Anne Applebaum’s conflict of interest

The Washington Post runs an article by Anne Applebaum criticising the Polish government, this time over alleged attempts to crack down on the media:

The Polish authorities may have also been sending a message. For the decision was taken on the very day that the ruling party swapped its dour, angry prime minister, Beata Szydlo, for a slicker, smoother replacement, Mateusz Morawiecki.

Applebaum often writes scathing articles about the Polish government, usually in the Washington Post. Here’s another:

If an illiberal government — democratically elected, but determined to change the rules — tries to do something unconstitutional, what can the public do? What can the political opposition do? This is a dilemma we now know from several countries — Russia, Venezuela, Turkey, Hungary, Poland, and possibly soon Greece.

And another:

Like every country in Europe — as well as the United States — Poland has long had a far-right, neo-fascist fringe.

What has changed? The answer has partly to do with the current populist-nationalist ruling party, Law and Justice, which welcomed and encouraged Saturday’s march as a “patriotic” action, though the party knew who was behind it.

Not a single one of these articles mentions that Applebaum is married to one Radosław Sikorski. Sikorski is best known for having been the parliamentary speaker and former minister under president Bronisław Komorowski, who was beaten in a general election in 2015 by the current president Andrzej Duda. If a journalist in a major newspaper criticises a foreign government, one would think it necessary to mention that their spouse was a senior figure in the party which lost an election to that government, wouldn’t you? Not that Sikorski was a member of the party at the time of the election, mind you. No, he had already been forced to quit in disgrace a few months before:

Three Polish ministers and the country’s parliamentary Speaker have resigned amid a row over leaked tapes.

Speaker Radek Sikorski and the health, treasury and sports ministers said they had quit for the good of the ruling centre-right Civic Platform party.

The resignations come four months before general elections, as the popularity of PM Ewa Kopacz is waning.

The officials were secretly recorded in Warsaw restaurants discussing private deals and promotions in 2013-14.

The leaks were published by the Wprost magazine, angering many Poles.

Little wonder Applebaum’s writes so bitterly about Poland these days, but her employers don’t see fit to mention any of this when giving her column space. Democracy dies in darkness, indeed.

UPDATE

Another conflict of interest surrounding Anne Applebaum, this time on the subject of Roman Polanski:

Applebaum’s previous disclosure of who her husband is, of course, has next to nothing to do with the question of whether she should have disclosed that her husband is lobbying the US to go easy one Roman Polanski at the same time she is writing a Washington Post column to that effect.

And:

If a conflict exists, it isn’t sufficient to disclose it once. It must be disclosed every time it is relevant. Applebaum seems to assume that Washington Post readers make a mental catalogue of every Post reporter and columnist, their relationships, and their conflicts of interest. That anyone who ever reads anything she writes will take it upon themselves to keep a running tally of her conflicts, so she need disclose them only once. That, obviously, is not going to happen. And it displays a stunning arrogance — she thinks everyone who reads her column cares enough about her to know where her husband works.

Finally, she’s misstating the nature of what she mocks as the “secret revelation.” The criticism wasn’t that her husband is an employee of the Polish government. Nobody cares about that. It’s that her husband is a Polish government official who is currently lobbying for the very thing Applebaum is arguing in favor of. Surely she understands the difference?

The pieces in the links are worth reading in full to get a flavour of what sort of journalist Applebaum is.

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12 thoughts on “Anne Applebaum’s conflict of interest

  1. I know next to no Poles, though I did live next door years ago to a Polish guy who was forced to watch his fellow junior army officers run over by a Russian tank in 1939 (he had rough hands because he was raised on a farm, his colleagues were ‘guilty’ by Russian standards because they had smooth hands), duly escaped from the Russians, was caught by the Germans and put into a labour camp, escaped from them and ended up fighting — and being badly wounded — in the Belgian resistance in ’44 before settling in the UK where he worked for years for the water company fixing things, and farming his garden so he could grow food to feed his family.

    From this I tend therefore to have a positive view of Polish people. Possibly more than I do for a frothing, pampered Washington Post hackette.

  2. If an illiberal government — democratically elected, but determined to change the rules — tries to do something unconstitutional, what can the public do?

    Sounds like the Democrats to me.

  3. Well, yes, it is very annoying and she does it everywhere, including in The Speccie.

    I love the whole “it’s undemocratic” shtick that she pulls, just like the Democrats in the US and the Remoaners here; it translates to “we disapprove of their politics and we are right”.

  4. What she had to say about Trumps patriotic Warsaw speech where he warned Poles of the real dangers within tells me everything that I need to know about her.

  5. “If a journalist in a major newspaper criticises a foreign government, one would think it necessary to mention that their spouse was a senior figure in the party which lost an election to that government, wouldn’t you?”

    Women can get away with this more easily than men, because, as a feminist, she’s a person in her own right and not an appendage of her husband…cont’d p.94…

  6. If a government is “democratically elected, but determined to change the rules” then it stands to reason that the majority of the people want the rules changed.

    It is not hard to understand that political stasis has attractions for those who benefit from the status quo but a feature of democracy is that political stasis should not be taken for granted even by those who feel entitled to continued influence and privilege.

  7. I love the whole “it’s undemocratic” shtick that she pulls, just like the Democrats in the US and the Remoaners here; it translates to “we disapprove of their politics and we are right”.

    Of course, Applebaum is also a rapid rabid Remainer (despite being American, she sees it as her business) and denouncer of all things Trump.

  8. I see from the comments on the WaPo articles that “Kremlin troll” is the only argument liberal Yanks have in their armoury.

  9. From this I tend therefore to have a positive view of Polish people.

    I read a history of Poland a few years back and have a very positive opinion of Poles, if only because they still exist (but obviously not the only reason).

    My stock response to SNP or Plaid nutters who wail about persecution: “read a history of Poland”. Response: blank incomprehension. Nothing could be better designed to get a sense of perspective.

  10. @Rob- “Nothing could be better designed to get a sense of perspective.”

    I think you should pass a copy of that book around the English cricket team dressing room.

  11. Yes, Applebaum should disclose her affliation in every piece on Polish politics she gets published. I dislike most of her output but it’s impossible to argue against some of the points she’s making. It’s not a good sign for a relatively immature democracy when the ruling party is trying to subdue the country’s justice system and is slapping broadcasters with fines. The irony is that Applebaum doesn’t sound like a First Amendment absolutist – I can’t recall her protesting Ofcom’s regulatory powers or the various hate speech laws in Western Europe.

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