The Independent and Rivkah Brown. Another example of Russian influences in the Western media?

The Independent and Rivkah Brown. Another example of Russian influences in the Western media?

The below text was sent to individuals associated with The Independent several months ago.  Naturally, there was no response.  Why? Considering the overlap of the content of the opinion pieces of Rivkah Brown with the anti-Polish narrative propagated by the former Soviet Union and current Russia, one can at least start to wonder if the Independent, or individuals at the Independent, feel obligated to limit any challenge to unsubstantiated allegations against Poland, due to non transparent financial or ideological relationships.  Naturally, any media needs to maintain an image of credibility and fairness.  Also, the most effective way to influence public opinion is to do it subtly.  Therefore, assuming the deliberate spread of propaganda against Poland, one must be mindful that there would have to be some or partial acknowledgement or presentation of the Polish position to push desired objectives that would be less than truthful.   This would explain why an opinion piece by the Polish Ambassador was published in The Independent, or why an opinion writer, such as Rivkah Brown, would agree with the Polish Ambassador on some facts, as she does in her objectionable piece.  Acknowledging what is widely known to be true lulls the uninformed to then believe other claims that constitute propaganda.  We hope this might not be true in the case of The Independent and Rivkah Brown, and it would take an intelligence agency to support such suspicions anyway, therefore we go through the formality of introducing other facts and arguments, not presented by the Independent, and more specifically, by Ms. Brown, which call into doubt what Poles consider to be false, and rather outrageous conclusions, that, again, overlap very nicely with Soviet, and current Russian, false anti-Polish propaganda and were contained in the opinion piece by Ms. Brown, that was then published in The Independent.   Of course ignorance and ill will, without any intentions of spreading propaganda, could also explain why anti-Polish opinions are repeatedly published, and rebuttals and challenges are rejected, or truncated to the point of making them irrelevant, which, of course, is a form of censorship.

Members of the Polish community would like to challenge Ms. Rivkah Brown to a civil public debate on her opinion pieces about Poland and the Poles, which we Poles justifiably find hateful.  Let us see how she does in front of an audience when her unsupported accusations are challenged and other perspectives are presented that are based on historical fact. That should lead to better understanding and knowledge, which would be a great reason to have such a debate.  We suspect, however, that Ms. Brown, as much as she considers herself an authority on Polish history, will not accept this challenge because her claims will not withstand scrutiny, which apparently is also the reason The Independent did not publish a rebuttal to her opinion piece.

The Independent and Rivkah Brown. Another example of Russian influences in the Western media?

In an article about Witold Pilecki by Gillian Brockwell that appeared in The Independent on January 29, 2020, the author indicated that Vladimir Putin recently spread misinformation about the role of Poles during World War II. On January 22, 2020, a prior article appeared in The Independent that also mentioned the Poles during World War II.  In this article, however, it was the author that was spreading misinformation.  Her name – Rivkah Brown.  What a coincidence.

Ms. Brown’s article was filled with several historical inaccuracies and distortions that would have made Vladimir Putin smile.  First and foremost, in spite of all Poland did to defy German Nazism and all the suffering and destruction that the Poles endured, somehow in her eyes the role of Poland in World War II was that of Perpetrator!  

Ms. Brown was reacting to an opinion piece, also in The Independent, by the Polish Ambassador to the UK, Arkadiusz Rzegocki, who, due to the recent anti-Polish misinformation campaign stemming from Russia and Putin, correctly pointed out the unprovoked aggressive actions of the Soviet Union towards other countries during World War II, the crimes of the Soviet Union, and its deceit in hiding those crimes.  He also brought up the fact that the early collaboration of the Soviet Union with Nazi Germany enabled the Holocaust to happen.

Ms. Brown’s tone and words clearly indicated that she was upset (or feigning to be) not only with the opinion piece itself but also because it was published in her newspaper, The Independent, where she is the Senior Commissioning Comment Editor and a Columnist. She said she had felt “smacked in the face” by the Ambassador who had “booted the Holocaust across the pitch”. Ms. Brown characterized the Ambassador’s response to Putin’s accusations as a “retort redolent of the no-you’re-an-idiot squabbles” of her childhood.  We beg to differ.  Ambassador Rzegocki’s response was not a retort.  If anything, Ms. Brown never outgrew her no-you’re an idiot squabbling tendency, which has clearly continued into her adulthood.  Her writings are proof of this.

One would think that opinion writers would be informed individuals who have a wealth of experience and knowledge to impart to others.  However, Rivkah Brown comes across as a high school newspaper editor or teacher’s assistant who got her position because her daddy knows the principal but still thinks she is smarter than everyone else. One could easily imagine little Rivkah confidently making numerous corrections to a paper written by her professor who researched the content for more years than her age.  By contrast, the extent of her knowledge would be several paragraphs from her school textbook.  

Ms. Brown presents some surprising assertions, such as the pseudo-psychological claim that Poles see Poland as the “Jesus of the Nations”, that Poles believe, with the suggestion they have no right to this belief, that Poland has “suffered too long under the might of its powerful neighbors”, and that this belief has led to a “competitive victimization” with Polish Jews.  How many Poles were surveyed to support this far-fetched supposition?  How long is too long to suffer under the might of powerful neighbors?  Would the time that it took for the Tsarist army to slaughter half the civilian population of Warsaw be too long, or maybe too short?  How about 123 years of foreign occupation and exploitation?  

