Monday, September 20, 2004

The Devil Is in the Details: How to Turn a Neutral Story into an Entirely Anti-American Article

From Warsaw, the AFP files an article about the leader of Poland's main opposition party making a statement concerning international relations. It is a pretty straightforward story, with the Civic Platform's leader saying basically that he would never use the Polish troops' presence in Iraq as an electoral ploy. And that, for no other reason than it would be the wrong thing to do, it would be the wrong message to send, and it would be wrong, period. (Gracias para Barcepundit).

Read the first four paragraphs below. Then read how the story was presented by France's independent newspaper.

If Poland decides to withdraw its troops from Iraq it will appear to be surrendering to terrorists, Poland's largest opposition party, which tops the country's popularity polls, said on Monday.

"To decide to stop participating in a war because there are casualties means, de facto, surrendering," Donald Tusk, head of the liberal Civic Platform party, told public radio a day after three Polish soldiers were killed in an attack south of Baghdad.

His comments came on the same day Iraq's interim President Ghazi Al-Yawar arrived in Warsaw for an official visit.

"The idea is to withdraw the Polish troops from Iraq in agreement with other allies so as not to give the impression that the Poles are surrendering to terrorism as the Spaniards did" last spring, said Tusk, who is considered a potential presidential candidate for the elections set for the end of 2005. …

Now check out the article which France's organ of official opinion and of the ruling class wrote about this straightforward news event. (Le Monde, you will recall, was the newspaper that said that the theory about Spain's March 13 vote amounting to another Munich should meet nothing but scorn and which failed to mention the diplomatic row between Madrid and Canberra after the Australian foreign minister said Spain's socialists had allowed themselves to be exploited by terrorists.)

The article is entitled The Anti-War "Sensibility" Is Rising in Poland, with the subhead reading "President Kwasniewski is more and more critical of America's policy".

Christophe Châtelot starts out by painting the portrait of an anti-war "militant" (except the man was apparently unwilling to have his last name used). A retired pensioner, a former bureaucrat in the state apparatus, and the member (if I'm not mistaken) of a neo-communist formation, Mieczyslaw is proud of the day's progress made by the petition demanding the immediate withdrawal of Polish troops: "Thirty people have signed in four hours, that's not bad". Indeed. Châtelot continues:

[The campaign] illustrates the rise of doubts in Polish public opinion and in a number of political parties, opportunistically or ideologically. … According to the latest polls, over 70% of Poles are opposed to their soldiers' presence in Iraq …

"We have nothing to gain from our policy of submission to the United States. It is a war of occupation … " explains Dariuz Wojciechowski, the head of a small party…

The small party is never identified and we never learn its name! No matter. The quote is so good, how couold you imagine not using it?
Besides the PSL, the ultra-Catholics of the League of Families (LPR) and Samoobrona's populist nationalists criticize President Aleksander Kwasniewski of the Social Democrats (SLD) half-heartedly for having engaged Poland on the Iraqi theater without the OK of Parliament. Filling the spot of the pacifist leftists, the Workers' Union (UP), a member of the ruling coalition, also denounces the engagement in Iraq.
"also denounces the engagement in Iraq"? "Also"? Didn't Châtelot just write that the criticism of the two former parties was "half-hearted"? Now he uses a journalistic trick to make it sound like the strong opposition of the latter party should be applied to all.

Wait, it gets better:

But all those parliamentary and minority parties cannot wake an apathetic public opinion up.
Oh this is good! This is good! We're back with that good ol' charming opinion of self-evident charm and sophistication. Yeah, you know which one. It's the good ol' "If you're not against Uncle Sam, it means you are apathetic, stupid, blinded, simple-minded, etc, etc, etc…"

Isn't that depressing! Isn't that sad? All those lucid, intelligent, humanistic, pacifist, reasonable groups (like the former communists), wanting to wake the Poles up to the reality of the US war, and those apathetic beings, not listening to them. Ohlalaaa…

Are [those parties] having trouble decrypting [the Poles'] mood? … No formation is strong enough to reverse the alliance with the Americans, as Spain's Socialist Workers' Party (PSOE) did after its victory over José Maria Aznar's conservatives last Spring.
Ah yes, good ol' Zapatero, he is our true hero. Didn't French media call his victory a "blessing"? But wait a minute. Maybe, if we're lucky, some terrorists will set off a couple of bombs in Poland, for if a few hundred, or a few thousand people are killed, we can get some people with humanistic policies to enter government and pull Poland out of the coalition of the willing. That's it. "Trouble decrypting [the Poles'] mood": a trick of some sort should be able to put the Poles on the right track.

Only at that point in the article, and following a subhead reading "American Domination" (quotation marks included), we get some of the above excerpts from the speech of Civic Platform's Donald Tusk: two sentences by the free-market leader, which are important enough to take up… one entire paragraph!

Then it's back to critical comments about the Yankee partnership, with Châtelot finishing his piece with a quote by the pensioner with whom he opened the article.

Mieczyslaw has reached his own moral : "We are nothing but cannon fodder for the Americans."
If only that "lucid" message could reach the apathetic Poles, ce serait une véritable bénédiction

Go to the comments section to read
a Polish citizen's take on the Monde article

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