contact us

 

         

123 Street Avenue, City Town, 99999

(123) 555-6789

email@address.com

 

You can set your address, phone number, email and site description in the settings tab.
Link to read me page with more information.

Blog

Crimcast is a virtual resource devoted to critical conversations about criminology and criminal justice issues. Our blogposts, twitter feeds, podcasts and other content provide an overview of trends, research, commentary and events of interest to criminal justice practitioners, academics and the general public. CrimCast is sponsored by The Center for Crime and Popular Culture, St. Francis College, Brooklyn, NY.

Filtering by Tag: politics

Female Terrorists in the United States

Staci Strobl

Crimcast sat down with Dr. Alessandra L. Gonzalez, Princeton University post-doctorate researcher, to discuss her latest work, "How Women Engage Homegrown Terrorism" (with Joshua D.  Freilich, John Jay College of Criminal Justice, and Steven M. Chermak, Michigan State University) on female terrorists in the United States, published in Feminist Criminology (Volume 9, 2014).  Using the United States Extremist Crime Database (ECDB) Study data of homicides by far-right extremists and arsons and bombings by environmental and animal rights extremists, their analysis reveal the importance of relationships to women’s involvement in terrorism and that recruitment and opportunity differ by ideology. 

Tell us about the U. S. Extremist Crime Database (ECDB) and how it was developed.  It’s a great resource for analysis of terrorist offenders across known cases.

Drs. Freilich and Chermak created the ECDB study in 2005. Since then, the ECDB has been funded by a series of grants from the Department of Homeland Security’s Science and Technology Directorate’s University Program Division; and Resilient Systems Division, both directly and through the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START). 

The ECDB is an open source relational database that tracks violent and financial crimes by political extremists in the United States. It codes hundreds of attributes related to violent criminal incidents or financial criminal schemes, the perpetrators of these acts, their victims and targets, and the organizations and groups involved, as well as the quality of the open source information found on the case.

The research findings include that the women terrorists studied never act as lone wolves.  They also tend to be influenced by female friends or relatives to commit acts of violence-- not just male friends/lovers/husbands. This is also a new contribution to our understanding of women extremist offenders.  Did the data provide information, or can you speculate about, why these trends are occurring?  

The use of a gendered lens with which to understand pathways to homegrown radicalization sheds light on the important nuances of inter-personal relationships and social networks that have not been counted so centrally in previous terrorism studies. An inter-disciplinary approach to the study of women in terrorism points out the importance of mediating social networks on creating opportunities for motivated perpetrators.

However, there were differences by ideology and crime type and this is reflected in the social networks that enabled women to participate in either far-right extremist crimes (homicides) or eco-terrorist crimes (arsons and bombings). Similar to male terrorists, females are affected by group-level effects such as the structure of the group and methods of operation. For example, we observe that several of the victims of far-right extremists in the United States were killed not as a result of ideological forethought but more as “presented opportunities,” the unintended casualties of unstructured time by aimless youth. Several of the far-right females were homeless and on the street (four, all non-extremists). This lends evidence to view homeless females as more vulnerable to being co-opted into violent crimes although they do not believe in the ideology. Five out of 14 of the extremist perpetrators were involved in inter-gang violence or racial homicides to earn prestige within the gang. This makes the case of ideologically motivated females interesting because it might more closely approximate patterns for gang involvement. 

Of the three eco-terrorist bombings, one woman was involved with three other men and all were students at the same university, and the other two women involved in a separate incident were sisters. All three women involved with bombings had male accomplices and were ideologically motivated. Of the eco-terrorist arson incidents, seven women were repeat offenders, and five were involved in multiple offenses together. Women were not lone-wolf arsonists, and where multiple offenses occurred, there tended to be more than one female involved. So again, the story of relationships is important although it is unclear how these relationships were forged except for 

 

 

 

common interest activity groups on campus or as relatives of activists.

The data also shows that anti-abortion terrorists are overwhelmingly male.  What do you think this finding brings to frameworks for feminist criminology?

Interestingly, there were no anti-abortion victims or targets where women were involved, as opposed to various incidents where men were perpetrators of anti-abortion violent crime. We know that social relationships were essential to female involvement, and it is interesting that we found three mothers who were extremists and two other women who were expectant mothers at the time of the incident. It is possible that gender and social networks trump violent action against anti-abortion ideology so that we do not see women participate in these crimes. However, further research should continue to analyze the pathways for men who get involved in radical action in anti-abortion terrorist crimes because their involvement is just as important to understanding the lack of female involvement.

What is the connection between terrorism by definition having an ideological component, and the article’s assertion that religion did not seem to be a major factor in women’s involvement?  

Although religious ideology can be conflated with other powerful ideological beliefs, in this study, we isolate terrorist ideology from religious identity and belief. This methodological choice is data-driven. Of the female terrorists who engage homegrown terrorism in the United States, there were no open-source data available on their religious beliefs or affiliation. In addition, the women’s far-right and eco-terrorist ideologies did not access religious arguments for their political agendas when justifying their violence. Of course, it is possible for terrorist ideology to act as a substitute for religion for terrorists, but again, we find no data to support this theory.

What else can or has the ECDB been used to analyze?  

There have been many recent publications using ECDB data by my co-authors Joshua Freilich and Steven Chermak, including one in the Journal of Quantitative Criminology. The findings from ECDB data have been pathbreaking regarding the composition, methods, and reach of homegrown terrorism in the United States. However, this was the first publication using ECDB data with a focus on gender. 

What else are you working on these days? 

I have been continuing my research on gender, politics, religion, and deviance. I have a forthcoming article on the study of “Irreligiosity as Social Deviance in a Majority Muslim Context” for the journal Deviant Behavior which again analyzes the influence of gender and ideology on crime and social deviance.

picture_gonzalez2.jpg

Dr. Alessandra L. González is a Non-Resident Research Fellow at the Liechtenstein Institute on Self-Determination at the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University. She received her Ph.D. and M.A. degrees in Sociology from Baylor University and received a B.A. in Sociology and Policy Studies from Rice University. She is the principal investigator of the Islamic Social Attitudes Survey Project (ISAS), a study in conjunction with Baylor’s Institute for Studies in Religion (ISR) on Islamic religiosity and social attitudes, including attitudes about women’s rights in the Arab Gulf region. Her latest book is Islamic Feminism in Kuwait: The Politics and Paradoxes (Palgrave Macmillan Press).

Bearing Witness: Art and Resistance in Cold War Latin America

Nickie Phillips

June 2, 1986, =

Wednesday, 7th of May, 2014 from 5:30pm-7:30pm

Attend the opening of the exhibition Bearing Witness: Art Resistance in Cold War Latin America.

The exhibition runs from May 8, 2014-September 12, 2014

at ANYA AND ANDREW SHIVA GALLERY JOHN JAY COLLEGE OF CRIMINAL JUSTICE, CUNY 524 WEST 59TH STREET L2.73.14 NEW YORK, NY 10019

Gallery Hours: 1pm-5pm, M-F, or by appointment

While censorship, kidnapping, torture, and murder became common tactics for repressive governments throughout Latin America during the Cold War, many artists from the region responded by producing poignant works of art that speak out against these atrocities. This exhibition brings together three distinct bodies of work that do so through documentation, poetic subversion and revelation.

Countries with Low Crime Rates: Comparing Vietnam and Japan

Nickie Phillips

By Megan Helwig, Guest Blogger

Vietnam-Japan_jpg

Vietnam and Japan, each with vastly different political regimes, maintain relatively low crime rates. Vietnam, a socialist state, appears to employ methods of fear and intimidation to maintain social control. Japan, a constitutional monarchy/parliamentary democracy utilizes a community-oriented policing system to maintain social order. Both states culturally advocate harmony and social order as their goals. However, both states also seem to take separate approaches as well as possess varying viewpoints of what maintaining societal harmony entails.

The Socialist Republic of Vietnam is an authoritarian country run by the Communist Party of Vietnam (CPV). Vietnam is one of five remaining Communist nations of the world, amongst Laos, Cuba, North Korea and China. Vietnam is comprised of a “massive state security network.” Professor Carl Thayer, of the Australian Defense Forces Academy, estimated that “at least 6.7 million Vietnamese belong to the many security agencies.” This is roughly one out of every six people within the forty-three million working population of Vietnam that works in security. According to the BBC, “Vietnam’s Communist-controlled state security apparatus is comprised not only of the police forces and regular army, but also paramilitaries, rural militia forces and ‘neighborhood guardians.’ All of these different security forces are under the control of either the Ministry of National Defense or the Ministry of Public Security.

Japan’s police system has actually instituted measures to guarantee police neutrality for their police forces. These measures are carried out through the National Police Agency (NPA). According to INTERPOL, “The NPA is headed by a Commissioner General who, with the approval of the Prime Minister, is appointed by the National Public Safety Commission (NPSC), a state body which holds the rank of Ministry of State, guarantees the neutrality of the police, and administers the NPA.” The NPA oversees the Prefectural Police which is the law enforcement provider within Japan. The NPA is an apolitical body void of direct governmental executive control. The press is also able to freely monitor and express any criticisms of the system without fear of punishment.

It’s quite evident that Vietnam’s low crime rate is mostly due to the extreme amount of social control and censorship imposed by the government. These factors bring to the surface many human rights issues for a plethora of reasons. Political opposition is prohibited, and the administration of justice can be arbitrary and harsh. The idea that the revolution must be protected is what justifies the arrest of individuals choosing to speak out against its government or the state’s beliefs and practices. The state utilizes various modes of surveillance in order to keep an eye out for any incident of disobedience which enables quick, arguably unjust, enforcement of the law. From an objective perspective, this system could be arguably quite effective. However, the future stability of this social control method is somewhat questionable. A government that uses fear and intimidation to maintain social order will continually be potentially on the brink of mass public protest and revolt. In contrast, Japan’s system resembles a completely different form of social control and policing with a more community-oriented approach. According to Pakes, one of the most successful displays of community policing is in Japan. Japan’s community police are called koban. The Japanese policing structure enables the police forces to develop a more personal relationship with the community and ultimately helps erase the social gap typically found between police and civilians. The koban structure also combines policing with general assistance. Some of these general assistance interactions include: surveying, advising on addresses, lending out umbrellas, lost and found services, community activities, production and distribution of newsletters, self-defense classes, and sports. Overall, Japan’s form of community policing aligns with the culture’s emphasis on the importance of harmony.

