Media, Crime And Deviant Behaviour - Criminology - Essay

1664 words - 7 pages

University of Sussex
Media, crime and deviant behaviour.
Topic: To what extent do media representations of crime contribute to deviant behaviour?
Submission date: 18/12/2017
Word count overall: 1,642
Word count without bibliography and table of contents: 1,484
Table of Contents
A. How does the media portray crime? 3
B. Influence of media effects as cause of crime 5
C. The other side of the equation. 7
A. How does the media portray crime?
Crime and deviant behaviour are major social problems which are posed by various factors and conditions. Specifically, one of them is the mass media; libraries are full of crime books, newspapers devote a considerable proportion of news to crime (45.3% in a quality newspaper), radios (71.5% in a quality radio station), while also movies are very often based on crime fiction and non-fiction content. Given that, media and its influence on deviance act, is a crucial issue, I would like to convey my views so as to uncover the reasons behind this problem and clarify the repercussions of such issue (Reiner, 2007, p. 6).
Journalist choose the media coverage of crime and deviance, according to the newsworthiness of an event. What makes an event newsworthy, depends on its proximity, timing, significance, prominence, and human interest. (Rogers, 2017) While, according to Reiner “deviance is the defining characteristic of what journalists regard as newsworthy’. (Reiner, 2007, p. 6) In consequence, individuals are influenced by what media personnel prefer to include in the newspapers, television programmes, or websites.
These “news values” are held by editors and journalists and the stories they choose to report are most likely those with dramatic aspects. Reasonably, a simple burglary may shake the local newspapers, but a terror attack in a busy road might become a national story. For instance, the ‘Barcelona Terror Van Attack’ meant that numerous citizens in Spain felt unsafe and insecure. Thus, what makes a violent story newsworthy depends on how much
the media is stimulated, in order to present an emotional and dramatic influence towards the audiences.
In consequence, these emotional and dramatic influences create the connection between media reports and fear of crime. According to Gerbner and the Cultivation Theory, users who watch TV more than the average have greater indications of fear, as the frequent media illustrations create the illusion that the crime occurs more often than in reality does. Thus, this distorted picture of crime painted by the news, misleads the audience towards the wrong impression of the actual events and the reality. (Rosenberg, 2014) This regular bombarding of particular crime images, could have as a result a type of moral panic.[footnoteRef:1] [1: The overreaction of society to a discerned problem, often perpetuated by the media.]
One characteristic example of moral panics is illustrated by Stan Cohen, in his work which is named ‘Folk Devils and Moral Panics’. In 1964, two British youth subcultures, who didn’t get on with each other, rocked the seaside towns of Brighton, Bournemouth and Margate. Rockers were the old kids, distinctively dressed by leather biker jackets, jeans and ridings motorbikes. Mods were the new kids, driving scooters, addicted to amphetamines. (Intern, 2016)
The media’s overreaction was related to the assumptions that further violence would be a result of these two subcultures, while media also used symbolism; the hairstyles, dressing-codes, bikes and scooters, were all labelled and criticised, and correlated with act of violence.
The mass media representation of criminal incidents, caused the augmentation of that unconventional behaviour, and made it seem that the trouble was escalating. Thus, loads of youths took part of these groups and joined to later crashes something that made citizens feeling endangered from all youths who dressed as Mods or Rockers, while also produced further marginalisation of the mods and rockers as deviants. (Intern, 2016)
Figure1: “Motorcycle “rockers” and scooter mods. “
Available at
B. Influence of media effects as cause of crime
In order, a crime to be committed or a deviance behaviour to be acted there are certain preconditions, which are identified and discussed below:
a. Labelling
According to Becker, deviance is not an inherent feature of behaviour. Acts and individuals adopt that kind of unconventional behaviour when specific social groups successfully define them in that way. In other words, labelling theory states that people define and construct their identities from society's perceptions of them. (Ritzer, 2015, p. 2)
Labelling of someone as deviant can have long-term consequences on a person's social identity. Some examples which reflect that aspect; Jock Young illustrated that media illustrations were the reason of augmenting drug-takers percentages. Stan Cohen created the powerful concept of ‘moral panic’, when ‘mods’ and ‘rockers’ were emerged and the media by over presenting their trends, created a fear for these two subcultures. (Morgan, et al., 2012)
b. Motive
It has been generally believed that the scenes of unconventional behaviour and crime, displayed by the mass media could simply be a type of social learning, and may foster crime by imitation or arousal effects. Media by displaying and featuring wealthy and popular celebrities on the screens could cause many individuals to indulge in crime. They want to live material life like the celebrities and politicians without knowing the source of their wealth. Therefore, media could be often misleading, and be the cause of deviant behaviour. (Morgan, et al., 2012)For instance, after the emerge of the very popular movie ‘Fifty shades of Grey”, which illustrated sexual assault events, many may get the idea to imitate the movie scenes in their own personal life. Something that cannot always conclude to favourable results, as a man like ‘Mr. Grey’ would end up in a court. (Brokenquite, 2015)
