’Tis the season to be silly

L-Orizzont is most of the time not interested in debate but in unadulterated propaganda, spin and drivel. Just like In-Nazzjon ...

James Debono was likened to Don Quixote by the l-Orizzont
James Debono was likened to Don Quixote by the l-Orizzont

On Thursday the newspaper l-Orizzont scribbled an editorial hitting out at MaltaToday journalist James Debono. Three weeks before that, Office of the Prime Minister staffer Glenn Bedingfield hit out at another MaltaToday journalist, Raphael Vassallo.

I guess taking some flak is part of the game of being a serious journalist. But in both critiques the underlying message was very simple: “Do not fuck with us, this is what is coming for you if you do.”

The irony is that James Debono had just penned a piece thrashing Simon Busuttil, depicting him as an unsuitable adversary to take up the Muscat challenge.  

The l-Orizzont editorial went into overdrive, describing James Debono as Don Quixote when it comes to ‘attacking’ the Labour party.

But in both cases, the GWU-owned newspaper and Glenn Bedingfield failed to understand that both Raphael Vassallo and James Debono are independent minded.  They are nobody’s stooges, nor do they have any affinity for the larger parties. They are not told what to write and have a mind of their own.

The most ridiculous and banal facet to l-Orizzont editorials is that they are allegedly partly written, at least a sizeable number of them, not by a Labourite stalwart but an ex-Nationalist crony, a well known former fascist aficionado known to everyone as Joe Fava. His style of writing is not only personal and obsessive to say the least, but downright medieval.  

In the eighties he had aligned himself to the Front Freedom Fighters, a group that presented itself as a militant group that wished to take on the so-called Mintoff regime. It was shunned by Eddie Fenech Adami and Josie Muscat, the man behind the movement, was pushed out of the PN.

Joe Fava’s writing style is inimitable for being as grotesque as those of the bile blogger.

But if Joe Fava did write this editorial piece, he should be really asked to go back home and stay there. In recent years he has found solace and understanding from individuals like the President of the Republic, Marie Louise Coleiro Preca, who seem to be impressed with his writing skills and drive.

The irony in this summer episode is that some weeks ago the editor of the newspaper l-Orizzont was suspended from his job after he expressed outrage that the GWU and The Times had agreed behind his back not to attack each other. He was later reinstated after some pressure from Castille.

The l-Orizzont had run a number of investigative articles about The Times’ director, Louis Farrugia, and yes, some people do not like to have their names in the press.

But back to James Debono and Raphael Vassallo, the problem is that anyone who has opted to hit out at them fails to read carefully what they are saying.

Debono and Vassallo lived and wrote in different times and political periods, and were highly critical of the PN. When they see history repeating itself, they can only do what other journalists simply refuse to do, which is to continue to highlight the concerns that they have consistently challenged.

Their consistency does not earn any brownie points but anyone with a modicum of self-respect would admit that they are serious writers and stand for something. They have also persisted in journalism, whilst others travel to a cushy marketing job or write about the merit of eating a Big Mac.  

The environmental tragedy in this country, the supremacy of the building industry, the weak political class unwilling to make reforms that could lose votes, the widespread nepotism, the favouritism and repeat performance of the PN years leads Debono and Vassallo to point out the obvious.  

It does not mean that the PN are better, but it does mean that the PL has nothing better to offer when it comes to certain matters.

That the economy is doing well, and there is little control and the free market is dynamic is so very well and so true. But that has nothing to do with what journalists have to write about. Unlike other independent newspapers, MaltaToday is a platform for some serious debate. Something that the l-Orizzont would not understand since most of the time it is not interested in debate but in unadulterated propaganda, spin and drivel. Just in the same way the in-Nazzjon is.

To dedicate a whole editorial to a colleague and journalist is perhaps telling. On my part I would only hope that it is not Josef Caruana who wrote this editorial but Joe Fava; it would at least mean that not all is lost.

***

In the Opinion pages, one can read a contribution by Carmel Vassallo. I have to say I am saddened by Vassallo’s persistence. I have known this colourful and exuberant personality for years now. Well read but unbelievably stupid when it comes to talking about Palestinians and Israelis.

He has now focused his attention on migrants and of course Muslims with all sorts of theories about why they have no place here. For an academic who has a reputation at the University and abroad it is rather surprising. Of course, everyone is entitled to think what they like. But to say and I quote: “I have not heard of any Christian using a truck to kill nearly a hundred people enjoying a holiday lately or of a Jew blowing himself up in a park crowded with families celebrating Easter. Martyrdom to a Christian or a Jew is dying for their faith while martyrdom for a good number of Muslims seems to be dying for the faith while killing as many other people as possible who do not see eye-to-eye with them on some issue or other.”

I remember one New Year’s eve party listening to a ‘lecture’ by Vassallo on why the bombs and disproportionate actions by Israelis was necessary on Palestinian homes. Vassallo, the son of the former Malta communist party founder, obviously does not like Arabs and thinks that everything is justified in order to save the life of one Israeli.  But he needs some reminding about his thesis on the Christian/Jew/Muslim divide and from an academic I would have expected much more.  

I can start perhaps with the actions of Serb Christian nationalists in Srebrenica, where 8,460 Muslim Bosniaks were killed; 6,565 (or 77.6%) were civilians (including 441 children ranging from infants to teens) and 1,895 (or 22.4%) were soldiers. And I can continue with the victims of Anders Behring Breivik who left 77 fellow young Christians dead. Could these possibly convince him that atrocities and madness are not a mode of action that can be attributed only to Muslims?

And I purposely am not making reference to the Irgun Zvai Leumi and Stern Gangs that acted like any other terrorist grouping way back in 1947.

The trouble is that when purportedly intelligent people dish out utter hogwash, then I start to understand why ill-read and uneducated people align themselves to far right beliefs that divide people, not bring them together.

That we offer space to individuals like Carmel Vassallo in a newspaper, is not because we only believe in freedom of the press, but also because I think it is important to show that the shame of incomprehensible odium and frivolity from academics is not a limited episode.

Needless to say, if Vassallo wants a debate he should engage in a group chat with other antediluvian characters who believe the world should be contained behind high walls and tangled electric fences. I do not share his antiquated beliefs.

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