Tuesday 11 August 2009

Mail and Littlejohn can't work out why Gypsies need project to overcome prejudice

Jonathan at No Sleep Til Brooklands has expressed a view I felt a little earlier when I read Littlejohn's latest column which is no more than a horrendous anti-Gypsy rant. 'I'd go through it,' Jonathan says, 'but I can't actually stand to read any of it again'.

I know how he feels. But I'll do my best. But to start with, another anti-Gypsy story from today's Mail. The heart sinks when you read a headline such as How gipsies got £5m of Lottery cash to beat planning rules... and fund course on assertiveness training. Why? Because firstly, you know it's rubbish, and secondly, you know every Mail reader will believe it and launch into more anti-Gypsy, 'this country isn't our own any more' bullshit.

But anyone with functioning rational brain cells would take one look at that headline and think this: how would the Lottery fund 'beating planning laws' because that would mean breaking the law. Answer: they wouldn't.

When you scroll down to see the list of projects that has been funded, you see number one is the Derbyshire Gypsy Liaison Group's 'Training to understand planning policies'.

So 'understanding planning policies' is learning how to 'beat' them?

Well no, of course not. Here's the actual project description:

The Traveller community will better understand and contribute to planning policies that affect their way of life. They will meet planners and policy makers at seminars and forums to discuss issues including housing needs and resolving general misunderstanding and mistrust of authorities.

Does that sound like teaching them to 'beat' planning laws? No, of course not. And how is that problematic? Surely the Mail wants Gypsies and Travellers to engage with planners?

In fact, looking at the list of projects, it is hard to see how any of them could be in any way controversial - learning about community involvement, health and education advice, advice on housing and employment, among others.

The Mail sniffs as well at a media training project, despite publishing two articles in one day which prove why the Gypsy point of view needs to be put into the media far more.

As always, key information is left to the end of the story. Here's a spokesman from the Big Lottery Fund:

From June 2004 to February 2009, Big has made awards totalling £4.76million to initiatives that have benefited gipsies and travellers. This is equivalent to 0.2 per cent of the fund's good cause funding.

So all this fuss, and dozens of abusive comments about Gypsies and the Lottery over 0.2% of the fund? The Government also gets attacked, eventhough they do not administer the fund, but Mail readers like to blame them for everything anyway. The spokesman goes on:

Recent research has shown that only an estimated 20 per cent of 11 to 16-year-olds from the gipsy and traveller population attend secondary school and 68 per cent had experienced racism or prejudice because they were a traveller.

Being on the end of anti-Gypsy prejudice? Surely that's not a problem...is it?

Well yes, and Littlejohn then shows even more prejudice than the lottery story. Are you sitting comfortably? Let's go tarmacking with Teabag, Tess and Toby focuses on a new reading book for seven year olds which aims to promote tolerance of Gypsies and Travellers.

You would think anything that is aimed at teaching kids about tolerance of others would be welcomed, but when it comes for Gypsies, immigrants or homosexuals, the Mail doesn't want to know.

Tess is a single mum, of Toby; Teabag is their dog. Littlejohn laments the lack of a father figure and then claims he is:

surprised that they didn't make Tess a lesbian, who became pregnant by artificial insemination using sperm donated by a transgendered friend.

If you're playing 'Littlejohn bingo', mark off the totally irrelevant reference to homosexuals. It's frankly astonishing he didn't make a crude reference to the dog being called Teabag.

Anyway, he gets into his stride with a torrent of anti-Gypsy stereotypes. The headline covered the tarmacking thing (which also made the headline of the NHS story). Underage marriage?

Tess would be married, probably from the age of 14. Travellers are one of the last bastions of both the nuclear and extended family.

Gypsies are all thieves?:

In a nod to accuracy, Tess makes her money at car boot sales, although the stories don't elaborate on where she gets her merchandise. Car boot sales are notorious for the disposal of stolen property.

They all claim benefits and don't pay tax?:

Here in the real world, Tess would be claiming welfare benefits while pocketing the cash without declaring it to the taxman....once they've arrived in England...a buffet of benefits is laid before them.
Which wasn't even true for the £190,000 project the earlier Mail story mentioned, let alone all £4.7 million.

When the Mail reported on these reading books a few days ago, it added where the money had come from to pay for them:

The books, which are recommended by the charity The Children's Society, were paid for by a grant from the Lloyds TSB Foundation. The bank is 43 per cent state owned after the Government bailed it out with millions of pounds of public money.

See what it did there? It's your money paying for this pro-Gypsy propaganda, so get angry.

And of course, Littlejohn and all the ignorant sheep danced to the tune exactly as the Mail intended and, of course, wanted.

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