Sunday, 28 November 2010

Social Darwinism

March of Progress

Social Darwinism was mainly developed by Herbert Spencer, an English philosopher from the nineteenth century. It was based on Darwin’s theory of evolution, according to which living beings evolve through a process of natural selection. Theory of evolution was then applied to political and social issues that people encountered at the time. According to Spencer, natural selection shows that only rich and powerful people have the ability to adapt to their social environment. Therefore, it is only natural and moral to let them grow, while people who struggle should not be helped – only because it is not moral to encourage weak people to reproduce. On a political level, the theory encouraged the idea that strong and advanced populations should rule the world, while weaker countries should not be assisted.

Social Darwinism was used many times as a reason to persecute the weakest. Although this theory was not a cause in itself, it served many questionable actions European governments have undertaken in the 19th and 20th centuries, such as colonialism and imperialism.

It also served eugenics, a popular current in the early 1900s. It is described as a “biosocial movement which advocates the use of practices aimed at improving the genetic composition of a population". This so-called science promoted the idea of a superior race, and that inferior people should either be slaves or exterminated.

Eugenics led to many atrocities. From 1907, Some American states enforced laws according to which mentally ill people should not marry and that they should undergo sterilisation. Between 1907 and 1963, over 64,000 people were sterilised in the United States. And last but certainly not least, the Nazi government conducted eugenics programs in an attempt to maintain a pure German race. Between 1934 and 1937, an estimated 400,000 people were sterilised by the Nazi regime. The same regime killed thousands of institutionalised disabled through compulsory euthanasia programs. Here is a nazi poster promoting compulsory euthanasia.

This person suffering from hereditary defects costs the community 60,000 Reichsmark during his lifetime. Fellow German, that is your money, too."

Monday, 22 November 2010

London student protest documentary

This is the documentary about the London protest made by Veronica Frydel, Madeleine Klippel, Andrew Giddings and William Cooper. This is a brilliant piece of journalism, and we all hope to produce something as good as this one day! Well done guys.

Sunday, 21 November 2010

Innocence project conference - a few notes...

With emotion and anger in his voice, he gave a lengthy speech, plunging the audience in a complete stupor. At the age of fifteen, Paul Blackburn (pictured) was sent to prison for a crime he did not commit. Because he was labelled as a sexual offender, he explained in crude words how he suffered daily violence and abuse, was stabbed twice in the throat, and was even ordered by the warders to clean the floor of his own blood. Once transferred to a prison for adults, he became addicted to heroine.

Now forty-seven, Paul has spent half of his life in a cell, fighting inmates and taking drugs. Although Blackburn won his appeal in 2005, the two Cheshire police detectives who forced him to write a confession in 1978 never apologised. They are now retired and enjoy a full police pension. In a statement obtained by the Guardian, Cheshire police said: “This case was investigated 31 years ago, when rules relating to the questioning of suspects and the submission of evidence were very different to standards today."

This story is not unique. Miscarriages of justice do happen, and while most prisoners are factually guilty, the legal system is not perfect. Michael Naugthon, founder and chair of the Innocence Network UK wrote in the Guardian: “The INUK and its member innocence projects exist to give help and, perhaps most crucially, hope to potentially innocent victims of wrongful conviction or imprisonment who have exhausted the appeals system and legal aid services. Offering fresh pairs of eyes, students aim to find new evidence or argument that will assist them in making an application to the CCRC* or to the Scottish CCRC.”

CCRC*: Criminal Case Review Commission

Internet Investigation Techniques and Tracing Witnesses

By Neil Smith, Investigative researcher and trainer

Neil Smith gave us an insight into tracing people on the Internet using legal means.

When searching on Google, try to be specific, and use the advanced research tool. Google is much more powerful than we think.

Open Source is an amazing tool when tracing people. It contains many free UK database websites.

If you are looking for someone who is abroad, try Search Engine This website lists international search engines, from Aaland to Zimbabwe. is a website that helps you tracing people. You just need to enter a name, and it will find social network pages, articles and even Amazon wish lists about the individual you are looking for.

Governing body websites are a gold mine of information. If the person you are looking for was/is a doctor, nurse, dentist or teacher for example, chances are that some information will be available on the web. Here are two governing body websites: Law Society for lawyers or GMC for doctors. lists bankrupt people and gives their details.

