Saturday 16 February 2019

Smile, it’s just an election

I tried to watch both Gonzi’s speech at the Fosos as well as Muscat’s speech at Ta’ Qali, but gave up pretty quickly on both.

Partly, it was because, as Claire Bonello so rightly said today, we’ve heard the tired, old political rhetoric all before.

But it was also because I simply cannot connect with this aggressive style of oration.

It’s like something comes over Maltese politicians when they climb onto a stage, step up to a podium and have to address so many people. It seems they are overpowered by this need to shout.  I would think that the microphone placed in front of them would preclude any need for that.

After all, I have seen President Obama address thousands, and he has never raised his voice in anger, but simply pitches it so that it comes out strong and confident in firm, measured tones. And he is always careful to smile and allow his natural, easygoing charisma to shine through.

It’s not just the screaming by the speaker though – it’s the body language and facial expressions.  Today there is a photo of Muscat on the front page of It-Torca (see pic above), and he is practically snarling. I don’t understand Labour’s PR sometimes – why would you put an aggressive picture of your leader when a smiling, confident photo such as the one which appeared on the inside pages, would have better transmitted the right, positive message?  Trying to figure it out, I concluded that maybe that is what whoever chose the picture thinks Labour supporters want to see – someone who is militant and ready for the “battle”. They forget, as they so often do, that their biggest battle is the battle for the floating voters.

Meanwhile, on Thursday evening, Gonzi not only looked like he was about to explode with barely suppressed fury (had he just read one of Franco’s latest blogs?), but he looked visibly exhausted – and the campaign hasn’t officially started yet. Or so we have been told.

My reading of the national mood is that, given a choice, many people would love to hibernate until it’s all over. Either that or just hold the election tomorrow and simply skip the whole tedious campaign, so we can just get on with our lives.

As I have often said, mass meetings are not my friend.  I find all that frenzied shouting, the chanting and the mindless bouncing up and down to the tst, tst, boom, boom pounding of the latest election song to be pretty pointless. Obviously these meetings are serving their purpose for the party faithful as a visible show of support (rajt kemm kellna nies?! – did you see how many people we had?) and to keep supporters hoping against hope that (to quote the PN’s recycled song) “We’ll win again”.

(I’m not sure what the Labour election song is, or whether they have one yet, but I’m sure we will find out soon enough.)

But for those who are not gung-ho about either of the two large parties, all these shenanigans are just so much waste of time.   Politicians can scream as aggressively as they like at the masses in front of them, but it is the ones who shy away from such things who really need to be persuaded.

As for my opinion on what Gonzi and Muscat actually had to say …I really cannot comment. The thing with me is that once a speaker starts shouting and frowning and  coming across as if they want to tear someone apart from limb to limb, I immediately tune out and turn off.

And if politicians are going to persist in pummeling our senses with aggressive discourse and negative campaigning rather than mature and civilized persuasive arguments, then this election is going to probably have the lowest voter turnout in Maltese history.






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