Matty Freeman had a plan.
He wanted to use the power of Facebook to let the World know about his music.
He had been performing for years. He had amassed a degree of notoriety but in music, yesterdays success was quickly forgotten. He had followed his heart and girlfriend to Poland. He decided that he should set up a Facebook group for musicians in Warsaw. He hoped that he could provide a forum for the creatively inclined to share ideas and strike up collaborations. It went well at first.
It grew from himself and a few friends, to friends of friends and finally to the wider Warsaw community. Matty was ecstatic when a member suggested meeting up for a beer and a jam session. As the date got closer more people made their excuses why they couldn’t attend the first meeting of the War Didn’t See group. The gathering went ahead and about twelve members of the group crowded in the basement of a well known ex-pat hangout. Matty felt vindicated, his baby was growing up. He was happy that the other members found the group’s name as funny as he did. They drank a few beers, shared stories and even played a few riffs.
The next day Matty uploaded the photos he had taken and the videos they had made of the jam session. The group was holding its numbers and the videos attracted a lot of comments from the group’s members. Painters and poets joined the group and finally the fame spread beyond the artistic community. Matty was inundated for requests from friends of members to join the group. He happily accepted every request to join. His little project soon boasted over two hundred members.
It wasn’t just people who were living in Warsaw who joined. There was a wide range of members, some were English speaking Poles, some were ex-pats, some were Polish ex-pats living abroad, others had lived in Warsaw at one time or another and joined for nostalgic reasons. A second meeting was planned at a much bigger venue. Even though the number of members had gone through the roof, roughly the same amount of people turned up for the second beer and jamming session as did for the first.
Matty wasn’t too displeased, though he did wonder what had happened to all the new people who found something to discuss everyday in his group. They seemed so enthusiastic online. They posted photos and links, discussed anything and everything. A popular topic of food emerged after about six months. This did worry Matty more. He had set up the group for artists not foodies. He tried to keep the group on topic but was fighting against a growing majority.
The masses wished to discuss pancakes and perogis. The original members who had been to the jam sessions informed Matty they were leaving the group and they were bored of their feed been dominated by curry based discussions. Matty proposed a cultural quiz and spent weeks preparing and advertising it. Unfortunately on the Friday of his quiz next to nobody showed up. There were more walk-in participants than members from his group. The following day everyone was asking how the quiz went but Matty had reached his limit.
He was giving up on his own group. He appointed an administrator to deal with requests for membership and forgot all about Facebook and War Didnât See. He planned to devout more time to his neglected girlfriend, he was even helping a young Polish band prepare for their first tour. He wasn’t a fan of their music but he knew he had to pay the bills. Integrity was expensive, keeping it could cost you your life. Selling out was easy and it often helped provide for everything you needed to survive. At least he was involved in music, a job he would have loved if he had been working with a more respectable outfit.
The semi-pop band were called Golden Life. They felt they were a new breed of Polish pop/rock hybrid and Matty felt they were a cheap pastiche of popular riffs and stolen bass lines. Matty had raised a few issues with their set list. A lot of their songs borrowed heavily from songs which the band claimed they had never heard before. It was possible that the band hadnât been listening to the obscure punk and alt-rock that Matty had grown up on but once is acceptable, twice a coincidence and anymore and it is a pattern.
He knew the youth of today had grown up on free downloads and Wikipedia. They didnât respect the artists right to charge for their creations. People just downloaded and mashed up the work. He hated that idea too, the idea that a DJ could take somebody elseâs work, remix it and claim that they were the creative force behind its success. Having said that, he wouldnât have been too upset if one of these techno-whizzes would have remixed some of his old tracks and gotten him some younger fans.
That was Matty. He was off living his life.
War Didnât See continued without him. The numbers swelling quickly as topics and arguments got spread among Polish internet boards and forums. There was growing tension between some nationalist Poles who didnât like the idea of ex-pats getting paid more than them, stealing their women and then complaining about how shit and racist Poland was. The idea that English posters wouldnât have got upset about foreigners in England slagging the country off is absurd. It was a perfectly natural reaction but as the flame wars heated up more and more nationalists joined the group. They posted more and more incendiary comments. There were many topics that got the blood up in Poland. As a largely Catholic country anything to do with religion, the Pope, homosexuality or abortion got angry reactions. Understanding this several of the groupâs members provoked angry reactions by leaving what might be considered reasonable comments elsewhere.
