The Capitol Hill Insurrection, Post-Truth, Fascism and the Impeachment of Trump

I just listened to an interesting article on Radio 4 with historian Timothy Snyder discussing the Impeachment of Donald Trump for inciting political insurrection.

Snyder had an interesting ‘grand historical perspective’ on why the Impeachment was necessary – the insurrection, led by overt White Supremacists was the moment that post-truth started to manifest as fascism.

The Impeachment was important because ‘institutions’ had to make a statement that a group of people with radical views can not just come together in violence and overthrow the democratic will of the people.

He also made an interesting point about the void that’s been created by the death of local news outlets – he described the USA as a ‘news desert’ – you’ve only got the mainstream news which more people increasingly distrust, as demonstrated by the reporting of the recent election results.

Trump was one of these people, believing the mainstream media was his enemy and that the election results were a fraud, a view widely dismissed in most of the media, but popular in various alternative media outlets.

So Trump went with the ‘election rigged’ view, pushed this narrative on Twitter, and this an other right wing social media circles amplified this view, largely in isolation from what was going on in the mainstream.

Hence the Capitol Hill riots were based on a President spinning a narrative of ‘fake election’ not corroborated by mainstream news, but spread on social media, and the view kind of verified by ‘mob agreement’ rather than objective fact-checking.

That is pretty much was post-truth is – people united by narratives which have no easily verifiable basis. That’s not necessarily bad, but then when one such person who is spinning one of these post-truth narratives manages to make manifest a political insurrection, that’s the basis for Fascism right there.

Relevance to A-level sociology

It’s a tough one to understand this event, but certainly there are links to:

  • Theory and Methods – this is a very uncertain, polarised, post-truth event – truly the downside of the postmodern – a real event based on a fictional narrative of a stolen election!
  • Crime and Deviance and the Media – complex causes of crime -both are bound up.
  • The rising power of social media – both as a cause, and the consequent banning of Donald Trump.
  • Also Global Development – NOT a peaceful election, further supporting the view that America is a less developed country!

Sources/ find our more

Timothy Snyder – On Tryanny

The world’s toughest prisons: Tucumbu in Paraguay

Tucumbu Prison in Paraguay, South America, houses some of the most dangerous convicted criminals in the country.

It is based in the middle of a slum, and is hideously underfunded and overcrowded – originally built to house just 800 inmates, it currently houses 4000.

The prison features in a recent Netflix documentary series: Inside the World’s Toughest Prisons in which Raphael Rowe spends two weeks inside the prison finding out what life is like for the inmates and guards.

This is an insightful documentary which should be of interest to students studying the Crime and Deviance Module as part of A-level sociology.

A prison of contrasts

There appears to be a very clear structure in the prison, with three main regions being explored in the documentary:

The first is a zone run by the catholic church which seams to be relatively safe and normal (by prison standards) – where prisoners can stay if they agree to abide by 50 rules laid down by the church. This is where Raphael stays, and like prisoners in this area he’s expected to work for 4 hours a day. Work seems to help prisoners as some of them are earning hundreds of dollars a month making products they sell, and they seem to be able to keep a good chunk of the money.

The second is the much rougher outside zone, in the open air, where it seems mainly drug addicts hang out – here one of the ways of making money is to scavenge through rubbish for old bits of food, and plastic bottles.

The plastic bottles can be sold as plates, which inmates used to get their daily food ration, which is the only thing they get for free from the prison authorities. Anything else has to be paid for.

The final reason is the ‘enterprise region’ – where prisoners run full on businesses, such as restaurants, there’s a tattoo parlour, barbers, and a laundry. in this section people can pay around $300 a month for a room – and a few do seem to be making that much money!

Relevance to A-level sociology

This is clearly most relevant to the ‘social control’ topic within Crime and Deviance – this prison offers an interesting contrast to the way things are done in UK prisons.

There are very few guards per prisoner, who mainly let the prisoners get on with their lives, and there seems to be very little in the way of surveillance or rehabilitation going on.

However prisoners are also allowed the freedom to set up businesses, earn money, and have a lot of freedom when relatives come in.

It seems to be a very liberal approach to punishment – individuals are left to rise or fall depending on their own individual efforts which the state doing nothing other than providing what seems to be just one meal a day.

You could also use this as a case study for qualitative research methods.

What is Deviance?

