Racism in Romania

It never fails that at least once a week somebody, somewhere on the internet mentions Madonna giving the finger to sixty thousand (paying!) Romanian fans back in 2009 because of their “discrimination” against Gypsies and how this proves just how backwards and racist everybody in Romania is.

Now I see there’s a new AP piece out about how “racist” Romania is:

Teenagers in Romania are widely intolerant of Gypsies, gays and people with AIDS, according to a new poll that called the results “extremely worrisome.”

The findings published late Tuesday came from a poll paid for by the Soros Foundation and conducted in November. The report says the results show a large number of Romanian teenagers could be described as racist and anti-Semitic.

You can certainly click on the link for the remaining five paragraphs. Although there’s no byline in most of these articles and it just says “from the AP”, it looks like this is once again an article by Alison Mutler.

The actual survey done by the Soros Foundation is far more extensive than just a single question about racism – it’s 104 pages including graphs and commentary. You can find it in its entirety here called “Implicarea civica si politica a tinerilor”, which translates (by me) into English as “Youth participation in civics and politics”.

Obviously there’s an enormous section on what young people (teenagers in modern English) are doing in terms of community involvement. But first lets examine the poll in question, the one that “proves” that young people are racist.

I’m not even supposed to tell you what it says but I will anyway (from page 16). The question posed was, “Who do you NOT want to be your neighbor?” which is a loaded question to begin with. The implication here is that you must pick someone whom you do not want as your neighbor. The choices are literally “homosexuals, AIDS people, gypsies, Muslims, Hungarians, Jews, another race, another religion” and “Romanians”. Yep! Turns out 6% of the respondents picked “Romanians” as the people they don’t want as neighbors. So does this, by correlation, mean 6% of the Romanian population is racist against itself?

Furthermore the question is loaded because it’s assuming that because I do not want X person to be my neighbor this means I’m prejudiced against them and hate them and am racist against them. Not even close. I chose the apartment where I currently live because it’s a lot of elderly people and they’re generally very quiet and go to bed early (like I do on most nights) and don’t make a ruckus. I deliberately chose not to live near the university where a lot of young people live who DO make a lot of noise at night and host boisterous parties. Am I “racist” against young people? Of course not.

When I lived in Timisoara I used to have many Gypsies as neighbors and it was awful. It doesn’t mean I’m racist against Gypsies, it’s just that they were quite loud and constantly playing music and yelling back and forth. They were terrible neighbors and it had nothing to do with their “race”. Just like some of my most quarrelsome and nasty neighbors today are ethnic Romanians and very unpleasant people to live with.

Furthermore there is absolutely NO option for “none of the above”, so literally every single person who responded to this poll HAD to choose someone to be “prejudiced” against. Nice!

In the report there’s a comparison series of graphs concerning a survey of adults who were asked the same question three years ago. The youth survey took place in late 2010 but the adult survey some time in 2008. And then after this bizarro “anti-neighbor” question survey, this is the conclusion the SOROS foundation draws:

Vedem, asadar, ca rezultatele prezentate anterior sunt confirmate si de datele privind nivelul de toleranta: tinerii români sunt mai putin atasati de principiile sistemului politic decât generatiile adulte de astazi, generatii care nici ele nu pot fi caracterizate ca fiind extrem de atasate de aceste principii.

Or my translation:

We thus see that the results shown above [the question about neighbors] have confirmed the data on tolerance – young Romanians today are less committed to the principles of the political system than adults, a group that cannot be characterized as being very committed to these same principles.

In other words, hey those adults (from 2008) sure are racist because they aren’t “with the times” and committed to a new spirit of tolerance but wow, looks like the young Romanians (including the 6% who hate themselves) are even more racist!

On page 17 you see a further breakdown of these statistics by sex, age, education, race, etcetera about who voted in the “not my neighbor” poll. Notice anything missing? There’s no breakdown on who voted against having an ethnic Romanian neighbor. Nice! You do see however that it’s 88% of Gypsy respondents who don’t want a homosexual neighbor versus only 75% of ethnic Romanian respondents. So is it the Gypsies who are the most intolerant or what?

But wait! Notice anything strange on page 17? Yes, it looks like 27% of Gypsy respondents voted that they do not want a Gypsy for a neighbor. Holy cow! Literally more than 1 in 4 Gypsies do not want to live next to another Gypsy. So where does “racism” fit into all of that? Damn Gypsies need to stop being so intolerant of Gypsies! When will the people listen to Madonna and teach them to be more tolerant of themselves?

So there you go, folks. That’s how a single, rigged question turns into an AP headline about how racist Romanians are, when it completely leaves out ethnic Gypsy respondents not wanting to live next to other Gypsies and the fact that 6% of the respondents don’t want to live near Romanians.

