Have you ever wondered which side of a political argument is responsible for most of the false information that is in the nature of conspiracy theories? Is there any correlation between political views and the propensity to believe such content?
We filter hundreds of pieces of information in our daily work. We constantly observe trends and channels that spread fake news. As our practice shows, in Poland, conspiracy theories and disinformation related to COVID-19 or the war in Ukraine are dominated by the far-right.
Of course, conspiracy theorists and anti-vaccinationists also appear among supporters and voters of liberal or left-wing parties. The key factor, above all, is how radical a person’s views are. A 2015 study by van Prooijen J-W, Krouwel APM, Pollet TV confirms that extreme political views and conspiracy theories are strongly linked due to a “highly structured thinking style” that aims to make sense of unrelated social events. Individuals with extreme views are much more predisposed to believe in conspiracy theories, through which they position themselves as heroes and see their political opponents as emanations of pure evil.
Political sympathies, however, are not irrelevant.
An analysis by Imhoff, R., Zimmer, F., Klein, O. et al., summarizing the results of two surveys of over 100,000 people from 26 countries, confirms that conspiracy mentality is associated with extreme beliefs; left-wing and, to a significantly greater extent, far-right. It also indicates that this non-linear relationship may be reinforced by the deprivation of political control, so it increases among supporters of opposition parties.
As the study authors conclude:
“Supporters of political parties that are rated as extreme at both ends of the political spectrum overall have higher conspiracy mentality. Focusing on the position of parties in the democratic values dimension, the relationship with conspiracy mentality is linear, with conspiracy mentality being higher among supporters of authoritarian right-wing parties. Thus, supporters of (far) right parties appear to have consistently higher conspiracy mentality, while the same is true only for (far) left parties with a more authoritarian character and less emphasis on environmental and liberal values.”
In this analysis, we will focus on the Polish radical far-right, describing its most popular disinformation narratives, as well as important groups and their networks. Popular left-wing conspiracy theories related to GMOs or nuclear energy will be addressed in subsequent articles.
The far right can be defined and classified differently depending on the country. For the purposes of this report, we consider the Polish far right to be conservative movements with aggressive nationalist rhetoric, including those close to the Confederation party, and above all, organizations and circles that even politicians of the Confederation perceive as radical.
Since its founding, this far-right federalist political party has grown in strength. Confederate politicians managed to build a strong position thanks in part to their association with anti-vaccination movements during the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic. The party stood in opposition to government restrictions, massively distributed popular infographics related to COVID-19 and vaccinations, and constantly challenged the legitimacy of additional restrictions. As a result, it achieved record after record in the polls, even scoring double-digit results.
It is impossible to deny the Confederacy’s rightness on various economic and political issues – it often relies on such uncomplicated moral issues as respect for personal freedom, opposition to corruption or nepotism, which are so general that they will meet with the approval of almost every voter. However, these topics are often just a pretext for promoting views and attitudes that are much more controversial. The Confederation uses very simple techniques. It builds the feeling of being cheated and exploited in its sympathizers, it fuels the opposition against the political elites and allows to appreciate oneself by the simple fact of belonging to the group of “real patriots”. Patriotism, emerging from the Confederacy’s social media narrative, is not a universal value, but is associated with narrowly defined political and economic views and a conservative worldview.
Confederation & COVID-19
Confederate rhetoric during the pandemic relied heavily on populism, simplifications, and exploiting the negative emotions of potential voters. Thanks to this, its narratives effectively reached hundreds of thousands of Poles tired of the pandemic.
In narratives related to the pandemic, Grzegorz Braun, MP, is undoubtedly at the forefront of the Confederation. He is a proponent of the concept of so-called “Plandemic”, a conspiracy theory that assumes that the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic was artificially caused by certain groups. In other variants of the Plandemic Theory, the coronavirus is supposed to be simply an invention, and the whole world was fooled by a group of influential people. Billionaires (usually American), powerful secret lodges such as Freemasonry or the Bilderberg group, and, of course, Jews are usually identified as the perpetrators.
