Or: why the alleged ‘outing’ of Polish politicians is maybe not such a brilliant idea.
Veteran (I hope he doesn’t mind that word) libertarian journalist and gay rights campaigner, Doug Ireland, published an article in Gay City News on Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski this week where he goes straight for the jugular:
Poland’s homophobic Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski — the identical twin brother of Polish President Lech Kaczynski—was outed as a homosexual in major Polish media last week…
Rzeczpolita [Rzeczpospolita?] published documents—some only recently declassified, and some that were leaked—from the files of the Polish Secret Service that discussed Prime Minister Kaczynski’s homosexuality. As part of an investigation, begun in 1992, of right-wing political parties that, the documents said, “could threaten democracy,” a Secret Service department then headed by Colonel Jan Lesiak reported, “It is advisable to establish if Jaroslaw Kaczynski remains in a long-term homosexual relationship and, if so, who his partner is.”
...Then, also last week, former President Lech Walesa repeated on Polish television a crack about the current prime minister’s homosexuality that he had made 13 years before—when, in an interview on the Polish public TV network TVP1, he had said that the Kaczynski twins had come to his birthday party, and that “Lech came with his wife and Jaroslaw came with his husband.”
The rumours about Jaroslaw’s sexuality have been around for along while, of course. But to put the current ‘outing’ in context, Kaczynski is the head of a government which has made some gross homophobic remarks since it came to power last November. His brother, President Lech Kaczynski, when mayor of Warsaw, banned a gay march and called gays ‘perverts’.
So the tactic of gay campaigners here has been to point to the hypocrisy of Kaczynski’s (alleged)...er...position.
When the political is reduced to the personal
I should be honest and say that in July this year Doug Ireland contacted me about the existence of the report by Colonel Jan Lesiak (which as I have showed in a previous post is mostly full of gossip got from reading magazine articles) and asked me how he could get hold of some translated extracts.
I told Doug then that Col Lesiak was a secret service agent during the very oppressive 1980s, when Solidarity leaders were being banged up by Stalinists, and that he was not a good source of information about prominent Solidarity activists like the Kaczynskis.
In fact, for various reasons I didn’t want to get involved in all this – largely on the principle that raking up details of the personal lives of politicians – even hypocritical ones – was not the best way to win political arguments.
But Doug Ireland has contacts with the anti-homophobia movement here and they have been feeding him lots of gossip about the private lives of Polish conservative politicians.
For instance, in the article in Gay City News Doug Ireland quotes gay journalist Michal Rolecki as saying: “…everyone knows that the president and the home secretary regularly visit female brothels.”
Blimey! Does everyone know that? I didn’t, neither does anyone else I have asked about it. Does the president of Poland really sneak into brothels for a quick one now and again? I doubt it.
But as Rolecki says “…you must bear in mind that sex still remains a considerable taboo in Catholic Poland. Some three-quarters of Poles say that that sexuality is a private thing not to be discussed in public. For example, we have never had a sex scandal related to government…”
Actually, there was an expose of the sex lives of Polish politicians published in a book by a journalist who got to sleep with many of them, Anastazja Potocka. The revelations were published about the same time as the initial ‘outing’ of Kaczynski by Walesa. In fact, many think that she was working with Col. Lesiak.
But generally the private lives of politicians are left out of the newspapers. And that is not a particularly Polish, or Catholic thing: in fact most European countries are not like the US, (or the UK, for that matter). There is a separation between public and private.
In the US ‘political arguments’ commonly end up revolving around the grubby activities of drunks like Foley – which of course, is not really a political issue at all.
I do understand that gays and lesbians are using the alleged ‘outing’ of Jaroslaw Kaczynski to bash the government with the same weapon that the government has been bashing them with.
But the best way to challenge homophobia is to restrict the argument to political principles. Gays have as much right to live as they want as heterosexuals do. The issue is about equality and human rights, not what politicians get up to, or don’t get up to, in the privacy of their own bedrooms – or wherever.
Let’s stick to politics and kick the personal out of the political. Otherwise the argument comes down to the behaviour of politicians, and not the principles of Politics.