What is Deviance?

Deviance refers to rule-breaking behaviour of some kind which fails to conform to the norms and expectations of a particular society or social group.   

Deviance is closely related to the concept of crime, which is law breaking behaviour. Criminal behaviour is usually deviant, but not all deviant behaviour is criminal.

The concept of deviance is more difficult to define than crime. Deviance includes both criminal and non-criminal acts, but it is quite difficult to pin down what members of any society or groups actually regard as deviant behaviour. Downes and Rock (2007) suggest that ambiguity is a key feature of rule-breaking, as people are frequently unsure whether a particular episode is truly deviant or what deviance is. Their judgement will depend on the context in which it occurs, who the person is, what they know about them and what their motives might be.

Societal and Situational Deviance

Plummer (1979) discusses two aspects of defining deviance, using the concepts of societal deviance and situational deviance.

Societal deviance refers to forms of deviance that most members of a society regard as deviant because they share similar ideas about approved and unapproved behaviour – murder, rape, child abuse and driving over the alcohol limit in the UK generally fall into this category.

Situational deviance refers to the way in which an act being seen as deviant or not depends on the context or location in which it takes place. These two conceptions of deviance suggest that, while there may be some acts that many people agree are deviant in one society, those acts defined as deviant will vary between groups within a society. Whether or not an act is seen as deviant often depends on:

The historical period – definitions of deviance change over time in the same society as standards of normal behaviour change. For example, cigarette smoking used to be very popular, now it is illegal to smoke in restaurants or buses.

The place or context – nudity is often seen as deviant in public (though in itself it is never criminal), but rarely in private; playing loud music is deviant on public transport, but not at music festivals, and drinking to excess is deviant almost anywhere, but not necessarily in pubs or clubs.

The social group – What may be regarded as unacceptable at a societal level may be regarded as acceptable in small groups or even whole age cohorts – binge drinking and sexual promiscuity are two such examples. 

The context dependency of deviance

The context dependency of deviance simply refers to the idea that deviance is socially constructed – whether or not an act is seen as deviant depends on the historical period, the place, and the group witnessing the act.

The context dependency of deviance can be illustrated by a simple example:

Wearing a mini skirt is Deviant in Saudi Arabia:

But its clearly not on Tik Tok in Western Culture…

Task: Try to come up with your own examples which illustrate the Context Dependency of Deviance.

Discussion Question: Is there any act which is inherently deviant (deviant in every context)?

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What is Crime?

What is crime? An introduction to crime and deviance for A-level sociology

Crime, or behaviour which goes against the criminal law, covers a very wide variety of acts, from the relatively trivial, such as possessing class C drugs to the very serious such as murder.

A definition of Crime

A simple, starting point definition of crime is:

Crime – the term used to describe behaviour which is against the criminal law. Crime is law-breaking behaviour.

What counts as criminal behaviour thus varies depending on what the laws of a society deem to be illegal. What is legal in one country may not be legal in another.

(A closely related concept to crime is deviance which is rule-breaking behaviour which fails to conform to the norms and expectations of a particular society or social group.  Criminal behaviour is usually also deviant behaviour, but there is a lot of deviant behaviour which isn’t criminal.

This post focuses on the questions of what crime and criminal behaviour are (for deviance please see this post). It has been written primarily as an introduction to the Crime and Deviance module for A-level sociology students.

The social Construction of Crime

Newburn (2007) suggests that crime is basically a label that is attached to certain forms of behaviour which are prohibited by the state (government), and have some legal penalty against them. While crime therefore seems easy to define, as the law states what a criminal act is, there is no act that is criminal in itself. An act only becomes a crime when agents of the state label that act as criminal in a particular context. For example, killing someone with a knife during a fight outside a pub in the UK is a criminal offence, but killing an armed combatant during wartime with a knife is not.

Criminal law also varies from country to country, and criminal law changes over time within one country, which reinforces the idea that there is no such thing as an inherently criminal act.

If we examine how the law differs from country to country, it shows us the extent to which ‘crime is socially constructed’.

One example is the variations in the laws surrounding homosexuality – which is punishable by death in 12 countries, but in the United Kingdom and many other European countries it is illegal to discriminate on the basis of sexuality.

