We are from another courtyard political opponents about each other
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We are from another courtyard political opponents about each other

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We are from another courtyard – political opponents about each other

Agnieszka Kampka
Warsaw University of Life Science, Faculty of Humanities

The paper tries to answer the question about politicians’ manner of speaking about their political opponents. Polish Prime Ministers’ press interviews that have been analyzed indicate some main charges against political opponents: hypocrisy, weak character, and ignorance of democratic rules. Politicians oft en use rhetorical expressions such as metaphor and irony. The paper shows the possible consequences of this kind of political speaking, for example the passivity and discouragement of citizens, defects of public debate and the weakening of democracy.

The following article tries to describe how the politician speaks about their opponents. In analyzed press interviews of Polish Prime Ministers one can point out several main charges which political opponents are usually found guilty of: hypocrisy, weakness of character, disrespect of democratic rules. Politicians often use rhetorical measures like metaphors or irony. The article shows possible conventions of such way of thinking, as for example passiveness and discouragement of the citizens, defects of public debate and the weakening of democracy.

Michał Głowiński (1999: 63) observed once, that from the way the politicians speak about their opponents, we learn a Little about the opponents and much about the speakers. This comment was undoubtedly true referring to the propaganda campaigns lead in totalitarian countries. Is this remark confirmed by contemporary statements of democratic politician? Democracy is a system of government characterized i.e. by the specific way of solving conflicts and quarrels present in a given society. Democracy does not liquidate the diversity but cares for that it wouldn’t become a threat to the community. Hence in democratic countries we don’t speak about enemies (of the country, of the people etc.) but of political opponents who interpret the reality in a different way and propose different solutions. On the other hand the necessity of soliciting for votes extorts on the politicians the necessity of constructing a distinctive image. This carries the need for constructing the image of the opponent also in a very distinctive way – politicians have to differ from each other. How much this image depends on changeable circumstances can be seen often when some time has passed, what was ironically described by Paweł Śpiewak (2005: 170nn), when he analyzed the public discourse of the first years of Polish transformation. Do, then, contemporary Polish politicians have enemies or opponents?

And about whom we learn more, when we are listening about mistakes and nonfeasances of the politician of opposing parties? One should closely read the interviews which were done with two Polish Prime Ministers: Jarosław Kaczyński (during July 2006 – November 2007) and Donald Tusk (during November 2007 – July 2009). The goal of this analysis is the answer to three questions: what do Polish Prime Ministers say about their political opponents and what rhetorical measures they are using; why their opponents are charged with this specific charges and why are they using these specific measures to strengthen the persuasive character of the medium; finally – what consequences are to be considered when one is constructing given image of the opponent. One should remember that the interview is a specific form of statement. The politician is often asked about a commentary to actual situation. Most often the situation is concerned with government actions (criticized by the opposition) or about some ideas of the opposition (which the government doesn’t like) or the situation whose author cannot be found responsible but it is interpreted differently by both the government and the opposition.

As you see, the thematic of the interview alone makes the political opponents’ story really oftentimes. In addition the style preferred by the journalists (mainly working in television and the radio) is based on confronting the interlocutors with other members f the public debate, the questions asked by the moderator are most often a request for comment on critics made by political rivals (see Poprawa 2009: 123-142). It should be clear that the press interview given by the politician is a statement of a specific genre in which the speaker creates and supports his ethos on some kind of “contra-ethos” of his opponents, which he also creates.


Who are the political opponents of Polish Prime Ministers? For Jarosław Kaczyński the opponent is, above All, PO and its leader – Donald Tusk, SLD and Samoobrona (a former ally). Undoubtedly the basic criterion of his estimation, the main point of reference for Jarosław Kaczyński is the past. This is the origin of the main charge he makes to SLD – that the very nature of this party is undemocratical “Post-communist formations have their specific characteristics deriving from the past, from the very roots” – speaks the Prime Minister, explaining that these parties

„are entangled not only with creating the system of socially and economically impotent dictatorship but also that the dictatorship was created outside of the country. This was not the state we had in our own history. (…) Hence the very specific state of politics, very specific state of people. It’s really sad that ever very young politicians, as young as Mr. Olejniczak – he is a really young man, only reached 30 – were entangled with creating the system of social and economical disaster – remain the same, although in ’89 they were just adolescents. One can see that it contaminates generation after generation.”

