Pierre Portelli, hosting shows for TVM, has posted a short article about his upcoming programmes. An apparently energetic apology for healthy media, for inter-ideological collaboration to produce balanced productions which, regrettably, the PL media will target in inevitable fits of paranoia.
“We’ve been engaged by TVM to analyze, criticize and voice our opinion in a fair and balanced manner and that’s what we do. In the coming weeks we will be under fire from those who want us to sing their song” says Pierre. Couldn’t help but remind me of Macbeth’s defiant: “Hang out our banners on the outward walls; The cry is still 'They come!' Our castle's strength will laugh a siege to scorn”
“When the propaganda machine of either party will tell you that we’re biased, just ask yourself: Was there another question I would have asked? And if there’s any just forward them to us in public via one of our FB pages, emails, Twitter, etc.” (Actually I just realised, while rereading this piece, that he doesn’t say what he’s going to do with them …)
This article will attempt to succour Pierre & Co in their conscientious search for questions which will restore the balance in TVM. Let’s start by how Pierre pooh poohs the effect of the media on the public: "Those who still think that people out there are ignorant to the point to be swayed by a comment or an opinion are still entrenched in propaganda-media." People out there? Where? And yes, I agree: people aren’t ignorant. Human, yes. Thank God people will always be human.
Pierre speaks of "a" comment or "an" opinion. That really wouldn't be a problem. But when “a” comment turns into a whole media orchestra (and official answers about coverage and invitations given in Parliament back this up) ... it becomes another story. QUESTION: Pierre, do you honestly believe that what Xandir Malta offers is balanced? QUESTION (to Pierre & Co): Is your opinion backed by statistical analysis?
To come to how people can be influenced by "a" comment. Let me give an example from Pierre’s own text: He uses the expression: "In the dark ‘80s … (you can guess the rest …)
Now in the ‘80s, Xandir (Dardir) Malta was guarded by armed soldiers. QUESTION (for Pierre & Co to ask): Why? QUESTION (for Pierre & Co to ask): Was Labour expecting Labour supporters to plant a bomb next to Xandir Malta premises? (But was Labour expecting a bomb?) And yet, you see, even in an apparently "passing" comment, Pierre presents an incomplete image and perpetrates the misconstruction of history. And yet he probably expects us to feel that this piece will go down as "balanced".
I am certainly not saying that Labour was an innocent virgin all the time during the 80's. And Labour has paid the full price. But not everybody has paid the dues. What Pierre calls "The dark 80's" were lit up by the bombs planted at Christmas time ... like fireworks at the village festa. QUESTION (for Pierre & Co to ask): Why would Labour plant bombs and destabilize the country and sow fear in people? QUESTION (for Pierre & Co to ask): Who stood to lose when Malta was portrayed as “Beirut”? The Labour Government or the PN Opposition?
Now remember, the dark 80's came after the dark 70's, when an innocent girl was disembowelled by a bomb sent to her father. During the dark 80's, we were promised by EFA that he would tell us who had committed this murder, that he knew who had murdered Raymond Caruana and he PRONOUNCED the names in Parliament. QUESTION (for Pierre & Co to ask): Did he in fact ever tell us who killed Karen? QUESTION (for Pierre & Co to ask): How ethical was EFA's behaviour in Parliament when he accused known Labourite hotheads of the murder of RC? Being a hothead with a reputation for violence is one thing, and may earn you time behind bars, but being labelled a murderer is and always will remain another piece of cake.
Pierre, the word "ethical" must surely be one which crops up often in the world of journalism. Let me give you some more questions you may wish to ask in your programmes: QUESTION: which party goes down into history as the biggest manipulator from Caius Verres to the modern day? Do you remember Terinu in Strickland's time? Do you remember the attempt to bribe a Labour MP in the early seventies? Do you remember the way GBO was removed (you know … cloak and dagger meetings in offices in Valletta at night …)? Do you remember the barrage of promises (l-għoxrin punt) of the 80’s?
Do you remember how at the very moment that the MLP was being branded as violent, the arms hoards were actually found at PN HQ (How come they never said it was a frame-up? Well, in this case it was actually a “wall-up”!) Do you remember EFA's lie about Alfred Sant at the last moment of the election run-up? Do you remember the written documented promises of the last elections? Do you remember how JPO squeezed out of what would have been a damning situation, coached by a super-media guru? Oh sorry, I thought media was not effective on the Maltese public any more. Give me just one second to wipe this tear streaming down my cheek. U ħalluna Pierre & Co.
Dear Pierre, I have now followed your invitation and asked you a few questions which you and your crew, as balanced, healthy journalists, should be asking yourselves. Isa! Isa! Behold I send you among ignorant people. Go forth and ask.