Crime and Deviance Theme 14 - Media and Crime

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Media Represention of Crime

1. The media exaggerates the extent of violent and personal crime 

  • More than half of inmates are in for non-violent crime 
  • The media perpetuates fear because fear sells - it's more interesting
  • Knife crime is actually going down and only makes up a tiny percentage of all crime (0.8%)
  • Robert Reiner (2006) conducted content analysis of crime reporting in the UK press and found that the media reported that 30% of all reported crime is homocide, when in fact it only makes up 0.007% of all crimes and that 75% of crimes reported were personal crimes and 25% was property crime, when the figures are the opposite                                                                                                                                                                                                                             

2. The media exaggerates the extent of youth crime and deviance

  • The average age of somebody in prison is 27
  • More than half the stories about teenage boys in the news were about crime
  • 32% of stories featuring young people were related to crime or anti-social behaviour
  • Only 8% of stories were related to positive achievements made by young people
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Media Represention of Crime 2

3. The media overrepresents working class street crime rather than middle class corporate crime

  • 'Entertainment documentarie' are on the rise, which follow street level police around the working class areas of Britain
  • We rarely hear about middle class corporate crime in the news on a lower level (only 'scandelous' stories)                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     

4. Analysis of crime in the news tends to be very simplistic

  • Documentaries typically take the side of the police - having them as experts, focusing on them in films, having people call in to report crimes
  • The underlying causes of crime are rarely looked at in the news or in documentaries
  • Criminals rarely take part in the discussion - only the experts have their say
  • When a political protest happens, the media focuses on the violence done by the minority rather than the issues being protested about                                                                                                                                                     

5. The media sensationalises crime

  • Violence and crimes sells papers - many programmes also revel in crime, sometimes gloryfying it
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A Distorted View of Crime

PLURALIST VIEW:

  • The media simply reports those crimes that we want to hear about - violent and unusual crimes such as children murdering other children or kidnappings
  • This means that people are more likley to buy papers or to tune into the news                                                                                                                               

MARXIST VIEW:

  • The media focuses on the working class and street crime because it is in the interests of both the journalists and the owners of the media to do so
  • The middle class commit just as much, possibly worse crimes than the working class but these do not get reported as the people at the top (such as Rupert Murdoch and middle class journalists) prevent this from coming to light
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Moral Panics and the Media

  • The media plays a crucial role in creating a moral panic by exaggerating the extent to which certain groups in society are deviant and threatening to society
  • The public believe what the see/read in the news and react disproportionately - results in heightened levels of concern or pressure groups forming against the deviant individual/group
  • The police and the law respond to this fear by introduing harsher punishments, tougher laws and sentences to prevent the crime from happening again
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Does the Media Increase Crime?

COPYCAT CRIME

  • The media reports a violent crime that has occurred and then people decide to copy it - results in more reportings of this crime which can lead to a moral panic
  • For example, in 1994 when Kurt Cobain committed suicide, this spurred 70 to 80 suicides around the world (Loren Coleman)                                                                                                                                                                                                  

Why can the media encourage violence?

  • Desensitisation - people have come to accept that violence is normal because it is constantly reported and is now considered a 'normal part of society'
  • Catharsis - people often use the media as an outlet, to get rid of violent tendancies
  • It is argued by the hypdermic syringe model that if the audience is passive, the media can act like a syringe and inject violent ideals into people's minds. This is an explanation for copycat crime or crime inspired by video games
  • The sensationalisation and dramatisation of crime is called dramatic fallacy (Felson)                                                                                                
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Criticisms

HOWEVER:

  • The media doesn't actually 'cause' violent behaviour, it may influence it but that's not enough to argue that the media acts as a cause fo crimes, therefore the theory is too generalised
  • Sometimes the representation of crime can cause distress, not a desire to copy it. Other times it is viewed as humourous due to its exaggeration (Morrison)
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Criticisms

HOWEVER:

  • The media doesn't actually 'cause' violent behaviour, it may influence it but that's not enough to argue that the media acts as a cause fo crimes, therefore the theory is too generalised
  • Sometimes the representation of crime can cause distress, not a desire to copy it. Other times it is viewed as humourous due to its exaggeration (Morrison)
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