GUEST POST: Joseph Muscat – the appropriation of Malta’s irrational ‘one religion’ mindset for his political ends

Published: March 21, 2013 at 2:07pm

Natius Farrugia taht it-tinda ma Joseph

This is a guest post, which means that it was written by somebody other than me.

Call me neurotic, but what I’m seeing now in the development of the Joseph Cult is making me nervous. It was creepy enough when Joseph Muscat was elected MLP leader and announced his ‘movement of moderates and progressives’, while still surrounded by the detritus of the past.

They hid behind a false flag, calling themselves a movement, to wipe their party identity out of public consciousness. All this talk of a moviment minghajr differenzi looks ridiculous to a critical eye, is ridiculous to a rational mind, but it’s very appealing to gullible pseudo-idealists and identity-seekers of all stripes.

And it’s helped along by the fact that, generation after generation, Maltese people have been raised and educated in the realm of magical thinking, of irrational religiosity, so that even those who now pride themselves on being ultra-liberal, who talk about being atheists and being right behind the separation of church and state, have the irrational thought patterns of those who frame life in a religious context.

They have transferred their zeal, their irrationality, to JosephMuscatDotCom.

There are enough of those to swing any election, as we have already seen.

Now Muscat is in power and he and his followers are rushing to create a situation in which to speak of a party – any party – automatically identifies you as an outlier. Muscat began it with his statement that the “era of political parties is over”. That is not the statement of a liberal or an innovator.

That is the statement of a fascist. It is totalitarian thinking. Different political parties, parties with conflicting, divergent and opposing views, are the very essence of real democracy.

Can you imagine the British prime minister, or the US president, announcing that the time of political parties is dead and over and that Britain/America now needs just one form of political expression: the ‘movement’ he leads?

Imagine the ensuing horror. But Maltese people are programmed from their earliest years to think in terms of religion rather than politics/democracy. The ‘one religion’ mindset is easily transferred to politics and Muscat has cunningly set about doing it.

Robert Paxton identified several stages of the creation of fascist movements. They begin by combining doctrine with discontent, drawing in an increasing number of adherents. Malta Taghna Lkoll drew in sundry complainants who felt excluded, and not necessarily from or by the Nationalist Party, either.

The movement is then rooted as a political party in the country’s political system. It didn’t take much: Malta Taghna Lkoll was simply superimposed on the existing Labour Party.

Power is then acquired. Muscat is now prime minister on the strength of unquestioning loyalists and the vote of the discontented, those who felt emarginated, and the merely spiteful and vindictive (always an important human element in helping the rise of any negative movement, even when it is posing as positive).

The fourth stage is the exercise of power, including the elimination of competition. This happens through various means. In extreme cases, opponents are executed. This is not an option in an EU member state with the rule of law.

A subtler approach is the neutering of opposition, and we are seeing evidence of that now.

Joseph Muscat and his advisers have read up about fascist/totalitarian tactics or they’re inclined that way by nature. Given that they were raised almost to a man in the Cult of Dom Mintoff, I would suspect the latter. And I don’t know which is scarier.

They’re not going the way of Mao, i.e. openly and brutally crushing dissent. They’re killing opposition with kindness, recruiting people to their cause and making them feel they’re part of something big and important.

It’s especially telling that they know exactly who to target, homing in directly on the weak: the weak of spirit, the weak of spine, the weak of mind, the weak of morality, and above all, those who have been weakened by spite and the desire for revenge. They are not even bothering with anyone outside those categories, because this is not a process of conviction by argument.

Here’s an example of the way things are going. Robert Musumeci’s latest Facebook group reads like the propaganda of a mind-bending sect, championing nationalism above differentiated political beliefs, identifying competing parties as ‘politika tal-passat’ (tell that to Barack Obama or any political leader in the European Union to which we belong), and positioning a nameless ‘moviment’ as the means of liberation from ‘psychological oppression’.

