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Conspiracy theories inappropriate way of mourning Polish plane crash victims

Mourners pay their respects to Kaczynski at a national memorial in Warsaw's Pilsudski Square.
Mourners pay their respects to Kaczynski at a national memorial in Warsaw's Pilsudski Square.AP Photo/Alik Keplicz

(Journalistic norms call for objectivity, but I will say flat-out here that this is an opinion commentary, and thus should not necessarily be taken as objective truth... These are merely observations, and of course anyone should feel free to agree or disagree as they please.)

Days after a fatal plane crash killed nearly 100 Polish political, military, and cultural community leaders, including the President and his wife, and two Chicago residents, the search for answers continues along with mourning.


Memorials across the world

In Poland, thousands gather at mass and candlelight vigils, lay wreaths, and pay their respects to their national leaders who died ironically en route to commemorate the murder during World War II of thousands of Polish officers at Katyn, not far from the crash site near Smolensk.


Chicago, boasting the largest community of Poles outside Warsaw itself, also bears witness to small signs of a nation's suffering, such as cars and homes adorned with Polish flags and a black ribbon, people wearing "Polish" or "Poland" shirts and jackets... things that usually are not seen until the weekend of the annual May 3rd Polish Constitution Day Parade. Then there are, of course, memorial masses at various locations across the city and surrounding areas.


That is a proper way to mourn, honor, and commemorate.


... and then the conspiracies


However, what is going on in some circles of the Polish community on both sides of the Atlantic is the spread of conspiracy theories... The main to threads of conspiracy seem to be:

  • The Russians did it - Since Russia has never been a friend of Poland, of course they are behind the crash, and sabotaged either the technical or communication aspect of the failed landing attempt. Plus, Russia still has been reluctant at best to recognize the wartime Katyn murders as perpetrated by its political predecessor, the Soviet Union, and it has been a major point of contention between Warsaw and Poland. The fact that the President and many top leaders died on the way to commemorate the event could not be a coincidence...

  • The Prime Minister did it - President Lech Kaczynski and Prime Minister Donald Tusk are from two opposing political parties that have struggled for control of Poland's political and economic future recently. The Speaker of the Parliament, who has become Acting President in accordance with the Constitution, is of the Prime Minister's party. How convenient...


No proof or basis for conspiracies


These conspiracy theories are an aberration and an insult to the memory of the crash victims, including the late President himself. As a Pole who is at least somewhat aware of the politics and economics of Poland, and a journalist who follows world politics and news developments daily, I am severely disappointed at the number of people that are flocking to these conspiracy theories, and academics and professionals who propagate such ideas should themselves feel ashamed.


Firstly, there is absolutely no proof that there was any sabotage or subterfuge by either the Russians or the Prime Minister's political allies. Such accusations, then, without presenting any credible evidence, are slanderous.


Also, there would be no political or diplomatic capital gained by either of the "accused"... there would be little for the Russian government to gain - it would be a huge diplomatic embarrassment for the Russian government to be found guilty of essentially assassinating a head of state. Kaczynski was one of the strongest allies of the U.S. among European leaders, and even Russia with its assertive diplomatic policies would not risk a complete breakdown with the U.S. by killing a close ally. International condemnation would also follow, and the President - perhaps even the Prime Minister - would have to resign and wave good-bye to any political career in the foreseeable future. Yes, "even in Russia."


Similarly, for the Prime Minister's party, if he were actually complicit in the crash, that would mean he - or his allies - committed a coup d'etat. Also, there will be early presidential elections in June, which might actually go in favor of the President's party because of a sympathy vote. The "acting" Presidency is in the hands of his party for only two months... so, again, the Prime Minister and his allies have nothing to gain and potentially everything to lose in the June vote.


Conspiracy-monging cheapens a national tragedy


Political profit or loss questions aside, however, the conspiracy-monging seems to be taken as a way to discover who's responsible for the tragedy and thus somehow bring them justice. However, it is not a healthy way to deal with the tragedy. It is not conducive to national or personal healing. Furthermore, it disgraces and taints the memory of those who died.


It only cheapens the tragedy and, sadly, may foreshadow what's to come in the coming presidential campaign - the tragedy may be used by certain groups or individuals to propagate their own agenda and assume the presidency.


It is not so different than what has been going on in the U.S., with the "birthers" claiming Barack Obama is not legally the President because he is not actually a citizen, or even natural-born citizen. Not as morbid, of course, but still, in my honest opinion, ridiculous.


Baseless, nonsensical conspiracies simply destroys the abiltiy of the nation and people of Poland to move on and honor the memory of those lost, and cheapens the tragedy that has been felt by Poles as far away as Chicago as well, and commented on with deep sorrow and respect by U.S. politicians from Mayor Daley to President Obama himself.


A comment I had made in my previous article on this event may be wrong, after all: if the conspiracy-mongers have their way, this may actually be the dirtiest presidential campaign in Polish history. I only hope for the sake of Polish internal and external relations, that that will not be the case.

Comments

  • Charles McPherson 4 years ago

    From The Guardian, UK, updated on 16 April...

