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To what extent to the news media reflect the "reality of crime"? Select and example and discuss in relation to deviancy amplification and moral panic.

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Introduction

To what extent to the news media reflect the "reality of crime"? Select and example and discuss in relation to deviancy amplification and moral panic. A moral panic is as defined by Stan Cohen as "a threat to societal values and interests". According to Cohen, society is often subject to such "instances and periods of moral panic" (Cohen 1972); the cycle of moral panics begins as suggested with a deviant or criminal act, which is generally considered to be a threat to the fabric of society. The media identify and exaggerate the deviancy in simplified terms, occasionally even deliberately instigating events in the pursuit of headlines. The deviants are as a result stigmatised and acknowledged as outcasts from mainstream society - being misrepresented by the media. In turn those involved may gradually identify with this role, further increasing the likelihood of deviant behaviour. Following the media frenzy; public fears and indignation are aroused and agitated, there are calls for action to be taken and for "something to be done", whereby there is a tendency for those figures such as politicians, the police force, magistrates and religious leaders amongst others, to man the 'moral barricades' and pronounce judgment. This is followed by a response from public, which in turn further concentrates focus and concern by the public at large, this is known as deviancy amplification. The result of the panic can then; quickly die out, is forgotten by the media and therefore by the public, or there is ...read more.

Middle

The point that this case made was not that this was a first of its kind, for children in the past have killed other children, but was the media's reaction to such a crime and the ongoing public reaction to it. The murder was portrayed by the media as a horrific act, which symbolized the degeneration of modern British society, the media suggested the increase of public indifference, lowering family values and increasing isolation, generating massive public guilt and predicting a breakdown in the cohesive fabric of society itself, 'why did 'we' as a society allow this to happen?'; 'if society had been more vigilant this crime would never have happened'; 'what happened to the active citizen?' (The Guardian). All of which are key factors in a moral panic, especially the identification of public guilt, which will result in a public outcry and changes made to society to prevent such a thing happening again. The use of the language in the articles covering the crime the time, made "folk devils" out of Robert Thompson and Jon Venables, saying "that the two were evil and fixated on killing" and James Bulger as "innocent, a lovely little boy. He was so beautiful", emotive language which provokes reactions from the general public. (Guardian, 25/9/1993) Public opinion demanded stricter authoritarian controls and even censorship as the deviancy situation was amplified. There was little public opposition to the government proposal to install more CCTV cameras to control crime, after all, surveillance cameras proved ...read more.

Conclusion

For example, in the same article it was reported that 'the unofficial Child Protection Unit formed by angry dads in Teignmouth, Devon, has 'savagely beaten' a convicted sex offender and threatens more attacks, claiming that only physical action can protect their children'. (Guardian 12/07/1997). For as Decca Aitkenhead makes clear is 'the new discovery is the scale of child abuse going on in the home, yet the new panic is about the stranger in the park'. It would appear that it is easier to heavily invest in the menace of the stranger, as abuse within the home and our families is too difficult to confront. (Guardian 9 January 1998). Using this, and the other examples, it is perhaps clear to see how a panic was generated and why. There is little doubt that a concern did exist, yet one must question whether the panic in question was more to do with society finding a way of dealing with an issue that was too difficult to confront, and whether this concern was capitalised on by the media to orchestrate a new panic, media amplification of a situation results in the public being manipulated by the media into following the same views as is expected of a nation. Yet it is perhaps futile to think that there are any ready-made solutions to the problem of moral panics, especially as we seem to be living in a time that is prepared to replace one moral panic for another, as quickly as the old one subsides. ...read more.

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