When the boycott of a boycott becomes news

Even before the “anti-woke” GB News channel began its first broadcast, the campaign group Stop Funding Hate had started a boycott. Then the first shows began to air, the outrage started to grow on Twitter, and the calls for boycotting advertisers increased. Viewers could now identify and contact those corporations who were giving their money to the news channel.

Within days, GB News hit back with a boycott of their own. They are urging their viewers to boycott the companies boycotting them. These include the Open University, Specsavers, Grolsch, Ikea, and Kopparburg.

The boycott war seems to have gained lots of publicity for GB News even as supposedly their ad revenues are decreasing. This didn’t seem to bother GB News’ chief executive Angelos Frangopoulos when he talked to Business Insider. Attempts to silence them are are part of “cancel culture” on social media, he claimed. GB News have found themselves a target of it but that it’s not shared beyond the “bubble of social media platforms.”

Frangopoulos adds, “The power of some of these social media platforms is quite frankly exaggerated and not reflective of the broader population, particularly on Twitter. … I get many messages saying: “Have you seen this tweet?” And I say no, because I don’t really want to. It doesn’t really matter.”

GB News took to Twitter as well though.

At the same time, a third opinion has emerged on social media. Some claim that boycotting advertisers or forcing them to cancel advertising is in itself problematic.

In a democracy, shouldn’t advertisers choose what to do without interference?

And here we have a useful question that needs to be answered: How does advertising affect news programs.

Magazines and newspapers are there to sell ‘eyeballs’ to advertisers but social media has begun to do that too. Primarily the creation of social media has suggested a shift:

“No longer can we sell a huge market we know little about to advertisers merely craving eyeballs,” wrote authors Craft and Davis in their book Principles of American Journalism: An Introduction (2016). “The rise of social media networks give the news media a new metric: engagement.”

Similarly, in explaining the Propaganda Model from Manufacturing ConsentChomsky writes:

“The successful media today are fully attuned to the crucial importance of audience ‘quality’…the mass media are interested in attracting audiences with buying power, not audiences per se; it is affluent audiences that spark advertiser interest today, as in the nineteenth century.

The idea that the drive for large audiences makes the mass media ‘democratic’ thus suffers from the initial weakness that its political analogue is a voting system weighted by income!”

And it was almost always ever so. The use of advertising not only helped publishers reduce the cost of newspapers themselves in the 1800s, but it also helped radical working class papers go out of business. Advertising was not merely a democratic right. As Curran and Seaton write in Power Without Responsibility, advertisers have a history of selecting the eyeballs they want to sell to:

“In 1856 the principal advertising handbook detailed the political views of most London and local newspapers with the proud boast that ‘till this Directory was published, the advertiser had no means of accurately determining which journal might be best adapted to his views, and most likely to forward his interests’” (emphasis my own)

This theory, thus far, works for newspapers and channels that need advertising to increase their revenue. There are, however, newspapers that are run with no profit at all. In fact, the Sun newspaper, owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp, had its value slashed to zero after millions in losses. The eyeballs are seemingly worth more than the revenue.

A clue to the reality of this is in the actions of the chair of GB News, Andrew Neil. He has not sought to placate advertisers but has hit out at them quite strongly. The last time he did this, he had strong backing from his then boss, and deep pockets. The boss was Rupert Murdoch when Neil was editor of the Sunday Times.

He writes the following in his autobiography Full Disclosure:

Mohamed Al-Fayed, the owner of Harrods, called me one night in the mid-eighties to complain about a story we had run criticizing the way he was renovating the house in Paris once occupied by the Duke and Duchess of Windsor. I offered him space to put his point of view. He demanded a retraction and an apology. I refused. He threatened to withdraw all Harrods’ advertising from Times Newspapers.
‘You can’t do that,’ I said.
‘Why not?’ he asked. ‘It’s my advertising.’
‘Because as of this moment,’ I replied, ‘you are banned from advertising in The Sunday Times’
He hung up, somewhat mystified.

A half hour later the phone went again. It was Rupert, calling from New York. This, I thought, could be a tough one.
‘I hear you’ve just banned our biggest advertiser,’ he said.
‘Yes,’ I replied, explaining the circumstances.
How much do Harrods spend with us?’ he enquired.
‘About £3 million,’ I said nervously. There was silence at the other end of the line. I contemplated whether it would be better to back down or resign and become an unlikely hero of the chattering classes.
‘F — — him if he thinks we can be bought for £3 million,’ he said,
and hung up.

