There has been a widespread trend over the past couple of weeks of censoring what could probably be classed as ‘liberal’ views with regards to criminal justice matters.
The most high profile of these cases came from the faces of the ‘Sun Justice’ campaign – Sara Payne and Shy Keenan – who use either personal or moderated Twitter accounts (depending on who you talk to) to promote their columns and disseminate, in my view, opinions that are tantamount to crime propaganda, citing “anti-victim prejudice’ as a hindrance to victims being able to obtain true justice. Of course, this is nonsense, and this is plain to see when taking a brief glance at current trends in sentencing policy (see the sex offender sentencing consultation, which reads as a ‘how to appease potential victims’ guide and the idea that victims of anti-social behaviour should be able to choose how to sentence the people who have offended against them.
After a blog post I wrote on the Sun Justice campaign in late 2012, I stumbled (coincidentally, and completely by chance) across the Twitter pages of Payne and Keenan, who expressed “prison reform” as a key priority to campaign for in their columns in 2013. I asked what they suggested as a potential idea for reform – a question that was brushed off as ‘stalking’ and I was subsequently blocked from replying to the pair’s tweets.
I was not the only person to suffer this fate. It seems that anybody who disagrees with these two campaigners are blocked – completely stopping any form of debate or open discussion. All this from a team who have previously referred to the need for a free and open press. Of course, this type of hypocrisy is not limited to this specific case, but it is the most high-profile I have witnessed since I began to use Twitter on a regular basis last April.
What baffled me the most, however, were the screenshots I was sent after being blocked, referring to (presumably) myself and others who have questioned the validity and impartiality of the content of Payne and Keenan’s columns. Take a look at these:
Of course, this is the point of the post you’re reading – to highlight the thought of “help [agree with] us or leave us alone”. However, the next shot displays a more sinister side, trying to invalidate the views of myself and others within the criminological research community:
Now, of course, it would be wrong of my to try to present myself as an oracle of knowledge about matters relating to criminal justice. I’m simply not. However, what I, and others, found particularly offensive about these two shots were the way in which academic experience and knowledge about criminal phenomena is considered to be less valid than Keenan and Payne’s. Naturally, being a victim of crime allows one to take a rather unique perspective, and this should be welcomed into rational constructive discussion, but when this experience leads to a twisted view on reality, and, frankly, unhelpful views in terms of the reintegration of particular offender groups, it must be challenged.
Of particular interest was that some of these ‘young’, ‘prejudiced’, ‘ignorant’ and ‘mindless’ tweeters, all of whom “have lots to learn” are actually experts and leading names within their respective sub-fields of criminology. Rhetoric such as this not only promotes the endurance of widespread stereotypical thinking, it silences dissenting views, and downplays the importance of evidence emanating from critical criminological scholars.
What would be nice to see is for celebrity columnists (including, but not limited to Payne and Keenan) to better engage in the subject matter, consider other peoples’ views, and to converse with them, rather than dismissing contrasting opinions as ‘prejudiced’ and blocking a debate from happening altogether. Remember, censorship is not conducive to productive debate and progress. In the meantime, we need critical criminologists to force their way into the mainstream and promote an evidence-based, objective criminal justice system for all.
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