Monday, March 01, 2010

Compare and Contrast

The United Kingdom - from Bedfordshire council's enthralling document "Dealing with Racist Representations on Gypsies and Travellers"

Not only is it fair and morally responsible to treat racist representations seriously: it is also a legal requirement.
Romany Gypsies and Irish Travellers are recognised in law as a distinct ethnic group. The Local Government (Access to Information) Act 1985 requires any material which is defamatory or likely to incite racial hatred or contempt, and information the disclosure of which is prohibited by law, to be marked 'confidential' and not disclosed to the public.

Anyone who, either in writing or verbally, objects on racist grounds to a planning proposal is potentially contravening one of these Acts, by applying pressure to discriminate.

How do you define a racist representation?
In general terms, a racist representation is one which includes words, phrases or comments which are likely:
• to be offensive to a particular racial or ethnic group
• to be racially abusive, insulting or threatening
• to apply pressure to discriminate on racial grounds
• to stir up racial hatred or contempt
The context in which such words, phrases or comments are used must be considered carefully, in order to ascertain their true meaning and effect.

EXAMPLES OF RACIST REPRESENTATIONS (S31 of 1976 ACT) [applying pressure to discriminate]
• I object to the proposed Gypsy & Travellers site because these undesirable people
will damage my neighbourhood with their littering and crime will increase.
• If it is approved the number of gypsies in the area will make house prices fall. Put
them somewhere away from the normal community.
• The council should be more responsible and look after respectable peoples interests.
And we see the policy in action - here in Devon :

Mr Lee's objection stated that problems were caused by the number of families using another permanent site for vehicle wrecking. Mr Lee also highlighted that the police were called to the site a number of times and livestock was regularly let loose on his land.

The authority replied: "I have to tell you that if the council receives any more racist representations from you, this matter will be referred to the Commission for Racial Equality or the police for investigation."

And in Bedfordshire :

When residents were asked to provide feedback on council plans to build traveller camps on their doorstep they dutifully responded. More than 3,000 homeowners filled in forms outlining their views, many raising concerns over a possible increase in noise, traffic, rubbish and a detrimental effect on property prices.

However, such objections were not appreciated by Mid-Bedfordshire District Council, which partially or fully rejected nearly nine in ten of the replies for including comments 'of a racist nature'.

Meanwhile, across the pond, at the Official Portal for the State of Georgia, Governor's Office for Consumer affairs :

Irish Travelers Perpetuate a Tradition of Fraud

Around the time that schools let out, individuals known as Irish Travelers load up their pick-up trucks and take their show on the road. Sadly, their business is not a very entertaining one and can cost you way more than a ticket to the Big Top. These descendants of Irish immigrants live in nomadic clans and make their living by perpetrating home improvement fraud and selling substandard machinery at huge mark-ups.

While there are several communities of Irish travelers throughout the South, the largest is an enclave located just outside North Augusta, South Carolina. With the exception of their “marks”, Travelers have little contact with outsiders. Generally, in the spring, they spread out throughout the eastern seaboard and beyond.

Travelers go door-to-door, often targeting the elderly. They usually drive unmarked pick-up trucks with out-of-state plates, often from South Carolina. They are pavers, roofers, painters, repairmen who just happen to have left-over materials from a previous job, allowing them to offer huge discounts, but only if you act now. You will rarely receive a written contract from them, and if you do, the contact information will have only a toll-free number and a post office box, making it impossible to track down the conman when the homeowner discovers the inferior quality of the workmanship and materials.

Hmm. Quite a difference.

(via a comment replying to the Capitalists Nick Drew's point 5 in the following list, an attempt to answer the question 'why do we let politicians lie to us?'.

1) in most people the Will to Truth is very much weaker than the Will to Power (Nietzsche passsim)and several less exalted things besides, including

- the Will to an Easy Life
- the Will to Not Rocking The Boat (Homer Simpson passim)

being untrue doesn't count as much of an objection in the face of many other considerations

2) people for whom the Will to Truth is strong are generally Trouble-makers and hence outcasts, easily ignored / ostracised / burned at the stake

3) human beings are geared up to defend the Holy Lie (whatever it may be at any given time), using strategies like double-think, or shouting lalalalala very loudly, etc etc

4) why single out politicians ? Aristotelian physic is laughably false but it ruled the roost for centuries, through a combination of Church endorsement/ enforcement, and a complete absence of empirical curiosity / regard for consistency etc

5) many truths are deeply uncomfortable / embarrassing / infra dig. There are things one might just about get away with in the comments column of a blog, that are 100% true, and at the same time could not be voiced by any mainstream politician. This being the case, why do we even expect truth from them ?

6) despite all experience, we have a huge subliminal propensity to believe that, if a public figure can bring himself to state something as fact, or a newspaper to report it, it is probably true

7) tabloid journos have tapped into, and mastered, these phenomena - the doctrine of the reverse ferret, e.g. They make money from it. NuLab has tapped into tabloid journo-wisdom (Campbell etc al) and deploys the brazen lie, the shameless U-turn etc etc with confidence born of mastery

I could go on ... but hey, it's Saturday morning !)

UPDATE - the Georgia Consumer site really is rather good. From their page on scams to watch out for, this innovative (to me, anyway) Nigerian 419 fraud :

They met on a dating website just before Valentine's Day 2005. Richie described himself as "loving, caring and hard-working." His photo, of a handsome, bearded man in a cheek-to-cheek snuggle with a cat, sold Theresa Smalley on the "loving and caring" part. Richie explained "hard-working" in the first of their many online chats.

"He said he was from Massachusetts, but [that he] was supervising a construction project in Nigeria," says Smalley, a supermarket cashier in Middlefield, Ohio. Weeks into daily instant messaging, she knew she had lost her heart to Richie. By April she had also lost $2,700 to him.

Richie claimed he was paid in U.S. postal money orders and was having trouble cashing them at Nigerian banks. "He asked if he could mail me his paychecks and then I could wire him the money," says Smalley. "He even offered me some money for doing it, which, of course, I refused to take."

Over two weeks she deposited two paychecks in her bank account and wired the money to Nigeria; she wired a third payment to resolve what Richie called a "visa problem" so he could return to the United States and they "could finally meet."

Then the bank called. It seems Richie's deposited money orders were authentic. But they were worth only $20 each—they had been chemically washed and altered to read $950.

I like the touch with the cat. These guys are brilliant marketers. Mind, I'm almost inclined to believe she deserves it :

"The bank said I was responsible for the money I wired; it was everything I had," says Smalley, a divorced grandmother and college student pursuing a degree in social work.