One individual posted a photo of a rainbow in front of a church, it had been damaged by fireworks at the previous New Years Eves celebration. In Poland such celebrations were called Sylwester, like the cat in the cartoon. The caption they posted read, âI thought I saw some tolerance. I did, I did see some tolerance. Until the Polaks burnt it.â
A lot of the Polish posters had never seen Tweety Pie and Sylvester in English and probably missed the reference. Others failed to see how funny the symbol for unity being burned outside a church was. Even if it was an accident only a hand full of people knew or would have been informed. The image of the rainbow in front of the church itself provoked enough of an angry reaction. A heated debate on the right of human beings to chose their partner emerged.
After demanding that only male and female partnerships be recognized under God a Polish poster named Jonny got his knickers in an even bigger twist when a Scottish ex-pat suggested that there should be arranged marriages, like in Muslim culture. The Anti-Islamic rhetoric was off the chart. A mosque that had been approved planning permission had just broken ground on the site and idiots with placards swarmed the entrance of the site. They were demanding the decision be reversed.
There was only a small foreign presence inside Poland and most of them seemed to be Chinese and Vietnamese. They remained unrepresented in the group and the two most vocal minorities became the British ex-pats and the Muslims. The administrator that Matty had left in charge had also delegated duties to a number of frequent posters and while several people now had the power to accept new members only Matty had the power to edit or delete posts and most importantly expel members. He was out on tour and afterwards he took a much need holiday in the Georgian mountains.
He was recharging his batteries and hoped to have an extended stay to allow himself to write some new material. His girlfriend, Magda, had just been made redundant so she was free to stay with him as long as he wanted. It was cold but they warmed each other. They left their laptops and phones in Warsaw. They had and old LP player and thirty six vinyl classics to keep them company. That, and enough scotch to drown Winston Churchill.
It didnât take longer for the angry exchanges inside War Didnât See to turn to the tragic plane crash that claimed ninety six lives. They were some of the most senior Polish politicians, military men and social thinkers. It was a tragic loss to Poland and the circumstances under which the crash occurred had led to wild conspiracy theories. The group were on an unofficial visit, the leader of the group was the political opponent of the Prime Minister Donald Tusk. Tusk had commemorated the Katyn disaster only a few days earlier with his Russian counterpart. The old wounds seemed to be healing. Unfortunately the opposition wanted to rile Russia, they wanted to reopen those old wounds. Emboldened by vague American promises some politicians thought that they could take on Russia and win. If that wasnât enough, sharing a boarder with one enemy, the opposition also did itâs best to antagonize Germany.
Tusk was a largely quiet individual, especially for a Prime Minister but his silence won him more allies than his opponents vicious tongue. The divisions of modern Poland had begun to appear. There were the reformers, the thinkers, those who wanted to grow the economy and become the regional power that everyone knew Poland could become. They might not have chosen Tusk as their leader but he was the best option they had.
The opposition favoured a Poland for the Polish. They were insular, they looked to the past, long in the past and talked about a forgotten empire. They claimed Jesus as the King of Poland and strangely his mother Mary as its Queen. A very Greek move indeed but nobody saw the irony in it. Also the opposition leader was a single man, not a crime but a rarity among conservative politicians who preached family values. Since his brotherâs death nobody cast aspersions about his sexuality but before his brotherâs demise it was a question that hadnât been answered.
That idiot Jonny, who had taken flak for using an anglicised name and being a Polish national called Jan, posted that he wanted to load a video offering proof that the crash was faked. He claimed the pilot had heroically landed the plane in a field, then a bomb went off and finally the survivors were gunned down. He said that he couldnât load the video as his computer kept crashing.
âMust have a Polish pilot.â A user called Harry replied.
That was that.