(Photo: www.wordpress.tokyotimes.org)

Statistically, both Vietnam and Japan are effective at keeping their crime rates relatively low in comparison to the global crime statistics. Perhaps the question of analysis shouldn’t be which state’s police force has the most effectiveness in relation to their low-crime rates. Instead, maybe the focus should be on the means under which these low crime rates are established. Vietnam uses a method of tight governmental influence and social control and censorship to ensure obedience. Japan, in contrast, uses a more community-oriented approach to develop trust and solid relationships with its citizens while also providing for the basic needs of the community. Many would argue that for a state to be successful, it needs to provide the basic needs and services required by its people. This can also be said for communities as well as states. The koban policing system example within Japan seems to go above and beyond in relation to providing communities with services that address the citizen’s everyday needs. Another aspect to ponder is how secure each of the systems are in the long run? It seems quite evident that Japan possesses a significantly more stable system of policing and citizen respect than Vietnam system possesses.  Japan historically had a similar politically-heavy state-controlled system and successfully transitioned to what they are now. One size doesn’t typically fit all. However, Japan’s modern system could, at least in theory, maybe one day be a solution to Vietnam’s shaky and somewhat paranoid system.

Megan Helwig graduated from Lock Haven University with a B.A. in Political Science/Pre-Law. Currently, she is in the International Crime and Justice Masters program at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. In addition to knowing English and some Spanish, she is currently pursuing an advanced comprehension of Arabic (Classical and Egyptian Colloquial). Megan is ultimately pursuing a career in counter-terrorism. 

The Expansionary Nature of Governance Through Fear: Is it Worth it?

Nickie Phillips

NTAS

Part 5 of 5 in a series on Risk-Logic and the War on TerrorAditi Gupta, Guest Blogger

Over the last four weekly posts (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part, 4), this blog series has been exploring the profoundly social impact that risk-based security policy has on our everyday lives. In using Selchow’s framework, I’m not trying to say that we have no agency in this process, and that we are helpless to stop it – quite the contrary. I feel only individual choice will reverse the trajectory of securitization, suspicion and fear that currently dictates how we view the risk of terrorism. By zooming in on the dynamics of depoliticization, responsibilization, and the separation of political decision-making from actuality, I have tried to break down the main pillars of what risk-logic does when it is the main force driving the governance of threats. I believe if we can understand objectively the forces at play within the networks of power that we engage in, we can decide for ourselves whether viewing the problem of terrorism only in terms of the risk of an attack and not the reasons behind one is benefiting our lives. Is this what we want for our future?

This question feeds in to the last dynamic of risk that is engendered by the dispositif of precautionary risk (DPR) mode of governance: expansion. As Selchow explains, the logic of risk implies an imperative to act. It is this dynamic that spurs the expansion of security; the UK government thus cannot not act. As we can see in the U.K., this dynamic inevitably feeds a process of ever-expanding securitization whereby increasing areas are deemed to harbor security threats. In the UK this can be seen in a variety of ways, stemming from the four rationalities driving the DPR. For example, this can be seen in the shift of the debate around tackling terrorism from addressing violence to extremism, from the physical to the imagined. This shift is one that has essentially ensured the securitization of potential thoughts.

It is no longer necessary for someone to physically carry out an act, suspicion of intent is enough to necessitate punishment. This perpetuates a discourse of ‘misunderstanding’ (as outlined last week) that produces normalized ways of engaging with this perceived risk. In other words, due to the perpetuation of the innate ‘bad’ label given to the archetypal religious Muslim, society is more likely to accept further curtailments on ‘their’ rights. As these risk-based decisions are not ‘tamed’ by an accompanying actuality or any hard evidence beyond the perception of ‘riskiness’, this form of thinking will always produce a sense that there are further uncertainties to be tamed. This can be seen in the steady expansion of who is deemed ‘risky’ since 9/11. From 2001-2005, external, foreign elements were seen to be the primary threat, resulting in the rapid securitization of the immigration system to target asylum seekers and immigrants (Amnesty, 2010). After 7/7, however, threats were expanded to include the panoptic surveillance of British citizens to target ‘home-grown’ enemies. Since then, the yearning for ever greater knowledge has spurred the extension of surveillance to health clinics, schools and universities where doctors and teachers are expected to inform on those under their care. (Liberty, 2007).

Mahdi Hashi

The pre-emptive nature of policies deployed by the DPR means that information is always, and always will be, incomplete. However, the desire to project the appearance of control has led to policies based on the expansion of ever-more vague offenses such as the offenses of ‘glorification of terrorism’ and ‘indirect encouragement’, and non-prosecution constraining measures, such as the Terrorism Prevention Investigation Measures (TPIMs [Annex 3]), in order to trap those who are suspected, but do not meet the evidentiary threshold required to be charged. Indeed, the acute suspicion of foreign nationals suspected of ‘extremist’ thoughts but not guilty of carrying out any criminal act, has very recently led to an expansion of executive power to enable the stripping of any naturalized citizen’s British citizenship. In recent years, this citizenship stripping has enabled governments to stick to the dogma of zero-risk and assassinate terror suspects through targeted drone strikes: if the suspect no longer exists, there’s no need to deal with the problematic prosecution of a crime that hasn’t been committed yet.

How this dynamic effects resistance: power dynamics

Consistent with the other dynamics, this process also precipitates at both the micro and macro levels. At the macro-level, Liberty articulates, ‘politicians feel like they need to be seen to be doing something in response to the terrorist threat, regardless of whether it wise…counter-productive…whether it’s entirely unnecessary’. Amnesty International United Kingdom (AIUK) has commented on the difficulty of fighting expansion of policy due to the combination of future temporality, secret evidence and use of vague offenses. In a 2012 Amnesty International report, resistance to this is seen as ‘shadow-boxing’ where ‘you have no idea if your strategy and points are on the money or wide of the mark’. AIUK has documented how the ‘seepage’ of the use of secret evidence in the U.K. has managed to dampen the successes gained in chipping away the system of pre-charge detention down to TPIMs, becoming an ever-more permanent feature of the civil sanctioning system with the institutionalization of the Justice and Security Act.

Reprieve and CagePrisoners demonstrate the importance of micro-resistance in direct ways with the public. CagePrisoners urge those affected by the expansion of risk-based policy to come directly to them to seek justice together, as well as share individual every-day experiences of these policies on a specially created website ‘www.schedule7stories.com’. They explain that this was done so that Muslims themselves could understand that these policies were not just based on racism, but part of a much bigger problem of governance, thus recognizing the importance of engaging with the macro-level debate.

SoapBNPS_450x350

Reprieve has aimed to expose the sheer expansion of War on Terror policy such as the rendition network through the invasion of public space. For example, through teaming up with cosmetics company, LUSH, and lingerie designer, Agent Provocateur, images of Binyam Mohammad and Sami al Haj appeared in LUSH High Street windows, bath bombs and even on the runway through underwear that stated ‘fair trial, my arse’ (Reprieve, 2008). The use of humor in conjunction with this micro-level contact had a powerful impact that made the name ‘Binyam Mohammad’ shorthand for U.K. complicity in rendition and torture.

The importance of humanizing the nature of risk-based policies at the micro-level and not just applying political pressure at the state and transnational level is caught up in the significance CagePrisoners gives to the role of ‘misunderstanding’. If individual assumptions are not targeted – whether they be about misunderstanding the driver of policy or misunderstanding the indefinability of terrorism – people will carry on being normalized into thinking that to gain security, you have to keep on giving up freedoms.

Conclusion: How the case of HRO resistance in the UK pulls together the threads of risk and power

By analyzing the role of human rights organization (HRO) resistance to the technologies deployed by the DPR mode of governance in what Foucault calls ‘the battle for truth’, it is thus possible to see how risk dynamics are ultimately intertwined with power. Focusing on this site of resistance can see how Selchow’s four dynamics are central to the constant negotiation of the dynamics of power that circulate the ‘regime of truth’ regarding the governance of the UK through the DPR.

Secondly, the example of the work of CagePrisoners and their encouragement of the micro-resistance of the Muslim ‘suspect community’ to supplement the macro-resistance carried out at state-level by HROs crucially reveals that it is not enough to simply focus on macro-, policy-level resistance whether globally, or against the state. This is due to what CagePrisoners deems ‘misunderstanding’ at both the micro- and macro-levels. The creation of the Muslim ‘terrorist’ is a central technology deployed by the DPR through the four rationalities that drive it. In essence, the case of the UK suggests that the perpetuation of a discourse of ‘misunderstanding’ produces normalized ways of engaging with discourses that present the Muslim identity as ‘risky’. In other words, due to the perpetuation of the innate ‘bad’ label given to the perceived ‘archetypal religious Muslim’, it is likely that society will submit to the dynamic of expansion that indicates further curtailments on ‘their’ rights. If it doesn’t affect me - it’s not my problem, right?

By looking at the combined social and political effects of risk dynamics and their ripple effect on relations of power, it can be seen that simply focusing on resistance to top-down frameworks that govern political power such as parliamentary mechanisms and lobbying, is no longer enough. The Foucauldian ‘battle for truth’ is not about absolute truths that are accepted, but about rules by which these truths are constructed and engaged with by society. The importance of going beyond legal frameworks and working at the level of everyday interaction is highlighted by the examples of CagePrisoners and Reprieve in their parallel activities that aim to affect micro-relations. Interestingly, both of these organizations emerged fully-fledged post-9/11, born out of the need to resist the rationalities and technologies deployed by the DPR.

In saying this, this blog series is not saying that state-level resistance is not important. As shown, different HROs take different roles regarding resistance within the DPR system of governance. Organizations like Liberty and Amnesty cannot fulfill the same role as an organization like CagePrisoners as they are not part of the ‘suspect community’. By the same token, Reprieve equally cannot function the same way as CagePrisoners. However, when viewing successful negotiation of power within the DPR such as the joint HRO campaigns on pre-charge detention and UK complicity in torture, it is clear that there needs to be this division of labor. This enables HROs to target the multiple dimensions of the dynamics engendered by the DPR: global, legal, political, social; micro- and macro-.

This series has attempted to highlight the shifting and fluid nature of the circulations of power underlying risk-governance. Risk-logic can’t be reduced to a technical tool used to govern terrorism. The dynamics that this sets in motion have fundamentally altered society-state relations in a profoundly social way. Risk-based security policy has resulted in a wholesale cultural shift that rests on fear and suspicion and doesn’t ask why the problem of terrorism exists. Instead, it simply tries to pre-empt it from occurring through an expansionary process that is slowly destroying freedom of speech, movement and privacy. Ultimately, the question we should be asking ourselves when we ignore this practice is: ‘is this worth it?’

Aditi Gupta

Aditi Gupta graduated with an MSc in Global Politics (Civil Society) from the London School of Economics and Political Science in Autumn 2013.  She has previously worked at Soul Rebel Films and Reprieve and has co-authored reports based on depth interviews conducted for the Indian development NGO, CHIRAG. Aditi has volunteered for refugee and homeless organizations in the UK and is developing a career in the human rights field. This is the last post in her five-part series on Crimcast which began in early January, 2014.

