In sociology much stress is laid on the sociological explanations of crime and deviance. As over the past few decades there has been an increase in the public awareness of various types of crimes, sociologists have come forward to provide explanations of these situations. Labeling theorists have been interested in the role of media in relation to crime. After much discussion they have come up with two processes associated with the media: sensitization and deviancy amplification. Sensitization is the process whereby, media develops awareness amongst the general public regarding issues relating to morals.
Deviancy amplification on the other hand is a completely different process. It magnifies the deviant attitude of a supposedly deviant group and distorting in their image in the public causing further consequences for the group. Perhaps the most popular and most detailed study of deviancy amplification and media can be found in Stanley Cohen’s book Folk Devils and Moral Panics 1972. To begin with Cohen analyzed the relations of Mods and Rockers in 1964.
Mods were the original people from which particularly diverse groups such as skinheads and casuals evolved in the 1970s.
They were distinctive in their ways and followed soul music, wore ex-army coats and rode motor scooters. The Rockers on the other hand favored leather jackets, motorbikes and listening to rock and roll music. (Cohen, 1972) In 1964 a fight broke out among these two groups. As a result of these fights some of the youth were arrested. The journalists reporting this incident for the newspapers decided to make this tail a little spicier by distortion and exaggeration. The newspapers stressed on the fact that this had actually been a fight between the Mods and the Rockers who hated each other and had caused the violence. Cohen, 1972) The journalists’ distortion had produced a new wave in the youngsters of Britain. Now they had created rivalry between the Mods and Rockers which was inexistent previously. The youth had now to select between the two groups and this led to a rivalry which took shape because of the media. The preceding incident had taken place on the Easter Sunday. Then when the Whitson Bank Holiday came the newspapers created propaganda for the meeting and battles of Mods and Rockers. Although the Mods and Rockers did end up arriving in huge numbers they were unsure of why they had gathered.
The huge audience gathering had actually been the result of the massive propaganda by the newspapers. Although nothing significant happened the media reported scenes of violence and brawls. (Cohen, 1972) Following the newspaper alerts and predictions the government officials and law enforcement agencies like police force were on the alert for the slightest hint of disturbance. As a result, there were more than usual arrests and this led to more unrest. The police were ready to detain all people who fell into the stereotypes of youth deviants.
Many such youths who looked like Mods and Rockers were arrested and the magistrates who were also sensitized imposed heavier penalties to combat this new arriving crime wave. According to Cohen, it was the fault of the media and it in this way created crime through distortion and exaggeration. This process has been described and named as deviancy amplification. The distortion of the events by the media caused the youth to be perceived as troublemakers- folk devils. Simultaneously the law enforcement and public were made to think of them as a threat to law and order and actually causing a moral panic.
Armstrong and Wilson (1973) studied the relationship between crime reporting and the actual amount of crime in Glasgow. According to them over the years crime had become a local issue and now the people cared more about it. As a result it had become more of an election issue where large sections were dedicated to juvenile crimes. The factor which became more significant was the reporting of the crime rather than the real amount of crime. On the other area Fishman (1973) examined the crime wave related to the mugging of elderly people in the streets of New York.
He figured out that instead the amounts of these crimes were declining. He suggested that the crime wave depended on other factors. Fishman found out that the reported crime wave rose and fell depending on the major stories. These reporting led to numerous up and down variations in crime. Fishman argued that the editors are daily faced by a wide range of items which they need tow eld together to form cohesive news. They search for themes which will act as an umbrella to tie news items together. The result of this is an apparent crime wave. (Fishman, 1973)
The crime wave spreads across the media because all stories feed off one another. Newspaper editors and journalists check the output of other media and look to copy it. Thus we can derive this idea from the above examples that it was the mass media which was actually responsible for causing these crime waves which would have been inexistent otherwise. This is because there are a set of coherent stories going on in all news channels and thus the end up producing coherent sets of stories. Chibnall (1977) investigated how crime reporters got their information which later became the news.
The news of crimes which are presented in the news is actually those which the reporter find interesting and those which the police are ready to divulge. It is because of these factors white collar and corporate crimes are usually ignored by the police. Also marital violence and theft are considered as boring. Stan Cohen (“Folk Devils and Moral Panics”,1964) argues that what is significant about youth sub-cultures is not that they are either functionally necessary or indicative of attempts by powerless youths to resist “bourgeois hegemony”; rather, it is the idea that they are created by the Mass Media. Cohen, 1971) Cohen argues that sociological attempts to explain youth cultures in terms of structural pressures forcing a reaction amongst young people to their social situation is misconceived, since such attempts fail to recognize that youth cultures are not coherent social groupings that arise “spontaneously” as a reaction to social forces. Rather, he questions the basic assumption that “youth sub-cultures” are really sub-cultures at all. (Cohen, 1971) The crucial variable involved here is that of the Mass Media as a form of social reaction.
