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The UK's premier new media criminologist - on Twitter @criminology4u, facebook and blogging on Criminology in Public and Sports Criminology.

Friday, January 08, 2016

Making a Murderer

Are we all citizen journalist detective criminologists now?

When I tell people that I am a criminologist they exclaim, ‘how interesting that must be’! Some, like students at our open days, want to talk about serial killers. This may have something to do with media coverage of crime and criminal justice where atypical events are covered stereotypically in contrast to an overtypical normality (Jock Young). I counter that criminology is often more mundane than that, and more likely to be about serial burglars or, in my case, serial car thieves.

Left, and liberally-inclined, criminologists often have no truck with the media for such reasons but some independently minded journalists have always, and continue to, muckrake. The new media ecology means that new voices are being heard, for instance women podcasters. Kirsty Major discusses Serial as an investigation into the conviction of Adnan Syed for the murder of Hae Min Lee but also as the work of women often excluded from journalism.

Miscarriages of justice and police corruption or malpractice have not always been popular with authority, media owners and editors but have always had some traction. In the wake of Serial we now have Netflix’s Making a Murderer and HBO’S The Jinx. For a media commentator the rise of the documentary is fascinating and for the criminologist the public’s fascination with crime is ongoing.

Evidence for that fascination may range from a rise in the number of criminology degrees and students to attend them, through the cult of nordic noir, the ever growing true and fictional crime literature to exhibitions like the Museum of London’s Crime Museum Uncovered.

Great claims are made for the success of Serial or Making a Murderer in mobilising support for the wrongly accused but Rough Justice was a BBC TV series in the 1980s which highlighted a number of miscarriages of justice and successfully campaigned for the introduction of the Criminal Case Review Commission the like of which might help in some of the US cases. On the other hand the UK could do with some of the freedom of information and access that has helped the makers of US series.

Some argue that a form of miscarriage of justice occurs when the guilty are not convicted - the story seems unfinished. The Jinx focusses on accusations against millionaire Robert Durst that he murdered his wife Kathie, and later a potential witness, Susan Berman. Here the journalists act as alternative detectives or prosecutors. A form of real life Cluedo where they have to name Colonel Mustard or Miss Scarlet.

But there are dangers and concerns. Websleuths can claim some success but some actions move beyond citizen detection/journalism to vigilantism. Even if not breaking the law, ‘paedophile hunters’ may be hindering police. Life is complicated and good guys and bad guys no longer wear black or white hats to help us. The best crime dramas now reflect that. The desire to investigate or to be helpful has lead to several trials being abandoned after jurors ignored warnings not to ‘research’ the case on the internet.

Biological, psychological, sociological and political approaches are all used in criminology and might also explain our fascination with crime. We might be biologically programmed to learn from the mistakes of others or psychologically to take comfort in the difficulties of others. One sociological function of crime is to remind us of moral boundaries (Durkheim). Politically crime can function as social control - the nanny state’s armed wing will keep you safe. The conspiracy elements in Making a Murderer may deflect attention from the much wider structural problems of American society and criminal justice, particularly in respect of minority groups, even if they prove correct in any individual case.

Wednesday, November 04, 2015

Review of Queering Criminology Dwyer, Ball and Crofts (ends)

Queering Criminology (2015) Edited by Angela Dwyer, Matthew Ball, Thomas Crofts Palgrave Hardcover 272 pages

The luxury of reviewing for the web and for my own site means I can use a longer form and even publish over time. In this first review I’ll take up some of the issues in the introductory chapter and the second by Dalton. Some might note these are the only chapters to cite my work to which I respond that I hope I have something relevant to say. But also they come first and address big theoretical issues in which I am interested.  I will then go on to make some initial observations about some of the later chapters which will be covered more fully in a later review(s). The headings are taken from the book but these first two chapters might be seen as addressing issues of where a queer criminology might fit - margin or mainstream?

I should make it clear I like the book and feel a wide audience within criminology should read it. Sadly I fear this may not be the case.
  1. Queering Criminologies; Angela Dwyer, Matthew Ball and Thomas Crofts

As an introductory chapter this sets out the themes and introduces us to the chapters that derive from a seminar held at Queensland University of Technology inspired by the earlier work of one contributor Stephen Tomsen. All are at Australian institutions.

First a textual observation. The book is called Queering Criminology yet the chapter is called Queering Criminologies (Extract here).

They open by discussing the ‘articulation’ or ‘nexus’ between queer and criminology (p1) and more entertainingly use Ball’s (forthcoming) borrowed expression, ‘dangerous bedfellows’ to describe the debate about whether to jump into bed with criminology. And how often and under what conditions of consent? Is there a ‘safe’ word?