"It's Probably Nothing, But...": How Governments Make Us Responsible For Our Own Security

Nickie Phillips

NTAS

Part 4 of 5 in a series on Risk-Logic and the War on Terror

Aditi Gupta, Guest Blogger

Following on from last week’s post, this week I’ll be discussing Selchow’s third dynamic that is engendered by the Dispositif of Precautionary Risk (DPR), a pre-emptory risk –based mode of governance: the internalization of security issues and the process of ‘responsibilization’. As touched upon last week, the creation of an archetypal Muslim terrorist figure in the U.K. has essentially depoliticized the issue of the governance of terrorism for the majority of the population, while the blame for the root of terrorism has been placed firmly on Islamic extremism and the British Muslim community by association. Thus, it’s evident that the dynamics of depoliticization and responsibilization are intimately linked. Through the governmentality approach, the DPR mode of governance shows that its assemblages of surveillance and risk discourse both work to construct sectors of society that are ‘dreamt up, marginalized and put under suspicion’; and ‘normalize’ the rest of the population, thereby ‘inviting citizens to become security guards, spies and informants’ on the ‘risky’ Muslim community (Mythen and Walklate 2006:390-392). This means that the Muslim community is not only blamed for the problem of terrorism, but are ultimately pressured to provide the solution to the problem by looking inwardly at themselves; effectively, the Muslim community has to internalize the problem of national security in this way, taking it on their own shoulders while simultaneously easing the responsibility of the government to engage fully with the problem.

Those who do not fall under the ‘suspect community’ are responsibilitized in a way that not only allows the continued allocation of blame on the ‘suspect community’, but also places the onus on them to report on anything ‘abnormal’. This dynamic is most clearly seen in government campaigns such as the recent one by the Metropolitan Police emphasizing that it is the Londoners’ responsibility ‘to be vigilant’ for anything ‘out of place in normal day to day lives’.

met police sign

Mythen et. al. (2012:394) thus articulate the core of this politics of normalcy: ‘this requirement to present an outwardly safe identity…reveals the coercive social pressures that a pervasive climate of suspicion has engendered’. Indeed, this has led to ‘checking behaviors’ such as selective use of dialect, clothing and curbing of outward behavior in the public sphere (p. 391). As the 7/7 bombers were ‘home-grown’ from the Muslim community in Yorkshire, the onus of protecting society has fallen hardest on the Muslim communities in the U.K. The consequences of this element of responsibilization via the allocation of blame has led to the targeted surveillance of Muslim communities through stop and search policies, questioning at ports under Schedule 7 of the Terrorist Act, pre-emptory raids, and the pressure to spy on their own communities through the creation of Muslim Community Units through the PREVENT strategy. Notably, even though these pre-emptory actions are based entirely on suspicion of intent, the person who is targeted has barely any rights in place to protect them from the effects of human error in judging their ‘riskiness’. A corollary to this is the 600% increase in Islamophobia since 2001 and its associated increase in violence on Muslim people and mosques (Spalek, 2008:420).

How this dynamic effects resistance: power dynamics

The dynamic of responsibilization can be seen as directly related to the discourses of power surrounding the ‘battle for truth’ regarding justice. Amnesty International United Kingdom (AIUK) iterates that this dynamic makes HRO work safeguarding human rights standards all the more significant: ‘the stuff that is most unpopular is some of the most important…because it’s the issues that others won’t pick up on…that don’t have public support’. As Liberty (2007:16) articulate, it is unlikely that the majority of Britons ‘upon waking up…felt more subject to surveillance than they did yesterday’; however, targeted surveillance over the Muslim community means that they truly feel the interlinked dynamics in Burchell’s (1991) sense of having to change the way they see themselves as governed subjects, due to the way they are governed. CagePrisoners explains, ‘the way the government speaks, the way the media speaks and the way the average person on the street speaks all perpetuate this cycle of fear’, thus responsibilitizing society wholesale through the DPR’s rationalities of zero-risk and shifting of the burden of proof.

However, from CagePrisoners’ personalized responses in interview, we can see that governance through the DPR and the social dynamics it engenders has a much sharper effect on the ‘suspect community’ of Muslims. CagePrisoners explains that this suspicion has a chilling effect on the politics of the community as a whole: ‘if we stick our heads above the parapet, they’re going to come after us next’. It is thus evident that CagePrisoners feels the four interrelated dynamics engendered by DPR in a way that cuts right to the social core of what the application of risk does to society. As CagePrisoners says, ‘wherever you see a threat coming from a community which goes against the norm of understanding of criminal behavior, you will see a disproportionate response to those threats’. CagePrisoners’ responses emphasize that the key role of the organization is to empower the Muslim community to break away from inactivity and submission to the prevailing rationalities of zero-risk and the shift of the burden of proof.

Due to its unique vantage-point as a Muslim organization, CagePrisoners engages in this ‘battle for truth’ on a level that has a much more personal tone than any of the other human rights organizations (HROs) interviewed. For example, in a CagePrisoners article (Balaratnam, 2012) regarding United Kingdom BorderAgency  (UKBA) policy of detaining people at the border for questioning under Schedule 7, the article speaks directly to a Muslim audience and is presented as a Muslim voice. Although not articulated in the terminology of risk, the article essentially asks Muslims to break through the dynamic of responsibilization whereby the allocation of blame on the Muslim community is legitimized through the reflexive internalization of blame. The article asserts it point by provocatively asserting that if the reader is stopped at the border, they have to concede ‘it’s my fault I got stopped today – my fault for being brown’. The form of resistance encouraged by CagePrisoners, therefore, is one that is very different to collective action. It is essentially micro-resistance whereby the individual only resists what affects them on an individual, direct level. Thus, if the affected community itself does not even question the rationalities that legitimize racially-prejudiced forms of profiling and surveillance, CagePrisoners warns that no one will, therefore undermining any lobbying conducted by HROs at the state-level.

This insight is even more powerful when one considers the recent uproar over the detention of David Miranda under Schedule 7 – only when one of the majority non-Muslim population was affected did the media question it, let alone campaign against it. Ultimately, it was only picked up by the media because Schedule 7 affected a Guardian journalist’s partner (Greenwald, 2013). This relation epitomizes the importance of the ‘micro’ level of resistance in countering what is essentially a cultural shift to living through risk, when faced with the multitude of arguments that focus on the global erosion of rights and the need for macro-analyses of power.

Whilst Liberty, AIUK and Reprieve revealed their primary state-level focus by identifying the depoliticization dynamics of secrecy and the narrative of fear as the greatest obstacles to checking government overreach, CagePrisoners stated ‘misunderstanding and blind ignorance’. For them, the social impact of society not understanding the Muslim community, ‘what they’re about and their belief system’ is a major factor in the way government policy is formed. His responses suggest that the government construction of a ‘paradigm of who we are and the way that we engage’ has completely neglected the crucial importance of micro power dynamics. In a reflection of the multitudinal networks of Foucauldian power relations, Asim Qureshi, Executive Director of Cageprisoners, outlines that ‘our identity is not just an identity; it’s a multitude of identities that superimpose themselves one on top of the other’. It may seem logical and practical for the UK government to ask the Muslim community to report on ‘bad’ Muslims through policies such as PREVENT; however, the top-down engagement with only the archetypal ‘good’ Muslim that has been created in the political imagination effectively renders the policy counter-productive and end up pushing away the majority of Muslims who feel they do not fit that rigid definition. CagePrisoners gave the example of Muslims being targeted by the government for simply disagreeing with government policies such as going to war with Iraq. At a recent lecture, CagePrisoners’ founder, Moazzam Begg, spoke of a teenage girl arrested for writing poetry that was seen as ‘extremist’. In their view, the government-led counter-terror policy is ‘dictated by people who are not willing to engage in a way that is useful’, thus simultaneously legitimizing more and more extreme measures against ordinary people in order to secure the state, while creating resentment and isolation among communities who would be willing to engage on their own terms.

Moazzam-Begg-640x360

This insight cuts to the social core of the combined dynamics of risk engendered by the DPR; ultimately, as asserted by CagePrisoners, this ‘criminalization of people based on an assumption of what you think they are’ takes away Muslim agency. It says, ‘you’re not capable of making up your own mind…you’re not capable of engaging with society…and so we’re going to put you all in the same tub and treat you all in the same way’. This is why the policy shift from targeting violent actions to ‘extremist’ thoughts dictated by UK counter-terror policy worries CagePrisoners so much; it is inherently disenfranchising and disempowering.

Indeed, this micro-level understanding of power dynamics in the context of risk-governance and the need to resist them is also demonstrated by Reprieve in a way that connects the global, macro-level power dynamics inherent in the War on Terror; apart from the macro-issues of the rendition program and Guantánamo, they acknowledge that it is ‘Life After Guantánamo’ (LAG) that poses a big social problem (Reprieve, 2009). Their LAG program thus attempts to overcome the social and psychological difficulties experienced by ex-detainees that result from absorbing all four dynamics of risk via pre-emptory policies and the way that society treats them when they are finally released.

The U.K. government’s perpetuation of what CagePrisoners calls a discourse of ‘misunderstanding’ ultimately produces a Muslim identity that is inherently perceived as ‘risky’. Not only does this dynamic force the Muslim community as a whole to feel responsible for the devastation created by terrorist attacks they had no connection with, the government’s attempts to use this community as an intelligence source ends up actually isolating them further. The rest of society, meanwhile, sinks further into a cycle of constant vigilance and suspicion: is the neighbor with the blinds constantly down up to no good? The perpetuation of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ and ‘suspicious’ and ‘normal’ labels within UK security practice mean that it is likely that majority society will accept – even crave – extension of security measures and further curtailments on the rights of socially constructed ‘bad people’. The state of constant readiness for the next attack that is physically taken on by the U.K. population thus leads to the dynamic I will be focusing on next week: the expansion of ‘securitization’.

Aditi Gupta

Aditi Gupta graduated with an MSc in Global Politics (Civil Society) from the London School of Economics and Political Science in Autumn 2013.  She has previously worked at Soul Rebel Films and Reprieve and has co-authored reports based on depth interviews conducted for the Indian development NGO, CHIRAG. Aditi has volunteered for refugee and homeless organizations in the UK and is developing a career in the human rights field. This is the fourth installment in her five-part series on Crimcast which began on January 3, 2014.

When Security Decision-Making Becomes Estranged from Actuality

Nickie Phillips

NTAS

Part 2 of 5 in a series on Risk-Logic and the War on Terror

Aditi Gupta, Guest Blogger

In my previous post, I outlined the four dynamics set in motion when we think of security threats through the prism of risk-logic. This post will zoom in on the first dynamic, ‘decoupling political decision-making from actuality’ and show how this frame of thinking has a profoundly social effect on our everyday lives and the way we recognize and engage with the threat of terrorism.