One should observe the topos of foreignness, unnatural (because not deriving from our tradition or history) origin. The choice of epithets in the anaphorical construction is also very characteristic: very particular type of politics, very particular type of men. That’s a typical phenomenon in the language of politics – giving neutral words an evaluative value. Generally when we speak that something is “very particular” we don’t judge if it’s right or wrong. In the quoted statement it is a euphemism – it’s a softer version of a negative description.

The impossibility of understanding of accepting the democratic rules (specifically : the diversion of powers) the Prime Minister observed also in Andrzej Lepper, when He was waiting for the decision of the Minister to influence the Chief of the National Board of Radiophone and Television:

„It is not like this, that I can take a phone and tell, I don’t know, madam Kruk: please do this and that, because she just won’t listen to me. And this is normal in democracy. Prime Minister Lepper cannot clearly just accept this fact.”

Using the image of governing the country with help of the telephone refers to the former system, when the telephone from the Secretary was almost a proverbial way of solving very different problems.

PO is not directly connected with the People’s Republic of Poland, but the sufficient charge is the “tradition of seventeen years of liberalism”. Kaczyński says about “complete villainy” of PO’s people, and their “unbearable harmfulness to Poland”: “This very group has a constant tendency of using the methods like using the services. I’m positive that if they were ruling now, they would do the same. 100% recidivism guaranteed”.

One should observe the word „recidivism” which allows the Prime Minister in somewhat oblique way compare PO to criminal groups. It’s not an accidental association – one of the main cracks on the image of PO created by PiS is a suggestion that it’s the party (similar to SLD in the earlier days) founded on the net of not clear links of political-business nature. This statement was presented in several electoral spots form 2007 (Olczyk 2009: 494nn).

The reoccurring thread in Kaczynski’s statement on subject of PO is the place and the way of raising up the party leaders which evoked some difficulties in understanding and using the democratic rules: “Donald Tusk is 50 years old and independently on his place of birth (he himself talked about a yard) he could have now accustom to some rules of culture which should be normal to everybody independently on their birthplace, their upbringing and, above all, the people who function in the public life”.

According to Jarosław Kaczyński the effect of this „yard upbringing” is a „great ability of telling lies”, which characterizes Tusk and his party. This result in “unbearable high frequency of lying”, treating politics as a playground, „theatre of the absurd”, „crossing what is normal”. The Prime Minister explains: „the opposition always criticizes, sometimes even attacks the government. And one should not feel offended, that’s the way it is. But nowadays we deal with something else. The opposition did not acknowledge the result of the voting and attacked”. This kind of behavior is at the same time the proof of its “unbearable hypocrisy” and according to Kaczyński we deal with “show of unbearable hypocrisy and cynicism”, “insolent hypocrites and finished hooligans”, “archhooligans”, “world record holders in hypocrisy”. Lies and aggression are – according to Jarosław Kaczyński – the main ways of acting for his political opponents. “One side is amazingly aggressive, continually offending and often ever vulgar” – explains the Prime Minister and tells about “a strict aggression of extremely offending nature”, “aggressive rhetoric, an awful political war unleashed by the opponents of reforming Poland”, “really exceptional level of aggression characterizing the opposition” and he sums up with the statement that “opposition so aggressive wasn’t seen in Poland for 18 years”.

Jarosław Kaczyński in his statements describes himself as a person having a broad knowledge about visible and hidden mechanisms of politics. His main characteristics are: perceptiveness, ability to associated some facts and phenomena, appropriate interpretation of behavior and reactions. Hence his statements are full of evaluations of emotional states or psychological analysis (most often of Donald Tusk).

These statements are aimed at bringing the political re action to level of personal play, what is characteristic for media discourse and one of the features of mediatization of politics but on the other hand is a consequence of contemporary transformations in the public area.

