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How to provoke race hatred: On the Roma, Sun TV and the responsibility of broadcasters

The documentary that bears the lurid title 'Gypsy Child Thieves' -- originally commissioned by the BBC -- was written and directed by Liviu Tipurita, and released in 2009.

From its title you would think it was a piece of extreme right, racist propaganda.

The filmmaker did not have racist intentions, however.

Tipurita insists he intended to give a fair account of the lives of Romanian Roma (or Gypsy) children who are exploited as thieves and beggars in such cities as Milan and Madrid.

In his mind, the writer-director cared about these children, even as he showed them harassing people at bank machines and lifting wallets from the pockets of commuters and tourists.

Whatever Tipurita's intentions, however, they seem to have been lost on many viewers.

The film is available on YouTube and this writer became aware of it after posting his own somewhat lower budget documentary on the Roma people, Never Come Back. That film is available here

Never Come Back deals with Roma refugees who came to Canada starting in the mid-1990s, and portrays the grim situations in Central Europe that impelled them to seek refuge. It has been broadcast on Canada's OMNI-TV network and has, so far, attracted several hundred views on YouTube.

A horror show of violent and hateful comments

Tipurita's Gypsy Child Thieves -- which has been broadcast by the CBC's News Network, among many others --has attracted well over 150,000 YouTube views. It has also provoked a great many comments on YouTube.

Those comments give a sense of the actual message a large number of viewers took away from the film – however "humanistic" and "compassionate" the filmmaker's intentions might have been.

Here is a sampling, and please excuse the violent and obscene language. (It is interesting to note that YouTube says it excised a number of comments for inappropriate language. Hard to imagine those could be more "inappropriate" than many that were not removed):

“That smelly inbreed cunts dont have any state, because they are so fucking stupid. In my country everyone hate them. I tolerate everybody Africans, Asians, everybody! except these subhumans!!!”

“These people are absolutely disgusting and repulsive. They should be shot on sight. Expel these parasites from Italy, Spain and France.”

“This is the most despicable group of people on this earth. they are not the only poor people, but they are the only poor people who have no basic morality. many other poor people at least have a shred of morality, not gypsies.”

“Concentration camps could be the best solutions for these swines. They will always steal, rob and sell drugs even if you give them jobs and benefits. They're parasites. ” 

“They’re NO different than Rats, or Dogs really, as far as their behavior goes.”

“Dirty Gypsies. Come 2 think of it,Do you think that’s where the phrase, ‘what a Gyp’ comes from?”

Other commenters were less violently genocidal, though hardly empathetic with the Roma children's plight. Some even expressed gratitude to Tipurita for lifting the scales from their eyes as far as the Roma are concerned:

"Thanks to the film maker for killing every sentiment of sympathy I used to have for the Roma. Since the entire culture is complicit in selling underage children into sex and theft slavery, they all know about it and participate in it -- it's time to round up the adults, sell them to American for-profit prisons, and give the kids a chance at being raised by foster parents who will raise them to be decent people. Short of that, the cops are just fooling around. Dismantle the Roma 'culture'already."

"I'm from the U.S. and knew nothing about gypsies before watching this. I was a firm believer that there aren't really any bad races, but just bad people among certain races. This video has proved me wrong. These people are just straight terrible and a giant stain on society."

One commenter is quite open about the connection of anti-Roma bigotry to the murderous Semitism of the Third Reich. He takes his pseudonym, Frederick Barbarossa, from the code name for the World War II Nazi invasion of Russia, and posts a photo of 'himself' as a 1940s 'Wehrmacht' officer.

Barbarossa's message is succinct: "Romani people are like Jews!"

Others are similarly blunt and terse, and express sentiments that seem almost nostalgic for Nazi era race hatred, especially in invoking the Hitlerite notion of 'subhumanness':

"Gypsies arent human. Even the most liberal Europeans hate Gypsies." [The commenter has a point there, in the part about European liberals, tragically.]

"Their culture is based around deception. They have no place in civilised society."

Levant's rhetoric and what was said at Wannsee

Compare those comments to this complaint -- not from YouTube, and not recent -- about "bearers of disease, black market operators and [a people] unfit for work."

Those were the words of a senior Nazi official in occupied Poland, uttered at the notorious 1942 conference in the Berlin suburb of Wannsee, where the Nazi hierarchy took the key decisions about the "Final Solution to the Jewish problem."

And while we're at it, let's not forget Canada's own Ezra Levant, one of the leading lights of the Sun News Network. These are just a few of the choice words Levant uttered, on air, last September:

"They're Gypsies and one of the central characteristics of that culture is that their chief economy is theft and begging. Sorry, it's true!"

Levant and Sun News have quite recently apologized for those comments. But it was a fairly mitigated and mealy-mouthed apology.

Teneycke thinks his resident hatemonger is a 'happy warrior'

On CBC Radio's 'As It Happens' host Carol Off suggested she would be summarily fired had she uttered such words on the air, and asked Levant's boss at Sun, former head of communications for Prime Minister Harper, Kory Teneycke, why Levant still had a job.

Teneycke didn't really have an answer, and could only resort to uttering something about Levant being a "happy warrior."

The BBC documentary Gypsy Child Thieves may have inadvertently, and not deliberately, provoked outpourings of vicious hate and racism; but it did so nonetheless.

The BBC and the filmmaker should have known that the film's sensationalist and overheated approach would have had the impact it did, and they showed poor judgment in broadcasting it as is, especially with its offensive title.

CBC showed equally poor judgment in giving this film pride of place on its airwaves, although the corporation's Naleh Ayad did some much more balanced reporting on the Hungarian Roma who have been seeking refuge in Canada.

As for Sun News and Ezra Levant -- they cannot hide behind the claim of good intentions gone awry.

Levant's words -- extreme words that almost seem directly borrowed from the openly and proudly racist discourse of the 1940s Nazis -- were expressly designed to provoke hate.

And they had that effect.

Until Sun took them down, many of the comments on Levant  were -- like those on Gypsy Child Thieves -- openly violent, advocating, in some case, that the authorities should "shoot the Gypsies" who dare to come to Canada.

When Sun News thought such an on-air hate screed as Levant's might stand in the way of the network's getting compulsory carriage on cable systems throughout Canada, it saw the light and made a tepid apology.

If Sun were to get that compulsory position on the dial, it would have no need to ever say it was sorry.

Mike Duffy and Sun TV 

And there is even a connection in all this to the current Senate scandal.

Last week, CTV news reported that Senator Mike Duffy tried to use his influence to get the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (the CRTC) to approve mandatory carriage for the Sun News network.

Sun now says Mike Duffy was not working for the network. It seems the Senator may have been freelancing -- the irony being that Sun does not mind continuing to employ an out-and-out racist hatemonger, but now wants nothing to do with the Ninety-Thousand Dollar Senator.

And lest we forget, Sun News' application is still very much alive -- with or without the Senator's unacknowledged help.

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