Thursday, 22 November 2012

Mammoth Lies and Pleistocene Porkers

It's said that if you repeat a lie long enough, people will eventually  take it as the truth - and true to form, the ultra-conservatives are out in force trying to prove it true today, the day after Tonio Borg managed to scrape through to his post as European Commissioner responsible for health and consumer rights. They are trying to convince people through repetition that the objections to his nomination were due to his religious beliefs, that these objections went against the EU's spirit of diversity, and that his eventual acceptance was a victory of common sense over partisanship and intolerance.
In fact, these statements seem to be trying to prove not only the aphorism above, but also the saying that some lies are so farfetched that some people might believe them, thinking nobody could possibly make something like this up.
The fact is that none of the objections to Tonio Borg were based on his religion - in fact, both of his predecessors were also Catholic, and this did not pose a problem. However, unlike them, Tonio Borg has a list of political actions in which he used his position to impose his extreme views on others. Things like his attempts to prevent same-sex couples inheriting property, his vote against divorce after the population had voted in favour in a referendum, and his participation in a campaign to entrench the anti-abortion laws in the constitution - laws which, in Malta, do not permit abortion even if the woman will die without one. Certainly these are issues that are influenced by Tonio Borg's religious beliefs, but the objections were not against his beliefs, but his willingness to use his position to impose them on everyone else.
Tonio Borg managed to get his post by reassuring the European Parliament that his behaviour henceforth would be different, or - to use his own choice of word - he has evolved, in reference to his past opposition to equal rights for gay people. That's a good sign of course - though obviously he will be watched very closely for any signs that he's going back on his reassurances. The moment he does, the commission could be heading for a major clash with the parliament - and could even result in the commissioner being forced to resign - for the second time in a row.
It is also worth looking at how Tonio Borg managed to win approval. Far from being a victory of common sense over partisanship, it was the other way round. The EPP, of which Tonio Borg's party forms part, voted en masse to approve someone from their own team, while the socialists allowed a free vote - so in fact it was a victory of petty partisanship over common sense. Common sense would have been to select someone who is not so extremist, and who would have passed muster with no controversy or doubts, which we have proven perfectly capable of doing with our past candidates. In the end, partisan politics won out.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Sir, an invitation