Worship of Prime Minister Joseph Muscat is reaching unprecedented levels across the six biggest pro-Muscat Facebook groups that The Shift News investigated and exposed, uncovering coordinated attacks on journalists, anti-corruption activists, opposition politicians, the Archbishop and Daphne Caruana Galizia’s family.
While the secret groups – numbering 60,000 members and administered by senior government and Labour Party officials – have always driven relentless pro-Muscat messaging, there has been a marked escalation in the frequency and intensity of Muscat worship, seemingly to provide a more positive picture of the groups’ activities, since The Shift News started publishing its investigations of the groups three weeks ago.
The current surge of pro-Muscat messaging comes after the first escalation immediately after Caruana Galizia’s assassination on 16 October.
Sifting through thousands of messages and memes worshipping Muscat, The Shift News found:
- 14 different memes and videos shared in one group in a 24-hour period, depicting Muscat as a religious force, a king, a “winner of all times”, and his wife Michelle Muscat as “our queen”, many of which were shared by Labour and government officials.
- Thousands of comments from group members, asking why Nationalist Party supporters hate and are jealous of “il-king ta’ Malta” (the king of Malta), descriptions of Muscat as “King of the world”, “hadsome” (handsome), “beaitiful” (beautiful), “Our Great Joseph Our Winner of all times”, “Eroj taghna” (our hero), “modern hero”, “the king of kings”, “a legend”, and “it tini salvatur ta malta” (the second [after Dom Mintoff] saviour of Malta),
- Photographs of Muscat as a young boy, with captions like “Il ginger taghna. Kemm ahna kburin bik ghaziz Prim Ministru taghna” (our ginger. How proud of you we are, our dear prime minister), and descriptions of him as a child prodigy, and photographs of his daughters with descriptions of them as “daughters of the king”.
- Thousands of declarations of love and awe of Muscat, and thousands of declarations of loyalty to him, including “the best prime minister, we love you for always (sic)”, “in our hearts forever”, “the most beautiful thing [Muscat] in our country”, “we are behind our king”, “we stand with our king”, and “our beloved king”.
Such intense and frequent “hero worship”, particularly around periods of intense scrutiny of government, contributes to Muscat and his government’s:
- Exemption from major corruption scandals making headlines internationally.
- Unaccountability to the law and the fostering of impunity around Muscat and his government.
- Absolute power granted to Muscat and the manipulation of his supporters (who are frequently asked for donations to the Labour Party across the Facebook groups and press-ganged into buying books about Muscat), voters and the electorate.
Worship of Muscat does not just represent intolerance for opposing views, blocking the free and open discussion of different ideas, but the elevation of a person over policies, ideals and the law.
Hero worship eats away at democratic principles and is more commonly associated with dictatorial regimes like “supreme leader” Kim Jong-un’s North Korea.