Confession: Truth and Lies

The Innocence Project in the US works on cases of alleged wrongful conviction and imprisonment.  They point out how easily confessions can be contaminated.

The following information comes from their website:

Astonishingly, more than 1 out of 4 people wrongfully convicted but later exonerated by DNA evidence made a false confession or incriminating statement.

Why do innocent people confess?

The reasons that people falsely confess are complex and varied, but what they tend to have in common is a belief that complying with the police by saying that they committed the crime in question will be more beneficial than continuing to maintain their innocence.

The factors that can contribute to a false confession during a police interrogation include:

  • duress
  • coercion
  • intoxication
  • diminished capacity
  • mental impairment
  • ignorance of the law
  • fear of violence
  • the actual infliction of harm
  • the threat of a harsh sentence
  • misunderstanding the situation

Confessions obtained from juveniles are often unreliable — children can be easy to manipulate and are not always fully aware of their situation.

People with mental disabilities have often falsely confessed because they are tempted to accommodate and agree with authority figures. Further, many law enforcement interrogators are not given any special training on questioning suspects with mental disabilities. An impaired mental state due to mental illness, drugs or alcohol may also elicit false admissions of guilt.

Mentally capable adults also give false confessions due to a variety of factors like the length of interrogation, exhaustion or a belief that they can be released after confessing and prove their innocence later.

From threats to torture

Sometimes law enforcement use harsh interrogation tactics with uncooperative suspects. But some police officers, convinced of a suspect’s guilt, occasionally use tactics so persuasive that an innocent person feels compelled to confess. For instance, it is perfectly legal for law enforcement to employ deception or trickery in the interrogation room. Some suspects are untruthfully told that there is already evidence pointing to their guilt, such as a forensic test that links the suspect to the crime. Some suspects have confessed to avoid physical harm or discomfort. Others are told they will be convicted with or without a confession and that their sentence will be more lenient if they confess. Some are told a confession is the only way to avoid the death penalty. These tactics can be persuasive in eliciting a false confession.



Exorcisms Today

So you want to keep up with the times?  Or would you prefer to return to ‘traditional times’?  Either way, it appear exorcisms hold a lasting appeal for some.


Read Peter Munro’s article ‘Defeating the Devil: Why Exorcism in Australia is on the Rise’ for a fascinating look at exorcism in Australia.  What parallels can you see between this article – the claims of those who believe in exorcism and the views held by the Salem community in ‘The Crucible’?

Only last week national newspapers in the UK pointed out the alarming rise in exorcisms.


The Handmaid’s Tale: Introducing Serena Joy

THE HANDMAID’S TALE: Introducing Serena Joy

Your task is to carefully complete a set of notes on your ‘OFFRED & SERENA JOY’ page

Look carefully at how Atwood sets up the Commander’s Wife

Re-read Chapter 3 (pp. 22-26)

Re-read pp. 55-57

Watch the footage of Tammy Bakker (see blog post called Serena Joy)

You should take note of any symbols or motifs which are use.  Don’t forget the references to flowers – some specific ones are mentioned.  You are trying to comment on the significance (try to ask AND answer the question: ‘What does this suggest?).    You should capture quotations that embody something of their characters.  Try to comment on the nature of the Wife/Handmaid relationship.  Try to comment on what you perceive is the experience of Serena Joy in the time before and in the establishment of Gilead.

The Handmaid’s Tale: Freedom and Oppression in Chapters 4, 5, 6

The Handmaid’s Tale: Freedom and Oppression (chapters 4,  5 & 6)
Consider the differences we have been thinking about between status, authority, power and agency  and how we go explaining the nature of individuals and their relationships to others.  Try to get into the realm of expressing the feelings Offred has (clue: they are complex!). Do not try to answer these questions without first re-reading the text.

Re-read pp. 31-32 to the end of the chapter and respond in fully formed paragraphs incorporating evidence to the following questions:

1.  What are the “tiny peepholes” and their significance to Offred?
2.  What does Offred mean when she says: “Nobody’s heart is perfect.” Why do you think she thinks this?
3.  What is the nature the power dynamic between Offred and the young Guardians?


Re-read Chapter 5 and collect at least four quotations about the nature of freedom and four about the restrictions of Gilead – put these in your Red or Dead booklet in the appropriate section.  Comment on the language and what it suggests.  Look out for the Red Centre propaganda.


Answer the following questions in paragraphs:
1.  What does Offred mean by ” We have learned to see the world in gasps”?
2.  Re-read page 42 and the description of the bodies hanging on the wall, paying careful attention to Atwood’s figurative language here.  Her similes and metaphors are designed to horrify.  Which turns of phrase do this best, in your opinion?  What does Offred’s language tell you about her emotional state?
3. Read the paragraph that begins “I look at the one red smile.” to “…in my own mind.”  What do you think is going on here?


