Theories of Crime and the Media W1
Anomie. Characterises certain groups who experience a conflict
between culturally desired goals and legitimate ways of
Behaviourism. Concerned with the objective study of observable behaviour
and represents an antithetical challenge to psychoanalysis.
Crime. Violation of a law where sanction must be imposed.
Criminalisation. Application of the label „criminal‟ to particular
Critical criminology. Emphasises relationship between routine, everyday life and
the surrounding social structures (Marxist inspired).
Cultural criminology. Embraces post modernism‟s concerns with the collapse of
meaning, immediacy of gratification, consumption,
pleasure, etc. and emphasises the cultural construction of
crime, crime control and role of image, style, reputation and
performance among deviant subcultures.
Effects research. Focuses on the impact/effects if media texts on audience
Folk devils. Describes an individual/group defined as a threat to society,
its values and interests, who become subjects of media-
orchestrated moral panic.
Hegemony. Refers to the ability of dominant classes to exercise social
and cultural leadership and thus to maintain their power by
a process of consent, not coercion.
Hypodermic syringe Model of media effects (media seen as injecting ideas,
model. values and info to receiver, producing direct and
Late modernity. Describes the condition/state of highly developed present
day societies, which denotes their state as a
continuation/development of what went before (modernity),
rather than new state (post-modernity).
Left realism. Radical criminology perspective that views crime as a
natural and inevitable outcome of class inequalities and
Marxism. Proposes that the media (and all other capitalist institutions)
are owned by ruling bourgeois elite and operate in their
Moral panic. Hostile and disproportional social reaction to a condition,
episode, person or group defined as a threat.
Mediated. Connect through some other person or thing.
Paradigm. Shared set of ideas; dominant pattern of thinking at any
Pluralism. Idea that all opinions and interests should be equally
represented and available.
Political economy. Sociological tradition that analyses society and social
phenomena (incl. media) in terms of the interplay between
politics, economics and ideology).
Positivism. Argues social relations can be studied scientifically and measured using methods derived from the natural sciences.
Postmodernism. Embraces a rejection of claims to truth proposed by the
‟grand theories‟ of the past and challenges us to accept that
we live in a world of contradiction and inconsistencies
which are amenable to objective models of thought.
Psychoanalysis. Study of people‟s unconscious motivations for their actions.
Reception Sophisticated view of the receivers of media texts.
analysis/audience Concerned with what audiences do with the media,
Stereotyping. Process of reducing individuals/groups to oversimplified or
generalised characterisations resulting in crude and usually
Media as moral crusaders
The media play a part in constructing crime problems.
After this embark on a moral crusade against identified folk devils.
Desired outcome is to sway public opinion and for authorities to launch a moral
crackdown on deviants.
Media‟s treatment of victims is highly selective.
Often focused on individual innocent victims (e.g. children).
Often involves salacious and/or graphic imagery.
E.g. they show more interest if a beautiful woman is killed than if an ugly one is.
Impact of the Internet particularly on young people and children
Link is often made between increase in technology use and increased exposure to
online „risks‟ of harm (e.g. from cyber-bullying to online grooming, to hacking, to
Response has been a flood of education and government campaigns alerting
young people to the risk of online harm and legal and social consequences.
Theories of crime and media
Media „effects‟ research:
o Idea of media as criminogenic.
o Hypodermic syringe model – relationship between media and audiences is
a mechanistic and unsophisticated process by which the media inject
values, ideas and info directly into the passive receiver, producing direct
and unmediated effects, which in turn have a negative influence on
thoughts and actions.
o Debates concerning the extent to which media can be said to cause anti-
social, deviant/criminal behaviour.
o To what degree do media images bring about negative effects in their
o Developed from „mass society theory‟ and Behaviourism/Positivism.
o Pessimistic view that nature is susceptible to external influences.
o Assumes a direct, causal link between media images and criminal and/or
o Mass society theory:
Refers to the masses or the common people who are characterised
by their lack of individuality, alienation from the moral and ethical values to be gained from work and religion, their political apathy
and their taste for low culture.
