Why do wild animals matter more than “gypsies”?

Last month, Dr. Ian Hancock and other senior members of the Romani community lodged a formal protest with John Fahey and National Geographic’s Board of Trustees about American Gypsies, a new series on the National Geographic Channel.

“Your program is racist, slanderous, degrading, and possibly illegal,” Dr. Hancock wrote to Mr. Fahey, Chairman & CEO of National Geographic. “Stop making money by persecuting my people.”

Here is John Fahey’s response:


For contrast, consider the uproar last week over plans for a new show on the National Geographic Channel, which was to feature hunter Melissa Bachman:

 These online protests shamed National Geographic into removing Ms. Bachman from the program:


John Fahey National Geographic

Dear John,
 Why do animal rights matter here,
 but human rights don’t?

  • gjessie

    Really? Okay Alan, I’ll take the bait. What human rights violations (and feel free to use domestic or international law) have occurred?

    • I have a better idea: Why don’t we pick up the conversation where we left it almost 2 weeks ago? You asked for my ideas for NGS because you think I’m all criticism; I shared 12 of them; then… nothing from you. Silence. This strikes me as counter-productive.

      Also, in that same comment stream, you said I “attack and bully people.” I asked you for one example — one person — I’ve bullied since I launched this site more than 3 years ago. Give me a name. Show me an example. Send me a link. But you don’t respond. Why?

      • Romanies are still fighting for our basic human rights, rights guaranteed by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights signed on December 10, 1948 by 48 countries with 8 abstaining. Articles 1 and 2 set the stage for human equality, stating the declaration is for everyone, even people living in countries who did NOT sign.

        Article 1.All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.

        Article 2.Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. Furthermore, no distinction shall be made on the basis of the political, jurisdictional or international status of the country or territory to which a person belongs, whether it be independent, trust, non-self-governing or under any other limitation of sovereignty.

        And that, as far as Romanies go, is where the rights end. Below is a list of articles that have been broken since the year 2000, the dawn of a new millennium.

        Article 3.Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.Broken by Great Britain, Italy, France, Hungary, Romania, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and others.

        Article 6.Everyone has the right to recognition everywhere as a person before the law.Romanies get harsher sentences by courts all over Europe and even here in the States. Just like blacks and native Americans, if a Romani commits a crime, he or she can count on a stiffer penalty.

        Article 9.No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile.Romanies are stopped and harassed by police just for walking down the street, even here in the good ol’ USA.

        Article 13.(1) Everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each state.(2) Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country.Look at any country who is a part of the EU and is deporting Romanies because they are Romanies.

        Article 14.(1) Everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution.(2) This right may not be invoked in the case of prosecutions genuinely arising from non-political crimes or from acts contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations.Canada is in the process of screwing with this one. (Bill C-31)

        Article 16.(1) Men and women of full age, without any limitation due to race, nationality or religion, have the right to marry and to found a family. They are entitled to equal rights as to marriage, during marriage and at its dissolution.(2) Marriage shall be entered into only with the free and full consent of the intending spouses.(3) The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State.Over 90,000 Romani women have been sterilized in the Czech Republic since 1980. Slovakia is also doing this. This, btw, is also a condition of genocide.

        Article 23.(1) Everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favourable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment.(2) Everyone, without any discrimination, has the right to equal pay for equal work.(3) Everyone who works has the right to just and favourable remuneration ensuring for himself and his family an existence worthy of human dignity, and supplemented, if necessary, by other means of social protection.(4) Everyone has the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his interests.The unemployment rate for Romanies in Europe is 80%. They can’t get work because no one hires Romanies because they “can’t be trusted.”

        Article 25.(1) Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.(2) Motherhood and childhood are entitled to special care and assistance. All children, whether born in or out of wedlock, shall enjoy the same social protection.Romanies are denied proper housing and health care all over the world. They can’t afford it because of the 80% unemployment rate. Romanies do the best they can for themselves by building houses out of anything they can find. These homes are deemed unsafe and eyesores and governments come in, evict everyone, then knock the shacks and slums down…but rarely provide other housing options. The land the Romanies are living on, btw, is usually part of a dump or other unwanted land, but that doesn’t matter.

        Article 26.(1) Everyone has the right to education. Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages. Elementary education shall be compulsory. Technical and professional education shall be made generally available and higher education shall be equally accessible to all on the basis of merit.(2) Education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. It shall promote understanding, tolerance and friendship among all nations, racial or religious groups, and shall further the activities of the United Nations for the maintenance of peace.(3) Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children.Romani children are not allowed in the public school system in the Czech Republic, even though the government lost its case in the Court of Human Rights (D.H. and Others v Czech Republic) The government was ordered to incorporate Romani children into the classrooms. That was five years ago. The panel created to implement the plan was disbanded last year by the government. This is also a violation of the definition of genocide.