The boycott wars tell us two things about GB News; it is quite specific on which eyeballs it wants to preach too, and it has deep pockets. Neither of those criteria have ever helped democracy.

Stop Funding Hate acts to reverse the incentives for the media in reporting hate. If newspapers don’t find it profitable to preach hate, then they will stop.

GB News’ actions, and the Sun’s financial straits, however, are evidence that these campaigns and newspaper narratives are not about profit alone.

What are some of the narratives that GB News are currently promoting? One is a petition to stop “illegal” immigrants entering the country and other narratives have been anti-vaccine and anti-lockdown.

As the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights wrote in 2015:

“History has shown us time and again the dangers of demonizing foreigners and minorities… it is extraordinary and deeply shameful to see these types of tactics being used… simply because racism and xenophobia are so easy to arouse in order to win votes or sell newspapers”

Let’s be worried, but also, let’s see how much social media can adapt to this switch from eyeballs to engagement. That’s where the next war will be made visible.

The Roles of Journalism

[First published at the following link]

In Western traditions of news gathering, journalists are seen as being objective and impartial. Often they are complimented for doing investigative work or castigated for not challenging politicians enough. Ultimately, what comes across is that media consumers have some idea of what they think journalism is. When blogging platforms became easy to use and news creation costs were effectively slashed, a split began to appear between bloggers and professional journalists. Various issues rose to prominence — PR became indistinguishable from reporting and ads started to appear as straight copy. There are still stories of bloggers asking for free food in exchange for positive coverage, for example.

The key question that came up was who is or isn’t a journalist. To answer that and in the process link it back to citizen journalists, the first thing to do is look at the roles of journalism.

Roles of Journalism

A taxonomy of the four normative roles of journalism is provided by Christians et al. Those four are:

  • Monitorial
  • Facilitative
  • Collaborative
  • Radical

Tanja Aitamurto and Anita Varma (2018) add a fifth role:

  • Constructive

Constructive journalism is a type of journalism where a solution for how to solve a societal problem is added to the text. It is also called solutions journalism.

“A constructive role encompasses a wide breadth of journalisms, such as advocacy journalism, impact journalism, heartening journalism, future-focused journalism, transformation journalism, development journalism, and emancipatory journalism, and has precedents in public journalism, peace journalism, and activist journalism.

(as cited in: Aitamurto and Varma (2018). Carpentier 2005, 206–207; Hanitzsch 2007, 381; Krüger 2017, 405–406)

Table 1 from TA & AV provides more details about the roles in journalism. In what the authors call the Anglo-Saxon context of the media, journalism is more often thought of as monitorial–it monitors the actions of power; it observes and documents routine and unexpected events, and places a check on power. Its ideals are objectivity, accuracy and transparency. Monitorial journalism provides a watchdog function. The journalist is seen as a neutral observer ‘just reporting’ what they see.

Facilitative journalism provides a conversation about public issues. Its role is one of moderator between different political actors who want to resolve public issues.

Collaborative journalism is the PR/public relations branch of communication. It’s about giving institutions outside the media, a megaphone to advance their interests.

Radical journalism provides scrutiny of power and criticism of existing power structures. Its role is one of a critic and it advocates for change.

Internalising your role as a journalist

The four typical normative roles of journalism are usually embedded within organisations. By joining a PR company, for example, you learn a collaborative mode of communication. You embody and get taught a role by those around you. You report to an editor or a PR boss and are guided to what you can write. Journalists are hired because of their pre-existing outlooks and the type of work they do.

With advocacy journalism, however, not only does it go against the Anglo-Saxon leanings of ‘impartiality’ but it is also more likely to be found in citizen journalism. Citizen journalists are more likely to work as individuals without the top-down guidance on where their roles fit in the media and with their audience.

The lack of structure about which role to take up and the already established advocacy, which is seemingly in contrast to the Anglo-Saxon model favouring impartiality, could make it difficult for citizen journalists to feel they are an authoritative journalistic voice.

Advocacy, however, has never been far from journalism. Choosing who to interview and to whose voice to give prominence, are choices that can promote one perspective over another.

Tom Mills, in his book and research on the BBC, outlined a process of shift where instead of workers’ views being promoted, the voices of business and capital began to take prominence.

In the US, the same phenomenon has taken place according to research published by On the Media.