A second example is that women in Saudi Arabia are still effectively banned from wearing clothes which ‘show off their beauty’ (according to this article in The Week, January 2020), however this is open to interpretation, and some resistance from women flouting the rules, as the case from 2017 below demonstrates…

Discussion Question: why might the law (and thus the nature and extent of ‘crime’) vary so much across countries?

The Law in England and Wales

While you don’t need an in-depth understanding of the legal system it is useful to know something about it because it will help you understand where the law comes from and thus how the law changes, and consequently how crime changes over time.

There are two main sources of law in England and Wales

  • Common Law, which evolves through decisions made by judges at trials, which set precedents for future trials.
  • Statute Law, which comes about through an Act of Parliament – typically  through bills proposed by members of parliament which are debated and modified, often over several months, which then become acts of law.

The Gradual Evolution of Common Law in England and Wales

English criminal law derives its main principles from common law. The main elements of a crime are the actus reus (doing something which is criminally prohibited) and a mens rea (having the requisite criminal state of mind, usually intention or recklessness). A prosecutor must show that a person has caused the offensive conduct, or that the culprit had some pre-existing duty to take steps to avoid a criminal consequence. The types of different crimes range from those well-known ones like manslaughter, murder, theft and robbery to a plethora of regulatory and statutory offences. Today it is estimated that in the UK, there are 3,500 classes of criminal offence.

Parliamentary Acts and Changes to Law in England and Wales

Over the last two centuries, many new laws have been introduced through over 4500 Acts of Parliament which have responded to various social changes, one of the most recent being the ‘Psychoactive Substances Act of 2016 which made it illegal to supply a number of so called ‘legal highs’.

One single act can also make a number of behaviors illegal – such as with the 2010 equality act, which made it illegal for employers to discriminate against Transgender people and pregnant women.

NB – The fact that there are so many acts of Parliament demonstrates the extent to which crime is socially constructed. Since 2010 there have been more than 200 new Acts of Parliament.

The gradual evolution of the law and thus crime can be illustrated by some examples outline in this blog post: the social construction of crime.

The main categories of crime in England and Wales

Today, The Crown Prosecution Service recognises eleven classes of criminal offence, ranging from very serious (class A) through to Miscellaneous lesser offences (class I).

  • Class A: Homicide and related grave offences. E.g. Murder
  • Class B: Offences involving serious violence or damage, and serious drugs offences. E.g. kidnapping, armed robbery.
  • Class C: Lesser offences involving violence or damage, and less serious drugs offences – e.g. possession of firearm without certificate.
  • Class D: Sexual offences, and offences against children – e.g. sexual assault.
  • Class E: Burglary etc. – Domestic and Non-Domestic and ‘going equipped to steal’.
  • Class F- K: Theft and Fraud etc. – e.g. possession of articles for use in frauds; counterfeiting notes and coins.
  • Class H: Miscellaneous lesser offences – e.g. – Possession of Class B or C drug.
  • Class I: Offences against public justice and similar offences –e.g.  Intimidating Witnesses
  • Class J: Serious sexual offences, offences against children – e.g.  Trafficking out of UK for sexual exploitation

A quick look at a snapshot of the Crown Prosecution’s categories of offences demonstrates how crime is socially constructed – More acts become criminal as the law evolves. The table below shows how a whole raft of behaviours suddenly became ‘constructed’ as criminal following the 1998 criminal justice act, such as breaching an ASBO (ASBOs didn’t exist prior to 1998!).

The Criminal Justice System (FYI)

For those that are charged, they will either appear in Magistrates Court or the Crown Court.

Magistrates’ Courts

Virtually all criminal cases start in the Magistrates’ courts. The less serious offences are handled entirely in the magistrates’ court. Over 95% of all cases are dealt with in this way. The more serious offences are passed on to the Crown Court, to be dealt with by a judge and jury.

Magistrates mainly deal with

  • Summary offences. These are less serious cases, such as motoring offences and minor assaults, where the defendant is not entitled to trial by jury and
  • Either-way offences. As the name implies, these can be dealt with either by the magistrates or before a judge and jury at the Crown Court. Such offences include theft and handling stolen goods. A suspect can insist on their right to trial in the Crown Court. Similarly, magistrates can decide that a case is sufficiently serious that it should be dealt with in the Crown Court – which can impose tougher punishments.