Individuals seen as uneducated, ignorant, potentially unruly and
prone to violence.
As communities fragmented and traditional social ties were
dismantled, society became a mass of isolated individuals cut adrift
from kinship and organic ties and lacking moral cohesion.
Increase in crime and anti-social behaviour seemed inevitable, and
as mass society took hold, citizens turned away from the authorities
who were seen as remote, indifferent and incompetent and sought
solutions to crime at a personal, community-oriented level.
Media seen as aid to people‟s well-being under difficult
circumstances and as a powerful force for controlling people‟s
thoughts and diverting them from political action.
Failure to address the subtleties of media meanings, that media
texts are open to multiple interpretations.
The unique characteristics and identity of audiences and the social
context in which the encounter between media text and audience
Mistakenly assumes that we all have the same idea about what
constitutes aggression, violence and deviance, and that those who
are susceptible to harmful portrayals can be affected by a one off
media incident, regardless of the wider context.
Ignores the possibility that influence travels the opposite way – that
characteristics, interests and concerns of audience may determine
what media produces.
o Individual‟s identity shaped by their responses to the external
environment, which formed stable and recognisable patterns of behaviour
that could be publicly observed.
o Believed that problems such as crime and deviance could be examined and
treated e.g. born criminal (Lombroso), Bandura.
Media as purveyors of moral panics (Cohen):
o Uses the notion of deviancy amplification to explain how the petty
delinquencies of rival mods and rockers at seaside resorts were blown up
into serious threats to law and order.
o Identified a number of states in the social reaction, divided the media
inventory of initial skirmishes into 3 phases: Exaggeration, prediction and
o Also coined the term „folk devil‟ to refer to the ways in which the media
stereotypes certain groups around whom moral panic if often constructed.
o Sought to situate the moral panic over mods and rockers in a social context
– the hostile reaction revealed much about post war social
change/anxieties of the new affluence and sexual freedom of teenage
youth cultures in the 1960s.
Marxism and dominant ideology approach:
o Information flows from the top down.
o A hierarchy of credibility is established in which the opinions and
definitions of the powerful members of society are privileged, while the ordinary viewer/reader is prevented from engaging in critical or
o More positive idea of how the media operates in a relatively unregulated
and deprivatised open marketplace.
o Emphasises ideological struggle rather than ideological control of the
o Argues that media simply reflects a window on the world because it
portrays life as it is through news, soaps and documentaries.
o Criticisms: Often seen as naïve because it ignores the ways in which
television programmes are carefully constructed to appeal to an audience.
o Argues that essentialist assumptions about women (based on stereotypical
notions of women as mothers and as exclusively nurturing) condemned
them to differential treatment within law.
o Women who commit serious offences are judged to have transgressed into
two sets of laws: criminal laws and the laws of nature (doubly deviant and
o The news draws on traditional notions of appropriate gender roles in the
representation of violence against women.
o Less concerned with the question of „effects‟.
o Emphasises centrality of meaning, representation and power in the
contested construction of crime.
o Whether „crime is constructed as videotaped entertainment or political
protest, as ephemeral event or subcultural subversion, as social danger or
state-sanctioned violence‟ (Ferrell).
o Concerned with media representations of crime as spectacle and form of
o Example of a postmodern media „performance‟ concerns the media
coverage of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Centre on 11
September 2011. The Construction of Crime News W2
Agenda setting. The way in which those who work within
the media decide what is important
enough to report.
Audience. The assumed group at whom media texts
Binary oppositions. Notion that the media presents the world
through polarised constructions of
difference which are fixed and immutable
Citizen journalism. Form of demographic participation
brought about by mass ownership of
phones with cameras, image sharing sites
and popularity of blogs.
Ethnocentrism. When a country‟s news organisations
value their own notion over others.
Framing. The shared cultural narratives and myths
that a news story conveys via recourse to
vital imagery, stereotyping and other
Ideology. Refers to the ideas that circulate in
society and how they
represent/misrepresent the social world.
Moral majority. Encapsulates the imagined community to
which the popular press address
Newsworthiness. Encapsulates the perceived public
appeal/interest of any potential news
story (determined by news values).
