The world watched on in horror as the foundations of democracy were threatened by pro-Trump protestors storming Capitol Hill and (briefly) halting a ceremonial vote to confirm Joe Biden as the next President of the United States.
Donald Trump, despite the deaths of four people, is still engaging in dangerous spin and misinformation. The protestors will not look upon what happened with dismay but with praise, along with several million across the USA, as surveys already show.
This is what happens when fervent propaganda and blind partisanship are allowed to go by unchecked. Election results can simply be dismissed and fiction passed off as fact.
It should come as no surprise. Trump’s rise and refusal to fall is the ripple effect of a deeply polarised media landscape brought on by the ‘Foxification’ of mainstream news.
But Malta should not look upon what’s happening in the USA in shock but rather with concern that we’re not too far away. The truth is that Malta is a dystopian parody of what happens in America.
Our political system has been hijacked by two media empires that spout incessant propaganda while acting as a cover for big business to influence what goes on in the country.
Yes, Fox, MSNBC, Breitbart, HuffPost and other major US TV networks may not be party-owned, but their coverage means that they play to their audiences’ narrow views and maintain an ever-growing echo chamber. One and Net do the same, but rather than bottom lines, it’s done to serve perverse political agendas and big business interests.
Needless to say, it’s been a disaster so far. Since the political party’s TV stations opened up in the 1990s, successive administrations, whether blue or red, have been plagued by corruption. It’s been more than a decade since either published their accounts.
The results are clear for all to see with Malta’s natural and urban environments paying the price to the benefit the few.
Still, an overwhelming number of Maltese people vote along party lines, simply refusing to see beyond partisanship. One and Net know that well and play off it to ensure that at least 35% of the population will vote for their party regardless of political opinion.
Haven’t you ever wondered why fundamental issues like the environment, migration, corruption, and the impending threat of greylisting are split according to party lines? It’s far easier to maintain the status quo when we’re all too busy fighting one another.
COVID-19 should be a lesson to us all. Maltese people quickly put petty partisan divisions behind them for the good of the country. We helped one another while also demanding that the government and opposition work towards finding workable solutions that benefit the many.
Beyond that, it’s becoming harder and harder in Malta to differeniate truth from fiction, with Maltese politicians far too willing to lie or omit the truth when answering for their misdeeds. Net and One, unfortunately, provide the perfect platform to do it.
And contrary to the Broadcasting Act’s assertions, they’re not a simple equation that magically cancels one another out. They’re part of the same force that has sent Malta down a spiralling path of divisiveness which threatens to rip the nation apart.
There is no quick or easy way to fix this crisis. Because when it comes to dealing with disinformation, simply repeating the facts doesn’t do much to change anyone’s mind, especially when you have a hundred-person-strong media machine to spin any fact to make it appear as fiction.
People process information is through entire narratives, not individual facts. And, political party stations are making it simply impossible to trust institutions and independent media houses because they either spin facts or dismiss criticism as being part of some hidden party agenda.
Both the PN and PL have used their platforms to continuously discredit anyone who dared criticise them. Daphne Caruana Galizia, the loudest one of us all, was left isolated and ostracised as a “biċċa blogger” or the “Saħħara of Bidnija” till someone blew her up.
Falsehoods and spin, no matter how small, drastically reduces a nation’s ability to govern. We cannot allow it to happen at home.
Not all hope is lost. The future, unlike facts, is not set in stone. We have it within our powers to demand more from our political parties to ensure impartial civil discourse. We cannot stand idly by as every single issue that affects every single one of us gets divided by cross party lines.
The pandemic has shown us that we all have a remarkable capacity to listen, learn, and support one another for a better, brighter future. Now, the challenge is thrusting that mentality to the very heart of the political parties’ media empires.
Do you agree? Comment below