Activists may see no need or reason to cosy up to a homophobic discipline. Early mention of Stonewall’s place in the history of LGBTIQ activism is appropriate but a chance is missed to note that for mainstream criminology and criminal justice this is a crime which might need explaining/condemning. Moreover such criminal activism runs counter to stereotypes of the passive queer.

We quickly come to Tomsen’s provocative contention that criminology was ‘a very queer discipline’ and mention of Dalton’s discomfort (Chapter 2) about ‘where queer fits in criminologies’ (p2). They too are unclear but intend queer to act as a noun and as a verb; to be ‘disturbing, challenging, and asking uncomfortable questions that produce new ways of thinking in in relation to to the lives of LGBTIQ people and criminal justice processes’ (p3). I think that is too limiting. It should be challenging all people about crime and criminal justice processes using the analytic of sexuality. They suggest (and Dalton takes this up too) that such disruptive work may necessitate working at the margins.

Some hope is seen in the recent publication of the Handbook of LGBT Communities, Crime and Justice and the special edition on Queer/ing Criminology of Critical Criminology. In addition we now have Queer Criminology by Buist and Lenning. Which I’ll review if Routledge send me a copy.

I won’t repeat what they say about the chapters but will draw on that for some of my comments. They conclude with the connections between, and the need to queer both, criminal law and criminology. Was that why I opted to submit my Perverse Criminologies, which they and Dalton quote often, to Social and Legal Studies? Or was it I feared to submit it to the British Journal of Criminology (BJC)? Dalton mentions the BJC and its very few mentions of ‘queer’. He found 19. I now find 22 but not all them are even relevant.


2. Reflections on the Emergence, Efficacy and Value of Queer Criminology; Derek Dalton

I’m very pleased that he has not only quoted my Perverse Criminology stuff but also the entry on Queer Theory in Sage Dictionary of Criminology. Mention of the complementary entry on Sexuality would have completed my day. What’s more he uses it to engage with important issues.

He speaks of his discomfort in criminology, even at criminological conferences, to be in or out of criminology but he doesn’t take Carol Smart’s postmodern feminist decision to shut the door to it. He ‘tends to disagree’ (p26) with me yet by page 29 he is contemplating throwing bricks through criminology’s window with Ball. He decides, however, to be a ‘charming man’ (my Smith’s reference not his) and offer advice to criminology not on a ‘make-over’ but a ‘make-better’ in the style of Queer Eye for a Straight Guy.

He recognises that criminology may need some convincing that it is a ‘naked Emperor’ (my coining) that needs sartorial advice or, at least, a modest and modish drape. So I think he is a little harsh in disagreeing with Sorainen (‘overblown’, p30) in her desire to problematise criminology. I’m very much with him in being ambivalent, playful, even up for ‘flirting,’ but I think he is getting a little overblown in ‘imploring all of you who read this chapter to seek to engage more directly with mainstream criminology so we can queer it and make it better’ (p31).

Obviously being playful here but my intention was to drive a bus packed with queer theory into the heart of mainstream criminology and detonate it, charmingly. Progress has been glacial. He notes that I said in my entry on Queer Theory that:
given the limited extent to which criminology has embraced feminism it seems that any serious consideration of sexualities as important to criminology - whether purely empirical, standpoint or queer - may take decades.

Evidence for this slow pace is that he quotes the 3rd edition. The article is unchanged since the first edition in 2001! Moreover, why is it by me? Why am I Queen of that Castle? Depose me. Charmingly. Some progress might be seen in that since Perverse Criminologies was published it has been cited 30 times (not counting these most recent mentions) but the first was not until 2003 and 21 of them only since 2012.

In discussing my entry on Queer Theory he notes that I do not call for a queer criminology and suggests I might be right not to have, as he says, ‘many more criminological incursions must be made if we are to leave a lasting impression on on criminology’ (p32) and earn its place in the dictionary. I was being diffident but also, unusually for me, seeking amity. I did not want to call for a further splits/schisms in criminology but to change it, profoundly; to queer it. Better markers might be the massive textbooks of criminology like Newburn’s, Carrabine et al or the Oxford Handbook which has no mention of any queer ‘ology.

LGBTIQ scholars have called for queer criminology now and it is not for me to deny it. Just note that it may be the gay empiricism or standpointism I imagined and not a criminology that had come fully to terms with sexuality. That is a criminology that even when carried out by cisgendered and cissexual criminologists was open to LGBTIQ currents and concerns. That the ‘Straight Guy’ could look in the mirror and use a ‘Queer Eye’.

We now turn to the remaining chapters which I’ve only scanned so far.

