Foto: CEO Telegraaf Media Groep, Herman van Campenhout
Last week, Quinsy Gario, who started the art project Zwarte Piet is Racism, wrote a column where he stated that, for him, the project was over. In the year after his arrest in Dordrecht, the discussion had become heated and many more people had gotten involved lending their work and support to the project. His statement also clarified that the project was not over because we had collectively achieved a non racist Netherlands but because the discussion now belonged, collectively, to all the people in the country who should move it forward to end this disgraceful racist stereotype. It’s not that Zwarte Piet was no longer racist but that it was the country’s responsibility to take ownership of this issue.
Today, Tom Staal, an employee of De Telegraaf Media Group who writes for the Group’s property Geen Stijl contacted Quinsy Gario requesting a filmed interview about the end of the Zwarte Piet is Racism project. Here is where things get more interesting from a media perspective: since there were no news (because Quinsy had not yet responded to their interview request), Tom Staal, still showed up with a camera man at his front door, dressed as Zwarte Piet, in Blackface, to try and provoke a reaction out of him and film the whole harassment in order to make up this fiction he later on called “the news”.
In order to gain access to the building, this man rang all the bells in the apartment complex and claimed to be a TNT delivery man with a package. He then went upstairs, directly to Quinsy’s home and when Quinsy did not open the door, this employee of one of the biggest media companies in The Netherlands and in Europe, started throwing ‘pepernoten’ (a sweet associated with the Sinterklaas festivity) at Quinsy’s door. Throwing peppernoten in pretty much the same fashion one throws them at caged animals in a zoo. The visual symbology associated with such act of blatant racism, used to inflate the profits of a mainstream media corporation should not go unnoticed.
De Telegraaf Media Groep is arguably the biggest media corporation in The Netherlands. A brief overview of their publishing and media business includes:
- one of the most read daily newspapers in the country, De Telegraaf, published in tabloid format
- half a dozen well read magazines that range from general interest to sports to women’s targeted topics
- two state subsidied TV channels, PowNed and Wakker Nederland (The Netherlands Awoken)
- a network of radio stations, Sky Radio Group
- Former Facebook competitor (now ailing carcass with a fading audience interest) Hyves
- ebay competitor/ sales board Speurders (where illegal sex trade is promoted and many sex workers are seemingly exploited in ads that are part of the unregistered/ potentially trafficked victims of sex trade with no control or overseeing by the authorities).
- a widely distributed daily free newspaper, Sp!ts
- dating site RelatiePlanet
- a distribution center for printed media, TMG Distribution
- a printing corporation, Telegraaf Drukkerij Groep
- an internet publishing corporation, under which they run the well known blog GeenStijl
According to shareholders reports, in 2011, the group posted a loss of €32.6 million due in large part to declining ad revenue in the company’s printed media. However, Internet activities, mainly driven by the blog GeenStijl, gained the group nearly €70 million, 12% of the company’s total revenue; internet ad revenue was up 35% compared to 2010.
Turns out a very significant portion of these profits were made by selling racism and harassment of People of Color.
On their main page, the blog GeenStijl features an “ALLOCHTOON-O-METER” (In the Netherlands (and Flanders), the term “allochtoon” is widely used to refer to immigrants and their descendants). In this “feature” on a property of the Telegraaf Media Groep, one only needs to enter a post code and the database will return the percentage of foreigners living in the area. They “helpfully” explain that they only keep track of Non Western allochtonen such as “Africans or Mexicans”.
This, of course, leads to the obligatory question: how many of these 70 million Euros were made through clicks by desperate xenophobes and racists checking the whiteness of their neighborhoods?
However, this media company is not content with merely reporting news. When there are none, they will create them by sending a racist to harass a Black man and try to document his reaction.
After the ordeal Quinsy responed to the interview request stating that all that he had to say on the matter was already in the column he had written and that he felt he did not have much more to contribute to the discussion. The discussion should not be centered on him but on the figure of Zwarte Piet. Mr. Staal insisted, demanding that he should be given an interview. Quinsy stated that he did not feel safe, given the belligerent and violent nature of Geen Stijl’s audience, to be filmed by them in or around his own home. From Mr. Tom Staal’s email to Quinsy Gario (translation from Dutch mine):
You should just have fun with it (the interview). Surely we are not aiming to have you murdered, at most, we will pack you and send you to Spain.
(Spain is a reference to the country where Zwarte Piet lives off season with Sinterklaas, making a racist reference to the fact that, since Quinsy Gario is a Black man, he should be sent to live with the Zwarte Pieten.)
Quinsy insisted that he had no intention to grant them a filmed interview and that he would not provide them content or allow De Telegraaf Media Group to profit from him by inciting racist commentary. Mr. Tom Staal would not take no for answer. He followed up with yet another message where he stated that “this is news and Quinsy should make himself available whether he wanted it or not”.
After meeting a closed door Mr. Tom Staal goes to give peppernoten to Black children who are attending a workshop, asking them if they thought Zwarte Piet was racist. De Telegraaf Media Groep, through GeenStijl, exploiting the images of Black children for their own profits and corporate gains. Did De Telegraaf Media Groep get written consent from the parents of each of these children to film them and use them in this racist feature? Have the parents been informed of the way their children are being utilized by this white supremacist GeenStijl writer to further their oppression? Have the legal protections of these kids been taken into consideration when filming this scene? Obviously, for De Telegraaf Media Groep, none of this matters, as they only seek to profit from the racist situations their own employees create in order to elicit clicks and an audience for their internet outlets.
After Quinsy noted the danger that the report put him in, Tom Staal sent Quinsy one last message lamenting that now “he would have to scrub himself clean with Jif”.
In a country where Dutch Caribbean men are 14 times more likely to be murdered than White men, De Telegraaf Media Groep chose to endanger Quinsy’s life by sending a racist employee to “invent news” through lies and deception (going as far as lying about being a postman to illegally gain access into the premises) and not only film the whole ordeal but make him unsafe in his own home. This media company uses Black children to further promote their racism at the expense of the very same victims, their bodies utilized to generate clicks and advertisements.
Herman van Campenhout, CEO of Telegraaf Media Groep, is leading nothing but an immoral and racist corporation that puts the lives of Black people and all minorities in this country in danger. The unethical standards employed by De Telegraaf Media Groep’s properties in order to “invent” news endanger people’s lives, disturb them in their homes and uses children to further push vile ideologies. This media company is not reporting news. They are making up situations that they later on pass as “news” in spite of the fact that the people involved did not wish to lend themselves to their blatant invasion of privacy.
This media corporation shows an utter contempt for the safety and well being of Black people and minorities in The Netherlands, going as far as filming children in a sad, racist spectacle, effectively profiting from the exploitation of Black people for corporate gains. No matter whose lives are at stake or who gets to pay the price for it, all that matters for this corporation is that they increase their profits and incite their audience. News? The only news in this performance is that they have no care or interest in anyone’s humanity, after all, the CEO needs to justify his bonuses.