Three Monkeys Online

A Curious, Alternative Magazine

Fighting the Good Fights

Axel Springer’s Dziennik is in fine fightin’ form to judge by Tuesday’s edition of the paper. They’re not letting those Greens get away with the oil slicks that have been polluting the Wisła (Vistula) lately. An editorial thunders: “Ecologists take their Heads out of the Vistulan Sand.” And it’s all thanks to the brave journalists of Dziennik who started asking Questions. Questions like “where are the ecologists when the Wisła is being polluted with oil?” A very pertinent question too, though perhaps it would be better directed to Przedsiębiorstwo Eksploatacji Rurociągów Naftowych (Oil Pipe Utility Company) – which owns the leaking pipe in question. The implication is that the Greens are happy to intervene in the pleasant environs of Rospuda (which the state wants to destroy with a bypass) but are not willing to get their hands dirty in the oil-slicked river. Can you spot another difference between one case and the other? It’s very subtle and it seems to have eluded the reporters of Dziennik but I can reveal that one is an ecological disaster that has already happened and the other is one that might yet be prevented.

And then there’s the miners. Two articles in the paper have references to Thatcher in their title so you can guess where the sympathies lie. There are some interesting statistics in this story. It has widely been reported that the one-day warning strike for higher pay caused the owners of the coal mines losses of 43 million zloties. 40,000 workers were out. Out with the back of the envelope and it seems that each worker each day earns the mines’ proprietors 1,000 zloties. Not a bad return for a monthly wage of around 4,000. The strikers want a 7% rise this year (14% next year), which would cause untold suffering, bankrupt this, that and the other, is totally unrealistic etc etc etc (article by Maksymilian Klanik, former boss of the mine company). Elsewhere the paper reports that average Polish pay in November 2007 was 12% higher than November 2006. This is commented on by five experts – three bankers and two company owners. No trade unionists were asked their opinion or their members’ opinion, presumably because there is no such thing as a trade union expert on pay. Tony Blair used to go on about “joined-up government.” It would be nice to have joined-up journalism too.

For some light humour it’s always worth turning to the “science” pages: “Małpy i matematyka. Amerykańscy uczeni odkryli, że makaki potrafią dodawać równie dobrze jak ludzie” (Monkeys and Maths. American scholars have discovered that makaki (macaca fascicularis) are as good at addition as people) is the unambiguous trailer on page 21 to an article on page 26 in which we find out that monkeys can indeed add just as well as humans – as long as they’re not required to add up to a number higher than 17. While we’re all laughing, look at the headline on page 6: “PO uspokaja kobiety” (Civic Platform [de govmint] reassure women). A scare story emerged a few days ago that women, because they live longer, would get smaller annual pensions than men. But that’s totally not going to happen because the government, whose minister – another newspaper claimed – had already signed the necessary death warrant totally didn’t sign it because there’s like going to be consultation and all so there’s no need to be alarmed, frightened, afraid, insecure, worried or confused about your welfare-state future in a country being run by private market ideologues oftentimes compared to Margaret Thatcher.

So much for the home front. What about the war of occupation valiantly being fought by Polish soldiers? The editorial on page 4 is headlined with a question, “Czy mamy prawo opuścić Irak?” (Have we the right to leave Iraq?), which is answered in the subhead for people too intelligent to be bothered labouring through the tortured content of the article: “Tak, bo nie mamy żadnych długów, ani wobec Amerykanów, ani wobec Irakijczyków” (Yes, because we owe nothing to either the Americans or the Iraqis). So that’s alright then. As Jimmy Carter said when refusing to pay reparations to Vietnam, “the destruction was mutual.” Here’s a choice quote from the leader article: “Leaving Iraq does not mean fleeing in panic. And it won’t be: we aren’t Spaniards. The most optimistic projection would see us out at the end of the tenth shift, i.e. the middle of next year.” Optimistic, sure, but from whose point of view? Iraq’s? The Polish soldiers’? Dziennik‘s Andrzej Talaga’s? The Spaniards get a tongue lashing elsewhere in the paper from one John C. Hulsman (not to be confused with John A or John B – inferior models, long since withdrawn from circulation), co-author of the bumptiously titled Ethical Realism: A Vision for America’s Role in the World: “The Polish government has clearly given to understand that it is withdrawing its army from Iraq. We should now hope that Warsaw will not repeat the mistake of Spain, which bowed to the pressure of public opinion and without consulting America hurriedly withdrew its contingent.” Nothing riles a good American democrat more than governments that do what their electorates tell them to – especially when they don’t check if it’s okay with the yanks. Towards the end of the article he does grudgingly admit that Warsaw can pull out because it was an electoral promise of the winning party (“the United States has accepted…”) but he has more time for the English: “…the government in London did not give in to the pressure of public opinion…” The English pulled out in “style” and many years after the people wanted to.

Roman Bolko, deputy head of BBN (Polish writers – unable to imagine anyone not on the same wavelength as themselves – usually assume you know what such abbreviations stand for and do not trouble themselves to explain. A footnote describes Bolko rather cryptically as deputy head of BBN and former head of GROM. BBN is Biuro Bezpieczeństwa Państwa (State Security Office); GROM is some bunch of Boy’s Own Commandos), is interviewed on page 6 – the paper couldn’t get hold of any rank and file soldiers obviously – and he also mouths off about style: “we have to maintain our style, responsibility and trustworthiness” and later “we must do everything to save face as we come out of this.”

No Iraqis were asked about the differences between Polish, Spanish and English style or the importance of saving face.


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