3. The Past is the Past? The Impossibility of Erasure of Historical LGBTIQ Policing; Angela Dwyer and Stephen Tomsen

Surprised that Marc Burke gets no mention. This is my use of him from Perverse Criminologies:

Burke (1993: 56–60) reports the double irony of a gay officer who tells of his ambivalence about his vice squad experience of policing cottages. In plain clothes and on duty – secure in his identity as a police officer – he was ‘queer-bashed’.
And this the link to his British Journal of Criminology article in 1994. I recall hearing him speak about officers like him being ‘doubly closeted’. Not out as gay in the police and not out as police when in gay milieus.

4. The 'Prison of Love' and Its Queer Discontents: On the Value of Paranoid and Reparative Readings in Queer Criminological Scholarship; Matthew Ball

For all my fighting talk, I’m a pacifist and broadly a supporter of Restorative Justice so favour the ‘reparative’ but fully understand the lure of the ‘paranoid’.


5. Disturbing Disgust: Gesturing to the Abject in Queer Cases; Senthorun Raj

In my work on Sports Criminology (Policy Press late 2016) I have returned to examine the Spanner trial (R v Brown) which Raj discusses. All sports law books discuss it because of its relevance to the consent implied when stepping into the ring or onto the field of play. But from some you’d struggle to know the case involved sex let alone gay sado-mascohistic sex. A further example of the abjection of which Raj speaks? There is also lots of mentions boxing and rugby (and the refereeing of) in the reasoning given in the case. I’ve pulled no punches.

6. Who is the Subject of Queer Criminology? Unravelling the Category of the Paedophile; Dave McDonald

I’m old enough to remember when the Paedophile Exchange Campaign was an openly campaigning group aligned with others for sexual freedom in the late 60s around the age of consent. This is challenging stuff but the very test of emerging perspectives that is needed.

7. International Legal Norms on the Right to Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity: Australian Reforms Contextualised; Wendy O’Brien

I don’t know the Australian cases of Toonen and Norrie or about issues of the regulation of intersex people there.


8. Rainbow Crossings and Conspicuous Restraint: LGBTIQ Community Protest, Assembly and Police and Prosecutorial Discretion; Thomas Crofts and Tyrone Kirchengast

This raises the issue of relations with the police and their use of discretion. Neither the work on graffiti or policing cited is known to me. My references are UK/USA cultural criminology based or rely on the likes of Ben Bowling or Robert Reiner.

9. No Place Like Home: Intrafamilial Hate Crime Against Gay Men and Lesbians; Nicole L. Asquith and Christopher A. Fox

Clearly this raises sensitive issues that activists might prefer academics not to investigate but a truly queered criminology can’t have no go areas. Again my limited knowledge is UKcentric.

10. Queering Safety: LGBTIQ Young Adults' Production of Safety and Identity on a Night Out; Bianca Fileborn

I am looking forward to finding out how young LGBTIQ negotiate a night out.

11. Sexual Coercion in Men's Prisons; Paul Simpson, Joanne Reekie, Tony Butler, Juliet Richters, Lorraine Yap and Basil Donovan

The extent and complexity of consent issues outside of prison is difficult enough but doubly so in prison.  My only partial knowledge is of the situation in England and Wales. This is the Howard League Report on sex in prison.

12. Intimate Partner Violence within the Queensland Transgender Community: Barriers to Accessing Services and Seeking Help; Natasha Papazian and Matthew Ball

This feels like Public Criminology on behalf of the a particular community in a particular part of Australia that may be useful to them. I’ll see it I can draw out some wider lessons, if only for me.

One reason I have given so much time to this - and more to come - is that the final signs of interest in this area means I am now writing an article in which I seek to review what I’d got right, what wrong etc and show how, despite not inventing or naming ‘queer criminology’, I continued to queer my criminology if nobody else’s. Examples from 1999 and 2016 illustrate.

Though an inspiration I suggest a more queer reading for Tomsen’s work in my Perverse Criminologies:

However, the very real difficulties of doing this are illustrated by Thomsen’s (1997b) article ‘Social Protest, Masculinity and the Culture of Drinking Violence’. Despite his rhetoric about Lombroso’s ‘queerness’ in one article (1997a), he makes no mention of the sexuality of the participants or the place of homophobia in the construction of the homosociability he describes. He rightly places the drunken brawling in a context of male honour and carnival. However, imagine the club bouncers witnessing a same-sex ‘kiss-in’. That would surely reveal the shared homophobia of bouncers and bounced. Fisticuffs is easily assimilated by mainstream and masculinity criminology; fisting presents a challenge to both.