Stan Grant: Could this be the end of times? ABC News

Does the global terrorism threat, rising inequality and stagnant economic growth signal the end of times?

PHOTO: Russia and China are exerting their influence in the space created by US uncertainty. (Reuters: Carlos Barria)

What are our conditions today? What are these times we are living in?

Our headlines are of war or the threat of war. Our politics is divided. Inequality is rising. Terrorism is global. The climate is changing. Economic growth is anaemic or uncertain.

There is suspicion and fear in the air and demagogues only too willing to exploit it.

Confessions of a Late Blooming Feminist

I got my period early but with feminism I was a late bloomer.
Let me make the case for the slow dawning, the experiential, incremental creep towards the bright, blinding realisation that there is no other way to be.

I grew up in a family of strong, outspoken, smart women.  My aunts to uncles ratio was 7:1.  In my primary school the girls outshone the boys academically.  In my secondary school year level, the brilliant minds were all girls.  My mother worked full time in hospital administration; my father was a primary school teacher; they both worked a 1000 acres of farmland.  I thought that you couldn’t get more normal.  I look back though, and I can’t recall seeing my father work in the domestic sphere.  And I remember suspecting that his flying lessons were an indulgence we couldn’t really afford.

My teenage years are fairly blurred by time.  I had a voice and I felt listened to.  But I do remember an occasion when I was about 14 sitting in our parked car and my old Grade 4 teacher, Mr E leaned in the window to chat to my dad.  I remember that he made some comment to him about how I’d grown up and how he’d surely be fending off the boys with a shotgun.  I remember the ickiness of his comment and how I squirmed under his gaze.  I knew about feminism but in the conservative Western District of Victoria where I grew up, most -isms were regarded anywhere from deep suspicion to outright hostility (not a huge spectrum, it must be said).  I rejected the term ‘feminist’ – associating it with the cartoon depictions from a copy we had of The Bumper Book of The Two Ronnies featuring big-breasted women with stars for nipples who were sexily burning bras and saying stupid things.  Straight outta 1978.

With hindsight, my feminist awakening really should have happened at university.

I lived on campus in a residential college in 1996 and 1997: Queen’s College at the University of Melbourne.  I arrived with my belongings packed in a suitcase rather than a red and white spotted handkerchief on a stick, but really I was only a whisker short of being Country Mouse in the Big Town.  Except I was at College.  And I was a Fresher.


Queen’s College

During O-week, our mornings would begin at 6am with The Offspring’s ‘Come Out and Play’ reverberating around the college quadrangle and seniors banging on our doors, using their master keys to barge in and drag people out of their beds to participate in the day’s activities.  Activities like running around the other colleges, banging tin saucepans (they were on our ‘College Equipment’ list) and chanting homophobic abuse (“Trini-fags” as we ran through our rival Trinity College, for example); like when they got the boys lining up on the beach and the girls ‘racing’, crawling on our hands and knees across the sand to choose a partner whom we were then assigned to feed lunch to (we were their hands*).


College culture meant ‘naked quaddies’ where the football team would run marauding through the college, drunk beyond drunk, banging on doors, shouting obscenities.  This was a place where other people could decide your name for you in those early O Week days and it would follow you for the rest of your time at college: ‘Tickets’ (as in ‘he has tickets on himself’),  ‘Easy’, ‘Gruesome’ and ‘The Gimp’ for the boys and for the girls: ‘Mad Cans’, ‘Jungle Jane’ and ‘Bush Pig’ .  This was a place where a ‘Talent Night’ act was two boys, each naked but for a strategically placed sock, standing before a black bin ‘shotgunning’ cans of beer until one of them vomited.   This was a place where you got drunk at every opportunity and down at the pub you might see people ‘getting their cans out’ – dancing topless on the tables – or  ‘arc-ing up’ – where boys would set their pubes on fire (a trend set by the ominously named ‘Brown Dog’). But it was not without quirkiness and whimsy.  This was also a place where the quaintly named Bentley Stills VII  – a venerable white goat – would graze in the quadrangle while we were at uni or in the pub, but his rank was a chilling reminder of past Bentley Stills who had met their untimely ends at the hands of our rival college pranksters.

bentley stills.jpg

Bentley Stills VII watching the Intercollegiate Regatta

I look back now in wide-eyed wonder at my wide-eyed, dazedandconfused 17-year old self.  Did I look upon these things with horror or disgust or dismay?  I must confess, I don’t think so.  Did I speak up  publicly and question their value?  Definitely not.  I certainly had a deep sense of unease but the thoughts and feelings were ill-formed – a haze in the newness, the unexpectedness of it all.  I might have kept these ideas to myself because, quite frankly, when you’re trying to fit in with a bunch of strangers in socially high stakes activities, it’s a risk to trust anyone with your true thoughts and feelings.  The pressure to accept and be accepted was immense; I stuck with the herd in the early days at least.   I couldn’t initially tell who my people were because at that stage we were all about blending in with the crowd.  I remember feeling utterly disoriented during O Week.