The entire rest of the report is about civics and who has confidence in what state institutions and questions about politics and voting and other quite informative but banal things. Can’t get a headline out of that, can you? Nope. Only a single, rigged question gets the attention because everybody is already primed to say Romanians are racist.

In fact, the Huffington Post ran an article about this survey with a picture of a kid wearing a bandanna over his mouth and sporting a punk hairdo. Looks like a little neo-Nazi doesn’t he? It’s only when you investigate that you realize the kid was photographed in 2006 when he was participating in an anti-discrimination march. In other words, he is protesting intolerance!

The Soros Foundation commissioned this survey and published it. But it’s thanks to Alison Mutler (and her trusty photographer sidekick, Vadim Ghirla), apparently the only AP writers from Romania, that all these media outlets are printing the story about how “racist” kids in Romania are. Don’t recognize the names? Why they’re the ones who ran the witch tax stories earlier this year. Yep. The exact same team, the ones who constantly trumped the story of Bratara Buzea, the “poor old witch” who was imprisoned under Ceausescu and blah, blah, life sucks for her and let’s all laugh at Romania.

Go to Google or your favorite search engine and type in “AP Romania” and you’ll see, over and over again, stories written by Alison Mutler with the photographs (and sometimes the written part too) by Vadim Ghirda. And what kind of articles do you see?

Gypsies need EU help:

Romania has the largest Roma population, believed to be about one million, although many do not declare their ethnicity due to widespread prejudice.

Romanian commits vicious murder in Spain

Romanian designs super high-heeled shoe

Romanian nun killed in an exorcism

Romania involved in trafficking women and children

Romanian president’s sexy daughter runs for office, an article which includes an anonymous quote from a political rival attacking Elena Basescu for being a “Barbie doll”

A rainbow appears to bless George W. Bush while speaking in Romania

Romania mints an anti-Semitic coin

Romania tolerates child marriages even though they’re illegal

Them poor Gypsies in Romania sure have a tough life

10-year old Gypsy gives birth in Spain and hey she’s Romanian by the way

And last but not least, Gypsy king praises Madonna for giving the finger to her Romanian fans

The more I look into this, the more I see that there really are just a handful (another one here) of English-language journalists in Romania who keep pimping these stories of how racist and awful Romania is. And Alison Mutler (Ro) seems to be the longest-lasting of them all. Her and her photographer sidekick Vadim Ghirda seem to be the ones who consistently dig and dig and dig to find anything and everything with which to bash Romania, including a single poll question buried in a much larger report.

Link goes to an extensive interview with her after her book launch, which I assume is a compendium of her “insights” into Romania.

Meanwhile the killer quote is here:

Coordonatoarea AP crede ca părerea proastă a românilor despre ţara lor este exagerată si se datoreaza faptului ca oamenii sunt “nişte cârcotaşi”. Ea este de părere că românii sunt mult prea pesimisti şi resemnaţi, atitudine care nu le permite să vadă partea pozitiva a perioadei prin care trec.

Or my translation:

The AP chief [Mutler] believes that Romanian’s low opinion of their own country is exaggerated and is because people here are a “bunch of gossips complaining fussbudgets”. She [Mutler] believes that Romanians are too pessimistic and resigned to their fate, attitudes which do not let them look positively upon this time period that they’re going through.

Yes, it’s the Romanians’ fault for being too gossipy quarrelsome. Meanwhile is there ANY positive news coming from her own pen about Romania? Because I sure don’t see it. About the most “positive” story that I can find with her byline is that Romanians were riveted by a divorce proceeding between two celebrities. Wow, so informative!

Sheesh. I’m not saying there’s no prejudice, intolerance or other forms of discrimination against homosexuals, Gypsies or other people here in Romania. Of course not. But people are responsible for the stories they choose to write. All these anti-Romanian stories do is inflame everyone’s opinion about the situation in Romania and do nothing to help or improve the situation whatsoever.

There are thousands of people, including Romanians, who work every day to improve the conditions of minorities in this country. Where are the stories about that by Alison Mutler (and accompanying photos by Vadim Ghirda)? Why do I have to turn to Chinese state media to learn that there was a gigantic celebration of Gypsies in Bucharest on April 8 of this year? Why is there no mention by Alison Mutler of the upcoming Gypsy festival in Cluj?

Well, you know why. Because just about nobody is interested in the truth. And people like Alison Mutler are making a very good living pimping out Romania as a backwards nation of racists. I’ll eat my hat if her salary is less than $80,000 per year. Just remember that next time you see her byline in a news story.

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