Mr. Braun has repeatedly publicly promoted the book “False Pandemic. A Critique of Scientists and Doctors,” which presents a vision of COVID-19 as a type of a seasonal flu. Since the beginning of the pandemic, he has also criticized sanitary restrictions and recommendations, such as the obligation to cover one’s mouth and nose, to keep a social distance, and finally, to vaccinate.
Despite the fact that Grzegorz Braun became the undisputed leader of the Confederation in terms of active stance related to the negation of the pandemic, other members of the movement did not remain idle. The party took a hard-line anti-vaccine stance and continually denied the legitimacy of subsequent restrictions. It exploited every stumble of the government and denounced all absurdities and imperfections of the Law and Justice’s sanitary policy. Mixing completely legitimate criticism with extremely absurd conspiracy rhetoric, it largely contributed to the emergence of a strong anti-vaccination movement in Poland, which led to the failure of the vaccination program (data from 28.03.2022: 51% of fully vaccinated Poles eligible for the vaccination). With all this in mind, the Confederation has never officially defined itself as an anti-vaccine group, and its leading politicians, such as Krzysztof Bosak, have spoken rather conservatively. The Confederation took a pragmatic approach to the issue of pandemic and vaccinations, allowing prominent anti-vaccinationists such as Grzegorz Braun to act.
This rhetoric turned out to be very beneficial for the party, allowing it to gain even more support. In mid-February, the party could count on stable support of 12%. The Confederation quickly became a political force representing anti-vaccine movements, trying to block further legislative solutions and submitting, among others, the famous bill called “Stop Sanitary Segregation”.
Confederation politicians also openly supported numerous antivaccine protests and speeches. The party promoted movements and initiatives such as Justyna Socha’s anti-vaccine association. Socha herself, by the way, unsuccessfully ran as Confederation’s candidate in the 2019 parliamentary elections.
MEP Braun also launched a very popular anti-vaccine project “Nuremberg 2.0″, allegedly aimed at holding accountable politicians and others responsible for the “Plandemic”. Marcin Rola from wRealu24.pl channel, “Najwyższy Czas!” weekly founded by Korwin-Mikke and run by Tomasz Sommer and the National Media supported the project. The Confederation’s activities were intertwined in the media and overlapped in rhetoric with the speeches and statements of such people as Jan Pospieszalski, Katarzyna Tarnawa-Gwóźdź, Piotr Witczak, Katarzyna Ratkowska, Paweł Basiukiewicz, Grzegorz Płaczek, Piotr Rubas, Kaja Godek, Paweł Nogal, Piotr Schramm, Arkadiusz Tetela, Zbigniew Hałat or Dorota Sienkiewicz.
On January 5, 2022, Facebook decided to delete the Confederation’s Facebook account due to anti-vaccine propaganda, among other reasons. As the Met’s press office stated:
“We have removed the Confederation’s website due to repeated violations of our hate speech policies, particularly content that directly attacks other people based on so-called protected characteristics such as nationality or sexual orientation. We remove content that directly threatens people’s health and lives, as directed by leading public health organizations, including the World Health Organization (WHO). We removed the Confederation’s website due to repeated violations of our policies regarding misinformation about COVID-19, specifically false claims that masks do not reduce the spread of the disease, that COVID-19 mortality rates are the same or lower than influenza, and that vaccines for COVID-19 provide no immunity and are ineffective.”
No doubt the Confederacy, through conspiracy and anti-vaccine rhetoric, has managed to gain significant political support over the past two years. As it soon became clear, such support could not be sustained for long.
Confederation and war in Ukraine
The Confederation, accused of pro-Russian rhetoric, experienced a significant deterioration of its results after the outbreak of the war in Ukraine.
The war clearly confused the Confederates. So far tolerated by the electorate pro-Russian attitudes of some of party’s members, such as Janusz Korwin-Mikke or Grzegorz Braun, in the new reality led to loss of the hard earned support and, consequently, to a major split in the party.
After the “pro-Russian opinions” of Janusz Korwin-Mikke, several of its leading deputies left the party, namely: Dobromir Sośnierz, Jakub Kulesza and Artur Dziambor.
