For years, Polish conservative commentators have complained about the Americanization of Polish and European culture, lamenting how changing views on Catholicism and traditional values have eroded the social fabric of the country.
Now, the conservative Polish government is being criticized after it reportedly paid €1 million to the U.S. pop-rap group Black Eyed Peas for them to perform during a New Year’s live special, “New Year’s Eve of Dreams,” which ran on Polish public broadcaster TVP in the mountain resort of Zakopane. The rap group took the opportunity to mock the Law and Justice (PiS) party, imply it was hateful, and sport LGBT armbands during a performance watched by over 8 million Poles.
The group said they dedicated their hit song, “Where is the love?” to fighting hate, naming Jewish people, people of African descent, and LGBTQ people as targets of hatred. The leader singer said he was there to promote “unity.”
“We are the Black Eyed Peas…or you can say Black Eyed Peace, because we are for peace, equality, harmony. We are not the Black Eyed PiS,” said singer Will.I.am in a post to social media made right after the concert.
PiS refers to the Polish acronym of Poland’s ruling conservative Law and Justice party.
“We stand for unity, love, tolerance, oneness,” he continued. “Sometimes you gotta go where people don’t have the same views to inspire them on difference, to inspire them on what tolerance looks like.”
There are now also media reports that claim TVP even agreed that the Black Eyed Peas could make the remarks ahead of time and wear the LGBT armbands as long as they also said something positive about Poland in return, with the band choosing to praise Poland’s efforts to take in Ukrainian refugees. Management at the network feared the group would cancel their appearance, but the agreement helped ensure they went through with the performance.
In fact, the state-run channel turned to the Black Eyed Peas only after ex-Spice Girl Melanie C pulled out of the gig after citing “issues that do not align with the communities I support,” a clear reference to the government’s conservative stance on a range of social issues.
When viewed from a purely political perspective, many conservatives are wondering why the state-run network paid the Black Eyed Peas a million euros for what basically amounted to a commercial for the Polish left-wing opposition, the same opposition that has tarred the PiS as “anti-LGBT” and “hateful.”
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“This is not the first time in history that others are trying to impose solutions on us which we do not want. In the final tally, sometimes after a long struggle, we emerged victorious,” the leader of the Law and Justice party declared
PiS is known for historically promoting traditional family values and standing in opposition to what it says is LGBT ideology in schools and media programming.
Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, who belongs to PiS, defended the appearance of the Black Eyed Peas, pointing to positive comments the group had made about Poland’s acceptance of Ukrainian refugees.
“We are not in favor of restricting any artistic expression of the bands that perform,” said Morawiecki. “At the same time, the (Black Eyed Peas) thanked Poland very much for its support to Ukraine and these words also went out to the world.”
However, politicians from United Poland, which is led by Justice Minister Zbigniew Ziobro and is a partner with PiS in the coalition government, expressed outrage over the decision to host the Black Eyed Peas.
“LGBT promotion on TVP2. DISGRACE! It’s not a New Year’s Eve of Dreams but a New Year’s Eve of Deviancy,” said Deputy Justice Minister Marcin Warchoł in a tweet.
In addition, Deputy Agriculture Minister Janusz Kowalski wrote: “Homopropaganda on TVP for $1 million.”
The performance also ran despite polling consistently showing that the majority of Poles are opposed to same-sex marriage, and for those that vote for PiS, opposition to same-sex marriage is likely far higher. In fact, the country’s own constitution goes so far as to define marriage as between a man and a woman.
Critical Polish conservatives contend that the media network could have paid Polish bands, folk groups, or even a range of non-musical performers, but instead desperately searched for a “big name” Western musical act.
TVP is indeed funded mainly by Polish taxpayers. Over half of its total budget comes from a 2.7 billion zloty (over €600 million) budget subsidy. The remainder comes from the license fee, but since non-payment is not a crime, yields from this fee have been falling year after year. The network also earns money through advertising.
TVP has responded by claiming that the appearance of Black Eyed Peas shows that the government does not “censor.”
“It’s uncensored television. Many people in Poland succumb to negative messages that there is no freedom of speech or tolerance here. And it’s quite the opposite, as we can see: There is tolerance, artists can present themselves as they wish during such important events as ‘New Year’s Eve,'” wrote columnist Miłosz Manasterski for TVP.