The Malta Independent 16 October 2019, Wednesday

Who exactly?

Alfred Sant MEP Monday, 7 October 2019, 07:54 Last update: about 10 days ago

The story of how the Graffitti group was prevented from carrying out its less than sensational protest at the University against representatives of the government and construction industry tycoons has done its rounds. Still we do not know who exactly at the University authorized that the protest be prohibited and why – this before the move got rescinded.

The whole incident reminded me of another story, going back to my student days. My friends and I had set up a society to organize free debates among students. Some professors did not like this at all. When the first annual general meeting of the society was being held, one professor despatched a contingent of seminarists to mount a block vote against us. We were duly booted out.

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On Graduation Day, we ran a protest against this. At the time, among other things, the Day  was celebrated with a panegyric in Latin which nobody understood. It was to be delivered by the professor who had organised the block vote. As soon as he began his speech, we rose to give him a standing ovation which we kept going for I do not know how many minutes... in any event, till ushers were summoned to kick us out.

More than half a century later, is it possible after all, that the state of affairs at the University has not changed so much?  

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Grilling

Supposedly – according to how things got framed – nominees as European Commissioners for the Ursula von der Leyen mandate were “grilled” during the meetings held with MEPs in which they were assessed. There has been a certain exagerration in the way by which this process was projected.

Actually, meetings are held according to a courteous liturgy, even when questions are put forward with the full intention to embarrass and sometimes too with malice. Even so, it is not easy for a nominee Commissioner to proceed for almost the duration of two football matches, waiting for questions to be fielded, judging how best to reply intelligently without irritating too many people, and striving to remain credible. 

Last week, Helena Dalli demonstrated how this challenge could be met. Other candidates, like those nominated by France and Poland, found it a tougher nut to crack.

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Where do we get our info from?

What we know about what happens around us: where do we get it from? Is it always coming from the same sources, feeding us what we believe we know about events that are happening now or occurred yesterday?

The claim is that because of the new social media, we no longer depend only on the same news agencies or radio and TV stations. News reaches us from all sides for in a capillary mode, all citizens have acquired thanks to the internet, an ability to inform all people they know about all they know.

One problem is that these capillary means of communication are too often greatly garbled. They shape out more like a comment or like a debased description of ongoing realities, than as facts that are being objectively reported. To make matters more unbalanced, one soon finds that the comments and descriptions that are being “published” follow from reports coming from traditional sources of information.

One doubts whether as a matter of fact, we can really boast that we have a much better access to information than our predecessors.

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