Bad political language

This morning scores of budding politicians will enter the political arena as local councillors where, alongside some seasoned individuals re-elected to their local council, they will cut their political teeth. They are not doing so in the best of times. The way we do politics has been diminishing for years.

There have been several instances these last few weeks when the Prime Minister walked away in grim silence from the media horde
- Lino Spiteri

It has now reached a new low.

Tough talk and hard language are part and parcel of the political game. Nevertheless, tough and hard as it has been, language tended to be keptwithin limits. Perhaps notquite exemplary gentlemanly limits. Yet within bounds, just the same. We are passing through a period when those bounds are being loosened, if not completely broken.

It is remarkable that someone should blab that he dislikes members of the other side so much he has a phobia of them.

That he has no time for employees of his who happen to be from that other side, to the extent that he pays them less.

It is easy to apologise when all sides come down upon you like a ton of bricks, though it is a bit too facile to say you are not really like that, you were joking, plus other bla bla. Such words should not be spoken, not even in jest.

I find it astonishing that the man’s leader and Prime Minister did not feel impelled to tell him to withdraw his candidature from yesterday’s local elections.

That omission is, to my mind, worse than the severely prejudiced man’s commission. Unless hate talk is stamped out of the system, it will grow worse.

In fact, so it did.

Another local councillor could not stand the other side so much that she was heard saying she wished them all dead. That she used the eff word in the process was not lady-like, but is neither here nor there except for language purists who believe that one can hit hard without lacing speech with foul words.

It is the extreme thought behind the expletive that is worrying. The lady in question did not bother to reply to the media when questioned about it. Not even a weak apology was eked out of her. Surprisingly, her party had nothing to say, either. This particular lady, for some reason or another, was not for burning by her side.

The lady broke her silence when a second charge was made against her, through a recording that had her saying she wished an opponent’s mother had a heart attack. She denied she had said that about that single person, thereby casting more ugly light on the first allegation in her regard, that she wished them all dead.

She said she suspected whatever she had uttered had been doctored and threatened to take legal action if the recording or the allegation was repeated.

She might have sounded more convincing had she taken legal action straightaway against the medium which published and repeated the allegation.

The lady’s side had nothing to say about the matter. More surprising there were voices that used the social media to try to justify her hate words.

Where will it end? If this style is unchecked, it will definitely lead to a worsening of the situation, to further use of dangerous language. Hate breeds hate, especially when those on the side that display it take it lightly, thereby condoning it.

As all this was going on, a new trend began to emerge. Our politicians love being wooed by the media. They invent photo-opportunities by the dozen.

The Prime Minister leads by example. He has something to say about everything. PBS is even encouraged to waste scarce funds to send journalists and cameramen to hear his take about, say, top meetings at the EU, though these are instantly and endlessly covered by the round-the-clock news services.

Domestically, his busy PR unit crafts photo-opportunities for him all over the island, to enable him to talk, say, about a factory or an office he is visiting using the information provided by the directors and management, who should be the ones doing the talking.

Sound bites are the name of this part of the game. Ministers are led by prime example to create, at a minimum, three sound bites a week. That, plus endless spin, is integral to how themodern political game is played. In the old days politicians used to pump hands and kiss babies. That has given way to postures for the ubiquitous media camera and microphone.

Except that the act seems to be changing. Politicians are becoming selective in their regard for the usefulness of the media.

There have been several instances these last few weeks when the Prime Minister walked away in grim silence from the media horde always eager for his comments, especially about some hot issue, which is what news is all about.

Not a very polite example, one might say. Certainly not typical. More typical is the tendency for ministries not to reply to written questions sent to them by the media. No reply was received by the time we went to press is a common comment added to hot stories regarding public life. That attitude is now being displayed even under the watching eye of media cameras.

So, on one hand we have bad and hate language rearing their ugly head. On the other we have the leader of the nation and the political class giving bad examples by preferring silent disregard towards the questioning media.

What is one to make out of all that? I hope the new local councillors elected today do not follow bad example blindly.

They are part of forlorn hope for a better tomorrow.


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