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Classroom Controversy

  • ISIS brand

    ISIS behead American journalist

      The beheading of American freelance photojournalist James Foley by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has shocked the world. He was taken prisoner in northwest Syria in November 2012 while on assignment for the Global Post. ISIS posted the video of his beheading on social media, depicting the gruesome beheading, as well as an explanation justifying the act. Why ISIS beheaded James Foley Beheading is not a new tactic. During the Iraq war Al Qaeda in Iraq carried out many beheadings of their prisoners. Kenneth Bigley, a British civil engineer and Nick Berg, an American Telecoms worker were beheaded and their videos uploaded to the Internet. The act of beheading and its videoing is gruesome and repulsive but it represents a particular type of conditioning and mindset, one that has no guilt or remorse, it is cold and calculated. The mentality of the executioner, as well as other ISIS fighters is that of a soldier. In his 7/7-suicide video Mohammed Sidique Khan clearly articulates the type of mentality I am referring to:  “We are at war and I am a soldier. Now you too will taste the reality of this situation.”  The act of beheading and videoing by ISIS is a continuation of the ‘shock and awe’ strategy employed Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who was the leader of Al Qaeda in Iraq before he was killed in 2006. ISIS is more sophisticated and tactical and blends this with extreme savagery, and as experts on violent extremism have noted, it is more brutal than Al Qaeda. If we analyse the beheading video of James Foley we see that he and the other hostage are wearing jumpsuits, similar to those worn by Guantanamo Bay detainees. By using these suits ISIS are inviting viewers of the video and those that hear about the beheading to think and imagine how the group is treating its prisoners. In doing so they are sending a chilling and powerful message to Western governments and engendering moral panic among their populations. The video also demonstrates that the group is highly sophisticated and has qualified and well trained media team that is adept in using the latest technology and understand branding and marketing. The video could quite easily have been part of a Hollywood movie scene, suggesting that Western cultural references play a central part in the group’s media strategy. It is counterproductive to think about and use vocabulary that portrays ISIS as a group from the dark ages. Such thinking will only lead to flawed and ineffective policies. The group needs to be understood as a sophisticated, militarily astute, technologically advanced and statecraft orientated. Only with such an understanding can effective polices be developed. The execution of an American citizen has achieved the same goal for ISIS as 9/11 did for Al Qaeda. The killing not only sends a frightening message but also demonstrates that the group can attack Western societies without directly attacking any particular country. The execution strikes at the heart of the American sense of identity and masculinity, as well as traumatising the American public and gaining revenge for Muslim suffering. The beheading is not only a direct challenge but also a tactic to corner the US and its allies and force them into war that they do not want. The executioner in the video explains ISIS’s motivation for beheading James Foley, which he states is in response to American airstrikes in Iraq. The man has a British London accent, suggesting that he is from London. Prof Paul Kerswill, a linguistics expert at the University of York told the media that he believed the man spoke: “Multicultural London English most commonly found in London’s East End. He probably has a foreign language background but it sounds like multicultural London English, which is people from all kinds of backgrounds who mix in the East End, a new kind of cockney.”  The professor indicates that the executioner is a product of multicultural London. But his ethnic origin is not clear but media reports are claiming that Egyptian-born British citizen Abdel-Majed Abdel Bary is responsible for James Foley’s murder. According to media reports, a former hostage has identified the executioner as the ringleader of three British jihadists referred to as ‘the Beatles’. They are thought to be the main guards of foreign nationals in Raqqa, a stronghold of the ISIS Islamic State. The choice of using a British national is strategic, in that he is able to relate to the English speaking audience. Reminder for Britain For the British public the execution will remind them of Lee Rigby’s murder in 2013, which was also carried out by using a knife. Undoubtedly, like the Rigby murder there will be repercussions for Muslims. The video also poses a lot of questions for the British government and raises concerns over the effectiveness of its counter-extremism strategy. Since 9/11 the government has spent millions of pounds on surveillance and programmes to prevent radicalisation, yet we still see young Muslims continue to acquire extremist ideas and find there way to conflict zones and engage in acts such as beheadings. Aside from the governments counter-extremism polices there is a more fundamental question, which needs to be addressed concerning social policy about the environment that led a British man to become a coldblooded killer. ISIS can be blamed for hardening the views of its recruits but an executioner is not born an executioner, he or she is made into one. This type of mindset is not cultivated overnight, it is a process and often takes years to build. As one community worker explained to me: “Nowadays kids see violence everywhere, on TV, on the Internet, in music, on the street. Kids watch violence videos showing street fights and random attacks on strangers. Violence is everywhere. Some kids grow up in violent areas and homes, which can traumatise them and lead them to carry out violence. Kids grow up seeing, watching and hearing about violence, they are desensitized to violence… Kids join street gangs and engage in knife and gun crime, they are not averse to using violence… The leap from one type of violence to another is not very big.”  In ...