News values (12). Professional, yet informal codes used in
the selection, construction and
presentation of news stories.
Populism/populist punitiveness. Perception that the public demands more
punitive justice and punishment strategies
to deter would-be offenders from
Public appeal. Measured in sales figures and ratings.
Public interest. Qualitative assessments of what public
should/shouldn‟t be made aware of.
Social constructionism. Emphasises importance of social
expectations in the analysis of taken-for-
granted and apparently natural social
processes. Avoids the conventional
binary opposition of
representation/reality by suggesting that
there is no intrinsic meaning in things,
but that meaning is conferred according
to shared cultural references and
experiences. Early crime
Treason, murder and witchcraft were the most popular storylines historically.
By late 1800s we see the emergence of the aggressive marketing of crime
news to the public that we are familiar with today.
o Crime-related street literature - sermons, speeches, etc. for news of
crime and justice.
o Newspapers came to be produced by organisations with profits.
o People either wanted to profit from crime or didn‟t.
An examination of the process by which news is created is revealing for
understanding the content of crime news.
Two models dominate explanations for the process of news creation:
o Market model – objectively reporting news.
o Manipulative model – distorting news issues to shape public opinion.
Organisational model – idea of rendering an objective, unbiased mirror image
of reality is impossible.
o Incorporates the other two.
o What the public receive as news is capsulised, stylised and
Key themes in existing research on media organisations
Crime news is „manufactured‟ along ideological lines:
o Media focus on the most serious stories of crime.
o Crimes that happen everyday are least likely to be included on the
The demands and constraints of news production intertwine with the perceived
interests of the target audience to produce a set of organisational „news
o Highly selective and largely unrepresentative of the crimes that happen
o Judgements journos make everyday when deciding what to include in
o Violence in the media is constructed as random, wanton and
intentional act of evil others.
o The victims in the papers are not the victims experiencing crime in the
There are 12 key news values that are prominent in the construction of crime
The construction or manufacture of crime news is significant because it can
set the agenda for policy and public opinion.
o Implication coming from previous.
o Influences public opinion, shape who we think are most likely to be
victim and criminal, shape our responses and what we should do about
New technologies are changing the ways in which news is produced and
o Journos and academics are more likely to use media forums.
o Offer opportunities for creative acts of journalism for those who aren‟t
journos. Why critically analysing media representations of crime is important
Has implications for representations of which crime victims can be „ideal‟.
o If victim is more/less than ideal, it‟s more likely to be reported.
There exists a hierarchy of victimisation.
o Not an equal playing field – children, elderly and women more likely
to be reported than men.
Elderly women and young children more likely to be deemed „ideal victims‟
than are young men, the homeless, and others existing on the margins of
Cases where a greater deviation from cultural norms is present increase
newsworthiness (e.g. gang involvement; a crime occurring at a business; the
slaying of a pregnant victim; sex crimes by “paedophiles”).
Middle class notions of respectability (e.g. class) and gender can also be
defining factors, as can „race‟.
Newsworthiness and news values
Newsworthiness – events are not naturally newsworthy in themselves, they
have to satisfy a criteria.
Concept of news values was brought to academic attention in 1965 through a
study of Norwegian newspapers – they identified a system by which news
items were selected and prioritised for publication.
News values are culturally specific e.g. Australian ones different to UK ones.
Particular historical events can help shape and influence the selection of
Newsworthiness can be intensified considerably when focused through the
lenses of celebrity, childhood, sex and race, among others.
Signal crimes - term coined by Martin Innes which refers to those particularly
serious or high profile crimes which impact not only on the immediate
participants (victims, offenders, witnesses), but also on wider society;
resulting in some reconfiguration of behaviours or beliefs.
o E.g. Ozlo bombing is a signal of crime because its going to be etched
in our memory and when another event happens it'll be revisited –
society changed, innocence lost, etc.