!The labor beat was sidelined in the ’70s in favor of business and money verticals, in pursuit of wealthier readers. The working class was left without mainstream outlets that spoke about — or to — them.”

Advocacy in journalism is inescapable because, in Fisher’s (2016) terms, “even unwittingly, the simple inclusion of a comment or perspective from a source by the reporter may inject a degree of advocacy to a story … The stronger and more passionately the sources advocate, the stronger the story” (722).

Media Lens have written about the process of how journalism works in practice by structuring the constraints of writers from the top-down. American political writer and media critic Michael Parenti explained powerfully how journalism works in practice. There are five stages of getting from an enthusiastic journalist to one who conforms to a media organisation’s needs. By the fifth stage, the lessons have been internalised to such an extent that you don’t even notice you’ve done it.

As a citizen journalist, however, the constraints are more horizontal than vertical. There isn’t necessarily a boss to tell you not to write something; you see that other people don’t write about certain topics, or you get no response when you do write about them so you don’t continue down that path.

If the ‘impartial’, objective and monitorial role is seen as the standard one, then this constrains the journalists who came to their roles in the media from a world of advocacy.

Starting to see constructive or solutions journalism as an actual journalistic role can help support citizen journalists in finding their own authority. The practice has been identified in the US since 1948 so it’s not new.

References

Tanja Aitamurto & Anita Varma (2018): The Constructive Role of Journalism, Journalism Practice, DOI: 10.1080/17512786.2018.1473041

Christians, Clifford G., Theodore L. Glasser, Denis McQuail, Kaarle Nordenstreng, and Robert A. White. 2009. Normative Theories of the Media: Journalism in Democratic Societies. Urbana: University of Illinois Press.

Fisher, Caroline. 2016. “The Advocacy Continuum: Towards a Theory of Advocacy in Journalism.” Journalism 17 (6): 711–726.

Chalmers, David M. 1959. “The Muckrakers and the Growth of Corporate Power: A Study in Constructive Journalism.” The American Journal of Economics and Sociology 18 (3): 295–311.

Carpentier, Nico. 2005. “Identity, Contingency and Rigidity: The (Counter-) Hegemonic Constructions of the Identity of the Media Professional.” Journalism 6 (2): 199–219.

Hanitzsch, Thomas. 2007. “Deconstructing Journalism Culture: Toward a Universal Theory.” Communication Theory 17 (4): 367–385.

Krüger, Uwe. 2017. “Constructive News: A New Journalistic Genre Emerging in a Time of Multiple
Crises.” In The Future Information Society: Social and Technological Problems, edited by
Wolfgang Hofkirchner and Mark Burgin, 403–422. Singapore: World Scientific Publishing Co

Real enough?

A Timeline Of The Plague Year

Available in audio at the following link: https://anchor.fm/joanna-booth/episodes/A-Timeline-Of-The-Plague-Year-euuu0r

On March 23, 2020, the day that lockdown was announced, I was so nervous paying for my shopping at the supermarket that I forgot my PIN. There was a queue behind me, no masks, no separations from the till, just uncertainty. I had to leave everything at the counter and rush off.

It’s strange to think back now and realise that we knew so little; there was guesswork over symptoms, no tests or PPE available or even whether the disease was airborne or how it spread.

In the Guardian article ‘Which activities are safe and which should people avoid?’ on 14 March 2020, Paul Hunter, professor in medicine at the University of East Anglia, was quoted saying he would not stop visiting his elderly relatives, that it was OK to visit the pub, and that from the perspective of individual risk there was not a strong argument for avoiding big sporting events. Yet nine days later we were all locked away.

What a difference a year has made to our understanding of Covid-19 but it has also made it easy to forget the details.

For over a year I watched Ian Sinclair and Professor Rupert Read update their timeline on our plague year. They updated Ian’s Medium blog weekly to make sure that the life-and-death choices made by our government and the coverage by our media were recorded. This timeline has aimed to be the most comprehensive record of the government’s response to the pandemic in the UK.

In late 2020, I contacted Ian and Rupert to suggest making it into an eBook. I knew that documenting the events in a book was important not only as evidence but for posterity. This was public knowledge that needed to be kept safe. As a book editor, I had a solution for how to do that.

We added an introduction, a conclusion and short summaries for key events at the start of each month. The entries in the timeline nearly all appear at the time they took place. Sometimes reports on events were not published until afterwards, so an event that took place in 2016, such as Operation Cygnus, appears in 2016, rather than when the report was published.

