Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Nic Groombridge, ‘Public Criminologist’ and ‘Master of Truth’

Twitter tells me that for the week of 15 November 2014 my tweets received 3,809 views and that I had 55 new followers with 74 visits to links that I had posted. My most popular tweet that week accounted for one third of those link visits; with one in ten of those viewing visiting the link to an article in Radical Criminology.  This is the text of the tweet:
Slagged off by Nicolas Carrier in @critcrimjournal.radicalcriminology.org/index.php/rc/a… with other public criminologists @ProfDavidWilson @martina0074
So Nicolas’s article received 25 more views than it might have.  In addition to my tweet I also emailed Nicolas as follows:
Hi Nicolas
some good points in your sound thrashing of us deluded public criminologists
Not sure Loader and Sparks would see as being on same team as them.
In addition to my academic work you critique I tweet and blog.
Long shot but do you fancy boiling down your argument for the public - 1000 words?- and I'll put it on my blog and tweet the link?
I've already facebooked and tweeted link to your radical crim article
Obviously a bit cheeky of me but this is his reply:
Hello Nic,
Happy to read that this piece of mine gave you some pleasure and, perhaps, food for thought.
Thanks for adding the link to your social media posts – the ‘public’ can access my argument if it so desires, but the audience targeted is composed of social scientists like you.
I have alerted some of the other academics quoted about the article so they can make their own responses.  These are mine and will concentrate on how my work is seen by Carrier.  I believe he has misunderstood some things but his email suggests too that however radical his intention he is as elitist as those he criticises.

Carrier’s title is, ‘On Some Limits and Paradoxes of Academic Orations on Public Criminology’. Cultural differences may be at work but I’ve never claimed to be a social scientist and ‘academic oration’ is too hifalutin to describe any of my writing.  And, as I suggest in my email, I’m not sure Loader and Sparks see me as an equal to their theorising as I rate only one mention in their book, Public Criminology?.  

Here’s my review of their book in Punishment and Society in which I concluded:
This is a high-minded book – with the occasional dig (e.g. at Carol Smart for leaving criminology and the harm perspective for disciplinary fuzziness). It is well written and a useful tour de horizon, but the authors’ long labour has not produced an elephant. Their eclectic take on criminology is useful but the narrowness of their concept of ‘public’ is not. Far more attention to both old and new media is needed for a full discussion of ‘public criminology’.

and more critically in mid flow (and channeling Sterne’s Tristram Shandy) I opine:

The book is said to offer ‘an original and provocative account of the condition
of, and prospects for, criminology’. That is, they present ‘the Life and Opinions on
Criminology, an academic discipline’ and spend so long on its conception, gestation,
stormy adolescence and middle-aged spread that whether and how to do ‘public
criminology’ is scarcely addressed.

Carrier is influenced strongly by Vincenzo Ruggiero’s ‘How public is public criminology’ in Crime Media Culture.  For instance:

But how can public criminologists act as citizens in a participatory democracy
and as professional social scientists simultaneously?

I surmise that Carrier sees ‘public criminologists’ as the elitists, following Ruggiero’s contention that:
Something esoteric and elitist still remains in the description of ‘public criminology’ provided above, in that experts working in academia seem to seek the help of experts working in adjacent areas and, while begging for their benevolence, try to improve the lives of others, namely non-expert actors.
Carrier’s judgement of my work stems purely from my published oeuvre 'I'm Making a TV Programme Here!': Reality TV's Banged Up and Public Criminology with David Wilson and Criminologists Say … : An Analysis of UK National Press Coverage of Criminology and Criminologists and a Contribution to the Debate on ‘Public Criminology’ when he, like Loader and Sparks, overlooks social and popular media.

Ruggiero’s position is that criminology isn’t sociological or political enough.  As he was the External Examiner of my political and sociological PhD it is disappointing that I don’t even rate a mention in his article.  It would be nice to think that this was deliberate as I don’t fit his argument so well but guess it just a failure to search beyond the usual suspects.  I am more disappointed by Paul Rock’s survey, ’The public faces of public criminology’ failure to mention me as I’d emailed him the details after hearing the talk upon which the article is based.  So now I’m making my private humiliation public.

Anyone who knows me or who follows me on Twitter or even Facebook will find my inclusion in this list of ‘cookbook’ writers risible:
Similarly, Fichtelberg and Kupchik (2011:61) see criminologists as “experts with a unique contribution to make to debates on criminal justice policy”, and believe that public criminology shall “enhance the credibility” of the ‘discipline’. It is from this general perspective of criminology as the master of truth on crime and punishment that public criminology cookbooks are usually published (e.g. Rowe, 2012; Wilson and Groombridge, 2010; Feilzer, 2009; Groombridge, 2007).

Having worked for the Home Office nearly 18 years before becoming a criminologist means that I know (standpoint epistemology) how little attention is paid to criminologists  or other experts - so praise to the undercover ‘public’ criminology of David Faulkner.

I’ve written no cookbook, claim no mastery.  Indeed in my work point out that everyone has a democratic right to talk about crime.  I’ll use humour, vitriol, irony (see title of this blog) even peer-reviewed work but increasingly tweets and blogs to start a debate.

And here I have to liken myself to Foucault (who Carrier consigns at the concluding moment to a footnote) in stating clearly that I have no, ‘desire to lay down the law for others and to try “to mold the political will of others”.

Not proof I know but hope that Carrier and Ruggiero might consider this tweet from today. as evidence of my masterly radicalism.

But whilst I see my ‘public criminology’ as an extension of my teaching, and here I offer Carrier a better stick with which to beat me, recognise that actually I practice ‘publicity criminology’.


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