Déjà vu of a sycophantic nation

Journalists are doing their job in asking the tough questions, and if politicians find the kitchen far too hot, they should just pack their bags and leave

File Photo
File Photo

Today’s MaltaToday survey showing Robert Abela’s electoral standing in the polls points in one direction: the public’s frustration at the restrictions linked to the COVID-19 pandemic. When I say restrictions, it’s not necessarily the public safety measures considered necessary to contain the COVID spread. I mean the failure to come up with a long-term, comprehensive and clearly structured mechanism to restrict the spread of the virus.

That feeling is not limited to a newsroom or to myself, who is at present going through a second quarantine, but to the general public.

The numbers and the deaths have been rising and no one really gives a hoot if we are the most advanced country in the vaccination programme; these are numbers that seem to be substantial enough for scientists and public health bosses to come up with the severe restrictions required.

But you do not have to be a rocket scientist to understand that the final decisions are indeed political. So when MaltaToday journalist Nicole Meilak asked Charmaine Gauci whether she would consider resigning in view of the fact that her “scientific” work appears to have been overshadowed by decision-making at the political level, all hell broke loose.

Hardly had she left the briefing room that Facebook was brimming with scathing and unbearably personal comments about Nicole Meilak. It was the ugliness of social media at its best, reignited to stand up for Charmaine Gauci, as if Charmaine Gauci was a torch-bearer of the Labour government, when she is not. She is a civil servant, whose duty is to the citizenry.

Yet that social media backlash reminded me of the good old days before 2013.

It took me back to when we would ask a direct question to a Nationalist functionary, and the reaction to that was very simple. In record time, the PN government would arm their Exocet missiles; all willing government mouthpieces would be deployed to break down the critic or journalist who dare raise the heretical suggestion against some beloved government functionary. Indeed, at times Daphne Caruana Galizia would only be too willing to join in the fray, then followed by a band of sycophants and government aides. No prizes for guessing where those PN allies of yesteryear have ended up so many years later…

Now, the dozens of Labourite stooges who vented their hatred against MaltaToday’s journalist are simply equivalent to all the others who, way back before 2013, were on the other side of the border, hatches battened down to withstand any criticism of their favourite party-in-government, spears in hand to repel any pointed observation.

Nicole Meilak was doing her job, and whether we like it or not, if politicians find the kitchen far too hot, they should just pack their bags and leave. I can understand that sycophants always will exist and that is true for the many ignorant party followers; after all, many Labourites who speak garbage on social media happen to be easily identifiable by an evident lack of education, their xenophobia, and outright chauvinism on anything that does not fit in the narrow worldview that lauds the Labour leader as some deity.

They’re so ready to be taken into that ‘team Malta’ bullshit about following the national diktat, that I wonder whether they’d find themselves more at home with the loony far-right.

That’s why I found the comments of overrated film director and all-round Labour bootlicker Mario Philip Azzopardi, unsurprising. I can’t understand how this guy once passed himself off as some backroom intellectual whose Canadian elopement in the 1970s brought him artistic recognition. For someone who must actually have some basic culture and education – basic being the technical word here – I would have hoped that Azzopardi could appreciate the advantages of a diverse and pluralistic media landscape, one that expects journalists to be a bother and ask some tough questions.

Director Mario Philip Azzopardi
Director Mario Philip Azzopardi

Despite him being in his 60s or 70s, an age demographic that would appreciate interest in the rising COVID infection rate and ineffective restrictions, Azzopardi is more interested in log-rolling.

I have no qualms stating that my political heart lies on the left. But the pandemic transcends political allegiance. We have reacted to the second wave of the pandemic in a feeble manner and shown short-sightedness.

When it comes to health, to life and death, people like Mario Philip Azzopardi and his opinions are worth less than their own spittle if they are so easily irked about someone asking a justifiable question in a news conference.

I can fully understand why so many people, red and blue, have quietly waved their middle finger at him.

Paying off COVID’s losers

The concern for the hospitality and F&B industry is understandable, but it has now gone far too far.

The recent decision to award them a €1,000 cheque for the financial sufferings they will experience apart from a full-wage supplement because of Thursday’s recently announced temporary closures, seemingly ignores the plight of so many other small and medium sized companies.

It is as if the restaurants are the only active companies in our society that need support. As if restaurants were the backbone or our society. There are thousands of companies that do not even receive a full-wage supplement. Unlike the restaurants, most of these companies employ full-time Maltese taxpayers, not third-country nationals with no fixed employment or fixed roots.

The inequality in addressing financial sufferings is alarming. Needless to say the media organisations are one of these categories.