Whether Glenn Bedingfield is paid by the state or posts in working hours is beside the point

Published: January 13, 2017 at 1:19pm

I write this in reaction to a brief interview with Glenn Bedingfield on the Times of Malta, and to the comments beneath it.

1. It is completely irrelevant whether Glenn Bedingfield posts during working hours or not.

2. Even if he were posting in the evenings or posting during the day while unpaid, it would still be wrong.

3. It is wrong not because it is paid or unpaid, because it is in working hours or not, but because it is a threat to democracy.

4. It is completely irrelevant whether other state employees write blogs about politics. In fact, I know of no other – but again, that is not the point.

5. If Bedingfield were a state employee in some other department or office, his behaviour would be of no concern, except perhaps to his employers. And if he were working directly for the Prime Minister free of charge, it would still be of concern. Because it is not whether he is paid by the state or not that counts. It is not whether he is a state employee or not. It is the fact that he works for the Prime Minister.

6. What Glenn Bedingfield does, on instruction from and with the cooperation of the Prime Minister, is a threat to democracy falsely presented as an expression of it. The sole purpose of what he writes is to threaten critics of the Prime Minister and the government, whether these critics are journalists, prominent people in other fields, or those connected to them. This has a chilling effect on those who criticise, making them stop, fear and think twice.

7. It is not the fact that they are vilified and harassed on Bedingfield’s website that causes them fear and distress in itself and makes them stop criticising the government, the Prime Minister and Mrs Muscat. Though they find that upsetting, the real reason is that when the Prime Minister’s aide picks on them, this signals clearly that they have become or are about to become a government target, with all that entails in various fields. And so they clam up and do what they can to repair the damage. That is exactly why Bedingfield and Muscat do it. They want people to know that their criticism of the government has been noted, that the government now perceives them as an enemy, and that it will begin to target them.

8. When journalists criticise the government and its agents, that is freedom of expression. When the government and its agents use their power to attack and publicly criticise, mock, vilify and harass journalists and others, and those connected to them, that is organised oppression and a serious threat to freedom of expression.

The inability to understand all this, and the constant debates about whether Bedingfield is paid by the state or whether he does it in working hours, are exactly the reason I think clear thinking should be taught at primary and secondary level in all schools. Without it, we have been doomed to this.