PR (Propaganda Report) number 202679 issued by the Department of (Mis)Information on 27 December informed the nation of the words of praise that the World Health Organisation’s Regional Director Hans Kluge reserved for Malta upon the arrival of the first consignment of the COVID-19 vaccine.
According to the propaganda report faithfully reproduced by TVM, Kluge was impressed at how Malta managed to get the same treatment as that enjoyed by the large European nations.
Such a report could not help but reference the wise leadership of the Maltese government and a few token nods to the Deputy Prime Minister. No reference to the EU of course. Meanwhile, elsewhere in the world legitimate news portals such as the BBC were headlining with the quote from Ursula Von der Leyen who had defined the days of mass vaccination (#EUvaccinationdays) as a ‘touching moment of unity’. The contrast could not be greater.
The Labour government could simply have rejoiced in the common achievement by the EU but instead decided to revert to cheap, unprovoked jingoism of the tinpot dictator kind. They gave in once again to the irresistible urge to spin that tired narrative of Malta vs The World. This was after all the Party that makes the end of a contract sound like some massive battle against the foreigner and celebrates it every year on 31 March.
We were indeed back to Jum il-Ħelsien theatrics as the importance of Malta’s role as an EU equal was brushed under the carpet. I could not help but wonder that were it not for Malta’s EU membership, Abela and Fearne would have been welcoming a stock of Putin’s or China’s vaccine acting as willing guineapigs outside the safe shield of EU standards and checks. It is not too farfetched an idea – that is the road Argentina has chosen.
Labour aficionados were all over social media clamouring this great success of a mighty nation that had won the plaudits of nobody less than a WHO regional director. Was that the same man whose fawning accounts of Malta’s health system during the first wave had led to a similar spate of propagandistic self-adulation? Until, of course, our mechanisms failed. The propaganda did work however as the Partnership Rebaħ spectre was back to haunt us.
In not so ironic a coincidence, these jingoistic efforts coincided with Boris Johnson’s triumphant return to the UK with an agreement in hand. Here again, we were regaled with wave upon wave of plaudits by the Brexiteers celebrating a trade agreement obtained in the final hour.
To be fair the Brexiteers seemed to be the only ones celebrating (and mildly so). A quick glance around the news headlines resulted in a paltry celebratory message by Guy Parmelin who said that the post-Brexit trade agreement was ‘good news for the whole world’. Guy is the incoming president of the Helvetic Republic (aka Switzerland) that is currently engaged in new framework agreement negotiations with the EU.
Now let us ignore for a minute the fact that by Parmelin’s own admission he has no idea of what the deal contains and that he is simply saying that it is good news that an agreement was reached – as in, an agreement rather than no agreement at all. The impression one gets, aside from the hubris in Geneva, is that Von der Leyen and Barnier signed off on this agreement limited to trade while secretly promising Johnson that they will act as though it is them who lost out. At least for the extent of Yuletide.
Bumbling Boris could then go on his charm offensive over Yuletide extending the snake oil merchant propaganda that Farage and his ilk triggered in 2016. There is in fact little to sell as an achievement to the British public. The trade agreements revert the UK to an outside partner which means that the inevitable formalities for the movement of goods will lead to more expensive and laborious work for UK companies. On the plus side, they are free to negotiate tariffs with New Zealand for lamb.
Still. Johnson will take advantage of the Yuletide merriment (in angry confinement) to distract the general population from the finer consequences of this agreement. We will have to wait for a post-COVID (hopefully) spring and summer for the stark reality of the harsher consequences of Brexit to hit home.
By then Boris, like Abela and Fearne, will be hoping to have duped the public into believing in their successful invincibility having shepherded their respective islands in their battle against the world.
I would like to wish all readers of this column a Healthy Yuletide enjoyed safely with their dearest. Here is to hoping that next year’s surprises will all be pleasant.
‘The obscure we see eventually. The completely obvious, it seems, takes longer’ – Ed Murrow.