Fake News Bucket Challenge: How media dump fake news on our heads

In Summer 2014 an activity involving the dumping of a bucket of ice and water over a person’s head went viral on social media. Its name was the Ice Bucket Challenge. The organization promoting it was  the U.S. Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis Association. The goal of the challenge was to promote awareness of the disease amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), and to encourage donations to research.

Retired professional wrestler Lance Storm declined the challenge despite being nominated twice, and posted a note on his official website stating that most of the money that is donated goes towards promotional and advertising of the ALS Association. In early 2018, a patient group called the “Terminally Persistent” coalition criticized the ALS Association for not spending the $115 million earned from the Ice Bucket Challenge more readily on research. Additionally, the group complained that the organization was not funding Phase III clinical trials for Brainstorm Cell Therapeutics, a pharmaceutical company researching treatments for ALS (Source: Wikipedia).

The mainstream media have been engaging in a similar strange activity in regard to Poland for several weeks now. But instead of dumping an ice bucket, they dump buckets with fake news and misleading reports on the heads of global public, also in a hope to grasp attention of decision makers responsible for Polish-American relations and for legislation affecting Poland (like Acts H.R. 1226 and S. 447). While the Ice Bucket Challenge encouraged donations for medical purposes, the Fake News Bucket Challenge seems to promote an extremely inaccurate and offensive picture of Poland among others in order to pave the way for bogus giveaway demands of self-appointed U.S. claims organizations.

For instance, the Associated Press wrote on March 9, 2018:

A Polish news portal, Onet.pl, reported on Monday that it had seen an internal Foreign Ministry document from February. It said the document revealed that Warsaw was informed by the US administration that the Polish president and prime minister should not expect meetings with the US president or vice president until the matter is resolved. Foreign Minister Jacek Czaputowicz largely confirmed that on Friday, though he characterized the US message as being: “It would be good if meetings at the highest level could take place in an atmosphere when these issues are resolved.”

The Polish news website Onet.pl, the source of the fake news, belongs to the Swiss-German enterprise  Ringier Axel Springer Media AG with headquarters in Zurich, Switzerland. Despite numerous dementi from the Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the US Department of State, neither Onet.pl nor other mainstream media have apologized for the fake news, obviously aiming at damaging the good Polish-American relationship.

Similarly, the media reports and statements of public officials regarding the amendment of the Act of the Institute of National Remembrance (dubbed by the media as the Polish Holocaust Law) frequently resembled a hysteria. They offensively portrayed Poland as a Holocauts complice and the Polish government as a bunch of historical revisionists “exploiting nationalist grievances” (Financial Times), although everybody should know that Poland lost 6 millions citizes during the WWII and the collaboration with Nazi Germany didn’t exceed 0.1% of the Polish society.

The Jewish publicist Mathiew Tyrmand commented the medial attacks in Jerusalem Post in this way: It is clear, given the double standard on widespread pan-European laws censoring speech regarding these sensitive historical issues, that the politically oriented motivation for this dramatic attack on Poland’s iteration of this sort of law extends beyond European political actors.

John Hittinger, a professor in the U.S. Center for Thomistic Studies at the University of St Thomas, Houston and president of the International Catholic University stated in the Catholic Crisis magazineThis past week I was amazed to discover such a sudden worldwide interest in Poland, and the facile and angry judgment of the western media. Poland’s identity and self-determination became everybody’s business and so many people stepped forward to teach Poland a lesson or two. But what most astounded me was the lack of proportion between the hyperbolic and near vitriolic denunciations of Poland and the solid and evident truth of the law and the sincere effort of the Polish people to seek to express their own memory and identity.  

The massive media attacks were also condemned in a statement by Polish Media Issues, an international group of Polish diaspora fighting against defamation. They wrote: Journalists should not be engaging in ethnic stereotyping, or inciting hatred against an ethnic group by disseminating false historical information. Unfortunately, many of your peers did not perform in accordance with the above, but have not been held accountable.

We believe in the wisdom of our representatives and hope that they will decline the Fake News Bucket Challenge, and will reject the bills S. 447 and H.R. 1226.

Copyright notice: The image of the Ice Bucket Challenge participant, originally posted to Flickr, is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license (Source: Wikipedia).

Courtesy of Polish Media Issues we publish selected media reports on the new Polish legislation (Holocaust Law). Note: to browse the document please use directional arrows at the bottom.

PMI Reakcje nowe polskie prawo