On the first morning of his presidency, Donald Trump woke up an unhappy man. He was livid due to the far lower attendance to his inauguration than to that of Barack Obama in 2009. He ordered official photos of his inauguration to be edited to show a larger crowd.
Sean Spicer, then press secretary, announced to the world, “this was the largest audience to witness an inauguration, period”. He said that despite photo evidence, expert assessments, TV ratings and the Washington Metro network. Spicer lied.
A senior aide to the President tried playing down the obvious lie, saying “Sean Spicer was giving alternative facts”. Spicer himself was unapologetic, declaring: “Sometimes we can disagree with the facts”. Despite all the verifiable evidence, Trump’s followers continued to believe that “this was the largest audience to witness an inauguration, period”.
People will believe what they want to believe, or what is easiest for them to believe. The distinction between fact and fiction, between what is true and what is false, is faint for many. They absorb information that supports their beliefs and dismiss the rest. This is even more pronounced in a partisan setting.
Politicians grasp this reality. Politics and truth have always had an uneasy relationship, but there has never been a time when so many politicians have devoted so much time, energy and money manufacturing and disseminating lies.
The Malta Labour Party, the Party in government, is at the forefront of the war against truth. It has virtually infinite resources at its disposal – including the resources of the State – to promote lies as truth, and is hugely successful.
“Malta follows the rule of law.”
“The institutions are working.”
“The judiciary is independent.”
“A few mistakes were made along the way – nobody’s perfect. These mistakes are being addressed.”
Those are only a few of the narratives pushed by the State and the Labour Party, which are now one and the same thing.
We are also told Malta is following the recommendations made by the Venice Commission (The European Commission for Democracy through Law), MONEYVAL (The Committee of Experts on the Evaluation of Anti-Money Laundering Measures and the Financing of Terrorism) and GRECO (Group of States Against Corruption).
There is corruption at the highest levels of government that sustains the corrupt deals, such as the hospitals, that continue to burden the country. The institutions are not working – because they have been hijacked. The police force is riddled with corruption. The people appointed to the Bench are connected to the Labour Party.
Yet people seem to be unable to distinguish between verifiable facts and manufactured lies, or they prefer to go along with what is most convenient.
The powerful war of attrition on truth is often disheartening, taxing and tiring. Truth has become extremely unpopular in Malta and its pursuit can come at great personal cost.
A journalist was assassinated so that truth would die with her. A whistleblower who exposed widespread corruption within the police force was hunted down for retribution.
It is often tempting to surrender the defence of truth. But liberty, human rights, democracy and justice only subsist when rooted in truth.