If a case is to be dealt with in the Magistrates’ Court, the defendant will have to enter a plea.If they plead guilty or if they are later found to be guilty, the magistrates can impose a sentence of up to six months imprisonment or a fine of up to £5,000. If the defendant is found not guilty (if they are ‘acquitted’), they are judged innocent in the eyes of the law and should be free to go – provided there are no other cases against them outstanding.

Crown Court

Because of the seriousness of offences tried in the Crown Court, these trials take place with a judge and jury. The Crown Court deals with Indictable-only offences such as murder, manslaughter, rape and robbery or less serious offences that are too complex for the magistrate’s court

If the defendant is found not guilty, they are discharged and no conviction is recorded against their name. If the defendant is found guilty, they are sentenced and the courts can impose four levels of sentence, depending on the seriousness of the offence:

  • Discharges
  • Fines
  • Community sentences
  • Imprisonment

 

When deciding what sentence to impose, magistrates and judges have to take account of both the facts of the case and the circumstances of the offender.

A sentence needs to:

  • Protect the public;
  • Punish the offender fairly and appropriately;
  • Encourage the offender to make amends for their crime;
  • Contribute to crime reduction by stopping reoffending.

The Deportation of Chevon Brown – A Breach of Human Rights?

It can be difficult to find easy to understand examples of the state breaching individual human rights, but the recent deportation of Chevon Brown might just be one such example.

This case study from February 2020 is relevant to the ‘state crime and human right’s topic within the A-level sociology Crime and Deviance module.

In February 2020 Chevon Brown was deported to Jamaica from the United Kingdom.

He had just been released from Prison having served 8 months of a 14 month sentence for danagerous driving and driving with no insurance.

He was 21 when he decided to take his car for a spin, despite being a learner driver with no insurance, and when he saw police, he says he panicked, and sped up, which led to a 5 minutes high speed chase, and he puts his actions down to stupidity, and he’s paid the ultimate price.

Britain has the right to deport foreign citizens who have been sentenced to 12 months or more in prison, under the UK Borders Act, which came into force in 2007, unless doing so would infringe their human rights, by sending them back to a country where their life would be at threat, for example.

Chevon was 14 when he moved to Britain with his father on a Jamaican Passport. Despite having ‘indefinite leave to remain’ in the UK, he is still technically a Jamaican national, and so the UK had the right to deport him.
The problem is, he no longer has any friends or family in Jaimaica, and his father is remaining in the UK, with his other children.

Since returning to Jamaica, Chevon says he doesn’t feel safe. “I am nervous walking down the street,” he says. “Anything could happen – every day people die here.”

According to UN data, Jamaica had a murder rate of 47 per 100,000 inhabitants in 2016. In the UK, the rate was 1 per 100,000.

Chevon was deported along with 40 other criminals, many of whom had committed more serious offenses, such as murder, and he says the Jamaican media as labelled them all with the same brush, so it is difficult for him to make friends or find a job.

Sources – The BBC News May 2020.

Sociological Questions to consider about this case study

  1. Is deportation for ‘dangerous driving’ an appropriate punishment?
  2. Given his lack of friends and family in Jamaica, the alleged discrimination he’s facing (due to negative media labeling) and his increased chance of being murdered, did the UK government breach his human rights by deporting him?
  3. Is this deportation an example of institutional racism?
  4. Do you think the original decision to imprison him for 14 months was fair, or just another example of institutional racism?

By contrast you might want to consider this in relation to the case of Anne Sacoolas, the American Diplomat’s Wife who actually killed a British Teenager by driving on the wrong side of the road, fled back to America and is now being protected by the US Government, rather than being deported back to the UK to stand trial.

How Coronavirus is changing crime and deviance

The societal reaction to Coronavirus is certainly a very stark illustration of the context dependency of crime and deviance…..

The recent emergency legislation which put the country into lockdown has made a whole swath of previously ‘normal activities’ deviant, if not criminal, and it’s changing the nature of what we think of as both criminal and deviant.

The Emergency Legislation in the UK: Grey Areas

The ‘government advice’ is that no one is allowed to go out of doors without good excuse, which includes:

  • Buying essential food and medical supplies for you own household and vulnerable people
  • Getting money, to exercise and for essential work
  • To avoid injury, illness or risk of harm. 

Social gatherings of more than two people are also banned except from within the same household.

Emergency legislation gives police the powers to enforce lockdown laws, by insisting people go home and by issuing fines of up to £60, arrest, or dispersal using reasonable force.

