Using satire to bring attention to serious issues of defamation can be an effective way to bring awareness and promote cultural change. In this case, it took some time.
This story in The New York Times, This Moth’s Name Is a Slur. Scientists Won’t Use It Anymore. (pdf), on Friday, July 9, 2021, comes 39 years after JoJo, the King of the New York Gypsies and leader of Gypsies Against Stereotypical Propaganda (G.A.S.P), launched a media campaign calling for the renaming of the Gypsy Moth.
In the June 15, 1982 press release he announced a week long Gypsy work stoppage. No more fortune telling, reading of horoscopes, tarot cards or palms until the group gets some respect.
JoJo (a.k.a. Joey Skaggs) told the world news media that Gypsies have taken enough abuse. He said, “Call it the Ayatolla Moth, call it the Idi Amin Moth, call it the Hitler Moth. But never again the Gypsy Moth!”
On Thursday, July 1, 1982, JoJo led a procession of actors posing as Romani people in a protest march in front of the Governor’s midtown office. They shouted “Rename the Gypsy Moth, Rename the Gypsy Moth.” Watch the video here.
This story is all the richer because on Friday, July 2, 1982, The New York Times journalist, Clyde Haberman, who spoke with JoJo on the phone and covered the Gypsy protest in New York Day by Day: Cloudy Crystal Ball for Gypsy Rights Group, was stereotypically condescending to the Gypsies in his coverage.
On July 3, 1982, the New York Post published, Times falls for the old switcheroo, revealing that this was a performance piece by Joey Skaggs. That same day, The New York Times printed a dismissive retraction, New York Day by Day: A Hoax.
Artist and media activist Joey Skaggs, who has at times identified himself as a cultural proctologist, says, “Sorry it took so long but, if all I do is plant a seed of dissent, I’m happy to witness deep-rooted systemic racism addressed even decades later.”