Mass media and crime

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The mass media is the main source of information for most people about crime and deviance in society. The mass media tends to stereotype and sensationalise deviant behaviour. Newspapers often show pictures of the elderly as victims or violent attacks, when in reality they are the group least likely to be attacked. Young men aged 16 to 24 are more at risk of violent assaults. An influential study on the mass media and its role in deviancy amplification is Cohen’s book on Folk Devils and Moral Panics. This is a study of the Mods and Rockers, two youth subcultures of the 1960s. In short, the media exaggerated the violent clashes that took place in Clacton. Following on from the violent incident of the Mods and Rockers, the police made arrests to anyone that looked like a Mod or Rocker. Media predicted that more attacks were to follow. Moral panic theory originates in Interactionists theory. A moral panic refers to intense public concern or anxiety about a social problem or social group that has been brought to public attention by the mass media, especially the tabloid newspapers. Moral panic theorists such as Cohen and Young note that moral panics often result in deviancy amplification – the media reaction worsens the problem they initially set out to condemn.


Marxists such as Hall have argued that moral panics are used by the capitalist state to divert attention from the mismanagement of capitalism and especially wealth and income inequalities. To evaluate this point, it is very difficult to uncover evidence of involvement between the ruling class, the police and the media

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