The flame war was over, this was full on keyboard warrior zone. The group had lost its soul as a source of creativity and became dominated by the debate about the plane crash, the cover up and the conspiracy.
âSo the Russians did this not the duck?â Craig asked.
âThe Russians and the duck Donald did this.â Kuba M answered.
âOk, so evil Russia forced 96 of the so called brightest minds in Poland onto a plane together, engineered the fog to cause problems with the flight, set off a bomb remotely and then killed the remaining survivors.â
âFinally you understand. I was thinking their was no hoping for you.â
âYeah, no hoping for me.â Craig replied. He added a winking smiley face at the end of his sentence. Such a symbol is interpreted differently by many individuals. It could be the playful wink of sexual innuendo, a wink to show ironic intent, a smile that went wrong and when we want to examine what the smiley face could mean we would need days to carry out such a detailed analysis.
A user called Monia decided to defend intelligent Poles saying that not everybody was a SmoleĹsk denier. She eloquently wrote about the historical differences and pointed out that not everything fit together neatly. Outside of Hollywood movies or detective novels it rarely did. This allowed conspiracy nuts the opportunity to claim foul play. There was no evidence to the contrary according to her.
This was met with anger from fellow Poles, or as they seemed to call each other âRussian sheepâ and âPlastic Polesâ. The Plastic Poles were those who followed the line set out by the Church and the political party of the dead duck. His twin brother led the call for a private Polish enquiry and not surprisingly that enquiry found new reasons for the crash. The official investigations from international agencies generally agreed that the weather, inadequate pilot training and the fact the airport wasnât internationally certified with an English speaking control tower had caused the crash. The fact only the pilot spoke adequate Russian to communicate with the control tower forced him to do two jobs. Miscommunication lead to the plane crashing into trees, exploding, flipping over and crashing.
There were strong rumours of political pressure being applied as it had been in the past. A pilot who had refused to follow orders, instead opting for a safe landing, was effectively fired. The crew would have been aware of that and it was something that would have weighed on most peopleâs minds. Military pilots were trained to deal with extreme pressure though and if they could concentrate in a warzone then having your boss and leader of your country on board shouldnât have been too much stress.
Having said that plenty of CEOâs get stressed when their parents or partners tut at them.
âMy country is more tolerant than you, you Leprechaun fucker.â Piotr replied to Shayâs insistence that Poles were the most insular and aggressive people heâd encountered. An English poster agreed that it was rich considering that the Irish generally hated the English. A moderate tried to get the debate back to the facts and off personal attacks but War Didnât See was quickly becoming the home of xenophobic keyboard warriors. The numbers grew and it was becoming one of the most popular sub-pages on Facebook. Facebook Polska was quick to alert the media and advertisers to the popularity of the page. They held it up as a success but they were the only ones.
A Polish ex-pat living in Stoke in England was arrested after reacting angrily and posting that he would blow up âQueen and Cameron on a planeâ. This was met initially with derision.
âBrian May and John Deacon, what did they ever do to you?â Kevin posted.
âI am Man Fawkes. I will do it. I will blow up parlyment.â The Pole posted in reply.
âI think you mean Guy Fawkes and he failed.â Kevin informed him.
The police were alerted and arrested him. Making threats against the Queen was considered high treason and was still punishable by the death penalty. A good old fashioned hanging, drawing and quartering.
The arrest was met with a high level of media interest. Nobody had been tried for high treason and possibly faced the death penalty in a long time. The Polish politicians blew up at the idea. Some declaring that it would be an act of war for the British to âmurderâ a Polish citizen. Things were escalating and Matty was nowhere to be found. Friends and family tried to locate him. The police traced his and Magdaâs mobile phones to their empty flat where they had left them. Crazy theories, equal to the SmoleĹsk nonsense began to swirl.
One user asked where the famous British sense of humour was but for most this was a stupid argument that had got out of hand, an empty threat that was inactionable even if .the Pole in Stoke had wanted to. The rhetoric that came out of Poland was insane to most of Europe but then again the Prime Minister had previously threatened to kill Howard Webb after the referee had made a correct decision. Hyperbole may have been a Polish specialty in British eyes but the Poles were still sore after the BBC documentary âStadium of Hateâ.