„We may perceive – writes Richard Sennet (2009: 13) – that the task of the politician is elaborating and implementing the law, but we’re not interested to this moment when we realize there’s a personality play in the politics”. According to the Prime Minister PO are people of “weak mental structure”, who cannot accept losing. On Tusk’s image created by him one can observe some demonical features, but together with some lack of cohesion. Tusk is a person of weak nature and one who can’t say “no”, what disqualifies him as a person who should be for example responsible for foreign affairs. On the other hand he is a politician who uncompromisingly reaches his destination – the power – and a person raging with hatred, being led by broken hopes and ambitions. “These acts of hatred are visible on his face. I’ve seen them for the first time in 1992, when he hoped that after the fall of Olszewski’s government he will be a vice minister in Pawlak’s office”. – states Kaczyński, making two characteristic connections. First of all, he connects Tusk with the fall of Olszewski’s government, what is generally an important element of marketing strategy of PiS used in electoral campaigns. The fall of Olszewski’s government in interpretation of PiS is one of the greatest manifestations of evil of the III RP and Tusk was a great part of this disgraceful event. On the deeper level of the statement he connects two zones of life, public and private, bringing individual emotions to the level of society. Individually experienced by every politician desire to rule, ambition, hatred can explain some common processes. The influence of feelings experienced on micro-social level on macroscopic phenomena (social structure, social movement, processes of the social change) is issues researched by the sociology of emotions (Turner, Stets 2009).

„Such a Tusk I didn’t know. I didn’t know he is able to such an aggression. In battle for power he doesn’t mind for social or national interest, or we could have a Po-PiS coalition. He presents such a way of thinking that is characteristic to the part of bourgeoisie social group who has weak cultural roots from either objective reasons or from peculiar social alienation”. – explains minister Kaczyński. This example shows very well the strategy of contracting one’s own ethos on the basis of contradictory image. This is one of many arguments. His conclusion is: there is no coalition between PO and PiS. A visible premise is: PO doesn’t care for social and national interest, the hidden premise states that PiS cares for them. The next sentence is similar. The Prime Minister discovers the sources of this particular attitude of PO. Who can differ a parvenu? Only a member of old intelligence, social class building its position from many years. Who can see this “axiological void”? Only the one who knows all the values and lives according to them. Presumptions – judgments made earlier – are one of the most often used tools in the language of politics.

The knowledge which the Prime Minister clearly has lets him foresee some actions and suggest the most valuable solutions. That is the reason he can function as a demiurge creating the political theatre, what is clearly a borrowing form Machiavelli and his way of understanding the leadership. And this is the way, according to Kaczyński, that should be chosen by PO if they want to “take over the role of restrained opposition”:

„For now I violently reject all of this, but frankly speaking it would be logical and not contradictory with curriculum vitae and attitudes of this party leaders (…) Integral liberalism from the ’90 promoted by them can be easily redone for the leftist program.”

And this results in emotional closeness of PO and SLD. As Kaczyński explains:

„I’m just giving you the facts – these acts of persuasion that we have the intention to speak with SLD are leading nowhere, because nobody in Poland would believe this. Whereas Tusk is leading his party into arms of SLD (…) is an obvious fact.

These statements could be qualified to well known in social sciences self-fulfilling prophesy. The base point is a false definition of a situation which should result in a specific behavior, changing the reality as much that the indicial definition appears true. The “prophet” then can state that the facto confirmed his earlier predictions and be silent about the basic fact – that his prophesy, the forced false definition of the situation made the given facts happen at all (Metron 2002:461).

In the referred fragment one should observe one feature characteristic for Kaczyński – an appeal to the category of obviousness. The arbitrary definitions of situation, impossible to any verification, are, according to Jerzy Bralczyk (2003: 100) constitutive characteristics of language of politics.

The next measure characteristic for political communication in general is giving good advice to the opponent which helps in positive self-presentation.

Jarosław Kaczyński reminds that in the former tenure of PiS (not very large opposition party) was proposing some bills: “we’ve put a lot of effort in this and we have organized public opinion around these bills. So maybe PO tries to do so, instead of attacking us all the time and aggressively insulting. I will not hide the fact I would have a problem to give such interviews which are given by the leader of PO. That would be hard because of my upbringing and the savoir-vivre and I would have to overcome myself” – states Kaczyński, returning to the thread of cultural differences.

