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One of the very first commentary pieces I posted on this website bears the title ‘Intolerant towards the intolerant’.

In that article, I made it explicitly clear that I will not tolerate hateful and intolerant comments and that repeat offenders who exhibit an obvious lack of willingness to engage in genuine debate will be banned from the platform. Today, I will keep that promise.

Last week, I published an 80-minute interview with the former president of Repubblika, Robert Aquilina.

Briefly explained for the benefit of the readers who have not yet watched the interview, the overarching themes in our discussion were as follows:

Robert’s background and upbringing, with a specific focus on his family’s ties with the Nationalist Party and how that aspect of his life influenced his decision to become an activist rather than a politician,

– why he decided to become so directly involved in Repubblika’s fight against corruption,

– the multitude of court cases Robert is directly involved in as a representative of Repubblika,

the implications of what has been revealed so far and what is likely to occur,

– Robert’s personal reflections on what it was like to endure severe harassment as a result of his activism, and

what we can expect to see of him in the near future and what his ideal vision for the country would look like.

Given the fact that this interview was the result of a collaboration between two freelance journalists – that is, myself, and Michael Kaden from – the promotional budget for this project was minimal.

Less than €200 were spent on sponsoring two Facebook posts when we published the interview. Other than that, the video’s reach is entirely its own, with one notable driving force sticking out above all others: hatred.

The post from my Facebook page attracted a total of 149 comments. While a couple dozen of those comments were positive (generally, praising Robert for his involvement in the fight against corruption), the overwhelming majority formed part of a coordinated attack on Robert’s personage.

This attack bears the unmistakable signature of the Labour Party’s hate machine. The machine’s calling card? The ‘haha’ emoji that is so popular with its toxic supporter base, who often use it to openly ridicule news articles which expose their party’s corruption or are somehow critical of it.

The scale of the Labour Party’s hate machine was first exposed through a six-month investigation carried out by The Shift in 2018.

The investigation, which unearthed how Facebook groups were being used to spread lies, hate, and threats against Daphne Caruana Galizia and anyone who was labeled as an enemy of the party, also showed that the hate was endorsed by the party’s top brass: former president of Malta Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca and several disgraced officials who previously formed part of the Labour government, including the likes of Keith Schembri, Konrad Mizzi, Rosianne Cutajar, and Chris Cardona, were all members of these groups.

The Labour Party’s tactics have not changed since Daphne Caruana Galizia’s murder, and the recommendations from the public inquiry which concluded that the state is directly responsible for the climate of impunity that enabled her murder remain unaddressed.

As a population, we’ve grown desensitised to this constant barrage of hate. Even newsrooms have grown used to the abuse, with little to no moderation on most comment boards online and with hardly a whisper about how the Labour Party continues to engineer this persistent climate of hatred.

As a result of this, we’ve become complacent in the face of the abysmal standards in our political discourse. Journalists are simply expected to lie down and take it in the name of freedom of speech, as if freedom of speech isn’t being eradicated by the very same people abusing that right to silence valid criticism.

Well, not today. Your right to swing your fist ends where my face begins.

This is how I will be approaching any future situation in which something I published gets mobbed by Labour Party supporters who evidently did not bother with viewing the content itself, let alone formulating a respectable, coherent argument in response to it.

At the bottom of this article, you can find a list of 68 individuals who, through the nature of the comment they uploaded on my post about Robert’s interview and additional information unearthed on their public Facebook profiles, can be identified as Labour Party supporters who were solely focused on discrediting Robert, hurling insults at him, and/or mocking others who were posting comments in his support.

Of those 68 individuals identified by this website, at least 25 of them – more than a third – also posted comments of a similar nature on Robert Aquilina’s post sharing the same interview, further indicating the hallmark of a concerted effort at swaying public opinion against Robert Aquilina on multiple online threads.

I also made it a point to take screenshots of the comments made by these individuals. For the first three days after we published the interview, I hid the most hateful comments on the post, but found that it was practically impossible to single-handedly moderate all of them when they started flooding in. As a result, some of these comments are still visible while some of them are not.

Since the abuse was so systemic, I figured it would make more sense to document it as a mass phenomenon rather than as a series of individual comments which are to be removed from public view.

So what did the haha brigade say, after all?

The comments ranged from insults like “clown” and  “comedian” to homophobic slurs to what more or less translates to ‘fuck everything he holds dear’ (in Maltese: ‘f’għoxx kemm għandu‘).

Besides outright insults of that sort, Labour Party supporters generally framed Robert Aquilina as an agent of the Nationalist Party whose work is solely oriented towards destroying the Labour Party. Baseless conspiracy theories which have become staple features of the Labour Party’s propaganda also abounded aplenty.

Those who made such claims did not bother to take into account that Robert spoke openly about having briefly experimented with political involvement with the Nationalist Party before eventually deciding that civil society suited him better as an avenue for political activism, nor of the fact that Robert himself has criticised the party whenever its faults were evident.

