The divorce debate and the internet in Malta. What happened there?
The internet played a rather influential role in the divorce debate, and indeed may have been the single avenue of communication where a real debate was underway. In my opinion, it served as a very good mass communicator for both sides of the campaign, and also for the cynical among us with photo editing skills.
A number of the Yes and No groups had official websites, which I found were never central in the debate and for the most part were created solely out of posterity. Luckily, there are quite a few of us with a bit of time on our hands, and we either shared the news on social networking sites with our own commentary, edited pictures to give them a humorous, cynical slant, or wrote what we thought of the goings on, in blogs and other methods of online expression.
The way I see it, biased as I may be as a blogger myself, blogs brought the news to us in the light of the blogger’s comment on it. What I normally do is take a news story out of context and distort it, hold it up against the light, make it look grotesque. Others simply write satire while yet others manipulated billboards and posters. We all shared each other’s latest posts.
I think that essentially, the internet managed to network, for lack a better of word, a huge group of moderate, well meaning people who had been bored to death of divorce for some time. We provided the laughs. By the end of it all, pretty much everyone who was online in Malta was writing something that had to with divorce, either an exhortation to vote, a pun, a joke or whatever. It reached saturation point rather quickly too; it got boring fast.
Josanne Cassar’s happy accident of Moviment Tindaħalx was the best moment in the whole story. I think it stands for something we all should, the idea that we should live and let live and stop sticking our noses into others’ business. In my humble view, becoming a member of Moviment Tindaħalx was not motivated by laughs, rather by the statement it made: please, keep out of what doesn’t concern you.
Personally, I stand wary of terms such as ‘netizen’ as I fear they do not paint a complete picture of the individual, especially in a tiny context such as Malta. However, I do think that a large number of us felt that their voice was carrying and that our message had better be sincere and rooted in rationality and compassion, as opposed to veritable trove of dogma, barbs and shoddy statistics which were quoted liberally in the ‘mainstream’ debate. Perhaps we now know we have a voice.
Question is: do we intend to keep on using it and be the voice of one crying aloud in the desert?