Opinion: Word power

Words are powerful, there is no doubt about that, and the power of words is all the more important in today’s politics, fraught with deceit, artificial intelligence and algorithms.

Words and their meaning and definition are fundamental to the regulation of our society and are fundamental in creating new social pacts and determining our relationship with our representatives.

An RTK presenter is in hot water for having said he would never allow Imperium Europa leader Norman Lowell on his show because he was racist.

Andrew Azzopardi made this statement during an episode of his own show when interviewing the CEO of the Broadcasting Authority (BA).

He had said he would refuse Lowell airtime even if ordered by the BA, who then fined RTK €1,750.

The absurdity begins with the presenter not refusing airtime but stating that he would do so. The absurdity is elevated to the surreal, with the BA CEO describing Azzopardi’s comments as threatening and the BA board ruling that Azzopardi breached an article of the Broadcasting Act forbidding unjust or unfair treatment.

Now to the power of words. The whole charade (which hopefully will be appealed to a Court of law that does not include a board secretary who is a former member of Imperium Europa) turns on the literal application of an alarming broadcasting law.

Is Norman Lowell racist? Yes. Do not take my word for it. The Magistrates’ Court found him guilty of inciting racial hatred.

Should a private show be allowed to refuse airtime to racists? Of course, it should.

In our mad world, the tables are turned quickly due to the undue importance given to deliberate literal-mindedness. At least “Norman Lowell is racist” is a clear statement. We now have trouble with metaphors.

Manuel Delia got a lot of flak for one such metaphor when he used tumours as a metaphor for Franco Debono. Never one to miss the opportunity to hog the limelight, Debono took offence – or at least feigned taking offence.

Tumours would never be a pleasant choice of words, but think about it… the whole point of metaphors is to emphasise through comparison.

Time is money. No man is an island. Blood on your hands. Music is the food of love. Life is a box of chocolates. When we fail to give weight to the right words and allow ourselves to be dragged into the drama of false victimisation based on intentional literal-mindedness, then we dilute the power of words, and we give way to manipulation and the undermining of social mores.

Incidentally, Franco Debono had been on another programme recently to react to some comments by lawyer Edward Debono. Franco spoke of polls he commissioned that concluded that people would want him back in the PN administration.

He huffed and puffed about Edward Debono’s ‘lies’ that he had never expressed the desire for one second, let alone the expectation of getting back directly in an admin post. Now let’s put aside the elephant in the room for a minute, which is the question of who in their proper mind commissions such polls out of their own pocket without having a practical use for them.

Aside from that particular (metaphorical, I hasten to add) elephant, I was more intrigued by what Franco had to say after this business of denying Edward Debono’s statements.

I translate loosely from Maltese. “People like (Edward) Debono are what is wrong with PN. The PL makes an outreach and admits in its arms, everybody. That’s how it should be. A political party is not there to destroy people, not to insult people, not to obsess itself on corruption, but it is there to welcome in its arms people, even those who erred. Why should they be condemned for life?”

Weigh those words. First, there is an alarming echo of Robert Abela’s spiel concerning “it-trapass taz-żmien” (the passing of time) that rehabilitates politicians who had been sidelined due to their errors.

It is too uncannily similar.

Then there is the most alarming part: A political party should not be obsessed with corruption. Really, Franco? Is that the solution for the PN? A sort of Moviment Mark 2? The current rifts in the PN also mean that there is a strong risk that Franco’s words are music to the ears of some.

There is the danger that the PN clones PL’s strategy of becoming a wide network of friends intent on hogging the system for each other’s benefit. Why indeed obsess on corruption?

Finally, before I go, a few words on the search for a suitable replacement for George Vella. Helena Dalli has been mentioned as a potential papabile. This scares me very much.

This is a politician who publicly admitted that Labour’s strategy for introducing LGBTQ rights was simply one of deception. At a conference, she said that the people did not realise what the Labour Party intended because, in its electoral programme in 2013, it only said it promised equality.

That just about sums up Helena Dalli’s achievements. Based on that count, I would say she is unsuitable for the presidency.

Someone who takes pride in the deception of the electorate should not take the place of one of the highest institutions of the land. As our only opposition in parliament, the PN should oppose this nomination even at the cost of extending Vella’s mandate.


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1 month ago

It is said that a positive attitude can defeat cancer. I would immediately sign the papers recommending drastic surgery, chemo and radiation therapy.

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