And this from Sports Criminology:

In a cultural criminology collection Jackson-Jacobs Curtis (2004) writes about the ‘brawling’ culture of some young men in Tucson. There is a very rough continuum from brawling through prize-fighting to boxing where the illegality/legality respectable/disreputable marker falls in different places at different times and in different jurisdictions (as shown in Chapters 1 and 2). He sets out his dissatisfactions with theories of failed self-control, psychic or status frustration to assert, ‘All patently fail to account for violence looked at in the context of spectatorship, performance, and participatory attractions’ (2004:232). As good a definition of sport as many. 
In his former hometown he hung out with and interviewed a loose group of 85 young men, mostly white but with some diversity of the region. Many were from economically comfortable families, most had jobs and some were doing military service. The network included women who were current or ex-girlfriends but some of them had ‘brawled’ too and not all the men had. His account concentrates on one brawl in March 2000 that had entered the groups joint narrative. 
Essentially the group went looking for brawls. Parties, to which they had not formally been invited, were good venues as they provided the alternative of picking up girls as well as or instead of a fight. His account hints at the near equivalence, ‘the brawl is intended to be a onetime affair … Strangers entice by promising a non-committal relationship’ (2004:234) and ‘a brawl experienced through the metaphor of the sexual ‘pick up’ (2004:236). This reminds me of the joyriders I engaged with (Groombridge, 1997) and suggests ‘joyfighting’ or ‘one-night fight’ as alternative labels for the activity. He tells of the groups attempts to get into a fight with some University of Arizona footballers - in which they eventually, though contingently, succeed. 
They expect that they will get beaten and are, but claim victory on the basis of some digs they get in and not being as injured as they expected. Moreover, ‘Rick’ fantasises about seeing ‘Dukey’ being beaten up or coming to the rescue of ‘Dukey’. Some psychodynamic or queer explanations might have been appropriate here for such homosocial sadism and chivalry. Moreover, the invitation to fight even has a ‘flirtatiousness’ about it that reminds of the ‘party girls’ that athletes claim swarm them. Furthermore, there is certain aggressive passivity in seeking to be the victim by provoking the attack that will justify their response. Interestingly Redhead describes the performance of hyper-masculinity given by the football fans he studies as, ‘camp’ (2015:23). Camp might also describe much professional wrestling though Corteen and Corteen (2012) focus on the real pain involved even in ‘scripted’ fights.

Another joy or online reviewing is that if any of the writers - or indeed others - want to join the debate they can make comments.  Moreover, happy to give you space on here to expand.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Redhead parks a theoretical bus in front of goal

A review of Steve Redhead’s (2015) Football and Accelerated Culture: This Modern Sporting Life Routledge

I’ve tweeted some potted reviews of early chapters of this book and even linked to the video in which the author is interviewed by his wife. Many of these have been retweeted by them.

My first tweet was not RT’d and my last not so far. The first tweet read
engaging chapter 1 really preface/intro with enough music mentions to float @TimNewburn boat but poor index!
More popular were:
Ch2 Football and Accelerated Culture roars down left wing exchanging 1-2s with Baudrillard, Badiou and Virilio. Will score? 
in Ch 3 of Football and Accelerated Culture @steveredhead bigs up his firm (university archive) and 'hits and tells' about #criminology 
also picks out the ‘camp’ in hyper-masculinity #footballaccelaratedculture I’ll claim that for #queercriminology
ch 5 mixes hooligan memoirs with some academic ones of his own - his greatest hits 
mentions @DonalMacIntyre journalism not his professorship 
So far my final tweet has gone unanswered.
What do pages 58 and 74 have in common?
The answer is a very lengthy and identical quote (third of a page) from ‘Pete Walsh, publisher of Milo books’. Readers of subtext might see some criticism in the other tweets too but no subtlety is intended in my complaint about the index. I’ve complained in the past about the index in other titles in Routledge’s Research Sport, Culture and Society series. Rosie Meek’s Sport in Prison is compromised by a poor one but I’ll return to this from time-to-time as the are other complaints and some praise to attend to.

It is appropriate that some of my first thoughts were dashed off quickly on social media and the index has mentions of Twitter on pages, 1, 9, 12-15, 19, 76 and 80 only missing the discussion on page 40 of the campaign demanding justice for the 96 (Hillsborough #jft96). The accelerated culture of Twitter means I can, with sufficient wit, give the impression of deep reading but the slower pace of writing this blog with quill pen by candle light demands more.

I think the book better illustrates the acceleration of culture than football does. I’ve been supporting football less assiduously than Steve and only slightly longer but for all the changes many things have not changed. The length of match and the means of deciding the game have not changed. What has changed is the amount of space (I’m not sufficiently aware of Virilio’s work - and Redhead’s 34 mentions largely assume you are - to know if his dromology covers time and space) given to sport, specifically football. Once only the cup final enjoyed as much pre and post match speculation and analysis but even the most mundane, end-of-season, mid-table match is declared the wonder of our age.