Rupert had a sense, in February–March 2020, that the then-emerging coronavirus pandemic in the UK would be, in the words of editor of The Lancet, Richard Horton, a ‘national scandal’, especially when compared to the appropriately rapid and precautious response to Covid-19 that occurred in many other island states (such as Taiwan and New Zealand).

Now in April 2021, with over 150,000 dead in the UK and over £37 billion gone to a test and trace system that has been widely criticised and has badly failed us, Ian and Rupert have been proven right.

We have made this ebook available for free and published under a creative commons license. The print edition is sold at cost with no royalties. Our aim is to keep the events of 2020—2021 alive in people’s memories. To quote Rupert: ‘the UK civilian carnage, from the avoidable Covid-catastrophe, has been higher than that from the entire Second World War. The national scandal whose outlines we trace in their terrible detail, in this timeline, should be definitively career-ending for the politicians who have presided over it.’

Let’s remember that.

Compiled by Ian Sinclair & Rupert Read (edited by Joanna Booth), A Timeline Of The Plague Year is a comprehensive record of the ‘national scandal’ that’s taken place in the UK.

The ebook is available to download for free from our website covidtheplagueyear.wordpress.com and https://www.lulu.com/en/us/shop/rupert-read-and-ian-sinclair-and-joanna-booth/a-timeline-of-the-plague-year/ebook/product-r42g2j.html

Launch event details: Tues Ap. 27th, 7.15pm; with Andy Towler and Stefan Simonowitz joining the authors; introduced by Joanna Booth: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/launch-of-the-book-a-timeline-of-the-plague-year-tickets-148902303799

Inspection of council accounts

From September 1 to October 12, the Bristol City Council accounts can be questioned and are open to audit. See the following link for information:

https://www.bristol.gov.uk/council-spending-performance/bristol-city-council-audited-accounts

I sent in my request for invoices and reports this morning in order to assess whether the statement of accounts needed to be challenged.

I am writing to request invoices and reports associated with the statement of Bristol City Council’s accounts for the year ended March 31 2020. I would like to receive them electronically. 

I attach a list of 960 entries from the £500+ spending spreadsheets provided by the council. Do let me know if you have any questions about this.

Please provide any invoices attached to the City Office or City Mayor cost codes where they have not been provided in the £500-spend spreadsheets.

Impact Social related

In addition to providing the invoices for the company Impact Social, please provide all reports associated with them (invoices #621-630) in the attached spreadsheet.

L&G related

In July 2019, at Cabinet, the council approved the following in relation to an agreement with L&G for the land at Temple Island:

  • the Council approved entering into an Agreement for Lease  
  • Cabinet approved a project budget of up to £0.5m to support the development of proposals for the Temple Island site. This funding to be utilised for internal BCC staff time and fees, professional consultancy fees, site and survey work and including an appropriate contingency allowance  

In February 2020, the cabinet approved the following:

  • the Council entering into conditional agreements and an agreement for lease
  • the allocation of £2m to the G&R Directorate to support the development of the project  

Please provide the following in relation to the above [from July 2019 and February 2020]:

  • the conditional agreements and the Agreement for Lease with, and in relation to, L&G
  • Any invoices associated with the initial £500,000 project budget in relation to BCC staff time and fees on this project, professional consultancy fees, site and survey work, and any invoices for ‘appropriate contingency allowances:
  • Any invoices and reports associated with the £2m allocated in February to the G&R directorate.

If you need any further information then please let me know. I am a Bristol resident and a member of the NUJ.
Best regards,

Joanna

Link to the attachment I sent: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1OWmL0j4fMlP3Sy0mLnSBlrlT1gtgRjQP/view?usp=sharing Let me know if you have any trouble viewing it.

This is the second time I have asked to inspect Bristol City Council’s accounts but last year I was deemed to have asked without providing a reasonable amount of time so the request was denied.

Update: 10.57am

I’d forgotten to include the EY reports on Bristol Energy and City Leap so have requested those too.

Apologies for the additional email — I left out four transactions, which I attach to this email. They are numbered consecutively in addition to the previous spreadsheet: 961 to 964.
I would like to see the invoices, project briefs and reports of these four invoices.

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1a1Uy66R6txu6OOKLMR0HkjkA1JxTBgni/view?usp=sharing

The Memory Police by Yoko Ogawa

Yoko Ogawa has won every literary award there is in her country. That’s how the novel is introduced before it begins, and it struck me as an odd thing to write. Each story stands alone. Why should my enjoyment of this story be affected by what other people think or how she is judged? But as I finished reading about a trapped writer writing about a writer who was trapped it occurred to me that maybe it’s all part of the same narrative.

Ogawa blends reality and fiction in a way that the dystopian events around her become understandable to us. We live on an island where things have gone wrong. Things disappear — ordinary things, things that shouldn’t matter to the people in power — and life goes on. How much can we stand to lose? Today it’s a rose but tomorrow?

What can you let go of right now? Your laptop, phone, coffee, children, parents? There’s a sense of a Buddhist letting go in this story. Remembering how things used to be hurts. When you don’t remember, however, you can float away, free.

Does the same life go on? What does it mean and what are the consequences? Her lyrical approach to reality and to isolation helps us explore how it feels. Seeing it through a Buddhist angle shifts the narrative from the dystopia we are used to.

In the reviews, many compare it to Orwell’s 1984. There is a secretive police that round up those who won’t obey. They are then tortured and murdered. Some come back — those found not guilty/useful — but most are never seen again. We do have a sense that they are uncaring and certainly destructive.

This is a wonderful narrative. I never quite knew where I would end up as I followed our nameless characters. We don’t find out their names. We learn of R — her editor — and the old man, and her mother and father. We don’t find out her name. Which makes sense. Are our names in our diaries? Do we need them when we talk to ourselves, or listen?

Jesus was such a great Buddhist that he even gave up his own body. Ogawa wonders and answers, what happened next?

The Memory Police was published 15 August 2020

Is the council tax reduction scheme back on the cards?

There has been an increase of 500% in claims of the council tax reduction (CRT) scheme according to Cllr Dudd, speaking at the Cabinet meeting on 28 April 2020.

Two weeks previous to that Bristol247 wrote: “Since mid-March, the applications for reduced payments have gone from an average of around 100 a week to 642 in the past week.”

Might the council be looking to reduce it again, however?

CTR is on the agenda for the Overview of Scrutiny and Management Board meeting on 8 July but there is no information as to why. The report won’t be published until 6 July, however. Papers to scrutiny should be made available a week before the meeting but that is not happening. They are being published on 6 July only because the matter is due to go to Cabinet the following week.

The council tried to reduce the council tax reduction scheme in 2017 for the year 2018/19. After much campaigning by opposition groups and Acorn, the idea was abandoned.

While noting that the consultation itself states: “Councils are required to review their CTR schemes annually and consult on any proposed changes to them.” The council had initially decided to not retain the option as it had been.

“Options were taken to Executive Board for approval and it was decided that the council would not be consulting on the current scheme as an option due to the council’s current financial position.”

At the time, ITV West reported that: “The Mayor of Bristol says changes must be considered but the most vulnerable people will still be protected.

‘We are facing some of the most difficult decisions on how we fund public services in Bristol’s history. All the options presented recommend continuing to support those in severe financial need and take into account the need for a discretionary fund and some protections for those worst off’. [ITV]

We don’t yet know what will come to OSMB on 8 July but the three options suggested initially for the CTR are listed in the following consultation document.

  1. Make a 25% payment mandatory for those on CTR
  2. Make a 7.5% payment mandatory for those receiving CTR
  3. Develop a banded scheme with various options ranging from payment of 25% to 75%.

The deadline for any public questions to OSMB were due 2 July so it is not possible to ask about it. I have lodged a formal complaint about the lack of reports and timely information.

Review: The Criminology of Boxing, Violence and Desistance by Deborah Jump

Boxing is “the only sport where you have two doctors on hand, a resuscitation team on standby, and an ambulance outside” (Roger, 63, retired boxing coach). It’s also being promoted as the sport that will help young men desist from violent crime. How can this violent sport help in preventing violent crime?

I come to Jump’s work via the filter of Loic Wacquant’s Body & Soul, an ethnographic research study on, as he described it in a lecture, ‘a skinny French white guy in South Chicago’s Black neighbourhood learning to box’.

Wacquant (2004:31) referred to boxing gyms as ‘islands of stability and order’, in that they ‘protect an individual from the street’ and ‘act as a buffer against the insecurity of the neighbourhood and pressures of everyday life’. Wacquant believed that boxing gyms helped to regulate men’s lives, when disorder and delinquency engulf it.

When I discovered Wacquant at university, we weren’t yet as a society at the stage of promoting boxing as the answer to social ills. As that focus has increased, however, Deborah Jump’s book The Criminology of Boxing, Violence and Desistance provides an in-depth and very specific look at the merits of it.

