Thursday, February 1, 2018

Poland and the Barbara Streisand Effect

What is up with Poland these days?

In the news, Poland has passed a law making it illegal to say, "Polish death camp" in reference to the Nazi-run extermination camps of World War II, many of which were located in Poland, as it had the largest population of Jews in Europe at the time.   The Poles claim that people were mistakenly thinking that Polish people were involved in running these camps, which I doubt many people thought, that is, until now.

The Barbara Streisand Effect kicks in when you try to suppress information on the Internet.   By trying to tamp down a piece of data, you serve only to draw attention to it.   The effect was named for Barbara Streisand as Babs had her lawyer send a "cease and desist" letter to someone who published a photo of her house.   Not many people had seen the photo - and fewer cared.  But once she went tactical about it, well, the photo spread like wildfire.   The attempt to prevent the spread of information not only didn't work, it backfired in a big way.

My neighbors, as I mentioned before are Polish and were born in a Nazi work camp in Germany, which I guess technically makes them German as well.   They don't have a lot of nice things to say about Nazis.  Their parents were conscripted into this labor camp and treated little better than those in concentration camps, and not as well as those in POW camps (except perhaps Russian POWs).   They tell me the Nazis beat to death of of their Mother's infants, telling her, "you are here to work not to have children!"   Atrocities abounded.

Most of us think of Poland as one of the victims of Nazi aggression, and then a victim yet again, of Soviet aggression.   We think of Poles fighting Nazi tanks heroically but fruitlessly on horseback.  We think of the Polish Air Forces - all volunteers - fighting valiantly from the air, to take back their country after the Nazi invasion.  We tend to think nice things about the Poles.

Well that is, until today.    Now, you have to ask yourself, what is the Polish government trying to cover up?  And that last sentence I just wrote means I have an arrest warrant out for me in Poland now.   That's some fucked-up shit.

But the truth is, of course, that every country in the world had its share of Nazi collaborators - we even have them today in the US!   The French?  The Vichy government, of course.  The British?  Hell, they had a King who was keen on Nazis - and the whole monarchy was basically German, anyway.  Spain?  Franco.   Italy?  Mussolini.   So if you look hard enough, you can find a Nazi hiding in every country during World War II - often in plain sight.

So I am sure there were one or more collaborateurs in Poland back in the day - but that doesn't mean the Poles were Nazis or ran the death camps.   To say so would be silly (does that get me out of Polish thought-police jail now?).   But to say you can't say - that invites more scrutiny and more inspection, which no doubt will turn up a few Polish Nazis as a result, which in turn will have the opposite effect of what the law intended.  The Streisand Effect kicks in!

Of course, some would say that what is going on in Poland today is alarmingly fascist.  The current government is hard-right and has taken steps to insure that it will never be out of power again.   Nationalism is taking hold.  And yes, there are even people today in Poland, waving the Nazi banner as shown in the photo above.   While they are not representative of the people in Poland today, the actions of the government passing laws like this, well, make it seem like fascism now has a new friend.

Of course, all of this is part of the world going crazy these days.   Our own isolationism, and "America First" mentality (which was also a thing back before World War I and World War II - see a pattern here?) as well as a divided Europe at odds with one another.   The Catalonian independence movement - bringing back memories of the Spanish civil war.   Brexit, dividing the UK from Europe.  And so on and so forth.   We've gone from "We are the world" to "I've got mine, jack, you get yours" and this will not end well.   This latest trend from Poland is just another plotting point on the chart.

And somewhere in a bunker in Moscow, Vladimir Putin is laughing heartily.