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frank_psaila
Frank Psaila

Feeding the online trolls

Joseph Muscat repeatedly states, and is then echoed by his trolls on online news portals, that ‘let’s argue locally, but stick together abroad’. When someone says law-abiding citizens cant be expected to support corruption, Muscat screams 'traitors'

frank_psaila
Frank Psaila
5 December 2017, 8:56am
I find the message boards of online news portals truly fascinating. Using fake profiles, they are usually politically-charged individuals who can barely string a coherent sentence together. They rarely, if ever, bother to read an article from beginning to end, but skim superficially through an article, and unleash their full fury on targets who dare convey some measure of civility or dissent to their ‘beliefs’ or political allegiance.

Once this article is uploaded, you can see for yourself. Nationalist and Labour leaning columnists are prime targets. But I can only speak for myself.

Did you say, ‘Archbishop’?

A fortnight ago, I committed the grave sin of praising Archbishop Charles J. Scicluna. In the message boards, anything pro-Scicluna is a crime, punishable by death. And the feedback I got on the boards was no exception – hell hath no fury like trolls who are scorned. I believe that Scicluna is a righteous man who stands up for what is right. But that’s an unpardonable offence – I was charged with being in league with Archbishop Charles Scicluna to ‘harm’ their beloved Prime Minister, and their government – or, more accurately, their employer. This is because most of the trolls are on government payroll, typing furiously on government-owned keyboards, populating the message boards with venom and hatred.

For in ‘progressive’ Malta, praising the Archbishop for taking a strong (as is his duty) stand against corruption and sleaze is tantamount to treachery. Labour’s trolls hate Charles Scicluna. Their hatred towards Scicluna reached stratospheric levels following his correct decision to lead the funeral service of murdered journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia.

"Rule of law is one of the EU’s fundamental values but a debate in the European Parliament on the rule of law in one of its member states is called ‘foreign interference’"
Another Malta

But it is these comments, bloated with vitriol, which I find truly fascinating. They tell a story of another Malta where freedom of speech and association, criticising the government, saying things as they are, praising a Church leader, who stands up for what is right, demanding justice for the murder of a journalist, requesting the resignation of an ineffectual police commissioner, expressing your concern about widespread corruption, urging government to ensure that the economic ‘surplus’ is enjoyed by all sectors of our society, attending demonstrations, calling for rule of law in Malta is considered a mortal sin – a grave crime.

Fundamentalism at its best

It would be helpful if a sociology undergraduate at the University of Malta, which government now wants to have total control of, were to write a dissertation about online commentary on local news portals.

My unscientific guess would be that the at-times hilarious comments are the result of a serious lack of education – which comes as no surprise in a country where, according to a recent public survey, the LIDL supermarket leaflet which litters our letterboxes is the most read material in the average Maltese household. Political fundamentalism from both sides of the political divide is a contributing factor, too. For how would you describe the bestial comments made following the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia, if not the works of brainwashed fundamentalists?

The new normal

Ignorance and de-legitimising of education has become the new normal in 2017 Malta. For how would you describe a 69-point approval for the Police Commissioner (according to the latest MaltaToday survey) if not the result of an educational system that failed us along the years? For how would you describe people’s justified frustration with traffic, which tops people’s concerns after the brutal assassination of a journalist in broad daylight, if not the erosion of values of a once normal country?

"My unscientific guess would be that the at-times hilarious comments online are the result of a serious lack of education"
‘Attakk fahxi’

Politicians from across the political spectrum are to blame for the current mess we’re in. For a mess, and a fine one too, it is. Rule of law is one of the fundamental values of the European Union but a debate by the European Parliament about the rule of law in one of its member states is an ‘attakk fahxi fuq pajjizna’ (grievous attack) and ‘indhil barrani’ (foreign interference) according to the Prime Minister. The same man who as an MEP, as was his right and duty, created a storm when the then Nationalist government wanted to set up a recycling plant in Marsascala. But then that wasn’t an ‘indhil-barrani’ crime. And it wasn’t.

Joseph Muscat repeatedly states, and is then echoed by his trolls on online news portals, that ‘let’s argue locally, but stick together abroad’. When someone tells him that law-abiding citizens cannot and should not be expected to support corruption, sleaze and lack of rule of law, Muscat screams ‘traitors’ and his trolls take it to the next level.

Frank Psaila is presenter of Iswed fuq l-Abjad on Net TV

Editorial note

The MaltaToday survey actually states that those who believe the ‘police commissioner is doing a good job gave an 8-10 (mostly agree) rating to this statement and amounted to 41.5%, while those who mostly disagree (1-3) were 38.5%. The ones who gave the middle 4-7 rating were 16.3%. Additionally, PN voters (77%) were most likely to say the police chief is not doing a good job while Labour voters (73%) were most likely to say the police chief is doing a good job.

frank_psaila
Frank Psaila, a lawyer by profession, anchors Iswed fuq l-Abjad on Net TV. He was formerly...
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