        Article 28.Everyone is entitled to a social and international order in which the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration can be fully realized.That one is already blown. See above.Article 29.(1) Everyone has duties to the community in which alone the free and full development of his personality is possible.(2) In the exercise of his rights and freedoms, everyone shall be subject only to such limitations as are determined by law solely for the purpose of securing due recognition and respect for the rights and freedoms of others and of meeting the just requirements of morality, public order and the general welfare in a democratic society.(3) These rights and freedoms may in no case be exercised contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations.Not if he or she is denied an education. Not if he or she is denied the right to work.These are everyone’s rights. These are the main ones denied to us. A minority people misunderstood because of romantic stereotypes and a racial hatred that began in the before the Middle Ages when Romanies from India entered Eastern Europe at a time when Christians were in fear of Muslim invasion and thought these dark skinned foreigners were spies. The “us” and “them” mentality goes that far back.

        So now we look at National Geographic (in truth the Fox Reality Channel trying to look good) and their mission statements they post on their website:
        Exploration:Since 1888, National Geographic has supported exploration and discovery, bringing gems like Machu Picchu, undersea wonders, and new species to light.
        Conservation: Inspiring people to care about the planet—and every living creature on it—is our mission. We promote and fund natural and cultural conservation projects
        Scientific Research: National Geographic supports groundbreaking scientific fieldwork and critical expeditions through grant programs and public projects.

        Where in any of these statement does Nat Geo think exploiting a dysfunctional family and claiming they represent ALL Romanies fit in? How does American Gypsies or Nat Geo’s disgusting mockery of our Court (http://media.ngc.v2.nationalgeographic.com/media/uploads/photos/content/photo/2012/08/14/GypsyCourt_CrossSitePromo_300x250_v01d_mm.jpg ) Have a grievance with a friend? Take your case to your Facebook Peers. Solve your dispute in Gypsy Court) have anything to do with the values they claim to uphold on their own website?

        Nat Geo isn’t part of the solution. They are exploiting the problem, the stereotypes, the racism, for profit and ratings. They are assisting in destroying a people – Romanies – who are already being sterilized, forced out of schools, and murdered by neo-Nazis. You know…if Romanies were Panda Bears we would be protected. We are the largest minority in Europe. If we were animals we would be on the endangered species list! But we are humans…so we don’t matter. Not even to Nat Geo.

      • gjessie

        Alan, frankly I didn’t reply to you because I couldn’t muster a response.

        Once again you only regurgitated things you’ve said in the past that addressed “issues” you have with the structure and culture of the organizations. Yet didn’t answer the question I asked.

        We get it already.

        You don’t like the executives of the Society. Or how it’s run.

        Move on.

        Your ideas are simply short-term, feel-good tactics not rooted in a set of substantive strategy or goals. You’re trying to address issues with solutions you’ve either read about or seen shared from other organizations with different purposes and realities.

        Doesn’t mean they couldn’t necessarily work at the Society, but they’re constructed in a vacuum and disconnected from the realities of National Geographic–especially the current efforts and work being done which your “insiders” seem to poo-poo.

        So I’ll concede better communications, transparency, and culture should efforts and characteristics the organization strives harder to achieve. But again, what’s our strategy, what’s the vision, and what’s the goals?

        Simply stated once more, besides the Groupon model what’s the plan to generate $80-100+ million a year in revenues to cover operating costs and fund research and explorers?

        And disassociating with the Channel takes revenue of the table, so the number above is 50 percent more heavy-lifting for the Society to undertake.

        Are you really suggesting that we trim editorial staff to employ sales and account executives that you would need in order to operate that business?

        You want the Society to show leadership.

        Lead by example. Show us your plan.

        There’s a lot of rhetoric, accusations, and baggage. But very little substance beyond ideas to address some tactical issues and efforts to give you the moral high ground.

        Like we said in the 80’s, where’s the beef? Where’s the substance?


        As for bullying, just look at your Twitter history for past two years. I’m not the only one who has called you out on your behavior.

        Enough said.

        • I gave you 12 concrete ideas, many of them revenue generating ones. Re: the Channel, my advice would be: Separate NGM & its members from the rest of the Society’s business. Build a wall around that community because that’s where the future value is.

          When you write: “Your ideas are simply short-term, feel-good tactics not rooted in a set of substantive strategy or goals” — well, I disagree completely. My arguing that “we shouldn’t go to China because we’ll compromise who we are & who we want to be” is not “tactical” at all. It suggests a broader value — We are a Society that champions open societies — which could then lead us to take steps to strengthen the Society as a society. That’s the cornerstone of what I would hope could become the NGS of the future.

          Re: bullying — again, show me the tweets. Give me examples. Send me links. You accuse me with generalities — my “Twitter history for the past two years.” If that’s true, then you have lots to work with. Where’s the beef? Where’s your substance?

          Re: your question at the top about the Roma & human rights — I suggest you read Ciuin Ferrin’s response (below) and respond to her. She makes some excellent points.

          Finally, this offer still stands: If, after three years of posts, you still only hear “rhetoric, accusation, and baggage” and no “substance,” then (a) go back and read the posts again, and (b) give me a call: 202-643-7430. I’ll explain it to you.

          Because you see, Jessie, I envision a Society where people are civil, respectful, and can be critical without resorting to anonymous handles. But you still work (or you worked) and defend a corporate culture that requires you to keep your identity hidden — even when you’re out here in public defending the NGS status quo. Doesn’t that strike you as painfully sad?

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  • Kindred Vlad

    Sterilise the gypsies, populate the animals!!!!

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