« Home | I'm Not Racist But... » | Drop Kick Me Through the Goalposts of Greece » | 2004 in the Rearview Mirror » | Bombing Our Way to Earthquakes? » | Knock, Knock, Knocking on Europe's Door » | Slavery in the 21st Century » | Bribing Your Way to Destruction » | Religion and Corruption » | Alexander the Legally Gay » | People vs. Pharma Cartels » 

Sunday, January 16, 2005 

Mythbusting the Albanian Stereotype

In my last blog about racism in Greece, I spoke about encountering people here who seem to have idea that they're not racist when they openly tell me how much they hate a certain group of people. Usually, the group which receives the most of their racist venom, is Albanians and with this blog I intend to dispel this as nothing more than a baseless rumours bordering on lies created by both the media and government and disseminated by misinformed people.

If you mention to any Greek that you met an Albanian you will be subjected to a litany of complaints about them ranging from how they 'invaded' Greece to live a life of crime and how the crime rate in Greece skyrocketed because of them. They'll often try to justify these comments with statistics and personal experiences which sound official and when spoken with such conviction, you almost end up believing them.

I decided to a little research of my own on the subject. What I found was in direct contrast to what I was being told.

The number of Albanians in Greece varies depending on who you talk to. Your next door neighbour will tell you there are a million of them but most media outlets and census reports put the figure at 500,000. Most Greeks will tell you that crime skyrocketed in Greece in 1994 when all the criminals were freed from Albanian prisons and they all came to Greece to practice their life of crime. But after reading a report by Prof. Dr. C.D. Spinellis, this so-called fact appears to be groundless. Crime has always been on the rise in Greece and as the statistics show, the biggest surge in crime happened long before the Albanians arrived on the scene. In 1970, there were 179,331 reported crimes. In 1980, 295,353. Since 1998, there has been a decrease in crime, not an increase. Between 1970 and 1999, there has been 111% increase. Between 1990 and 1999 ( the years when Albanians were supposed to have pushed the crime statistics through the roof) only a 12.7% increase. Greece is still one of the safest countries to live in within the EU.

Another report by Vassilis Karyidis, a lecturer at the Faculty of Law of the Democritus University in Thrace states that although foreigners comprise 5% of the population, they committed only 1% of the total crime.

Why is there such a discrepancy between reality and public opinion?
One of the biggest factors in deciding public opinion about immigrants is the involvement of the media in propagating the stereotype. With so many tv channels battling for ratings points, sensationalism is a surefire way to keep people bolted to their sofas and tuned in. As Dimitri Mitropoulos (journalist for To Vima newspaper) writes in his article "Immigrants Ignite a Media Maelstrom in Greece", "almost every violent crime commmitted by foreigners was granted prime-time coverage, complete with ominous music, reenactments and special effects imported from American television." He further states, "...Albanians had an increasing share in crimes committed by foreigners (in part because they outnumbered all other nationalities), but often statistics were about arrests and charges, not convictions."

Criminology experts and numerous studies rejecting the claims that Albanians are to blame are largely ignored in the race to bring in high ratings and advertising revenue. Style over substance. The media's sensationalism and lack of journalistic responsibility coupled with people's preference to watching TV over reading, means that what they show is what people will believe. And people who watch TV "tend to be more negative towards immigration". A recipe for xenophobia.

Role of the Government
I personally believe that a government which is slow to make a concerted effort to repudiate such hyperbolic claims do so because of self-serving convenience. If the general population blames foreigners for the national woes, then citizens don't bother themselves with the ineptitude of their own government's misdeeds and those of their fellow citizens. As one Athens policeman stated in the Athens News, "it's very important to note that Albanians are usually hired by Greek crooks to do the dirty work." When Greek crimes are downplayed by both the media and the government, it only stands to reason that people are more susceptible to the myth that only foreigners commit crimes. With the latest scandals involving Greek police and the alleged torture of Afghan immigrants, the white slave trade, gambling and corruption, it is obvious that not only foreigners are capable of criminal activity...it's just that it's more profitable to perpetuate xenophobia than it is to practice responsible journalism and politically beneficial to be complacent.

Well after reading your latest thread, I decided to take some time out and read the newspapers while of course cursing you for ruining a reasonably good arguement by bringing facts into it (I can multi-task). So I was reading todays Kathimerini English Edition (for those not in the know, Kathimerini is a Greek daily newspaper but they print an English edition as well that appears inside the International Herald Tribune in editions sold in Greece & Cyprus) and found this story in the 'in brief' section. So remind me again SeaWitch, why do you think the media has a big part to play in this?

Fatal robbery

One Indian migrant was shot dead and two others stabbed early yesterday morning when five armed men burst into their shack in Megara, west of Athens. According to witness statements from the nine other Indians living on the property, the robbers, who were probably Albanian nationals, made off with cash and various valuable personal items.