Twitter is quick and this book has been written quickly. I used some football metaphors in my tweets but cricket fits the purpose better here. Cricket has become quicker with a variety of short forms that some blame for the speed of even its full test version. Redhead is found at the crease knocking the bowling of those less versed in high theory to boundary in a series of aperçus, reminiscences and boasts (which might have been demoted to footnotes) about his knowledge, connections and archive.

Tackling that high theory we find that he is attracted to Virilio’s work (but rejecting his idealist phenomenology) and to Baudrillard’s late (in his life and posthumously published) work (31 mentions) and dislikes attempts to position such work as either modern or post modern, preferring the term late modern. Zizek appreciatively mentioned nearly a dozen times.

He knows his criminology and criminologists (nearly 30 mentions but no index entry!) but you will need to them too as he rarely goes beyond a sketch or name check, save for a big shout out to Steve Hall and Simon Winlow’s Teesside Centre for Realist Criminology (TCRC) though not all of TCRC’s mentions are indexed and none of Hall and Winlow’s half dozen citations are indexed. Sociology has no index entry despite nearly 20 mentions.

He deploys terms like Claustropolis, Claustopolitanism and Claustropolitan Sociology extensively and these gets many index mentions and much of this is foreshadowed in his earlier work when at Brighton. From Virilio ‘Claustopolitanism’ is the move from the cosmopolis that classical sociology has studied to the gated (figuratively and metaphorically) ‘communities’ of today that require his Claustropolitan Sociology, ‘or ‘bunker anthropology’.

In addition to the problems with the index and the elliptical nature of some references to high theory and score settling the writing is often unnecessarily dense. Sometimes this in the obscurantist manner of some cultural studies but also, and contrawise (and here I’m aping the style) legalistically with, asides, and conditional legalistic, deemed necessary - but please in another sentence - clauses.

Additionally, and here we are moving on from the speed of the writing, we have the speed of the production. It has clearly not been properly edited or sub-edited and for this I blame his publishers. Thus, in addition to the repeat of the quotes on pages 57 and 74 we find that the term ‘Pete Walsh, publisher of Milo books’ appears six times. The expression ‘What I have called, with a considerable irony’ appears on pages 23, 51 and 67 and again as ‘heavy irony’ on pages 70 and 78. Throughout I found myself thinking I’d already read something in this book or his earlier work which he promotes at length throughout.

But it is not all bad. I’ll quote his work on the ‘camp’ ness of the hyper-masculinity of some of his hooligans (p23) and the queer tone of Morrissey’s love of Georgie Best (p92). I’ll quote too his opinion that sporting mega events will not regenerate Cities but ‘resettle’ them (p80).

I am grateful to learn of ‘physical cultural studies’.
And the football? Quite. There are sometimes long quotes (whole pages!) from the 108 hooligan memoirs covering the years 1987-2014 held at Charles Sturt University which are part of his ‘hit and tell’ project (nearly 20 mentions in book but none in index). Many of the mentions are otiose and repetitive. The contents of the archive are set out in Appendix 1 and Appendix 2 matches clubs and their ‘firms’ with the memoirs. A further appendix should have removed the unwieldy list of the ‘firms’ associated with various clubs that take up pages 29-31.
Most chapters start with a claim to link theory to the hooligan memoirs but most involve lengthy theoretical approach work and then some mention of those memoirs, diddling about the box, before shooting wide!
And finally back to the Index. As noted it is short and misses many of the most important topics, subjects and authors but it also includes some random elements. Reference to the Large Hadron Collider does appear on page 17 but only in most aleatory fashion. This book is as much about popular music as it is about football - and I agree with him about the need to treat sport as part of the cultural industries - though it is more about picking fights with fellow theorists, so it is worrying that Happy Mondays lose their second capital in the index though not throughout the text, as do Joy Division yet The Farm and The Hollies get their full appellation and Morrissey acquires his birth initial, ’S’ (and full name in text, p92).

Redhead parks a theoretical bus in front of goal.

Tuesday, August 04, 2015

No Philomena Cunk

In a previous post I mentioned that I had nearly been the ‘expert’ questioned by Philomela Cunk for Charlie Brooker’s Screen Wipe. I was doing so to contrast her character with the character I was confronted with recently. This is not to say I thought her performance was ideal. There is, however, plenty to get to grips with in her short piece and I might use it in my teaching.

So here I’m going to engage with Cunk’s arguments and those of her expert, Chris Williams of the OU. I note his profile does not include his appearance with Cunk. Watch her video here.

