Tanja Cilia

Freelance Writer

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Sunday, January 29, 2012 by

Tanja Cilia

Where ignorance is bliss, is it folly to be wise? Or is it downright reckless to parade your abysmal lack of knowledge in the media?

The other day, there was a discussion on radio about the name of a particular singer – Amber. One of the people taking part in the discussion said this was a precious (sic) stone, but not one of the four people taking part had an inkling of where it could be found.

“The desert, maybe?” Then one of those cartoon light bulbs flickered, and a guest said that it is for sure, I read somewhere, the famed manna of the Bible, because it is known to change from liquid to solid according to the time of day.

This is what is known in certain circles as ‘a little knowledge is a dangerous thing’ – because whereas amber is sometimes heated to soften it so that it may be worked (or attached to other pieces with adhesive) it does not melt.

I wonder what all those people who spend money on amber jewellery would say if this happened. Especially if they found insects at the bottom of their treasure chests.

For a long time, it has been a habit to say ‘the message is in the song’ when the lyrics are totally at odds with the title. This is, perhaps, what made one particular DJ boast that a listener (read fan) had dedicated Whitney Houston’s I Learned from the Best to him.

It has also become a habit for some people in the media to repeat jokes or proverbs.

Apart from the fact that some jokes are not funny at all, the meaning given of the proverbs is sometimes incorrect. For instance – Bix-xogħol ħotba tagħmel means ‘All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy’ and not ‘the wages from one’s day job are not enough to make a decent living’.

With a headline ‘Daphne Caruana Galizia, Tħeb (sic) għall-crew ta’ One News one would expect that the eponymous person had been filmed delivering a karate chop or six to the unfortunate employees who happened to be on duty.

The clip that actually accompanied this title ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fXBkrV5Q7d0 ) only shows her mouthing vulgarities, and an unidentified lady accompanying her placing a handbag a couple of times, gently and almost with good humour, against a camera lens.

This is not the only type of news manipulation we have had this week, however. Whereas we have now got used to the single word Francodebono, as many newscasters say it, it jars to hear a commentator on the state broadcaster tell us that he used his ‘normal voice’. As opposed to what, may I ask?

Planes crash, ships flounder, and trains collide. Yet the word used repeatedly in the cruise liner tragedy was iġġarraf, rather than inkalja. Why is it that ‘votes were casted’ and ‘programmes were broadcasted’ are considered good English?

It is not done to refer to people by their first names on the news – any journalism handbook or manual of style will indicate this. Meanwhile, I wish Kunsill Nazzjonali tal-Ilsien Malti will decide which of the terms l-iwrwol ir-rol, ir-rwol, lir-rwol, ir-roll, ir-role, and whatever else is concocted on the spur ofn the moment, is correct.

An advertencourages us to send in tin lids from our (unspecified) fa-vourite brand of tomato paste for the chance to win a traditional Maltese clock. Would we stand a chance in if the lids we send are not of the company running the scheme?

• It has now been confirmed that Ell and Nikki, last year’s Eurovision Song Contest winners, will be guests of the Malta Eurovision Song Contest 2012 final on Saturday.

I would not be surprised to hear that other people besides Nigar Jamal and Eldar Gasimov will come over from Azerbaijan, albeit in a different capacity.

• Readers of this column will remember that soon after I complained officially that Malta was not mentioned as having the oldest free-standing monoliths on earth, a crew from Voyager (Rai Due, Mondays, 9 p.m.) had come over, and the programme aired soon after.

There had been another episode in which it had been surmised that Malta had originally been inhabited by a people that ‘disappeared mysteriously’, before our forbears.

Last Monday, the second part of the programme touched upon the Mediterranean Sea. Not many history books tell us of how one of Adolph Hitler’s architects Herman Sörgel, had devised a nefarious plan to create what he termed a ‘worldscape’, for which, no doubt, a witty journalist would have come up with the headline ‘Malta be Dammed’.

The scheme was meant to counteract the idea that an impoverished Europe would have to contend with a pan-Asian power on one side and a super-state alliance led by America on the other.

Sörgel wanted to ‘save Europe’ through the construction of hydroelectric dams. He reiterated that the Sahara would become fertile once more, and spoke of how the turbines would provide a virtually endless source of hydro-electric power.

This was definitely not Steampunk revisited – and his newfangled technology-based ideas were hailed as the only way to go by a lot of people (although we have to note that his doctoral thesis, first submitted in 1908, was rejected).

Sörgel came up with the term ‘Panropa’; later adjusted to ‘Atlantropa’. A dam was projected near the narrowest point of the Straits of Gibraltar, linking Morocco to Spain. Another dam would block off the Black Sea to the east; a third would block the Congo River. Eventually, the Mediterranean would be lower by 300 feet, and 90,000 square miles of new land would be created.

Hitler vetoed this; yet ironically, Atlantropa Institute was only dissolved in 1960.


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Tanja Cilia

Freelance Writer

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