You are so predictable. You have ignored many news items regarding the shooting of a security guard, greeks who beat each other up at soccer games of all things, greek police officers charged with torture, and convicted violent greek rapists just to find an article where the culprit was 'probably' Albanian. And if the culprit does turn out to be Greek, will you even notice? Would they even print it? As I said in my article about media involvement in propagating the myth...many stories involve charges and not convictions. And I'm not saying that 100% of Albanians are 100% perfect...no nation's citizens are. I'm saying that not 100% of them are 100% criminals either.

Uh oh, I think you totally missed my point. You posted in the main thread about the role of the media. I pondered this thought and then came across the Kathimerini article which said "the suspect was PROBABLY Albanian" yet when I've seen this story on NET news, there was no mention of that. So that sentence had no place in the article and therefor was a perfect example of what you'd said in your blog!

When I asked "so tell me again why you think the media have a role to play in this" - I was actually being sarcastic because statements like the one made above probably are obviously a big contributing factor!

But oh yee of little faith doubted me :-(

Uh oh. Another case of me being in the right church but the wrong pew again. LOL Sorry about that. The way I read it was that you were absolving the media of blame with that post. And I guess I better take back the "you're so predictable" part too. I didn't predict you agreeing with me. LOL

This week Joey teaches Blossom a valuable lesson on conclusion jumping :-)

"If you mention to any Greek..."

So this means 100% of all Greeks are racist? This would imply that you are racist towards all Greeks, thinking that they're all racist towards Albanians. Or am I being too literal? Still, "any" does mean what it means. Sometimes, the smallest of words can twist the whole thing around ;)

Hi Alek...thanks for taking the time to post to my blog. I can see how it might be inferred from that statement that all Greeks are racist. In a recent European Social Survey, 73% of Greek youths were intolerant of foreigners or had mixed feelings about them. Over 60% of Greeks believe immigrants make the country a worse place to live and 80% of them blamed immigrants for everything from low wages to high crime. And that survey was just about foreigners in general. If you want, ask any Greek yourself just what they think of Albanians and see what response you get. I have been here 7 years and have yet to find one person who has anything nice to say about Albanians. I stand by my original statement.

Hey Witchy Poo...Just catching up on your blog-o-rama and found the "racism" blog interesting.

***WARNING: This may be a multi-tangent rambling series of disjointed thoughts. Not to be read by the easily confused.****

I would first like to begin by saying that Canadians generally have a more tolerant view of immigrants...since our country is rather young in the world view and most of us only need to go back a generation or two to find an immigrant clinging to a branch in our family tree.

In addition, Canada has actively promoted and continues to promote multiculturalism. We are stepping up immigration approvals and verification of credentials in order to boost our declining birth rate. Generally, studies have shown that immigrants are a source of skilled and APPRECIATIVE labour.

However, even though I am liberal with regards to immigration, I still don't think everybody who wants to live in Canada--should live in Canada. As much as I would LIKE to believe I would extend a warm welcome to every Albanian, Palestinian or Sudanese...I don't think I'd be too happy to see my neighbourhood suddenly look like Iraqiville--complete with customs, language and political problems.

Am I being selfish and racist? Do I think that it's ok to have a sprinkling of other cultures...but God/Allah/Buddha forbid if all of a sudden the now-dominant British culture had to take a backseat? (Look what happened to the North American Indians. At one time, they welcomed the "white man". Then they were forced off their own land and subjected to "reservations".)

Maybe Greece is scared of losing its "identity" to Albanians. The Germans were afraid of losing their Aryan culture to Jews. And we all know what happened there.

Regardless of what people in North America think about immigrants, I feel fairly certain that most would be shocked to read that news item that EllasDevil posted. Not only is it an example of poor journalistic integrity, it most definitely is racist.

I edited that news item to make it relevant to a Canadian readership. I can't imagine this news item EVER being published anywhere in Canada. (If you don't like my insertion of "Mexican" and "Greek". Please feel free to substitute "German", "Gypsy" and "Jew" and see how that changes the subliminal messaging.)

"One Mexican migrant was shot dead and two others stabbed early yesterday morning when five armed men burst into their shack in Mississauga, east of Toronto. According to witness statements from the nine other Mexicans living on the property, the robbers, who were probably Greek nationals, made off with cash and various valuable personal items."

For the "journalist" who wrote that piece...I have the following questions:

1. How do you know it was a MEXICAN migrant? Did you see his immigration documents or just the color of his skin?
2. Why was the word "shack" used? That's a very subjective and biased term. I'm sure the journalist's house would be considered a "shack" if Cristina Onassis' daughter wrote the article.
3. Why was it necessary to state the nationalities of the witnesses and saying that they all lived in the property?

Obviously, the answer to these questions is that the writer wanted to paint both parties involved in the crime as 'secondary citizens'. A bunch of poor migrants living in a shack that got robbed by the bad Albanians.

Racism is a scary thing. Ask any Indian, Rwandan, Jew or Sudanese.

The motto of the Holocaust Victims is "Never Again". It's only been 60 years since the liberation of Auschwitz and the world's memory seems to be short and/or apathetic.

OK...I've said too much. Or maybe I haven't said enough. What's the frequency Kenneth? Everybody hurts. Sometimes.



Do not forget about albanian imperialism.These people claim about 10% of Greece.

Post a Comment