He sounds exactly like the sort of person parents were worried would come into contact with their sons and daughters in the 1960s and early 1970s, drawing them into the Brigate Rosse, the Moonies, or some mind-bending cult. The last time I saw him on television – John Bundy’s Affair Taghna – he even had that blank look.

Here are some of his statements from this new group.

Robert Musumeci
Jien iggilidt f’ MOVIMENT biex niddistruggi l- oppressjoni psikologika

Hbieb, stiednu nies ta’ kwalsijasi kulur, izda li huma moderati fil- hsieb, jinghaqdu ma dan il- group!

‘received consciousness’ huwa kuncett tal- passat

Min huwa nostalgiku ghall- passat se jibqa’ ankrat

Irridu inkissru l- politika tal- vendikazzjonijiet

Nemmnu li Muscat ghamel rivoluzzjoni

Ahna nemmnu li l- principju huwa l- pajjiz….u mhux il- partit!

Hawnhekk inhabbtu l- idejat minghajr fruntieri.

And this is his description of his group:

Ahna nies gejjin minn kull sfera tal- hajja. Hafna minna kienu jappartjenu ghal partit politiku tradizzjonali. Nemmnu li l- metodi tradizzjonali fil- politika spiccaw. Ghalhekk nemmu f’ MOVIMENT ‘madwar’ partit u mhux gol- partit.




51 Comments Comment

  1. Jozef says:

    Musumeci won’t commit to the Labour Party in government. What he’s attempting is replace the opposition with his ‘approving outsider’ stance.

    In other words, challenging the movement’s hired ‘executive’, the Labour Party, is OK, challenging the movement in its entirety isn’t.

    Musumeci, as usual, will place himself at a safe distance from the real deal. Alas, it’s not as if people haven’t noticed his failure to compile a portfolio after all these years playing architect.

    The movement belongs to those who think they deserve a second chance, and this after they had all the space they could get.

    Kick him out of the Chamber of Architects, before he hauls the profession’s code of ethics before the people’s court.

  2. aston says:

    Good post, with some very astute observations.

    There is however a fatal flaw in Joseph’s Moviment agenda: the Labour core at the heart of this Moviment is still very tribalistic and I suspect he won’t be able to suppress it for long.

    I can’t see them embracing the likes of Kenneth Zammit Tabona except as a short-term election-winning strategy. The switchers are going to stand out like illegal immigrants once the initial elation dies out, and I’m guessing they’ll end up getting treated as such.

    • La Redoute says:

      That’s hardly the point, though, is it?

      Labour core voters will always vote labour, and will always think of their party as the Labour Party.

      ‘Moviment’ is a marketing term, a product sold to those who would ordinarily shudder with horror at the thought of getting down and dirty with people they think or as way beneath them.

      Luring such people into a movement is a means of expanding a voter base. Persuading them that the time of political parties is over seals your advantage over any opposition.

      Anyone calling themselves a party, or identifying with an opposition party, is now classed as a freakish outlier because, a) it has now been decided by the Great Leader that the time of opposing parties is over and b) if you speak up for a party, particularly one in opposition, you’re automatically an outcast.

      Why else did JosephMuscatDotCom target the vain and insecure through emotional seduction, rather than the strong of mind through convincing argument? He doesn’t have a case, that’s why – but then, neither did Reverend Moon and look what happened.

  3. maryanne says:

    Since when is belonging, believing and working in a political party, the equation of ‘oppressjoni psikologika’?

    What is written above is best illustrated by Muscat himself when he was asked by a television presenter (can’t remember who) if his offer to the Opposition to be given certain ‘tasks’ is tantamount to weakening the Opposition.

    Muscat’s answer was:

    “Le, lanqas xejn, ma naqbilx. Jien noffri lill-Opposizzjoni bicca xoghol li fiha tista’ tghin lill-gvern, nohrog l-id tal-hbiberija, umbghad sta ghalijom jekkl jaccettawx. Forsi jkunu jixtiequ li ma jaccettawx biex ikunu free li jikkritikaw ghax ovvja li jekk taghmel bicca xoghol inti mhux se tikkritika lilek innifsek.”