It’s worth to emphasize that despite the aggression of the opposition the Prime Minister doesn’t care about the attacks. “This level of aggression is very dangerous to Poland. Not for me, because I don’t care too much.” It’s characteristic for him to be slightly contemptuous and disrespecting to the opponents: „He is lately very active in his political corner. I couldn’t care less about these evaluations.” „We’re not responding – not me and not my brother – to these attacks of insults, because I will not hide it, we treat Lech Wałęsa a bit like a child…”.

As one can see from the abovementioned examples, according to Lech Kaczyński the opponent is, above all, an aggressive hypocrite, somebody either by upbringing or birthplace very prone to lying and, at the same time, a man of weak character being led by his own ambitions and not the wellbeing of the country. As for the rhetorical measures used by the Prime Minister, most often we deal with repeating epithets: the behavior of the opponents is, first of all, “unprecedented” and “unbearable” and these descriptions can be strengthened with a little word “simply”. From time to time there are some metaphors (theatre of absurd, Niagara of lies, the net), but they are not very exquisite; their power does not lie in vividness and element of surprise but in their capacity and function of organizing the reality, creating a convincing interpretation of the world. Hence the popularity of the metaphor of “the net”. One could think that the individual poverty of rhetorical measures does not favor the persuasion of the statement.

One should not also forget that repetition is powerful. Systematically attributing specific features to a specific party makes its characteristic in popular view automatically connected with the given political group.


For Donald Tusk the opponent is always Kaczyński. Both Lech and Jarosław. It’s the opponent well known, predictable and not worth caring for. As one can see, it’s a motive often used. This type of disrespecting the opponent can be really dangerous though. If the politician doesn’t care for the statements of his opponents, reasons can be numerous: the politician can be really sure about the rightness of his actions, indomitable about his decisions and the charges made by the opposition can be a panic reaction of some petty people, envious and entangled in some dark business. Man of the state knows what he’s doing and cannot resign from high ideas and long-term, visionary plans for the greater good of the citizens only for the reason that somebody who cannot understand his ideas would criticize them. So, the motive of disrespecting the opponent can, to some point, serve as a way to create the politician’s own ethos. But only to some point. One should remember that if defeating the opponent should be glorious, this cannot be a mere rival. If we refuse him any force and virtues, the victory will also be worthless. In case of Jarosław Kaczyński the disrespecting of the opponent results from the feeling of the rightness of the cause, but when we’re talking about Tusk, the “not caring for the opposition” is the result of lack of real meaning of the opposition. And for example when a journalist, referring the statement of PiS Chairman, asks “You feel like you’re on the lower level? Yes?” Tusks agrees: “Yes.” When the journalist presses on: „What is the lower level, exactly?” the Prime Minister responses: „I don’t really know, but I think we’re from different levels. (…) Let it be so.” It doesn’t matter what the opponent is saying and what he understands. It’s not Worth even to think about it. – this is the conclusion from his statement.

The strategy of action of political opponents – according to Tusk – in relation to its repetitiveness, is easy to predict: „Every time near the campaign, the PiS leader uses more and more hysterical arguments and we should grow accustomed to it”; „we will be witnesses of more and more xenophobic PiS campaign. I have no doubt. (…). The weaker PiS are, the more aggressive attacks can be foreseen. (…) Some will be German agents, some will be from the Security Service (SB), and some will be Russian agents. Jacek Kurski will be playing a shipyard worker (…) I can imagine this entire assortment very easily.”

In the quoted statement there are some negatively marked descriptions: arguments are “hysterical”, the campaign is “xenophobic” and Jacek Kurski “will be playing a role”. The last expression “playing a role” is a charge of insincerity. The charge is additionally strengthened by the word “assortment”. I was writing about how with the word „recidivism” Jarosław Kaczyński creates associations with some criminal background. Donald Tusk uses the same strategy with the word “assortment”. Assortment means the choice of commodities or services. It’s an expression typical for the language of commerce. If one adds the description of Jacek Kurski playing a role of shipyard worker – this statement evokes an image of PiS as an insincere party, lying to the citizen with a set of arguments prepared with an “effective sell” in mind. Can one assume it is a kind of ad personam argument? Here we have a group talking about the mission or idea and slandering the others with using dishonest marketing which really creates something as an offer adjusted to the demands of the situation. Usually the metaphorical perspective highlights only one aspect of the phenomena and makes us lose the others from sight (Lakoff, Johnson 1988:32).