You may be thinking at this point – what does this have to do with me? It’s the government’s prerogative to protect us, and they call the shots – not me. In order to illustrate how the infiltration of risk-logic in security practices not only affects us, but changes the way we conduct our lives, I am going to demonstrate how power relations at the ground level as well as the governmental level are affected. I will do this by looking at the work of United Kingdom-based human rights organizations who try to combat the curtailment of freedoms post-9/11, as they engage with the general public as well as governmental authorities. This will be based on interviews with Amnesty International UK (AIUK), Reprieve, CagePrisoners, and Liberty.

The utility of viewing risk-based governance in terms of power relations:

foucault18

It’s useful to view the impact of risk-logic in security practices through the lens of Foucault’s governmentality thesis, whereby power is seen as a circulatory phenomenon rather than something that is ‘held’ by any one entity (Foucault 1990: 91). In other words, power relations are as important at a governmental (macro) level, as they are at the grassroots (micro) level. Foucault defines modes, or assemblages of governance as a ‘dispositif’ of governance. This consists of rationalities (ways, or frames for thinking about policy) and technologies (tools, practices and policies that are used in governing) of governance that encompass the efforts of those in power to account for ‘the authority of their authority’ (Aradau and Van Munster, 2007:15).

This governmental attempt to justify their right to power is done through discourses of knowledge which are in turn facilitated through everyday social practices enacted by ordinary people. Through this Foucauldian framework it is possible to see the role of human rights organizations’ resistance to risk-based counter-terror policy in what Foucault calls ‘the battle for truth’. This is not a battle for an absolute truth, but ultimately about the rules that dictate how true and false are separated (Rabinow 1984:74). It is through this lens that we can see how Selchow’s four dynamics are central to the constant negotiation of the dynamics of power that circulate the Foucauldian ‘regime of truth’ that makes up governance.

Burchell (1991:144) suggests that modern politics is characterized by an oscillation between a ‘suspicious fear’ of state intervention in our lives, and a ‘demand that the government will respect our rights whilst taking responsibility… for sheltering us from insecurities and dangers’. It is in this space that the social impact of risk-logic can be clearly seen, between those who suspect the government of over-reaching their power and those who believe it is protecting them, thus participating in risk-based security practices.

It is in this space that we can locate and examine the resistance carried out by UK human rights organizations to counter-terror policies, thus illustrating the very real impact that risk-based security policy has on our everyday lives.

Zooming in on the first dynamic: the decoupling of political decision-making from actuality

The Foucauldian dispositif of government (or mode of governance) we are seeing post-9/11 is one that Aradau and Van Munster describe as the ‘dispositif of precautionary risk’ (DPR), as opposed to previous forms of risk-governance. While previous dispositifs of risk centred on identifying, preventing and containing existing threats, this new DPR instead seeks to pre-empt risks through active engagement of the population, thus setting in motion Selchow’s four dynamics.

Selchow’s first dynamic, ‘the decoupling of political decision-making from actuality’ - that is engendered by the DPR - thus echoes this new dispositif post-9/11. This can be seen clearly in the U.K. through the Police National Legal database’s (PNLD 2009:85) assertion that ‘given the current level of threat from international terrorism’, there is a need to apprehend those suspected of terrorism ‘prior to gathering sufficient evidence to secure a conviction’.

The DPR is driven by four inter-linked rationalities that fundamentally change the relationship between state and society by allowing new technologies to be deployed and justified as part of the fight against terror: the notion that any level of risk is unacceptable (i.e. zero risk), constant worst-case-scenario-thinking, the belief of serious and irreversible damage posed by terrorism, and the shifting of the burden of proof from state to society as a whole (Aradau and Van Munster, 2008). In this way, the ideal of total security has replaced the desire for peace, driving a politics that assumes the terrorist ‘other’ unquestionably responsible for irreparable damage.

From 2000-2006, five new terrorism acts were introduced which encompassed the expansion of powers that constituted ‘alternative non-prosecution actions to protect the public’ (PNLD 2009:85) such as 28 day pre-charge detention, stop and search powers, indefinite detention of ‘suspected international terrorists’, control orders and new offenses such as ‘glorification of terrorism’.  From 2007, counter-terrorism powers were effectively normalized. New offices, official national security strategies, and laws such as the Counter-Terror Act 2008 and the introduction of TPIMs ensured that exceptional measures were institutionalized. The expansion of counter-terror powers from temporary emergency legislation to permanent fixtures that institutionalize the decoupling of decision-making from the grounds of actuality in ‘daily security practice’ clearly illustrates how the DPR has set in motion the decoupling of action from actuality in the U.K.

Pre-emptive domestic security practices can be seen to be justified by an emotive narrative of national security that is extremely hard to counter-act. This is epitomized in the militarization of domestic policing in the U.K. which led to the shooting of Charles De Menezes as part of the new ‘shoot to kill’ policy operationalized after the 7/7 attacks in London. Similarly, 250 police officers stormed a house in Forest Gate in search of chemical weapons, shooting one man and detaining two for eight days – both men were later released without charge (Mythen and Walklate 2008:235).

Charles De Menzes: Mistaken for a suicide bomber and shot by police (Photo credit: BBC News)

These pre-emptive domestic practices are echoed in the violent complicity of the U.K. in the global intelligence network driving the pre-emptory abduction, rendition and torture of terror suspects; once one assumes a projective ‘what if?’ position, presumption of innocence metamorphoses into a presumption of guilt. The engendering of the decoupling of action from actuality is made undoubtedly clear by the recalibration of justice to allow for the pre-emptive measures to be issued purely on suspicion of future conduct; it is no longer necessary to carry out terrorist activity, suspicion of intent is enough. This dynamic thus echoes the DPR rationality of shifting the burden of proof: As Bonner (2007:34) outlines, post-9/11, suspects are effectively presumed guilty until proved otherwise. This is clear by Iain Blair’s assertions that whilst IRA terrorists were presumed innocent until proved guilty, the ‘unparalleled’ (in Bonner 2007:7) threat of today’s terrorist is seen as too dangerous to allow that privilege.

The DPR thus illuminates both the top-down discursive construction of the terrorist threat, and the efforts of the state to (re)establish a mandate for control; worst-case scenario-thinking drives more extreme measures that loop back and reinforce an expansive culture of fear, garnering support for pre-emptory practices that are based merely on suspicion of intent rather than any actual event. For example, the government reaction to the Forest Gate shooting reinforced the rationalities of the DPR: "You can only imagine if they fail to take action and something terrible happened what outcry would be then, so they are in an impossible situation" (BBC, 2006). The rationalities of zero-risk, the risk of catastrophic damage and worst-case-scenario-thinking drive a scare-mongering narrative that ultimately legitimizes the rationality of shifting the burden of proof from the state to the individual.

The difficulty to counter-act this emotional narrative of pre-emptive security policy is compounded by the fact that policy-making is seen by HROs as not malicious, but genuinely based on the desire to protect the public due to their duty to try to control the terrorist threat, or at least instill confidence in their authority by presenting the threat as ‘under control’. AIUK explained in an interview that the government ‘often had good grounds for having concerns’, and ‘we would be in a difficult position if we didn’t acknowledge that’, thus undermining attempts to state that a pre-emptive stance is detrimental to society. AIUK explained that the emotions surrounding the issue of protecting citizens allow for pre-emptive action on ‘extreme’ individuals. However, as Reprieve pointed out, just the mere suspicion of terrorist activity or association makes it very difficult to ‘advocate for them in the court of public opinion’ – ‘they’re scarecrows’. Representatives from Liberty and AIUK make clear that the government holds ‘all the cards’ in the form of national security intelligence access to state secrets. As AIUK illustrates, ‘the state can stand up and say we have seen how many bad guys there are…how many plots’. Both Liberty and AIUK point to this dynamic as a huge challenge to combat using human rights framework as the response is always boiled down to ‘we can do it now because the risk is so much greater than it has ever been’ (AIUK interview).

The main impact of the decoupling of political decision-making from actuality on the power of HROs is thus encapsulated in the future temporality of all decision-making. When there is no official offense or action that is being addressed through the application of a TPIM or by the rendition of a suspect – it is increasingly difficult to make people understand the difference between people who are merely suspected, and those who have actually committed a crime. CagePrisoners and AIUK argue that the very act of pre-emptory arrest, or the issue of TPIM leads the public to believe that they must be guilty of something – thus hindering HRO resistance to these measures. The onus of guilt placed on terror suspects by the decoupling of action from actuality is clearly seen in HRO advocacy for Shaker Aamer, the last British detainee in Guantanamo Bay. Aamer has never been charged with any crime, however the paralysis of this dynamic has rendered the writ of habeas corpus 'functionally useless’ due to the risk posed by his status as a terror suspect: what if?

This dynamic has taken a sinister turn domestically within the U.K. as CagePrisoners points out that doctors and university professors are now recommended to report those ‘vulnerable to extremism’ (Travis, 2011). This means that more and more public institutions where people interact are being drawn into the worst-case-scenario-thinking that rationalizes the DPR, feeding into a culture of fear that legitimates the creep towards the curtailment of rights to a fair trial, privacy, asylum and free movement because of fear of terrorism.

Aditi Gupta

Aditi Gupta graduated with an MSc in Global Politics (Civil Society) from the London School of Economics and Political Science in Autumn 2013.  She has previously worked at Soul Rebel Films and Reprieve and has co-authored reports based on depth interviews conducted for the Indian development NGO, CHIRAG. Aditi has volunteered for refugee and homelessorganizations in the UK and is developing a career in the human rights field. This is the second in her five-part series on Crimcast which began in early January, 2014.

Deconstructing Risk Narratives in the War on Terror

Nickie Phillips

NTAS

Part 1 of 5 in a series on Risk-Logic and the War on Terror

Aditi Gupta, Guest Blogger

Since 9/11 many of us may have noticed the creeping erosion of democratic and legal principles  in what has been called ‘The War on Terror’ (WoT). The present day, world-wide agenda combining extraordinary rendition, secret evidence, mass surveillance, secret detention and 'enhanced interrogation' is something that has caused uproar among all who care about civil liberties, fair treatment and due process. Journalists, academics and human rights activists the world over have repeatedly exposed and condemned these global security policies, seeking change at the highest level in the international and domestic arena.

While this strong focus on legal and policy implications of the WoT is an essential and core component of the means to combat the effect of global security practices post-9/11, this series will argue that if we really want to abolish these policies, we first need to change the way that we think about terrorist security threats in the first place.

Many studies have noted a conceptual shift to the logic of risk in global security practices. In my view, the most important finding of these analyses show that the impact of ‘risk’ in shaping security post-9/11 renders the War on Terror far more than an assemblage of policies. It represents the advent of a cultureof fear and suspicion based on society’s understanding and engagement with the risk posed by terrorism. In other words: by thinking of terrorism through the logic of risk, we render ourselves incapable of human empathy and find ourselves accepting more violence, more surveillance and an increasingly hollow legal system of accountability simply because we are scared of what might happen.