The Poles revelled in pointing out Panoramaâs mistakes and after Sol Campbellâs ill advised comments, the Polish community felt vindicated as there were no major incidents during their stint as host of the European Football Championships. The tensions were still high and judging by the historical grudges that the Poles kept the BBC and UK in general was set to be in the dog house for a long time to come.
Cameron might have made phone calls in private but publically no British politician responded to any provocation. The idiots at the BNP felt extremely conflicted as they supported their nationalist Polish brothers from the NOP but also wanted to defend the honour of the British flag. How hard the racists must have struggled. It was akin to the KKK and Nation of Islam sharing a stage and jointly protesting to prevent inter-racial relationships. The Polish nationalists were a weird group when you saw them at rallies. A strange blend of football hooligans, elder church goers and priests with politicians in suits and bikers in leathers just to freak everybody out. They mainly assembled to protest abortion, homosexual rights and other religious nonsense but they were also unified in their protests about SmoleĹsk.
They tried to claim that their organized vigils were spontaneous out pouring of grief. Marches they organized attracted thousand and a cross was erected. The people stood out the Presidentâs official residence and waited. It stopped being a of grief and began to represent a resistance, a defiance. The cross, a symbol of religion and peace got politicized in a dangerous way. The church encouraged the conspiracy theory so much that a study showed forty percent of regular church goers believed the myth, as they were so inclined to do against eighteen percent of rationale people. Saying that eighteen percent was still incredibly high, gullible, naive and other insults were hurled on the wall of the Facebook page but how much of that was incorrect?
Having finished writing what he thought was a pretty astonishing album, an album with a narrative that could be easily transformed into a musical of stage or screen Matty and Magda decided to head back to reality. Magda had recharged her batteries and was ready to go back to whatever work she could find. Matty was sure that someone would pick up his new work. That or he could jump feet first into the digital age and release the music himself. He knew that without advertising it would be a long shot but he felt strongly that his new album, âFreedom from the flamesâ, would speak to people.
It featured the tortured, haunting melodies on âFalling Downâ but also the uplifting energy of âBrightest Futureâ. The songs that existed in the space between the opening and closing of the album stood alone but progressed the narrative as a whole, three minutes of miracle, each and every one of them. Some were angry, others bitter but by and large they were optimistic, hope on the airwaves.
âMr. Freeman. There is a phone call for you.â The receptionist told Matty as he was checking out.
âFor me? Who could be contacting me here?â Matty asked as he strolled over and relived the receptionist of the receiver.
âHello.â Matty said curiously.
âIs this Matty Freeman? This is Greg Sanderson of the BBC. Can I ask you a couple of questions about your Facebook group?â
âSure.â Matty said excitedly.
He hoped that somebody had spotted one of his jam sessions and liked it
âYou say its purpose is to disrupt the status quo, provoke discussion and bring together like minded people to create something that history will remember.â
âThat sounds about right.â Matty interrupted.
âWhat is not clear from that vivid description is whether you are pro or against the crash.â The BBC reporter said without really asking a question.
âDid you say Clash?â Matty asked, wondering why the BBC wanted his opinion on an old rock band.
âCrash, crash not clash.â The BBC man repeated and emphasised what he had said. âThe SmoleĹsk crash.â
âErm, bit weird you asking about that but am against it. I mean it did get rid of a few of the wrong sort, ha ha.â Matty laughed before catching himself. âOh, donât print that please.â
âOk we wonât print it.â The BBC reporter agreed. âBut we are live on air.â
âShit!â Matty said before hanging up.
âWho was that dear?â Magda asked.
She had finished checking out while he was busy making his faux pas.
âThe BBC.â He said still in a state of shock.
âWhat did they want?â She was intrigued.
âFucked if I know. I might be fucked anyway.â He admitted.
