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The Warsaw Voice » From the News Editor » February 23, 2012
From the News Editor
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Don’t Mess With the Online Generation
February 23, 2012   
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Exactly a year ago, in March 2011, we published an extensive interview with Michał Boni, then head of the prime minister’s team of advisors, today head of the newly established Ministry of Administration and Digitization. We talked about the Young People 2011 report, a comprehensive document by a research team headed by Boni. The report included a detailed analysis of young people’s attitude to life today and their value system. At the time, Boni said there was one thing young people would never accept and never forgive the government for: interfering with the world of the internet.

It seems that 10 months or so after this document was published, the government forgot it ever existed or simply never took the warnings it contained seriously. As a result, Poland’s streets became the scene of demonstrations not seen since the decline and ultimate fall of communism 23 years ago, and government websites were jammed by enraged hackers in a series of massive attacks.

What was the government thinking, starting a conflict over the signing of ACTA? It’s hard to say; European Union countries have been far from unanimous on the issue, and some big EU players, like Germany, have said they probably won’t join the controversial treaty. So, you can’t really say Poland’s decision to sign up reflected the stance of the EU as a whole. On the internal market, ACTA is not—as most experts agree—any sort of panacea for the trade in pirated music and films; properly enforced national law is sufficient. Why, then, did the prime minister get personally involved in ACTA, first insisting he wouldn’t give in to the protesters and a few weeks later doing an about-turn and announcing he was suspending the ratification process? In the meantime the governing Civic Platform’s (PO’s) ratings took an unprecedented nose-dive.

It’s a long way to the next elections. Political scientists say that’s why the government decided to push through a number of unpopular reforms early in the year: changes in the healthcare system, in the retirement pension system and in taxes. All of them caused and are still causing protests. It can, nevertheless, be argued that such reforms are unavoidable.

But why get embroiled in a row with millions of internet users at the start of the year? It’s not easy to come up with an answer. Government ministers involved in the ACTA row are changing their views from one week to the next, and the world of politics is awash with rumors as to who will become the scapegoat and get fired in order to calm the angry young men and women. For the PO, easing the situation is all the more important because a rival contender has emerged for the votes of the young generation: the Palikot Movement, which has been openly focusing on young people from the start. This party has been carefully choosing as its priorities all the most controversial problems involving young people in order to reach an electorate that may not be of age today but certainly will be by the time the next elections come around. Palikot’s team did their best to be at every ACTA protest, relentlessly highlighting the PO’s mistakes.

Meanwhile, it would have been enough to have carefully read the thick brochure entitled Young People 2011, or even to have just paid more attention to Michał Boni.
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