Donald Rumsfeld (2002): ‘the message is that there are no knowns. There are things that we know that we know. There are known unknowns…but there are also unknown unknowns – things we don’t know we don’t know’.

Former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld (Photo: New York Magazine)

Rumsfeld’s quotation reveals that in the extreme conditions of uncertainty post-9/11, policy-makers are no longer able to guarantee predictability, security and control. The result of this infiltration of fear into decision-making has resulted in a paranoid global phenomenon whereby security officials are 'given' an imperative to act in advance of any possession of evidence. As outlined by President Bush in 2002 and pursued with a vengeance by Obama, this ‘not only means dealing with real immediate threats; it also means anticipating threats before they occur.' This conceptual shift in 'security think' is epitomized by the global network of over fifty countries involved in the pre-emptory practices of pre-charge detention and extraordinary rendition, and the internment of hundreds of men without charge or trial in locations such as Guantánamo Bay (OSJI report, 2013).

The overall effect of the application of risk-logic to security is not to be underestimated. Risk-logic ultimately transforms security practices into complex social practices: it changes the way we live and the way we interact with each other. This blog series will attempt to illuminate how this way of thinking has profoundly affected society. In order to have a concrete starting point, I will show how risk-logic affects the work of human rights organizations working to combat the seep of human rights violations endemic to the WoT. By the end of this series, I hope to convey an insight into the poisonous forces of risk at work in society, and how this wholesale cultural change affects traditional methods of checking the balance of power in the world we live in.

Sabine Selchow has put forward a very useful framework of four inter-linked dynamics for looking at the transformative effect of risk-logic on society– what this blog post will be based on (see  Selchow 2014; also Loughnan and Selchow 2013). As it’s useful to understand these dynamics separately, I’ll first briefly outline each one. Then, in the coming weeks I’ll zoom in on each dynamic and show how it translates into everyday life, as well as how it affects relations of power between the state and society.

1. The decoupling of political decision-making from actuality

The obsessive desire of security officials to regain control post-9/11 means that risk-logic locates its temporality in the future, therefore effectively separating political acts from having to address an actual, or tangible threat. The advent of the idea of risk as a means of governing thus coincides with a security apparatus that no longer seeks to prevent, order or withhold, but instead to pre-empt (Amoore & DeGoede, 2008). Once institutions shift their focus from addressing existing threats to potential threats in the future, they are duty-bound to assume responsibility for control. This means that it is no longer possible to determine if a threatening event would have happened without the risk-based pre-emptory action, as risk-based action is always in the realm of the unknown. This pre-emptory stance that ultimately depoliticizes security policy, is summed up by Blair’s 2004 response to criticism of the pre-emptive war in Iraq: ‘…would you prefer us to act, even if it turns out to be wrong? Or not to act and hope it’s OK?’

2. The Depoliticization of Security

As touched upon in the previous section, the application of risk to security essentially depoliticizes policy-making. Firstly, the temporality of risk-based decisions means that the policy-maker is able to present issues as needing immediate action in the face of extreme uncertainty and risk of catastrophic damage. The net result of this is that issues related to terrorism have to be presented as capable of being controlled. This fetishization of control is situated firmly in the political imagination, as terrorism is ultimately ‘a risk beyond risk’ that cannot be measured (Aradau & VanMunster 2008:23). The ‘unexceptional’ (according to the United Kingdom's Home Office in 2006) nature of attackers, such as the 9/11, Madrid and 7/7 bombers, render creation of any risk models based on identifiable characteristics of ‘terrorists’ impossible. Mythen and Walklate (2008) stress that the calculus of risk post 9/11 is directed by a projective ‘what if?’ position whereby presumption of innocence metamorphoses into a presumption of guilt. Since risk models cannot be modeled on abnormality this suggests that the government will have to screen everybody equally. In reality, whilst this may sound appealing, this essentially submerges individual cases into types based on factors of risk, ultimately creating ‘new’ risk assessed identities: it is no longer necessary to actually see the person one… judges (Krassman, 2007).

3. Internalization of security issues and the process of responsibilization

Through the application of risk logic, global security threats are no longer the sole remit of government security agencies, but become a responsibility for every citizen as part of lived, everyday experience. This dynamic is most clearly seen in government campaigns worldwide urging citizens to report anything that arouses suspicion, leading ordinary people to absorb the responsibility of securing their state. Public and private, internal and external are now boundaries that have been profoundly blurred, leading to a politics of normalcy inherent to risk-based modes of governance (Amoore & DeGoede). Being ‘normal’, as defined by the U.K.’s Metropolitan Police is now a political act whereby the citizen not only protects their country by reporting anything ‘abnormal’, but actively defends themselves from suspicion as a terrorist. This action is all the more powerfully embedded in society through the explosion of panoptic surveillance put in motion by the application of risk logic to security.

4. The dynamic of the expansion of ‘securitization’

The fourth dynamic of risk is the expansionary and unlimited nature of its mandate. As discussed, the logic of risk implies an imperative to act – to be seen to be doing something in the face of the uncertainty posed by the terrorist threat. This imperative inevitably feeds an expanding process of securitization, whereby a wider array of issues are deemed to be security threats. However, as risk-based decisions are not ‘tamed’ by an accompanying actuality or event, this instates a process of unlimited risk-based action. Risks are ‘infinite because they multiply over time since one can always do more to prevent them from becoming real’ (Rasmussen 2006:4); risk-logic thus always produces the sense of further uncertainties. This leads to an insatiable quest for ‘more and better knowledge of risk’ (Ericson & Hoggarty, 1997:85). This risk assessment however, has to draw on past experiences in order to address an imagination of the future. Therefore, previous knowledge is always incomplete, thus driving a governance of risk yearning for ever greater knowledge. The population wholesale is thus securitized in an ever-expanding process that has a profound impact on society.

Although this is an extremely brief outline of the dynamics underlying the shift in global security policy post-9/11, the next installments in this blog will explore each in further detail and clarify the profoundly social impact of security policy by looking at the difficulties faced by human rights organizations in combating the curtailment of freedoms post-9/11. The following blog posts will aim to illustrate the deep cuts that risk-logic has made in the way that society all over the world thinks by linking risk-logic to power relations. Ultimately, the fight against counter-terror policy is no longer solely in the governmental arena; the real fight is against the pervasive culture of fear and suspicion that underlies the relations between ordinary, innocent people every day.

Aditi Gupta

Aditi Gupta graduated with an MSc in Global Politics (Civil Society) from the London School of Economics and Political Science in Autumn 2013.  She has previously worked at Soul Rebel Films and Reprieve and has co-authored reports based on depth interviews conducted for the Indian development NGO, CHIRAG. Aditi has volunteered for refugee and homelessorganizations in the UK and is developing a career in the human rights field. This is the first in her five-part series to be published on Crimcast.  It will appear weekly from January 7, 2014.

Exploring Criminal Justice and Colonialism in Bahrain

Nickie Phillips

Bahraini policewomen on the eve of the country's independence from Britain (1971; Photo: Bahrain Weekly)

In Bahrain, the criminal justice system we see today is a direct result of the colonial encounter -- a situation not acknowledged enough in current scholarship, and in desperate need of a critical voyage to the imperial archives.

Staci Strobl, Co-founder Crimcast

Eight years ago, when I was conducting an ethnography of Bahraini policewomen, I attempted to refer to secondary sources as to the criminal justice history of the small country, particularly regarding the development of policewomen.  Unfortunately, I found only sanitized, un-critical sources that picked up at a colonial moment as if nothing strange or disruptive had ever happened before that, for naturally a European-style criminal justice system, complete with bureaucratic forms to handle a "gender problem," was completely sensible in this distant land.

The field of comparative criminal justice remains under-developed relative to other criminal justice endeavors.  The last decade has seen a proliferation of encyclopedic volumes designed to fill in the descriptive gap, but detailed analytical pieces, particularly from non-western countries which are sufficiently historically contextualized, remain scant.  Bahrain is no exception.

To augment my ethnographic data, I made my way to the Historical Documents Center in Riffa', Bahrain and poured through colonial documents in order to uncover the policing past. 

Sheikh Isa bin Salman Al-Khalifah, ruler of Bahrain from 1961-99

In the end, I was left with the historian's task (though I am not a trained historian) of interpreting some ambiguous and contradictory claims in primary sources by various important actors of the day from the

Al-Khalifah royal family to the political consultant from the 1920s-50s, Sir Charles Belgrave. Policewomen were a British legacy of gender liberalism at the time of de-colonization, I argued, but were palpable to local Bahrainis as a means of serving conservative populations who appreciate traditional sex segregation.

Along the way, I vowed to one day be the more general criminal justice historian I needed for my then-specific, ethnographic mission.  It has taken several years to get around to the task, but this year I will be spending enough time in England to follow up on the many interesting threads first encountered in the Bahrain historical center, having time to review the vernacular file of the India Office records of the British Library (Bahrain was administered under the India Office during the early 20th century).

Charles-Belgrave2

We take as natural that police should have uniforms, that punishment should involve concrete cages called prisons, that judges should sit at benches in standing courts.  But in non-European contexts this was often not the indigenous way of maintaining social order and punishing deviance.  Max Weber callously maligned the palm tree justice of the Arab world, but in fact, in the Arabian Gulf it was an effective method for maintaining the peace in the wake of fluid tribal alliances and shifting economic endeavors.  The qadi under the tree, eclipsed by Belgrave's push to "rationalize" Bahraini justice, had political and religious legitimacy that could never be replaced by the modern colonial machine-- a machine that remains contested today in the Arab spring.

The seeds of today's opposition in Bahrain stem from colonial days.  Patterns of police employment of Sunni individuals over Shi'a were cemented in the late colonial period as punishment for Shi'a involvement in the National Union Committee and earlier revolutionary attempts, buffeted by head of the British colonial police in Bahrain and later State Security (1966-97), Ian Henderson (linked to police torture of Shi'a activists).  The political cache of hiring outside consultants-- Belgrave and Henderson then and John Yates and John Timoney more recently-- stem from the early 20th century rival Gulf monarchies' boasts of powerful foreign friends.  Playing up an overblown Iranian threat is a at least hundred-year old trope that the West swallows over and over again.

Ian Henderson, British police consultant to Bahrain linked to torture (photo: The Telegraph)

The Al-Khalifah royal family and advisors like Belgrave made very concrete political decisions throughout the 20th century that unraveled the fabric of traditional means of maintaining order and achieving justice.  It was disruptive to social and political relations as they had been operating for centuries previous, not a natural or teleological development as many mainstream scholars have assumed.

