My mother always used to tell me if you don’t have anything nice to say about someone, don’t say anything at all. Of course, that’s never applied to Maltese politics… but if the nasty thing haters have in mind also happens to be pretty lame, then you probably shouldn’t be worrying all that much.
Beyond the obvious, eye-rolling idolisation all our politicians get just for literally being their faulted selves, Malta’s leaders (and their hopeful competitors) are subject to some of the fiercest criticism around.
As well they should; if you decide to put yourself out there and start calling the shots in your country, then the people who put you there deserve to call you out on your bullshit every step of the way. But we all know what actually ends up happening is people consistently and selectively call out only one group of people – the ones who weren’t blessed enough to belong to their own cultish tribe.
Enter Bernard Grech, Malta’s new Opposition Leader and head of the still-sinking ship, the Nationalist Party.
Leading a political party that’s increasingly becoming a ghost of its former self at the tail-end of a decade of dominance by your seemingly unstoppable competitor has got to be rough. I mean, sleep-paralysis-inducing rough. Malta has a worryingly intense fascination with underdogs, but I’ll be damned if Grech isn’t currently Malta’s biggest political underdog by a very long shot.
And with Facebook trolls copy-pasting lemon emojis and “AħSeB u ArA iNtOm”s like their lives depended on it, of course Bernard Grech was instantly going to become Target Number One even before he was elected as the new Opposition Leader earlier this month.
And so it began… with the unearthing of something Grech had said 319 days ago, courtesy of the government’s top attack dog.
By now, everyone has seen or heard of that one clip from 2019 where, as more and more revelations came out implicating most of the government’s upper echelons in shocking scandals, Bernard Grech said he’s been abroad and “told people I’m from Greece because my surname is Grech which makes it easily believable”.
“I’m not joking, I really do that because I’m ashamed to tell them I’m Maltese because I’m afraid of what they’ll tell me,” Grech had reiterated in the debate back when he was far from being the PN leader. “I can’t defend the Prime Minister, his clique and all this dirt.”
Of course, a quote like that was perfect for Pjazza propagandist Karl Stagno Navarra to dig up and use to hop on board the patriotic train… theatrics with passports and all.
“Look at this passport,” Stagno had emotionally told his entranced audience after playing the 2019 Bernard Grech clip. “I’m proud to form part of this beautiful country when others would rather be Greek!”
What followed was exactly one month of Greek flag emojis and constant online comments that weirdly seem like they’ve all been copied and pasted from one coordinated troll hub.
The Opposition Leader doesn’t like Malta’s corruption? Well, he should go to Greece. The Opposition Leader is spotted walking down the road? Hmm, he should probably be walking down Athens instead. The Opposition Leader just appeared on your TV set? Hah, φαίνεται ηλίθιος!
Heck, this whole Greek thing was even going on until last week… with yet another very important One News report.
Fast forward to this week, and Labour Trolls found a new way to make fun of PN’s new leader, courtesy of the quickest and simplest slip this side of the Parliament.
In his first major speech as Opposition Leader, Grech was giving his Budget reaction in Parliament when he said he remembers (niftakar) instead of reminds (infakkar) the trials faced by Maltese people during the Great Siege of 1565.
And that’s all it took – now, the Greek flags had some text and memes to go with them, from Grech fighting alongside La Valette to him being Dragut. Even Lovin Malta got in on the joke at one point, because what’s a shitty year like 2020 without a wholesome #TBT to that Shooting Stars meme?
This time, however, there was one major difference; the people leading the satirical front were not your average keyboard warriors, but none other than Malta’s dignified elected officials. You know, the ones who absolutely hate people who sow petty division in our country.
@lovinmaltaofficialWe’ve got a time traveller as an Opposition Leader ????✨???? ##lovinmalta ##malta ##tiktokmalta ##fyp ##fypmalta ##politicalmemes♬ original sound – Lovin Malta
Now let’s forget for a minute that this is coming from the government whose now-disgraced former Tourism Minister said he remembered Air Malta’s first flight before he was even born.
Heck, let’s even pretend like “lol Bernard Grech is Greek” is gut-bustingly hilarious even when you read it for the 453rd time in the same lemon-infested comments section.
If the only thing Labour’s trolls have on Bernard Grech is a year-old clip of him saying he’s ashamed of the government’s corruption and a simple slip-up during his first major speech as Opposition Leader, then that’s actually great news for the guy.
By this point, Grech’s predecessor Adrian Delia already had quite a lot to deal with… including an alleged involvement in a Soho prostitution ring. Instead, Grech has to deal with accidentally saying niftakar instead of infakkar. And if I’m aware of this fact, you can be sure that our political elite are aware of it too.
In a political environment that relies almost entirely on propagating the endles “Us vs Them” tribal mentality, not having any substantial dirt on your competitor does not bode well for only one person; yourself.
And sure – there’s also the important fact that the Opposition Leader has probably not said or proposed anything with even remotely enough substance yet to even deserve a more legitimate response.
But if I had to be in Bernard Grech’s not-so-desirable shoes right now, the one thing I’d be hoping for is that those Greek flag emojis and Great Siege memes never stop coming.
What do you make of this? Let us know in the comments below