As the MPs stated:
“We are building a fourth leg of the Confederation, a freedom party like KORWiN, but without Janusz Korwin-Mikke, we are cutting ourselves off from his controversial, sometimes pro-Russian opinions and statements.”
This situation should be perceived as a purely pragmatic action of the mentioned deputies, since both KORWiN and Konfederacja Korony Polskiej (KKP) have never concealed their policy towards Russia and Ukraine. As we read in the KKP’s program, “We demand to stop engaging the authority of the Polish State in the pursuit of foreign interests – contrary to the Polish raison d’état, which was particularly visible in the actions of the Polish government towards Ukraine, Iran and Belarus. Although KPP declares that it does not support “Putin’s Russia”, it opposes Poland’s pro-Ukrainian stance and criticizes any interventionism.
Janusz Korwin-Mikke himself has notoriously disputed the fact that the Russians committed war crimes and has long questioned the war itself. Therefore, it is not a surprise, that he has been a frequent guest at various events organized by the Russian polititians in the past.
He also maintained contacts with members of the pro-Russian Zmiana party, whose chairman, Mateusz Piskorski, was arrested on charges of spying for Russia. Despite this, he recently acted as an interpreter for first lady Agata Duda at a meeting with refugees from Ukraine.
As the media revealed, Piskorski’s ex-wife sits on the supervisory board of one of the companies connected with the state research institute NASK, and her work in these structures was considered a counterintelligence threat by the Internal Security Agency.
Aggressive anti-vaccination and anti-Ukrainian propaganda was also spread by Jacek Ćwięka, the chairman of the Rzeszów district of the KKP. His tweets were even shared by… Jolanta Lamprecht (as revealed by Marcin Rey) an admin of an extremely pro-Russian group ‘Ukrainian is NOT my brother’, observed by 55 thousand users, also linked to the Zmiana party.
Not all Confederation groups present such a radically pro-Russian stance. The National Movement officially takes the side of Ukraine in the ongoing war. As it states:
“Russia’s defeat in the war against Ukraine is in Poland’s vital interest. Ukraine must remain an independent state between Poland and Russia, otherwise our country will find itself in a dire geopolitical position, enabling the Russians not only to launch a quick assault on Warsaw, but also a full-scale invasion from the north, east, and southeast.
The geopolitical consequences of Russia’s victory, also in the context of the game of world powers, will be tragic for Poland. A growing Russian threat will translate into greater tightening of ties with integration structures such as the European Union, and consequently further erosion of Polish sovereignty.”
Thus, the National Movement approaches the war more pragmatically, fearing above all that a possible growing threat from the Russian Federation will deepen Poland’s integration with the European Union, which is seen as a major threat to Polish sovereignty. The movement has also used the situation to try to prove that international guarantees do not work, extrapolating the failure of the Budapest Memorandum assurances in the case of Ukraine to Poland’s alliances, especially NATO’s Article 5.
As polls indicate, Polish respondents support any solutions aimed at helping Ukraine, even those that potentially hit Poles’ wallets. Therefore, it is not surprising to see a very conservative attitude of the National Movement, which sees the benefits and dangers of war. At the same time Janusz Korwin-Mikke, Grzegorz Braun and his circle (especially assistants active in anti-vaccination movements such as Piotr Jawornik and Paweł Skutecki) with their rhetoric torpedoed attempts of the Confederation to position itself on more neutral ground. As a result, the party is experiencing the greatest decline in support and a visible identity crisis, unable to adopt a single, consensual narrative.
Confederation and Ukrainian refugees
The party found a niche that it could use to please its more radical electorate while avoiding the obvious accusations of being pro-Russian. When the first wave of refugees from Ukraine arrived in Poland, it included citizens of third countries such as India, Pakistan, Ghana and Nigeria. Most of them were foreign students at Ukrainian universities, whom Russian propaganda immediately accused of being economic migrants trying to take advantage of the situation to get to Poland. Dozens of fake accounts circulated fabricated information about a wave of robberies and rapes by “dark-skinned immigrants”.