My archival research at the British Library and at University of Exeter will hopefully help to uncover what existed before the colonial experience and how it was eclipsed.  I hope to better document from whence Bahrain criminal justice came-- at least in the way that it may have been understood and misunderstood by British political agents.

It is here, though, that one often uncovers indigenous voices that have been lost in the paperwork-- testimonies of elder tribespeople, oral laws written down at a certain colonial period of time, etc.  But can an understanding of the old ways, themselves fluid and changing over time, be recovered?

Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak is certainly right to haunt us with the notion that all this historical

Bahrain court sketch from the trial of 21 opposition movement leaders in June of 2011 (www.twentyfoursevennews.com)movement leaders in June of 2011 (www.twentyfoursevennews.com)

back-tracking just leads us to the brick wall of a "tearing of time" in which the colonial encounter in all its "docketing" of the cultural and political threads ends up obscuring that which existed before it.  Or, in the word of Homi Bhabha, we cannot begin to make sense of an “imperial aporia” that described indigenous lacunae through a very thick and cloudy lens of colonial paternalism.

All of this seems like a very tall order for four months of research abroad, but perhaps all such endeavors start off exalted and then whittle themselves down to bite-size pieces.  In any case, it will be a bit of geek-joy to sit in the British library with old, colonial letters, and ponder a time gone by.

Series on archival research in criminal justice

This is the fifth in a 5-part series appearing throughout 2013 focusing on the often game-changing discoveries that come out of archival work in the realm of police, courts, and corrections.  The other four parts can be found here:

5 Pointz Graffiti Space White-Washed!

Nickie Phillips

Photo: Tamara Beckwith

A couple weeks ago Crimcast reported on the saving of the 5 Pointz graffiti space in Queens, New York, from destruction to make way for luxury housing.  In a shocking turnabout, the developer reneged on agreements with community activists and began to paint over the artwork two nights ago under police protection.  A federal lawsuit filed by the artists failed to receive an injunction and so the good-faith agreement was all the community had to rely on-- but only they were acting in good faith.  Shame on developers Jerry and David Wolkoff for painting over a vibrant and historic space for graffiti artists!  What a travesty!  As one 5 Pointz fan put it to the media:

It’s the death of a real cultural institution in the city and there doesn’t seem to be any room for this kind of art anymore.

Eddie Vedder and Pearl Jam: Interpersonal Violence, War, Guns, and Green Criminology

Nickie Phillips

By El Mariachi 94 [CC-BY-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Guest Post by Gennifer Furst, Associate Professor, William Paterson UniversityAs Pearl Jam releases its tenth studio album and celebrates the 23rd anniversary of its first performance, the band’s lead singer, Eddie Vedder and the four other band members (along with musician Boom Gaspar) are making headlines speaking out about criminological themes. From their beginning, Eddie and the guys have never shied away from issues of social justice. In fact, through the band’s Vitalogy Foundation, named after their third album released in 1994, they support the work of non-profit organizations in fields such as community health, the environment, and social change. Two dollars of every ticket they sell goes to the Vitalogy Foundation.

The Early Years

Much has been written about Eddie Vedder’s political commentary delivered during his performances from progressive issues on abortion to anti-war sentiments. Back in March 1992 during the band’s appearance on MTV’s Unplugged Vedder stood up during the performance of “Alive” and wrote “pro-choice” on his arm with a bold black Sharpie marker. The following month, during an appearance on Saturday Night Live, he wore a homemade t-shirt with an image of a hanger  on the front and “No Bush ‘92” written on the back. During the same performance, he changed the lyrics of “Porch”--a song some believe apolitical--to include a message about women’s right to choose. The band also address abusive relationships on one of their band's best known anthems, "Better Man" from 1994's Vitalogy.

The band was an early voice in today’s anti-bullying movement. The lyrics and video for “Jeremy,” one of the band’s most well-known songs from their breakthrough album Ten, brought attention to the issue years before Columbine, often regarded as the school shooting event that started the conversation. More than two decades later the issue of guns and mass killings in schools would again become an issue Vedder prioritized.

Touring During War Time

In addition to their activism on domestic social justice issues, Pearl Jam’s attention to the wars in the Middle East has been on-going. The song “Bu$hleaguer” on 2002’s Riot Act was a clear criticism of George W. Bush’s blatant deception and manipulation of the American public into supporting an unjust war:

A confidence man, but why so beleaguered?

He's not a leader, he's a Texas leaguer

Swinging for the fence, got lucky with a strike

The lyrics are explicit in their denunciation of the Bush administration and their actions. The bush, or minor leagues, is a reference to Bush as inept and unqualified to lead, and as someone who lucked into a position in the major leagues – that of President. Released during the buildup to the Iraq war, and touring during the initial stages of the Iraq invasion, the band experienced the wrath of those unwilling to question authority. For example, Vedder was accused of “impaling” the President

By conguita [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

when during their summer tour in 2003 he appeared on stage wearing a Bush mask. In order to be able to sing, he removed the mask and hung it on the microphone stand. Contingents of concert-goers booed at the gesture. However, the backlash never proved to be as damaging as the reaction to the Dixie Chicks who disbanded shortly after Natalie Maines expressed her dismay at being from the same state as Bush.

Then, as now, Vedder argues his disdain for the wars is rooted in support for the troops. He expresses concern for the victims – the soldiers and the families who have lost loved ones to an unjust war. In addition to meeting veterans and welcoming their stories, during performances he often acknowledges the veterans present. At a concert in Colorado that kicked off their summer 2003 tour (and where the Bush mask made its U.S. debut, having been used in Australia and Japan) Vedder declared,

Just to clarify... we support the troops.…We're just confused on how wanting to bring them back safely all of a sudden becomes non-support….We love them. They're not the ones who make the foreign policy. Let's hope for the best and speak our opinions.

The anti-war message reappeared in 2006 in “World Wide Suicide,” another cut from their self-titled album Pearl Jam (also known as the Avocado Album) that criticized the war and the country’s foreign policy. Quoted in Newsweek Vedder speaks out against the military industrial complex,

It's just not the time to be cryptic. I mean, our tax dollars for this (Iraq) war are being funneled through huge corporations – one of which Dick Cheney used to be head of (Halliburton).

Viewing the United States' involvement in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as criminal, Vedder remains angry about the last presidency, and continues to bring attention to what he views as unjust killing in the name of war,

Those fucking bastards, they put us in this situation and screw up the whole fucking planet and goodwill with every other nation, and they are not going to be held criminally responsible.

Vedder became more personally involved with the criminal justice system when he became a vocal advocate for the West Memphis

CBS News/AP http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-31749_162-20094814-10391698.html

3 and the case of Damien Echols. In 1994 three young men from Arkansas were falsely convicted of the grisly murders of three young boys. Echols was sentenced to death. With no physical evidence, the convictions were based on the satanic panic that occurred in a small southern town (see Jenkins & Maier-Katkin, 1992). Echols shares a writing credit for the song "Army Reserve" from the album Pearl Jam (2006), a collaboration that occurred during one of Vedder’s visits to Echols on death row. Vedder remained a staunch supporter of the boys and was present when the three men were released in August 2011 after having served 18 years.

Guns

Vedder would later insert himself into public debate regarding another politically divisive issue: the right to bear arms. During a publicity interview in September 2013 promoting their new album Lightning Bolt, Vedder stated to surfer Mark Richards,

The fact that we're living in a country where 90 percent of the people want further gun laws -- to maybe somehow put a dent in some of this insanity that's happening -- and yet there's no further legislation taking place, it's very frustrating and upsetting.

A snippet of the clip where he went on to say that "I get so angry that I almost wish bad things upon these people," was aired as a stand-alone sound bite and exposed Vedder to criticism. What he went on to say, but was generally absent from most press pieces, was

But I don't have to because it seems like they happen anyways. It seems like every week I'm reading about a 4-year-old either shooting their sister, their dad, their dog, their brother or themselves, because there's fucking guns laying around. But I guess it's 'fun.'

Vedder responded to the criticism regarding his statements about guns at the October 25th Hartford Connecticut show, which took place a mere 50 miles from the Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy in Newtown, CT where 26 people were murdered. To members of the audience, it was obvious something was going to occur. The other band members left the stage and Vedder knelt on the stage, collecting his thoughts. He stood up and spoke into the microphone, addressing the crowd of over 16,000 fans who eagerly awaited what he had to say.

Tonight I got to meet three great men, incredible fathers of children who were lost, and it was such a powerful… a very powerful moment to have this chance to communicate to somebody that we had been thinking about so deeply.

And to know that it’s okay, in fact, not just okay, but it’s necessary that we continue a discussion to figure out how to unravel the situation where something like that can happen and make sure the odds of it happening again are very slim.

Vedder made reference to the criticism he received in the press in response to his previous comments about the need to protect people from gun violence. He framed the need for a discussion about firearms as a First Amendment issue. He defended his, and everyone else’s, right to voice an opinion about our personal security and well-being. Vedder encouraged the members of the audience to have the courage to demand a public discourse on the issue.

And you know, as well as I, you have to be very careful when talking about something like this. Because they want to defame your character or take away your right to speak, I mean while they’re protecting the second amendment they also don’t think you have the right to speak as an American as a taxpayer as a father, as a parent.

We’ve got a right to speak on this issue when the safety of our children is directly affected. And you will take some hits if you put it out there, but that’s the thing.

PearlJam_MindYourManners

Lest anyone think Eddie and the band were putting their opinions out there for the public in an uninformed or ignorant way, Vedder let the crowd know they consulted with experts and scholars. He used a critical approach to explain why the public may be swayed by those in favor of relaxing gun regulation.

I just want to clarify and we’ve done some research and I’ve talked to some very, much smarter people than myself – there’s a lot of them – that the myth that the gun lobby is the most powerful lobby in our is a myth. That’s a myth. The money is not the most money. The amount of people – it’s just in the millions.

It’s a myth, but it’s just because they’re louder. They’re louder and they’re very tenacious and if you speak up against them they will jump on you, they will tear you apart, and make it so that nobody else wants to say anything, or they want them to be fearful that…I mean we’re talking about, I’m gonna stop. You know what they’re talking about.

Vedder galvanized the crowd by telling people what they can do about the issue. He reminded everyone to exercise their right to vote (an issue the band has long-supported; for example, they performed in Rock the Vote concerts in swing states in October 2004). As with his message about the wars, he told the crowd that pressure from voters, using the power each person has to voice an opinion, is what brings about social change.

So, if all the research is saying, and all the polls conducted, you know, and not just people reacting to what happened, but you have to not just react you have to prefect. You have to go into prevention mode. So what we have to do, if the majority of people agree that there should be more legislation just to make it a little harder. We’re not taking away the right, just a safety issue – a safety precautionary, the same things you have to do to get a driver’s license or a car. It can’t be as easy as buying a pair of shoes. All I implore you, and I don’t mean to be preaching to the converted, but sometimes the choir has to sing louder, and that’s one of these issues.

