opposition to them through exploiting a nationalistic sentiment its voter base expresses. The government-allied President, Andrzej Duda, depicts a delusional image of the old communist regime, the EU, the media, and the LGBT movement in the country all aligned together to attempting to undermine the core of a Catholic Nationalistic Poland that the PiS government wants to create. This has been especially emphasised during the ongoing presidential elections, where the incumbent Andrzej Duda is being challenged by the more liberal Mayor of Warsaw, Rafał Trzaskowski.
Duda has engaged in a homophobic onslaught following the upset to his almost-certain presidential victory from the economic impacts of coronavirus. The president has presented the LGBT movement as an attack on the family. He has also labelled the movement an “ideology”, which is worse than communism, equating it with Soviet oppression and foreign occupation. Combining communism and LGBT activism in the eyes of Polish voters allows the government to push a rhetoric where Polish identity is undermined in the same way it was during Soviet occupation, making LGBT activism an existential threat in the eyes of voters.
This presentation of LGBT activism also plays into the government’s wider rhetoric of “Polish victimhood” in the face of foreign influence. When the private German-owned best-selling Polish tabloid Fakt questioned why the President issued a pardon to a child abuser, the President asked the question “Do the Germans want to elect Poland’s president?”. A PiS MEP also tweeted that the US owned Polish TVN network has ties to the WSI, a disbanded intelligence agency with roots in the communist era, sparking a backlash from the US ambassador for Poland. The official Polish Parliament’s twitter tweeted: “A politician has to tuck her ears in her own country because the ambassador of a foreign country barks?”, though this was promptly deleted.
This reflects a deep national insecurity embedded in Polish identity. Multiple German and Russian occupations over the past three centuries have made nationalism and anti-foreign rhetoric a part of Polish political identity, which Duda attempts to exploit. This exploitation of the “Polish victimhood” is used as a mask for furthering the government’s reforms. Duda introduced the “family charter”, prohibiting same-sex couples from marrying or adopting children, equating same-sex adoption of children to enslavement. The government is also planning to introduce new rules, which would promote local ownership of media, sparking concerns over democratic standards in Polish journalism. In a report after the first round of the presidential elections on the 28th of June, the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe claimed that the media landscape is polarised, and argued that the state funded broadcaster is a campaign tool for the incumbent.
The government groups the actors who oppose it into a single foreign bogeyman through weaving anti-LGBT rhetoric with anti-communist sentiment and presenting media scrutiny as foreign or anti-Polish activities. The government uses this rhetoric to present itself as the defenders of a Catholic Nationalistic Poland, whilst those who oppose this vision seek to destroy Poland. The PiS government shields itself through this rhetoric whilst it increases oppression against the LGBT community, and passes anti-democratic reforms. All of this is under a guise of patriotic defence of the Polish nation, a defence which is distorting reality, and strengthening their grip on the country’s institutions.
Image: NATO North Atlantic Treaty Organization via Flickr