However, it’s unclear about what actually constitutes deviance with the above advice and legislation: the law doesn’t state how many times people are allowed out, what constitutes food, and while advice says stay local when doing exercise, it doesn’t specify what local means!

As a result, there is room for interpretation over what constitutes ‘deviant behaviour’, and the police in some areas have been more rigorous in enforcing the lockdown than in others.

So what counts as deviant in the age of the lockdown?

There is some uncertainty, but clarity seems to be emerging as the agents of social control offer more explicit guidelines on what people can and cannot do, hence why this bizarre situation is such a wonderful example of the context dependency of deviance…..

Deviant: Sunbathing, picnicking and playing sports

For example Liverpool Council have made it clear that you can go outside if you keep moving (the ticks below) but not to stop or play sports…..

The police’s reaction to various people flouting lockdown rules also gives further clarification:

Deviant: Not social distancing

People are now being fined for getting too close to other people.

The first example of this I know of was Steve Mackie, who was fined £500 for ‘repeatedly approaching people queuing‘ outside a certain branch of Tesco.

The police have also allegedly fined some runners for ‘running to close to people‘.

Deviant: letting your kids outside four times in one day

A father in the West Midlands was recently fined £680 because his son had been spotted outside by the police four times in one day. I feel sorry for this guy, I can imagine it’s tough to have to keep your teenage kids indoors at this time.

Deviant: taking a 240 mile round trip to buy bread

One guy was recently stopped by the police doing 110 MPH on the motorway, he tried to explain his driving-jolly as buying bread, but he didn’t get away with it.

Here at least is some clarity on what counts as local – not 120 miles away!

Deviant: running for more than 30 minutes?

Michael Gove recently suggested that people shouldn’t be running for more than 30 minutes….

So am I a criminal?

Upgraded to assault: spitting at key workers

Spitting or coughing at key workers may now be prosecuted as ‘common assault’. One man has already been jailed for 26 weeks for spitting at a police officer, saying he wanted to give her Covid-19.

Fair enough I say, just being a thoroughly unpleasant individual.

Coronavirus: making it easier for some ‘normal’ criminals

Meanwhile there is one criminal activity you’re less likely to be prosecuted for – watching your T.V. without a licence because enforcement letters and visits have been stopped. I guess it makes sense keeping in mind how crucial TV is for social control!

Finally, trials for all non serious crimes have been put on hold, so I guess some criminals are actually getting some extra free time to enjoy their ‘softer’ variety of lockdown (rather than jail)

What is Social Control?

Social control refers to the mechanisms a society uses to get individuals to conform. This post covers sociological perspectives on social control such as Functionalism, Marxism and Interactionism

A broad definition of social control is ‘all of the formal and informal mechanisms and internal and external controls that operate to produce conformity’*

Social control is the opposite of deviance. Sociologists of deviance ask ‘why do people break social norms and values’? Social control theorists ask ‘why do people conform to social norms and values’?

NB for students studying the crime and deviance component of A-level sociology, most resources tend to focus on the ‘crime and deviance‘ aspect, NOT the social control aspect, but the question of why people conform is just as important as the question of why people break the rules!

Origins of the Concept of Social Control

The concept is often traced back to the seventeenth century Philosopher Thomas Hobbes who argued that in a society of self-interested individuals a great power (the State) was needed to prevent things deteriorating into a war of all against all.

Individuals agreed to give up some of their individual freedoms by promising to obey the laws of the State, and in return the State promised to protect individuals.

Talcottt Parsons (1937) developed one of the earliest sociological perspectives on social control. He argued that conformity was not just produced by external agencies coercing individuals to obey rules through the threat of punishment, but also through individuals internalizing norms and values through socialization.

Travis Hirschi (1969) developed this idea further when he argued that juvenile delinquency was the result of an individual’s bonds to society were weakened. His theory emphasized the importance of ties to family, peers and other social institutions such as education and work as important in maintaining social control.

Types of social control theory

One way of dividing up theories of social control is to separate them into conformity producing and deviance repressing approaches (Hudson 1997) suggested there were

Conformity producing theories tend to focus on how people learn to conform by internalising social norms and taking on social roles (like with the Functionalist view of the family or education)

Deviance repressing theories tend to look at the relationship between deviance behaviour and the measures used to reduce it (like with right and left realist approaches to deviance).

