Reader feedback: Letter to the Editor

Re: Atrocities against Roma Demands Swift Action, Editorial,F eb 3 - 9, Vol 9, No 4

Dear Editor,

Thank you for the swift commentary on this issue. The Spectator continues to do a good job highlighting Roma issues, much to the disparagement of some readers it often seems.

Having said that, I'd like to add that you would be wise to show care in reporting this issue. First of all, the use of the word "atrocities" in the headlines seems a bit hysterical given the allegations at this time. Segregation and shouting are unpleasant and unnecessary but hardly atrocities. Should allegations regarding forced or manipulated sterilisation prove true, the word atrocity may very well apply but why not wait until we get there first?

Secondly, you (typically) make the immediate association between the practice of forced sterilisation with Nazi and communist regimes. It should be pointed out that forced or pressured sterilisation was widely practised in Western countries, including the United States and Britain, in the first half of the 20th century. The "science" of eugenics was a fairly common and accepted practice in the US and only discredited when associated with the Nazi regime after the war. Eugenics was a favourite policy of progressives who thought (erroneously we now know) that they were improving or perfecting the human race by sterilizing the "inferior," who constituted either different races or "degenerate" forms of the white race. In fact, in 1927 Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes authorised the forced sterilisation of a Virginia woman on the grounds that "three generations of imbeciles" was enough. The decision led to thousands of forced sterilisations across the country. Another example: Five years ago the Swedish government acknowledged a 50-year history of sterilisation that only ended in 1976.

I hope that these recent allegations prove to be untrue or exaggerated; I fear they won't. Regardless, please keep reporting the issue but please maintain some journalistic cool. Atrocities tend to speak for themselves in a language far more powerful than any editorial writer can muster. The acts are what they are; they don't need excessive adverbs, adjectives, or other loaded language or associations to emphasise their nature.


David McLean

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