You should be smelling more than just ‘weed’, Claudette...

You can no doubt guess for yourselves; but I’ll leave you with a small hint all the same: “Nine letters, starts with a ‘B’; can be smelt in Parliament a lot, these days...”

Honestly, though. Why, exactly, do Maltese politicians always feel compelled to inform us all about the latest gossip that they themselves have only just heard on the street (or ‘seen on the Internet’, for that matter): without, it seems, ever pausing to consider the possibility that...

How can I even put this? It’s GOSSIP, for crying out loud! So as far as the rest of us are concerned: it could just as easily turn out – like most gossip does, at the end of the day - to be nothing but a bunch of total, utter BOLLOCKS, from start to finish!

I mean... that sort of thing is just ‘begging for trouble’, if you ask me. Like that time, around February 2019, when former Nationalist MP Edwin Vassallo found himself buried under an avalanche of instant, Internet scorn... because he had tried to warn us all, about the dangers of (I kid you not) “eating Satanic bananas, injected with blood containing HIV and AIDS”...

OK, OK, I know what you’re all probably thinking (and if you ARE thinking, what I’m thinking you’re thinking... you’re probably right, too.) “Oh, give the guy a break, will you? After all, it WAS a genuine mistake on Edwin’s part, wasn’t it? And he DID apologise for it afterwards, didn’t he? Not to mention the fact that his political career never actually recovered, from that particular incident (to the extent that, while he was still a Nationalist Party MP, at the time when he posted that infamous FB status update...  he no longer is today, is he?) So why even bring up all that ‘Satanic Banana’ bullshit again now, all these years later?’

And yes, fair enough. I agree with every single word, there (hard not to, really, when I’ve only just written it myself...) All the same, however, I still feel there are a few good, solid reasons, why Edwin Vassallo’s ‘Satanic Bananas’ comment deserves to be at least ‘revisited’, from time to time.

1) It remains, to this day, the single most ‘archetypal’ example, of the entire lot. (So archetypal, in fact, that it could almost be the title of a classic 1950s sci-fi B-movie, directed by Edward D. Wood Jr: ‘Revenge of the Satanic Bananas from Outer Space!’ Nuff said...)

2) While Edwin Vassallo has clearly ‘learnt his lesson’, from that episode (he said so himself, remember? “Personally, I will take this as a lesson about how widespread fake news has become, and how careful we must be before sharing things with others....”) others within his own former party have evidently yet to go through the same sort of ‘learning curve’, themselves (more of this later).

And lastly: 3) because that ‘avalanche of scorn’ I mentioned earlier, also included a few very pertinent observations, that remain just as relevant today.

This, for instance, is an anonymous comment posted on Edwin Vassallo’s Facebook wall, at the time: “As an elected MP you should be evaluating such posts before scaring people... according to [food safety centres], HIV cannot be transmitted through food [...] If you cannot decipher a lie on Facebook, how can people trust you?”

This, on the other hand, is from a blogpost by a certain Iggy Fenech, dated February 15, 2019: “Unfortunately, when people in Vassallo’s position share this sort of mumbo-jumbo, they don’t only make fools of themselves, they also encourage others to believe untruths...

“[...] The worst part of it all, however, is that Vassallo shared this post in good faith. As the saying goes, the road to hell is paved with good intentions, which brings us to two very important questions: How can we let someone who is so gullible and ignorant of the facts have a voice in our Parliament? How can we let people like this shape our laws and lives?”

Put those two comments together, and I think you’ll find that they ‘sum up’ the entire situation rather neatly. Both place considerable emphasis, not on Edwin Vassallo’s own identity, as an individual human being – in which capacity, he has an Inalienable, Fundamental Human Right (enshrined in the Universal Charter, and all that) to believe in whatever ‘bullshit conspiracy theory’ happens to tickle his fancy, at any given moment - but rather, on his ‘position in society, as a Member of Parliament’.

And they both also home in (in the latter case, with all the precision of a heat-seeking missile) on the very crux of the entire matter: whether politicians who place such automatic credence, in such an immediately-recognisable pile of absolute, unmitigated BOLLOCKS, should ever be considered even remotely ‘worthy of the electorate’s trust’, in the first place.

