The silly season goes berserk
In his book Subliminal, Leonard Mlodinow describes how the unconscious mind, playing incredible tricks, shapes our behaviour, especially with regard to social perception.
The unconscious constantly tries to justify what one does or has done. For example, people who while on a holiday enter a shop with no intention to buy anything and end up buying a €1,000 rug for no apparent rational motive will return home and immediately persuade themselves that the rug is perfect for a particular corner of their house – the unconscious having done its best to justify what the rational conscious could not explain.
Al Capone, who ran a bootlegging empire and was responsible for hundreds of deaths, justified his life in this way: “I have spent the best years of my life giving people the lighter pleasures, helping them have a good time, and all I get is abuse, the existence of a hunted man.”
In Mlodinow’s words: “The stronger the threat to feeling good about yourself, it seems, the greater the tendency to view reality with a distorting lens.”
This is, probably, the best elucidation one can find behind the preposterous claims made by Jeffrey Pullicino Orlando against Richard Cachia Caruana, claims that were duly dismissed after the ‘discussion’ about them by the PN Executive last Tuesday.
While one can understand the psychology behind Pullicino Orlando’s attempt to justify himself, one cannot help wondering about the flawed strategy that Labour and its media adopted in this instance.
Writing in The Times on Monday, Lino Spiteri pointed out that Labour’s strategy in this case should have been to step back and watch the spectacle of the mess in which the PN found itself. Instead, Labour entered the dubious fray and ended up damaging themselves more than the PN.
Spiteri wrote this after two former Labour ministers tried to give credence to Pullicino Orlando’s wild accusation that Cachia Caruana had colluded with the Alfred Sant 1996-98 administration against the interests of the PN.
I wonder what Spiteri’s reaction was after hearing and seeing the mischief that the Labour Party media turned up with on Tuesday, the day the PN Executive was scheduled to meet.
Not only did One News broadcast an 80-minute ‘breakfast’ interview of Pullicino Orlando, which they then proceeded to repeat later, but they also broadcast two recorded clips of Cachia Caruana speaking during a conversation that took place many moons ago.
The suspicion that the recording was the result of illegal bugging springs immediately to mind. Moreover, Cachia Caruana’s words were spun to give them the absolutely improbable meaning that he was implying that two former Nationalist ministers were somehow involved in the criminal attempt on his life – a blatant lie.
This spin had absolutely nothing to do with the accusations against Cachia Caruana that the PN Executive was going to discuss. Moreover, there was no indication of when this – presumably bugged – conversation took place, and Cachia Caruana’s words were selected from a longer conversation and taken completely out of their proper context. This ‘reporting’ could only serve as a disgusting character assassination attempt on Cachia Caruana.
That the Labour Party media chose to shoot itself in the foot in this way is incredible. The comparison with the Labour Party reaction when an e-mail exchange between Joseph Muscat and a former RTK journalist was published immediately springs to mind.
Then Labour stood by the allegation that the publication was unethical as the e-mails were stolen or hacked from a personal computer. Now, they themselves did worse.
When Muscat was elected Labour leader he promised a fresh way of doing politics. Conscious of the way many considered Labour’s media as one of its own worst enemies and following a recommendation made in a report on the Labour Party’s electoral defeat, in 2008 Muscat set up a commission to draw up a code of ethics for his party’s media.
When the code of ethics was presented to Muscat some five months later, he was reported saying that he believed people were weary of the all-black or all-white portrayal of events that has become typical of the political parties’ media.
While acknowledging that such a turnaround in media principles required time, Muscat said that the first step had to be taken by politicians. He added that the approved code was to be given to the party’s broadcasters and would be made public.
Sadly, all these good intentions have now gone to the dogs. On Tuesday, the Labour media showed that it is the same character assassination machine of the past and that Muscat’s efforts to reform it have failed miserably.
We are in the silly season and Pullicino Orlando’s behaviour has made it look even sillier, to the extent that this year’s silly season seems to have gone completely berserk. But the antics of Labour’s media can hardly be dismissed as a silly season phenomenon.
Can Muscat now stop people from concluding that his party’s media suffers from an incurable compulsive behaviour mode and that he can do nothing about it?