Mass media is inclined to deal with binary opposites.
o This is pruning down and reduction of events to black and white, good
and bad – a binary opposition – has implications for the reader/viewer.
o All these processes of simplification add up to a mediated vision of
crime in which shades of grey are absent and a complex reality is
substituted for a simple, incontestable and preferably bite-sized
message for the audience (us).
o Way of simplification.
o Have effects.
o You can‟t see that person in both ways e.g. parent or pedophile.
o Shades of grey and complexities disappear.
o Make it really easy to say they‟re bad or they‟re a victim. 12 news structures and news values that shape crime news
o Has to be massive e.g. bombing, mass killings, etc.
o Media usually first use shock horror headlines - occasion for all sorts
of narratives to explain what happened.
o The more bizarre the more likely it will be reported.
o Humorous, nostalgic, grotesque more likely to be reported.
o An event that is rare, extraordinary or unexpected it will be considered
o Equally, a story that is predictable may be deemed newsworthy
because can plan their coverage & resources
o Having already set the news agenda, media agencies will rarely do an
about turn and reframe an issue according to a different set of
Simplification (eliminating shades of grey).
o Must be reducible to a min number of parts and themes. Headlines
have to be short sentences, simple grammatical structure and often
titillating (headline doesn‟t‟t give you details).
Individualism and personalisation (individual focus or causality).
o Both are aspects of the process of news simplification;
o Personalisation – that stories about people are favoured over those
concerning abstract concepts or institutions.
o Result is that events are frequently simplistically viewed as the actions
and reactions of individuals.
o Individualism - definitions of crime which highlight individual
responses to crime are preferred over complex processes, cultural and
o Most criminals are described as being „impulsive, a longer,
maladjusted, irrational, animal-like, aggressive and violent‟.
o Emphasises their lack of normative social ties.
Risk (lasting danger).
o Predisposition in newspaper to report crimes if the victim and offender
o Vast majority of serious offences, including murder, rape and sexual
assault, are committed by people known to the victim;
o Yet, media persist in presenting a picture of crime as random,
meaningless, unpredictable and ready to strike anyone at any one time.
o Children and young people are vulnerable to risk from „paedophiles‟
and the Internet.
o Consequence – presents picture of crime that is meaningless, random
and unpredictable which contributes to a heightened fear of crime
because we think it‟s the kind we‟re more likely to experience.
o Connected to risk;
o Media over-report crimes involving sex & violence;
o Moreover, such stories are highly sexualised, even pornographic, in
their representations of women as victims; o Such stories tend to draw on narratives about masculine violence as a
„normal‟ or a „natural force‟ and where all women are vulnerable,
potential victims in need of protection.
Celebrity or high status persons.
Proximity (spatial/cultural relevance).
o Spatial – geographical nearness of event.
o Cultural - Relevance of story to audience.
Spectacle or graphic imagery.
Children and young people.
Conservative ideology and political diversion (deterrence/distraction from
o Focus is on violence of protesters rather than why they are protesting.
o Distraction from wider problems.
o Perpetuates sense of divided hostile population under threat.
o Usually around certain events.
o Using recognisable frames of events e.g. crime rates on the rise,
Melbourne among top 4 countries.
o Usually no supportive stats.
o When media tend to report on protesters – focus tends to be on
violence of protesters not really what its actually about. Only interested
o Discussion about what police are doing (focus), perpetuates a part.
o All about the image of the police, distracts from wider issues, shows
proactiveness of police.
Police media units and the making of news
A „symbiotic‟ relationship exists between some police and media
representatives, a relationship that is not conducive to high quality, critical,
investigative journalism on issues of criminal justice or policing. Rather, there
is an unnecessary and improper reliance upon „unnamed police sources‟ and
an unwillingness to seek out „independent‟, „alternative‟ viewpoints.
What has been the impact of the global media landscape on news values and
The emergence of mobile digital forms of communication and the
proliferation of user generated Internet sites permit various forms of citizen
For example, Facebook, YouTube and Twitter all present particular and in
some cases new challenges for the courts.
Digital communication technologies have added a new dimension to the
manufacture of news. Moral Panics W3
Consensus. The achievement of social unity through shared agreement.
Demonisation. The act of labelling individuals/groups whose norms,
attitudes/behaviours are seen to constitute „evilness‟.