Social network like Facebook, Twitter or Myspace are very useful. Even if the person you’re looking for is not on these websites, you can still try to find their relatives on them.

Friends Reunited is an old website that can be useful as it’s an old version of Facebook.

You can also look at these websites: Police Reunited, Scouts Reunited, Nurses Reconnected, Convicts Reunited. All of them are free. allows you to search birth, marriage and death certificates. is the same type of website, but you will have to pay to access information.

Neil Smith's website.

An investigative journalism approach to overturn alleged wrongful convictions

By Dr Eamonn O’Neil, award-winning investigative journalist

Investigative journalism must be the result of the journalists’ work and effort. It must involve material someone is trying to keep hidden. It also has to be in the public interest.

“Investigative journalism is the search for the best obtainable version of the truth”

Carl Berstein

Investigation techniques: in depth document analysis, move beyond documents and interviews, systematic project management and case review, innovative search techniques for witnesses and new evidence, specialised interview techniques and computer assisted reporting. Undercover reporter and secret filming are to be used only in last resort. You need to work from the facts outwards and not from a thesis inwards. And you must understand the legal system in which you are working.

How to proceed with the case: Evaluate all the case files as soon as possible, and start looking for anomalies in the prosecution & defence. Read as many news clips as possible.

On the field: Trace witnesses; try to find the policemen who were involved in the case.

One piece of advice… when interviewing potentially dangerous people, always meet them in a public place, never go on your own, get someone to follow you. Always tell them if you are recording the conversation. If you take them to the crime scene, rehearse the situation and see their reaction, examine the circumstances.

Try to know about the witnesses and their personalities before meeting them.

Generally, use your common sense and be safe.

The limitation of DNA evidence

By Professor Allan Jamieson, founder of the Forensic Institute in Glasgow

This section will be brief I am afraid, as the session was particularly difficult to understand for me – the man had a strong Scottish accent…

I have learnt that:

- One can move someone else’s DNA from an object to another.

- Although extremely unlikely, nothing proves that two people can’t have the same DNA.

- Interpretation of DNA analysis can be very difficult, and mistakes can happen, mostly when there are different DNA on the same object.

- If for some reason the DNA analysis doesn’t give you the name of the murderer, it can still exclude some of the suspects.

Read carefully the wording of the prosecution. If you find sentences like:

“The evidence is consistent with…”

“This is what I would expect to see if…”

“The findings would support assertions of…”

“…was consistent with DNA from the people being present”

“This could not be excluded”

This kind of sentences proves absolutely nothing, it is just hypothetical.

The failure of the criminal justice system and methodology to prove innocence

By Dr Michael Naughton and Gabe Tan

Naughton said that the system needs to change. Although the British legal system is one of the best in the world, it is flawed.

Many people claim their innocence when there are not, which definitely undermine factually innocent people. Some claim their innocence because they don’t understand what they did, or some believe that what they did was justified and therefore legal.

He also insisted about students’ commitment: “You will never progress in a case if you work an hour a week on it”.

Gabe Tan urged students to retain all the evidence. Never EVER destroy documents. They may seem irrelevant now, but they can be useful later.

Go through all the files: unused witness statements/evidence.

Search the evidence that could prove innocence, look at similar cases in archives that you could relate to the case you work on.

DNA exonarations are rare in the UK.

The absence of evidence doesn’t prove the evidence of absence. If DNA wasn’t found, the criminal could have found way to leave the scene “clean”.

Try to get a full account of the story. And last but not least, every piece of evidence has to be understood in the context.

This is how to conference ended – according to my notes anyway. I hope you will find this article useful for your future researches.

picture: The Guardian

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

News package 5: Winchester University hit hard by spending cuts

This week news report: the University's budget explained in detail.

Friday, 5 November 2010

news package 4 - Graduates face poorest job market in decades

News package 3 - Commuters pay more to get less

News package 2 - Tuition fees to rise up to £9000

News package 1 - No Student Finance hell this year

Apologise for the delay, here are the news packages I have produced in the last four weeks. Feel free to comment and criticise!