Right: with all that out of the way... let’s see how it applies to Claudette Buttigieg’s recent comments in Parliament, shall we? (But first – in the unlikely event that still you have no idea what I’m talking about – this should give you a rough idea of the context: “MPs are currently debating the second reading of an amendment to the cannabis law that would, among other things, regulate how cannabis associations should work and within which parameters the drug is to be sold.”)

Meanwhile, this is from Claudette Buttigieg’s own contribution to that Parliamentary debate:

“I met this man last week. He is visually impaired and he told me he was eating out in a restaurant and was close to the venue’s smoking area. It seems that some people were smoking cannabis in the smoking area where they should have only been smoking tobacco. And this man told me his dog was affected. He said he got home thanks to his friends because the dog was not in a position to take him home.”

Hmmm. Now: what was I saying, just a few seconds ago, about how ‘impossible’ it is, to ever place one’s trust in the sort of person who would be – to quote Iggy Fenech, once more - ‘gullible’ enough, and so ‘ignorant of the facts’, as to not only BELIEVE such unmitigated nonsense... but to actually REPEAT it, like it was some kind of instant, potted ‘Gospel Truth’? (and in Parliament, no less! During a supposedly ‘serious’ debate, about an undeniably ‘serious’ topic...)

And yet: there Claudette Borg was, candidly admitting (in the first six words of her intervention) that she was simply ‘repeating’ something that had been told to her, a week earlier, by some random ‘man’ that she had – quite literally, it seems - only ‘just met’.

Erm... sorry to have raise questions so early, but: how well-acquainted IS Claudette Buttigieg with this particular individual, anyway: for her to ‘vouch for the truth of his story’, by actually endorsing it in Parliament?  Did she make any background ‘inquiries’, into someone she herself describes as a ‘total stranger’? (Such as, for instance, to determine whether the person in question may have a history - like so many other ‘random people’ we all know, after all - of... um... ‘playing pranks on people’?  ‘Pulling other people’s legs’? You know: that sort of thing?)

I’m guessing the answer can only be ‘No’, because... well, it’s more than evident that Claudette Buttigieg – just like Edwin Vassallo before her - didn’t do any ‘fact-checking’ at all, of any kind whatsoever: no, not even to determine whether the basic factual information, contained in that anecdote, was even ‘scientifically possible’, to begin with...

In fact: had she done any research, she might even have spared The Times the (entirely unnecessary) bother of actually fact-checking those claims for themselves... only to confirmwhat practically anyone – including that guide dog, when it was supposedly ‘high as a kite’ – could very easily have concluded, on their own, in a matter of mere seconds: with-or-without a simple search on the Internet.

Namely that: “while it is possible for dogs to get high or sick from second-hand cannabis smoke inhalation, this would require prolonged exposure to smoke in a confined space, which is unlikely to happen in an outdoor or open space.” [...] “unless an animal is confined in a room with extreme amounts of smoke, a dog inhaling second-hand marijuana smoke is not likely to lead to intoxication”.

But even without that clinical, scientific (and therefore, FACTUAL) explanation... there is another tell-tale sign, that can be instantly spotted by almost literally ANYONE, this time (i.e., with-or-without any prior knowledge, of the ‘psychoactive effects of second-hand cannabis smoke, on members of the Canidae family’.).

Sorry, but... if the quantity of second-hand cannabis smoke, in the non-smoking section of that restaurant (regardless whether it was ‘indoor, or ‘outdoor’) was so outrageously intense, that even a dog – whose nose, by the way, would have been much closer to ground-level, than that of any human being in the same room – would inhale enough of it, to get ‘high as a kite’...

... then why the bleeding hell didn’t the dog’s owner get equally ‘stoned’, too? Not to mention everyone else who happened to be dining in that restaurant, at that particular time (including, naturally, all the waiters: who also have to serve people in the ‘smoking area’: you know, where all that stuff was actually being smoked...)

Anyway, I could go on, but... seriously, though. There was a time – long before Claudette Buttigieg actually gave credence to all that nonsense, during a Parliamentary debate – that another ‘smell’ should have slowly started reaching her nostrils, apart from that of ‘second-hand weed’....

You can no doubt guess for yourselves; but I’ll leave you with a small hint all the same: “Nine letters, starts with a ‘B’; can be smelt in Parliament a lot, these days...”