    Polish plane crash: pilots were not pressured to land

    Black box analysis dispels rumours that passengers on President Lech Kaczynski's plane ordered pilots to land in fog

    Russian investigators said today the black box retrieved from Saturday's devastating plane crash that killed Poland's president, Lech Kaczynski, did not provide any evidence that the pilots had been pressured to land.

    Officials said transcripts of conversations from inside the cockpit rebutted widespread theories that the Polish delegation had insisted the pilot land, despite heavy fog at Smolensk airport...

  • joetruth 4 years ago

    How odd that before an investigation is concluded (by Russia(this is like the fox investigating who killed a hen)), this author find it offensive that people question this very very suspicious crash. Planes land in fog all the time, that is what technological equipment and communication with air traffic control towers is for. Could either of these areas have been manipulated to cause a crash? Yes, easily. Why were soldiers firing weapons at the crash site camera people (youtube search: gunshots, polish plane crash)? Why is Russia in charge of this investigation? Shouldn't NATO be conduction this investigation since Poland is part of NATO and any act against Poland is an act against NATO? Why are news media and authorities so convinced the crash was caused by pilot error BEFORE ANY INVESTIGATION IS COMPLETE? This whole thing stinks to high heaven and the world turns the page like it's yesterday's football match highlights.

  • Kamil Zawadzki (Author) 4 years ago

    In response:
    True, the investigation is still going on. However, Polish experts are working TOGETHER with the Russians to figure it out.
    And I agree that making judgment calls like I had made in my commentary may be premature because the investigations are not complete... but this piece was no more premature than the massive conspiracy theories alleging that it was Russia's plan.
    The fact of the matter is, the weather conditions were bad and had to have contributed to the crash. There may have also been some incompatibility between the plane and air control tower's radar/navigation systems, not to mention issues of language barrier making communication tougher.
    Also, you cite a YOUTUBE clip of people allegedly firing weapons... really, YOUTUBE? That's hardly ANY conclusive evidence. And what act against NATO... a PLANE ACCIDENT?
    Please consider your own sources, and arguments, before you condemn my observation about the need for genuine respect and ANSWERS, NOT CONSPIRACIES.

  • Rick 4 years ago

    The author is speculating about political or diplomatic capitol to be gained, and drawing attention to the so-called conspiracy theories in fact by writing this article. If the author so fervently believed that this "cheapens a national tragedy", then why is he writing about it and drawing attention to it?
    The truth is that Yes there are many unanswered questions, and hopefully some answers will come out. My personal opinion is that the actual video shot at the plane crash site does not jibe with what we are being led to believe so far. For example, from aerial imagery and also from the video on the ground, there is very little evidence of burning, as one would expect if bodies were burned to the point of being unrecognizable. And who is in charge of the investigation in Russia? None other than Putin, former head of the KGB...yeah, I believe any propoganda that comes from him...not!

  • Kamil Zawadzki (Author) 4 years ago

    As someone who writes about foreign policy and political developments, especially one of such a great scope as this, and someone who DOES have national ties to this being Polish, it is my JOB to write about what is going on.
    If I don't, then who will? Then again, I'm obviously not the only one writing about or commenting on these theories. So if I Don't write about it, you can be sure the next blogger will.
    There really is no reason for me to have to defend why I'm commenting on it - that's simply part of what I do. You can read all the conspiracy theories you want, but if you're going to act a pundit, you ought to be ready to read "the other side" of the story as well. I'm simply drawing attention to something that, yes, I feel is absolutely ridiculous, and I seek to explain why I think so. I said at the beginning of my article that this IS commentary, and if you feel you agree or disagree, you can do so at your will. That is certainly more than others faking objectivity may say.

  • Kamil Zawadzki (Author) 4 years ago

    Finally, to reiterate, I stand by everything I have said in this article, and in my comments.
    I do understand that there IS a POSSIBILITY of there being "more than meets the eye" to this event, but unil more proof of that comes out,there is no need whatsoever for politicians and diplomats to start crying wolf, because it simply does not contribute anything productive.
    I have yet to see or hear of CONCLUSIVE evidence that either the Russian government or the Prime minister's political allies were behind the plane crash. Conspiracy theories can run amok, and sometimes conspiracies MAY have a grain of truth in them... but if it IS the truth, it ought to be able to pass the test of substantive evidence.
    Jumping the gun and making brash accusations never helped anyone, and it certainly will not help anything now. Mass-assassinations like this are tougher to cover up these days... if the conspiracy theorists are right, I ask for more proof than a pixelated YouTube clip.
    Thank You.

  • Anonymous 4 years ago

    No truth to conspiracies!? I have close family ties to Poland, and my friends and family are extremely frightened for the future of Poland mainly because there IS so much evidence that Russia attacked those planes. Here is some of that evidence.

    There video of the crash instants after it happened. You can see a survivor, hear gunshots, and if you speak Russian you can hear them saying things like "there are survivors" go to youtube.com/watch?v=AZ5Vjjozt3I
    -- all other videos of the plane crash site were immediately confiscated around the area of the crash, according to witnesses.
    And the man who recorded the above video is mysteeeerrriously dead.

