“The news media are one of our main sources of knowledge about crime and deviance. Often the media will create a moral panic surrounding crimes and criminals or deviants. Moral panics can lead to a range of responses by the public, by agents of social control and by the criminals or deviants themselves. Over-representation of certain types of crimes may lead to heightened fear of these crimes by the public. In some cases, moral panics may also result in a change in the law. ” 01.
Using material from Item A and elsewhere, assess sociological explanations of the role of the mass media in creating moral panics about crime and deviance (21 marks).
The Media are often the subject of claims that they cause crime and deviance through their devotion to exaggerating the truth in order to have a “newsworthy” story. Often it is the case that the media will play an important role in what Durkheim would say is maintaining the boundaries of society, reaffirming what is socially acceptable, and what is not.
Durkheim would also say that all change starts with deviance, and the media highlighting this deviance on the world stage helps to excite and increase the rate of social change, which as suggested in the item, can lead to changes in law. Examples of this have been seen with public displays of homosexuality in countries where homosexual marriage is illegal, or disallowed. This kind of deviance is picked up by the media, and projected on a world stage in the name of news, and appeals to the world’s sense of equality and liberalism.
Media Crime Crime has a thousand roots ... but a single outcome. It stems from fear and hatred, greed and corruption, deprivation and suffering. But it always ends with one thing: victims. Peter Kent, journalist In a single generation, communications technology has turned the planet into one small global village. Within minutes television and radio relay stories across the country and around the ...
So, while Functionalists would say the news plays an important function in society as a tool to catalyst social change, others would argue that it actually victimises a lot of people. This is seen with Cohen’s work on Folk Devils and Moral panics, in which a person with new norms, values or morals- or even all three, comes along and challenges societies accepted ones. This kind of challenge is met harshly and the new group, or person, is outcasted. They’re cut off from society as a folk devil and victimised for being different.
This was seen in the study of the Drug Takers by Jock Young. The Hippies he undertook a participant observation with were using drugs as a peripheral activity, in which nobody was being hurt and nobody was using them too often. The media picked up this criminal and deviant activity, and called for a tough crackdown. The authorities and agents of social control, as mentioned in the item, such as the Police for example, then respond by targeting the group, leading to more arrests, and the label of “junkies” and “druggies” being applied to the group.
Over time, the once peripheral activity has morphed into being a centralised underground activity which the group subscribe to as part of their self fulfilling prophecy, or as Lemert would say, they subscribe to secondary deviance. In this example, the peripheral drug taking was a primary act of deviance, and the acceptance of the label and underground centralisation of drug taking has become the secondary, societal reaction to the act of deviance.
In this way, the media has had a negative impact on crime and deviance by increasing the frequency of the acts of deviance, and raising the official statistics of drug related arrests due to police targeting, among other agencies of social control. But that’s only part of the story. The media have contributed in an even more detrimental way in the past. Particularly in the case of the Mods and Rockers at Clacton. In this case, acts of violence between two groups were reported on by the media, and the police were called upon to crack down on the deviance and misbehaviour.
The media is a powerful force in contemporary society, which determines our actions and identities. With reference to relevant sociological theory and evidence, discuss media effects. Society relies a great deal on technology for news, entertainment and education. Mass media is seen as one of the greatest influential factors on the opinions and viewpoints of society in the modern world. Media ...
They went as far as to predict the next time that the event of mass-deviance/criminality between the two groups would take place, and thus invited unknowingly, more participants to the violence. The following event, as with the prediction, was far worse, far bigger, and better covered. Thus, the effect was seen that the problem was bigger than first thought and that the behaviour of the mods and the rockers was categorised and reported on in such a way that others, who were fence-sitters, or indifferent to the typification were asked, or sometimes forced, to subscribe to one of the two groups.
Both groups were then stigmatised by society and outcast, and frustration repeatedly came out as violence thereafter. Once again, the media has caused a moral panic, and in this case deviance amplification spiral. The main criticisms of these arguments however are as follows, Durkheim is criticised for being naive to crime of the wider power structure by Marxists, in that he ignores who decides what is criminal and not. Neo Marxists would go as far as to say that some crimes however, are aimed at political/social change too, and would agree with Durkheim in that sense.
Durkheim is also criticised for saying that a certain amount of crime in society is inevitable and useful, or functional, because it performs that boundary maintenance which the media help to propagate, however he does not say how much is enough, and there’s no set point where it ends. Cohen’s amplification spiral is criticised on that very point too, in that the amplification spiral by his description should carry on forever, and not be stopped, yet in reality news stories die down due to one of the characteristics of the news being immediacy, or how recent something is.
It is my opinion, that the media are a cause of moral panics as the evidence seems overwhelming. There have been cases where the media has had a positive effect, that’s true, but in my opinion it’s a generally negative effect they display. They seems to thrive off demonizing and victimising deviants, which perhaps some realists, particularly right realists would agree with. However, I believe labelling has a much larger effect on societal crime and deviance than first estimated, and as such my conclusion is that the media plays an important role in creating moral panics about crime and deviance.
Many people over the years have tried to explain why there is crime in our society. Functionalists focus on the source of deviance in the nature of society rather than biological and psychological explanations. Every functionalist agrees that social control mechanisms e. g. the police are necessary to keep deviance in check and therefore protecting social order. A main contributor to the ...