|by JOE GARCIA
Last week's Grand Slam on Gibraltar in general and the finance centre in particular will be put down by some as another spot of irritation with our neighbours, but the damage has been done even if the Chief Minister has tried to put a brave face on it.
Mr Caruana's attitude stems from the policy he has concocted and adopted as regards so-called cooperation with Spain, in that nothing must be allowed to interfere with the trilateral forum, because if that fails, so does his policy.
Thus, if Gibraltar gets called names he retorts by calling them names as well, in such a manner and tone that you would think that a declaration of war was imminent.
But that is not meant to be the case...nor that anyone would want any genre of war for war's sake.
This is war within peace or peace within war. Take your pick.
But as I say, the damage gets done and it sticks in the annals of political brinksmanship.
We now face a situation where a newspaper which is generally regarded as leading and respected devotes two pages of political 'piropos' to us. Piropos are not necessarily complimentary, as was the case on this occasion. But they get jotted down , not only in the rest of the media, but in banks, ministries, police and other important places of reference.
And they are remembered because they have been heard before. Stand on Spanish soil and ask the first passerby if Gibraltar is a hive of pirates, money laun-derers and smugglers, and the answer you would get is obvious.
The latest outpouring only helps to strengthen the inbred perception they have in Spain generally of what they think is Gibraltar, however misconceived we might think they are.
What can a Gibraltar Government do, apart from throwing some 'dirt' back in the hope that it will also stick? What came out from No. 6 last week was No. 1.
The problem is one of reputation. It is not necessarily what it is; it is what people think it is.
The original attack will have done its damage. That tends to be easy to achieve. But when you try to eradicate the damage you will find that not many people are listening.
And forget any of those official denials which few outside our shores will print in their entirety or listen to. In the real world of journalism, official denials are deemed not to be worth the paper on which they are written.
And do they ever get published where we would like them to be seen? How many column inches of reparation have been attracted by the latest episode?
We print them locally; they get read avidly. Is the world listening?