Donald Tusk in opposition to Jarosław Kaczyński for the most situations does not charge the opposition on aggressive actions but in the description of his rivals he uses typical war metaphors: „attacking with the German thread” “our rivals gave us the political weapon on a plate”, „PiS is the prisoner of its propaganda”, „politics of closed fists”, “when the voting session approaches, Jarosław Kaczyński seems to be a war veteran, who is still going to battle”, “PiS has caught the public television by the throat”, “for the leader of PiS the German thread is one of the clubs he likes to hit his opponents with”.

It is really worth to mention a few features of the image evoked by these statements. Being “a prisoner of own propaganda”, “politics of closed fists” are synonyms of being closed and of some dogmatism. Jarosław Kaczyński in the role of a veteran going to battle – is a humorous opinion. And finally the last statements: “catch by the throat”, “club” – referring to a specifying way of fighting. It’s a fight where one does not care about the strategy (typical for great leaders) nor the art subdue to any rules (sword fighting for example). Tusk, by using these expressions, emphasizes only one aspect – brutality and ruthless character of the actions. The main charge given to his rivals is ineffectiveness and acting for the detrainment. By beginning with the hyperbole “I have a world crisis on my shoulder together with brothers Kaczyński and this is not an easy environment to work in” and he follows with some metaphorical images: “ The political opposition together with its patron [ the president – AK] pray rather for the government to have as many problems as it could”, and finishes with really disrespecting descriptions: “A hard position is a one thing, but griping is another – and the griping was happening during the last two years. Did Kaczyńskis gripe? Yes they did and they were ineffective in the same time”, “the coalition between Napieralski and Kaczyński is a coalition between two politicians who have the satisfaction only when they ruin something” – the Prime Minister Tusk constructs the image of “hard, unfriendly partner” and working with him reminds him of “hard graft”.

The charge of ineffectiveness is very often used in the political discourse. It is created to disqualify the opponent. The fact if the people with power can achieve their goals was always a very important part of the evaluation process. Nonetheless the contemporary context of ruling the country makes the citizens feel less and less like subjects. They consider themselves rather as clients. And similar to a shop, post office or at the doctor’s, where they want to get a nice and competent service they want effective actions from the politicians.

The politicians become the next service providers. They should provide safety and affluence. The definition of effectiveness is however not made very clear, because the charge of ineffectiveness can be thrown both at the politician who doesn’t obey the law and the one who didn’t keep his pre-election promises.

As Grzegorz Rydlewski observes (2004:33) accompanying social expectations can be more import ant than the content and goals of the action. One should also remember that this charge is easier thrown to one’s predecessors. Wanting to prove their efficiency, the politicians praise their own achievements, emphasizing that they finished something, led to something, and signed something. Their predecessors – although they’ve promised – couldn’t achieve anything. Politician does not add that often this very treaty he signs (what is a big success) was negotiated by his predecessor…

In the statements of Tusk – similar to Jarosław Kaczynski’s – appears the charge of not understanding or not using by the political opponents the rules of democracy. The charge is, above all, given to the president who Tusk calls „the patron of opposition” and accuses of supporting the opposition at the country expense. He assumes that “after Lech Kaczyński the position of the president will not be the highest dream of all ambitious politicians”, because „Lech Kaczyński shows that the presidency can be something that gives people bad memories”. In one of the interviews the Prime Minister, explaining the basis of the argument in democracy, uses a dichotomist image of an optimistic Prime Minister, believing in his people and a pessimistic president, aggressively predisposed to any difference:

“he tells us that some issue will not succeed and I try to convince everybody that there’s a chance for it. (…) I try to build the favor of our partners, neighbors in goals and Project. The president is untrusting and always looking for threats. I could like Poland in Europe to be a really strong because it’s respected, liked and accepted. The president wants to separate Poland from the outside world because he thinks that this world brings only threats. (…) The most often reason of our arguments is that the president sees only the evil in this world and I see hope.”

