A MEDIA COLONIZATION OF POLITICS
Wiesława Lewandowska talks with Jarosław Sellin about an old propaganda of a success in the new edition, cabaret publicity and sources of ‘an industry of contempt’
WIESŁAWA LEWANDOWSKA: - It is impossible to conceal the fact that Poles like politicians less and less and they are distancing themselves to politics more and more. Is it a merit of propaganda to which nobody admits, because both politicians and journalists of the Third Polish Republic removed it from their dictionaries?
JAROSŁAW SELLIN: - It is possible to see with a bare eye that the current authority likes using techniques of classical propaganda and it is its main way of communicating with the society. Only that it is concealing it under an euphemistic term ‘public relations’. Surely, in Poland for 6 years it has been possible to speak about the existence of the governmental propaganda which is strongly concentrated on coquetting of particular social groups.
– The communist propaganda which was hated by us, simplified the vision of the world, degraded opponents. However, the current one is ‘soft’, mild, and offered by free media…
– And for this reason it is more effective. However, despite different historical conditions ( a different system, a different geopolitical situation of Poland), it is possible to find some similarities to the previous one, for example, the media power supporting the current government is nearly the same as it was used by Edward Gierek in the 70s of the last century. Undoubtedly, also today, there is a phenomenon of practicing propaganda of success and disavowing opponents with a language which authorized us to use the term ‘industry of contempt’. If considering the terms used by governmental media in the second half of the 70s and 80s towards the opposition – similarities are very clear.
– During Gierek’s cadence ‘Poland was growing in strength and people lived in more wealth’, today it is more difficult to use similar propaganda slogans.
– However, they are used. And, similarly in the 70s, we do not get to know about the whole truth about the condition of Polish public finances, Polish industry, economy. We have even signals that statistical data are kept by the authority in order to publicize them only in the most beneficial time for propaganda….The position of Poland in the world is not described in a true way. Generally, a rule of promoting success is biding (‘fine Poland’), and its main slogan is the fact that only the current authority is a guarantee of ‘modernization of Poland’.
– A dozen years ago, representing the conservative-rightist option, You were trying to build free media of the Third Polish Republic. Can it be said that in vain?
– What is domineering in free media is the leftist-liberal sensitivity. Only for a short time, in the 90s, the group of the so-called diapers had a chance to form a part of the TV programme. Later, during nearly 2 years of the government of the Law and Justice party, after regaining some instruments of influence on public media, we also created a balance of ideas there (the evidence for the balance is the fact that at that time Tomasz Lis got his program of his authorship). The public television, only during these short periods, was not a propaganda tube, blowing only into one, leftist-liberal tune….The fact is that the leftist-liberal sensitivity is domineering for various reasons, in all media of the Western countries, but it does not prevail proportionally in them as strong as it takes place in Poland.
– How did this Polish phenomenon appear?
– If we had a normal market group in Poland, media would not be overcome in such an overwhelming majority (85-90 per cent of ‘destruction force’) by people of liberal-leftist option. Everything started with administrative decision of the Polish country made in the beginning of the 90s. The liquidation commission of the communist consortium ‘Press-Book-Newsagent’ – established at the times of the government of Mazowiecki, decided for example, that the most important titles in Poland would be given to journalist cooperatives. It meant that they got into the hands of people who had worked earlier than the communist regime and who were prone to fight the Polish rightist party and the Church in the new reality. But if they were not successful in market, they got subject to foreign investors. And those, simply speaking, prefer to employ for example, Lis than Wildstein as chief editors…
– Does the conservative-rightist option have somehow restricted clout in a top-down and administrative way in the media of the Third Polish Republic?
– Yes, it does. The best example is the history of the decision of the National Broadcasting Council. The staff form of the Council is built by three political institutions: Seym, Senate and President. So, it is necessary to consider the fact that the conservative-rightist option has been ruling in the Seym and Senate during the last 24 years – looking optimistically, that is, including solidary governments of the years 1991-93, 1997-2001 and the governments of the Law and Justice party – for nearly 9 years. Whereas, looking pessimistically – only for two and a half years, that is, for two years of the governments of the Law and Justice party and a half a year of the government of Jan Olszewski. Whereas for 15 years the presidents of Poland were: the post-communist Aleksander Kwaśniewski and Lech Wałęsa, who quickly made an alliance with the post-communist forces….So, in the National Broadcasting Council there has always been prevalence of members of leftist-liberal sensitivity and of post-communist-liberal sensitivity. Because of this, these not those decisions were made. It was easy to give radio and television concessions to people from business world, related with old political systems, who naturally favoured the leftist-liberal sensitivity. And, for example, Catholic groups got these concessions after big resistance, after many fights.
– So, it can be said that to some extent, making these, not other political choices, these were Poles who decided about the quality and political option of their media….