Traditionally characterised as folk devils and subjects of
Deviance. Social and usually moral (as opposed to legal), concept to
describe rule-breaking behaviour.
Deviancy amplification The moral discourse established by journos and various
spiral. other authorities, opinion leaders and moral entrepreneurs
who collectively demonise a perceived wrong-doer/group
as a source of moral decline and social disintegration,
setting off a chain of public, political and police reaction.
Folk devils. Individual/group defined as a threat to society, it‟s values
Labelling. Sociological approach to crime and deviancy that refers to
the social processes by which certain groups classify and
Moral panic. Hostile and disproportional social reaction to a condition,
episode, person or group defined as a threat.
Risk. Concept that emerged to dominate discussions of late
Risk society. Denotes the social shift for the pre-industrial tendency to
view negative events as random acts of god/nature, to the
post-industrial preoccupation with manmade changes and
Signal crime. Incidents/offences that, when seen/experienced, may trigger
a change in public beliefs/behaviour.
Social reaction. Social process characterising responses to crime and
deviance encompassing public, political, CJ and media
relations, often used to signify the processes of labelling,
stereotyping and stigmatising.
Stigmatising. Process by which an individual/group is discredited because
of some aspect of their appearance/behaviour.
Subculture. Groups of young people whose appearance, norms and
behaviour differ from those of the mainstream or parent
Youth. Imprecise period between infant and adulthood. In media
reporting they‟re more frequently linked to offending than
“A moral panic may be defined as an episode, often triggered by alarming media
stories and reinforced by reactive laws and public policy, of exaggerated or
misdirected public concern, anxiety, fear, or anger over a perceived threat to social
Varied in intensity, duration and social impact.
Media‟s role in the creation of moral panics.
The reactions of „society‟s guardians‟ (e.g. media) to an immediate problem. o Reaction was largely disproportionate to the alleged threat posed.
o Exaggerated and gave rise to anxiety in the public.
Crimes that are being reported are largely disproportionate – kind of reporting
that amplifies a problem and demands an immediate response.
The moral panic model
Defining features of moral panics:
o Moral panics occur when the mass media take a reasonably ordinary
event and present it as an extraordinary occurrence.
o The media set in motion a deviancy amplification spiral in which a
moral discourse is established.
o Moral panics clarify the moral boundaries of the society in which they
occur, creating consensus and concern.
o Moral panics occur during periods of rapid social change, and can be
said to locate and crystallise wider social anxieties about risk.
o It is usually young people that are targeted, as they are a metaphor for
the future and their behaviour is regarded as a barometer with which to
test the health/sickness of a society.
How the mass media turn the ordinary into the extraordinary
Like any other newsworthy event, the media construct moral panics according
to their criteria of „news values‟.
o Exaggeration and distortion are key elements in the meeting of the
required threshold to turn a potential news events into an actual story.
Moral panics also frequently involve predictability – media prognoses that
what has happened will inevitably happen again.
Simplification occurs through a process of symbolisation whereby names can
be made to simplify complex ideas and emotions.
o A word becomes symbolic of a status (deviant) and objects come to
signify that status and the negative emotions attached to it.
Deviancy amplification spiral
A group of people engage in a deviant act, which may be defined as „criminal‟
by crime control agencies.
Media picks up the story and reports it selectively according to journalistic
As the story catches readers‟ interest, media compete to produce the most
o Exaggeration, distortion and stereotyping may be introduced as
thresholds to keep the story alive.
Responses are forthcoming from a range of sources.
o Public – call for protection and crackdown on the deviants.
Levels of fear and intolerance are raised as a result of selective
and overblown reporting.
o Politicians – may seek to gain political mileage by jumping on the
bandwagon and voicing concerns that echo public fears.
o Police – respond to public and political demands in their enforcement
of law and order e.g. through zero tolerance.
A process of deviancy amplification is now in place. Cohen
Developed the concept of moral panic based on his study of the Mods and
Rockers in the 60s.
Noted how the media used „symbolic shorthands‟ such as hairstyles, items of
clothing, modes of transport, etc. as icons of troublemakers.
