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The real war on truth

From columnists to internet trolls, the method is consistent: to spin facts to alter perception in favour of the government, while attacking critics and twisting their arguments.

Press freedom and propaganda

“The Ministry of Truth contained, it was said, three thousand rooms above ground level, and corresponding ramifications below.” It concerned itself with lies, and its primary role was to supply the citizens of Oceania with every conceivable kind of information, instruction or entertainment.  

Orwell’s 1984 may be fictional, but it nailed the tricks and tendencies of the political class. It served to set us on our guard. 

“And somewhere… quite anonymous, there were the directing brains who co-ordinated the whole effort and laid down the lines of policy which made it necessary that this fragment of the past should be preserved, that one falsified, and the other rubbed out of existence,” the dystopian novel continues. 

The aim remains the same: to stamp out the capacity for individual thought and freedom. It does not require physical force, but the control of information. It does not require burning down buildings, but controlling those inside them. 

When all that fails, use taxpayers’ money to bombard minds with adverts extolling the virtues of the government. If anyone still insists on being critical, drown them in hostile attacks on their reputation.  

So Sunday Times columnist Michela Spiteri, who is also on the government payroll, writes that protests by activists are “tainted by other motives, as is often the case on this island”. Her motive, however, is clear when she refers to the actions of the Occupy Justice movement – women who include professionals at the top of their field –  as “bunny girls and bananas”.   

Spiteri was exposed by slain journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia as working for the Office of the Prime Minister. The Labour government also put her on the Valletta / Floriana Rehabilitation Committee, and she was also appointed – at the direct request of the Prime Minister – as an adjudicator on the Small Claims Tribunal for a period of five years.

On the same day as she laments “they doth protest too much,” Maltese newspaper Illum rehashes an old story and presents it as a new exclusive. The story is intended to create the impression that all is great in the world of Pilatus Bank.  

This happens only days before the European Parliament is expected to approve a resolution which calls on the Police Commissioner to start investigations against the same bank, together with the Prime Minister’s Chief of Staff Keith Schembri, Minister Konrad Mizzi, and Nexia BT. 

They seem like individual occurrences, but the pattern is clear. From columnists to internet trolls, the method is consistent: to spin facts to alter perception in favour of the government, while attacking critics and twisting their arguments. This can only be achieved through a highly organised system working behind the scenes to make it happen.  

It occurs in a context in Malta where the government can control information over most TV channels, where the parties have their own media, and where the government is one of the biggest spenders on social media advertising. It is suffocating, and it is by design.  

The goal is to sow mistrust and division, and to generate a false reliance on the status quo. Dissent is ‘negative’. Critics are ridiculed, and their agendas questioned. Meanwhile, the puppet masters are at work reframing reality.  

The law is used to silence journalists by piling up libel cases against them. And now, courts abroad are also used to twist the arm of independent media houses to change the content of their past records, thereby rewriting history.  

Citizens are pushing back, and that is why the government is forced to spend so much effort on cleaning its image. But the shortest route to that goal would be for the government to start focusing on cleaning up the mess, rather than sweeping corruption under the carpet.  

 

 

 

 

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