How’s this for a conspiracy theory?

What better way than by deliberately engineering the acquittal of the prime suspect in Daphne Caruana Galizia’s murder, only to then turn to the international media, and say: ‘See? Malta IS a mafia state… and here’s the proof…!’

One of the problems with conspiracy theories - apart, of course, from all the other problems we already know about: i.e., that they tend to muddy the waters of more ‘forensic’ methods of inquiry; or that people have a tendency to keep believing them, long after they have been debunked, etc. - is that… well, they are so goddamn easy to fabricate.

Seriously, though: all it takes is to put forward any imaginary hypothesis of your choice… then pick and choose whichever background details seem, at a glance, to support your claim; while conveniently ignoring anything that can’t be made to fit into the chosen narrative.

And hey presto! Not only will you have come up with your very own, original conspiracy theory… but you can rest assured that anyone out there who happens to share your bias (and in Malta, that usually means around half the entire population) will automatically believe it, no matter what.

But before turning to local varieties… let’s start with a more archetypal example: the Moon Landing conspiracy theory, which has been in circulation since roughly the early 1970s.

As I’m sure you’re already aware, there are quite a few million people out there who genuinely believe that entire the Apollo 11 mission of 1969 – you know: Neil Armstrong; Buzz Aldrin; the other astronaut (whose name nobody ever remembers); ‘One giant leap for mankind’, and all that… all of it, without exception, was nothing but an elaborate hoax.

Now: I won’t go into all the pseudo-scientific arguments that have been brought forward to ‘prove’ this bizarre hypothesis… other than to say that all of them have been spectacularly debunked, time and time again, over the past 50 or so years. (Oh, and another thing: anyone with a powerful enough telescope can still see the remains of the Apollo 11 landing module, right there on the lunar surface: it was never actually removed, you know…)

But you don’t even need to get that far, because the starting premise of the entire theory is in itself so utterly laughable. Watch almost any YouTube clip on the subject, and around the first thing you are likely to hear is that (deep breath):

… Stanley Kubrick (the director of ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’: who therefore knew a thing or two about ‘faking space-footage’) needed a special type of camera to film the candle-lit scenes for his 1975 period-drama, ‘Barry Lyndon’.

There was apparently only one camera in the world, at the time, with an aperture large enough for that purpose – the Carl Zeiss Planar 50mm f/0.7, to be precise – and it happened to be the sole property of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

So far, so good. All of the above is perfectly true. But this only leads up to the over-arching question: why would NASA even contemplate lending Kubrick such a valuable, irreplaceable piece of equipment in the first place…  if not as part of a secret deal, whereby Kubrick’s part of the bargain was to film the fake moon-landing scenes on NASA’s behalf?

Hmm. Do I even need to point out the logical flaw there? There could have been a million other reasons for NASA to have taken that decision: starting with the possibility that… um… they actually trusted a world-famous, multiple award-winning movie director (Stanley Kubrick, no less) to handle what was, at the end of the day, just a flipping camera… no matter how ‘fancy’ or ‘hi-tech’.

But if that’s too mundane or pedestrian for your liking… who knows? Maybe Kubrick was so desperate to lay his hands on that particular gizmo, that he bribed a junior NASA official to steal it for him. Or offered sexual services, in exchange for the loan…

The bottom line is that we simply don’t know the precise circumstances of that particular arrangement. And that, it seems, is enough for conspiracy theorists to immediately pounce on the uncertainty… and fill in the gap with whatever fanciful reason best fits their own narrative: without supplying any proof, of course; and without even pausing to consider that, no matter how convincing their own hypothesis might sound, to their own ears… it will always be just as plausible (or implausible) as anyone else’s: including my own, above.

And now, just to illustrate how easy – and dangerous – it all is… I am going to concoct a conspiracy theory of my own: this time, about our very own ‘Man on the Moon’, Jason Azzopardi (on the understanding, naturally, that it will be every bit as fanciful and spurious as the one I have just described).

As you all know, Jason Azzopadi has been in the news quite a lot recently – mainly on account of his March 2017 freebie visit to Tel Aviv, at the expense of the Tumas Fenech Group.

But I’ll come to that part later. Another recent news item concerning Jason Azzopardi was the fact that – in a recent radio interview – the Shadow Justice Minister (also the lawyer representing, in parte civile, the Caruana Galizia family) took the liberty of pronouncing Yorgen Fenech ‘guilty’ of a crime for which he has yet to be tried in a court of law.

