‘No one forges documents to uncover the truth’

In this particular case, the intention could only have been to completely annihilate a political adversary, for the sole purpose of taking his place at the reins of government

Former PN leader Simon Busuttil at an electoral rally in Mqabba in 2017
Former PN leader Simon Busuttil at an electoral rally in Mqabba in 2017

There are a lot of pieces to pick up after the events of the weekend; too many for just one article. So, for the time being, I will limit myself only to what I consider to be the single most important fragment of them all. It can be summed up in a ‘slogan’ – for want of a better word – that is currently doing the rounds on the social media: ‘No one has ever been blown up for not telling the truth’.

To me, that one sentence encapsulates a dangerous logical fallacy that has underscored this entire episode from the very beginning.

Let’s start with the obvious: it is simply untrue. Who knows how many people have, in fact, been murdered for having ‘lied about others’ over the course of human history? The number is probably unquantifiable. I myself have occasionally experienced (almost) uncontrollable anger at having been lied about in the past. And as you can probably work out for yourself: there are far, far more dangerous people out there, in this bad wicked world, than yours truly.

But I have little doubt that anyone at all – even the meekest and most mild-mannered among us – will have felt similar impulses at one point or other. Not everyone is capable of suppressing or controlling those impulses: some might fly into a fit of rage and commit murder on the spot; others might harbour the grudge for years or even decades, and time their revenge for maximum effect. This is why lies are, and have always been, such dangerous things: they awaken the most primal, homicidal instincts known to man. And the greater the lie, the greater the danger.

There is, however, a second problem with the sort of mindset that can come up with such an extraordinary claim. With the hindsight of Sunday’s revelations, that same slogan can very easily be turned on its head. ‘No one has ever forged a document in order to uncover the truth’.

It is obviously regrettable to have to spell this out now, but there is only one aspect of the Egrant allegation for which we now actually have evidence. The ‘declaration of trust’ – which so many ‘trusted’ without question – has been exposed as a forgery. The signatures were falsified; and unless we allow for the possibility that Keyforensic Services Ltd (UK) – along with Harbison Forensics, Ansec IA Ltd of Ireland, KPMG, and all the other international agencies and authorities involved in the inquiry – was part of a ‘global conspiracy’ to exonerate Malta’s Prime Minister, for no apparent reason... any rational, level-headed observer will have to treat that fact as hard evidence.

Some might still dispute that evidence, naturally. But then, it would be up to them to disprove it with evidence of their own. As should have been clear from the very start (but, alas, remains unclear to so many people even now)... the burden of proof always lies with the person making the claim. Had this basic principle been applied to the Egrant allegation from the moment it was first made public, the consequences for those who swallowed it hook, line and sinker would not be so calamitous today. ‘Nuff said.

Meanwhile, we can be as generous as we like with the ‘benefit of the doubt’ in this instance (ironically, considering how many people refused to give even a crumb of that benefit to the Muscats before last Sunday); we can argue that Daphne Caruana Galizia must have been hoodwinked/misled/conned by ‘third parties’, who had an interest in destabilising the country, and personally destroying Joseph Muscat. I, for one, would not discount that possibility; I have never doubted Daphne’s intelligence, but I have often doubted her clarity of judgment in matters political (and I’ll stop there; read into it what you will).

All the same: even if we conclude that Daphne Caruana Galizia was indeed the victim of a deception: it still remains a deception. From this perspective, the same slogan can be seen to instantly change meaning. No, Daphne was not murdered for telling the truth about Egrant. She can’t have been, because what she wrote about Egrant was not ‘the truth’ at all.

Naturally, none of this automatically means that the converse is equally untrue. In all probability, far more people have indeed been murdered for telling the truth, than for lying. And for reasons which should by now be obvious, that may still apply to Daphne Caruana Galizia’s murder.

Egrant has been exposed as an untruth, yes; but Daphne wrote about a lot of things other than Egrant in her career... and especially in the last three months, when she rarely blogged about Egrant at all. It would be just as absurd to argue that all Daphne’s other inflammatory claims/allegations (and there were several) were likewise based on falsehoods. Any one of them could have triggered her murder. So yes, there does indeed remains a distinct possibility that Daphne may have been murdered for telling the truth... if so, however, it will have been the truth about something else.

Even so, however: there is big difference between acknowledging that possibility, and arguing – for such is the implication of that ‘slogan’ – that the fact that someone was murdered somehow ‘proves’ they were telling the truth (and even then, only in one particular case, which may or may not have anything to do with the actual murder). To argue that way is absurd, bizarre and quite frankly dangerous. As such, the belief points towards a much deeper underlying psychological issue: one that should concern us all.

Let’s go back to that slogan. The argument that ‘no one has ever been killed for telling the truth’ is itself rooted in an apparently unshakable, unswervable conviction that Daphne Caruana Galizia’s murder must have somehow been connected with the Egrant issue... which, until Sunday, was believed with equal conviction to have perforce been connected with Joseph Muscat... even if both those statements are completely gratuitous assumptions, for which not a shred of evidence exists (and one of them has just been dramatically debunked).

And yes, even in these unlikely circumstances, we have to accept the possibility (however remote) that the first of those convictions might still be correct... but if recent events should have taught us anything at all, it is precisely the importance of distinguishing between ‘might be’ and ‘is’... between a ‘possibility’ and an ‘actuality’.... between an ‘allegation’ and a ‘proven fact’. And I greatly fear that even now, in spite of everything – a lot of people out there still don’t understand the difference.

This leaves us with the question of why so many people in this country chose to place such blind, unquestioning belief in so unsubstantiated an allegation in the first place. This, to me, is the crux of the entire matter. For unless we get to the bottom of this mystery, the same scenario will simply keep unfolding, over and over again, ad infinitum. We will continue forming instant judgmental opinions about absurd political claims, in the absence of any evidence or logic whatsoever – simply because we allow ourselves to be ruled by prejudice, and hatred for the ‘political other’.

I have given this question a lot of thought over the last 15 or so months; and I can only conclude that ‘allegiance to a political cause’ – in and of itself – is more important than ‘truth’ to a frighteningly large number of people in this country. Or to put the same observation is even more harrowing terms: some people’s entire concept of ‘the truth’ is in itself nothing but an extension of their own political bias.  They really, honestly and truly do believe that ‘the truth’ of any claim depends entirely on whether or not it bolsters their own political fantasies. And much as I hate to say it: that is a symptom of a very serious mental pathology.

I’ll leave it to experts to come up with a proper medical definition: to me, it looks a lot like paranoid delusion on a national scale; the ability to convince oneself of the reality of an illusion, by the sheer force of their own volition. ‘I want it to be true, therefore it is true... and anyone who says otherwise is by definition lying’ (or ‘on the take’, to repeat an allegation levelled at myself for doubting the Egrant allegation).

This would be serious enough, even if the political prejudice directing such delusions were itself rooted in an honest (or at least defensible) political goal. In this case, however, no one can possibly make that claim. Just as one doesn’t forge documents to uncover the truth... one doesn’t forge documents for any other conceivably honest reason, either.

In this particular case, the intention could only have been to completely annihilate a political adversary, for the sole purpose of taking his place at the reins of government. And I honestly shudder to think what the consequences would be today, had the perpetrator/s of this ghastly crime been successful.

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