My very first news package was a bit of a "puff piece" I admit it. I mostly wanted to focus on the technical aspect of putting a news story together, rather than the content itself.

Seminar paper: James Joyce’s Ulysses

James Joyce was an Irish writer and poet born in 1822 in Dublin. He came from a modest background since his father was a terrible businessman. Joyce’s parents wanted their son to enter priesthood, but the author rejected religion in his teenage years. Joyce studied French, English and Italian at university. In 1902, he attempted to study medicine in Paris but quickly gave up because he could not understand French. He went back to Dublin, but soon after his mother’s death, he moved to Trieste (Italy). During these years, Joyce taught English, wrote Dubliners – which is a collection of fifteen short stories about the Irish middle class life. He never moved back to Ireland and died in Zurich in 1941.

The American literary magazine The Little Review serialised James Joyce's Ulysses from 1918. The journal published it until 1921, which is when the Post Office censored the magazine because its content was declared obscene.

Ulysses depicts an ordinary day in the life of Leopold Bloom, 16 June 1904. If it was not for Joyce trying to write a full and honest account of human consciousness, this novel would actually be an easy read. But unfortunately (for us) Joyce decided that he would make his work extremely difficult to understand - as he famously said: “I have put in so many enigmas and puzzles that it will keep the professors busy for centuries arguing over what I meant.”

The novel’s title refers the Odysseus hero, Homer’s most famous work. Many elements in Ulysses have a link with the Odysseus, including characters and chapters’ titles.

The book is divided in eighteen chapters, this is as far as the structure goes. Any kind of structure within the chapters appears to be non existent, as the author often used a stream-of-consciousness technique. This is a particular narrative mode that goes trough a character's thought, whether coherent or not.

Joyce went very far into describing every detail of human life. Maybe too far sometimes – do we need to read a book that describes what we experience every day as human beings?

“He allowed his bowels to ease themselves quietly as he read [...] Ah! Costive one tabloid of cascara sagrada [...] Print anything now. Silly reason. He read on, seated calm above his own rising smell.”

Since not many authors tried to describe life as it is before Joyce did, his book is very interesting from a literate point of view. The way he described the characters' thoughts in short sentences is quite disconcerting at first:

“Mr Bloom glanced from his angry moustache to Mr Power's mild face and Martin Cunningham's eyes and beard, gravely shaking. Noisy selfwilled man. Full of his son. He is right. Something to hand on. If little Rudy had lived. See him grow up.”

This succession of short sentences shows how we inwardly think. There is no structure, no proper sentences, only non elaborated thoughts and feeling.

Chapter 15: Circe

I haven't found anything that explains why chapter fifteen was named Circe. Circe is a goddess of magic in Greek mythology. The myth says that she gave a magical potion to her enemies in order to transform them into animals. Since chapter fifteen relates drunken events and hallucinations, my guess is that the magical potion here in the novel is alcohol, and that Circe is personified by Bella Cohen, the owner of the brothel.

Joyce used different styles of narrative throughout the novel. Surprisingly, this chapter takes the form of a play script.

Stephen, Lynn and Bloom go to a brothel. Bloom is very drunk, and most of the chapter relates his hallucinations. This makes Circe one of the most Freudian part in the whole novel. Everything in his hallucinations could be analysed from a Freudian point of view.

Let's take an example: Bloom's dead child appears. Here Freud would simply say that Bloom has a strong desire to resuscitate his son.

In another hallucination, Bloom has an hallucination where he's facing a trial, being accused of forgery and bigamy. Here, Freud would probably say that even though Bloom is an honest person, his Id confronts him to his worst fears through his hallucinations. In the early twentieth century, anti-Semitism was growing, and Bloom being Jewish, he unconsciously feared that he would be persecuted at some point because of his religion.

The chapter also depicts how stupid drunken men can be. Stephen smashes a chandelier with a walking stick, gets in an argument with a soldier for insulting the King, and finally get knocked down.

The whole chapter seems to be written in a drunken way. Once again there is no structure, but this reflects the story. The style is messy and not coherent, but it is very visual as well. The reader can imagine the scene happening as he reads.

My personal opinion is that Joyce has clearly succeeded in depicting human consciousness, but personally I don't know whether it is enjoyable from an entertainment point of view to read a book that relates ordinary events.