‘Disagree with me? You must be on the take…’

To paraphrase Steve Mallia's argument: Manuel Delia (who, incidentally, wasn’t even named in the article) cannot expect to transition overnight between a politician up to his eyeballs in the political game, to an ‘unbiased’, ‘disinterested’ journalist claiming to be in pursuit of the ‘truth’

Manuel Delia
Manuel Delia

It might not be one of Shakespeare’s most memorable (or even quotable) quotes; but – to me, at least – this one is arguably the most pertinent to today’s political situation:

“I never had to do with wicked spirits:

But you, that are polluted with your lusts,

Stain’d with the guiltless blood of innocents,

Corrupt and tainted with a thousand vices,

Because you want the grace that others have,

You judge it straight a thing impossible

To compass wonders but by help of devils….”

Those words are uttered by Joan La Pucelle – aka ‘Joan of Arc’ – shortly after being condemned to burn at the stake for witchcraft, towards the end of ‘Henry VI Part One’. It bears mentioning that Joan herself was French (and no relation to Noah, either)… and the people who condemned her were English. Joan la Pucelle had earlier led a revolt against the English occupation of France… and came pretty close to winning, too: successfully reclaiming Orleans, driving the English back to Calais, and (almost) back across the channel whence they had come.

It is only fair to describe that achievement – no matter how short-lived – as truly remarkable in every sense of the word. Though ‘St Joan’ is today often portrayed in a full suit of armour, brandishing a two-handed sword, and with a halo on her head to boot… in reality she was just a simple shepherd girl with no prior experience of war or politics whatsoever. And just look how close she came to (almost single-handedly) defeating what was, at the time, one of the world’s major superpowers…

She herself attributed the inexplicability of this feat to ‘Divine intervention’. But – perhaps unsurprisingly – in the eyes of the people whose power she threatened, her improbable victories and successes were more easily explained through the agency of the devil.

Even all these centuries later, their reasoning still rings familiar bells. How else could a 15-year-old shepherd girl rise to such alarming stature, anyway, if not through some form of supernatural intercession? And, more pointedly: if this supernatural agency was aimed at permanently ridding France of its English oppressors… how could it (from an English perspective) be anything but ‘evil’?

Starting to sound familiar? It should. But there is more to that particular quote than mere recognition of this all-too human trait. Indirectly, Joan of Arc also accuses her tormentors of being in league with the devil themselves. She argues that it is precisely because they lack the Grace of God, that they are incapable of recognising God’s handiwork when they see it.

And it is also because they themselves are so intrinsically evil – so ‘corrupt and tainted with a thousand vices’ – that they feel compelled to drag ‘devils’ and ‘witchcraft’ into the equation in the first place.

This, too, is a recognisable human trait: we very often do tend to project our own motives and shortcomings onto others.  So much so, that by simply replacing the word ‘devils’ with ‘money’, the above quote becomes an exact replica of the political ‘reasoning’ still used by so many people today. Disagree with my political argument? It can only mean one thing: you must be ‘corrupt’, ‘bought’, ‘on the take’, etc. etc.

No shortage of more contemporary examples, naturally – the same accusation has been levelled at me, if it comes to it – but one that really stood out recently was Manuel Delia’s extraordinary overreaction to a little criticism levelled at him by former Sunday Times editor Steve Mallia last week.

To paraphrase the latter’s argument: Manuel Delia (who, incidentally, wasn’t even named in the article) cannot expect to transition overnight between a politician up to his eyeballs in the political game, to an ‘unbiased’, ‘disinterested’ journalist claiming to be in pursuit of the ‘truth’. At least, he cannot do that, and also expect the rest of us out there not to see right through the deception at a glance. Manuel Delia is very emphatically NOT ‘unbiased’ or (even less) ‘disinterested’. On the contrary, he has a direct and very emphatic interest in undermining the government of the day… seeing as the present government had replaced an earlier one that he himself was part of until just a few years ago.

There: not that difficult to understand, is it? And to be honest, as far as political criticism goes, it’s not even that harsh. (In fact, it pales to insignificance compared to some of the dirt Manuel Delia himself has regularly dished out to others... including his reaction to the same article).

Nonetheless, it was criticism directed at him, personally… and what’s worse, coming from someone he evidently felt should have been ‘on his side’. The former editor of The Sunday Times, no less: a newspaper that had traditionally (and not without good reason) always supported the Nationalist Party until only very recently.