One wet weekend at Easter in England, a minor affray became front page
Media stereotyped these groups into folk devils and constructed a moral panic
about young people generally.
Looked at media coverage and interested about how the media was concerned
between the difference between the two – saw it as threatening social norms
They‟re behaviour was seen as threatening and in turn leads to a hostile
Exaggerated focus/attention – groups were stereotyped – evidence in the
media e.g. it was a battlefield (when things are represented this way we
perceive it to be the case.
Level of threats are disproportionate compared to the media says on behalf of
Groups who have been labeled take it on and respond in ways that amplify the
allegedly deviant behaviour. This then gets used in the media as evidence.
Authorities respond - ban scooters, policing, run certain groups out of time
and the media film it all and present it as the battle between police and Mods
and Rockers which is really just a law and order process.
Interested in media‟s amplification of deviancy and the subsequent response to
it by the public and how the sheer ordinariness and mundaneness of an event
can led to a moral panic.
Argued – public‟s response to these kinds of things seen to be
threatening/different to normal morals.
People become „moral guardians‟ and decide whether things are moral and
what we should do. Hall
Study of the public reaction to the phenomenon of mugging in the 70s.
Crime statistics are manipulated for political purposes.
A moral panic was ignited to create public support for the need to „police the
Theorised that the media reporting of a series of street robberies in London
performed an ideological function.
Rising crime rates are defined as a problem.
o Solution – stop and search; drugs raids; harassment; arrests etc.
Examples of offences that have been reported as a moral panic
Male under-achievement in education.
Reporting on youth and ecstasy and the death of Anna Wood (1995) – one of
the most intense moral panics in contemporary Australian history.
Criticisms of the concept
The term „panic‟ – connotes irrationality/no control.
o Rapid rise of concern and metaphor for response.
Disproportionality – assumption that there‟s a proportion between level of
threat posed and level of panic.
o Implies that the reaction to the behaviour is unfounded/irrational and
that we shouldn‟t worry about it.
o Can‟t really measure public response or the level of threat (it‟s
Not all folk devils are vulnerable or unfairly maligned.
o There are some groups/behaviours in society that are threatening and
The term „morality‟ – accepted in literature and no distinction between the
kinds of behaviours that are being talked about.
Outmoded concept – number of decades since its original introduction.
o Not easy to analyse the relationship between media and crime.
o Dissemination of news is much more complex now.
New media has empowered folk devils – you can generate and comment on
media content, making it more dynamic.
o More voices at play.
o More complex.
o Presumes a passive public.
o Audience is much more dynamic than that. The Media & Fear of Crime W4
Critical criminology. Emphasises the relationship between routine,
everyday life, and the surrounding social
Fear of crime. State of anxiety/alarm brought about by the
feeling that one is at risk of criminal
Left realism. Radical criminological perspective that views
crime as a natural and inevitable outcome of
class inequalities and patriarchy and which
proposes to take both crime and fear of crime
Legitimacy. Process by which a group/institution achieves
and maintains public support for its actions.
Policing. Diverse array of tasks, skills and procedures
involving monitoring, regulation, protection
Victimisation. Experience of being a victim of crime.
Penal populism. Notion that, with declining faith in the formal
structures and procedures of the CJ
establishment and growing alarm that crime is
out of control, the public support more
punitive and retributive crime control and
Crime on the rise?
Large majority of the public have inaccurate views about the occurrence of
crime and the severity of sentencing.
o Media presents crime stories in ways which selectively mutilate and
distort public perceptions – creates a false picture of crime.
Majority of Australians believe crime is on the rise when it isn‟t.
o Less than 10% of all crimes are violent but 19/20 say it is higher than
o Begs the question, why is there such a gap between public perception
and official statistics.
People who rely on the entertainment media have less accurate perceptions of
crime than people who use others.
o Suggests the media are guilty of manipulating the picture of crime (not
just statistics, public fears of crime).
Interpersonal crime are consistently overreported – because particularly
violent and sexual events are consistently over represented in relation to
Police reinforce what journos write and journos write what police show them.