    You can writie a whole dissertation on Muscat’s answer.

    • La Redoute says:

      His reply was totally in keeping with his strategy of neutering the opposition.

      He’s right in saying that you can’t very well oppose something you’re involved in. That honour is reserved for cranks like you-know-who, and they all work in Labour’s interests anyway.

      Anyone with an urge to be effective and a need to feel relevant could persuade themselves that taking up Muscat’s offer (offer, not request, please note) is in Malta’s interests. So there you have it: sell yourself and tell yourself that it’s self-sacrifice.

      • Grezz says:

        ‘Neutering the opposition’ – Including inviting the leader of the opposition to celebrate a traditionally Labour day (31st March), and the leader of the opposition succumbing to such pressure (because that’s what it was, at the end of the day).

    • Grace says:

      A very dangerous man playing a very dirty game.

  4. Kurt Mifsud Bonnici says:

    So what is being said here exactly? Are we to live in the fear that Malta is going to become a totalitarian fascist state then?

    • Leslie Darmanin says:

      The fear here is populism, which comes close to totalitarianism,

      The clear stranglehold that the Labour government is seeking to achieve on all the public sector and public entities has one clear target – to create as many dependents on the state, its coffers and, of course its patronage (pjacieri). Good governance is not the target. Power is.

      We can draw a parallel with Obama’s election victory. The US economy was/is in shambles, but all those millions dependent on state handouts did not vote for the Republicans who promised them jobs but for Obama who in a way guaranteed future handouts and their peace of mind.

      If the Malta economy takes a down turn, it will not necessarily mean Labour would lose the next election (same way as a vibrant economy did not win the PN the election).

      If in 5 years time Labour manages a totalitarian stanglehold on Malta’s extensive public sector, its services, jobs and perks, turning the country in a dependent subservient people (like we were in the 80s), and continue to market itself as a movement (for which read populist), then it stands a good chance of repeating its success again.

      We are back where we left in 1987.

      We have not progessed one iota.

    • Alexander Ball says:

      The only way to do that would be to ban tourists.

      Look how the population swells in the summer.

      No, the ‘fear’ is only in the minds of those who choose to accept it.

      I am not religious and so am free to think clearly.

      I admire those who are raised to believe in supernatural claptrap and work it out for themselves how to be a free thinker. But for the majority, for control freaks like the PL, getting inside their heads is so easy, having been conditioned to not question what they are told.

      • La Redoute says:

        How would banning tourists help in any way at all?

        China’s flooded with tourists, Cuba’s never fallen off the tourist map, and I don’t see either of those two countries as paragons of democracy. Even North Korea attracts tourists and that’s because of its totalitarian regime, not in spite of it.

        Muscat can’t ban political opposition outright, but he can weaken it from within, as he has done so successfully. I’d hazard a guess that tens of thousands who supposedly switched to Labour were 1) Labour sympathisers already and / or 2) seduced by the promise of fulfilling their self-interest.

        Now that Muscat’s in government, there are even more goodies to hand out.

  5. Libertas says:

    Excellent post.

    Labour has now entered into the second phase of further weakening the opposition while it’s down.

    You can see it in the very similar Labour elves’ comments on timesofmalta.com.

    Argument 1: The opposition had better shut up; with the comprehensive drubbing they’ve suffered, whatever they say must be wrong. This argument uses the 9th March vote to legitimize any decision taken by Muscat AFTER the 9th March.

    Argument 2: The opposition must find a leader from ‘outside’. This argument tries to convince the opposition itself that it has no talent within its ranks and needs to find the ‘ideal’ candidate elsewhere. Obviously, the ideal candidate does not exist.

    This country needs a strong opposition that can reach out to people who did not vote PN but who can see through Labour’s strategy and mistakes.

    • Grezz says:

      The country needs a strong opposition whose members do not go from posting political messages, attend mass meetings, go out for election one day, then ‘progress’ to uploading photos and inane comments on Facebook of/about what they are eating, what they are doing or about the weather.