So even after my college days, the idea of feminism was not much more to me than a way of viewing literature or history (I completed a Bachelor of Arts, after all). I rejected the label of feminist, back in the 90’s.  I just wasn’t into labels, ok?  It hadn’t dawned on me, yet, that feminism was a way of not just seeing the world but of being in the world.

Fast forward through my 20’s (good times living in London, believe me).  The narrative of my professional career does not involve any complaints of overt discrimination or sexism despite working in male dominated environments – all boys schools.  In fact, it does not involve any real complaints at all, save for the moaning my British school teacher friends did  (they embraced this national pastime with good humour).  The narrative of my personal life included dancing, house parties, pubs and clubs, travelling through Europe and staying up talking until the wee small hours.  Sure, my friends and I were all groped from time to time when we went out, fended off drunk and inappropriate men from time to time.  It seemed to be part and parcel of the deal when you Go Out. Eventually I returned to Melbourne, having convinced a lovely (and not at all moany) Englishman to join me.  We bought a house together and we had a daughter.

Stop right there.

A daughter.

And suddenly I am catapulted into a super important role of helping a little human grow up in the world and suddenly I see issues everywhere.  I have to ask myself the question: what kind of world do I want for my daughter?  What kind of world is she observing?  And as she grows up that another question: how do I explain this [insert various inequalities and injustices] to my daughter?

Suddenly all that was hazy or unclear about the difficulties growing up to be a woman in a world that is still organised around male-dominated systems of power, all this is shown to me in sharp relief.  Without consciously counting, it is as if I have tallied up all those little life experiences and observations of men and despite all the wonderful good stuff there is still: the lewd behaviour, the unwanted advances, the unsolicited attention, voices getting shouted down or dismissed, the differences in expectations, treatment, financial remuneration, division of labour and so on.  And then there’s the way society helps us to consciously or otherwise construct ‘femininity’ and ‘masculinity’ as binaries.  My daughter will get the focus and feedback on her appearance: weight, beauty, fashion.  All those pink things.  Pretty things.   This is a world which cannot guarantee my daughter will be free of discrimination and harassment, where her path in life is not so much the road less taken, but the road that is poorly made, full of potholes and danger, and it doesn’t go as far but it will still make all the difference.  I fear that a man might harm her (such a terrible gender bias to have to have – and I only know good men).  I think that opportunities for her will be limited on account of her gender.  And I wonder if my daughter will inherit habits and ways of thinking that limit rather than enable her potential.

I came late to feminism.  In some ways that makes me complicit in the sluggishness of our progress.  I am now seeing the world and its inequalities as it unfolds to my two daughters.  Now I have clarity.  I can only say that everything matters.  I will sweat the small stuff.  I will sweat the big stuff too.  My daughters might have an easier time of it if I do.


Mae and Nelle



The Handmaid’s Tale is only fiction, right?

I made a rule for myself: I would not include anything that human beings had not already done in some other place or time, or for which the technology did not already exist.” —Margaret Atwood

Margaret Atwood calls her novel, ‘speculative fiction’ to distinguish it from science fiction or the dystopian genre.  Her novel is an act of imagination founded in historical fact.  To understand what the political, cultural and historical events and issues Atwood drew on for inspiration, go to the MHS libguide.

So Triple J’s Hack found Ms Sheko’s libguide and got in touch to talk about the issues in the text and the Hulu series now showing on SBS.  What potential is there for Atwood’s Gilead to become a reality? Listen as MHS Year 11 student Hrishikesh Thatiot gives his views on air on Triple J.


(Photo source)

An article from Hack about The Handmaid’s Tale: Could The Handmaid’s Tale happen today? For some women, it’s already reality.


Madonna performs at the Women’s March in Washington.

Making babies is beginning to look as difficult for men as it always has been for women


(Image: Woody Allen and Robert Walden in Allen’s 1972 film Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Sex … Photograph: Rollins-Joffe/Rex/Shutterstock)

Making babies is beginning to look as difficult for men as it always has been for women. (The Guardian)

Men. You had one job. And now look what’s happened! The sperm count of western men has fallen by half in 40 years. It is likely to decline further. This is a wake-up call. Human extinction beckons.