Such reports were denied by Polish Police. According to Interfax agency, in 2021 Ukraine hosted more than 76 thousand foreign students. It is therefore not surprising that they appeared among the refugees. We described the topic in detail in our analysis The role of Kremlin propaganda in creating anti-refugee sentiment in Poland. The flood of fake news resulted in the formation of self-proclaimed far-right militias composed mainly of football hooligans, who attacked refugees. Such “patrols” were supported by politicians of the Confederation,. Among others Grzegorz Braun, and Konrad Berkowicz called for stopping “the wave of dark-skinned migrants”.
Such false information has been constantly circulated in the context of anti-vaccinationist content by weekly magazine “Najwyższy Czas!” and its editor-in-chief, Tomasz Sommer.
As DFR Lab’s March 11 analysis confirmed, Confederate accounts have played a key role in promoting such rhetoric online.
The Confederation’s subsequent activism on the refugee issue is best summed up by its latest slogan, “Yes to Aid – No to Privileges.” During a conference boycotted by most of the journalists, Confederation members criticized benefits for Ukrainians. They called such decisions of the local authorities “privileges”. Grzegorz Braun stated that this is not help for war refugees, but an act that encourages the resettlement of people, who tempted by the benefits will move to Poland in large numbers.
Members of the Confederation are unanimous on this issue, the 500+ allowances for Ukrainian citizens were also opposed by Krzysztof Bosak.
This line of party rhetoric coincides perfectly with the narrative of pro-Russian social media accounts and trolls. Predicting that after the first wave of aid, resentment towards Ukrainian visitors might grow among Poles, Russian propaganda also began to highlight such issues. Even the Government Security Centre warned against such disinformation, pointing to potential false narrative lines:
- refugees from Ukraine will change the demography of Poland and Poles will be second-class citizens;
- Border guards will not control border crossings and criminals will come to Poland;
- Ukrainian refugees will start persecuting Poles;
- Ukrainian refugees will bring crime and diseases to Poland;
- Ukrainian refugees will seize social help intended for Polish families and children;
- Ukrainian refugees will be too much of a burden on the state budget.
It quickly became apparent that many former anti-vaccine accounts had retrained themselves as pro-Russian propaganda, targeting refugees. You can find some interesting examples here. This is not just a change in the Polish information space, reports of a reworking of the main narrative line of a number of anti-vaccine accounts appear in various European countries.
Such a shift should not be surprising, especially on social media. Most anti-vaccine groups retrained after 24.02 to spread Kremlin’s propaganda.
Already more than a year ago, we warned that many Polish conspiracy sites promote Russian fake news about COVID-19. Today, many of these sites (if not blocked), spread Kremlin’s propaganda. Below we recall our findings from last year’s report.
Compatriots, National Television and Aleksander Jablonowski
There are far-right groups in Poland, too radical even for the Confederacy and its supporters. Most of these organizations are very niche, but one group has recently gained significant popularity, mainly due to pandemic.
The Compatriots Movement, initially centered around the Bydgoszcz Compatriots and the Internet channel Independent Polish TV (NPTV), has grown in strength over the past two years. This extreme nationalist, radical group has recently gathered thousands of supporters.
Above all, the role of temporarily arrested (for the second time in a few months) Wojciech O. known online as Aleksander Jabłonowski and Marcin O., the creators of NPTV, should be noted. Both were first arrested after a famous rally in Kalisz, during which the Statute of Kalisz, a privilege for Jews issued by Kalisz Prince Bolesław Pobożny in 1264, was burned. During the burning, radicals gathered on the square chanted “Here is Poland, not Polin!”
Jabłonowski and Marcin O. were charged with public incitement to hatred, insulting a group of people because of their national and religious affiliation, and public incitement to commit crimes against people because of their national and religious affiliation. Piotr R., known for publicly burning a Jewish puppet, was also arrested along with them.
All three men were vouched for by MP Grzegorz Braun, but the court did not accept his request and sent them to jail. Jablonowski and Marcin O. were jailed for the second time in February. This time, after an anti-vaccinationist march, Jablonowski found himself behind the bars for calling for the killing of the MPs who were supposed to vote for a bill that was not supported by conspiracy circles. Jablonowski shouted from the stage:
“If they support the bill, they condemn themselves to death, and we create these death lists. (…). I, Wojciech O. [redacted], known on the Internet as Aleksander Jabłonowski, I want to kill them. Why not! Because I am filled with gleeful hatred and I want them dead!”
