Raphael Vassallo | Sunday, 26 April 2009
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The Department of Idiot-formation

It’s a good thing we have a Department of Information in this country, let me tell you. How else are we to keep up with the sheer volume of statements and counter-statements churned out by the NSO (National Statesmen’s Orifice) each week? Who else will assume the responsibility of informing us, whenever a Cabinet Minister stresses the importance of always stating the obvious at every available public occasion? Or when parliamentary secretaries pay official visits to the Catacombs of Bistra, like Chris Said did on Thursday? (Note to the DOI: next time it would be more useful to also inform us what these catacombs actually are. Personally, I’d never heard of them.)
And besides: what would we possibly do with all this vital information, if we didn’t have a small army of diligent government bureaucrats lying somewhere in Castille (Pun? Me? Never!), to select and collate all the juicy nuggets for us, so that we can tell what’s really important just by glancing at the DOI website?

For instance: did you know that the Gozo Ministry this week issued a statement in rebuttal of something that was said the week before by the Shadow Minister for Gozo?
No, I didn’t think you would (unless you happen to be the Gozo Minister in person, in which case… I sympathise). Not even I, who religiously peruse the DOI website each day in search of knowledge, was aware of this seminal fact. And having been alerted to it, I’m still not entirely sure what was said by the Shadow Minister in the first place, that warranted such urgent rebuttal. For unless I missed it, the DOI never reported the original statement. And judging only by the way the rebuttal itself was packaged, anyone would think the important detail concerned not what statement the Gozo Ministry made, but rather the fact that it made a statement at all.

So there you have it. Without the DOI, we would be in a right pickle: not knowing that statements have been made and rebutted… or whose statement precisely was rebutted by whom… or which experimental organic farm was blessed by which parish priest, at an inaugural celebration presided over by the Ministry of Unveiled Plaques…
And just yesterday we were treated to the earth-shattering news that the Speaker of the House of Representatives recently addressed a conference about ‘Maltese women in the European Parliament’… which I can’t imagine was a very long conference, considering that – um – there aren’t any Maltese women in the European Parliament at the moment (unless, of course, one of the Famous Five hasn’t been telling us the complete truth all these years).

But back to the DOI. Recently I got to find out – not through any official channel, I hasten to add – that tempers were somewhat frayed in the corridors of power this week, on account of a certain article which appeared in a certain section of the press last Sunday.
The article was about a certain photograph of a certain President of the Republic, sitting in a very uncertain position on a chair. Word had got out, it seems, that some form of “official comment” had come the author’s way from the Director of Information in person, and that the comment regarded the precise reason for the photo’s withdrawal.
How else could I possibly have known (for I confess: it was me) that it was because of the peculiar way he was sitting in his chair? Other, perhaps, than the remote possibility that I had actually seen the photo for myself before forming an opinion about it? And besides: did I not also claim to have spoken to the Director in the course of the same article? Did I not write: “I decided to call the DOI and have it straight from the Director of Idiot-formation’s mouth”?

Honestly, where do people get bizarre impressions like that from? How do they manage to get so hopelessly lost in the corridors of power? I would have thought they were fairly straight and uncomplicated corridors to navigate, in a country with only one Parliament and only one party sitting on the government side, which gets to appoint pretty much every position of authority in every department, everywhere…
Well, wherever they got the idea from me, it certainly wasn’t me. As I made perfectly clear in my article last week – and also evidenced in the above quote – the only Department to have spoken me on the subject was not the Department of Information, but the Department of Idiot-formation, and the two are not the same thing at all.

And yet, for all the overwhelming evidence to the contrary, it seems that few people out there actually know about the existence of a Department of Idiot-formation in this country. And no sooner does a poor satirist allude to it at all, than the Department of Information suddenly seems to think it’s being talked about behind its back. Like we didn’t have better things to do with our time, than discuss the finer details of Department of Information press releases. Or for that matter, fill entire newspaper pages with opinion pieces about the DOI.

But just because the DOI has never heard of the government office with which it shares an acronym, allow me to confirm that the Department of Idiot-formation exists. Oh, yes. And I can prove it.
Let’s start with the obvious: if there wasn’t a Department of Idiot-formation, then where on earth would all the idiots come from? Eh?
And let’s face it: you hardly need an article from me to remind you that idiots clearly exist, and that they have to come from somewhere… with all the idiotic consequences that make life in this country so uniquely, well, idiosyncratic.

But just like Information requires a Department to manage it, and ensure that only so much actually slips out from the clenched fist of the Information Controllers – and even then, only for the exclusive benefit of the latter, and not of the intended recipients at all – so, too, does Idiot-formation need to be properly administered by a government department composed of suitably qualified (and/or cherry-picked) bureaucrats, if it is to serve a useful purpose to the purveyors of the State.
How, then, could our national confederacy of idiots be controlled, channelled and lovingly cultivated, so that – with a little ingenuity on the part of the Idiot-formers – their combined idiocy can be skilfully translated into longer, straighter, and more navigable corridors of power, in which to get lost?

Personally, I don’t know the answer to this question. Maybe one day the Department of Information will issue a press release to tell us all about it.


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