Wednesday, November 22, 2017

#bigjournalism The New York Times refused to publish this "letter to the editor". - So we do!

Consul General Golubiewski’s letter to the editor of the New York Times not admitted for publication

The Consulate General of the Republic of Poland publishes in its entirety a letter to the editor of the New York Times written by the Consul General, Maciej Golubiewski, on 12th November 2017 in response to the NYT reporting piece by Megan Specia titled “Nationalist March Dominates Poland’s Independence Day”.

According to the New York Times editorial guidelines, letters to the editor, if chosen for publication, are generally published within a week. Unfortunately, the letter was not published; rather two other NYT editorial pieces (on 14 November by the Editorial Board “Torches and Hate on the March in Poland” and on 16 November by Jan T. Gross “Poles Cry for ‘Pure Blood’ Again”) that included gross generalizations regarding the Independence March in Warsaw and criticisms of the Polish government followed suit within a week while the Consulate was waiting for the letter’s publication.  Given its length, the letter was also sent as a potential Op-Ed, again to no avail.

“Dear Editor,
I am writing to add some context and to clarify certain statements that appeared in the New York Times’ otherwise balanced report titled “Nationalist March Dominates Poland’s Independence Day” by Megan Specia on 11 November 2017.

In the past eight years, a Polish not-for-profit association “Independence March,” has organized a popular Poland’s Independence Day march in Warsaw.

It traditionally draws a large and diverse crowd of around fifty thousand participants, mainly non-organized young people and families with children. It owes its success to a non-partisan nature of the march, which is guaranteed by the association’s by-laws. The officially declared goal of this annual event is “to pay homage to all who contributed to the rebirth of the Polish state after 123 years of captivity, to manifest pride in belonging to the Polish nation, and to promote modern forms of patriotism.” Contrary to the statement in the article, the rally has not been growing. In fact, according to police reports, this year’s march attracted sixty thousand participants, which is fifteen thousand fewer than last year.

Organized groups and associations that take part in the march form a minority of participants, but a fact that the association’s board consists of activists of “National Movement” party, the march is often labeled by its political competitors on the radical left as a “fascist” march. It is important to note that the “National Movement” party and its candidates poll between 0.5-1.5% in national elections. Given such marginal support, the party has withdrawn from political competition with some of its members seeking electoral fortunes on electoral lists of other parties on the broadly conceived political right. The party sees itself as a socially conservative, Christian nationalist party, which in its official mission statement sees the nation “as a cultural community of generations – past, present and future”. Its members have consistently and publicly disavowed racially based political doctrines as contrary to the Catholic Christian doctrine, which they see as the moral basis for its political activity. It is telling that even such relatively mild formulation of “nationalism” garners so little political support in Poland.

Given the aforementioned context, it would be difficult to justify a general thesis of the article that the march consisted of “thousands of far-right nationalists” although it is understandable that for some “far-right” may coincide with espousing policies based on socially conservative Catholic social doctrine. If that indeed is so, then it would be accurate to say that the majority of the participants in the march most likely were Sunday church goers with conservative social positions on cultural issues of life and family.

It is incorrect to state that the theme of this year’s march “We want God” derives from “an old Polish nationalist song.” In fact, the Polish religious song (belonging to a religious, not a nationalist repertoire) of the same title derives from a French original “Nous voulons Dieu” written and composed by a French priest François-Xavier Moreau in 1882 to protest forced atheization policies of the French government at the time.

Returning to the issue of apparent displays of racist banners at the march, both the government of Poland and the organizers have unequivocally condemned what seems to have been actions by a fringe minority of protesters. The presence of supporters of the National Radical Camp, mentioned in the article, would fit that definition.

The official position expressed by the Deputy Prime Minister Piotr Glinski very clearly states that the Polish government does not in any way support any expressions of racial or ethnic conceptions of a nation. Additionally, as you may recall, Poland’s Foreign Ministry condemned the proposed participation of a controversial US white supremacist Richard Spencer in the march. The organizers said that such “scandalous” behavior would not be tolerated and more attention will be paid next year to eliminate such displays and groups. The Warsaw police chief during the press conference after the march also stipulated that the footage of the march will be studied carefully and the suspect cases of spreading racial or fascist speech will be duly investigated.

I hope that this rather lengthy explanation of context as well as a clear statement of unequivocally critical attitude of the current government towards displays of racist or ethnic nationalism by fringe groups in Poland will allow you to getter a fuller picture of political sentiments of patriotic Poles that displayed their Independence Day spirit at yesterday’s march in Warsaw.”

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