c. Means
Undoubtedly, media has often been blamed for spreading knowledge and criminal techniques. Therefore, audiences, especially the young ones, cannot resist their temptation of carrying out what is projected in the movies, in the internet or alternative media networks. A striking example could be the notorious case of the murderers of Jamie Bulger who had been impacted by the video Child’s Play 3 in the manner in which they killed the poor child. Sufficiently, media illustration and reconstruction of crimes educates criminals about the knowledge, techniques and the modern equipment used in carrying out criminal acts. (Morgan, et al., 2012)
d. Absence of Controls
Majority of people would commit crime where and when there is no social control placed on individuals through institutions such as law enforcement agents, schools, workplaces, churches, mosques and families. Social control might be external (e.g. the threat of police and punishments) or internal (the voice of conscience and ethos). Media as a cause of crime might ridiculously weaken external controls by disdainful exhibitions of criminal justice.
Essentially, Reiner, Maguire and Morgan argued that “Serious representations of criminal justice by mass media might ridiculously undermine its legitimacy by becoming more critical, questioning, for instance, the integrity and fairness, or the efficiency and effectiveness of the police.” Therefore, negative representations of criminal justice have as consequence the increasing proportions of crime. (Morgan, et al., 2012)
C. The other side of the equation.
On the other hand, according to Angela McRobbie and Sarah Thornton, nowadays moral panics are more infrequent as they used to. Their impact in audiences and society is much less than Cohen’s case had noted about Mods and Rockers. People are now much more sceptical and incredulous of media representations which means that it has become more challenging for the media to illustrate issues or events in such a way that can provoke a moral panic. (McRobbie & Thorton, 1995)
Also, some more theories come and confirm McRobbie’s and Thornton’s findings. These are the hypodermic needle or alternatively magic bullet theory and the limited effect theory. Concerning the first one, it suggests that the mass media are highly influence loads of individuals by ‘shooting’ or ‘injecting’ them with information that the ‘powerless’ audiences cannot resist the impact of the message. People are interpreted as passive consumers who are thinking what they are told because there is no alternative source of information. Elections regarding the magic bullet theory, were followed, but the results refuted the theory by proving that the highest proportion of people continued unaffected and unconcerned by the media outlets. Whereas the most affected individuals were the ones influenced by the interpersonal outlets. (Anon., n.d.) Moreover, the limited effects theory jumped to the same conclusions. Specifically, it supported that the mass media cannot directly alter most viewers’ strongly-held beliefs as the media messages are interpreted by the viewers in accordance to their existing attitudes and opinions. (Anon., n.d.)
D. Conclusion
Taking everything into consideration, opinions are conflicting as there are equally sound arguments both in favour of and against the impact of social media to crime and deviant behaviour. Although, the mass media, rightly or wrongly, constitute a considerable part of our lives and it is my firm belief that media contribution is a substantial reason of high crime statistics and deviant behaviour. It is true, that the vulnerable and the less thoughtful viewers are highly impacted by momentous events which are excessively illustrated by the mass media. Finally, facts prove that media representations of crime have a considerable contribute to deviant behaviour and crime.
Anon., n.d. Communication Studies Theory. [Online]
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Anon., n.d. Oxford Reference. [Online]
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Brokenquite, 2015. Broken Quite. [Online]
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Intern, P., 2016. Underground. [Online]
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McRobbie, A. & Thorton, S., 1995. Jstor. [Online]
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[Accessed 3 December 2017].
Morgan, R., Reiner, R. & Maguire, M., 2012. GoogleBooks. [Online]
Available at:,+and+may+encourage+crime+by+imitation+or+arousal+effects&source=bl&ots=ys6Hi2THuu&sig=ryOLTugDSlQ2BMb9aTVGFHt2yNA&hl=el&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjLt7HzyuzXAhVjOMAKHRKmCBcQ6AEIKDAA#v=onepage&q=It%20has%20been%20claimed%20that%20the%20images%20of%20crime%20and%20violence%20presented%20by%20the%20media%20are%20a%20form%20of%20social%20learning%2C%20and%20may%20encourage%20crime%20by%20imitation%20or%20arousal%20effects&f=false
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Reiner, R., 2007. Research gate. [Online]
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Ritzer, G., 2015. Sage knowledge. [Online]
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Rogers, T., 2017. [Online]
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Rosenberg, A., 2014. The washington post. [Online]
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Angela Tsilidi Page 4 of 9

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