Of course, this sensationalism is nothing new. The Gypsies have always been known for their baby snatching ways and their real life Fagin gangs of feral pickpocketing children, probably trafficked from Romania or somewhere with an equally bad infestation of Gypsies. What is different this time, however, is that it has come in the midst of an already full blown media attack upon Bulgarian and Romanian Roma. This is a priceless piece of propaganda for the Daily Mail and friends who are hell bent on encouraging casual racism towards any Roma who dare to step over the borders come 2014. Not only will they steal your jobs, your benefits, your council houses, and your child’s place at primary school, but they will now steal your children too.
Don’t get me wrong, my heart breaks for little Maria if she has been abducted or mistreated, however, clear and alarming messages have emerged from the media coverage. Maria has made headline news across the world not because she was ‘abducted’ but because she is white. Not only is she white, she is the epitome of whiteness – blonde hair, blue eyes and beautiful. The purity of a little white blonde girl fiercely contrasts with the perceived ‘dirtiness’ of the Roma. Media reports refer to the dilapidated and filthy Roma neighbourhood in which she was found and the ‘obscure Roma language’ in which she speaks. Essentially what the media are saying is that it is more than ok for the Roma to live in such an environment as they are a dirty and unwanted race. When a pretty little white girl is discovered amongst this poverty, however, it is a shocking case of child abuse.
The media have been able to ascribe the heartlessness, cruelty and criminality of child abduction to a ‘dirty’ and ‘criminal’ ethnic group. Forgetting that there is, and will always be, white child traffickers, the media have predictably referred to Maria as the ‘Greek Maddie’. Just last week, the same newspapers circulated artist impressions of the two main suspects in the Madeleine McCann case. They were thought to be white, fair haired, and possibly German. In spite of these new leads, the media are now implying that Madeleine was almost certainly stolen by Gypsies. Some ‘journalists’ have even gone as far to suggest that Ben Needham was abducted and held at the same Roma camp as Maria. In effect, they are insinuating that white people couldn’t possibly abduct or murder cute, white, blonde children despite all the evidence on the contrary.
The reporting of this case has not gone without criticism. I am not the only person who has noticed the blatant racist undertones within the majority of articles and TV news broadcasts. Much of this criticism, however, is unhelpful. Often people believe that defending ‘the accused’ is helpful to the community under fire. It is not our job to decide the guilt or innocence of Maria’s alleged abductors. In every community, ethnicity and race there are good and bad people and if little Maria has been mistreated then those responsible must be punished. What we must condemn, however, is the sensationalist reporting, the stereotyping, and the assumptions made about the Roma people. Maria’s story, if we are to believe she was abducted, is undoubtedly a sad one. Perhaps what is just as sad, however, is the fact that people are still prepared to condemn 12 million people for the actions of just 2.