– Yes, I will say that today unfortunately, Poles choices are responsible for this state of media to much extent. But it is also necessary to ask the question: Why did Poles make such choices? Did they have equal chances to get to know realistic purposes and programs of all political parties?
– They did not have any because these are media which form electors and propaganda enforces stereotyped way of thinking. A vicious circle?
– This mechanism can be described so, thanks to which not only in the society, but also in the media for over 20 years there had been domineering leftist-liberal sensitivity. Luckily, there are more and more people impregnated for this propaganda pressure, which is proved by high and stable support for the Law and Justice party, although it is a party which is being methodically fought by a definite majority of media. What is optimistic is the fact that in very difficult conditions of the power of the current governing system and the power of mass media favourable to it, for some time new media have been appearing which are connected with conservative-rightist sensitivity, that there are courageous journalist groups which do not use conformism but want to fight for the truth.
– Do you agree with the opinion that Polish media, in comparison with the European and the world ones are less serious in describing the reality?
– I watch TV news in nearly all TV stations and I perceive a negative evolution towards tabloidization of informative programmes. One can hardly find out anything from a half-an hour informative programme in Polish television stations. In order to gain serious information, for example, about the world, one must always switch onto an English channel.
– But Polish informative and publicist programmes are willing to provide entertainment…
– That’s true, there are even specialised journalists creating quasi-satiric materials in informative programmes. It is pathology.
– This satire is a prelude for serious political conclusions. Recently, all serious television stations have been mocking at the meeting of the Parliamentary Team of Antoni Macierewicz at which there were ‘funny’ distortions during a connection through Skype. A conclusion went to the world: experts of the Team are not worthy at all. The Team must be dissolved.
– If journalists, according to the traditionally understood professional mission, were fans of searching for the truth, they would become interested in the essence of the conference, at which serious evidences were presented proving that the airplane originally was destructed because of the explosion, not because of the crash into the birch or the ground. It is really embarrassing not to use stronger words that journalists present at this conference ignored this information and concentrated on spitefulness about technical distortions…
– It also results from a very cursory and amateur analysis of the content of the mainstream media that they are still running a propaganda campaign against the Law and Justice party. But are these always undeserved thrashing?
– Recently our campaign concerning the Warsaw referendum has been criticized, especially concerning the usage of the ‘W’ letter, which in our opinion was to mean ‘Wonderful Warsaw’, but it was understood as a reference to the insurgent ‘Hour W’. It was difficult to defend oneself against this interpretation.
– When one is not a favourite of media, one has to be careful not only with words but also even with letters!
– That’s true, we must live with the fact that our messages may be presented with a bad intention. Our every mistake is caught and they are not substantially essential which are later exploited as a ‘serious’ and worrying media message. Therefore, we must really select words properly and be more vigilant. In relationships with media, in comparison with others, we have and will always have ‘up the hill’.
– And this may mean a verdict of non-eligibility of the conservative-liberal party in Poland. Is it because these are media which are really governing the country?
– A few years ago one of sociologists, closely related to the Civic Platform party was wondering if and how quickly the ‘Electoral Newspaper’ will colonize the Civic Platform party but he thought that Donald Tusk and his political party are getting on with media very well, not becoming dependant on them. It seems that it is the colonization which appeared more quickly than he had thought. When I want to find out today what ideas of worldview the government will present, the minister from the Civic Platform or a politician of this political party, so, I read the ‘Electoral Newspaper’. It is where the political agenda of the governing party is created! And this is also an answer to the question about sovereignty of the policy towards media. Donald Tusk, interested only in maintaining the authority, assumes that it is possible only provided that the domineering journalistic and media salon will be supported.
– And the cultural salon.
– And it is extremely surprising for me, because cultural policy of this team is rubbish at any rate. Public financing of the widely understood culture is rather folded than unfolded. Supporting of a part, often prominent people of culture for this government is an evidence for stupidity or prejudices towards us. Many of them bought a terrible and false image of the Law and Justice party and seem not to remember that these were us who were pursuing a serious cultural policy, we increased circulation for culture. Although in private talks they admit that ‘it was better in your times’, they engage themselves in other propaganda campaigns of the Civic Platform…
– And it must be admitted that they are a very effective tool of propaganda. They are persuading people who are less educated or do not have time for reading into their way of thinking. Is it the purpose to make others get under a thatch or get into a nonsense?
– There is surely this kind of calculation. Especially that (here I will be malicious) after the election of the chief of the Civic Platform, the same ‘Electoral Newspaper’ informed us that personal surveys of this party prove that half of the members of the Platform have primary education….Whereas 80 per cent of electors had higher education in the Warsaw referendum like us. However, I do not know if these data can verify the fixed stereotypes on who represents the Polish intelligence in Poland, who represents the higher type of culture…