He summarized by saying,

If we were louder, it can happen, we just have to be louder  and we have to let the politicians know that they will be reelected if they do what we ask, and we are asking for them to do it now. Cause what we don’t want is for any of those children’s lives to be wasted.

The band followed with a powerful performance of “Life Wasted” from their 2006 self-titled album. In the five-plus minutes that Vedder spoke during the band’s break in the show, he used the word “gun” only once, when he was referring to power of political lobby groups. Perhaps he meant to protect himself from the inevitable criticism he knew would result. Without using the term “gun” it becomes more difficult for his words to be taken out of context by those who would try to manipulate his message.

Green Criminology

Environmentalist of the Year

Green Criminology is the study of harms to, crimes against, and laws that regulate the environment. Green criminology examines how human behavior threatens the environment. Green criminologists study not only environmental pollution but also mining, poaching, and timber crimes and the ensuing effects on humans and non-human species.

Vedder is advancing these issues that are important to green criminologists. Since 2003 the band has worked with scientists to calculate the amount of carbon dioxide output on their tours. They then invest in various carbon-offsetting environmental projects. In fact, Pearl Jam was named 2011 Planet Defenders by Rock The Earth for their environmental activism. Vedder, a known surfer, has been a long-time participant in a variety of environmental groups that work to protect oceans and other waterways.

During his October 26, 2013 appearance on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, Vedder used the opportunity to bring the issue of environmental contamination into the fore of people’s minds once again. Fallon played a clip from his July 2012 appearance featuring the two singing a duet called “Balls in Your Mouth” which Vedder joked should now be seen as “an environmental anthem.”

The oil spill, BP

Has left tar balls, all over the sea.

So don’t go swimming, down in the south

Unless you want, tar balls in your mouth

Balls in your mouth, balls in your mouth

Don’t swim in the ocean you’ll get balls in your mouth.

Vedder interspersed information about the Department of Justice trial against BP and the large amount of tar uncovered by the Coast Guard after Tropical Storm Karen hit the Gulf Coast, while Fallon riffed on the idea of “large balls” being found after the recent storm. Vedder remained on point and urged viewers to recognize the long-term effects of the BP oil spill.

But there’s this thing called the Gulf Restoration Network that you can look into and we were one of a group of people that tried to raise money for this organization so they could keep putting out information that was truthful and maybe was a different account than the kind of shiny happy commercials that the oil companies were putting out saying that ‘it’s all fine’ and ‘it’s all taken care of’ which if you did the research it would be interesting to see what you’d come up with.

As with his comments about guns, Vedder again referred to research as a source of truth, or at least as a source of information that stands in contrast to commonly held beliefs.

As the spokesman for Pearl Jam, Eddie Vedder has used his ability to reach tens of thousands of people during a concert to promote issues of social justice. Over the band’s two-plus decades history, Vedder has educated his fans about a range of topics. He not only speaks about these important subjects but, of course, he also sings about them. By incorporating them into music culture he is marking the sociopolitical landscape of the time.

Vedder and Pearl Jam donate their time, names, and profits from their concerts to support these causes. They were early advocates in the fight against interpersonal violence, in the form of both bullying and domestic abuse. Vedder challenged the decisions of leaders and spoke out against the war during a time when many chose not to question authority. As the stories about gun violence stack up each day, Vedder and Pearl Jam are expressing their concern and urging their fans to as well. While green criminology is a relatively nascent area in the discipline, these criminologists may find allies in popular culture ready to advance their causes. With Pearl Jam, Eddie Vedder continues to not only make music but also make a progressive mark on society as well.

Further Reading

Jenkins, P., & Maier-Katkin, D. (1992). Satanism: Myth and reality in a contemporary moral

panic. Crime, Law and Social Change, 17, 53-75.

Pearl Jam (2011). Pearl Jam Twenty. NY, NY: Simon & Schuster.

http://journal.transformativeworks.org/index.php/twc/article/view/254/233

http://www.wm3.org/

Redeeming the Dream: Reflections on the March on Washington

Nickie Phillips

IMG_1099

It was a day to commemorate a watershed event in civil rights history and the thousands at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington yesterday soaked it all in-- from inspirational speeches to demonstrations and sign-waiving from groups such as the NAACP to lone protestors standing up for a $15 federal minimum wage or an end to Stand Your Ground laws.

march handout

Though Crimcast hoped to live-tweet impressions from the speeches, we were not able to get in ear-shot of them (so we caught up later with news clips).  We were also thwarted by elaborate anti-terrorism fencing that dispersed people widely.  We arrived after the event had started and the crowd flow was confusing, so we ended up side-lined behind the Lincoln Memorial and later at the WWII Memorial--both areas were filled with supporters and demonstrators (who made the most of the day with signs and mini-marches and music and spoken word).

The majority of our tweets were crowd impressions and photos of signs and slogans.  Below see some of our favorite shots of calls for jobs, justice and freedom.  The big takeaway from the day: the civil rights movement is needed now just as ever before.  In light of Trayvon Martin and the recent SCOTUS decision on voter registration, to name just a couple such events, people must continue to speak up for an America that provides the promises of democracy and equal justice for all.  Redeem the dream!

IMG_1074
IMG_1090 - Version 2
IMG_1097
IMG_1079
IMG_1085
IMG_1087
IMG_1089
IMG_0761

Crimcast to Live-Tweet from March on Washington, Saturday August 24

Nickie Phillips

photo (3)

Crimcast, along with thousands of Americans, will descend on Washington tomorrow morning (Sat. Aug. 24, 8 a.m. EST) to stand up for justice, jobs and freedom in commemoration of the historic march 50 years ago.  Follow us on Twitter as we tweet our impressions of the pre-march rally, including speeches by Al Sharpton, Martin Luther King III, John Lewis, Nancy Pelosi and many others.  We will also tweet our impressions of the crowd and share our favorite signs and slogans.  Crimcast, of course, is partial to calls for justice! 

Stop and Frisk Appeal is Anti-Civil Rights

Nickie Phillips

Mayor Bloomberg just doesn't get it

graphic: ACLU

The judgment in Floyd v. City of New York this week was a victory for the countless New Yorkers of color who over the years have been subject to illegal stops and frisks. As Crimcast has previously written, the case was mired in statistics as to the alleged effectiveness of stop and frisk as a police tool.  Judge Sheindlin, however, made clear that statistical arguments were peripheral to the main issue, the constitutionality of the stops. She explained that stop and frisk, as practiced by the NYPD, through a lack of a required, individualized notion of reasonable suspicion -- such as simply being in a designated high crime area-- indirectly generates unconstitutional stops and frisks that people of color are much more likely to experience.  We applaud her for refusing to let a false notion of increasing public safety through stop and frisk (see this report from John Jay College, Center on Race, Crime, and Justice) erode important Constitutional rights.  She has imposed increased oversight over the practice of stop and frisk and a better articulated reporting of the circumstances that factor into individual stops and frisks.

Unfortunately, Mayor Bloomberg refuses to accept the judgment, arguing that the stop and frisk as practiced is a needed part of the city's crime-fighting arsenal and that the practice does not constitute racial profiling, directly or indirectly.  The city will file an appeal, apparently unwilling to take to heart the lived experience of many of its own citizens of color.

As Prof. Delores Jones-Brown points out in her blog post on The Crime Report:

In this, the 50th year, of the March on Washington, when thousands of Americans joined with African Americans to affirm their rights as full-citizens of the United States, especially their right to freely use public space, it is tremendously disheartening to see that in a city as diverse as New York  with the largest and most respected police force,  these high level public officials fail to yield to overwhelming evidence that a decade-long practice, however  well-intentioned,  has deprived many law-abiding New Yorkers of the very rights that were adamantly fought for a half century ago.

photo (3)

Crimcast senses that a new civil rights era is galvanizing to pave the road ahead.  With the controversy around this and the recent George Zimmerman trial, we see that the forces that would take the civil rights era backwards need constant checking by people who value the principle of equality for all.  Judge Sheindlin takes us forward, the jury in the ZImmerman case and Mayor Bloomberg would take us backwards, but the crowds expected at the anniversary March on Washington event on August 24, 2013, will no doubt show which direction Americans want to go.

“The People Want the Reform of the Regime!”: Sectarianism and Protest Movements in the Arabian Gulf

Nickie Phillips

Toby-Matthiesen-Photo (2)

Crimcast spoke with Toby Matthiesen, Research Fellow in Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies at Pembroke College at the University of Cambridge (England) and author of Sectarian Gulf: Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, and the Arab Spring That Wasn’t(2013). His book presents a detailed account of the protest movements in the Gulf Arab monarchies of Bahrain, Kuwait, and Saudi Arabia in the last few years, explaining how the movements formed, what they hoped to achieve, and why they have been unsuccessful in creating substantial reform or regime change. In particular, the book focuses on Gulf governments’ use of Shi’a and Sunni sectarian political tension to shore up the status quo and delegitimize the potential for change.  

You describe a “new sectarianism” that has emerged alongside the Arab spring movements. What do you mean by this?

This new sectarianism spread around the region since the invasion of Iraq in 2003. But the sectarianism unleashed to counter the Arab Spring, by regimes in the Gulf, in Syria, and elsewhere, has reached new levels and has become worse than ever. States now think strategically in sectarian terms, and social bonds in many mixed Middle Eastern societies have broken down almost completely.

"The people want the reform of the regime!" was a chant repeated in the Pearl Roundabout during the Bahrain Spring movement in February 2011.  You were on the ground during many of the demonstrations in Bahrain in early 2011. What impressed you most about the Bahrainis who took to the streets to demand human rights and democracy in their country?

That the movement was initially very peaceful, and that it seemed to try to be as inclusive as possible, crossing sectarian and generational boundaries. And that people dared to defy power and risk their lives just to show that they wanted to live under a different political system.

Of particular interest to Crimcast is the role of police and security forces in suppressing the movements. What did you witness of the government crackdown?

photo (2)

Particularly in Bahrain, the role of the security forces was key. Much of the security apparatus consists of foreign mercenaries, particularly South-East Asians or other Arabs, and as such are totally dependent on and loyal to their patrons in the country, the royal family. This make-up of the Bahraini security forces is a historical product of Bahrain's position within the British empire, and a pre-emptive strategy of making Bahrain secure against army coups (as outlined recently by Strobl and Louër in two very informative articles) .

What were some of the criminal charges and punishments meted out for opposition figures in Bahrain, Kuwait, and Saudi Arabia? Are any of the opposition figures still imprisoned today?

