A new law in Poland makes it illegal to accuse Poland as a nation of complacency in the Holocaust. “Whoever claims, publicly and contrary to the facts, that the Polish Nation or the Republic of Poland is responsible or co-responsible for Nazi crimes committed… shall be liable to a fine or imprisonment for up to 3 years." The law also outlaws the use of phrases like "Polish death camps." From the perspective of a US citizen, whose speech is protected by the First Amendment of the US Constitution, this law, like most anti-defamation laws, is an affront liberty and democracy. To this writer, who happens to be of German descent, this law, like all efforts to deny history, is outrageous. The holocaust happened. It happened, because a lot people of did a lot of bad things, including many Germans and Poles. History must be embraced for what it is.
With that in mind, the Polish law is provoking a massive amount of outrage, like all efforts to deny the Holocaust, because the horrors of the Holocaust continue to haunt the collective conscience of the International Community. The scope and brutality of the Holocaust was so terrifying that it forced the world to unite in support of human rights and against genocide. The issue of the Holocaust aside, the Polish law is the product of poor governance. It is just one example of many poorly constructed laws found in Poland and numerous other countries. President Andrzej Duda has attempted to frame the law as an effort to preserve the truth about the Holocaust. The Peoples of Poland, Jews and non-Jews alike, were victims of the Third Reich. This law will do nothing to protect that truth. It will simply make it much riskier to call out the wrongs of the Polish who were complacent in the Holocaust.
Consequently, the true goal of the Polish law appears to be to prevent victims from taking legal attention against Poland, which could be achieved without criminalizing what should be considered free speech. Aside from catering to a growing right-wing, anti-semitic movement, the second goal appears to be to preserve Poland's imagine. In other words, Poland is criminalizing criticism of Poland. In practice, this means Poland is criminalizing criticism of the Polish government at the time of the Holocaust, which means the current Polish government is being empowered to crackdown on those who might use the Holocaust in their criticism of the Polish government. Poland is also enacting a law derived from emotion, i.e. the Polish government does not want to look or feel bad. This means the Polish government is crafting policy to suppress things that offend government officials and affluent Poles.
For a just and democratic society to exist, government must craft public policies that serve the collective interests of the People and and uphold the rights of all the People. Because anything can offend anyone for any reason, laws that attempt to criminalize offensive language and acts are terribly difficult to enforce in a consistent manner while they often violate the rights of those who happen to offend others. Consequently, emotion-based laws tend not to equate to proper governance. They tend to be special interest driven laws that favor one political group at the expense of others. This is, of course, an issue that extends far beyond this particular example and Poland.
A great number of antiquated US laws, for example, are based on the subjective reasoning of political leaders who sought to cater to the whims of their constituency. Over the years, however, the workforce of the US government has “professionalized.” Whether new to government or a seasoned public servant, elected and unelected officials are expected to act and, therefore, think as professionals. Professionalizing the US government forces US legislators to consider the dimensions of proposed laws, including the cost and Constitutionality of a proposed law. It is something not-so-professional governments do not do. Unfortunately, the US government, like so many others, is growing increasingly dysfunctional and less professional as candidates run on emotional-driven issues then try to enact emotion-driven, subjective pieces of legislation. It is a pattern emerging in countries around the world.
Read old posts