The persuasion in this fragment is based on anaphoras, rhythm, contradiction and some metaphors (“separate”, “construct”). We deal here again with the shirting the difference from the micro-social to the macro one – the difference in the personality results in the difference in political Visio. The personalization of the politic is one of the dimensions of mediatization. The translating of political actions with emotions of the leaders and their private experiences – are a strategy used often by the journalists, but as it can be observed in the abovementioned examples, politician like using it too.

The most beloved rhetorical measure of ten used by Tusk is irony, sentences full of disrespect, ma king the opponent look funny. The Prime Minister speaks about “unusual activity of the president on the foreign zone”, ensures that “he would not comment these bits of economical wisdom in a very harsh way for the Chairman Kaczyński” which he states and that he is convinced that when “Jarosław Kaczyński (…) understands the whole idea of denationalization”, he will “not be protesting against the idea to give back the citizens what was stolen from them.”

When he was asked to refer to the opinions of the opposition on the steps taken by the government, the Prime Minister explains “my number one mission isn’t the fulfilling the needs of the president”; “The Chairman Kaczyński always has some grudge so, if I had to have created a strategy of Polish actions in European Union according to wishes of Jarosław Kaczyński, maybe he would be satisfied, but Poland would suffer some great losses.”

The political opponent is then someone who doesn’t understand some basic issues, is full of grudges and, at the same time, he is prone to making statements and opinions that ridicule him. The strategy of depreciation was used in the following Tusk’s statements:

„ [a journalist:] You are in Brussels and here in Warsaw Jarosław Kaczyński thunders AT you and AT the government and tell everybody to come to their senses and begin to fight the crisis and what you say about this? [Tusk:] No, I didn’t hear, so the thunders were not very loud” “[journalist:] Just be careful not to change into the full of grudge another Jarosław Kaczyński but smiling. [Tusk] Even if I tried very hard I wouldn’t know how.”

Similar sneering one can see in the following description of the opponent’s actions:

„I will not acknowledge such a high-pitched noise from the chairman of the television and the politicians of PiS, who suddenly changed into little guardian angels protecting the neutrality of the public media. The expression “such a high-pitch noise” is really an offensive one. If one considers additionally the small posture of the then chairman of the television – Andrzej Urbański, we should see them as a not-so-subtle joke or argumentum ad personam. Generally for Donald Tusk a political opponent is someone who makes any political action hard, who interrupts in realization of the plans for the wellness of citizens. At the same time it is someone who cares more for the failure of Tusk’s government that the wellbeing of Poland. The Prime Minister is sure that the behavior of the opposition is being properly read by the people, because the opponents use the same measures time after time and evoke a smile of pitifulness.

The Prime Minister uses many metaphors but – contradictory for the ones used by Kaczyński – they are Rather the figures of words (Ziomek 2000:131n.).


From abovementioned listing one can clearly see that there are some similarities in the image of the opponent and differences in the used strategies to achieve this goal. Let’s ponder for a while over the elements of rhetoric of both of the speakers.

Tusk often uses irony. As it is known, it is a tool used in a situation when the speaker is sure of positive receives of his listeners. The irony connects with showing the superiority over the listeners (in the analyzed case it doesn’t happen) or over the opponent (a dominating thread) or, finally, over the very subject. The example of the latter can be an already quoted conversation about cultural levels. Among the types of irony we can single out (i.a) a sneer (epicertomesis), scathing joke (scomma), a sophisticated joke (asterism), laughing out (diasyrmus) and the disdain connected with disrespect (Lausberg 2002: 336-338). Rhetorical irony always referrers to the audience and her goal is demasking the rival so it has to be read by the listeners as an irony. Usually its signals have non-verbal character – all of it is in the timbre of one’s voice of the facial expression. Many from analyzed examples comes from radio and television interviews where the Prime Minister could also use the non-verbal media. The additional requirement is also some favor of the audience, and the existence of community of beliefs, experiences, imaginery between it and the speaker. In chosen interviews there is no situation of tension or lack of favor between the journalist and the Prime Minister. Kaczyński however doesn’t use the irony because; above all he can’t be so sure of the rightness of his opinions. As a matter of fact he himself told in one of the interviews that the issues he talks about can be incomprehensible for a common citizen. Jarosław Kaczyński is often accused of being distrustful of the journalists.

