Opinion | Sunday, 21 March 2010

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Fenomenologia di Daphne Caruana Galizia

The power to create events by simply writing about them requires considerable craft and intelligence. And locally, there is nobody quite as talented as Daphne Caruana Galizia in this respect. The whirlwind which she has managed to create practically out of nothing over the past few months is nothing short of spectacular. Whether you approve of her methods or not is beside the point. It would be wiser to come to terms with the fact that this was a masterclass in the creation of what contemporary French philosophers call l’événement.
From a political point of view, this is perhaps Daphne’s most crucial characteristic: as an ally/tool/accomplice in the political battle, a person who can make things happen in this fashion and at practically zero cost is an absolute goldmine. Just imagine what miracles a Labour-leaning Daphne would do to that party’s electoral chances. And boy, while aiming their guns at her, do they secretly wish that her clone was militating in their camp.
But there are other Daphne characteristics which have become more and more apparent as the mother of all sagas unfolded spectacularly before our curious eyes.
I’d like to dwell awhile on Daphne’s rock star status in an island which has no real rock-stars to speak of. At least, nobody who has nationwide, cross-generational appeal and who is able to create perceptible trends and obsessive responses from her fan base. Compare, for instance, Daphne Caruana Galizia’s and Ira Losco’s impact on society at large. Even if Losco has been accepted by the mainstream, she largely remains a niche character who inhabits a parallel artistic universe detached from real life out there. In between the occasional concert, CD-release and book launch, Ira and her weltanschauung aren’t exactly in the news.
Not so Daphne, who is right there getting down and dirty where things matter with an attitude to match the role. This leads me to believe that part of her appeal (in particular since she kicked off her now notorious blog in 2008) is her ability to provide some form of release in a society which tends to be artificially formalistic in its approach to public life. Look no further than The Times’ traditional, somewhat clinical stance to life – in which the undercurrents underpinning our society are rarely discussed – to know what I mean.
Enter Daphne, who regularly tells politicians and other public figures to f*** off, stuff things up their arses, mocks them for wearing crap clothes and for choosing embarrassing names for their kids and so on. When politicians happen to insist on being in your face 24 hours a day and there isn’t much respite from their ubiquitous faces, I suppose it can be satisfying to find someone who invites them to piss off from time to time, even if she does that very selectively. Only rock stars can really hope to pull off such stunts without being considered dangerous freaks or inconsequential dropouts.
So what about style? My take on it is that Daphne cleverly alternates between classical, punk, ‘trash and destroy’. She is perfectly capable of building intricate arguments in a manner that for Malta is pretty virtuoso: structured thoughts, original ideas, an ability to put things in context and an impeccable use of English which would put your average Daily Mail journalist to shame.
Any yet, it is her ability to shift genre into punk, trash or destroy which is more intriguing and, to some extent paradoxical. Perhaps we should see Daphne as a conservative anarchist, equally comfortable singing the praises of the present regime as she is railing against the entire country for being a total madhouse which requires a serious clean-out. Daphne rages against the machine while propping up a fundamental pillar of the overarching edifice. Consequently, while a deep loathing for and frustration with the country transpires from her writing, you should never be misled into expecting her to be truly revolutionary.
Why trash? Daphne is obviously not innately trash; you may even say that elle a horreur du trash. So how does the paradox, in which she is accused of being trash, arise? My impression is that her trash stance is more of a calculated trick in which she plays – and often beats – her enemies at their own game. She may have concluded (not without reason) that it is wise to fight trash with trash. And let’s face it, it would be dishonest to claim that Daphne single-handedly gave rise to the trash phenomenon. Her achievement, if you’d like to call it one, is that she has managed to perfect the genre, wrap it up in her trademark garb and sell it to an entirely different audience.
Finally destroy, in which our subject appears to be intent not simply on winning an argument but equally on crushing and humiliating the opponent. There’s something distinctly pulp about the whole process. She displays formidable ruthlessness when she goes for the outright kill and in this, perhaps, she is the quintessential politician. For, when all is said and done, what can be more political in a zero-sum set-up like ours than the need to seek and destroy your adversary using the most powerful tools in your arsenal? Daphne is just remarkably transparent about it.
Expect less classical and punk and more trash and destroy as D-day approaches.

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