Meanwhile, as it is only fair to hear both sides of the story… what was Delia’s response to that rather mild criticism? How did the man who so liberally accuses others of all sorts of crimes and misdemeanours (for in case you haven’t noticed yet… everyone who disagrees with Manuel Delia is a crook, a liar and a thief) react when his attention was drawn to only a minor contradiction in his own position?

He flipped, naturally. Lost his rag as thoroughly and completely as that Great White Shark who caught a whiff of blood in ‘Finding Nemo’: crash, bang, tinkle! So he accused Steve Mallia of being in cahoots with former Times managing director Adrian Hillman: who, if you’ll remember, was accused of opening secret offshore companies through the same company as Keith Schembri, Konrad Mizzi, et al.

By implication, Steve Mallia is not only guilty of the same alleged crime… bit also of altering The Sunday Times’ editorial stance on the eve of the 2013 election: doing his little bit to enable a Labour victory, from which he himself was allegedly supposed to benefit in direct, monetary terms.

And it gets even better. All this must be true, because… um… well, actually Manuel Delia never quite got round to explaining that part. As with so many other things in life – you know: Egrant, the existence of God, etc. – we are all expected to simply take his word for it.

Certainly, he didn’t provide any material evidence to support those allegations on his blog... but then again, he will have the opportunity to do so in court, where it really counts.

But who even does that sort of thing anymore? No, the logic here is altogether too simple to be unduly complicated by ‘evidence’. Steve Mallia did not take Delia’s side, as expected; and therefore – like Joan La Pucelle and her ‘devils’ – he must somehow be part of the nexus of corruption (and to hell with evidence, etc.)

Naturally, this sort of reaction does not apply just to Steve Mallia. Nor does it only come from Manuel Delia. The above scenario is in fact a veritable blueprint for how political reasoning tends to unfold across the board these days. And like the injustice in Joan of Arc’s condemnation seven hundred years ago… it’s not difficult to see why, either.

Part of it can be boiled down to an outrageous sense of entitlement among those who share Delia’s overall political vision. It is as though ‘power’ is something that should belong to these people by Right Divine; and inevitably, the delusion brings with it a number of deeply unpleasant consequences.

For starters, when people feel they are automatically entitled to power – without having to actually fight to achieve it – they see no reason to offer the electorate any cause to vote for them in the first place.

This is partly why the Nationalist Party has struggled so hard to project a ‘raison d’etre’ since EU accession in 2004. Indirectly, it also explains why the Sunday Times may have changed its political tune before the 2013 election. No need to drag ‘devils’ or ‘shady, corrupt deals’ into the picture: the truth is that, by 2013, the PN had become too fat, tired and lazy to realistically compete with Joseph Muscat’s progressive, moderate (and super-energised) Labour movement.

It simply had nothing left to offer… and even The Sunday Times could see that by then.

But of course, that’s not going to work with people who can’t see beyond the end of their own political prejudices. This, too, is another ugly consequence of the ‘Divine Right to Rule’ delusion. It implies that if anyone else happens to wield power in this country – even if democratically elected – they must perforce be ‘usurpers’. And anyone who supports the usurper is, by definition, a ‘lackey’ or a ‘traitor’.

So, if The Sunday Times abandoned its traditional support of the Nationalist Party before the 2013 election – and incidentally, I’m not even sure that it did – why, it clearly cannot be because that newspaper simply preferred one side to the other, on the basis of what it saw with its own eyes at the time.

No, indeed… that is tantamount to blasphemy. Independent newspapers have no business to be formulating editorial policies of their own: they exist only to offer eternal allegiance to one political party… even when that political party becomes so utterly insufferable that its own voters turn against it in droves.

Which of course leads us to unpleasant consequence number three. Yep, that’s right. Traitors and lackeys, every last one of them. Like newspapers and journalists, ‘independent voters’ only exist to supply an unshakable political platform for their rightful political masters.

I mean… how dare these people presume to base their vote on their own opinions, anyway? Don’t they know that only one political opinion can possibly be considered legitimate?

And to disagree with that opinion, even remotely, is to instantly open yourself up to even the most outrageous of unsubstantiated accusations… all based on greed, corruption, sleaze, theft, etc.?

Ah, but that’s what makes Joan La Pucelle’s quote, above, so powerful.

She, at least, understood the forces at work behind this ugly process. She knew from experience that all such accusations tell us infinitely more about the accuser, than the accused.

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