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  • Darwin and Evolution

    Charles Darwin: The Unlikely Revolutionary

  • zzz

    Stock in Trade: Social Class and the Hidden Curriculum of Work

  • images

    Capital and Computers – Observations on IT Innovation and Inequality

  • figure1

    Feminism Redux – Grande bites back at Bette

  • graduate.ju.top

    Chico versus Berkeley – And the Winner Is

  • Monkey Trial

    The Monkey Wars: Tennessee’s New Monkey Bill Attacks “Controversial Science”

  • rape_by_slytherin_prince

    Comrades in Arms – Rape and Abuse in the U.S. Army

  • The Tenor Of Our Times

  • Finding_Lilliput_by_potyzeff

    The Last Days of the Lilliputians

  • report-child-abuse

    Sociology versus Psychology – The Social Context of Psychological Pathology and Child Abuse

  • milla-jovovich-4th-kind-2

    Selfishness and Greed

  • You reap what you sow. The Demise of the Joe Paterno Cult at Penn State.

    False Gods and Monsters: The Terrible Costs of the Joe Paterno Cult at Penn State

Addressing the Academy

Research Summary


The Corporate Welfare State & Growing Inequality in American Society

Unlike a lot of people out there, I am one to say I TOLD YA SO. The current growth in inequality, the current "mess" in the global financial system, the weird political machinations that seem to directly contradict the principles upon which modern democracies were founded, these were all predicted decades ago by Sociologists. So what are you going to do? Well, read this article, but slowly. There's a lot of enlightening Sociology in this article. If it gets a little thick, pop on over to the forums and ask Owen a question. in the global financial system, the weird political machinations that seem to directly contradict the principles upon which modern democracies were founded, these were all predicted decades ago by Sociologists. So what are you going to do? Well, read this article, but slowly. There

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Facebook and family

Facebook and Family  “I was hesitant to add family members on Facebook at first, but I’ve grown to enjoy it.  I’m not very good at keeping in touch with family, so I feel like if I’ve posted on Facebook I’ve done enough”—Mark, a Facebook user from California Facebook is everywhere!  However, the effects of Facebook on society are still unfolding. The company states that “Facebook’s mission is to make the world more open and connected. People use Facebook to stay connected with friends and family, to discover what’s going on in the world, and to share and express what matters to them.”  Facebook users create their own profile pages, which contain biographical data, current events, and photographs.

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Research Commentary

Stephen Haking's Stubbornly Persistent Illusion

Stephen Hawking’s God: A Stubbornly Persistent Illusion

Homo sapiens has enjoyed singular success at tweaking the environment because of the unique psycho-social wiring of the human mind ( Pagel ). Hearkening back to the nature-nurture debate, the human mind is a multi-dimensional intellectual construct that emerges from the complex combination of human biology (id), psychology (ego), and sociology (superego).  The human mind, and sense of self does not emerge purely in response to the growth of an operational brain. It takes healthy, well-functioning gray matter and long term, psycho-social training, learning, nurturing and emotional cultivation in order to create a context in which “the light can switch on” in a human mind.

