Millionaire tax dodger Jimmy Carr is in the news again, this time for a supposed joke about the murder of Gipsies and Travellers during the Holocaust, or the Porajmos as it is known by the Romani. While it should be obvious why this little routine is pretty awful, several other things about it are pretty shocking. First of all the fact that it took just over a month for anyone to pick up on the repulsive nature of this “joke”. Second is the wider contemporary political context in which this “joke” has been made. Over the last year the British Government has been trying to push through legislation that essentially amounts to an ethnic cleansing of the Gipsy and Traveller way of life. The Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill has been in the news many times since its inception, as have the consequences of it, should it pass.
Some people have already compared this bill’s effect on Gipsy and Travellers to the Nazis treatment of the Jewish people in Germany, but we need not look that far afield to find a direct link to the crushing of cultures present in these isles at the hands of the British state. As England has expanded into Ireland, Scotland and Wales so too has the desire by the establishment to wipe out and “anglicise” the culture and traditions of peoples in these respective countries. This process has never stopped and the State’s attacks on Gipsy and Traveller communities is nothing more than a continuation of this age old policy of cultural genocide and assimilation. Given this context I think the question of whether or not Carr’s joke is acceptable within the realms of comedy completely distracts from the fact that, regardless of intent, by making it, he is directly complicit in the ongoing crimes of the British State. This role should be abundantly clear not just from the audience’s reaction, their howls of laughter and their clapping, but also in the reaction of those now defending Carr online. Gipsies and Travellers have long been seen as fair game by the wider public. Carr claims that what supposedly makes his joke funny is that it is “edgy as hell”, this however does not stand up to scrutiny. Jokes about Gypsies and Travellers are extremely common as are the real world consequences. The result of stereotypes reinforced by jokes such as these are easy to see, Travellers and Gipsies are routinely refused service in shops, pubs and other publicly accessible areas based entirely on their identity. The sad truth is, you’re just as likely to hear his “joke” or some variation of it down the pub as you are coming from him on stage.
The defence that it was somehow educational, also completely falls flat. Firstly from his need to explain the “joke” and secondly from the fact that he didn’t even care about the educational aspect enough to research the fact that Gipsies and other victims of the Holocaust were in fact killed in their millions, not thousands. The United States Holocaust Museum puts the estimated number of Gipsy victims of Nazi genocide at 285,650, but other estimates have been put at 800,000 and even as high as 1.5 million.
It’s also interesting to note the attempts by Carr’s liberal celebrity mates to try and separate Carr the comedian from Carr the person, as if his on stage persona somehow makes what he said somehow more palatable. Even supposedly anti-racist supporters of Carr defend him because they “know he’s a good guy really”. These arguments are not much better than “he has a black friend” or “he never said anything homophobic TO me”. Apart from being a good example of how class interest comes before one’s supposed ethics, it also demonstrates the limited and performative nature of liberal anti-racism.
The thing that should now be absolutely clear to everyone after this debacle, is that not only has Carr completely failed to draw positive attention to the struggles of gipsy and traveller peoples, but he has actually given further justification to those already demonising them to continue doing so under the guise of “just humour” or even “education”. This in turn will only further embolden the State to continue their ongoing attacks on “Britain’s most hated minority” with apparent widespread popular support.
~ Stanton Cree
Image by tofoli.douglas, public domain.