On 19 February Marcin O. was arrested. During the rally in Bydgoszcz he was shouting “there will be a stick on the MP’s snout”, “I want to kill them” and took out a weapon-like object and chanted “Death to the enemies of Poland, death to the enemies of the Fatherland!”.
Such death lists were nothing new at the time, as local groups associated with the NPTV had already been publishing “lists of traitors” on YouTube for months, threatening them with death.
Wojciech O. and Marcin O. owe their popularity to effective use of social media. Live broadcasts, building a fan base, using memes, gifs and aggressive promotion of the most controversial episodes of their vlogs allowed them to create a large and active community focused around NPTV. NPTV began to intermingle with other radical conspiracy groups such as: Bydgoskie Kamractwo Rodaków, Kedyw Poznań, Pancerni Poznań, Wolne Wilki Warszawy, Świadomi Bydgoszcz, Chłostra Chłopska Straż, association Zjednoczeni dla Wolności, smaller groups of the National Protest of the Poles, and finally local Compatriot movements.
After the November arrest of the NPTV hosts, the Compatriots from Bydgoszcz made a statement encouraging the judges to release Wojciech O. and Marcin O. ending their speech with shouts: “Here is Poland, never Polin!” and “Death to the enemies of the Fatherland! Death, death, death!”.
The two aforementioned slogans are the most popular among sympathizers and supporters of NPTV and the Compatriots movement. The first refers to popular conspiracy theory that the Jews and Israel should rule the world and want to gain (or, in other versions, already have) power over Poland (Polin – Hebrew/Yiddish for “Poland”). This, according to the propagators of the theory, would lead to the enslavement or extermination of the indigenous Polish population.
“Death to Enemies of the Fatherland”, or ŚWO for short (in Polish – Śmierć Wrogom Ojczyzny), is a slogan that refers to the 3rd Vilnius Brigade of the NZW, which adopted the Totenkopf (a skull with crossed bones behind it) with the letters ŚWO as one of its symbols. The partisan brigade commanded by Romuald Rajs a.k.a. “Bury” fought against communist authorities after 1945. “Bury” and his men are accused of war crimes and, as stated by the Institute of National Remembrance, of numerous acts bearing the hallmarks of genocide (specifically, murder of civilians).
Until recently, the Compatriots’ movement quite rarely appeared in the mainstream media, except for the programs of Tomasz Sommer’s “Najwyższy Czas!”.
However, this controversial environment has been and still is very active. Compatriots create a large and well-organized network in Poland and abroad.
The most active group are undoubtedly Compatriots from Bydgoszcz. For the first time its activists became famous after breaking into an orphanage in Aleksandrów Kujawski to prevent, as they claimed, vaccinating the children with a deadly injection (the vaccine against COVID-19). Since then, the Compatriots have become more and more active, participating in all major rallies and anti-vaccination initiatives. Smaller, local Compatriot groups began to form throughout Poland. The unifying element of these groups was NPTV. It was Jablonowski and Marcin O. who organized the largest nationalist-antivaccine rallies and demonstrations.
The community of Compatriots associated with NPTV was formed, among others, thanks to Facebook groups. Compatriots exchanged information and arranged rallies mostly on Facebook. From the very beginning, the content posted on such groups was extreme – anti-Semitic, calling for the extermination of immigrants, anti-vaccination and pro-Russian. We have observed such groups for over a year. So far, they have mainly spread anti-vaccine and anti-Semitic content and criticized Poland’s alliances, but since the outbreak of the war in Ukraine, they have become bulletins of Kremlin’s propaganda. This is what the NPTV group Compatriots looks like these days:
Interesting materials can also be found in the group Compatriots – The Truth Lies on the Other Side:
This is what posts look like in a large group of Compatriots from the UK:
The same content appeared on the websites and groups of smaller “Confraternities” in Germany, Amsterdam or locally in Kalisz or Kocmyrzów. Some very small “Confraternities” such as the one in Kocmyrzów-Luborzyca have few members, whereas larger foreign groups have hundreds or even thousands.