Not only news media that distorts, popular culture exercises a significant
influence on our view of crime.
o Contains a large amount of info and images pertaining to fear, and
some audience and readers who digest them perceive social life as
being dangerous. They over represent the most serious crimes.
The nature of this relationship between media and fear of crime is unresolved.
The mass media and the production of fear
Mass media and popular culture exercise significant influence on social life.
Whether or not we can resolve the question whether TV and newspaper
reports about crime and fear are a “cause” or “effect” of public concerns about
crime and fear, two things are clear:
o Pop culture includes a relatively large amount of info and images
pertaining to fear, including crime and violence.
o Audience members perceive social life as very dangerous.
o But the relationship between the two is unresolved and is the subject of
much discussion and debate in crime and the media scholarship.
Different perspectives on fear of crime
Within criminology, discussions of public fears of crime tend to be polarised
along theoretical lines:
Critical criminological – Marxist (Cohen, Hall):
o Emphasise media‟s role in agenda setting.
o While the mass media is not a singular force for promoting dominant
conservative ideologies; rather, these are the product of intense conflict
between various agents involved.
o The result – particularly in tabloid media and broadcast radio, is the
simplification of the problem and an emphasis on law enforcement
o The media‟s manipulation of fear of crime results in “penal populism”
or “popular punitivism”.
o Conclude that fear of crime is irrational and unreasonable.
o Holds that what the public perceive are influenced by the people in
o Concerned about how the powerless are over policed –
overconcentration of crimes that focus on the young, non-Anglo,
working class, unemployed, etc. – lack of focus of crime involving,
white, educated and upper class.
o See it as a product of intense conflict – argue that the result of this
there‟s an oversimplification and overemphasis on law and order
policies. Tell public they‟re scared and then say they‟re going to take a
law and order approach to make it better.
o By highlighting the crime problems, they effectively establish a
springforce use of media savvy titles e.g. tough on crime, are a call for
an increase in sentencing, making sure penalties are longer, zero
tolerance, more CCTV, etc.
o Manipulation of these crime problems leads people to feel fearful and
generates support from public for punitive solutions. Politicians use
this is win votes.
o Powerful groups manipulating fear to gain interest.
o Hotly dispute this proposition (e.g. that fear of crime is irrational and
unreasonable). o Argue that there is a rational core to images of crime and the concerns
o Not just the media who are to blame – perceptions of crime are largely
constructed out of the material experiences of people.
o Are reinforced by what people already know and actual risk of
victimisation, previous experience of victimisations, environmental
conditions, ethnicity and confidence in the CJS.
o There is a rational core to images of crime and concerns they generate
– more balanced.
o Fear is hard to analyse – has to be understood as a complex
o Has an impact in direct and indirect ways.
o Difficult to generalise fear of crime effects.
o Feminist approaches tend to come out of a critique of left realist
approaches because it used to make a distinction between fear of crime
in public and in private and focused mostly on public because we‟re
allegedly more concerned about it.
o Excluded a consideration of crimes that happened in the everyday.
o Rregard fear of crime and its approaches are utterly meaningless
because promote understand of fear that is derived from fear in public
o Women in particular fear being attacked by a stranger in the publics
but more in fear being attacked by someone they know in private.
o Betsy Stanko: an early critic of the masculine lens of national crime
Pointed to the gendered paradox of fear – women report high
rates of fear despite low risk of victimisation.
Reject idea that „fear‟ is associated with either public or private
Challenged the idea that women‟s fears are „irrational‟.
Women‟s fear of rape has had the greatest impact on shaping
Real vs. illegitimate victim; good vs. bad girls.
Gained from public opinion polls/in-depth research.
Findings from surveys about sentencing reform tend to reveal:
o Most people underestimate severity of sentencing and believe judges
are too lenient.
o Generally believe that crime rates are rising.
o Overestimate number of crimes involving violence.
Most surveys are actually skewed towards a particular response.
o Elicit a narrow range of responses (what they want) – most people
A constructed thing and something to be weary about – presumed consensus.
Alongside problem of amplification, is rise of populism in politics. Key feature of populist strategy – to promote as unproblematic the concept of
We have entered an era of voodoo politics.
