The Malta Independent 18 August 2019, Sunday

Throw traitors to the dogs

Victor Calleja Sunday, 12 May 2019, 09:23 Last update: about 4 months ago

A fancy Frenchman once pompously declared: ‘L’état, c’est moi’.  Here in Malta we have our own still-uncrowned king, Joseph Muscat, who also thinks – and acts – as though he is the state.

Muscat feels he is so special that he gives his position of Labour Party leader a tinge of majesty.

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He comes out of Castille, his prime ministerial office, to join the ecstatic crowds for a political party celebration. Crass and over the top. But this is all part of his PR build-up, his slow but sure way of turning himself into a sun god.

In days of old the Malta Labour Party used to organise a sort of carnival, with floats bedecked with flowers – a May Day fête. One day the party will organise a new May Day carnival with Joseph Muscat as king, leading the followers, flashing his fake smile.

Muscat now grins and laughs off journalists who ask him whether he has a timeline for his retirement. His ways are akin to people who flick away buzzing annoyances. Journalists – especially the few who press him for information he doesn’t wish to disclose – are just bugs to be shooed away.

Yet there was a time when Muscat knew he needed to flirt with the media. He constantly invited them to his circus – to add on more fawning questores. His plan was to suck them into his orbit and turn them into complicit, or less probing, satellites.

Muscat’s meteoric rise has primarily been the result of his manipulation of the media and his ability to always appear in command and unruffled. He made sure that he had a good rapport with the media. When he – and his coterie – studied the Maltese political and social landscape he made it a point that his message and his smile would seem messianic. 

For the bucket-drenching stunt in aid of ALS he chose the editor of the Sunday Times of Malta to be the victim of a sudden watering. Few questioned this and saw it as wrong.

Getting on such friendly terms with the editor of what used to be seen as the enemy was deemed as being good sports. Ours is, the reasoning went, a prime minister who understands reality and who is always ready to do the news-worthy thing. After all, it was all in fun and in aid of charity – so what was wrong with a few added wet laughs?

He has turned TVM – and all state broadcasting – into his own flatterer. Hardly anyone questions this and, even when some brave soul does, there is no change in the way news and current affairs programmes play to Muscat’s baton. Every news item that might cast a bad light on Muscat and his government is either binned or consigned to the end of the news.

Apart from state broadcasting, Muscat had, and still has, the Labour Party news machine which turns all stories into Labour Party hosannas.

Countering such propaganda and fakery in news there is a small online presence and the insignificant, little followed, PN media. The independent press tries to speak some sense but it is a voice in the wilderness and some journalists try hard to avoid asking uncomfortable questions. If they do, most report silly answers without digging deeper, accepting ministerial statements without ripping into the missing facts and cooked figures.

Labour in Malta has always had this fixation with manipulating broadcasting. Mintoff was the same but, while the old Dom fought a hard battle with the free press, Muscat has never burnt his bridges with them. He is always very careful to appear prepared with a ready smile – and with a repartee that few politicians come even close to. He sends others to do the hatchet jobs of attacking anyone who stands in his way.

It is indeed very rare for Joseph Muscat to drop his mask and go on the attack. But recently, when commenting on the Greco Report, he blamed it on the PN MEPs and others who criticised our country abroad and pass on wrong information to people abroad.

The Greco conclusions, according to Muscat, were the result of what is said by nasty people who try hard to give Malta a bad name.

Muscat rarely loses his cool and the fact that he did lose it – even if only once – proves that deep down lies a troubled man, especially in the way he is seen abroad.

Muscat’s troubles will not deter the electorate. They will give him another massive vote of confidence in the imminent MEP elections.

To Muscat, the state is just a means to make him, his party and especially his friends, indispensable. The ones who speak out internationally are traitors.

When he does take the mantle of king, these wicked people who speak horribly of Malta will be guilty of crimes committed against him: two other French words – lèse-majesté – spring to mind.

Only God knows if and when Muscat will whip, imprison or even execute these horrid traitors. But, true to form, even after carrying out these deeds, he will no doubt retain his grin and pronounce his regret at seeing such fine men and women suffer such punishment.

 

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