Better methods combine both types of approach

Parsons’ approach to social control

Parsons was interested in the question of how societies produce enough conformity to reproduce themselves (or carry on) across several generations.

He pointed out that the majority of people to do not seem to mind conforming to most of society’s norms and values for most of the time during most of their lives. In other words most people willingly conform.

Parsons argued that socialization was central to this ‘willing conformity’. Socialization within institutions such as the family and education helped individuals to internalize the norms and values of a society and convince people that a ‘good-person’ was one who willingly conformed to society’s rules.

Matza’s Techniques of Neutralisation

David Matza’s work on ‘techniques of neutralisation’ supported this view. He pointed out that even people who broke the laws of society still shared the general values of that society.

Matza argued that when people committed deviant acts, they employed ‘techniques of neutralisation’ to explain why they had broken social norms and/ or values.

Techniques of neutralization may include such things as ‘I was drunk, so I was out of control’ or ‘that person is nasty, they deserved it’, and they are used by individuals to justify why they were temporarily deviance on that particular occasion.

Matza argued that ‘techniques of neutralisation’ enabled people to convince themselves that there were exceptional circumstances which explained their occasional acts of deviance, while at the same time allowing them to maintain their self-concept as someone who generally conforms to social norms most of the time.

Hirschi’s Control Theory

Hirschi’s theory of social control emphasized the importance of attachments and social bonds. The more bonds an individual has to society, the more time he or she spends involved with other people and social institutions, then the less likely that individual is to commit deviance.

In Hirschi’s theory, deviance doesn’t really need explaining: it happens whenever an individual is cut free from social bonds and has the opportunity to be deviant.

Marxist Approaches to Social Control

Unlike the three consensus approaches above, Marxists tend to see social control as being consciously or unconsciously ‘engineered’ by the capitalist class and the state.

In terms of ‘conformity producing’ approaches – Marxists see the norms and values of education as working to produce a docile and passive workforce – as outlined in Bowles and Gintis’ Correspondence Theory.

The media is also seen as an important agent of social control – processes such as agenda setting and gatekeeping mean the elite’s view of the world is presented as normal, thus producing ideological control.

Marxists are also critical of how ‘deviance is reduced’ – seeing the police as working with the elite and the state – working class street crime is, for example, over-policed and prosecuted, while Corporate Crime is relatively under-policed and prosecuted.

Interactionist Approaches to Social Control

The labelling perspective sees social control and deviance as having an ironic relationship.

The more the agencies of social control try to prevent deviance, by labelling and policing certain behaviours as deviant, then the more deviance will be created.

A lot of research from the interactionist perspective has focused on how it is certain types of people (rather than behaviours) who tend to get labelled as deviant, and thus are more likely to become deviant.

Sources

(*) Giddens and Sutton (2017) Essential Concepts in Sociology

Global phishing scams – too difficult to stop?

A recent BBC Panorama documentary provides an insight into how global computer fraud works. The documentary focuses on one criminal organisation based in India who use phishing scams to extract hundreds of pounds out of their victims.

This is a good example of a global crime, and clearly relevant to both globalisation and crime and deviance. In this case the scammer-criminals are in India, their victims in Great Britain, America and Australia.

In the UK we get 21 million scam calls a month, 8 every second, and some scamming organisations can make millions of dollars a year from their victims.

The program starts by focusing on ‘scambaiters’ – individuals who play along with the scammers and film themselves on YouTube doing so. Some (who don’t film themseves) go further and use hacking to try and disrupt the scammers.

One of the people who ‘hacks the hackers’ calls himself Jim Browning on YouTube – the video below give you an idea of what he does!

He seems to be quite a successful anti-hacker – he’s gained control of one call center’s security cameras and managed to record details of 70 000 scam calls.

How the scams work

The scammers in call centers in India take control of people’s computers, and freeze them. A pop up window then tells them their computer has been infected with a virus, and their security compromised, as well as providing a a ‘Microsoft’ (or something similar) number to call to fix the problem.

The scammers in the call center (NOT working for Microsoft) then tell their victims their computer is infected, that their money is at risk and charge them hundreds of pounds to ‘remove’ the ‘viruses’

Police in the UK get around 50 000 reports every year of Indian scams, and police in the UK have successfully worked with police in India to shut down several call centers, but there are many more that have not been shut down, and some of those that do will re-open shortly afterwards in a slightly different location.