      In a nutshell, we need a mature opposition, not one comprising volatile, immature members.

  6. bob-a-job says:

    The bloodless coup d’état

    The first step was the overthrow of the democratically elected government, democratically.

    The second step was Muscat’s statement “the era of political parties is over” basically signaling the commencement of the end of democracy as we know it.

    The third step will be an Orwellian argument that ‘To save democracy, we have to destroy it.’ The end justifies the means, after all. Just ask Anglu Farrugia.

    Meanwhile, it is increasingly becoming frighteningly evident that behind the smiles, the slogans and ‘Malta taghna lkoll’ may lurk a government that is decidedly more toxic than one thinks.

    • La Redoute says:

      That has been evident all along, bob-a-job.

      It’s only because so many suspend their critical faculties, if they had any in the first place, that they could assimilate the idea of Joseph Muscat being a) competent and b) the best choice. Ditto for the rest of the Labour Party.

  7. Gladio says:

    Labour has now entered into the second phase of further weakening the opposition while it’s down.

    Next step will be the law to regulate the financing of political parties that will be similar to the Foreign Interference Act enacted by Dom Mintoff’s regime in the 80s.

  8. Mark Mallia says:

    Stop whining! Deal with the loss…and let the new Labour government lead and govern!

    At the end of the day, you voted in favour of the EU, so feel free to migrate to another EU country if you don’t like it :)

    • maryanne says:

      We will let Labour govern and lead exactly like Labour let the PN govern and lead. We will be watching your every move. Happy?

      • Maria Xriha says:

        Let’s not forget that Joseph thanked those who were working behind the scenes…

        Utility bills sent out in timely fashion? One week before the election?

        Interference from public sector staff, nicely in position, where and when required?

        People creating havoc in their own sphere of influence? Hospitals? Elsewhere? Some repeatedly in very senior positions, still Labour Tesserati, that chose not to renew work contracts for particular NP staff without giving any valid reason?

        Those who were “committed to the campaign” bringing about the “30 meetings a day” for JM? All those loads of Facebook ‘friend’ requests from people who now happened to be voting LP that all turned up within a short space of time out of the blue?

        All the pro-MLP publications that appeared on the market?

        Joseph Muscat and his PR firm, whoever they were connected to, went after the 50,000 vote target meticulously and systematically… cold-bloodedly focused… “the end justifies the means?”

        Domino stacks have a habit of falling in the direction that they’re pushed.

      • Jozef says:

        Maria,

        I have been told Muscat wouldn’t settle for anything less than 25,000 votes.

        Whatever that implies.

    • king rat says:

      Whether you like it or not you do not own the country – Malta taghna ukoll.

    • La Redoute says:

      Let the new Labour government lead and govern? Why, what’s stopping it doing its job, other than Muscat’s overestimation of his own and his honchos abilities?

      If Muscat and his honchos can’t withstand criticism and scrutiny, they shouldn’t be in office. It’s called democracy. Deal with it.

      • king rat says:

        La Redoute ukoll as opposed to ilkoll , we need to remind the movement that they do not control all of us .

    • Grezz says:

      Go back to peddling your wares and licking Labour arse for favours, Mr. Mallia.

  9. old-timer says:

    Backpage story in The Times today about service pensions. Reading through this report it appears that Joseph has been caught in another lie, when he said, last Saturday, that “the infringement could be coming to a head but he had not known about it before”. Mr. Grech rebutted by saying “Let me make it clear that it is not true that the new government did not know about this. We had even discussed the issue with Dr. Muscat and Minister Karmenu Vella before the election and stated publicly that Labour had no plan for us.” – Another lie to add to the list.

    • verita says:

      True But why did Mr Grech mention this now not before the elections? The service pensioners would have been very happy with josephmuscat.com’s reply.

  10. GEDE (George D'Amato says:

    Every day it is becoming more and more scary. I trust that the disgruntlement of ‘hurt Nationalists’ has now gone away.

  11. Philip says:

    This was probably the scariest guest contribution you have ever posted. Too close to the bone and much food for thought.