Another bizarre, and disrespectful, assertion is that “Poland … is hamming upits pitifulness”. This is followed by the pronouncement that Rzegocki has swallowed this sense of victimhood hook, line and sinker”.  She makes these outlandish allegations despite the fact that she herself writes that close to two million Poles died in concentration camps.  How many Poles, in her opinion, needed to die to qualify for victimhood, or for Poland not to be accused of “hamming up its pitifulness”?  A more relevant question is how did Rivkah Brown become Senior Commissioning Comment Editor and Columnist at The Independent?  An even more pressing question is when will she cease holding this position?

Ms. Brown is obviously confused as to how many Polish men, women and children were terrorized and killed by the German Nazis just for being Polish.   This explains her confusion as to why the number of Polish citizens is six million.  One can rest assured that this number is not, as she absurdly suggests, cited due to Polish competition with European Jews.  The victors of World War II determined the numbers of the victims, not the Poles.  Furthermore, the number of six million Polish citizens includes three million Polish Jews. 

Ms. Brown needs to know that the responsibility of Poles in the incident she uses to claim that Poles were perpetrators, and worse, that “Poles were also some of the Nazis’ most enthusiastic abettors”, is unsubstantiated.  She writes that “in 1941 and under no instructions from their German occupiers, the [Polish] locals of Jedwabne herded 300 of their Jewish neighbours into a barn and set it alight, burning them alive.”  This accusation is from the book Neighbors written by a Jan Gross, a book that was found to be seriously flawed.  Gross ignored evidence such as eyewitness testimonies and testimonials of Poles and Jews who accused the Germans of this crime.  Gross, in formulating his beliefs, relied instead on persons who were not eyewitnesses and coincidentally, were either collaborators with the Soviets or members of the Soviet NKVD or Soviet military.  Gross also based his findings on confessions and statements prepared by the Communist Secret Police that were signed under torture and were presented in a Soviet-style mock trial, one of many that were used as props to execute and imprison Poles who opposed Communism. All of the signed confessions and statements were retracted at the public trial, and all cited torture, and claimed they were not given the opportunity to read the documents they were forced to sign.

In addition to many other problems with Gross’s sloppy research, he admittedly never checked himself, and therefore never discovered, that a German court had identified and convicted members of a German death squad led by SS functionary Hermann Schaper for identical crimes that occurred in other towns near Jedwabne within days of the Jedwabne crime and with the same modus operandi and sequence of events.  

Before casting aspersions at a whole ethnic group in the media, one should check and re-check the facts.  One should also look in the mirror.  If Jedwabne did happen as Ms. Brown writes, does that really mean the role of Poland is that of perpetrator?  Does the behavior of the Jewish Red militias that assisted the Soviets in killing and deporting Poles to the Gulag make the role of European Jewry that of perpetrator?  What about the role of Jewish partisans that attacked Polish villages and killed civilians?  What about the activities of the Jewish Ghetto Police or the Jewish Councils?  Has Ms. Brown ever written in any of her opinion pieces about the Jewish plainclothes agents that hunted down Jews hiding outside the ghettos to hand them over to the Germans and by doing so, endangered not only the lives of the Jews they betrayed, but also the lives of their Polish helpers?  I don’t think so.  Would that be because of ignorance or perhaps deceit?  Does the activity of the above mentioned Jews make the role of all Jews that of perpetrator?  Are Jewish transgressions included in the Holocaust education Ms. Brown is touting?  Ms. Brown is critical of Polish children learning about the Holocaust twice, and not three times?  How many times do Jewish children learn about the Polish victims of German genocide in Jewish or Israeli schools? 

Unlike what Ms. Brown would like to believe, there is not one standard for Poles and another for Jews.  Also, hiding the proven crimes of some Jews towards Poles, other Eastern Europeans, or other Jews, will be unsuccessful.  If Ms. Brown wishes to use the crimes of some Poles, true or not, to write that the role of Poland is that of perpetrator, then she must accept that the role of Jews during WW II is also that of perpetrator.  If not, she will be seen as a dishonest and biased hypocrite with little credibility and with little empathy for the suffering of those who are not from her own ethnic and religious group.  

While Poland was under Soviet control after World War II, Poles were unable to counter Soviet propaganda that portrayed Poles as villains.  Now that Poland is free and finally governed by politicians untainted by Communism, those who choose to continue spreading Russian propaganda as Ms. Brown is doing, should expect to be confronted by those who know the historical facts. The power of the media bully pulpit has appreciably diminished.  Ms. Brown would be well-advised to reconsider her prejudiced attacks against the Polish people or risk being labeled a propagandist and hypocrite that is not qualified to be Senior Commissioning Comment Editor and Columnist at any respectable media company. 

Link to objectionable opinion piece by Rivkah Brown:

Link to opinion piece by Polish Ambassador that Rivkah Brown criticizes: