Having worked in the culture and the publishing industry most of my life I know very well that it is one of the least meritocratic industries. Unlike utilities, the value of cultural products is not measured by their utility but rather by relative to ideological factors (ideological in the broad philosophical term and not strictly political). For example, what gets published by a big editorial house is a selection chosen by a trusted agent. Apart from the theoretical difficulty of finding the best texts available amongst the thousands of texts written every year, there is also the practical reality of personal biases which may often be subject to rent-seeking and this can vary from bribes, personal preferences, intimacy and sometimes to even outright abuse.
In Malta, a very large number of the intellectual elite are the intellectual elite only because they are rent-seekers and these are often promoted by political parties in government. During the rent-seeking boom of Joseph Muscat, Joseph sought to award the intellectuals who backed him. I was one of them yet I contented myself with having the power to change laws and develop the book industry without going to the trouble of an election. Others contended with building careers through government subsidies and careers at the University of Malta such as Carmen Sammut.
One of the artists who received patronage and support from the Joseph Muscat administration was Mario Philip Azzopardi who was appointed as artistic director to the European Capital City of Culture (aka Valletta 18) and was responsible for funds which implement a host of his vane artistic projects such as Pageant of the Seas and others. Today, Mario Philip Azzopardi is promoting a play he wrote and directed which is basically a direct attack on Daphne Caruana Galizia. Manuel Delia has leaked its script and the story reads like a callous and hateful attack full of lies and misquotations. He calls it satire. Satire is usually about people in power and not journalists who have been murdered by a criminal association that was entrenched in the State. This is the Orwellian equivalent of having Goebbels conjuring up hateful stories about Jews. Apparently, Manoel Theatre, the national theater of Malta had no problem hosting this play. The government pays hundreds of thousands of Euros a year to artistic directors, consultants and whatnot and apparently no one had the gall to tell that Mario Philio Azzopardi’s play is a hateful piece of trash that he should host himself. Well,of course they wouldn’t. Malta’s public cultural apparatus is basically controlled by politically-appointed idiots. In Mario Philip Azzopardi’s case, he’s not only a failed artist and a total idiot (some people in Malta seem to have a very distorted idea of what a successful artist is), he’s also a desperate servant who is always going the extra mile to publicly exhibit his loyalty to his masters.
Mario Philip Azzopardi was never involved in politics until Joseph Muscat came along and promised him manna from heaven. Instead of retiring into oblivion, he found a new life thanks to the platform that Joseph Muscat gave him. Mario is only producing vile propaganda against a murdered adversary of the Labour Party out of his overzealous enthusiasm to publicly show his loyalty to Labour. Prior to Muscat coming into power, Mario never made any high-powered political remarks in his life. Then what changed? Nothing changed other than that he was promised gifts and gifts were given to him. Mario is a really big piece of shit. Probably one of the worst specimens of humankind, being the kind of subservient criminals dictators like Stalin would use to do their dirty work, only to have them killed later on. Like one of Stalin’s figurative chickens. Really, Mario is a hallow, vile and worthless piece of shit. From superstar artist to Labour’s artistic consultant. More like from a failed artist in Canada to a dirty political propagandist in the arts.
Despite the fact that Mario Philip Azzopardi seems to be the most callous of Labour’s intellectual elite, most of them share his callousness, only they articulate it more eloquently. Such as when Carmen Sammut diminished Daphne Caruana Galizia’s legacy in a peer-reviewed journal. There are many others. Or the executive chairman of the National Book Council taunting other authors publicly. They are today’s intellectual rent-seeking elite supported by politicians like Owen Bonnici who has been appointed Culture Minister once again. He will be working once again with pro-Labour artist Albert Marshall (head of the Arts Council) and many others he had patronised already as well. There are many more members of this intellectual rent-seeking circle of friends, however, Phds may often deceive. For example, The Shift didn’t get the full angle to the story when they wrote about an Arts Council executive in New York – they missed the part where she is actually the cousin of Joseph Muscat. She is also the wife of John Baldacchino shown here. These artists who are supported by the Labour government have all one thing in common in their behaviour: they are always uncritical towards Labour, silent towards the abuses made on their colleagues and are mostly ingratiating to Labour at different opportunities. They are not really intellectuals. They are more like propagandists who write and do whatever their masters expect of them and if they do something independently it will surely and never step out of the boundaries prescribed by their masters.
I didn’t get to stay on as a cultural executive with the government because I didn’t play and act on this script. I was the first government executive who celebrated Daphne Caruana Galizia when none other of my colleagues in the cultural entities wanted to go there. Looking back, I have great satisfaction I was never part of this rent-seeking crowd. And I selfishly feel vindicated seeing the fascist callousness of Mario Philip Azzopardi. There was once an article about Desmond Zammit Marmara complaining that Labour intellectuals don’t have any influence in the Party. Thank God for that. Labour’s intellectuals are a band of desperate rent-seekers who can be as vile and contemptible as the criminals who murdered Daphne herself. Indeed, these rent-seeking idiots not only kept silent about Daphne’s murder, but some like Carmen and Mario opted to use their work to denigrate her further and tarnish her legacy against corruption.
With the re-appointment of Owen Bonnici as Culture Minister the government has once again set an agenda to support our rent-seeking cultural elite. As Justice Minister, Bonnici was crucial to cover up for Joseph Muscat and his cronies through the Attorney-General apart from having been found by the Court to have violated human rights by ordering the removal of Daphne’s memorial in front of the law courts. Owen is an ideal useful tool to continue the rent-seeking legacy in the government cultural entities, He has also evaded the limelight of the press over his shady role in Joseph Muscat’s administration as Minister of Justice, so unlike Edward Żammit Lewis he can get a pass from the Prime Minister. Meanwhile, Mario Philip Azzopardi timed his play perfectly well according to his vile plan. His hateful play comes just right after the elections as a celebratory gesture to Labour’s victory in the election. Owen is going to be proud of Mario’s work and just as he defended Jason Micallef’s diatribes against Daphne after she was murdered (V18 Chairman and technically, Mario’s boss) I’m sure he is going to invoke the same argument of “free speech”. Well, most of it is fraud. Pro-Labour propaganda that is depicted as academia or art and it’s all sponsored by the rent-seeking regime.