Additionally, it is also publicly known that Repubblika itself has freely and openly criticised the Nationalist Party, with one example being their open call for former opposition leader Adrian Delia’s resignation when it was revealed that he had exchanged text messages with the alleged mastermind of Daphne’s murder, Yorgen Fenech.

It is pertinent to note that Fenech’s latest news mention refers to his rejected attempt at getting assistant police commissioner Keith Arnaud thrown off his case, with the court going out of its way to deplore how Keith Schembri had failed to disclose his intimate friendship with the murder suspect while attending investigative briefings about the murder case. Arnaud had taken over the murder investigation following the forced removal of disgraced former deputy police commissioner Silvio Valletta, better remembered in the public’s imagination as the police officer who was filmed fooling around in Fenech’s Rolls Royce and even attended football matches as his guest.

Other trolls also made unsubstantiated allusions to some mysterious ‘scandal’ surrounding Robert’s decision to resign from Repubblika, further alluding to bogus links between him and the Curia.

Yet again, this betrays a lack of engagement with the content of the interview since Robert spoke openly about the reasons for his resignation in the interview itself. The Curia narrative, which alleges that members and/or supporters of Repubblika and the Catholic Church are secretly doing favours for each other, has also been directly refuted by the Curia itself.

Even the disgusting notion that Daphne’s family was somehow involved in hiding some sort of “revealing” bit of information on her laptop was resurrected briefly, along with several other decade-old stories from the time of the Nationalist Party’s last government which are almost always mentioned whenever someone criticises the Labour Party.

Engagement with the content of the interview itself was so inexistent that two commenters who copied and pasted the same exact comment – an obvious clue that someone was handing out scripts – failed to realise that their complaint about the interview not being in Maltese was not really valid since the entire interview is actually in Maltese.

In the interest of holding these hateful, irresponsible individuals to account, I conclude that the only effective response is to call them out on it. I would also like to turn this into a learning opportunity, and promise to note down the names of any of these individuals who come forward with an apology. The right to seek legal action if and when further abuse is noted is being reserved.

Besides the climate of impunity which the government would like us to believe no longer exists – because after all, the greatest trick the devil ever did pull was to convince the faithful he was merely a figment of their imagination – the biggest reason why such individuals feel like they can get away with hateful commentary is because they find safety in numbers.

As one of many haters, it is easy to delude yourself that nobody will single you out and that your behaviour will not be noted. The idea behind this article is to eradicate that feeling of safety and to vividly remind everyone that everything you do online can be traced back to you, especially if what you do online amounts to lying, hating, and threatening anti-corruption activists.

Remember that when push comes to shove and your stupid comment lands you in court, it won’t be the Labour Party facing the music. It’ll be you, in your personal capacity, as an individual who is foolish enough to stick up for a party that wouldn’t think twice about throwing a loser like you under the bus.

I’m willing to defend my point in court, because I would really like to see how any of you could justify suing a journalist for calling you out on an evident attempt to drown out the voice of a prominent anti-corruption activist. Are you?

If so, try me. Then we’ll see who’s still laughing by then.

The screenshots

The list

  1. Sergio Ciantar

  2. Joe Cassar

  3. Raymond Galea

  4. Theodore Galea

  5. Charles Chetcuti

  6. David Aquilina

  7. Rukku Cutajar

  8. Louis Cassar

  9. Leli Saliba Rickard

  10. Carmel Muscat

  11. Julian D’Amato

  12. Salvu Camilleri ‘il-Katnazz’

  13. Deo Farrugia

  14. Joseph Attard

  15. Alexander Genuis

  16. Felix Cutajar

  17. Paul Pulis

  18. Calcedon Camenzuli

  19. Anna Cauchi

  20. James Borg

  21. Tommy Mallia

  22. Mario Rotin

  23. Joseph Formosa

  24. Michael Degiorgio

  25. Nancy Ellul Zahra

  26. Maria Mercieca

  27. Victor Belli

  28. Joseph Mizzi

  29. Joseph Cassar

  30. Emanuel Cassar

  31. Ramon Psaila

  32. Carmel Fenech

  33. Doris Mangion

  34. Robert il-Coka Tonna

  35. Mario Balzia

  36. Grace Grech Pace

  37. William Micallef

  38. Chuck Micallef

  39. Marianna Spiteri

  40. Jane Delceppo

  41. Helen Briffa

  42. Doris Attard

  43. Kinu Farrugia

  44. Mario Marmara

  45. Kevin Pace Borg

  46. Maria Pakky Inguanez

  47. Tony Buttigieg

  48. Frans Cemo Briffa

  49. Joseph Borg

  50. Noel D’Agostino

  51. Doris Attard

  52. Joseph Magro

  53. Joseph Agius

  54. Sam Carter

  55. Angelo Batolo

  56. Doris Mifsud

  57. Felix Cutajar

  58. Wilfred Sammut

  59. Charles Camilleri

  60. Charles Lia

  61. Charles Camilleri

  62. Gejtu Galea

  63. Leonard Caruana

  64. Tony Camilleri

  65. Paul Mizzi

  66. Richard Zahra

  67. Michael Mizzi

  68. Joe Galdes

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