The PR pocketbook advice would be to ignore Simon Mercieca. He craves attention and he delights in getting it. Responding to him raises awareness which his own energies could never attract without help. Talking about him makes him more important than he would be if he is ignored.

The PR pocketbook is wrong.

The silent treatment is not going to starve Mercieca of oxygen. Indeed, there is probably little that anyone can do to stop the malice of his work from growing into our consciousness like some medical metaphor I am told is advisable not to use in polite conversation.

He is a fact of life, a slow-burning man-made disaster  that we must live with and which we must learn to understand. Because Mercieca represents that reality which removes from under our collective feet the basic parameters of information that we expected from sources that didn’t first warn us they would be lying to us.

God knows misinformation is not a new phenomenon. We have had decades of media owned by political parties being selective with the truth and thinly disguising invective and innuendo as news. But the most honest thing about One TV – perhaps the only honest thing about it – is that it makes no secret of its ownership and its motivations. This, it tells us, is the Labour Party  and that is the reality we would like you to believe.

Mercieca is different. His selling proposition is that his work is the product of his ideas, independent, motivated by nothing but itself and its intrinsic worth. This, apparently, gives him a licence for fabrication that is beyond anything we’ve seen before.

This is not a comprehensive critical appraisal of his work. The man carries falsehoods ranging from tinfoil conspiracies about the COVID vaccine (still) to utterly imaginary plots being hatched to deprive people of their gender. He publishes purely invented conversations written between quotes, refers to historical precedents that simply cannot have happened, and presents pure speculation and conjecture as documented fact.

Now you might think he’s not the only one to do that. You might imagine, because you can’t be bothered to check for yourself, that not trusting Mercieca is just a matter of course because, after all, you should not trust anything anyone says or writes. And, in that scepticism, is Mercieca’s triumph. The false equivalence that everybody does what he does gives him the insidious licence to spread incredibly damaging lies about people.

You might try to analyse his motifs by interpreting who benefits from Mercieca’s work. I know I did that. It’s clear to one and all that discrediting the enemies of Yorgen Fenech is a big part of what Mercieca does. But saying that brings about the sceptical reaction that people who think poorly of Fenech or who have expressed grief for the untimely loss of Daphne Caruana Galizia somehow expect to be above scrutiny or are so pure and perfect as to exist beyond reproach.

See how effective Mercieca is? He’ll lie about activists in Repubblika. They deny it. And the reaction is that their denial proves that activists in Repubblika think they are holier-than-thou and expect everyone to be blind to their hypocrisies. I speak about activists in Repubblika in the third person but, of course, I am one of them.

I have had to respond to the more egregious writings of Mercieca about me and I had to take the extreme step of suing him. That case is still ongoing, so no more about that.

I can speak though about how he pursues other activists by lying about their professional lives, forcing them to deny what he says if only to seek to protect their reputation, and because it’s him and because it’s them, allowing themselves to be dragged down to his quagmire of false equivalencies.

Misinformation is not a new phenomenon- Manuel Delia

Just these last few days, he sought to cause professional harm to Repubblika’s vice president, Alessandra Dee Crespo who works at the ecclesiastical tribunal. He threw in his mirky cauldron her colleagues and Jason Azzopardi, one of the lawyers who has represented Repubblika in the past, and who has had a case heard by a part of the ecclesiastical tribunal where Crespo does not even work.

Because you can’t be bothered with the details, you’re likely to assume there’s “some truth” in what Mercieca wrote. Firstly, there isn’t. Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, there’s no such thing as “some truth”. There’s the malice of lying about people and seeking to deprive them of their livelihood of their reputations merely for their opinions.

And, then, Mercieca has the audacity to play the martyr, pretending to quiver on the same stake where he burns others. He says that, by raising the point that more should be expected from a history professor teaching at a university, his detractors seek to deprive him of his job.

My amateur interest in history does not qualify me to opine on the scientific methodologies of historical research. But I know there are scientific methodologies. Surely, there must be. Surely, when a narrative is presented as fact, there should be sources backing that claim which are checked and assessed. If a historian publishes a treatise which is based on fabricated evidence, they will be discredited in the same way that a professor of medicine would be discredited if they published a treatise backed by fabricated test results.

The notion that an academic could have their job threatened by the consequence of their controversial opinions is abhorrent. But the protection that academics rightly enjoy, giving them the space to think freely and critically, burdens them with the responsibility to be honest about the evidence that they cite.

I have seen Mercieca stand three feet away from me and in the frankest way admit freely that he made no attempt to verify claims he published as facts. Though his website is not an academic journal, he can as much strip off his ethical obligations as an academic when he’s writing in it, as much as, say, a medical doctor can claim they are doing no wrong when they publish on their website articles recommending unhealthy practices they would be fired for advising inside a hospital.

Academics have another obligation. To review their peers’ work, to critically assess it and to denounce it when a colleague of theirs wilfully fabricates evidence and undermines the scientific endeavour to discover the truth. Mercieca’s colleagues do not do that, consequently bringing their own work into disrepute.

We can’t ignore this.

We must denounce it.

Sign up to our free newsletters

Get the best updates straight to your inbox:
Please select at least one mailing list.

You can unsubscribe at any time by clicking the link in the footer of our emails. We use Mailchimp as our marketing platform. By subscribing, you acknowledge that your information will be transferred to Mailchimp for processing.