In Bristol, we have had the election of a mayor who has said, “Boxing was a big part of my teenage years and taught me discipline, self-control and how to overcome set-backs”. This has been almost as prominent as Banksy’s painting of the door to the Empire Fighting Club and subsequently providing them with quite a boon. The mayor has proudly brought boxing into City Hall.

He has also made the front pages of the local press by bullying a member of the media, has said that activists can expect to be ‘tackled’, and has aggressively rebutted an NHS doctor who had brought a petition to City Hall about the air quality that is killing 300 a year; so much so that councillors approached the doctor afterwards to offer their apologies for his behaviour.

While the paradox is fresh of how violence can fight violence, let’s look at how this text can help us understand boxing and its potential.

Jump, a senior lecturer in criminology at Manchester Metropolitan University, a former youth worker, and a youth offender manager addresses this question. Can boxing turn men away from violent crime?

The biggest contradiction seems to be about helping men avoid violent crime in an environment that suggests violence is the answer. As she writes:

the masculine cultural values transmitted in the gym environment, especially in relation to homophobia, hyper-masculinity and the accomplishment of such through ‘masculinized vocabulary’ (Deuchar et al 2016) are not necessarily conducive to desistance from crime.

“I argue that the enclave of the gym and the majority of its
members are actually compatible with violent criminogenic attitudes,
especially those that pertain to the defence of masculine ideals. “

Jump questions common tropes that suggest boxing is a panacea for all social ills, and she unpicks the criminal justice responses to youth crime and the well-intended misgivings that boxing is the cure.

policy makers and parents, as well as criminal justice agencies, believe that the structured disciplining environment of the gym is enough to combat criminogenic attitudes and violent behaviour.

She dispels this myth.

She proposes that boxing is a convincing ‘hook for change’ (Giordano
2002), and the appeal of the gym is undoubtedly a powerful one.
However, more needs to be done to challenge the masculine discourses present within the gym environment. She does this by revealing the fragility of the narratives.

She suggests that the appeal of boxing lies in its ability to generate a “defence against male anxiety and vulnerability, and that the environment itself is tailored to the prevention of repeat victimisation.”

“In other words, the attendees are not just there to become boxers, they are there to sequester any form of male vulnerability and victimisation behind physical capital and gloved fists.”

In her 2016 article: They didn’t know whether to ” fuck me or fight me ” : An ethnographic account of North Town boxing gym, she writes: “The ‘habitus’ of the boxing gym enabled most men to view violence as an acceptable solution to a problem.” A particularly striking point is made in relation to the people she met at the boxing gym: boxing was “employed as a resource to command fear.”

Men’s identities are stripped down and examined. The intention of some seeking the boxing gym is to hide their weaknesses and to find affirmation. In relation to this, Jump writes:

Certainly, the concept of ‘hardness’ sits neatly with psychoanalytical object relation theories, whereby some men are endowed with fragile self-boundaries and a deep ambivalence towards intimacy, and will defend against this exposing vulnerability, by disguising it behind a carapace of muscle and bodily capital (Wacquant 1995b).

Jump’s text starts with a history of boxing, and its masculine traditions, starting from its Spartan usage to train men in between battles, and ending up in the use of it as a sport with a particular appeal in relation to class. She then provides ethnographic case studies of boxers she was able to approach and interview as part of her research.

The ethnographic chapters provide insight and a lens through which we can hear the boxers speak for themselves. Jump highlights her own effect in the interviews while simultaneously drawing out the messages from her case studies. We learn about the roles of the gym members and particularly the influential position of the trainer at the gym.

Her conclusions are useful to note. “Not every sport provides the same outcomes in terms of pro-social development, and desistance from crime.” There is also an argument to be made that “sports – particularly violent, combative ones – reinforce a sense of hegemony and promote attitudes favourable to violence, especially when concepts of status or winning become threatened.”

In boxing, violence is specifically linked with winning and this is imperative in “maintaining valued identities and status-forming attributes” such as respect, honour and status through violence. This mentality fostered through such sports, normalises violence as an everyday occurrence.

How does that help individual growth and change, however? One suggestion is that change can’t come without a ‘redemption script’ (Maruna 2001).


This is a process where previous behaviour becomes acknowledged and worked through, and subsequently ‘knifed off’ as a part of oneself no longer valued.

