Telegraph blogs and the normalization of anti-Ziganism

The Roma Holocaust Memorial in Berlin

The Roma & Sinti Holocaust Memorial in Berlin. Pic courtesy of the BBC

A couple of years ago, I wrote how anti-Ziganism (racism against Roma, Sinti and other travellers) is still socially acceptable in Europe, while anti-Semitism is now seen as unacceptable (with certain exceptions – Hungary, for example). Since then, we’ve had the trashy Channel 4 series, My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding, where viewers were invited to gawp and poke fun at travellers. We’ve also had the mass eviction of travellers from the Dale farm site outside Basildon. This prompted a rash of anti-Ziganist comments from the usual quarters. “If they’re travellers, then why aren’t they travelling?”, was just one of the many bigoted comments made.

So today as I’m reading one of Damian Thompson’s blogs, I came across these two comments.

Anti-Ziganist comment on Torygraph

“Palfreman” talks about “real Romanians”. I wonder if he knows anything about Romania other than the drivel he’s read in the Tory-supporting press?  He/she/it talks about “repatriation to India”. Does that sound familiar? People said the same thing in the 1970s.  It’s the language of the National Front and the Monday Club. But “Dalek_1963’s” comment uses the same language as the Nazis used about the Jews and Roma in the 1930s and talks about them as a form of contamination. He/she/it describes them as “third world savages”. The real “savages” are the knuckle-draggers who want to create a “pure” British nation; a limited gene pool in which they can cling onto their congenital defects.

I reported both of these comments and wasn’t surprised to see that both of them were still there. This is free speech, Torygraph-style.

But here’s what prompted those comments.

How much of our anxiety about Romanians flooding into Britain is actually about Roma gipsies? It’s a sensitive topic, as I discovered at a seminar devoted to it at the LSE. The lecturer deplored the obstacles faced by illiterate Roma in Britain. I suggested they should learn to read. It was one of those “I’ll get my coat” moments. Luckily the Government agrees with me and is taking radical steps to address the problem. Roma are now exempt from library fines for overdue books. And if they borrow a book from one library they can return it to another. Which, when you think about it, definitely makes sense.

You will notice how Thompson universalizes illiteracy with the Roma. There are plenty of Britons who cannot read and many of them are in our prisons.  Does Thompson know this? If he does, he won’t let on. This fear of a “flood” of immigrants from Romania and Bulgaria is not about those people per se, it’s about a disgust of the Roma; a people who have been persecuted for centuries.  Many perished in the Nazi death camps during WWII but there’s little mention of that in the Torygraph or elsewhere.

Last year, the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, opened a memorial in Berlin to the Roma and Sinti victims of the Holocaust.  It has taken over 70 years for some kind of memorial to be built.

Meanwhile the abuse and persecution continues.



Filed under Anti-Ziganism, Bullying, Society & culture

7 responses to “Telegraph blogs and the normalization of anti-Ziganism

  1. Jack C

    No. Damian Thompson is suggesting that the solution to illiteracy is to learn to read. What he’s mocking is the failure to address the root of the problem. He’s making no comment about anything or anybody else.

    • Nonsense. He was pandering to deeply-held prejudices against an already-oppressed minority group. Furthermore, those immigrants who come here may not have English as a first language. What you and Thompson also forget, rather conveniently, are the rates of illiteracy among so-called native-born Britons. Illiteracy is not unique to the Roma.

  2. I never heard of anti-Ziganism before but prejudice against Roman and Travellers is enormous in Ireland. It is almost universally assumed that they are thieves and criminals. I have regularly heard them called “scum” and worse by my friends. Even my university friends, who I would consider more liberal and enlightened than most, display horrendous bigotry.

    • It comes from “Zigane”, which is French for gyspy. The Roma and other travellers are always accused of being socially predisposed to criminality but criminal behaviour is common to all cultures. To say it’s unique among travellers is fallacious. People have said the same thing about black people in the US and UK. It’s fallacious.

      • I know. It is unbelievable to hear Irish people view Travellers the same way people stereotyped the Irish (drunk, lazy, shifty, thieving)

      • I had to challenge one of my students, who comes from Romania, who repeated the old “Gypsies are criminals” line. I told him that you could say that about any ethnic group but it wouldn’t make it true or a universal.

  3. I don’t have the same confidence as you that anti-Semitism has been defeated. It will raise its ugly head increasingly as the crisis deepens. And of course it rests on many of the same fallacies and prejudices as anti-Roma prejudice. Interesting discussion on an important question. Thank you.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s