Among the obligations of the State
Joseph Muscat’s skill at synthesising a situation never fails to amaze me. He does it with ease and precision, having probably honed the skill during his years as a journalist. The latest example has been his synthesis of Daphne Caruana Galizia as “consis
Dr Muscat has a point. Had Daphne not indulged for so many years in invective, personal insults, ad hominem attacks, and abuse aimed at individuals and their families, things might have been different. But I think she spent a long time as an ugly caterpillar until she became the butterfly that is now being celebrated as an international phenomenon: the persona of a fearless investigative journalist that many admired rather than the pitiless pusher of a poisonous pen that so many others despised.
With the benefit of hindsight, we can now say that Daphne would have profited from an organisation to back her up. She could not realistically be a one-(wo)man show. Had there been an editorial board for her blog, things might have been different. Instead, it has been like a Greek tragedy. She launched her blog to avoid the shackles of an editorial board, and had those shackles been in place, things might have been different. At least this is what I can conclude about belonging to an organisation, after reading the book on the Panama Papers leaks written by Obermayer and Obermaier, the two German journalists who spearheaded the international uncovering of that scandal.
One cannot help but ask what the role of the State should have been in this imbroglio. It seems that Daphne detested the shackles of an editorial board as much as she detested those of police protection.
However, I strongly believe that the State has an objective duty to protect the lives of all human beings on its territory, and it does not depend on the subjective wishes of the individual(s) involved. There are many reasons for this. One is the founding notion of a civilised society that we all cede our freedom to protect our- selves by our own means in return for an ordered society. For that social order to be attained, the State has to enjoy a monopoly on violence, with the implicit obligation of using that monopoly also to protect all human beings in its territory. When the State uses violence thus motivated, it becomes an act of sovereignty.
What about the argument that there are those who do not wish to be protected?
I think that that is a lame argument, for the simple reason that no man is an island; we are all members of a community and the elimination of one of us is of concern to all of us.
This is the logic behind the imposition of the seatbelt. We are coerced into wearing seatbelts not because the State paternalistically wants to protect our lives, but also because the State wants to avoid the expenses related to traffic accidents.
We are punished if we don’t send our children to school, not so much because the State wants our children to succeed in life (assuming it is true that education is the key to success), but because the State needs future generations to keep the system running, and for this literacy and numeracy are indispensable.
Similarly, the State has to act independently of the wishes of the individual and find ways to protect the lives of all human beings on its territory. Daphne’s assassination was not just a loss for her family, friends, and fans. It was a serious attack on journalism everywhere. Above all, it is a national tragedy, a tragedy for the entire community of the Maltese nation. Her death has cast a shadow on us all, on our country, on our State and our society. We are all paying the price for the State’s inability to protect Daphne and, I would add, others whose life might be in danger because of their pro-