THE SPECTRE of the pogrom loomed heavily once again over Poland as a popular conservative magazine published an incendiary cover page depicting a white woman being groped by dark brown hands with the headline “The Islamic rape of Europe”. Outrage and debate were immediately ignited as some compared the illustration to Nazi propaganda.
This week’s edition of wSieci (the Network) has a special on the wave of immigration that is creating significant tension across many European states. Described as “a report about what the media and Brussels elite are hiding from the citizens of the European Union”, the publication comprises a variety of articles lamenting the arrival of Muslims, with titles including ‘Does Europe want to commit suicide?’ and ‘The Hell of Europe’.
Writer at wSieci, Alexandra Rybinska, wrote “The people of old Europe after the events of New Year’s Eve in Cologne painfully realised the problems arising from the massive influx of immigrants,”
The first signs that things were going wrong, however, were there a lot earlier. They were still ignored or were minimised in significance in the name of tolerance and political correctness.”
It is a powerful image, a beautiful blonde, white woman draped in the EU flag, a deep blue background adorned with golden stars, having it violently ripped from her by faceless Arab hands. One grips her hair, another other tears at her breasts, while the internal content makes it clearly a reference to the controversial Cologne attacks.
New Year’s Eve saw hundreds of women sexually assaulted by men of North African origin in the German city, sparking huge protests among right wing militant groups and causing, Germany, oft a beacon of light for Syrian refugees, to reconsider its liberal policies.
Poland has steadfastly rejected EU targets and quotas on the acceptance of refugees fleeing persecution and has a strong nationalist history heavily tainted with racism and anti-Semitism. Often seen as something of a success story following the collapse of communism, Poland has endured a turbulent few years since the unexplained death of its president in a 2010 plane crash.
Traditionally a strong American ally, Poland has pivoted wildly to the right, declaring Putin’s Russia its arch-nemesis and initiating a series of repressive laws in the name of patriotism.
The developments have been met with concern by many observers who detect an evident link between current hysteria and Poland’s ruthless past. Some of history’s most virulently murderous tragedies have emerged from a deep hatred in the Black Forest, exploited by the popular press.
Throughout the Nazi years very similar images were used by the fascist dictatorships to fuel hatred against Jews as propaganda techniques formed an unholy alliance with the psychological discoveries of Freud and American capitalists. Jews were frequently depicted as rodents, blood suckers, and hook-nosed fiends intent on subverting the wholesome German spirit, its masculinity and ‘womenfolk’.
At the same time the war against black liberation and drugs was being pushed by archaic religious groups in the United States. Films including ‘Reefer Madness’ would see racist tropes employed to devastating effect with implications that black men would get psychotically high from marijuana and rape innocent white girls. Language cynically punctuated with fleeting references to ‘hordes’, ‘plagues’ and ‘infestations’ can have a powerful impact on the pysche. later manifested inirrational hatred and fear.
A serious discussion is to be had on immigration and its likely impact on Europe down the line, with the fears of those nostalgic for the simpler days of their youth needing to be addressed before they completely spiral out of control. Propagandistic images, however, don’t contribute to the discussion beyond the shock value of provocation. This minor triumph is heavily outweighed by the fact that propaganda hopes to exploit the basest fears and frenzies of a people who feel there is something wrong but just can’t put their finger on it.