On Friday, The Shift News published an article that analysed the Nationalist Party leader’s speech last Sunday. It focused on the PN’s shift to populism, a strategy that has worked for the Labour Party. It questioned whether it was what was needed in this current climate of corruption.
This is a legitimate question. Rather than provide an answer, the PN troops were rallied because this was “another hate post from The Shift”.
“Enter and bombard them with comments. Bunch of snobs and arrogant idiots,” was Richard Anastasi’s rallying call. Really.
Journalists tend to focus more of their time on the government, rather than on the Opposition, because it is their task to hold power to account. It is the government that has the power to implement decisions and it is the government that is responsible and accountable for failures or abuse. It is for this reason that the government receives more scrutiny.
Yet journalists fail in their task if they do not turn their focus on where the alternative in opposition is heading. PN loyalists defending ‘their leader’ Adrian Delia restorted to hurling insults on comments boards in the same way as those defending ‘their government’. Same difference.
This does not allow any space for independent thought. Everything has to be categorised into red or blue, and then just praised or denounced accordingly. Insults also go a long way, no matter how irrelevant. And if all else fails, shout.
There is no consideration of the argument. It is an assessment of the position, and no matter how false, the assault that follows if you are on the ‘wrong’ side will be upheld with determination.
The article assessing the PN’s future direction was twisted into an attack on Adrian Delia. Then the troops were called into action and the rest dutifully parroted the line.
Comments that followed mirrored those directed at The Shift News by Labour Party supporters and trolls. Minister Konrad Mizzi’s Alex Cutajar says The Shift News is a tool of the Opposition, while PN loyalists say the team is doing the job for Prime Minister Joseph Muscat.
Both accuse The Shift News of “a hidden agenda”. Both accuse us of working for the other. Both accuse us of publishing fake news, to serve the other’s agenda. Really, you can’t have it both ways.
There’s a new accusation now, that we’re snobs. Anyone who knows us knows what to make of that. Those trying to plant that label on us don’t know us – they’re probably not even referring to us.
They are referring to ‘the old PN’ or ‘the establishment’ as they call it, because they think we are here to serve some internal coup to take over the PN leadership.
Since they cannot fit us into their world view, they have created another category (and another enemy that must be overcome). You’d think the PN would have more important matters to focus on, like addressing corruption, but that word isn’t part of their strategy. It’s not ‘positive’. There are people who won’t stop talking about it, but they’re just a nuisance.
The Shift News is six months old today, and it is not here to serve any political party agenda. We have come this far with the support of only our readers, those who insist on demanding justice and the rule of law and who refuse to be silenced.
The Shift News was created to defend press freedom through investigative journalism. It was created also to defend independent thought by offering a space for ideas to be debated.
Shoving political ideas, whatever they are, down people’s throats isn’t the way forward. Political direction should be questioned and discussed, and corruption and abuse should be exposed and addressed wherever they are found.
Like the Labour Party, the Nationalist Party has not condemned these attacks. Unless political leaders condemn this kind of behaviour, they can only be seen as encouraging it. Meanwhile, all those who dare to think and question, as is their right, are slaughtered by both sides. Hardly a move that wins hearts and minds.
Bullying people into submission isn’t the answer, especially at a time when people have had enough. This is not about being ‘elitist’. It’s about ending the division that the word itself creates, a word that provokes the kind of language that leads followers to call others a “bunch of snobs and arrogant idiots”.
Delia cannot preach unity and inclusivity and then have his foot soldiers sow seeds of division and use language that builds a wall around the Party.