    The time of the crash was reported by the Russians 10 minutes later than it actually happened. The Polish know this through investigation of one of the time mechanisms on the plane.

    The Black boxes on the plane that record everything being said in the cockpit are in Russia's possession not Poland's.

    do some research, this is

  • Anonymous 4 years ago

    also, saying that youtube videos aren't "conclusive evidence" is idiotic. This is raw footage from the actual event. But maybe you are right, we should wait for Hollywood to make a film about the event and then examine the movie, if it wins an Academy Award it must be conclusive evidence. Or maybe we should let the media take the footage and do whatever they please with it. Since we all know just how reliable the media is.

  • Kamil Zawadzki (Author) 4 years ago

    As a journalist and, in this case, commentator, it is my job to question what I see/read and, if I don't agree with it, explain my stance and the reasoning behind it.
    I have done that.
    As conspiracy theorists, or advocates of these, the burden is on you to provide conclusive, CLEAR evidence as to why your theories may be the truth. You have not done that. You have simply resorted to calling "the other side" stupid, and gone back to the same grainy, unclear YouTube clips I have mentioned before.
    I rest my case and will not comment on this any longer so that we don't get into any more disrespectful back-and-forth trolling and bashing each other, because that certainly gets neither side anywhere.

  • Dean Mullen 4 years ago

    Gun shots where heard near the plane crash
    [w w w] .youtube.com/watch?v=q7yD_SVK7Yw

  • Dean Mullen 4 years ago

    gun shots where heard near the plane crash site
    youtube.com/watch?v=q7yD_SVK7Yw

  • Anonymous 4 years ago

    Examining this theory is not an inappropriate way to with the matter at hand considering what happened at Katyn. How can this solution be inappropriate when it took about 50 years to prove that the Soviets were behind the massacre of 22,000 mostly Polish people? Wasn't that just a conspiracy theory? A nation like Poland has every reason to follow conspiracy theories when there is such a big trust issue with Russia, especially since Russia is hiding evidence. Should the Polish just mourn the deaths of these 90-some Polish leaders and blindly trust Russia? No. They have every right to accuse Russia, especially with the amount of evidence backing this case. But maybe you are right, every Polish person should mourn this day and ignore the cause of the crash. If this were the case with the Katyn massacres, Germany would still be to blame for the 22,000 deaths, which is exactly what Stalin had hoped. Conspiracy theories have the possibility of uncovering truth and rewriting history forever.

  • Kamil Zawadzki (Author) 4 years ago

    So, I continue to get condemned when all I ask for is proof...
    But let's just say for the sake of argument that in that grainy, bad-quality YouTube clip where "shots are heard," those were indeed gunshots finishing off survivors... Who's to say it was the Russian government or government agencies that did this? Maybe it was some rogue elements, or even people who are so extremist and hard-set on keeping a glorified, no-faults version of Soviet history that they saw the trip of Polish dignitaries as an affront and so stopped it?
    Either way, even allowing for all of that, there is still no proof of involvement by the Russian government...
    There's just no proof, maybe not yet, but maybe the Russian government really had nothing to do with the crash, and maybe the crash WAS just an accident.
    Nothing wrong with investigating WHY the crash happened, but when you throw around major accusations like that, if you can't provide proof, then you're just poisoning the well. That's all it is.

  • RSBL 4 years ago

    Well, you cant trust "official" sources thats for sure. Remember them nucular bombs Saddam had? The official story on 9/11 and 7/7? Looks like the "conspiracy" crowd got it right more than the "official" lying sources. Ask yourself who was to gain by this crash. There you have it.

  • RSBL 4 years ago

    "Why are news media and authorities so convinced the crash was caused by pilot error BEFORE ANY INVESTIGATION IS COMPLETE?"

    Same reason that within an hour they "knew" Osama bin laden pulled off 9/11 and the 3 building fell due to fire. The same reason fox news and BBC reported building 7 falling 20 minutes before it did. The same reason they just seem to know every detail as to who does what, but also had no prior knowledge. The same reason we see an unburned passport of a "hijacker" in the rubble of WTC even though he was not on the flight manifest and is still alive. The same reason all the airports from 9/11, the subway on 7/7 and the airport with the crotch bomber had one thing in common...they all used the same Israeli security company...you get the idea.

  • RSBL 4 years ago

    Poland used to be part of Russia, Poland refused the big bankers...just like JFK. Do the math.

  • Bill 4 years ago

    The short answer is conspiracy theorists are either morons, loons, or snake oil salesmen. Look at at RSBL. This jackass is claiming on 9/11 they "knew" OBL was behind it and why the buildings fell. Can he provide 1 source from 9/11 saying they knew? Like any CT cultist he is spewing baseless nonsense. All these morons have is stupid anomalies taken out of context, w/o an alternate explanation based on evidence.

  • Elizabeth Jones 4 years ago

    Who would want to kills the polish president…probably was the polish pilot who did not know how to fly..By the way I found a website that give you prizes for your opinions and 4 play games here is the topic about this:
    opinion.EZWINGAME.kom/topics/did-the-polish-president-plane-crash-was-terrorism