US Progressives Attempting to Impose Their Politics on Poland

Only a short time after the assumption of power by the Democratic Party, it is already displaying its patronizing hypocrisy.  The Biden Administration and Democratic Party leaders in Congress and other progressives are attacking Poland for its supposed violations of freedom of the press.  What prompted this scolding?

The Polish government proposed to impose a tax on advertisements at the largest media companies.  It has already been adopted by Austria, Italy, and France and is under consideration by others.  It is a part of a general trend in the European Union and the OECD to make multinational media corporations pay taxes, which many are successfully avoiding.  In Poland, the tax would only apply to large media companies, both public and private, some with foreign investors, which pay virtually no income tax despite being some of the most profitable businesses in the country.  Piotr Duda, president of the Solidarity trade union, endorsed the new tax and the European Trade Union Congress passed a supportive resolution in 2015.   Thus, the media tax is an economic measure that is common in other democratic countries and has nothing to do with violation of freedom of the press.

Yet the outcry from some media companies in Poland in response to this proposed tax asserts that this is the end of independent journalism, the putinization of political life, and comparisons are made with Russia, Byelorussia, and North Korea and assorted other nonsense.  This is echoed by the United States Government.  The State Department, Gregory Meeks, Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and Democratic Senator Menendez all denounced Poland for its democratic deficiencies in apocalyptic terms.

But surely they understand that this corporate tax, whose merit can be debated, has nothing to do with freedom of the press but rather efforts to rein in big corporations that pay virtually no taxes in any jurisdiction, so there is an element of disingenuousness in their outcry. 

Democratic Senator Menendez is warning that the pandemic cannot be invoked as a reason for such an “undemocratic” measure as tax.  But didn’t Democratic Party politicians use this excuse to significantly change US electoral laws?  Further, the Wall Street Journal editorial of 17 February states that the Biden Administration hid a $22 billion tax hike in the Covid relief bill.  And the Maryland legislature just overrode its governor’s veto to approve a bill to impose a tax on sale of online advertisements, virtually the same as in Poland. So why the Washington Post attacked Poland for violating press freedom but not Maryland?

Second, is the United States even in a position to criticize other countries for violations of the freedom of the press?  Its own recent record is less than exemplary.  Democratic Party allies are boasting in a recent Time Magazine expose that they stage managed the media coverage during the last presidential campaign by suppressing information about Hunter Biden’s corruption or mail in ballot irregularities, while major social media companies removed President Trump and many of his conservative supporters from their digital platforms.  For virtually four years, different US media were flogging the story of Trump’s treason and collusion with Russia, even though the Mueller Special Counsel investigation did not find any evidence of that.

Third, the position of the press in the US is no longer as the watchdog of government actions as prescribed by the Western tradition but as a close ally of the leftist establishment, now largely represented by the Democratic Party.   This is a phenomenon born of modern ideologies where standards of truth and balance are subordinated to service the interest of only one group.  Differences of opinion are no longer tolerated but become views of enemies.  Press attacks are a weapon to be used against ideological opponents.  They are an instrument of power where only progressives are virtuous, all others are a threat to democracy, freedom of the press and all other political virtues.

What is novel is that this brand of ideological politics, an alliance of the press with the Democratic Party in power, is now being extended to the international arena.  The Biden Administration, Democratic Party politicians and the liberal press are intentionally misrepresenting new legislation in Poland as a threat to freedom of the press.   But such intentional misuse of slogans of democracy by the Democratic Party in power in alliance with a progressive press risks the discreditation of democracy worldwide.  They are not only raising false alarm on this issue but using it in a regressive cause in defense of large corporations abusing their market position to avoid paying taxes virtually at all.

Democrats may be defeated in the next election cycle but damage to the US credibility and prestige abroad will be permanent.  The American tradition of promotion of true democracy and freedom is an important part of its historical legacy and its loss will affect not only the United States but the whole world.

Map by TUBS CC BY-SA 3.0 license

Dr.  Lucja Swiatkowski Cannon is a strategist, expert and author on Eastern Europe, Russia and US-East European relations.