The ‘if you can’t beat them join them’ philosophy articulated rather naively but for that no less sincerely by Justin Schembri really aspire for one thing: a collective regression to the primordial sub-intellect of political fandom.
No political party has anything to envy Labour unless of course, other political parties see their scope for existence as winning elections rather than governing for the public good. If Justin Schembri argued for the imitation of Labour’s economic policies say, I might disagree with him. I would disagree with him. But it would not make his point of view illegitimate.
Or if say Justin Schembri were to argue that the PN should update its policies on civil rights to catch up where Labour has led the way, he would be making a pertinent, albeit controversial argument.
But though he described what he wanted the PN to imitate as ‘policies’ his later clarification insisted he meant he wanted the PN to be able to communicate as effectively as Labour.
Perhaps I have done enough of interpreting Justin Schembri’s intentions and accept that I may be thinking about his writing rather more than he has. But I suspect his ‘communications’ clarification really does come from the mouth of babes.
Labour is not a particularly effective communicator. In private conversation, it gets people to switch sides to it with a mixture of bribes and threats. You are reminded of that out of screen scene in the reminiscences of Michael Corleone: “Luca Brasi held a gun to his head, and my father assured him that either his brains or his signature would be on the contract.”
That’s not effective communication. That’s thuggish brute force.
Nor is Labour’s external communication that particularly impressive. Consider how poorly the world press covers our government and how Parliamentarians and diplomats of all hues leave Castille shuddering.
The popularity Labour enjoys requires its audiences to be unthinking, unquestioning, uncritical, undoubting. They are not political supporters, they are faithful in a quasi-cultist sense.
That is not effective political communication. That is a contra-civilisational recess into a primordial herd mentality. Consider this article in Lovin Malta by someone who says they voted Labour in 2013 but cannot fathom how people manage to put Keith Schembri and Konrad Mizzi and the protection afforded them by Joseph Muscat in their hysterical support of the Labour Party.
That relationship of blind trust even in the face of facts is something every political party without the ability to persuade and the arguments to convince would devoutly wish for. In most democracies, it’s not likely to happen although a general hostility to cogent argumentation, to journalism, to expertise, to inconvenient facts, is indeed growing all over Western democracy.
Rather than effective communication transmitters, Justin Schembri represents the desire for effective communication receptors: a herd willing to applaud enthusiastically what with some thought individuals within it would certainly disagree.
Like the audience harangued by Napoleon the pig, a number of sheep are planted in the barn meeting to start enthusiastic bleating before anyone else has had time to absorb what they are being told.
I get that all the time when I post something on Facebook. Herds of people who have obviously not looked at what I wrote bleat inanities about Arriva, or Austin Gatt, or the millions I make each time someone clicks on my page. They don’t have to be Laburisti. Any mere indication that something I wrote is critical of their idol — Joseph Muscat or Adrian Delia — is a prompt for projectile vomit in the general direction of argument or uncomfortable fact.
They come so hard and fast that very quickly other people assume there’s no space for them to form their own opinion, let alone express it.
We find ourselves stuck in our childhood schoolyard. Mocked for thinking, shouted down for speaking, defeated by those who kick first and ask questions later. But without the infantile luxury of having a future to look forward to where we can thrive in a world of adults.
This, folks, is as good as it gets.