A lie can run round the world before the truth has got its boots on.(Terry Pratchett, The Truth)
Matthew Vella is here on holiday. (Yeah). Between bouts of wankellectualism and attempts at snide coolness (and a labourite je ne sais quoi) the man with Sant's eyes and his banana brother provide a good source of company that is easily pushed into passing judgemental statements of the kind "You are such a nationalist". Notwithstanding the constant effort to outcool all around him by his apparent nonchalant approach to life and I-really-do-not care attitude Matthew "Santino" Vella is fun.
Matthew is a journalist and he works with that Guru of conspiracy theories in a team that we can call Balzan's Heroes for the sake of argument. Armed with a pen and a queer taste for the non-controversial controversies and attempting to uncover the uncoverable, Balzan's Heroes propagate the myth that feeds one half of the Maltese population � conspiracy theories and the allegation of ulterior motives for any person's public actions.
At the head of this brave unit of discoverers of the truth is Saviour "barkwithnobite" Balzan. Now, before you go clicking on REPLIQUE and covering me in filth, let me say that I like MaltaToday and what it is trying to do. Just like I like Alternattiva and what it is trying to do. I also like the 60's VW Campers. But I would never own one. Both Maltatoday and Alternattiva are attempts of the BR in Maltese politics to point one big Up Yours at the social and political status quo. They are a reaction to the Faustos of this world who think that a little evil is better than a worse evil and there is nothing you can do about it so curl up in your sofa read your Spectator and at some point remind people that you are Christian after all (and oh, I almost forgot� vote PN).
The good intentions of both Maltatoday and Alternattiva are evident to people like myself. However as the old adage goes� the road to hell is paved with good intentions. The tortuous road to street cred in Malta is piled with devilish obstacles. The insinuations and rumours spread by the big two and their media is only the tip of the iceberg. In order to break through the public mindset of dualism the young paper and party (who cohabit so funnily incidentally) must invest in stocks and shares of TRUST. The big T world. The Maltese public's political sway is so heavily dependent on Trust with that big T. Once you gain the people's trust you can say any amount of bullshit and they will believe you. You can promise that you will not raise taxes and then raise them, you can promise not to remove stipends and remove them, you can promise to remove a VAT and then remove it and then introduce the same tax with a different name� does it end?
In the case of the young paper and party, the gaining of trust costs at least triple. They start at a great disadvantage since they are non-conventional. Maltatoday has a bit of a headstart since it sells a product that is loved by many in today's voyeurist world. It also makes people feel happy and justified because it rants many socialist rants against those who earn too much (vide MEPs) � and in a discontent society those who seem to be better off are the first to go. Revolutionary is it not?
Now Balzan. The editorial of the internet version of this week's Maltatoday talks about criticism and when it is personal. Before I go on I must declare my personal link to part of the subject. Nathaniel Attard of Net TV fame (or notoriety) is my cousin. A very good cousin at that. I love his company and find him very congenial and I admire his achievements. We obviously do not see eye to eye in politics. I never liked the fact that Nathaniel was a newsreader on NET. Just as as I would ask Veronique Dalli how the hell she could stomach such biased news on Super 1 I would put the same question to Nathaniel. But that is his choice and I respect it (while still disagreeing).
Back to Balzan. His editorial first spoke about referring to people in opinions or leaders. He claims custom changed and now he joins the rest who drop names without restraint. Balzan then begins a little serenade about the new state TV head. He mentions both Vanessa McDonald and Nathaniel Attard as possible names. Now what irritates me is that Mr. The Truth is Golden and Mr. Personal Criticism is basing his Editorial on two rumours. Regarding Mrs McDonald he explicitly states that unconfirmed rumours are the source of his info. Regarding Nathaniel it is the Labour press that provide his source.
Why am I irked? Well. To begin with being a good old fashioned lover of proper journalism I believe that an Editorial is a sacred cow in the newspaper world. It is at once a summary of the main stories to be found within the paper as well as an expression of the Opinion of the institution that is the newspaper behind the editorial. That is why after reading the piece I was interested in finding out whether there is any truth in the possibility that Nathaniel could be head of news. I did not expect an editorial simply to repeat a rumour and leave it at that � especially in a paper that seems to take pride in its manner of investigative journalism.
Personal interest or not I would have like to know more. Instead the paper is completely devoid of any articles on the matter. Balzan's editorial turns out to be an agony aunt kind of rant that has nothing to do with what an editorial is all about. Rumour spinning and rumour-mongering is the domain of tabloids and the petty magazines purchased for the beach.
Is that what Malta Today is all about? Ironically I think that that is the only truth that we will be unearthing this time round!
* So�before anyone says it. Read the article again. Imagine Nathaniel was not my cousin but a hypothetical Franklin Mamo (who happens to be someone I know). Would it change anything about the worry of an editorial based on rumours? No. My guess is I would still get a comment stating that I have a personal interest in the matter� baffles me�. But hey� that's Malta!