In boxing, however, violence and physical status are valued so it is difficult to cut off this identity because as Jump puts it, “young men often draw upon the social capital that violence can offer, regardless of whether or not they take it ‘out of the ring’.”

In practice

There are three detailed case studies of interviews Jump has with Frank, Eric, and Leroy. Their families, histories and experiences at the gym are approached and used as context for how they see boxing. Jump sets out the theories and approaches she will be using in the first chapters of the book, and then examines them in relation to people she has interviewed.

Reality comes up against theory.

The reality is that boxing is appealing for men, as cited in this text, and the way it is used to gain respect and promote fear. Physical toughness and bravery are noted as boxers revel in being perceived as fighters. Not only does it come with a sense of “satisfaction and pride for those who participate, but also adds to the element of danger and masculine prestige contained in the image.”

Winning is associated with violence, and preparation comes from the establishment of physical capital — one’s body.

The preening and manly display, coupled with the psychological realisation of physical capital, was carnivalesque at times – and, in some respects, grotesque, as some men would approach their bodies with a dysmorphic lens. Put simply, the investment in the body as a structure was extreme. Some men would push their desire for bodily perfection to bizarre lengths, sometimes culminating in vomiting after workout sessions or, as with the case of Eric, starving oneself to “make weight”.

In the gym as well, there was a hierarchy based on physicality and the “Bouncers and professional boxers were at the top of the hierarchy,” which seemed to be determined by the “participants’ capacity for violence”. Those with the most physical capital had the most power.

The main premise of Jump’s book is examining the notion that boxing can help men desist in violent crime. While there are female boxers, Jump herself notes that her ability to participate in the boxing environment was limited by being a woman.

Her text raises some important questions about ‘how’ boxing is meant to help with violent crime, and the limitations of just funnelling violence into a specific environment without the ability to transform it.

When you are taught that winning is important and that violence and physical capital are the primary methods of winning, then how can you go from that to cooperation and change?

Jump’s ideas on boxing being part of “boys’ socialisation through sport, competition and success, bodies, emotions and pain, domination of women, and aggression and violence” are important to note.

There are female boxers and the London 2012 Olympic Games were the first to feature women’s boxing. Jane Crouch, the first officially licensed British female boxer in 1998, who has won numerous world titles lives in Bristol and has just had autobiography optioned into a movie. Bristol is also known for its female pugilists who used to fight at the side of the Hatchet and inspired the novel The Fair Fight by Anna Freeman.

It feels there is more to be explored about boxing but Jump does a great job of focusing on only her remit. She doesn’t get distracted and she answers the questions that need answering.

Boxing can help provide a source of belonging, loyalty and support, and is helpful in breaking down barriers in segregated communities. The strenuous exercise also provides rewards and benefits to self-esteem. However, it is not possible to separate the benefits of the sport with the masculine discourses and physical risk.

When advocating boxing as a solution, it is also important to understand the underlying cultural messages transmitted in hyper-masculine arenas and to provide young men with positive role models who they can identify with.

The Criminology of Boxing Violence and Desistance by Deborah Jump is published by Bristol University Press.


Will the council be spending another £90k on monitoring mentions of the mayor on social media?

“The Council is planning to develop additional Deliberative Democracy work in 2020/21 to further strengthen public engagement,” states the Q4 Performance Report that is going to scrutiny in July. Previous ‘democracy work’ by the council has meant the mayor paying £90k of public funds to check what people were saying about him on Twitter. I thought I should follow-up.

The email to democratic services has been published below. The rest of the post is a roundup of some highlights.

The Overview and Scrutiny Management Board is meeting on 8 July 2020 and the agenda is available here.

The last item is the Performance Report (PR) for Quarter 4. It includes various interesting updates.

Air Quality — As XR activists sit on top of City Hall and are ignored by the mayor, we learn that the number of deaths attributable to air quality have increased since 2017.

SEND — The targets for Education and Health Care Plans are well-below target with only 10 being issued within 20 weeks. This does not mention the quality of the plans or whether they will be appealed, and if indeed they mean that the child has a school place.

The Affordable housing target is well-below what was desired. Only 113 affordable houses build in Q4.

The Housing Festival Ltd gets a mention [or is it Monastery 2.0?].

The council are apparently benefiting to a sum of over £500k on the work that it has been doing. Note that the Housing Festival has so far been paid £225k by Bristol City Council with only £115k of that from a WECA grant for innovation.