âWhat?â she asked quizzically cocking her head to the side
âI made a joke about SmoleĹsk.â He admitted. âIt was just a stupid joke though. The last thing Iâd ever want to do is offend anyone.â
It truly was. Sometimes Matty mis-spoke, he mis-spoke more than Hilary Clinton but he wasnât a malicious sort. Magda knew that and they didnât mention it again. Matty prayed that only a handful of Poles in the UK may have caught it live. He wasnât prepared to be arrested upon his arrival in Poland for inciting racial hatred. He thought it was about his BBC interview but the Polish authorities had been waiting for him ever since the arrest of the Pole who had threatened to blow up the Queen and David Cameron. Matty was famous at last, infamous at least.
Matty only knew how to ask for beer in Polish or he thought he did. The cruel fuckers he had met on his first weekend in Poland had taught him to say, âI love youâ and when that sentence was ended with Carlsberg it always brought a smile to the bar staffâs face. Nobody ever corrected him and a few people copied him when they were in his company, just for a giggle. He wasnât prepared for an interrogation or detention.
Magda wasnât allowed to act as his lawyer or his interpreter. She called her friends to help out and they filled her in on the shit storm that had been brewing over the last few weeks. She found it hard to believe at first but she saw stories about it in the papers, Mattyâs arrest had already been announced on the national news. People began to watch her, take photos and film her. She wasnât prepared for it and she fled the airport hoping Matty was being looked after.
The police werenât mistreating him but he was scared, confused and in a strange situation. The idea that a Facebook group, a group set up to encourage artists and musicans could be perverted to such an extent, shocked him. An interpretor finally arrived and so did a representative from the embassy. Matty was assured that it was just political posturing and that it would all be resolved the next day.
âTomorrow?â Matty said hoping his fear wouldnât be confirmed.
âYes. Tonight you will be held in a cell and tomorrow the Ambassador will make a very public visit and this nightmare will come to an end.â The pleasantly attired Mandarin informed him. âIt is political theatre at this point.â
âAnd I am a puppet?â Matty said angrily, well as angrily as he could.
He was a lover, not a fighter. Matty raising his voice wouldnât have disturbed a sleeping child.
âYou need to shut the web page down. Facebook refuse to do it saying it is a political debate and they donât indulge in censorship.â The Mandarin said offering Matty a laptop. âThat got them a lot of good press, smart bastards.â
âWhat?â Matty asked.
He knew what he was supposed to do but he couldnâr believe what the âjudicalâ process entailed.
He logged into Facebook and was amazed at the sheer volume of private messages and alerts he had. He went to the groupâs page and shut it down, he then deactivated his account and handed the laptop back to the Mandarin. The Mandarin told him to stay strong and he left. During the night the guards changed over and the new guard seemed to be a fan of Mattyâs.
âYou like girls?â The guard asked.
Fearing the worst about prison life Matty clenched his buttocks.
âYes. Yes I do. I love women in fact.â He said nervously.
âOk. Lesbians.â The guard laughed and opened a laptop to show a very graphic girl on girl movie. âYou donât like?â The guard asked.
âAm not in the mood for bad pornography.â Matty confessed.
âTwo girls, four tits, itâs always good.â The guard said.
Matty wasnât convinced and rolled over and went back to sleep.
The next day he was awoken, given coffee and told to wait in a room. The British Ambassador came in and sat down opposite Matty. The Ambassador went through some official sounding bullshit, official sounding bullshit that made it doubtful that he was going anywhere.
âHave you got any good news for me?â Matty asked desperately.
âYou are charting well on iTunes.â The Ambassador replied dryly.
Matty couldnât even manage a half smile. His old dreams had been usurped by new ones, simpler ones to achieve. He no longer dreamt of an audience of thousands, just Magda. He no longer wanted to tour the World jumping from groupie to groupie. A week away with Magda and a little M, boy or girl, would suffice. Most importantly he no longer wanted to be famous, anonymity was the new megastardom.
Another day in pokey for Matty and the British government let the Polish offender off with a warning and Matty was allowed to leave. Magda was waiting for him away from the cameras and baying press.
âMatty, am so glad to see you.â Magda said running up to him. âCan this day get any better?â
Matty thought it could, hoped it could, as he took one knee and looked up to Magda he saw tears of joy and the brightest future he had dreamed about.