Ten artykuł czytasz w ramach bezpłatnego limitu

It is telling that it is almost exclusively the Minister of Justice and his deputies that are presenting the ruling camp's narrative about the recent events. They are organising press conferences and making sure that the state owned media have appropriate soundbites and imagery to push forward their message. The rest of the politicians of the United Right are much more passive. They defend themselves on the matter only when they are being called out during TV interviews. Occasionally, they are writing some short remarks in social media. 

Although the opposition's accusations are largely related to the police, the head of the Ministry of Internal Affairs Mariusz Kaminski is absent. Perhaps this is motivated by the fact that according to unofficial sources the minister is struggling with personal problems of the minister and might lose his government position during the upcoming cabinet reshuffle. Another potential reason may be related to Kaminski's views on identity politics, which do not place him among the most radical Law and Justice hawks fighting against LGBT+ communities.

Meanwhile, Ziobro takes full advantage of the current conflict and is gaining significant political capital thanks to his activity. First of all, he strengthens his position among the hard line, homophobic and nationalist electorate of the United Right. Secondly, Ziobro is deliberately seeking to escalate the tension. That is why the prosecutor's office has filed a motion for a 2-month arrest for Margot, who is accused of causing a 1500 euro worth damage to a van painted with homophobic slogans and of mildlyu harming the van driver during an ensuing altercation. 

This arrest is difficult to justify: Margot's not hiding, nor is she trying to obfuscate the evidence. The court granted the motion for arrest, offering a surprising gift to the Minister of Justice and his acolytes. What is more, the court still hasn't given a justification for this decision, hiding behind the lack of permission from the prosecutor's office. And the prosecutor's office does not want to calm the situation down, so it will not facilitate the publication of the court's justification.

The motion for arrest is patently absurd. The prosecutor's office has clear evidence of Margot's actions. Ziobro himself presented it to the press,  the indictment could be prepared straight away. What is the prosecutor going to do over the next two months? It is a mystery, all the more so since the van event itself took place in late June. In what ways could Margot interfere with the prosecution right now? What else is there to investigate? The case is crystal clear. The prosecutor's office under Ziobro can at times be sluggish and clumsy, but I don't think that's the explanation for the current events.

The homophobic fanatics who are driving around the city in a van filled with hate speech have achieved their goal. Their vile messages were upsetting the residents, but the police did nothing about it. The driver was recording all the angry, powerless reactions of people. The court in Gdańsk last autumn decided to bam the van with lies about homosexual people from driving on the streets. The injunction was valid for several months, and yet the cars drove all the time. This lawlessness provoked violence.

The goal: dividing the opposition

Following the court's decision in the Margot case, Ziobro caught the wind in his sails. Margot's collective - Stop Bullshit - uses vulgar language in social media, Margot used violence, and Ziobro is proud to present footage of these events. The minister's aim is to glue together all the LGBT+ organizations fighting for the rights of this environment, precisely with radical actions, hooliganism, verbal assaults of the police force, and profanity-laden social media entries. 

The motion for arrest is ideal, because it puts Law and Justice critics and LGBT+ activists against the wall. Some of them may not like the aggressive language used by Stop Bullshit, but now they have to stand up for the activists and protestors who are clearly being caught by the police on the basis of collective responsibility: those who mounted the police car and those who did nothing at all landed both ended up detained. The police know what the superiors expect: to tighten the screw. The bosses do not require them to calm the mood.

This is how one particular, rather radical organization - Stop Bullshit -  becomes central to framing the conflict over the LGBT+ rights. The style of its activity unites even more the voters of Law and Justice and conservative Poles who are afraid of the social changes that the progressive agenda will bring in their opinion. Other organizations which tried to block scandalous homophobic vans through legal means are fading away from the public eye. 

The whole operation to enforce the ruling camp's narrative has one more advantage for the Law and Justice party: fomenting divisions on the opposition side. Young, uncompromising activists organize rallies, expressing their frustration with the mayor of Warsaw Rafal Trzaskowski for his decision to criticise the adorning of the monument of Jesus Christ with a rainbow flag and a manifesto stating "F**k the ignorants". The supporters of PO are shaking their heads in disbelief: the Law and Justice party is detaining the activists in jail and meanwhile they are attacking Trzaskowski. The rising animosity is in the interest of the Law and Justice party.

The extraordinary activity of Ziobro is striking and offers stark contrast to his previous rather limited media presence. For stretches of time, he would not give interviews at all. Now he is everywhere and shares his opinion freely about matters well outside of his scope of responsibilities. He spoke about the situation in Belarus, curiously advising Morawiecki to evaluate the events taking place there 'in greater complexity' despite 'sympathy with those who protest'. In a normal government, such issues would be discussed at a meeting of the Council of Ministers and then cabinet members would present a unified, coherent message. In Poland, one of the ministers publicly teaches the Prime Minister and the head of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs what and how they should do in connection with the crisis in the neighbouring country.

Ziobro has something to communicate to the public on almost every subject. Almost like a prime minister. He has solutions for scooters on the roads. He wants to increase control over non-governmental organisations, which is something that Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Culture Piotr Gliński does not agree with.

Ziobro versus the whole world

As far as identity politics is concerned, the Margot case is not the only initiative by Ziobro that makes his opponents' blood boil . In similar vein  was his declaration that Poland should terminate the Istanbul Convention on violence against women, which he made at the exact moment when Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki was negotiating money for Poland at the EU summit. It was clear - also for many Law and Justice activists - that such an initiative at that moment was simply harmful to the government's broader agenda. But Ziobro is fighting Morawiecki, so why should he facilitate his task in Brussels?

Ziobro's action with the Istanbul Convention was commented upon very critically by Deputy Prime Minister Gliński. "The Istanbul Convention issue is a little bit of a media-political gimmick. Of course, we are against the ideology behind this document, and we are also against domestic violence, which we vigorously fight with Polish law. But we are also against such diplomatic crises as the one around the law on Institute of Public Remembrance (IPN) penalizing opinions claiming the Polish nation's responsibility for WWII atrocities, which did not benefit Poland, to put it mildly... A politician has a duty to act sensibly and effectively, and not only loudly and in front of the public," Gliński stated in the last weekly magazine "Sieci".  Former Deputy Minister of Justice Patryk Jaki, a protege of Ziobro, was responsible for the crisis related to the IPN Act, so the target of the interview is obvious.

The whole ruling camp, however, has no choice but to some extent stand side by side with Ziobro with respect to his recent activities, because as the ideological war in Poland escalates , there is less space for nuancing and splitting hair. As a result, the tail is wagging the dog.


Every day, 400 journalists at Gazeta Wyborcza write verified, fact-checked stories about the coronavirus pandemic for you.

They are on the front lines in 25 Polish cities. They work on the ground, reporting from hospitals and airports.

We have decided to open online access to our news stories and special guides focused on the issue of public health, for free.

The access to information should be equal for all.

Gazeta Wyborcza Foundation
Czytaj ten tekst i setki innych dzięki prenumeracie

Wybierz prenumeratę, by czytać to, co Cię ciekawi

Wyborcza.pl to zawsze sprawdzone informacje, szczere wywiady, zaskakujące reportaże i porady ekspertów w sprawach, którymi żyjemy na co dzień. Do tego magazyny o książkach, historii i teksty z mediów europejskich. Zrezygnować możesz w każdej chwili.