The General Secretary of the Royal College of Nursing [RCN], Peter Carter, has called for the prescription of the (currently illegal) drug heroin to be prescribed on the National Health Service [NHS]. Although, not the first to suggest this radical approach to problematic drug (mis)use, his intervention at this particular juncture raises questions. Given the upcoming UK General Election (6 May 2010), as well as the recent controversies surrounding the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs [ACMD], Carter’s comments appear somewhat provocative.

Despite evidence to suggest the success of trials (undertaken in London, Brighton and Darlington) – crime cut by 66% and 75% of those involved showing significantly reduced drug use – reactions to Carter’s comments have been diverse. If Peter Carter is correct and an extension of the scheme would continue to cut crime and improve opportunities for drug users to receive help with their addictions, it would seem a logical step. However, given the dichotomy as to whether drug (mis)use is seen as a criminal justice, or a medical matter, it is perhaps unsurprising that many people may feel uncomfortable with the idea of funding such therapy on the NHS. Either way given the role Peter Carter undertakes for the RCN, his positive endorsement for the scheme can only help to broaden the debate.

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Eric L. Jensen on Adult Drug Treatment Courts: A Review

Bob Howard of the BBC has recently published an article looking at a scheme to combat sex offender recidivism. Originating in Canada, friendship circles are ‘based on the premise that while some offenders have friends and family to return to when they come out of prison, others have not and the more isolated they are, the more likely they are to re-offend’. Throughout the article, Sarah from London talks about her experiences as a volunteer for the child protection charity The Lucy Faithfull Foundation

Given the emotive nature of the crimes these particular offenders have been found guilty of, it is unsurprising that Sarah admits to some trepidation and concern prior to volunteering for the scheme. However, taking into account the positive results reported by Canada (currently a reduction in reoffending of 70%) it would appear to be more effective than traditional and arguably, more punitive methods.

Perhaps understandably, the scheme is not without its critics. For example Peter Saunders of the National Association of People Abused in Childhood suggests that electronic tagging would be a more appropriate response. Judging by the angry public comments which invariably follow any news story on the rehabilitation of sex offenders (this one included) it would seem that supporters of this scheme will have their work cut out.

Kelly M. Socia Jr and Janet P. Stamatel on ‘Assumptions and Evidence Behind Sex Offender Laws: Registration, Community Notification, and Residence Restrictions’

Chas Critcher on ‘Moral Panic Analysis: Past, Present and Future’

Today, the Central London County Court has delivered its verdict in relation to the British National Party’s [BNP] membership policy. Judge Paul Collins’ decision – whilst noting the BNP’s attempts to modify its constitution – found that the party recruitment policy was ‘still likely to be discriminatory.’

Since the proceedings have been initiated the BNP has removed any requirement for members to be white, although it retains many troubling conditions. For instance: the compulsory opposition to “integration or assimilation” of ethnic minorities into Britain, an explicit demand that members encourage and promote the “maintenance and existence of the unity and integrity of the indigenous British”, and an obligation to seek a reversal of immigration into the country. Alongside these demands, any individual who wishes to join the BNP is also expected to submit to a 2 hour long home visit by two members of the party (one male and one female) in order to ascertain their commitment to the BNP’s aims (and to identify any would-be saboteurs).

Perhaps understandably the BNP’s leader Nick Griffin has reacted to today’s events with belligerence, describing the ruling as ‘appalling’. However, it would seem that the Equality and Human Rights Commission are determined to bring an end to what many see as a dangerous political force with inherently racist policies.

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Tanya Golash-Boza on A Confluence of Interests in Immigration Enforcement: How Politicians, the Media, and Corporations Profit from Immigration Policies Destined to Fail

Amir Saeed on Media, Racism and Islamophobia: The Representation of Islam and Muslims in the Media

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

Many lecturers and teachers will recognise the feeling of disheartenment when confronted by an undergraduate essay containing multiple references to Wikipedia. Despite regular exhortations for students to resist its charms, its appeal seems almost overwhelming. Although the site is loved by many, its major selling point of completely open access (i.e. ‘anyone can contribute to or edit’ its entries) is precisely why academics shake their heads in frustration.

However, in a recent interview with Emma Barnett of The Telegraph, Jimmy Wales (co-founder) appears to suggest that things are about to change at Wikipedia. Most noticeable is the creation of new measures, described as “flagged revisions”. In essence, this will mean that all new submissions and edited content, which relate to a living person, will have to be authenticated by one of Wikipedia’s editors, prior to online publication. Despite criticism that the whole ethos of the Wikipedia site will be degraded by the introduction of pre-publication censorship, Wales is convinced that this is the way forward. He points to a slowing of growth amongst new articles on the English version, suggesting that contributors are now concentrating on ensuring the articles already available are accurate, rather than simply adding more and more new material.

Whether the promise of ‘an increasing focus on quality and referencing’ will be able to sway the academic community, remains to be seen. However, the sheer volume of information and the speed with which it is checked and uploaded, makes it unlikely that Wikipedia is anywhere near reaching the stringent standards required for academia and education.

