Thou shalt not deride ‘Tal-Ajkla’

In his blog, Andrew Azzopardi raised the issue of whether making fun of the candidate standing for election under the ‘Tal-Ajkla’ banner is ethical and acceptable in our society.

I think we have gone overboard with this mania for political correctness

Fr Mark Montebello was quick to respond, insisting that “being amused with ridiculing half-wits, and encouraging them to be publicly mocked, is shameful and immoral”, adding: “This is local politics at its best. What a disgrace!”

After seven weeks of an electoral campaign during which ‘serious’ politicians have been lambasted in the social networks, ridiculed in cartoons, called everything imaginable under the sun, with everybody accepting this treatment as par for the course, these remarks seem to me quite rich.

The ‘Tal-Ajkla’ phenomenon is obviously a reaction to the boredom generated by an electoral campaign that was by far too long and has become incredibly predictable – except for the mudslinging sessions that have become the order of the day.

When the Prime Minister during the debate organised by The Times last Tuesday was asked who started the mudslinging in the campaign, to his credit he did not respond by pointing the finger to the other side. Obviously it is not just Malta that belongs to us all!

The problem is that people are no longer being shocked when politicians lie about each other or when they blow up small incidents leading them to make serious accusations against each other. Neither are they shocked when they hear of corruption and graft in our society. When accusations are made against a person in the opposing political camp and who is perceived to have negative attributes, some accept even the wildest accusations as if they were the gospel truth, so long as they attack the other side, of course. Has our society become immune to the serious loss of values that we perceive around us today?

For me, character assassination is the most repugnant of political tactics, but no one ever said how shameful this behaviour is. It was the mocking of the ‘Tal-Ajkla’ candidate that made the grade. Having been the victim of two obscene character assassinations perpetrated in 1996 and 2008 by the Labour media that seemed to have a predilection for this sort of ‘sport’, I have a pretty good idea on how other victims feel.

I think that character assassination is disgraceful, and can never condone it, irrespective of which side of the political divide it is coming from. I cannot understand how some people condemn it when it comes from one side and wallow in it when it comes from the ‘opposite’ side. The fact that this dirty tactic is no longer the monopoly of one side but has been openly adopted also by the other saddens me no end.

Perhaps it is far more convenient for ethicists and morality connoisseurs to criticise the ordinary man in the street for having some fun at the expense of ‘Tal-Ajkla’ than to take any of the big political parties and their media head on.

Ignoring character assassination, while pontificating that mocking ‘Tal-Ajkla’ is irresponsible behaviour that shames the Maltese people is surely missing the wood for the trees. Is maliciously spreading lies and subjecting politicians to character assassination acceptable while poking fun and ridiculing loony candidates is a definite no-no?

Did anyone say ‘shameful’? My negative reaction to character assassination from whatever origin seems perverse to many.

Apparently, I am expected to react negatively to character assassination only when this is against someone from ‘our’ side and not when it is the other way about. Some even argue that there must be an ulterior motive behind my reasoning and dismiss my distress about the use of character assassination tactics by the party, of which I am a card carrying member, as obvious signs that I am a doddering old fool, or wreaking vengeance because I did not get what I wanted or simply a traitor to the cause.

As to mocking ‘Tal-Ajkla’, I know that we are in the era of political correctness that deems we should avoid joking about people with handicaps, whether they stammer or are blind, deaf, one-legged, menopausal women or old men suffering from erectile dysfunction. In practice, this means that most television sitcoms and jokes should be banned.

I think we have gone overboard with this mania for political correctness. At the risk of sounding even more politically incorrect, I think it’s about time to stop this nonsense and free humour from the shackles of political correctness. The right for freedom of expression includes the right to tease, taunt, mock, rib and needle any public personality and any group of people or institution.

Some think this applies only to ‘serious’ politicians. Yet, if every time one tries to raise a laugh, he or she has to pass some stringent test of political correctness, one might as well forget it and just stick to believing that all politicians are liars, irresponsible and dishonest, even if this is no laughing matter.

By the way, I forgot to mention that there are also jokes about people suffering from dementia.

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