The aforementioned group from Great Britain stands out: “Kamraci Rodacy UK”. It has almost 2 thousand members and managed to create a well-integrated community, which organizes local meetings, e.g. in Scotland. In close cooperation with the group, in 2021 in the UK there were some major initiatives such as “Kamrackie Radio”, broadcasting online, and “Kamracki Sklep”, to sell gadgets related to the movement. These were founded by Michal Kurzdym and Roman Klinkosz.
The radio station gained a fair amount of popularity, but in the fall of 2021, after a financial scandal within the ranks of the Compatriots, the radio station faced opposition from the NPTV. Facebook groups also split. NPTV’s Compatriots (or at least the administrators) paradoxically sided with Radio and Kurzdym, while Compatriots UK rallied around leaders from NPTV and the newly formed Radio Slava. The situation returned to normal fairly quickly, but Kamrackie Radio did not survive. On February 1, 2022, a motion to close the company and remove it from the register appeared in the system. Its current place is taken by Radio Slava, which spreads anti-Ukrainian content.
The Kamrats’ profiles operate on various platforms, including Russian VK, Telegram, Discord and Polish BanBye.pl. Their content is constantly banned in popular social media, hence the forced migration to more niche portals.
It is also important to note the disturbing trend of the progressive militarization of the Compatriots movement. The NPTV hosts often pose with guns, and while Jablonowski undoubtedly does not have a gun licence (in his films he only uses a black-rifle revolver, which does not require a licence in Poland), we are not so sure about Marcin O.
According to unofficial information we were able to obtain from the staff of one of the gun stores, the two men are said to “own” at least a dozen weapons, which are purchased by a shooting instructor who is friends with both gentleman.
One of Polish gun stores informed it’s clients on its Facebook profile about the visit of the famous guests, admitting that they have already purchased another piece of weaponry. We hid the name of the store in the photo and only cut out the segment with NPTV editors. After a wave of criticism from customers, the post was deleted.
The photo shows the NPTV hosts posing with “their” weapons. Marcin O. presents a Mossberg Maverick 88 shotgun, while Jablonowski holds a Soviet SKS rifle, modified mainly visually. A bipod has been added to the rifle, the buttstock has the emblem of Związek Jaszczurczy (of which Jablonowski has declared himself a member and current leader). The slogan “Death to Enemies of the Fatherland” is also visible. The bayonet, smeared with fake blood or painted to look like it has blood on it, also draws attention.
There are many more photos of NPTV hosts with guns. They share them on their website, often in the form of memes in the “Cultural Corner”. They pose there, among others, with an AKM assault rifle, a small-caliber rifle, a Czech Model 26 submachine gun, a Desert Eagle pistol, revolvers, or a Walther P99 pistol. Jabłonowski is wearing a bulletproof vest and a helmet.
Compatriot groups organize frequent trips to the shooting ranges. As we found out, they regularly visit shooting ranges near Bydgoszcz and Sieradz. While there is nothing wrong with the shooting sport itself, in the context of Jablonowski and Marcin O.’s announcements about murdering politicians, such trainings are disturbing.
However, this peculiar nationalist-antisemitic-conspiracy-Russian community is not limited to NPTV and the Compatriots. It is necessary to mention a number of individuals and groups affiliated with them, without whom NPTV and the Compatriots would not have managed to gather so many supporters.
Indirectly, the Compatriots movement also includes “Pancerni Poznań”, an extreme nationalist group created by anti-vaccinationists opposed to sanitary restrictions. Present at most of the anti-vaccine rallies and marches, they have become particularly recognizable thanks to their uniforms.
After Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, they adopted an anti-Ukrainian narrative, and the only film to appear on their channel after 24.02 is titled “Volyn” and describes the 1943 Volhynian slaughter of Polish civillians by Ukrainian armed militias.
NPTV also has a long-standing relationship with National Television and its creator, Eugeniusz Sendecki, a declared opponent of the West, anti-Semite and radical nationalist. Sendecki used to be a member of organizations such as the All-Polish Youth or the Christian-National Union, and now he is perceived by national circles almost as badly as Jablonowski, which is mainly due to accusations of destroying the image of Polish right wing. This is how Jan Bodakowski described him on conservative Fronda:
“The sponsor, producer and protagonist of the National Television films is Eugeniusz Sendecki, who, however, does not have as much charisma as Jablonowski, and thus has not really had any influence on anyone for years of broadcasting.