These are propositions/questions Cunk puts out:

One in 20 of us are victims therefore 19 out of twenty are criminals

The logic is entertainingly poor but illustrates the binary, Manichean presumption that one is either a good or bad person. Indeed it raises the question where do the police fit into such a taxonomy and she later mentions the possibility of police malfeasance. The official figures for victimisation talk of offences rather than numbers of victims. Research on offenders suggests, ’33 per cent of males born in 1953 had been convicted of at least one standard list offence before the age of 53. Just over half of these had been convicted on only one occasion and 18 per cent had been convicted more than 5 times’. Gender is an issue too with young men most likely to be victims and offenders.

No wonder we need police

An anarchist might disagree but neo-liberal policies are bringing new pressures to bear. Thus recent moves against illegal immigrants expects landlords to do policing or be criminalised themselves. And conservative commentator, Peter Hitchens, asks, ‘How long before the police stop investigating murder?’. He was thinking about reports that burglary victims cannot expect police to attend but I’ve long wondered about what proportion to time and money should be given to investigate murder over other crimes.

In olden days we could hunt down and kill someone who did ‘something wrong’

Some people still operate vendettas and attacks on minorities and amongst communities or even against ‘paedos’ show the resilience of this bloody pre-police attitude. And many criminologists are now interested in broader harms than the purely ‘criminal’ from pollution to homophobia.

but in 1829 Robert Peel ‘discovered’ the police

The ‘discovered’ is part of Cunk’s faux ignorance and forgotten moments later when talking of their invention. But the whole history of the police might be spun around how it came into being. How recent an invention ‘the police’ are when ‘policing’ is so old. Her expert might have been asked about that given his speicalism.

we could go to them as they identifiable by their special hats by those being murdered in London fog

This section is illustrated by an image of one of the Whitechapel murder victims from the Illustrated Police News, or the like. An irony is that we know more about Mary Ann Nichols, Annie Chapman, Elizabeth Stride, Catherine Eddowes and Mary Jane Kelly than other working class women of the time. Little of that learning seems likely to trouble the proprietors and potential visitors to a new ‘attraction’ or to the many tours.

if there was no crime what would police do?

Karl Marx said, ‘the criminal produces not only crimes but also criminal law, and with this also the professor who gives lectures on criminal law and in addition to this the inevitable compendium in which this same professor throws his lectures onto the general market’. I’ve always presumed Marx to be ironically guying the functionalists but there is some truth in it and I’m now throwing this blog onto the market too.

stamp post codes on bikes to decorate them

She jokes about the crime prevention function of the police. The real joke is not that they decorate bikes but that ‘bobbies on the beat’ are largely decorative/symbolic.

no point fighting crime if you don’t know what a crime is?

She mentions the ten commandments and gives 3 - killing people, gravity, interfering with oxen. Gravity is an interesting joke as it varies on this planet and more so around the Universe so is less fixed than condemnations of murder.

She also asks who decides what right and wrong, works out what punishment and writes it down?Yet she asks Chris, ‘If a policeman broke the law would he be able to arrest himself’. He struggles to succinctly put her straight. I’d have been tempted to agree that it might be difficult for a police officer to uphold the law when other officers broke it and they might have to arrest each other - Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

and she posits that ‘Reconstructions’ might go real before trailing off. I jokingly tell my students that Crimewatch and Harry Potter single-handedly keeping actors in work. Others joke about the gullibility of the public naming the actors to police.
without police we could do what we like

Back to anarchism but also forgetting we mostly police ourselves anyway and the growing army of security guards and surveillance systems.

but they’d not be able to be police which would be against there human rights

In a neat inversion she points out that the one thing the police would (logically) not be able to do would be to be police. Much of the work of police scholars examines the nature of police culture to which her ontological observations might now be added.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Media Ethics

Who is presenter Jon Donovan, ‘relatively new presenter to channel 4’?  Good question. As I was standing with him in a shopping centre in East London yesterday (23 July 2015) miked up and with 3 cameras on us I should have known. We were on a stage where Jon was quizzing me about profiling, stereotypes, criminology etc in a rather random and forceful way that puzzled me and did not put me at my ease. It was as if central casting had been asked to supply an Aussie Ron Burgundy. He was large, tanned and wearing a suit of a nasty colour and material (stereotypes I know).

Scroll back to last Friday when I received a call from an Assistant producer at an independent television production company asking if I could help with a show. The subsequent email said:
The show will examine attitudes towards contemporary issues such as prejudice, inequality and globalisation. This coming Thursday 23rd July we are filming a short VT in a shopping centre in Barking where our presenter will be exploring issues concerning modern security methods in large public spaces. I wanted to get in touch with yourself to see if you might potentially be interested in accompanying our presenter in the centre for an hour or so to talk about broad and general topics regarding criminality. For example such issues as the psychology of potential shoplifters and criminals, 'what makes people steal?', along with how the centre might go about improving its methods of prevention. 

