Nigel Farage, Jon Snow and the Romanian Elephant In The Room
UKIP leader Nigel Farage has got himself into a pickle over the "R-word". Three "R-words" in fact: Roma; Romanian - and the one that inevitably crops up when you try either to discuss or indeed to blur the distinction between the first two. Racist.
No sensible politician - not even with a neck as long as Nige's - likes being called a "racist." Hence the full-page apologia paid for by UKIP in the Daily Telegraph on Monday in which Farage attempted to justify his position on "Romanians" in the wake of his "car-crash interview" with a hostile LBC presenter.
Farage quoted statistics from London's Metropolitan Police
saying that 92 percent of all ATM crime in London is committed by
Romanians, and that last year 28,000 Romanians were arrested by the London
He added that 240 Romanian gangs caused seven percent of all crime across the European Union.
But the facts were no defence. They never are these days where the "R-word" (or indeed, the "N-word") is concerned. Seizing the moment, David "don't mention UKIP" Cameron stepped in with heavy-handed hints that he too considers Farage a "racist" but is too gentlemanly to say so, preferring the euphemisms "frankly unpleasant" and peddling the "politics of anger."
I wonder, though, whether this tactic - a very leftist one for a notionally "Conservative" politician to adopt - is not perhaps doomed to backfire. It has already done so once this week on Channel 4 News with a deeply embarrassing interview conducted by the channel's leftist-in-chief Jon Snow. (Who, it goes without saying, knows as much about anything as his Game of Thrones namesake....)
The interview opened by introducing Mariana Gordan, who came to the UK 30 years ago as a refugee. Known left-wing sympathiser and Channel 4 interviewer Jon Snow "cut to the quick" and asked Ms. Gordan, who escaped imprisonment under Romanian tyrant Ceausescu, "How would you feel if somebody told you you would have to live next door to Nigel Farage?"
Gordan replied, "I would say he wasn't far wrong about his... you know... I wouldn't want to live next door to a bunch of unruly Romanians myself, whether in England or in Romania."
"So to some extent he's right?" probed Snow.
"Of course," said Gordan, "...he was right, Romania is not a civilised country... this is not a race issue, I do not think Nigel Farage is racist. I think he's learned something from this influx of Romanians, some of them because are mixed up with gypsies... it's just politically incorrect to call them gypies anymore... you can't... we can't even tell them apart. They have bad habits of exploiting their women and children and they are unruly".
Snow, bizarrely, is now claiming on Twitter that the interview proved his point.
"The whole idea was to present a different Romanian view..that's precisely what we got!" he tweeted.
And added: "It goes to prove that Romanians are NOT all the same."
Indeed. So let's see how Snow's employer Channel 4 news reported on an incident a few years ago in which over 100 Roma were housed by the local authorities in a street in Belfast, Northern Ireland. For reasons we can only guess at - it certainly got no play in the media - these no doubt thoroughly blameless families did not endear themselves to their indigenous neighbours, some of whom chose to take action into their own hands by driving the Roma families out.
At no stage in its reporting did Channel 4 make mention that these families were Roma. Nor did the BBC. As I noted at the time, the only reason we knew that they were Roma was because a local race relations worker let slip their ethno-cultural identity in the course of an interview.
Now you could argue that the BBC and Channel 4 tried to censor this detail for the best of reasons. The Roma people, after all, have been persecuted throughout history - including during the Second World War when Hitler sent them to his death camps. To report that these families at the centre of this upset in Belfast were Roma might lead some observers to draw politically incorrect conclusions, such as the possibility that these gypsies may have behaved in such an antisocial way as to deserve their fate.
The danger with this mealy-mouthed dishonesty is that it leads to problems potentially worse than the one it solves. First, it fosters a culture in which certain truths become effectively unsayable; one in which nanny-knows-best MSM organisations like the BBC and Channel 4 decide to treat their audience like children who cannot be trusted to be given the full information on a story lest they draw the "wrong" conclusions.
Secondly, it has led to this unfortunate - and unfair - conflation of "Roma" and "Romanian." They are not the same thing at all, not even etymologically. "Roma" is probably derived from the gypsy word for "man"; "Romania" - which until the war was spelt "Roumania" or "Rumania" - comes from some notional connection to Rome. The 97 per cent of Romanians who aren't Roma are - as the woman interviewed by Jon Snow demonstrated - understandably reluctant to have their reputation tarred with that of a minority who, unfairly or no, are renowned across Europe for their antisocial traits.
Nigel Farage couldn't quite say this but most of his audience will have understood exactly what he meant. How they respond will no doubt be reflected in this Thursday's Euro elections. Either they will ally themselves with the entrenched dishonesty of the political and cultural establishment and, congratulating themselves on how delightfully unracist they are, vote for one of the three, politically correct mainstream parties. Or they will say "Sod this. I'm voting for what I believe..."