  12. Just Jack (JJ) says:

    whilst reading this post somewhat I was reminded of Aldous Huxley’s ‘Brave New World’ … quite scary when considering a one party ‘movement’ controlling a country …

  13. ken il malti says:

    “The last time I saw him on television – John Bundy’s Affair Taghna – he even had that blank look.”

    Yes he certainly does, also:

    Does anyone else feel that John Bundy’s head and hair remind them of “Biffo the Bear” from the Beano comic magazines ?

  14. Andre Gech says:

    The Musumeci group sounds like Dictatorship.

    • petrus says:

      Totally agreed

    • maryanne says:

      Here’s some more democracy from the winning team’s supporters:

      John Spiteri Jones

      Today, 12:53

      Whatever the opposition says cosidering the number of seats they are just a voice in the wilderness burly heard its called “hanqa ta hmar” in maltese, lets hope that in the years to come when they realize that thier term in opposition is going to be a very long one they will not restore to those things that they used to do during the 70s and 80s and then blame them on labour!

      This was a comment posted on Times of Malta. Whenever the PN criticises anything, out come the elves. They have still to get used to being in government and scrutinised for all they do and say.

  15. Victor says:

    This is going to give me insomnia. My daunting thoughts have just been confirmed. And there I was thinking to myself that I am being paranoid.

  16. The Psychologist says:

    The inmates are now in charge of the asylum. Even Franco Debono gets his slice of the pie.

  17. maryanne says:

    When some of us said that Joseph Muscat is more dangerous than Mintoff, we were laughed at and accused of scaremongering tactics.

    Time is proving us right. With Mintoff you could see the large buckle, the rough language and the tantrums but Muscat is so SUBTLE.

    Mintoff suppressed opposition through violence and Muscat is suppressing opposition through this drivel about ‘unity’. The moment we are united as one country (politically) we can be called a fascist country.

  18. old-timer says:

    I admire Joseph Muscat – he is a true champion of “Jobs for the Boys” – a job for Franco Debono – a reward for bringing down his party from government. We expect more..

  19. AllIWantIsToLiveInPeace says:

    Can’t say the Maltese people weren’t warned. Anyone remember Adrian Vassallo’s description of Muscat and the way he was treated for not being part of the ‘movement’?

    http://www.timesofmalta.com/articles/view/20120510/local/vassallo-in-scating-criticism-of-ditatorial-joseph-muscat.419242

    “Muscat … ‘dictatorial'”

    “PL television programme … a stage managed event”

    “PL … movement’s … only aim … to bring down the Nationalist government, ‘and then we’ll see'”.

  20. Paul says:

    It sounds like modern communism.

  21. Frans Cassar says:

    No, you have no right to expect the PN now to come to the rescue by defending you against this government. Lawrence Gonzi delivered in every sense. His leadership was sound economically, addressed the environment, pulled out of sectors for the benefit of private individuals, adopted EU standards, limited ministries to try diminish people calling in for treats, managed international issues with exceptional balance and provided all citizens with the free expression of divergent opinions so that anyone would be responsible for his own choice in election time.

    Now we have the result. The majority of Maltese chose not to think but to the blinded by the shining light. I voted PN, I am in a minority and I saw this coming.

    Whoever wanted to gamble with our country must now face serious consequences, so do not expect the PN to come to the rescue.

    It should be you who voted for this situation who must show dissent and criticise openly (if you have the guts) this government about the obscene decision already taken.

    Good luck.

  22. Grezz says:

    Moviment Bla Isem – the political equivalent of a ‘lonely hearts club’, which seems to have attracted the misfits, the ‘disgruntled’ and those with severe chips of all sorts.

    Muscat might as well have named it The Mpnster Raving Looney Party.

  23. The Shadow says:

    I wonder which plum posting Marisa Micallef (Leyson) is going to be given.

  24. Last Post says:

    A very relevant and insightful post. I remember thinking on the same parallelism (between political and religious ‘totalitarianism’) during the Mintoff years.