After some more some calls a further email elaborated:
Our presenter will be discussing modern security methods and prevention in general with the help of the security team at the centre. We thought it might be nice if you could accompany him for an hour or two to provide some additional background on criminality and the psychology behind why people might commit crimes (and any other broad questions regarding crime psychology and crime in general he might ask). This would most likely entail the two of you walking and talking through the centre together. I must stress we will be very flexible on the day and do not need to stick to a strict schedule. The whole team will be on hand to help with any questions or breaks in filming. A new item that we would like to explore is a quick a social experiment in the centre. We would cast 4/5 people to stand in a line up (all from different backgrounds) and ask a member of the public to point out who they think might have a previous criminal record or might be a potential shoplifter. We wondered if you would be able to help commentate with our presenter any potential preconceived prejudices that the general public might harbour and bring up. We think this might make for an interesting area to discuss.
As a sociological, cultural and media criminologist I thought it necessary to point out in my email by reply that:
As a sociologist of crime very happy to talk about stereotyping and labellingas criminologist very happy to talk about the history of criminology in which Cesare Lombroso claimed he could tell a shoplifter from a rapist etc - the shape of ears, eyebrow etc to tattoos!but I am not a psychologist - though could speculate on mental processes along with the bestAlso one specialism of mine is crime and media so can talk about how crime/criminals/victims represented in media.
I also provided a link to information about men/women and shoplifting.

I never got to walk about the Mall discussing, ’modern security methods in large public spaces’ but after an hour and half delay whilst I was entertained in a nearby Cafe I only got to interact with Jon. We were on stage to engage in the ‘social experiment’ of asking a member of the public to chose which of 5 extras looked like a ‘crim’. I hope they got paid more than the £50 I had eventually been offered.

The centre’s footfall must have been doubled by the crew that day but ‘Betty’, an older woman, was found to look at the line up and she duly chose one man, for his ‘scowl’ and ‘hoodie’. The ‘diversity’ quotient of the shoot was immeasurably improved by the line up since as the whole production team were eager young white men, save one woman co-ordinator.

I had been taken back by Jon’s ‘just-time-travelled-from-the-80s’ appearance and style and recalled that my Google search of his name had revealed nothing. I was even more taken aback when he introduced me as someone who could tell a ‘crim’. My feeble attempts to correct or inform were brushed aside. I felt unhappy and in a break in filming signalled my disquiet to the associate producer but carried on.

Things got worse and in discussing Betty’s choice I found myself saying that my smile hid my criminality and that monks often used hoods to disguise their intent.  I broke off again and this time spoke to the Director and Executive Producer at length.

At this point they admitted that Jon was an Iranian actor (so the Saddam black hair was not dyed as I'd thought) hired to play Jon as he was to try and engage a younger audience with the issues of stereotyping. He was no Ali G or even Philomena Cunk. I felt that I had been deceived and for no good purpose. The link to Cunk’s work is particularly relevant as, had my teaching not come first, I was slated to be the ‘expert’ in that show. But it would have been clear at the start I was dealing with a character and could have ‘improv’ed back. One of the reasons that my ripostes to Jon were so feeble was the underlying politeness that even I possess. Had I been told he was acting I’d have been more robust. Had I been up against another contributor I’d have engaged.

Real ethical issues I believe. But also there are production values too.  Despite the size of the crew the whole thing felt as downmarket as the shopping centre and I suggested that their hopes of a Channel 4 slot seemed unlikely and that it felt more 5 or worse. I felt bad. My paranoid egotistical self was telling me I’d been set up, slightly more rationally perhaps Jon was being set up and even more rationally that (and the many delays suggest) that cock-up not conspiracy was at work here.

They had no idea what a criminologist was, they were making up too much of it on the hoof and had not thought the whole thing through. But despite my inner turmoil and because I’d taken 4 hours out of my day (including travel) I wanted to do a good job (adding to the turmoil) I relented and agreed to try and sign off and then review the footage and do voice over or piece to camera. So I return to the stage and now I act as if I have seen a succession of people having chosen a ‘crim’ before warning of the dangers of stereotyping, thanking Jon and expressing sorrow that I’d not been able to persuade him. As I left a young woman was stepping up to take part in the 'social experiment'.

I wait now to see whether I am asked for my bank details so they can pay me and whether they do make good on their offer of some sign-off on what footage they use and how. I also need to think whether to accept the money or ask for more. And, in a spirit of transparency, acknowledge I got my train fare, coffee and bottle of water without demur.

We wait to see how they respond to this post and whether the show (whatever that is) sees the light of day.

Jon has a future playing egotistically deluded presenters for sub prime TV. I may have just auditioned for part of egotistically deluded 'expert'.

