Wednesday, November 20, 2013
Gypsies, Camps and Thieves
by Bruce Bawer
Last week, people in the U.K. got to take a break from worrying about the Islamization of their country. Instead they were offered a fresh chance to ponder the massive influx into the scept’red isle of Eastern European gypsies – or, to use the politically correct term of the moment, Roma. First, Labour Party MP and former Home Secretary David Blunkett, in a rare departure from the usual see-no-evil establishment rhetoric, acknowledged the “frictions” between gypsies and natives and worried aloud that it would eventually kindle riots. “We have got to change the behaviour and the culture of the incoming community, the Roma community, because there’s going to be an explosion otherwise,” Blunkett said. “We all know that.” The next day fellow Labourite Jack Straw, also a former Home Secretary, agreed, admitting that he and his colleagues in government had made a “spectacular mistake” in 2004 when they permitted unrestricted labor immigration from new EU member states in Eastern Europe. (The only other countries to do the same were Sweden and Ireland.) Straw & co. thought that only 13,000 people would come; the number turned out to be more than a million, with a quarter million immigrants arriving in 2010 alone. Alas, in addition to the hundreds of thousands of Poles, Czechs, and others who moved to Britain in sincere search of work, there was a small army of gypsies who came to beg, steal, and freeload.
Until recently, to be sure, things didn’t seem as dicey in Britain as in France, where gypsies have established sprawling encampments in and around major cities, all of which have turned, in no time at all, into ordure-suffused, rat- and lice-infested trash heaps. And whenever officials, if only out of concern for the public health, have tried to get the situation in hand, the media have served up sob stories like one put out by the Associated Press last year: “The camps weren’t much to begin with….Rats ran rampant and fleas gnawed on young and old alike….But they were home – and they were better than the new reality for thousands of Gypsies who have been forced into hiding after France launched its latest campaign this week to drive them from their camps.” Rarely, it seems, do the journalists responsible for this sort of drivel ever ask the gypsies questions like: “Um, if you’re going to live in this place, why can’t you at least try to keep it sanitary?” No, it’s almost always either implied or stated outright that, if the gypsies live in such filth, it’s because they’re poor and oppressed; virtually never is it acknowledged that this way of life is a fundamental element of gypsy culture.
In September, French interior minister Manuel Valls defied the sob sisters, calling for the return of gypsies to their homelands and insisting that “we must tell the truth…these populations have a way of life that is extremely different to ours, and they are obviously in confrontation with local populations.” Politicians and commentators professed to be appalled by Valls’s remarks, although the French public, by and large, seem to have reacted with enthusiasm. Most Englishmen, similarly, to judge by online reader comments, were glad to hear Blunkett and Straw finally owning up to the fact that they’d created a catastrophe. Exhibit A in last week’s media coverage was Sheffield, the city in South Yorkshire that Blunkett represents in the House of Commons, where gypsies from a cluster of villages in eastern Slovakia have transformed the face of a neighborhood called Page Hall. On Thursday, the Express reported that a gypsy teenager had walked into a fish-and-chips shop in Page Hall and offered to sell the proprietors a baby for £250; on Friday, the same newspaper informed readers that a retired English teacher in Page Hall had received a similar offer. The teacher went to the police, whose response was to suggest that the offer may have been a joke. (Sure, the old “want to buy a baby” gag – which one of us hasn’t pulled that one on a total stranger?) “We are as satisfied as we can be that no criminal offences have taken place,” said a police spokesperson. As for the teen who walked into that fish-and-chips shop, the cops, according to the Telegraph, “found no evidence to support the claim.” (What kind of “evidence” did they expect to find? Nappy fibers in the cooking oil?)
How bad have things gotten in Page Hall? Here’s how bad: as the Daily Mail noted on Tuesday, “the local Pakistani community association is running ‘official’ warden patrols between 8pm and 10pm every weekday with the intention of ‘educating’ the Roma population about ‘how to behave in England.’” (If it weren’t so tragic, it would be funny.) On Saturday, the Telegraph called the local atmosphere “poisonous.” Vast groups, each consisting of dozens of Roma, congregate on the streets every single night, “shouting, smoking, fighting,” blocking traffic, and throwing refuse everywhere. There’s a curfew for minors, but it’s totally ineffective, with police making only the most perfunctory, lackadaisal efforts at enforcement. As for the daytime situation, some Roma work, but most do not; “hordes” of them gather at gambling machines in a local shop, while others “walk the streets, content to pick up benefits” amounting to $800 a head per week. At a pub visited by the Telegraph‘s reporter, the language about the Roma was “incendiary,” with one patron warning: “There is going to be a battle eventually.” A shopkeeper agreed: “When it goes off, it will be like an atom bomb here.” The above-mentioned fish-and-chips merchant concurred: “If something doesn’t change round here there will be a pitched battle….This is a boiling pot ready to explode.”
