Saturday 18 July 2009

Socially acceptable racism

The Mail has made some changes to a story that first appeared on its website yesterday in a much longer form. It currently goes under the name Jeweller in race probe over his ban on gipsies after string of raids on his shop. The story is of Michael Plant, a jeweller in Altrincham, who put a sign up on the door of his shop reading: 'Sorry, we do not serve Rumanian or East European gypsies', after some shoplifting incidents.

The police warned him that the sign was racist and should be removed. And the Mail sniffs a political-correctness-gone-mad-can't-be-racist-in-your-own-country-any-more-type scandal.

Predictably, 12 of the 13 comments on the story tow the party line: 'I think this poor man is being very restrained in his response to this all too predictable crimewave against him', and 'This is what we have been reduced to in this country. And we are gagged at every corner for speaking the truth'.

The other comment claiming it is racist and offensive to ban a whole group of people is rated -855. But this is one of the main points - would a shop dare put a sign saying 'No blacks' in the window? If he'd had some thefts by women, would he ban all women? Of course not. So why is this one possibly justified? Because Gypsies, like asylum seekers and Muslims, are free to be treated as badly as possible in the right-wing world of the Mail.

But the changes to the story made by the Mail are interesting. It's a good deal shorter and seems to have cut a lot of Plant's statements, which were printed uncritically. Yesterday, the article began 'A respected jeweller', thus immediately making him the good guy. Of course by being subject to shoplifting, he is the victim. But it is noticeable that although the headline claims a 'string of raids' it never clarifies how many times it has actually happened.

And then Plant is quoted saying: 'I have been targeted repeatedly by Eastern European criminals'. So why does his sign ban 'East European Gypsies', or does he believe Gypsies and criminals are interchangeable terms? And as the story makes clear none of the culprits have ever been caught, how does he know they are all Gypsies?

This story is reminiscent of a recent one that made a stir in Bristol. The Evening Post printed a story quoting a dress shop owner in the city at some length:

Mrs Lawson, 57, who suffers from severe arthritis added: "I'm thinking of putting up a sign on the door saying 'no travellers'. I might be targeted again for speaking out but I don't care, I've had enough. Travellers are not welcome in my shop.

Notice her medical condition is mentioned in order to make her seem more sympathetic. But the story goes on:

Mrs Lawson has already put a notice on her shop door saying: "We have been targeted by a certain element. These people have stolen from us for the last time.

"This store will only be open to socially acceptable people not those who expect normal people to pay for their existence."

'Socially acceptable'
? It's a horrendous statement, and again, would she ban other races, religions, or sexes if they were to steal from her shop?

Both Bristol Indymedia and eveningpostwatch picked up on the story, and the shop owner dug a significant hole for herself with some nasty comments as she tried to defend herself. She says on the Post's story:

Irish Travellers ... mostly devoid of social graces and behave with the life motto - 'I didn't work for it, but I'm going to steal from someone who did!

But as eveningpostwatch stated:

Note that nowhere in this story is any evidence offered by either the Post or the shopkeeper to back up their claims that the shoplifters are Travellers.

Even if they could prove that they are Travellers it would still not be acceptable to report the story this way; suggesting that shoplifting is an issue specifically related to Travellers and that these people are shoplifting because they are Travellers.

Of course, the editor would tell us that they are just reporting what they’ve been told; that they are not making any assumptions or judgements; that they are just objective reporters. But anyone with any intelligence can see from they way the story is reported that that is a load of bollocks.

In fact, one has to wonder why this is even a story. Would this be a story if there wasn’t the Irish Traveller allegation attached? Would they normally be reporting a couple of cases of shoplifting? How many cases of shoplifting happen in this city every day?

The shop owner responded with a quite remarkable racist rant that included the following:

(1) Most Irish speaking Travellers or 'Traveller types'. smell unclean due to having (a) either less water available or
(b) a desire not to wash
(2) 'My' thieves have ALL had Irish accents
(3) The accompanying children are often bare-footed, unkempt and scruffy with unwiped noses and dirty faces
Irish speaking Travellers or 'Traveller types' NEVER look you in the eye
The women ALWAYS ask for smaller sized garments than they actually are, often trying on garments that are 2 sizes too small
The women either have their often long, black hair tied back or have four inch black roots and 'blonde' hair and usually wear enormous, hooped earings plus very high, cheap looking shoes
The women never wear tights, but 95% wear short skirts or shorts that are too small (and too short), most too have too tight t shirts, often with midriff showing
The women ALWAYS choose flashy, sparkly, UNUSUAL clothing for the event they are going to attend. At weddings for example the women all want to look like brides themselves or at least, want to stand out more than others

And on it goes...

The Bristol Evening Post is published by Northcliffe Media which is owned by the Daily Mail & General Trust.

1 comment:

  1. Strangly enough my comment that the shopkeeper was quite nasty to assert that all eastern europeans were criminals didn't make it.


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