Update - TV company have phoned me, super apologetic and recognise their failures towards me and in the concept. They reasure that no use will be made of the footage - at least two of the cameras should have shots of me looking bemused at minimum - without my consent.  We agree fee to go to Reporters Without Borders.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Book Review Media Representations of Police and Crime: Shaping the Police Television Drama

As a child growing up I watched Dixon of Dock Green. I like, in retrospect, to think that I was aware, even then, that the cosy world depicted was not a true picture of policing or society. Later I may have been more beguiled by the ‘realism’ of Z Cars but by Softly Softly had largely given up. But early episodes of the The Bill and later The Cops showed promise. All of these and more are mentioned by Colbran.

She is a former scriptwriter on The Bill which is at the centre of her book (based closely on her PhD) which analyses the social contexts of production of a series, the media sociologies, the shifting patterns of media organisation, finance and regulation which shape what programmes get produced, the story-lines and dramas and issues.  Her argument is that criminologists have hitherto paid too little attention to the media context side of the equation as compared to the representational aspects. She shares this with Anita Lam’s Making Crime Television: Producing entertaining representations of crime for television broadcast (my review in Crime Media Culture here) to whom she refers. Where Lam favours Latour’s Actor Network Theory Colbran favour’s Du Gay’s ‘circuit of culture’.
The analysis is set in a history of TV cop shows, their evolving forms and contents, and concluded with a series of reflections on other cop shows which have followed in the wake of the Bill or which have reacted against its forms of representing the police.  Between this introduction and conclusion is a detailed ethnography of TV script production and programme management - set in the context of a political economy of broadcasting - and substantial interviewing illustrating the themes of TV cop show production.  Those short of time might start at Chapter 3.
The book is interesting, fascinating and insightful with its particular focus upon fictional TV representation of crime and policing which may limit its appeal to pure criminologists but she recently entertained the joint meeting of the Southern Branch of the British Society of Criminology and the LSE Mannheim’s Centre. It should be of interest to students of policing and we wait to see if The Bill becomes as canonical as Dixon.  If so Colbran can take much credit. It should be of greater interest to media and cultural studies students. There is a problem about the canon though, and she sets this all out, is that there have been a number of iterations of the show - from gritty realism; to soapy, to slavish devotion to the bottom line. Her research in the latter era looks back to an earlier era when she rode along and had the time to research that some jobbing academics might envy. Reality might trump story but not now - and not at all now the show has ended.
A major criticism for me - which shows I’m not a proper academic - is that she is too keen to appear to be a proper academic. To this end she has chosen a highly structured hierarchic schema to ensure that ‘I’s are dotted etc. The very talents that enabled her to write and act appear to have been suppressed. There are a number of stories to tell here (and we get snippets) but a bolder work would have pleased me more, if not her supervisor.
I shall return to this subject with a closer reading. Tune in next ....

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Why Paris lock ban should interest criminologists including green ones.

The only time the bridges of Paris feature in Criminology is usually in the quote from Anatole France 

La majestueuse égalité des lois, qui interdit au riche comme au pauvre de coucher sous les ponts, de mendier dans les rues et de voler du pain
In its majestic equality, the law forbids rich and poor alike to sleep under bridges, beg in the streets and steal loaves of bread.
which reminds us that structural inequalities control our lives as much as, if not more than, the law; and that all people might commit crimes but not all might need to.

Its not what's going on under the bridges of Paris but on the balustrades and railings of the bridges.  I first spotted these on the Hohenzoller Bridge in Cologne which their tourist industry seems to support - but it is a very much bigger bridge.

I recently visited Paris (see my pictures below) and many bridges and even places near bridges had locks attached. But now the authorities are showing a renewed determination to remove them. (http://edition.cnn.com/2015/05/30/travel/paris-love-locks-bridges-feat/

The article linked above mentions safety issues - a part of the Pont des Arts bridge collapsed in June last year and tourist issues.  The estimated 700,000 locks weigh the same as 20 elephants

Criminologists of the mundane might note:
'Graffiti, pickpockets and vendors selling cheap padlocks also became a problem'
And I was very much taken with the 'drug dealer' like way in which I was offered locks by the same, or similar, young men who during showers offered to sell one umbrellas and water during sunny periods.  

Other takes/critiques are possible. Grumpy me thinks, 'Stupid sentimentalism'. Feminist me thinks 'stupid romantic ideologies but at least not specifically heteronormative'.  Socialist me thinks about the consumption of unnecessary items. Which reminds green me that this means the production and consumption of crime prevention devices for non-crime prevention.

Whilst cultural criminology might see the locks as some form of resistance  - to the City authorities if not to commerce - akin to graffiti but green criminology might see a form of littering or a failure to recycle. A green crime whereby if you lock it you've lost it!

Locks by SeineBoarding up Pont des Artsfrench workers repair lock damaged bridge 2french workers repair lock damaged bridge 1