I met Sendecki years ago. He was one of the first political commentators on You Tube. At the beginning of his activity I asked him many times on Fronda forum to stop showing people who have nothing sensible to say and only record educated people with something important to say. Unfortunately, Sendecki was not interested in this and for years, to the irritation of all nationalists in Poland and the satisfaction of the leftists, he has been creating a negative image of nationalists as lost, uneducated, with nothing to say, representing the margin.”
Without a doubt, National Television and NPTV no longer represent just a small group of people, at least not as they did just a few years ago. Thanks to the pandemic, they have become information channels for thousands of people in at least several countries. Sendecki mainly accuses Jews and Germans of all evil. He also used to criticize Russia from time to time, but now he has clearly verified this approach. He has long supported extreme nationalist movements such as the Dmowski Roman National Party, led by Ludwik Wasiak, who publicly called for the partition of Ukraine as early as in 2014. The channel touches all conspiracy theories, from so-called World Government through the “Plandemic” to the content meant to justify Polexit.
Sendecki’s channel features anti-vaccine leaders and pro-Russian activists, and his TV show unites the more radical anti-Semitic-conspiracy circles of NPTV and the Compatriots with declared enthusiasts of Kremlin’s policies. All the details may be found at the end of the article, in the network map we have created.
Sendecki’s programmes are more balanced in terms of language and emotion than NPTV’s work, and this is probably why Jablonowski’s channel has surpassed the former master’s Internet television in popularity, though giving place to a narrower group of invited guests.
One of the key collaborators of NPTV, also closely connected to Sendecki and his National Television, is Maciej Poręba. As the NPTV website introduces him, he is “a specialist in military history, historian, political scientist and lover of Russian culture. Poręba focuses mainly on history and geopolitics in the context of the Russian Federation and has never hidden his pro-Russian views.
He ends each monologue on his YouTube channel with the words “Salute to Great Poland, the Slavs and our True Allies!”, which perfectly sums up the views he promotes.
Poręba’s statements from before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and from its first days are a very interesting case study of the impact of Russian propaganda, as he perfectly matched the Kremlin’s rhetoric. Just a few days before the invasion (recall that at that time Russia had already amassed over 150,000 troops on its borders with Ukraine), he asserted that there was no possibility of Russia entering Ukraine, and insisted that there could be no war.
When, however, the forces of the Russian Federation launched an invasion, Poręba, in accordance with the Kremlin’s narrative, called their actions a “special operation” and maintained that there was nothing unexpected about it. On 26.02, in his material about Chechen soldiers fighting on the side of Russia (the so-called Kadyrovtsy), he asserted that only local militias were fighting in Ukraine and would quickly succumb to the Chechens and Russia’s military might. As he claimed:
“There will be no direct fighting, while it will probably be necessary to disarm certain groups that want to fight the Russian Federation forces surrounding these cities at the expense of the civilian population.”
Shortly after the publication of Poręba’s material, the Kadyrovtsy were destroyed and the Ukrainians killed Magomed Tushayev, general of the 141st Motorized Regiment of the Chechen National Guard. It took another few weeks for the Kadyrovtsy to reorganize after their defeat at such an early stage, but even after regrouping they proved to be rather mediocre soldiers.
Poręba’s rhetoric coincided perfectly with the Kremlin’s narrative. First, Russian troops were supposed to gather around Ukraine only for exercises, and war was not possible. Later, the invasion was called a “special operation,” and only individual groups of local neo-Nazis were to resist. Finally, the front was to be broken by the elite Chechens, and the “operation” was to be completed within a few days. When all these predictions failed, the Kremlin remained silent for weeks afterwards, trying to adjust to the unexpected difficulties. Poręba remained silent as well, focusing mainly on calls for the release of Wojciech O. and Marcin O. from detention, and curtly questioning the effectiveness of sanctions against Russia.
