Ryan Murdock’s piece in The Shift News is brilliant as usual – read it here.
He manages to illustrate the absurdity of Prime Minister Joseph Muscat’s behaviour – hiding from the public and from questions as if hoping it will all go away – with typical wit. As Ryan points out in his piece:
“It’s now reached a point where the only way to ask Joseph Muscat a question is to pin him down in a sidewalk scrum when he tries to sneak out the side door.”
Of course, this has been Muscat’s modus operandi for the past two years – or at least since his interview with the BBC reporter John Sweeney, who took him to the cleaners. You can refresh your memory here if you like:
It was Muscat’s performance in that interview – perhaps more than anything else – that convinced millions around the world that he has so much to hide. His rictus smile, his grimace, his arrogance, his self-pity – they betrayed what a loathsome Lord Fauntleroy he really is. He knows this, that’s one of the reasons he won’t answer questions from journalists any more.
Well, that and the fact that anything that he attempts to pass off as an answer is so feeble, so transparently nonsensical and pathetic, that it only provokes more and more questions.
How has he managed, then, to keep up the charade locally?
Well, we know how he has done so structurally, because Pieter Omzigt’s damning report on Malta outlines how the Prime Minister has total control over the Police, Judiciary, Army, and Civil Service, and how he is responsible for appointing basically everyone. Have a read of it here, it’s baffling.
And as Andre Delicata outlines in his blog post here “Malta must be the only country where Ministers conspire with large firms to serve journalists with a SLAPP lawsuit”. So they’ve tried to bully and intimidate journalists into silence.
But there’s also the public response that has facilitated this.
I believe Malta is divided into three types of people, and I’m going to outline them below. A combination of these three types has, I believe, facilitated Muscat’s game-playing. I’ll try to be brief, but each one merits a case study in itself.
TYPE ONE: People who seem to think nothing’s wrong or don’t care
I don’t know that in their heart of hearts anyone is really convinced that there’s nothing wrong with the state of Malta right now. No matter how much they crow that it is “L’Aqwa Zmien”, I believe it’s only the truly brain-damaged who can really think everything is A-OK.
But amoral familism means that so many Maltese must necessarily be inured to the way things are done on the rock for self-preservation’s sake.
If you’re not familiar with amoral familism, Ryan Murdock has written about it before (of course he has, always on the ball that one) on Daphne’s blog here.
Because so many Maltese are beholden to whatever scraps their beloved party or leader throws to them off the table, they are forced to at least pretend like everything is ok. Some will resort to trolling on social media or attacking activists at the protest memorial. Others, like Saviour Balzan, tailor their editorial line to defend their paymasters with propaganda and spin. And others, like literally every Labour MP, will fight like rabid dogs to defend this fiction because it is literally their raison d’etre.
TYPE TWO: people who are either too apathetic or too afraid to really engage in the issue
I don’t have a photo for these people.
These people are fed-up and pissed off. They can see their trees disappearing, their houses crumbling around them, the number of homeless increasing on the streets, and they can feel the humiliation of telling someone foreign – while on their travels – that they are from Malta.
But they cannot really do anything about it. Some of their friends are Type One and they don’t want to rock the boat. Perhaps their boss is a staunch Muscat-fan. Their neighbours would make their lives hell if they dared criticise the state of what was once a proud nation.
Or if they do feel compelled to do/say something about it, they feel it’s pointless anyway. They think something along the lines of “The Council of Europe is in a battle with Malta to get it to adopt 21st democracy, what hope do I have of changing anything?”
TYPE THREE: the people who won’t take it any more
That number is, thankfully, growing. The crowds at the Second Anniversary protest for Daphne’s assassination were powerful. The membership of Civil Society group Repubblika is swelling. The Martin Sciclunas and Eddy Priviteras and Raphael Vassallos of this world are being drowned out increasingly by voices of reason clamouring for change.
But for the past two years there has been a steady concerted effort to bully and crowd out this faction. They’ve been painted as a big conspiracy to undermine Malta, they’ve been painted as a cabal of Nationalist conspirators. They’ve been labelled “Holier Than Thou” and “Indannati” and the mob has tried to deprive them of oxygen to operate and oppose.
The end result, however, has been to merely postpone the scrutiny not diminish it. And Muscat is aware of this too. That’s why he’s panicking. That’s why, as Murdock points out “this Prime Minister has begun to resemble a frightened man whose public bark is hiding an increasingly toothless bite”.
As I’ve said before (read it here if you like) is snapping at Claire Caruana revealed a Prime Minister cracking under pressure.