Metaphysical Despair. Messianism and Conspiracy Theories in Polish Media Space

What links contemporary conspiracy theories with messianism? We can certainly observe the return of the Romantic style as defined by Maria Janion, Janion, Czy będziesz wiedział, co przeżyłeś, Warszawa 1996, pp. 5–23.] and the domination of political discourse by figures of rhetoric universally associated with the Romantic tradition. Jarosław Kaczyński consistently plays on a cultural amalgam of messianism, quoting Juliusz Słowacki and Józef Piłsudski alternately. Paweł Kukiz echoes the views of such neo-messianic thinkers as Stanisław Szczepkowski, who speaks of national industry and refers to the idea of an independent Polish strain of “unofficial prophets, these unfit revolutionaries […] gifted with intuitive clairvoyance.” “Let us recall,” Andrzej Walicki wrote, “that the ‘national messiah’ anticipated and invoked by Mickiewicz was supposed to overcome, as his first order of business, ‘factionalism,’ and to ‘concentrate’ in himself all the powers of Poles.”]

Messianism is undoubtedly becoming a tool of political strategy. Rather than analyze contemporary performances of power, I would like to demonstrate the historical and material parallels between messianism and conspiracy theories. This may also serve to answer the question as to why neomessianic political strategies have exerted such a strong influence on Polish minds in the present period. I wish, however, to avoid the structuralist approach to the study of Romanticism proposed by Maria Janion. Messianism presents itself to me not as a closed, historical intellectual current, but as a mediatized attempt at a negotiation of national identity and reconciliation of political interests, in which it quite obviously resembles conspiracy theories. Through the approach I am suggesting, the same elements can be perceived to condition both of these forms of thought.