Another frequent guest of the National Television is Nabil al-Malazi, the Syrian citizen living in Poland for few years now, a supporter of Bashar al-Assad and Vladimir Putin, who together with the aforementioned Mateusz Piskorski built the extremely pro-Russian Zmiana party in Poland. In March of this year the editors of Frontstory.pl described him perfectly, summarizing his silhouette as follows:
“Reinforcing Kremlin propaganda and supporting Russian aggressors is nothing new in Nabil Malazi’s career. At the same time, Malazi has been a fierce opponent of coronavirus vaccination for the past two years.”
NPTV and the National Television are also affiliated with the association United for Freedom, whose president is well-known anti-vaccine activist Anna Dziadkiewicz, also responsible for the National Protest of the Poles.
The association was formed during the pandemic and was dedicated to promoting anti-vaccine attitudes, denying the existence of the coronavirus, and advocating a return to so-called natural law. Natural law is a conspiratorial concept that assumes that all humans have been enslaved by the system and have become the property of corporations. In this theory, Poland is a private company registered in the U.S. and in order to gain freedom, people must officially declare their obedience to the system through so-called “living man declarations”. The “Natural Law” group has gathered over 20,000 members on Facebook, exchanging advice on how to escape the system. Aiming to free themselves from all laws, members of the group mainly try to avoid creditors, loan repayments or fines.
Their methods obviously don’t work, but individuals and groups like United for Freedom intentionally reinforce the notion that leaving the system is possible. They draft letters, declarations and appeals that are anecdotally proven to work, but judging by the posts on the group – they haven’t worked in a single case.
Anna Dziadkiewicz media space was lent, among others, by the aforementioned Radio Slava. Since the beginning of the war in Ukraine, she has been spreading anti-refugee rhetoric, subscribing to the Confederate narrative “Yes to aid – no to privileges”. The anti-vaccine National Protest of the Poles has also long opposed aid to Ukraine and spread Russian fake news and Russia Today’s propaganda.
The network of connections of far-right individuals and groups with antivaccine organizations and Russian propaganda channels is gigantic. We have attempted to sketch it out below, but it is impossible to do it perfectly, so the grid below should be treated only as a rough sketch of such connections.
In order to maintain readability, the interactive map is simplified and does not include all the connections and small, local groups, but it well illustrates the scale of the network associated with, among others, NPTV and National Television.
The analysis of the above data shows that NPTV has the largest number of groups, but the best intermediary, which reaches many people from the most diverse and extreme spectrums, is National Television. Both channels have their own declared supporters and form somewhat separate circles, which, however, often overlap. The Confederation orbits around them, linking the Compatriots and pro-Russian groups through anti-vaccine celebrities and MPs Braun and Korwin-Mikke.
We have also expanded the analysis to include further connections, consequently reaching, among others, the Ordo Iuris Institute, Piotr Skargi Institute and extreme nationalist organizations such as the Falanga, whose activities at some stage are connected with the presented network of connections. However, the network on a macro scale is so large that a separate, very extensive report should be devoted to it.
What direction is this all heading?
Undoubtedly, the organizations we mentioned in the report are growing in strength rapidly. Some of them have been active in Poland for years, but thanks to the pandemic they have gained enormous popularity. Until recently they were ignored by the state and politicians. However, their progressive radicalization has led to concrete actions, resulting, among others, in the arrest of the NPTV leaders. It is undoubtedly a step in the right direction and it is the last moment to counteract the mass radicalization of the extreme right wing, which may lead to a tragic wave of violence, especially against Ukrainian refugees.
The trend of exploiting conspiracy circles by Russian propaganda is also worth noting. People who believe in theories about the “Plandemic” or Jewish lodges are highly susceptible to the Kremlin’s manipulated messages and unwittingly participate in Russian disinformation operations.
Fortunately, the Poles, unaware of this during the pandemic, seem to be finally noticing the disturbing narratives in the context of the war in Ukraine and the related migration crisis. Hopefully this attitude will not weaken over time and will eventually lead to the defeat of the anti-refugee rhetoric so aggressively promoted by the Polish far right, anti-vaccine movements, and Kremlin’s propaganda.