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To boldly go...

Living the Dream: Transcending the Boundary between Sci-Fi and Reality

Visualization and imagination create the world. Or, as Dr. Tim says, reality starts with fantasy. Or, as I like to say, as above in consciousness, so below in matter. No where is this more clear than in the area of science fiction where reality consistently lags behind fantasy only by a half century or so.

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Ding Dong the Alpha Male is Dead

Is our socialization process a process of ideological indoctrination? As part of our socialization we learn "how the world really works." Our religions teach us of a cosmic "fight" between good and evil, science teaches us about the struggle for survival and "survival of the fittest," and everybody talks about how its OK for the "winners" to dominate the "losers." It is all part of the natural (or divine) social order! But is it really, or is it just indoctrination. You be the judge.

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Radicalization – Causes and Consequences

Yesterday, 7th of July 2013 was the eighth anniversary of the terrorist attack in London. The attacks led the British government to launch initiatives to identify why and how one becomes radicalized[1] and develop measures to counter the terrorism threat. The initiatives involved funded of think tanks, coopting Muslim organizations, as well as terrorism legislation. However, the efforts of the government and its partners haven’t had much effect on individuals becoming radicalized, as the murder of Lee Rigby and the rise of far-right extremist group the English Defense League (EDL) over the past few years indicate.

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A Biracial Journey to Understanding Identity

I can remember at about the age of eleven being at one of the many Arabic parties I would attend growing up.  The women were all laughing and dancing, their head scarves off, no men in the room.  They wore beautiful dresses and their hair and makeup were fully done.  They looked so elegant as I watched them belly dance effortlessly.  I remember wishing my hair was as dark and as thick as theirs.  I also wished my skin was as tan and my eyebrows as pretty.  Why did I always have to feel like the white girl at the Arabic party?  My cousins, aunts, and grandmother often introduced me as such:  “ This is Amira, Mazen’s daughter. She’s American.”

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Terrorist groups and European fighters in Iraq

  At present there is no independent Kurdish state but the ‘land of the Kurds’ crisscrosses Syria, Turkey, Iraq and Iran. However, the Iraqi Kurds have been able to gain autonomy from Baghdad. Kurdish aspirations for an independent state stem back to the days of Empire and the post First World War treaties, which carved up Ottoman territories. The two treaties that concern the Kurds are: Treaty of Sèvres signed in 1920, which mentions an independent Kurdish state and the Lausanne Treaty, signed three years later in 1923 that makes no mention of a Kurdish state.

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Obama, human rights and ISIS

Western leaders have suddenly woken up and realised that ISIS is a regional global security threat. This realisation has also forced policy makers and security experts to abandon their orientalist monocles. The desire to act ‘now’ by launching airstrikes on ISIS targets and by providing military and humanitarian aid to the Iraqi and Kurdish authorities raises questions about the ‘real’ motivations. Justifications for intervention President Obama’s reasons to intervene in Iraq, as he has said is to stop ‘these barbaric terrorists in order to protect Americans and prevent an act of genocide.’ He added, ‘the terrorists have taken over parts of Iraq and have been brutal to religious minorities, rounding up families, executing men, enslaving women, and threatening the systematic destruction of an entire religious community, which would be genocide’.

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Getting Ahead: A Case Study of Social Class in the USA

This photo of my parents reveals much about their personalities (hers vivacious and outgoing, his withdrawn and closed off), their relationship (little real contact), and also the times. The typicality of their lives reveals much about the USA. My mother was a farmer’s daughter whose father lost the farm to the banks, and they had to scrabble along in the slums of the big city, St. Louis. All her life she yearned for her bucolic childhood when everything was “nice.” My father was a coal miner and the son of a coal miner from West Virginia. He hated the mines so much that after the Second World War he stayed in the military as a professional soldier.

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