The Malta Independent 26 June 2019, Wednesday

So you think I like Joseph Muscat?

Victor Calleja Sunday, 17 March 2019, 09:15 Last update: about 4 months ago

Something that has always intrigued me is how the brain works. When I write an article and some brainy people understand the exact opposite of what I mean to express, I question not just my writing prowess but also the power of my brain.

In one of my previous articles I wrote about our dear Prime Minister, I said things about the way he - and the team around him -manipulates and controls the whole narrative of this country. I even said that people should not mock him for his little foibles because he has an uncanny command of spin, PR and distraction. Muscat creates his own distractions to ensure that we are all tangled up in petty battles.

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He outsmarts everyone because, by excelling at this, the big problems - corruption, nepotism, disregard of rule of law, environmental mortal sins - are forgotten, or laid aside long enough to be forgotten.

Muscat is so adept at turning all to his way that even when blatant wrongdoing should be investigated, he dictates what the media follow. He is a master at this - he is, in other words, more than a Teflon man, who just moves on from one problem to another without anything sticking. Muscat manages to turn even the vilest of things to his advantage. Whenever there are skeletons in his cupboard, no amount of finger wagging by his critics works.

Egrant is a case in point. There are still a few - but the few who care keep getting fewer - who are convinced Egrant is either his, his chums', or someone desperately close to him.

Muscat waited for the magistrate to deliver his report. Then, in the vilest way, before anyone knew what had hit them, he and his PR team and media, which conveniently include state TV and radio, came out in full force to announce that the court case had proved that Egrant was not his or his wife's.

Except for the few who questioned this way of thinking, the majority of people in Malta and beyond followed the narrative dictated by Muscat: this narrative told the world that the court had decided that Joseph Muscat and his wife were not guilty of owning secret accounts in Panama or anywhere.

The people - those who, after all, vote governments in and out - trust Muscat in an amazing way. A whopping majority would vote him in again if an election is held today, or tomorrow or anytime in the future.

This proves to me that Muscat is an unbelievably intelligent, amazingly capable man and politician. He is also one of the most cunning, astute, communicators around - at least in our country.

But saying this about Joseph Muscat does not in any way prove I agree with his methods.

That he is also conniving, a manipulator, a horrendous double-faced scoundrel who is ready to say one thing to someone and deny it the next minute, and a defender to the end of obviously corrupt people is also beyond doubt.

He has defended people of no integrity. He has sung the praises of people accused of crimes, embraced dubious characters. He has never denied the fact that people like John Dalli were helped to evade justice. Under his watch and direction, a number of institutions have been turned into his vassals - all to keep him in power with no checks.

He has allowed attacks on a journalist to continue unabated - both before and after Daphne Caruana Galizia's assassination. He has allowed a shrine of candles and flowers in her memory, and in support of free speech, to be desecrated umpteen times.

Yet notwithstanding all this Muscat remains the only force in Malta who seems to be able to win elections or trust.

That alone I consider an ability of incredible proportions.

He managed to turn himself from a minor, and extremely annoying, Super1 journalist who was rabidly anti-EU into the champion of the EU, so much so that now he is ambitious enough to contemplate a top job with the EU he opposed so strongly.

Any other man - or woman - who even attempted doing all he has done would have been laughed off the stage of any political or public arena.

Muscat is not a mere survivor - he is incredible. The pity is that he has used his immense capability to allow corruption to go unchecked and a systematic assault on true democracy to take place.

Admitting someone is intelligent and capable - even if evil or corrupt - is far from an admission of admiration. 


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