Polish Government “Disappears” Number One Pop Song Critical of Its Leader
With everything going on in the world in recent months, one can hardly be blamed for not keeping tabs on the deteriorating condition of democracy in central Europe. Poland, as led by Jaroslaw Kaczynski (pictured right) and his nationalist Law and Justice Party (known by its Polish abbreviation of PiS), has been sliding toward authoritarianism for years. This is not my opinion, it is that of an outgoing Polish Supreme Court judge.
Last week the long running “top 30” pop chart program heard on state broadcaster Polskie Radio 3 (aka “Trojka”) declared a new song by 57-year old Kazik Staszewski (pictured left) to be number one as voted by the station’s listeners. The title is “Twój ból jest lepszy niż mój” which translates as “Your Pain Is Better Than Mine”. While it does not mention Kaczynski by name, the song is clearly about his visit to a cemetery last month to mark the 10th anniversary of the Smolensk air disaster which claimed the life of his twin brother, also a politician. This was at a time when ordinary Poles were prohibited from visiting the graves of their own loved ones due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Here is the video for this song:
A sample of the lyrics:
You can soothe the pain alone, everyone else is too poor.
One, two limousines, the whole cemetery is yours.
Better than mine.
It might be easy to assume that the Polish government is far too busy dealing with the pandemic and re-scheduling the election recently cancelled because of it to notice a new song by an aging “punk”. However, no crisis is big enough to be prioritized ahead of the thin skin of authoritarians.
Shortly after the chart show was broadcast, internet links and news about the veteran singer’s hit were disabled on the website of Radio Three, known as Trojka.
The chart is voted on by Trojka listeners and station boss Tomasz Kowalczewski insisted it had been manipulated: “We already know for sure that this song did not win. It was manually moved to number one. In other words, it was fixed for sure,” he complained.
But a journalist on the chart show, Bartosz Gil, said there was no fix and he accused Mr Kowalczewski of asking the station’s music director “to do something with Kazik”.
Accusations of censorship came amid a backdrop of Mr Kaczynski’s party being accused of turning Poland’s publicly funded media into mouthpieces for the government.
In the aftermath, host Marek Niedzwiecki resigned from the station. He had been presenting the Trojka chart program to Polish music lovers for 35 years, becoming a media legend in that country. Two other prominent personalities on the station also resigned. Now some of Poland’s best known musical artists are calling for a boycott of state radio.
I have a good friend in Warsaw who has been listening to Trojka her entire life. She told me that this type of censorship didn’t occur on the station when it was an organ of the communist government before the 1990s.
Cancelled elections? Censored media? Poland is Trump’s dream come true!