Monthly Archives: December 2009

Dangerous Dogs Revisited

Following the recent sad news of the death of 4 year old John Paul Massey, after he had been attacked by his uncle’s American bull mastiff, media attention has refocused on the ownership of ‘dangerous’ dogs. As part of the BBC ‘Pledge Watch’ series of articles, Justin Parkinson has taken the opportunity to revisit the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991.

Following a spate of dog attacks on children in the early 1990s, media coverage focused on various breeds of dogs as symptomatic of Britain’s growing levels of aggression. One particular case – the fatal canine attack on Rukhsana Khan – led to the creation of emergency legislation, supported by the Conservative government and the labour opposition. The Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 banned the import of four types of dog, as well as allowing for those dogs deemed dangerous to be subject to a compulsory destruction orders. The legislation also made the wearing of muzzles when for certain types of dog.

Despite allegations that ‘the Dangerous Dogs Act is among the worst pieces of legislation ever seen, a poorly thought-out knee-jerk reaction to tabloid headlines that was rushed through Parliament without proper scrutiny’ it is seen by many as necessary. With recent NHS statistics suggesting that dog attacks are on the increase, it would seem that this particular act is not able to tackle the problem. It would seem that for the foreseeable future, certain types of dogs will continue to be ‘folk devils.’

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Chas Critcher on Moral Panic Analysis: Past Present and Future

Don't blame the Internet: Reevaluating the decline in American journalism

By Rachael Liberman

In a recent article from The Nation, heavyweight media scholars John Nichols and Robert McChesney remind readers that the current crisis in American journalism does not necessarily mean that the industry is fated to fail. Rather, Nichols and McChesney optimistically open the article with the news that the Federal Trade Commission is planning to hold (they are holding it right now) a hearing to “assess the radical downsizing and outright elimination of newspaper newsrooms and to consider public-policy measures that might arrest a precipitous collapse in reporting and editing of news.” Additionally, they note that the Federal Communications Commission “is also launching an extraordinary review of the state of journalism.” With these unprecedented actions slated to take place, it would appear that journalism is on the road to recovery. Receiving support from national organizations, after years of monetary losses and the decline of social impact, would work to restore journalism in both the private and public sphere. Unfortunately, Nichols and McChesney do not foresee the FTC or the FCC action as the answer to the journalism industry’s crisis. Rather, they see their approach, which uses the Internet as the catchall scapegoat, as counter-productive and derailing a larger issue. They write, “Now for the bad news: the way the challenges facing journalism are being discussed, indeed the way the crisis is being framed, will make it tough for even the most sincere policy-makers to offer a viable answer to it.” (more…)

Telling the Truth: Immigrants and their communities

Today, December 2, Maryland pastor Lennox Abrigo will be at the White House to discuss immigration reform. According to the New York Times, Abrigo and other pastors across the state have witnessed increases in the number of immigrants in their congregations as well as increases in the problems that these individuals face. Abrigo told the paper, “Members of our church have been deported… Families are disrupted.” Despite such challenges, the Times reports that immigration reform activism is on the rise Activists are working hard to fight stereotype and misconception. (more…)

When Emotions Stall Political Change: The case of abortion and health care reform

While abortion is certainly a hot-button issue on the American Political Scene, the fervent debate over the topic – mostly fueled by a clash between liberal and conservative, predominately religiously-oriented moral entrepreneurs – faded into the background after the presidential election season. In short, abortion is an issue that, while always central for some, tends to become peripheral outside of election seasons, during which candidates of both parties accuse one another of either caring too little for life or of obstructing a woman’s right to choose.  However, of late, the health care debate has re-ignited the passions of pro-life activists and politicians who seek opposition to the constitutional right of a woman to choose whether or not to carry a pregnancy to term. What makes this instance of this on-going clash less quotidian than the usual back and forth over when life begins or whether the rights of a mother or fetus are more important is that it is being used to stall political change in the form of health care reform.

The debate over a woman’s right to choose is a moral debate with a long history in religion, philisophy and even in the formation of the modern medical profession. Emotions are elicited in the face of moral issues and abortion is one that tends to get people’s blood boiling. For the pro-life camp, the idea that a life would be terminated is offensive. For the pro-choice camp, the idea that a woman would not have a right to chose the fate of her own body and make decisions on her own behalf is offensive. The heated debates between pro-life and pro-choice groups are evidence enough to show the deeply emotional nature of this subject.

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