Lovin Malta should stick to advertising cheeseburgers. Because when they don’t, they advertise people like Ryan Fenech.

I had never heard of this man, who appears to be some kind of MMA (“mixed martial arts”, Google tells me) fighter. In spite of Lovin Malta’s efforts to dress him up as a happy meal, he is as stupid, obnoxious and loutish as they get.

No matter, because he had one hell of a story to tell. Last week, it seems, “is-suwed” (‘blacks’) assaulted his father in Buġibba: generically, that is, just as jellyfish or mosquitoes might feast on your legs. Exactly what the circumstances were and what kind of assault it was, we were never told. The point is that is-suwed  gave, and his father took.

Following an assault, a reasonable person would go to the police and file a report. Ideally, that report would include a description of the assailants that might help the police put names to the offending jellyfish.

Not Fenech. That’s because, by his own assessment, he has very big testicles (“bajd kbir”) – a liability in the ring, I suspect, but then I’m not an expert on MMA fighting. So major is his endowment that he sat in his car, turned up the AC, filmed a 15-minute tirade and posted it on Facebook.

In a nutshell (quite literally, in at least two senses), Fenech’s message was addressed to all Maltese people who had true Maltese blood coursing in their veins.

Is-suwed had overstayed their unwelcome and become a real threat to Maltese society, what with daily assaults on children and the old and meek. So bad was it, people were afraid to leave their homes.

This premise was followed by an extended rant on “suwed fuq id-dgħajjes” (‘blacks on boats’) and why, I quote, “m’ghandniex bżonn dawn il-liba suwed hawn Malta”  (too obscene to translate).

It was followed by something else, too. Fenech declared himself a true Maltese family man. So protective was he that if is-suwed dared as much as look at his children, he would go on a genocidal rampage that would land him in prison for a long time: as he put it, “inkaxkar lis-suwed kollha, diżastru nagħmel Malta” (‘I’d kill all blacks, there would be a bloodbath in Malta’).

I hope he goes to prison before he can go on a killing spree or incite others to do so

Now I don’t like the idea of censoring Facebook posts. I do think, however, and the laws of Malta agree with me, that people have to take responsibility for what they write and post on what is essentially a public site. What Fenech said is not just racist: it is an unequivocal incitement to hatred and violence.

I expect him to be prosecuted for it. He did say he was itching to go to prison, and I hope he does – preferably before he can go on a killing spree or incite others to do so.

Which leaves us with Lovin Malta. Fenech’s closing words were to ask viewers to do him a favour and share his video as widely as possible. Tragically, I’m sure many did. I didn’t expect a mainstream media house to oblige. But oblige Lovin Malta did, in the most shameless and irresponsible way imaginable.

There are three things here. First, I really would like to understand the sanity of giving Fenech the oxygen of publicity. (I’m not sure he deserves the oxygen of oxygen, as someone once put it.)

It’s bad enough that the video racked up 176,000 views in less than 24 hours. It was criminally irresponsible of Lovin Malta to add to that visibility.

Second, there was absolutely nothing in the Lovin Malta piece that questioned, even remotely, the content of Fenech’s video. If anything, the drift was quite the opposite. The piece included language like “a Maltese father” and “gained widespread support among the Maltese people”.

It also included the gem: “In the video, Fenech emotionally reacts after finding out that his parents had been attacked, before going on to discuss various social issues facing the Maltese in 2020, ranging from an economic downturn to COVID-19 to migration.”

Lovin Malta evidently classifies Fenech’s abusive and criminal video as some kind of legitimate social commentary. They’ll be telling us that Fenech is Malta’s Slavoj Žižek next.

The third problem takes us to the heart of an endemic condition. There is a big difference between a reporter and a journalist. To go into it would be to sermonise, so I’ll just say it’s a distinction the Maltese public is generally fairly oblivious to.

In this case, and especially because of the specific content of the video, it was disgraceful of Lovin Malta to report without even a nod to journalism.

Doubly disgraceful, in fact, because all they did was ransack Facebook for content that was likely to make good clickbait, and to hell with the consequences.

Fenech is what you get when the press becomes a popularity contest and when the cheeseburger guy tries to sell you a super-sized bit of junk on the side. And no, I don’t mean chips.


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