The easiest way to build a hero is to make opposers seem like villains. After all, every hero needs a villain to defeat, and despite being a tale as old as time that is a narrative still supported in Malta.
In a recent analysis of targets in the secret Labour Facebook groups, two PN MEPs emerged as favourites: David Casa and Roberta Metsola. While insults against the MEPs ranged from “traitor bitch” to “trash”, the groups were full of praise for Prime Minister Joseph Muscat the ‘King’ of Malta and “the best” in the world.
Perhaps these two titles are not surprising considering the continuous attempts to portray Malta as the world itself in a trend of isolationism. The trend is not limited to Malta.
In that sphere of isolation, it becomes easier to draw lines between the heroes and villains of the political world. And in that scenario, criticism becomes an attack on the country itself, especially if those critics happen to be foreign. In politics, being seen as an infallible king while critics are seen as “trash” is perfect for cultivating power.
The narrative in online groups spills into Party-owned media and the State broadcaster to seal this reality. So One News runs headlines such as “Metsola ddur Brussell titkellem kontra Malta” (Metsola goes around Brussels speaking against Malta), and the State-owned media under-reports stories that show the government in a bad light while pushing forward ‘positive’ stories.
The idealisation of the government is set against the idea of everyone else as traitors and trash in a way that emphasises the positives of the government at the cost of true criticism.
Seizing the trend of isolation allows for easier manipulation of the masses. Once everything that is foreign is alienated the only thing to conform to is the way of life as prescribed. That way of life becomes a basis for unification, which serves to strengthen the government’s position.
While isolation separates countries from the rest of the world it effectively assimilates the opinions of those who live there. In the end, the king’s throne remains stable and unquestioned.