Crime and Media

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Media and Crime
In sociology much stress is laid on the sociological explanations of crime and deviance. As over the past few decades there has been an increase in the public awareness of various types of crimes, sociologists have come forward to provide explanations of these situations.

Labeling theorists have been interested in the role of media in relation to crime. After much discussion they have come up with two processes associated with the media: sensitization and deviancy amplification.

Sensitization is the process whereby, media develops awareness amongst the general public regarding issues relating to morals.
Deviancy amplification on the other hand is a completely different process. It magnifies the deviant attitude of a supposedly deviant group and distorting in their image in the public causing further consequences for the group.

Perhaps the most popular and most detailed study of deviancy amplification and media can be found in Stanley Cohen’s book Folk Devils and Moral Panics 1972. To begin with Cohen analyzed the relations of Mods and Rockers in 1964. Mods were the original people from which particularly diverse groups such as skinheads and casuals evolved in the 1970s. They were distinctive in their ways and followed soul music, wore ex-army coats and rode motor scooters. The Rockers on the other hand favored leather jackets, motorbikes and listening to rock and roll music. (Cohen, 1972)

In 1964 a fight broke out among these two groups. As a result of these fights some of the youth were arrested. The journalists reporting this incident for the newspapers decided to make this tail a little spicier by distortion and exaggeration. The newspapers stressed on the fact that this had actually been a fight between the Mods and the Rockers who hated each other and had caused the violence. (Cohen, 1972)

The journalists’ distortion had produced a new wave in the youngsters of Britain. Now they had created rivalry between the Mods and Rockers which was inexistent previously. The youth had now to select between the two groups and this led to a rivalry which took shape because of the media.

The preceding incident had taken place on the Easter Sunday. Then when the Whitson Bank Holiday came the newspapers created propaganda for the meeting and battles of Mods and Rockers. Although the Mods and Rockers did end up arriving in huge numbers they were unsure of why they had gathered. The huge audience gathering had actually been the result of the massive propaganda by the newspapers. Although nothing significant happened the media reported scenes of violence and brawls. (Cohen, 1972)

Following the newspaper alerts and predictions the government officials and law enforcement agencies like police force were on the alert for the slightest hint of disturbance. As a result, there were more than usual arrests and this led to more unrest. The police were ready to detain all people who fell into the stereotypes of youth deviants. Many such youths who looked like Mods and Rockers were arrested and the magistrates who were also sensitized imposed heavier penalties to combat this new arriving crime wave.

According to Cohen, it was the fault of the media and it in this way created crime through distortion and exaggeration. This process has been described and named as deviancy amplification. The distortion of the events by the media caused the youth to be perceived as troublemakers- folk devils. Simultaneously the law enforcement and public were made to think of them as a threat to law and order and actually causing a moral panic.

Armstrong and Wilson (1973) studied the relationship between crime reporting and the actual amount of crime in Glasgow. According to them over the years crime had become a local issue and now the people cared more about it. As a result it had become more of an election issue where large sections were dedicated to juvenile crimes. The factor which became more significant was the reporting...
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