Joseph presses the subtle messaging button for a powder-keg broadcast

The Skinny | No 123 – Knock, Knock: The Sound of Da Police

Joseph Muscat posted a video on his Facebook page explaining the raid on his house
Joseph Muscat posted a video on his Facebook page explaining the raid on his house

What are we skinning? The police stopping by the private home of disgraced former prime minister Joseph Muscat as part of its ongoing investigation into the controversial Vitals healthcare deal.

Why are we skinning it? Because Muscat welcomed the police with a pre-prepared file on all the police may need on the matter, despite the fact that they even took it upon themselves to confiscate his daughters’ mobile phones.

That was polite of him. Yes, good to know that former journalist Muscat retains an awareness of the benefits of neatly edited and digestible information.

But doesn’t this kind of make it look like the whole thing was staged? The matter’s been commented upon by the, erm, pervasive commentariat online, yes.

And can we conclude anything about that? Well, the very nature of an ongoing investigation is its frustrating, slippery inconclusiveness, so no, not yet.

People are clearly scratching their heads over this, though. They are, with some even criticising the very framing of the Times of Malta interview that happened on the day - which publication was tipped off about the police’s presence at the Muscat household on the day.

What are they saying? The term ‘Oprah-style interview’ was bandied about in some quarters.

Oh? ‘Oh-prah’, yes.

I know you mean Oprah Winfrey, I just can’t understand how it applies here. Far from a confrontational bit of ‘hard talk’, the interview gave Muscat an opportunity to re-flex his rhetorical muscles and appeal to a very much extant and distressingly swollen support base.

Should Muscat be punished for being an effective orator? It’s not for me to dish out punishment. But once the genie’s out of the bottle, it’s a bit difficult to put him back in.

Why are you assuming Muscat has literal superpowers?! Because the interview itself actually allowed him to tease at a potential return to politics… and also ruffled a few feathers in various directions.

How so? The very thought of Muscat returning to politics galvanises some and terrifies others, while even a routine police visit to Muscat’s house is considered anathema to certain high-profile hardcore party militants.

Like who? Like former PL secretary general and now head of ONE and the Valletta Cultural Agency Jason Micallef, who suggested that Labour supporters take to the streets and make a show of their enduring allegiance to Joseph Muscat.

A rational and intellectually sound position that in no way signals an outdated siege mentality. Precisely.

Do say: “That Joseph Muscat continues to exert a shadowy influence over local politics in general and the Labour Party in particular will remain a queasy sticking point for quite some time due to myriad factors. Both media houses and the government that succeeded him would do well to treat that powder keg with some caution – especially when subtle ‘messages’ are allowed to sneak through their broadcasts.”

Don’t say: “Jason Micallef’s mass protest in support of Joseph Muscat after he was ‘subjected’ to a routine police investigation is a great idea. Could we think of a better way to publically separate rational and properly discerning Labour supporters from their opposite counterparts?”