Fantasy politics and (the lack of) credibility

The Opposition media’s penchant for releasing "exclusive" stories that lack substance has become an all too familiar disappointment.

We had barely sobered up from the festive period when news started trickling out that a cabinet reshuffle was underway. There had been whispers of a cabinet reshuffle in the air for a few weeks, but few expected it to happen so soon. Most political observers interpreted this suddenness as a positive sign that the government means business and, knowing fully well what a busy and challenging year we have in front of us, time is of the essence.

While the news of an ongoing reshuffle circulated a week ago, journalists from all the major news portals convened in front of the Office of the Prime Minister. Most of us interested in politics were sitting at home with browser tabs opened on the five or six major news portals, refreshing every now and then to check for developments. Most portals were sensibly and cautiously reporting facts by stating which MP was seen running up or down the stairs of Castille.

In a desperate attempt to try to attract a few extra clicks, viewers, or listeners, the media outlets belonging to the Nationalist Party were unwisely trying to report ‘scoops’ about what was happening behind that big green door – I write ‘unwisely’ on purpose. Had they had a little bit more foresight and prudence, they would have realised that, when the official Government press release announcing the reshuffle was eventually issued, their ‘scoops’ could easily crumble, after all. They tried to convince us they had “sorsi infurmati tajjeb”(well-informed sources), which by inference would have meant that they have moles within the Office of the Prime Minister.

Fantacalcio

In the months of July and August, football enthusiasts like me eagerly await transfer rumours, speculating on which player is likely to move, which club has the deepest pockets, and which transfer will break the transfer fee record. The Italians, with their knack for creative wordplay, have aptly named this entertaining concept ‘fantacalcio’, which seamlessly translates to ‘fantasy football’ in English. Typically, the fantacalcio stories are fishing expeditions based around assumptions rather than concrete sources. By the end of the transfer market, because of their speculative nature, very few fantacalcio stories actually materialise. This is exactly how the PN media arm operates; last Saturday’s episode was yet another quasi-comic example of this. Once again, they got it all wrong.

At one point the PN media saw MP Glen Bedingfield climbing the stairs of Castille. They quickly joined the dots to assume what this must have meant in the grand scheme of a cabinet reshuffle. Okay, so during the previous legislature Bedingfield had served as the Government whip. Hence, they assumed that he had been summoned to Castille to retake the Whip’s position. They deduced that the previous whip was leaving his role to assume a new position as Minister. Somehow, they then conjured a story that Minister Byron Camilleri was being sacked and that, consequently, the Home Affairs Ministry was going to be led by Government Whip and Parliamentary Secretary Andy Ellul. Ultimately, we all know that none of the PN’s fantapolitica materialised.

The Opposition media’s behaviour on Saturday last week was indicative of a broader trend, not a one-time occurrence. Their penchant for releasing “exclusive” stories that lack substance has become an all too familiar disappointment. In the short term this strategy might produce some results: their online portal may get a few more clicks, their financially-ailing Sunday paper may sell a few more copies. In the long-term, however, what would they have gained in terms of credibility?

When will the PN realise that it is in political doldrums because it is not credible? With the sort of journalism being churned out of Tal-Pietà, there seems to be no signs that the party’s media arm can seriously contribute to a reversal in its credibility fortunes.

One cannot completely blame the PN media, though, for their lackluster reporting: their own politicians are not generating much in the way of policy proposals that are particularly noteworthy.

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