Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Jasper Gerard & the gypsies

The Observer's Readers' Editor Stephen Pritchard has judged against his own editor, Roger "fucking" Alton, and his recent right-wing sign-up Jasper Gerard. Two weeks ago Gerard paraded his lazy racism on the subject of gypsies and where he thinks they like to live. I encouraged people to complain and I wasn't disappointed.

Pritchard reports in his paper: "Several readers were incensed. 'Why allow such lazy bigotry in a quality newspaper, particularly one which normally would be falling over itself to dispel such brainless caricaturing?' was a typical question. I put this to the editor, who replied that the piece was intended to be humorous. 'I think it is simply ludicrous that we cannot make jokes about a minority purely because it's a minority,' he said.

"The Race Relations Act (1976) defines gypsies as a separate ethnic group, while the Commission for Racial Equality describes travellers and gypsies as 'some of the most vulnerable and marginalised ethnic minority groups in Britain'.

"Last week, the Press Complaints Commission confirmed to me that it would treat gypsies as a separate race under the terms of Clause 12 of the Editors' Code of Practice, which states that 'the press must avoid prejudicial and pejorative reference to an individual's race, colour, religion, sex, sexual orientation, or any physical or mental illness or disability'.

"So it would appear that The Observer was in breach of the code....

"The PCC upholds the press's right to make robust comment, as long, as in this case, it is clearly labelled as opinion, but snide stereotyping can hardly be described as 'robust comment' and it's too easy for the PCC to refuse to entertain complaints from uninjured parties while defending freedom of expression. Knee-jerk attacks on minority groups do nothing for social cohesion and have precious little to do with hard-won rights and freedoms. The editor was wrong to allow them in the paper." [my bold italics]

Well said Pritchard. The only reason why Gerard was hired in the first place was because he worked at the Sunday Times: how national newspaper editors just love sloppy seconds. As for Alton, I fail to understand why the Scott Trust permits him to remain as editor when he backed the Iraq invasion, thinks Blair a great PM (they're mates) and - worse - is friends with Mariella Frostrup.

She phoned the balding swine during an interview with the Indy recently and he asked her what she thought of Gordon Brown as PM - which is a bit like putting Lulu on the spot about dialectical materialism. I don't recall her reply but he did go on to talk about Observer writer Henry Porter who gave Blair a hard time the other month on the erosion of civil liberties.

According to Alton, Blair now refers to the writer as "Fucking Henry Porter".


kenny said...

After complaining, and after Pritchard's piece, I managed to get a half-hearted response to my complaints from Jasper Gerard (follow my name link to see). Not an apology, but at least at acknowledgement. He thinks he's funny, I think he's a racist.

Anonymous said...

Excellent! Gerard is a poor columnist and there are enough right-wing racists in national newspapers without the Observer trying to be contrarian.

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