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Allison Cavanagh on ‘From Culture to Connection: Internet Community Studies’

by paulabowles

Remembrance_Sunday_2008_-_1Philip Laing, the 19 year old student from Sheffield Hallam University has become the latest focus for the media. Recently photographed urinating upon a poppy wreath at a Second World War Memorial, Laing has attracted an enormous amount of negative attention. Although, Laing claims he was drunk at the time, and remembers nothing of the events of that evening, he did make ‘a full and complete admission’ when confronted by the photographic evidence. Upon appearing in court this week the teenager was warned that he may face a custodial sentence for what the judge described as a ‘disgusting and reprehensible’ act.

Although, many may agree with the judge’s comments, it seems that this case offers an outlet for many emotive concerns, not least binge drinking. Although, Laing has admitted his actions, and apologised profusely for them, the judge has raised concerns about the culture surrounding binge drinking. Carnage, the company responsible for arranging the pub crawl, has come in for particular censure. In the week leading up to Remembrance Sunday, which has seen increasing numbers of British deaths in Afghanistan, this case was bound to raise disquiet. However, by focusing on the actions, albeit distasteful, of one teenager, we run the risk of creating little more than a smokescreen. Thus, avoiding much wider and more important debates such as the nature of nationalism, patriotism and pacifism, together with growing concern over the continuing British military presence overseas.

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Square-eyeAndy Ruddock on ‘Media Studies 2.0? Binge Drinking and Why Audiences Still Matter’


Today marked the penultimate day of Wiley-Blackwell’s first Virtual Conference. As I am sure you will all agree, thus far, each day has contained many gems, and today has been no different. Eileen Joy’s (Southern Illinois University Edwardsville) keynote lecture: ‘Reading Beowulf in the Ruins of Grozny: Pre/modern, Post/human, and the Question of Being‐Together’ looks at the aftermath of the Russian bombing of Chechnya through the lens of Beowulf.

The two final papers of the conference were provided by P. Grady Dixon (Mississippi State University) & Adam J Kalkstein (United States Military Academy) and Nicole Mathieu (CNRS, University of Paris). Their papers respectively entitled: ‘Climate–Suicide Relationships: A Research Problem in Need of Geographic Methods and Cross‐Disciplinary Perspectives’ and ‘Constructing an interdisciplinary concept of sustainable urban milieu’ have looked at indisciplinarity from a geographical and environmental perspective. The final publishing workshop was ‘How to Survive the Review Process’ by Greg Maney (Hofstra University).

Although, the conference is due to end tomorrow it is not too late to register and take advantage of the book discount and free journal access. Each of the papers and podcasts will remain on the website, and it is hoped that you will keep the comments coming in.

Japanese_textbooksBy Paula Bowles

Day eight of the conference was once again marked by some excellent contributions. The first paper ‘Cultural Sociology and Other Disciplines: Interdisciplinarity in the Cultural Sciences’ by Diane Crane (University of Pennsylvania) suggests that for many scholars ‘disciplinary isolation is the norm.’ However, Crane proposes that by utilising what she describes as ‘free‐floating paradigms’ such barriers can be removed.

The second paper of the day by Christine Mallinson, (University of Maryland) entitled ‘Sociolinguistics and Sociology: Current Directions, Future Partnerships also takes sociology and interdisciplinarity as its main themes. Mallinson’s paper concludes with practical advice as to how best to achieve research partnerships.

Together with these exciting papers, Catherine Sanderson (Amherst College) offered advice in her publishing workshop: ‘The Joys and Sorrows of Writing an Undergraduate Textbook.’ There was also an opportunity to spend time in the Second Life cocktail bar with the Compass Team. 


The seventh day of the conference has continued with the key themes of ‘breaking down boundaries’ and interdisciplinarity. Roy Baumeister (Florida State University) began the day with his keynote lecture entitled ‘Human Nature and Culture: What is the Human Mind Designed for?’ By utilising the concepts of evolutionary and cultural psychology, Buameister is able to explore the intrinsic significance culture holds for humanity.

Two other papers were also presented today. ‘Text as It Happens: Literary Geography’ by Sheila Hones (University of Tokyo) and Stefan Müller’s (University of Duisburg‐Essen) ‘Equal Representation of Time and Space: Arno Peters’ Universal History.’ These contributions have utilised a wide and diverse range of disciplines including history, cartography, geography and literature. Finally, Devonya Havis’ publishing workshop entitled ‘Teaching with Compass’ offers some interesting ideas as to how best implement technology within the classroom.


Welcome to the second week of the Wiley-Blackwell Virtual Conference. The first day back has started with a keynote speech from Peter Ludlow (Northwestern University) entitled ‘Virtual Communities, Virtual Cultures, Virtual Governance.’ Conference delegates also had the opportunity to meet Peter at the Second Life Cocktail Bar.

There were two other papers on Monday’s session Adam Brown’s (Deakin University): ‘Beyond ‘Good’ and ‘Evil’: Breaking Down Binary Oppositions in Holocaust Representations of ‘Privileged’ Jews’ and ‘A Hybrid Model of Moral Panics: Synthesizing the Theory and Practice of Moral Panic Research’ presented by Brian V. Klocke (State University of New York, Plattsburgh) & Glenn Muschert (Miami University). In addition Wiley-Blackwell’s Vanessa Lafaye held a publishing workshop entitled ‘The Secret to Online Publishing Success.’

As you can see, this week promises to be as exciting and innovative as the previous one. All of the papers and workshops from last week are still available to download from the conference site, and both the ‘battle of the bands’ and the opportunity to contribute a ‘winning comment’ remain.