High reward and low risk…

For the scammers it would seem there is a lot of potential reward ($10s of thousands) and very little risk of getting caught or punished.

Part of the reason for the low prosecution rates is that the police in India need complaints from victims in the UK (or wherever they may be based) in order to take action against a call center.

All of this further complicated by international payment companies not doing enough to restrict illegal business operations – the documentary uses evidence collected by Jim Browning to track one guy (Amit Chauhan) running an illegal call center who uses PayPal to extract hundreds of thousands of dollars every month from his victims, despite PayPal being aware of the allegations against the scammer.

Final thoughts… to difficult to police?

The documentary ends on a rather depressing note – the guy above hasn’t been prosecuted, and it seems this is going to be an ongoing problem for years to come….

The deportations of foreign nationals – an example of a state crime?

The British government recently tried to deport 42 Jamaican nationals who had committed offences and in the United Kingdom and served more than 12 months in jail.

However, a last minute human rights challenge in the Court of Appeal meant that only 17 were deported and 25 were taken off the plane, because for the government to deport them would have been against their human rights, protected under International Law.

Many of those people who were saved from deportation had come to Britain from Jamaica as children, and had lived in Britain for several years, some for over a decade, and some even had families here.

The government attempted to claim that all 42 had been committed of serious offences. Some had, but others appear to have been committed on relatively minor drugs offences.

One of the people taken off the flight (according to this BBC article) had actually served for the British army in Afghanistan, had been diagnosed with PTSD and been convicted of GBH, related to his poor mental health.

Is this a state crime?

Technically the government has the right to deport people who have committed an offence that resulted in more than 12 months in jail, UNLESS it is against their human rights.

So whether these deportations are examples of state crimes depends on whether deporting them harms their human rights….

The guidelines for this lie in the United Nation’s charter of Human Rights, and as far as I’m aware the lawyers for the 25 people taken off the plane picked up on article number 8 – the right to legal support if we are treated unfairly.

There’s also a possibility that deporting people with young families breaches article number 16.

Is this an effective measure of control?

While shipping criminals out of the country is obviously a very effective way of getting rid of criminals, and a pretty effective deterrent, I have to ask what the effect of this will be on those leaving behind younger children?

What do you think? Is this an appropriate response, should criminals’ individual rights be taken into account in such matters?

No Third Runway @ Heathrow – a nice illustration of the complexities of globalisation

the third runway at Heathrow, shows the evolution of green crime and the complex nature of globalisation.

Plans for a third runway at Heathrow airport have been ruled illegal by the court of appeal because they are not compatible with the UK’s commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050.

The UK government signed up to the zero-carbon by 2050 target as part of the recent Paris agreement, and now that it’s ratified any future national development plans must be as close to carbon neutral as possible.

Ministers have two choices now. They can withdraw the whole policy statement or try to amend it to make it to make the proposed Heathrow development carbon neutral.

Relevance to A-level sociology

This event fits in well to the Global Development module and also ‘Green Crime’ topic within Crime and Deviance.

This event shows how environmental law, specially relating to climate change, is evolving. This ruling was the first time in history that a government project was declared illegal because of the future harm it might do to the environment.

It’s also an example of the paradoxes, contradictions or conflicts within globalisation – we’re effectively preventing one form of globalisation (flying) because of another emerging global norm – the consensus around the need to take action on climate change.

It’s a great example of the power of social movements – the UK government DID NOT take into account the climate impact of the Heathrow third runway in its initial development report, and it was a legal charity ‘Plan B’ which took them to the court of appeal, which then declared the government was acting illegally.

NB this isn’t an example of a global law – the Paris agreement is a treaty, the UK government voluntarily ratified it, making it UK law, and that’s why it’s binding – it requires the Nation State to have made it illegal to NOT consider the carbon impact of development projects.

Hence it’s debatable whether this kind of anti-development trend is going to become a truly global norm going forwards – the U.S. and China are hardly likely to ratify the Paris agreements, for example.

NB – we might still get more airport capacity, just not at Heathrow. Birmingham, following HS2 is one possibility for future airport expansion.

And pollution up north matters less than in London, so more planes up there probably wouldn’t be illegal, let alone a catastrophe.

Sources/ find out more

The Guardian – third runway ruled illegal.