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Carleton University
Communication Studies
COMM 2601

J e n a L y n d e - S m i t h | 1 When critically analyzing an event as a moral panic it is vital to understand the way in which the events are framed.According to Professor Robinson, moral panics materialize when people experience a loss of control over conventional rules because of an event, action or story. 1 Looking at this definition, it is evident that the Vancouver riots and the UK riots in 2011, can both be considered as moral panics. The Vancouver riot occurred immediately after game seven of the NHL series between the Canucks and the Bruins. Vancouver lost, and Boston took the cup. This infuriated Canucks fans and so began the riots. People took the street, vandalizing and fighting cops. This classifies as a moral panic because it was a reaction to an event. The 2011 UK riots where on a different level, yet most definitely also a moral panic. OnAugust 4 , 2011, th Citizen Mark Duggan was shot dead in Tottenham by a police officer. Believed to be innocent and unarmed, Mark’s friends and family began a friendly protest to honor him. This soon turned into the burning of buildings and chaotic rioting widespread across the UK. Some saw the looting as acts of troubled youth, others as a cry for justice. The riots continued fromAugust 6 - th th 11 . Both these instances were framed in with the intention of constructing representations of diversity in oppressive ways. The way in which the stories of the events were portrayed filter a lot of the important facts, including the leaving out of the brutality of the moral regulation within each case. Therefore, I contend that the media framed the moral panics of 2011 with a media-centric gaze, making moral judgements and leaving out important details of the events that took place. To prove this I will: compare news coverage of the events with social media expressions during 1 Robinson, Sandra. "Seeing Like The Media: Through The Media Gaze." Lecture, Carleton University, Ottawa, ON, October 16, 2013. J e n a L y n d e - S m i t h | 2 the period of the riots, analyze the stereotyping that the media promotes in each event, and critically evaluate the similarities and differences between the two instances - including the unjust moral regulation that took place. News Coverage vs. Social Media When looking at these two riots more closely it is evident of the many details left out in mostly all of the news coverage surrounding the events. When comparing the news coverage to the social media, it is clear that the individuals involved in the riots have very different opinions than those of news outlets. In the 2011 UK riots, the details that seemed to be vastly left out in news stories were the justifications for the riots. There is very little talk of what actually triggered the uprising, which was the death of Mark Duggan by the armed forces. Instead of sympathizing for the pain that these people may be feeling for the lack of justice for this young man, Prime Minister Cameron and news corporations proceed to blame it on the fact that most of the ‘looters,’were youth from ‘troubled families.’In one of Cameron’s speech after the first riot in Tottenham, he says, ‘In too many cases, the parents of these children - if they are still around - don't care where their children are or who they are with, let alone what they are doing.’ For him to blame this on bad parenting is injudicious because the average age of rioters was actually 22 , clearly old enough to be making their own decisions. The New York Times framed the riots by using economic and 2 Kirkwood, Steve. "The presence of the absent parent: Troubled families and the England ‘riots’ of 2011." Word Press. Last modified February 2013. 3 Malnick, Edward. "UK riots: suspects, statistics and cases mapped and listed." The Telegraph. Last modified August 12, 2011. UK-riots-suspected-looters-statistics-and-court-cases.html. J e n a L y n d e - S m i t h | 3 racial factors as justifications as follows: The combination of economic despair, racial tension and thuggery has “a devastating effect on communities,” said Graham Beech, an official at the crime-prevention charity Nacro. “It’s something that ordinary people see on their walks to work — street drunkenness, vandalism, intimidation — and that affects the general fear of crime.”As the British government’s austerity measures begin to take effect, young people will also see their chances of employment dwindling and their financial and community support cut, Mr. Beech 4 said. “Boredom, alienation and isolation are going to be factors,” he said. Meanwhile, as news outlets and their own government are stereotyping them, citizens still mourn the loss of Mark Duggan. They create a Facebook page titled, “RIP Mark Duggan.” 34,366 People ‘like,’this Facebook page and the page consists of primarily of heart-felt condolences. Twitter posts saying, “rest in paradise,” and “no amount of riot will make up for the loss of such a good innocent man, r.i.p.” The difference between the news coverage and social networking in this case really makes it evident of mediacentrism that is taking place in the news, when looking for justifications. In the framing of the 2011 UK Riots, there was an abundance of stories that suggest social media is to blame for the uprisings.As opposed to gearing ideas as to how they could prevent another citizen fatality from police force, Prime Minister David Cameron of Britain instead 4 Thomas, London, Jr. "London Riots Put Spotlight on Troubled, Unemployed Youths in Britain." The New York Times. Last modified August 9, 2011. 10youth.html?pagewanted=all&_r=1&. 5Activists. R.I.P Mark Duggan (blog). Entry postedAugust 4, 2011. RIP-Mark-Duggan/200659976657547. 6Anonymous post to Twitter web forum, "#ripmarkduggan,"August 2011. search?q=%23ripmarkduggan&src=typd. J e n a L y n d e - S m i t h | 4 th decided to crack down on social networking. OnAugust 11 , 2011, Mr. Cameron said that Theresa May, the Home secretary would meet with executives of the Web companies Facebook and Twitter, as well as Research In Motion, maker of the BlackBerry smartphone, to discuss possible measures that could be put in place. Cameron continued to say, “Everyone watching these horrific actions will be struck by how they were organized via social media,” Mr. Cameron told Parliament during a special debate on the riots. “Free flow of information can be used for good. But it can also be used for ill.” Now this makes me curious as to what is classified as ill… Because I’m sure most would say that taking one’s personal info and inspecting them without their permission would be something of ill manner, but that doesn’t seem to be problematic for Prime Minister Cameron. According to Fleras, although social media can be seen as revolutionary, it is also a way for authoritarian governments to repress and censor through invasive surveillance techniques and cutting-edge propaganda and by pacifying populations with distractive digital entertainment. Governments seem to reject the free flow of information when it comes to freedom of speech, but when it is for their own benefit they are all for it. Aside from the events in the UK in 2011, there is also the framing of the Vancouver riots in the news. Seen in Carleton’s own Charlatan is an article that elaborates as follows: Facebook pages such as “Report Canuck RIOT Morons” and “Canucks fans against the 2011 Vancouver Riots,” and websites like have worked to report the actions of those 7 PFra
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