    The government = the working class = the Maltese people. In religious terms this translates into: Jesus Christ = the Catholic Church = the People of God (both saints and sinners, rich and poor, etc).

    The difference between the two is that whereas religion applies to the realms of belief and ethics (which one is free to uphold or refute), in politics anyone refuting the equation has to face concrete economic and social consequences in his/her everyday life.

    • king rat says:

      In Malta we manage to be religious while at the same time having the ethics of sewer rats ( sorry guys – the rats of course )

  25. Lord Lucan says:

    I think you give the PL way too much credit for what would be a brilliant strategy if it was true.

    I think the combination of being in opposition for 15 years straight, but in reality for 25 years, having a half-decent leader, and Gonzi mismanaging the self-inflicted backbench rebellion have led to a defeat of such magnitude, that intelligent people such as the author of this piece are trying to justify such a loss by inventing outlandish stories.

    • La Redoute says:

      How was the back bench rebellion self-inflicted? You can hold a prime minister responsible for many things. Defective personalities. self-centredness and immaturity of back benchers are not among them.

  26. Joseph Vassallo-Agius says:

    We must now concentrate on how best to reform the Nationalist Party.

    Let us begin with the Leadership election. Is it correct for the party councillors alone to elect the party leader? I do not think so and I am going to say why.

    If the clique appointed councillors are going to elect the next leader, the next PN leader is going to be appointed by the clique and there will be no real change in the Nationalist Party.

    [Daphne – I don’t agree, Joseph. Are you calling PN councillors members of a clique, or are you saying that they can’t think for themselves and will be subject to the will of this clique even though the vote is by secret ballot?]

    Therefore, it is better to open the election to all members, so that everyone will have an equal chance.

    I also believe that Simon, Beppe and Mario are all valid leadership contenders, and whoever loses should shake hands with the winner and contest for the other leadership posts.

    If this does not happen, the Party will continue to be controlled by the clique and there will be different factions in the Party.

    This will mean that the PN will remain in opposition for a very very long time.

    Come on, let us do as Eddie and Guido did in 1977: working together for the good of the Party!

    [Daphne – There are always going to be factions. There are factions even in the Labour Party. The issue is one of loyalty and of esprit de corps, both of which are sadly lacking. There was no love lost between de Marco and Fenech Adami, but they didn’t set about knifing each other and de Marco had the intelligence to know that you don’t sink the ship on which you’re sailing. Sadly, others today don’t think that way, and some of them have thought nothing of sinking the ship on which they sailed because the option which de Marco would never have considered – jumping ship to Labour – is fine with them.]

  27. Joseph Vassallo-Agius says:

    Daphne, I am NOT saying that councillors are members of a clique. Yes, I do think that the councillors are going to be strongly influenced by a clique. Why do you think the Party Executive quashed the idea of having the tesserati vote in the leadership election?

    [Daphne – I think it’s probably because it will turn into a mini election campaign, with the same difficult dynamics. You can campaign directly with councillors, but you can’t reach members individually.]

    Councillors usually vote according to the wishes of the powers that be. I have asked a few questions and have been told that many councillors are loyal to Gonzi because that have been appointed by him and his people.

    I completely agree with you on the relationship between Eddie and Guido, but as you said they never even thought about knifing each other. That is what I wish to happen in this leadership election. At the end of the day, I would like the very best to work together for the good of the country. The different factions should work together.

    [Daphne – Yes, indeed. It’s so obvious that many of them don’t have that discipline. The individualistic, egotistical streaks come right out. Me me me me and me again.]

    This did not happen in 2004 and look what happened to the Nationalist Party.

    Yes, I agree with you that jumping ship and switching to Labour is no solution.

    I had told JPO, etc on blogs and Facebook to contest against Gonzi when there was a leadership election last February. They obviously did not do so. Rather than changing things from within, they found it easier to continue causing harm to the country and eventually to switch to PL.

    [Daphne – That’s because it was all about them and still is, so expect no better.]

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