The next important rhetorical measure used by both of the speakers (although in different ways) is a metaphor. The metaphors are perfect tools of political argumentation and persuasion of the same kind. As observes Jonathan Charteris-Black (2005: 17), the political leaders are more efficient when the metaphors used by them correspond with other language features legitimizing the Power. The politicians use the metaphors which describe their politics in a good way, they are also looking for the imaginary which can disqualify their opponents and they are more creative when one considers the metaphors used for delegitimization.

The metaphors are undoubtedly helping in creating the community, explaining the Word, can organize the whole politics lead by a specific party or a leader. One can ponder that is this the way the metaphors used by Jarosław Kaczyński function – like the net or Rywinland. They are some kind of a core and around it he builds a narration. The metaphors in the statements of Tusk seem to be of smaller weight. They are used mainly for strengthening their communicative style. Many of them are of illustrative character and are strengthening more the imaginary than the argumentation.

Hans-Georg Gadamer (2002: 125) claimed that in a speech act there is present not only that what was said and what influences the reading of the announcement but also these things which are hidden in the speech (the obvious example is a lie). Jadwiga Puzynina, referring these opinions (1991: 129) recognizes the „hidden” behavior in such language games as a metaphor Or irony. In case of a lie the speaker doesn’t want the receiver to discover the real meaning of the statement and with the language games the speaker demands from listener some work put in the understanding. Both the metaphors and the irony create veiled announcements and we deal then with “indirect” speech, overtaking, these forms of communication can evoke the false effect. It is particularly important in politics, because the people who are lied to and manipulated each day cannot recognize the true statements when they are formulated in such a style that could convince them. This phenomenon was emphasized many times in reference to the newspeak – in the situation when the listeners recognized the text as propaganda and didn’t believe it independent on its content. The very same mechanism is used in democracy both in the advertisements and in electoral promises.

Moreover the belief that the politicians lie is not connected only with the electoral campaign but more and more with the whole political media. The research on persuasion in the language of politics and the deliberations on democracy intentionally touch the subject of the crisis, disappointment, impatience, feeling being lied to (Norval 2007: 69). With this thread connects one very heavy charge which was thrown at the rivals by the analyzed Prime Ministers. The charge is hypocrisy.

The charge of hypocrisy is the one which touches the vary basis of Any political system. As proves Judith N. Shklar (1997: 83nn), the contemporary democracy is based on the moral Promise being made by itself. The legitimization of power is based on the agreement of the men of power and the agreement is sometimes very hard to achieve.

“ The political hypocrisy is a part of the rhetoric of legitimization and polities of persuasion what causes that in liberal democracies there is a constant fear of lie and hiding. Democracy causes disappointment and the feeling of being constantly lied to.” (Shklar 1997: 88).

That is why the politicians when they Carnot communicate with each other and find some common point of interest – the one way of demasking the opponents is „revealing their hypocrisy and question their moral and political prestige” (Shklar 1997: 92), and the charges of hypocrisy most often mean only this that the politicians don’t meet the standards which they themselves have determined.


The medial interview for sure is not a political institution as the Parliament of other constitutional organs. Still they are an important part of the political process. The problem of managing the public statements is not only the issue of medial training o the given politician. The case is not concerning only the subject of his speech and how will he speak but also every implications and speculations his words can evoke. Political argumentation in public space is done to achieve the legitimization. (Chilton 2004: 90). As claimed Ludwig von Mises (2007: 729), the wellbeing if the humanity depends both on the wise programs the elites can elaborate and how convincing can they be while presenting them to the society. The legitimization is having an acceptance to act. The interview given by the Prime Minister is done exactly on this reason.

We can try to recreate the ethos of the speaker emerging from the image of the opponent. If the rival is someone not so honest – his contradiction will be a politician of crystalline clear conscience. If we have people whose ambitions were taken away and being emotionally disturbed – on the other side we have a Man of reason, predicable and full of willingness to help the others. Aggression is contradicted with calm. Weakness with force. Inefficiency with efficiency. Playfulness with dignity and professionalism. These are all the associations which the politicians want to evoke. The media present under the ground of the statement. If we won’t concentrate on singular statements but we try to see them in a broader context and treat them as the elements of the whole media sent to the citizens, the effect can be completely different. It doesn’t have to be the positive image of the politician.

