Get that float out there as is and let’s start the year with a bang!

The Skinny | No 19. The St Joseph Home Carnival Float

What are we skinning? The controversial carnival float that would have depicted Archbishop Charles Scicluna next to two horned cherubs in front of a plaque that says ‘Dar San Guzep’ (sic), a reference to the same home for orphans rocked by sex abuse scandals decades ago.

Okay, I’m not even gonna bother asking my standard question about why we’re skinning this. Oh yes. An LGBTIQ rainbow flag would also have figured into the design.

So basically this is a crass obscenity that shouldn’t see the light of day. Well, actually, it won’t.

That’s a relief. How come? Newly-instated Culture Minister Jose Herrera said that following legal consultation, the float will not be allowed to form part of the traditional carnival repertoire.

I see. Part of me is obviously glad it won’t be seeing the light of day, but… Yes, I know. The central governing body putting a stop to a ‘satirical’ carnival float smacks of the c-word.

Courgette? No. Colonic irrigation? Close but… no. Crusty-old-white-guys-dictating-what-is-and-isn’t-appropriate-for-us-to-experience? Closer.

Oh I know, censorship! Bingo! The same scourge on Maltese cultural life that supposedly went away under the auspices of the very same minister while he was in charge for culture before Owen Bonnici took over for what now seems to be an interim period…

Is it really such a blanket case of censorship, though? Herrera himself seems to be fairly confident, given that both the Archbishop himself and the Home have been identified by name and likeness and unambiguously tarred with the same brush that has dirtied the Home’s reputation for many years.

Still don’t like the idea that a Culture Minister’s first act in office amounts to the suppression of a work of creative expression, heinous as it is. Yes, politically it smacks of both backtracking and appeasement. To say nothing of the hints of a slavish adherence to the whims of the local clerical elite.

Anyway, isn’t carnival the time to get chaotic and messy before scaling it all back for lent? In theory yes, but I think it’s time to face the fact that Maltese carnival is only ever going to serve as a colourful party that keeps things kid-friendly all throughout. And let’s face it: we have yet to see compelling examples of cutting but intelligent satire (political or otherwise) to emerge on the Maltese carnival circuit, the kind that can serve as a good counterbalance to this kind of crude and poorly thought-out attempt.

Could it be a case of the general populace not quite knowing what to do with a post-censorship Malta, once it was made available to them? I think that’s the nub of it, yes. Education, as ever, is key. Boring as it may sound.

Do say: “Freedom of expression is not an invitation to irresponsible spewing that can degenerate into insults and innuendos, especially not libellous ones.”

Don’t say: “Get that float out there as is and let’s start the year with a bang! We’ve been scandal-free for nearly a month and I’m already itching with withdrawal symptoms!”

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