In this respect, the Mass Media manufacture youth cultures by focusing attention upon disparate, possibly-unconnected, forms of behavior and giving them a shape or structure. (Cohen, 1971) The media, thereby, provide an ideological framework (answers that create sense) for something that may just be a relatively simple collection of individuals. In this respect, media labeling results in the creation of youth sub-cultures by giving a meaning to the behavior of people.
The media, therefore, provide a “meaning structure” (“mods, skinheads, punks”, etc. ) to behavior that, prior to the labeling process, may well have not had any coherent meaning to the people involved. (Cohen, 1971) Thus, by applying a meaningful label to behavior, the media effectively create something (a youth sub-culture) out of nothing. That is, they provide youths with an ideological framework in which to locate their behavior (and live up to manufactured media myths concerning that behavior).
A classic recent example of this is acid house – groups of people who had nothing in common except a desire to party are manufactured by the media into some form of social collective (a youth sub-culture) with common interests, aims and beliefs. (www. sociology. org. uk) This means that the white-collar crimes and corporate crimes are ignored because the police feel that this was not their area of responsibility. Also other crimes like marital violence and shoplifting etc. were ignored because these were found to be dull by the standards of the crime reporters.
One of the most significant concepts in interactionist analyses of deviance is that of social reaction – the idea that, in order for behavior to be seen as deviant there must be some form of publically-stated response. If we follow this assumption to its logical conclusion, we arrive at the idea – in relation to youth sub-cultures – that a significant aspect of such cultures is their manufacture by powerful social forces (such as the Mass Media). When we looked at Interactionist explanations of crime and deviance, I suggested that one of the major problems for Interactionists was that, lthough they recognized the significance of power in the labeling process, they were unable to produce adequate theories of power (why some groups have it and so forth) without starting to introduce structuralist concepts into their argument. One way of getting around this “problem” is to attempt a synthesis of Structuralism and Interactionism – to take the powerful concepts developed by Interactionists (labeling, moral panics, and so forth) and align them with concepts developed by Conflict theorists (explanations of power, ideology and the like).
A form of self-fulfilling prophecy takes-over with the media taking on a role as mediator between wider society and the youths involved. Not only do the media “explain” behavior for its audience, it also provides feedback about how members of the youth sub-culture are expected to behave (and is, of course, suitably outraged when they exhibit such behavior). Homelessness has become an important issue in the last few years in the society. This has been increasing among the youth since the 1980s.
This has occurred due to the changes in the job market and because of their exclusion from the state benefits. Young people who are homeless are looked upon ambivalently by most of the population. It is for this very reason that they are selected by news reporters and media workers in order to give exaggerated details of them in the media. This wall causes the stigmatization of their roles. According to the analysis presented by Susan Hutson and Mark Liddiard (1994), seven themes are important is determining public’s perception of the issues.
Firstly it is the demonstration of an unfamiliar problem. This means that the media creates awareness of an unknown issue and help the people to come up with a definition of their own. Then there is the issue of the presentation of negative themes. It has been a common practice by the media personnel that the present the negative themes in a much greater proportion than the positive themes. More stress is laid on crime, drug uses and prostitution rather than the actual causes of homelessness. There is also a presentation of contrasts.
This is a common technique followed by journalists when comparing the bad with the good, delinquent with the normal etc. Apart from this the media also plays an important role in the presentation of stories that are interesting to the masses. For this the journalists personalize the issues giving it a personal human touch. The more remarkable the story the greater influence it will have. The point is that stressing the individual may obscure the structural causes. Apart from the above four themes the remaining three include the presentation of stereotypes, ambiguity, and structural issues and statistics.
The media defines the stereotypess and labels or describes them. For example the homeless are those who do not have homes and/or live with friends. Hutson and Liddiard’s work shows that there is great complexity to news reporting, presentation and interpretation than we normally assume. This complexity tells us that the role of media is not so straightforward as we imagine. Mass media has a very important role as far as criminology is concerned and not only does it create awareness but it is also the cause of fluctuations in the trends of the crime in the society.
Cite this essay
Crime and Media. (2020, Jun 01). Retrieved from https://studymoose.com/crime-and-media-new-essay