The charges range from insulting the ruler, to spreading rumors on social media, inciting hatred, undermining national security, and conspiring with foreign powers, and they are all spelled out in very Orwellian terms. The discourse directed against dissenters and opposition groups in the Gulf has become increasingly totalitarian, with "others" being described as "filth", a "fifth column", or "malicious elements". Sadly, much of this language is addressed against the local Shia Muslims, and has become mixed up with derogatory religious hate-speech.

Across the Gulf, opposition figures have been put in jail, most notably in Bahrain, where a so-called "cell of 21" opposition leaders has been convicted, some of them to life sentences, for inspiring the uprising in 2011.

What has changed since the Arab spring movements began? Will they ultimately be successful or have they stalled?

The outcomes of the Arab spring are still unpredictable. But it is quite clear that the language of politics in the Middle East has changed, probably forever, and governments will eventually have to come to terms with this. At the moment it looks like the counter-revolution has gained the upper hand, in Egypt, Syria, and the Gulf, but the processes that have been set in motion are not going to be stopped from one day to the other, and street politics has already become the most powerful force in Arab politics.

What are you working on these days? Will we see more from you about Gulf social justice and political change?

I am working on a political history of the Shia in the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia, a book that is based on my PhD dissertation. Thereafter, I want to work on the Gulf in the Cold War era, and the history of the leftist and Arab nationalist movements in the Gulf and the Arabian Peninsula.

Toby Matthiesen is a Research Fellow in Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies at Pembroke College, at the University of Cambridge. He has published in The New York Review of Books, The Guardian, Foreign Policy, Middle East Journal, and Middle East Report, and has done extensive fieldwork in the Middle East during the Arab Spring. He previously worked as a Gulf Consultant for the International Crisis Group.

Human Rights Watch Film Festival

Nickie Phillips

Get tickets for the Human Rights Watch film festival here. Go here for a schedule of all the films showing at the NYC festival. "Anita" is sold out, but tickets remain for other shows.

Born this Way trailer


Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer trailer


99% The Occupy Wall Street Collaborative Film trailer


An Unreal Dream: The Michael Morton Story


Paradox and Progress: Islamic Feminism in Kuwait

Nickie Phillips

alessandra

Crimcast sat down with Dr. Alessandra Gonzalez, John Jay College of Criminal Justice post-doctoral fellow and author of Islamic Feminism in Kuwait (2013), to discuss her book’s insightful glimpse into women’s rights in a Muslim national context.  Islamic feminism is a school of thought which aims to bolster women’s rights and participation in public life while grounded in an Islamic framework.  Dr. Gonzalez’s interviews with Kuwaiti women’s rights activists, religious scholars, and national leaders pointed to a number of interesting paradoxes which she describes in her book.  One is that when women recently got the right to vote, they often voted for conservative Islamist candidates— the same people who previously stood against the right to vote. What did your interviews find to explain the paradox of women voting for conservative candidates once they got the right to vote?

There are several possible explanations which are discussed in the book. The sociological explanations include demographic shifts of bedouin desert background Kuwaitis moving to urban spaces, where they bring their conservative cultural perspectives into their political participation which happen to favor conservative Islamists. There are also global factors that influence the resurgence of Islamic identity among youth across the Middle East, which are favoring political Islamists as bearers of cultural representation of Islamic identity in politics. Lastly, many of my more politically Liberal interviewees blamed a lack of experience in politics on first-time women voters for voting for Islamists who more or less represented the status quo.

What were some of the other paradoxes that your book describes?

Some of the other paradoxes explored in the book include: the fact that Western feminism has not taken root in Muslim hearts and minds; that veiled women are not shying away from public life but are in fact leading in several sectors including education, business, and now politics; that men as a whole are not oppressing women, but are in fact enabling Islamic feminism; and that the youth are both modern and traditional in their approach to women’s rights. These paradoxes emerged from my interviews and show the compatibility of Islam and an indigenous approach to women’s rights, as illustrated by activists in Kuwait.

The book explores the idea that Islam and women’s rights are not incompatible.  Is this an idea that you feel is popular in the Arabian Gulf today?

Absolutely. In my research I found that instead of a “clash of civilizations” scenario, that Kuwaiti youth approached the idea of feminism within Islam from what I call a “co-existence” model. The majority of the youth in my survey sample, both male and female, believed in gender equality and agreed that Islam was a source of motivation for them to fight for women’s rights.

Crimcast readers are interested in gender and violence.  How did your research subjects feel about women’s access to the criminal justice system and social support mechanisms in the event of a woman being the victim of domestic violence?  Has Kuwait made an effort to combat domestic violence?

Kuwait towers

Kuwait, like many of its neighbors, is responding to increasing deviations from their traditions regarding family life. Among them is the rise in divorce rate to above 30%, which leaves the society and government looking for reasons to address the high number of failing young marriages. It is possible that intolerance for domestic abuse is actually a positive reason for leaving a marriage, however more research needs to be done to determine what percentage of these marriages are actually failing as a response to abuse, versus other factors such as economics or personal incompatibilities. Many Kuwaiti women are also choosing not to marry in order to focus on their careers. This means a flooding of the labor market by highly qualified and educated women in a country where conservative family traditions prefer to hire men as family breadwinners over single women. Women’s access to the criminal justice system in Kuwait (not unlike women’s access to justice in the US) is an issue whether it is due to domestic abuse, divorce, or discriminatory hiring practices. Changes at the societal level need to be addressed at the level of legislation and many of the women’s rights activists in Kuwait are focusing on these issues.

What are you working on these days?  Will we see more work from you on the subject of Islamic feminism in the future?

I am working on several projects at the moment. Currently I am working on the Extremist Crime Database Project at John Jay College looking at theoretical approaches to female criminal involvement in ideological extremist groups in the US. I believe there is a window for us to understand women’s empowerment that fights violent extremism in our communities by also understanding how women engage in criminal activity themselves. It is in fact, the other side of the coin of female agency, where women are free to seek power through legitimate or illegitimate means for a greater ideological belief. Next year, I will be continuing my work on Islamic Feminism as a James Madison Institute Post-Doctoral Fellow at Princeton University.

Dr. González is currently a post-doctoral Research Associate at John Jay College, CUNY and a non-resident Research Fellow at the Institute for the Studies of religion at Baylor University. She received her Ph.D. and M.A. degrees in Sociology from Baylor University and received a B.A. in Sociology and Policy Studies from Rice University. Dr. González has publications in the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, the Annual Review of the Sociology of Religion, and an op-ed on Islamic Feminism in the Dallas Morning News. She has presented her research at the Center for the Study of Islam and Democracy's Conference on "The Rights of Women in Islam," the American Council for the Study of Islamic Societies, the Dialogue of Civilizations Conference hosted by the Institute for Interfaith Dialogue in Houston, the Gulf Research Conference at the University of Exeter, and various other academic settings.

Go here, for Dr. Gonzalez's interview about Islamic Feminism in Kuwait on the Research on Religion podcast.

Go here, for a review of Islamic Feminism in Kuwait in the journal Contemporary Islam.

Being Black is Not a Crime: Rally for NYPD Stop and Frisk Reform

Nickie Phillips

panorama crowd

Today, the Center for Constitutional Rights and City University of New York (CUNY) faculty and students, including John Jay College's Center on Race, Crime and Justice, came together to call for police reform outside Federal District Court for the Southern District of New York where the trial Floyd, et. al. v City of New Yorkfeatured key testimony from criminologist Jeffrey Fagan.  In Floyd, several New Yorkers and CCR are arguing that the city's stop-and-frisk policies include racial profiling and suspicion-less stops that violate constitutional protections.

Organizer and Founding Director of the Center on Race, Crime and Justice Dr. Delores Jones-Brown underscored that black and Latino residents have the same constitutional rights and right to safety as anyone else.  "The commissioner and the mayor may say that these policies are effective, but their own data tell a different story," she said.

Activists held giant PowerPoint slides with NYPD data indicating that gun violence has not decreased as a result of aggressive use of stop and frisk, nor were more guns confiscated or shootings prevented.  In 9 out of 10 NYPD stops, no arrests or summons are given -- and of those stops nearly 90 percent are non-whites.  In 2012, over a half-million blacks and Latinos were stopped.  Black and Latino young men between the ages of 14 and 24 are particularly plagued by unjustified stops, accounting for approximately 42% of stops when they are only 5% of the city's total population.

Several CUNY students spoke about their personal experiences with racial profiling and suspicion-less stops, putting faces to the statistics being debated about in the courtroom.  One white student described an incident in which he should have received a summons for two potential violations, but instead was released politely by police, while a student of color described being the victim of police abuse of the stop and frisk policy while he was doing nothing illegal.  Other activists linked the struggle for racial equality with similar struggles for police justice for LGBTQ people and the poor.

Queens College Professor Harry Levine explained that the sheer number of marijuana arrests in the city are largely the fruit of illegal frisks, saying that "The marijuana arrests are the cracker jack prize of the stop and frisks."

Crimcast sat in on expert witness Fagan's cross-examination in which sweeping questions about the normative methodological and theoretical mainstays of criminal justice were posed.  The city's attorney appeared to want to discredit Fagan's social science because the conclusions to his prior studies point to racially disparate outcomes in stop and frisk police discretion.  Rather than confront the lived reality of individuals who routinely endure suspicion-less stops, today's testimony instead had social science on the stand.  As criminologists we were surprised to learn that the city attorney hoped our field had solved major methodological quandaries of our time in completely packaged and unanimous ways, such as how to handle outlier data or whether population is a legitimate benchmark among others for stop and frisk activities.  Fagan dodged this baiting, and informed her of the true landscape of methodological variation in the field-- and in fact wise minds may take different approaches to monumentally complex datasets.

Crimcast predicts that this trial transcript may be of interest to criminologists regarding the application of their work to major policy issues of the day.  Some may even be excited to learn that academic criminology is relevant.  But we hope Floyd does not forget Floyd.  He and many others encounter the police as obstacles in going about their legitimate daily lives.  The chilling quality of these serious Constitutional violations and personal indignities are not fully captured by the numbers.

ACT UP, TAG, and the Power of Protest

Nickie Phillips

Members of ACT UP and TAG took to the streets--fearless warriors dedicated to raising awareness and research funding for an unknown and deadly disease. Across the country, people were felled by this ruthless communicable illness, yet there was little will for politicians and influential members of the public to take up the call.

See the Oscar nominated documentary How To Survive a Plaguethat details the heroic activism of those determined to fight back against government inaction against the AIDS crisis during the 1980s and 1990s.

Go here for the NPR interview with David France, the director and producer.

UPDATE: Read Garance Franke-Ruta's article "The Plague Years, In Film and Memory" here.

A screening of the documentary will be held March 5th at 5:30 in the Gerald Lynch Theater, John Jay College of Criminal Justice.

How to Survive A Plague Screening at John Jay College