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March 23, 1997 No 12 (439)

Voice - Opinion


A dispute has started in Poland over what the Americans call freedom of speech.

The essence of this animated debate has been defined in various ways depending on political inclination.

Left-wing media guru Krzysztof Teodor Toeplitz speaks of an offensive by the forces of backwardness while the right wing speaks about cultural liberalism being conducive to the nation's demoralization.

For Poles, "freedom of speech" most commonly brings to mind freedom from communist-era oppression from official and unofficial political censorship. A well-developed system of regulations was supposed to guard the working classes against the influence of bourgeois ideology. In practice, on the one hand it led to the creation of a finely crafted code of allusions that artists would use to tell audiences whatever they couldn't tell them straight out-and, on the other, to the blooming of underground literature, press, films, satire and songs, all created outside censorship's grasp.

The calculation being to gain votes in the elections.

- The sensitivity to abuses of freedom of speech that is being demonstrated by Catholic groups has its limits.

You won't hear any condemnation of right-wing rallies where the primary topic is the Great Jewish Threat, or the Great German Threat. Of the right-wing press that has made "outing" hidden Jews its principal occupation. Of disgusting publications sold in the right-wing ROP's offices and in some parishes, repeating nonsense from the era before the Nazi crematoriums.

Diligent as it is in seeking out sexual misdemeanors, the church hierarchy has for several years been unable to deal with Solidarity's former chaplain, Father Henryk Jankowski, who has been soiling the symbols of the Jewish nation in his anti-Semitic madness-with impunity.

The ears that are so sensitive to obscenities do not react when the right-wing's favorite Wojciech Cejrowski, in his hate shows, says about the Polish head of state: "That meatball, f---ing Kwasniewski, who can't even stand up straight all the time, is defiling the office of president with his fat a--."

The moral offensive has its standard. A double one.

- Is this moral offensive finding support outside the circles of Catholic integrists?

I think yes, to an extent. Some Poles are afraid of the effects of weakened morality after communism's downfall. Many link examples of aggression and brutality to the destructive influence of television and movies. This fear, normal after the delight with absolute moral freedom in the media, does not mean that those who agree with the arguments of the anti-liberal crusade will switch immediately from Pulp Fiction to Winnie the Pooh.

Poland is neither libertine nor bigoted. There is no one Poland.

by Slawomir Majman

"Yes, I am a national socialist, and Poland has not even dreamed yet of the war that I will wage against the Jewish system."
-Janusz Bryczkowski, chairman of the Polish National Front, on his plans to create a national Skinhead Legion.