I would have liked to ask a few questions of OSMB but was limited to two. i chose to ask about Impact Social and deliberative democracy because I have lodged a complaint with the ICO about the refusal of my subject access request by the council, and about the council’s lack of GDPR notice.

Hi Democratic Services,

In the Performance Report published for the OSMB meeting, the text to item:WC4 BCP533 Increase the percentage of people who feel they can influence local decisions (QoL) states the following: ” the Council is planning to develop additional Deliberative Democracy work in 2020/21 to further strengthen public engagement.”

Residents already know about the £90,000 paid to Impact Social for monitoring social media (with no clear GDPR specification), and the £8000 a year to Delib Democracy for a platform for the Citizens Panel. In addition to the Quality of Life Survey, would you please let me know:

1. What is the additional Deliberative Democracy work in 2020/21?

2. Whether the Impact Social contract is being cancelled or renewed in September 2020?


You can see further information about Impact Social at this link: https://medium.com/@jo.stillawake/has-the-bristol-mayor-learnt-the-wrong-lessons-from-cambridge-analytica-a17b26421ff1

Thank you,

Joanna

How many deaths are acceptable?

The following is my question to Cabinet on 28 April about the Clean Air Zone that the mayor wants to postpone:

In January, young Rife journalist, Deqa Hassan wrote about the silent voices in the green movement. She talked about white liberal middle-class people dominating the discourse on the environment, and those who are absent. Sometimes individuals are represented but never communities. She is talking about unheard BAME communities, and the privileged people who can avoid the externalities of the effects of pollution.

In Bristol, the silent voices are those overrepresented in the death counts such as in Lawrence Hill that has a ‘very much higher than average BME population as % of the total population’. First, it was deaths from air quality – 7.5% of deaths in Lawrence Hill, and 6% in Central ward. (According to the Bristol City Council Equality Impact Assessment on the clean air zone https://democracy.bristol.gov.uk/documents/s48444/CAZ%20EQIA%20Final.pdf ) These are the highest proportions in the city.

Now we can add Covid-19 deaths to those lists of sick, silent and dead voices.

We already know that the deaths of around 300 Bristol residents could be attributed to air pollution each year. Now, research has identified a link between air quality and Covid-19 fatalities in Italy and in England, (https://www.medrxiv.org/content/10.1101/2020.04.16.20067405v2.full.pdf) .

In Rife magazine, Hassan raises her voice to say: “In Bristol, Fishponds, Stapleton and Easton suffer from the worst air pollution in the entire city. These areas house a lot of Bristol BAME residents and they lie along and collect emissions from the M32. I’ve been given accounts of white colleagues who have changed their cycle routes to and from work to avoid Easton in order to save their lungs just a few minutes in that area, yet BAME families live and work in this pollution every single day.” https://www.rifemagazine.co.uk/2020/01/who-are-the-silent-voices-in-the-green-movement/

Her call is being ignored, however.

According to the latest CAZ update going to Cabinet on 28 April 2020, Mayor Rees has written to Grant Shapps MP, Secretary of State for Transport to “urge the Government to rethink the implementation of Clean Air Zones and the disastrous effect that complying with the timeline, as set out within the legal Direction, will have on businesses in Bristol during this unprecedented time of uncertainty for them.”

Any postponement of the CAZ as requested by the mayor of Bristol will result in additional deaths not only from air quality, but quite likely from Covid-19 as well. The additional deaths are more likely to be from BAME communities.

My question is: How many deaths are acceptable for the mayor of Bristol, in order to avoid the “disastrous effect” that complying with the timeline will have “on businesses in Bristol”?

Will the mayor listen to James Durie, director of Business West and chair of the One City’s Economy Board, who says that in recovering from coronavirus and stimulating our regional and national economy, we must “put the need for clean air at the centre of how we do it”?

 

 

Has the mayor learnt the wrong lessons from Cambridge Analytica?

 

On February 19, I revealed that Bristol City Council had contracted for £90,000 with a social media company called Impact Social so they could analyse what was being said about the mayor.

There are three issues with this contract: 1) the cost is very high for a time when the budget had just been cut by £33 million; 2) we don’t know what the purpose of the data collection was; and 3) there seems to be no clearly presented GDPR notice about how this data is to be/being used and for how long it will be kept.

Apart from the exorbitant cost of the service in the midst of millions of pounds in cuts to the council, the purpose of the analysis remains a mystery.

[Keep reading at the following link]

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