The Guardian – which, along with the BBC, of course, is Britain’s premier bastion of noble left-wing lies – couldn’t allow this kind of blatant truth-telling to go unchallenged, so it sent reporter Helen Pidd up to Sheffield. Her Friday summing-up of the earlier reports in the Telegraph, Daily Mail, and other low-rent outlets read like one long sneer; we were plainly meant to understand that if there were tensions in Page Hall, they were the fault of hysterical bigots. Pidd interviewed 64-year-old Barrie Rees, who with fellow members of the Page Hall Residents Association regularly patrols the streets at night in an effort to maintain order. Rees, protesting that he and his colleagues had been labeled “vigilantes,” insisted that they were “just a group of ordinary local people who don’t like being intimidated in our own neighbourhood, trying to make the newcomers understand how life works here.” Pidd wasn’t buying it: she compared their attempt “to ‘educate’ the Slovakian incomers in how to behave” with “the terrifying militia that have tried to drive gypsies out of villages such as Gyöngyöspata in Hungary.” Yes, she affirmed that Page Hall is a mess: “rubbish fills the gutters, and stained mattresses and sofas are piled up in gardens”; there are garbage bins “crawling with maggots”; garden furniture is being nipped out of people’s yards and garments stolen off of clotheslines. But Pidd preferred to close her article by focusing our attention not on the hundreds of sticky-fingered, labor-allergic newcomers who have turned Page Hall into a toxic- waste site, but on a handful of exceedingly unrepresentative gypsies whom she somehow managed to track down: a factory worker who told her he wants his kids “to be lawyers and doctors”; two teenagers who also said they have career aspirations; and, finally, a 10-year-old (always end with a kid!) who had “already picked up a South Yorkshire twang” and wants to be “a paid interpreter.” This was activist journalism with a vengeance, utterly and willfully blind to the basic realities of gypsy culture.
But the Guardian wasn’t done yet. On Saturday its sister publication, the Obsever, ran a piece by Mark Townsend headlined “The real story of Britain’s Roma: excluded, ignored and neglected.” Any school of journalism that wants to teach its students just how to turn the truth on its head in the service of ideology could do worse than to use Townsend’s article as a template. He starts off by telling us that the official London address of the Roma Support Group (RSG), “Britain’s biggest Roma charity,” is a post-office box because “fear of reprisal against Britain’s Roma community, even in the capital’s most multicultural borough, remains real.” In the wake of Blunkett’s statement last week, he adds, the RSG received one (1) nasty e-mail – which, to Townsend, is proof that “the rhetoric of hostility towards the Roma throughout Europe is escalating” and that the Roma are “the continent’s most persecuted ethnic minority.” Quoting Blunkett’s comments about the need for Roma to integrate, and similar recent remarks by the UK Independence Party’s Nigel Farage and by Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, Townsend makes it clear that we should find such statements downright abominable. “David Cameron,” he notes approvingly, “judged the rhetoric so inflammatory that he ordered ‘sensible and calm language’ around immigration.” The real story, argues Townsend, is that the Roma are “a community whose needs have met official indifference.” Townsend is magisterial in his blithe dismissal of gypsy reality: anecdotes about gypsy crime in Page Hall are “rumours” and “lurid tales” (“there is little,” he actually says, “to substantiate the perception that Roma cause crime”); if there’s a danger in the presence of gypsies in Britain, “[o]ften the risk is to the Roma themselves.” But Townsend’s piece reaches its exquisite climax when he shares with us his take on an investigation by British police of what they described as the gypsies’ illegal “trafficking of over 1,000 children from Romania.” Townsend is appalled – not by the trafficking, but by the investigation, which, in his view, “fosters the perception of the Roma as a criminal community.” Those few words encapsulate the moral obscenity of multiculturalism, which teaches its adherents that it’s an act of extraordinary virtue to tacitly accept another culture’s systematic abuse and corruption of its young. Fortunately, most British subjects don’t share Townsend’s views; unfortunately, it’s Townsend and his ilk who are calling the shots. And yes, if they keep on putting ideology above reality in this way, it’s not hard at all to believe that before too long there’ll be an explosion.
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Posted by Sally Zahav at 3:16 AM