Crime and Deviance - Assess the view that the mass media are a major cause of crime and deviance in today's society (21 marks)

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Gareth Collins

Crime and Deviance; Topical questions.

Read item A and answer the question that follows;

Item A There has long been concern that the mass media have a negative effect on viewers, especially those groups thought to be most easily influenced, such as children and young people. At different times, the cinema, horror comics, ‘video nasties,’ rap lyrics, computer games and the internet have all been blamed for corrupting youth and encouraging violence and criminality. One fear is that the audience will imitate what they see.

Question Using material from Item A and elsewhere, assess the view that the mass media are a major cause of crime and deviance in today’s society. 

In the item, a common concern is talked about which is known as “imitation” - where the audience imitates, or copies, what they see in front of them. This is part of six potential methods through which media causes crime. The others being, arousal, desensitisation, transmitting knowledge, stimulating desires and glamorising crime. 

Each of these potential causes of crime have been investigated, however the method by which they are often investigated, is lab experiments. Without delving into too much detail, lab experiments present a problem in that while they can be controlled by the researcher and the results be assessed in an environment which is stable, the results may not necessarily be high in validity. They may even be reliable, but they might not necessarily present a real, valid representation of the real world - and they find it even harder to then detect long-term changes to a person. So, these studies, while numerous might not give us what we need to decide if media is a cause of crime or not. Even the studies we do have access to, provide us with the result that the media has a small to negligible effect on the audience. 

As such, what other media-motivated causes of crime can we look to? 

Left Realists argue that the media increases relative deprivation and marginalisation of small groups which cause crime. Particularly with relative deprivation, in the modern society we live in with such wonderful technologies allowing us to be plugged into the news network 24 hours a day, such as via twitter, 24 hour broadcasting, early, midday and late edition newspapers throughout the week- so on and so forth, we see that there’s the possibility that the media can be advertising constantly. It’s part of every walk of life. Advertising the latest gadget or must-have material item. Now not all people have the resources or money to afford these items which they’re told are “must-have,” and so they are marginalised by society for not being in the loop. This can create two forms of crime, both utilitarian…




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