Tag Archives: control

Crime as a Mechanism for Governing

Whether flipping through channels, listening to the radio, or reading the newspaper, it is evident that crime has secured a mainstay position in today’s media. In order to achieve high ratings, television networks and news outlets must fill their allotted time slots with only those headlines sure to popular attention (see Best, 2004). Oftentimes, those stories and reports are generated by sensationalizing criminal events. However, the seemingly overrepresentation of crime and delinquency is not the focus for this essay. Rather, it appears that crime has become a generalized preoccupation that has transformed a number of U.S. institutions (see Hudson, 2003). More specifically, crime – and societies growing fear of crime – has become a mechanism through which a new mode of governance has emerged. (more…)

Contradictory Trends Influencing School Operations: A Case of Cell Phones

In 2010, MSNBC published an article written by Alex Johnson entitled “Some schools rethink bans on cell phones: Bans don’t work, so administrators explore using mobile devices”. In the report, Johnson notes that 100 plus students were suspended – not for cheating, smoking, or bullying – but for having cell phones. While presented here as merely an anecdote, there can little doubt that the use of cell phones, and mobile technology more generally, is an issue that has caught the attention of school administrators across the nation. Within the article, Brian Begley, principal of Millard North High School, illustratively notes: “Cell phones aren’t going away.” As mobile devices become increasingly marketed to today’s youth and as their functionality blurs with that of computers, the issue of wireless, new media technology within high schools will reshape school operations.

The article cites that although 69 percent of American high schools have placed a ban on cell phones, 63% of student respondents nonetheless reported using them on campus. Recognizing that simply banning the devices does little to discourage their usage, Johnson notes that “a growing number of school districts are exploring other ways to shut them down.” Rather than employing suspension as a punishment, certain schools have resulted to more invasive forms of social control,  including “confiscating phones…keeping them for 30 days and searching them for evidence of cheating, pornography or other ‘illicit activities.’ If such evidence is found, it’s turned over to the sheriff’s office”.

Whilst illustrating both the complications for banning cell phones and their potential applicability within schools, the issue of cell phones points to a larger development.  Scholars have recently begun to document how two large-scale trends are transforming the socialization of youth within school settings. The first stems from a late-modern preoccupation with safety and security (see Garland, 1996, 2000; Simon, 2007; Foucault, 1977). Whether accelerated by internal events such as school shootings, or external factors like reported rates of youth violence, it is clear that crime has now become a chief organizing principle shaping school discipline. Consequently, issues such as cell phone use are caught in the proverbial cross-hairs and mobilized against in the name of promoting school safety. (more…)

Who Controls the Media?

Sinatra Radioby smteixeirapoit

This week, the Venezuelan government removed thirty-four radio stations from the air for failing to submit registration papers promptly. Venezuelan citizens argue that eliminating these radio stations hinders freedom of speech. Additionally, Antonio Ledezma, the opposition mayor of Caracas, contends that removing these radio stations demonstrates the government is “scared of freedom of expression”.

This raises several questions: Who controls the media? Why do they control access to certain sources of information? Perhaps, the government controls the media in order to squelch anti-government sentiment. This seems plausible given that the presidency of Hugo Chavez has faced considerable criticism and the government has proposed legislation imprisoning journalists for publishing “harmful” material.

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‘The Barbaric Theology of “Evil” Children’

04900_toy_rabbitby paulabowles

British news has reported that two young brothers (aged 10 and 11) have been arrested in South Yorkshire for their alleged torture and assault of two younger boys.
This case has once again raised the many emotive issues surrounding children who behave violently. Johann Hari of The Independent takes the opportunity to revisit the case of Mary Bell – as well as a brief reminder of the murder of James Bulger – concluding that ‘[t]he child who kills is the child who never had a chance’.

Hari, like many others, believes that by looking at the background of the children involved in these cases, we can begin to understand their use of violence. This should not be seen as an attempt to excuse their actions, but rather to go further than simply bandying accusations of “evil”. Although, much of Hari’s article has been said before, where he perhaps differs is in his acknowledgement of the media’s role in cases such as these. By focusing on the supposed inherent “evil” of these children, the media misses the point, in turn creating panic and fear. As Johann Hari asks:

‘Haven’t we progressed enough since the Middle Ages to see these truths, and reject the barbaric theology of “evil” children?’

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square-eye7Jennifer A. Reich on The Child Welfare System and State Intervention in Families

Birth, Knowledge, and Social Class

baby_boy_after_birthby theoryforthemasses

A recent article in The New York Times explored the burgeoning popularity of homebirth among New Yorkers. Citing the success of the documentary film, The Business of Being Born, the article suggests that New York City women are increasingly opting for birthing at home rather than in hospitals. Researchers such as Robbie Davis-Floyd and Melissa Cheyney have offered interesting insights into the unique experiences of homebirthers, particularly into their acquisition and use of knowledge, power, and control during pregnancy and childbirth. They suggest that homebirthers intellectually, emotionally, and physically prepare for their births in distinctive ways, and are typically able to exercise nuanced forms of power and therefore control over their birth experiences. All this seems to be predicated, however, on “informed consent,” or the acquisition of birth knowledge from sources such as midwives, Internet research, and birthing literature. While homebirth is a viable option for some women, we cannot ignore the extent to which knowledge and access to it is based on social class. Indeed, there are many women who are opting for homebirth. It seems to be that many of them, however, are wealthier women who have the time and financial means to dedicate to rigorous birth preparation. While birthing at home with a midwife may mean fewer medical interventions, and therefore be less expensive, knowledge acquisition is rarely free. Therefore, the relationship between birth options and social class cannot be ignored.

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square-eye28 Davis-Floyd and others on contemporary birth practices