Today's Gypsy As Universal Scapegoat FWD

Tom Boland (
Sun, 7 Dec 1997 10:53:22 -0800 (PST)

FWD 12-3-97 from HPN listmember Paul Kneisel at <>


There's no hysteria like a good old-fashioned witch hunt. I followed
the talk-show circuit of people like Faye Yaeger and others with their
tales of 50,000 children sacrificed each year in dark Satanic rituals
by millennia-old sinister forces that dominate the news media, cops,
and courts. The "witch" is similar to the classical silent
psychoanalyst onto whom anything can be projected. The absence of
Yaeger's witches makes them the perfect blank screen onto which all
manner of hysterical delusions can be viewed.

But converting political hysteria into hate-based action needs a
visible enemy.

There's a fundamental difference between the cute PC Term-of-the-Week
and language that's been used for hundreds or thousands of years. I am
grateful for the corrections readers made over my confusion of Romi and
Roma. But I read even favorable news stories that start "Gypsies (they
call themselves Roma) ...."

What would our perceptions be of a story that started "Shylocks (they
call themselves Hebrews)" or "Darkies (they call themselves Africans)?"

The first example is more than mere hype. For like the anti-Semite's
tale of the Jewish "shylock" who engages in unfair business practices,
the Roma small business person will "gyp" you in the trade.

Note how the mainstream media depicts the Roma. You can still see the
classical anti-Semitic image of the Jew, but you usually have to visit
anti-Semites to find it. Not so with the Roma.

Think back on the movies you've seen that had Roma characters. They
were almost always presented as two types. The first was the "King of
the Gypsies" who looked and sounded vaguely oily and wore an expensive
but vaguely lower-class suit. All of the others tended to be distinctly
lower class, anti-social, and unsocialized. Perhaps the woman was in
league with the dark sinister forces or simply a fraudulent fortune-

Does someone hate women? They've heard that "all Gypsy women are
whores." Do they have a similar sexual problem from the other side of
the gender line? Then they believe that the men force women into

The meaning of the "dirt = disease" equation was covered in the last
issue. Those who share concerns for "racial purity" see the Gypsy as
dark-skinned though not quite African. And if the immediate fear of
"racial monopolization" does not develop when your daughter marries
one, the "Gypsy will steal your child."

The myth of the "Gypsy" contains a bit of hate for every bigot.

                         The "Wandering Gypsy"

The "Gypsy" is the prototypical Outsider in an increasingly xenophobic
U.S. culture. Scapegoating today especially targets immigrants and
others--like the homeless--seen as not quite "belonging" in our
neighborhoods. There's even a connection to the sense of military
aggression as the bigot speaks of the "foreign invasion."

Hate works best here when the responsibility is placed on the victim.
Immigrants, in this stereotype, do not flee unbearable economic
conditions or political persecution; rather they come for "our" welfare
or to take our jobs. Yet it is not the bigot who sees him- or herself
making the victims the outsider. This status is projected onto the
victims themselves because of the projected refusal to integrate or to
become "normal" people.

The "wandering Gypsy," like the earlier "wandering Jew," is perceived
as victimized only because of his own actions and, above all, his own
aggressive behavior.

 -- tallpaul <>
    Fascism: We have no ethical right to forgive,
             no historical right to forget.

 -- from "The Internet Anti-Fascist: #43", Wednesday, 3 December 1997
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