Asked directly whether ‘you’ (significantly, in the plural form) ‘believe that Fenech is guilty’ – and bearing in mind that the charges against Fenech extend to masterminding (not merely ‘participating in’) the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia… Azzopardi emphatically replied: ‘Yes, yes.’

Unsurprisingly, Fenech’s defence team immediately pounced on that statement to complain that their client was being prematurely judged, before the trial itself has even had a chance to begin.

To quote from the actual news report: “Such ‘continuous and repeated’ declarations in public were prejudicing those who ‘would ultimately have to judge’ the accused, they argued; stressing that the parte civile was bound to safeguard the integrity of the trial and the proper administration of justice, which included safeguarding the accused’s rights…”

As such, Fenech’s lawyers are now demanding a ‘remedy’ from the law-courts. Exactly what form this remedy will take – or, for matter, if it is even granted at all – is naturally something that no one can predict from now.

But whether it is eventually successful or not: their case is certainly well-grounded in legal terms. This might come as a surprise to many… but no matter what you, I, or Jason Azzopardi thinks about this case: there is a legal process currently under way; and – once again, regardless of anyone else’s opinion in the matter – Yorgen Fenech does have rights, as a suspect in a murder trial… including the right to ‘presumption of innocence’.

Azzopardi should know this more than most: having spent seven years studying to become a lawyer; then having practised as one (occasionally using the same arguments himself) for a lot longer than that.

Yet there he was, on live radio, carelessly throwing the Fenech defence team a much-needed (and entirely unnecessary) lifeline, by giving them cause – just like that, out of nothing at all - to complain about the violation of their client’s rights.

Indirectly, this also means that Jason Azzopardi managed to create the opportunity for a legal recourse that might, conceivably, even lead to a possible mistrial in future…

Which, naturally, leads us to our over-arching question: why the bleeding hell would an experienced lawyer like Jason Azzopardi even contemplate doing such a thing… unless, of course, he had some kind of vested interest, or motive, to deliberately engineer an acquittal for Yorgen Fenech…?

How’s that for a conspiracy theory, huh? The lawyer representing the Caruana Galizia family, no less, arguably in cahoots with Yorgen Fenech’s defence team, so that the charges against him might eventually be dropped on a purely legal technicality…

But of course, we now come to the same stumbling block as before. Leaving aside that there could be other, perfectly rational explanations for this otherwise unaccountable ‘mistake’ – like… um… maybe Jason Azzopardi isn’t quite as brilliant a lawyer as he evidently thinks he is – the entire theory still needs some form of substantiation, before it can be taken seriously.

So let’s see now: what other incidental detail can we also throw in the mix, to make the whole theory seem just a little more plausible…?

I know! The Tel Aviv story…!

And how neatly it all fits in, too.  Yes, of course Jazon Azzopardi would feel the need to ‘do his bit’ to help the Fenech family out, in their time of need. After all, they had helped him out, too… and as they say, ‘one good turn deserves another’.

But, again, if that possibility is simply too boring for such an outrageous conspiracy theory… what if Azzopardi is also being blackmailed? What if it turns out that he has a little more to hide away from public view, than merely a dirty weekend at the Tel Aviv Hilton three years ago (oh yeah, with a stop-over at Jerusalem, to shed tears at Jesus’s grave)…?

Not to mention, of course, the political advantages his own party would no doubt reap from a possible future acquittal of Yorgen Fenech. For let’s face it: it would square up perfectly with the entire narrative that the Nationalist Party – and Jazon Azzopardi in particular – have been putting out there, incessantly, for the past three years: i.e., that Malta’s institutions (including the law-courts) have been ‘captured’ by the State… and that crimes are committed with impunity, with the full blessing (and participation) of the justice system itself…?

And what better way to illustrate that claim, in the eyes of the world… than by deliberately engineering the acquittal of the prime suspect in Daphne Caruana Galizia’s murder… only to then turn to the international media, and say: ‘See? Just like we’ve been saying all along: Malta IS a mafia state… and here’s the proof…!’

But I’ll stop there, because… well, let me put it this way: I can already tell that roughly half the people reading this are now nodding their heads in agreement – after all, my conspiracy theory was designed specifically to cater for their prejudices – while the other half are probably howling in apoplectic rage.

Well, my advice to both those halves is the same as Greta Thunberg’s advice to Donald Trump last week. ‘Chill’. It’s just a conspiracy theory – and one that I came up with myself, off the top of my head, in around five minutes flat– and that, in turn, is just another way of saying: it’s bullshit…