What image emerges generally from the analyzed statements? Above all is the image of somebody who in any way cannot be a partner in any discussion; people for whom the politics is a game, a play, which rules they don’t understand and don’t follow. How this image influences the citizens?

In the democracy the rule of thumb is the alteration of power and the role of opposition is creating an alternative – both of people and of political program. The pluralism which is the basis of every democracy means the full acceptance of the fact that one can look at the same reality in a different way that the social problems can be defined in a different way and have different ideas how to solve them.

In analyzed examples this acceptance is unnoticeable. The opposition does not criticize the government but lies, and doesn’t create any program alternative because there is no real program – all there is just either desire for power or protecting one’s own interests. It isn’t also a personal alternative because the people either cannot be politicians or they are archhypocrits.

During the last years one definition of democracy became amazingly popular: the deliberative democracy which basis is the legitimizing role of the debate. The debate where the equal and free citizens can speak about their opinions, respecting other ideas and looking for the best solution in name of common good. From the analyzed interviews there comes one result: such a debate is not possible – none of the politicians could enter the other shoes, open for his argumentation, and accept his point of view. Chantal Mouffe (2005: 119), who does not agree with this deliberative Visio, that in politics a 100% consensus is Real, reminds that overcoming the opposition of „us-them” is impossible but the Real import ant feature of the democracy is the need to elaborate a new strategy of understanding this opposition. The necessarity of having an opponent is something obvious – the most important thing is that it would be an opponent and not an enemy. We may not accept the ideas he is speaking about and fight them but we can’t refuse his the right to defend his own opinions.

A political opponent who is a Man of different cultural level, someone funny and flippant, so He can’t be treated as a partner – it is a very expressive image. This kind of language actions performed by the politicians are used to stimulate the interest of the citizens, their emotional mobilization, the clear definition of the opponent can strengthen the common indentity.

The effect of such presentation of the political enemies can be also a discouragement of the voters, their growing indifference what in consequence threats with the erosion of the political system. Demagogic tricks lower the standards of political discussion, and what follows – the chances of elaborating a consensus are also lower. If the only glue of political identity is the person of the enemy, the community would be very fragile.

The democracy is clashing of different opinions. The tradition of democratic acting allowed working out some commonly accepted ways of sharing opinions, competing of different ideas in the public zone. When we focus on eliminating the differences, we resign from democratic methods of confrontation and we will persecute do the agreement at any expense – we are in danger of becoming passive and disappointed with politics.

The abovementioned ways of speaking about the political opponents can paradoxically induce to eliminating the differences. If the problem lies with the mental construction of the politicians, their ambitions and dashed hopes, the difference between the parties will be visible only in the differences between the leaders’ characters. If nobody is telling about the equal but different interpretations of reality and all depends on the optimism of pessimism of one person, it means that the politics is not organized around important problems and what follows – it does nothing to solve the important contradictions in the social life. In this situation – warns Chantal Mouffe (2005: 122) – the confrontation of the positions can be substituted with the confrontation of other forms of collective identification what can follow in the “explosion of the antagonisms” concerning the very problems which can be solved with democratic methods.

The persuasion demands a trial of leaving your own point of view, the ability of perceiving the different sides of the given issue and the readiness of looking at your own opinions from the outside. The politics based on persuasion is not the politics of universal brotherhood and love but a politics of mutual respect and readiness to listening to others’ ideas. The politics where every victory is a temporary one because they depend on the ideas of the others. Bryan Garsten (2009: 211),, when he reminds us of it, proves that the ability of persuasion is a characteristic of a democratic politician. The rhetorical skillfulness is not an extra, an additional talent but the very core of its success. Maybe then the debate is not an ornament of the democracy but its very essence?



Interview posted on the website of the Chancellery of the Prime Minister:
http://www.kprm.gov.pl/s.php?id=443, 30.08.09


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FAR 2011 No. 3 (26) July-September

Rhetoric and political polemics


Uniwersytet Warszawski
Katedra Italianistyki
ul. Oboźna 8
00-332 Warszawa