In this environment, crime policy is not pursued with the aim of making
society fairer or safer but primarily for the cheers of the in-house audience.
An analysis of media coverage of the introduction of PSO’s
Driven by public opinion, namely fear of crime, populism and law and order
Media played a key role in eliciting public opinion.
Became a key issue even though violent crimes on train stations had dropped
and they were safer.
Politicians then put PSOs in order to combat the perceived crime problem.
Pperceptions of safety was important – reporters tended to conclude that cause
people didn‟t‟t feel safe, it was dangerous.
Lack of discussion.
Fear of crime images and narratives
Fear of crime must be seen as „emerging from and constantly reactive to direct
personal experiences, knowledge about others‟ experiences and mediated
sources of information, and also fitting into broader narratives concerning
anxieties about the way society is today‟.
The police and the media
Dramatic portrayals of police work perform an important symbolic function.
Helps perpetuate a mythology of policing.
Helps produce a sense of public legitimacy for the institution of policing.
The media are not solely to blame for fear of crime – actual risk of
victimization, previous experience of victimization, environmental conditions,
ethnicity and previous contact with police and criminal justice system are
among the many factors.
BUT: media play an important role in distorting/cultivating fear & exaggerate
risk of victimisation.
As a consequence women (and the elderly) are socialized into fear and
become over-sensitized to the need to “avoid” or risk becoming a victim.
Both factual and fictional representations of crime focus on the most atypical
crimes and stock plots/narratives that construct victims & offenders in
particular ways. Cultural Criminology W5
Recap: the theoretical contexts guiding research on crime and the media
Media „effects‟ – posits a causal relationship between media and crime.
Critical criminology – pessimistic view of relationship between crime and
o Posits idea that media is an institution that represents the interests of
the dominant groups in society.
o Conservative ideological framework is imposed on lower class.
o Derived through Marxism.
Left realists – criticise the Marxist inspired approaches.
o Saw them as romanticising the views/ways in which the working class
is seen as kicking against power/institutions.
Reception analysis – idea that audiences are passive recipients.
o Contest that and say that they‟re more dynamic than that.
Cultural criminology – about what people do with the media.
o Develops in response to post modernity.
Defining features of behaviourism and positivism:
o Behaviourism – human is a direct product of their environment.
o Positivism – idea that it‟s possible to measure objective reality and
then understand it through the method of science (criminals can be
Defining features of Marxism:
o Not about measuring crimes on people‟s body, but looking at the
relationship between the power and powerless.
Defining features of postmodernism:
o Crime has become a form of entertainment, society has become
o Consumers need immediate gratification and everything has to be in
o Society becomes less concerned with the relationship between groups
and says there‟s a collapse of meaning.
More about constructing meaning – no fixed identity –
ongoing, dynamic process.
Most interested in things that are more ambiguous and social
An approach that embraces postmodernism‟s concerns with the collapse of
meaning, immediacy of gratification, consumption, pleasure and so on, and
emphasises the cultural construction of crime and crime control, and the role
of image, style, representation and performance among deviant subcultures.
o Supports the early Marxist-influenced, critical criminological view that
criminal acts are acts of resistance to authority.
o Emphasises the externalisation of excitement and ecstasy involved in
o Crime is not about acquisition, materialism or economic need, but
presence, status and sneaky thrill.
o Crime is a participatory performance. o Celebrates postmodern notions of difference, discontinuity and
diversity, and breaks down restrictive and negative stereotypes.
o Recognise that postmodern media (e.g. BB, American Idol) merge fun
and hate, cruelty and playfulness, celebrity and nobody, inclusive and
exploitative and accessible and extremist.
Postmodern accounts of crime and the media
We are living in a „society of the spectacle‟.
o Media and other cultural institutions have blurred.
A „hyperreality‟ in which media has blurred any distinction between image
o Can‟t work out what is actually true because everything is mediated.
o Encounters with crime is what we see and read.
o Becomes less important to figure out what is fact/fiction and instead
see that in order to understand crime we need to look at responses to it.
Example of a postmodern media output or „performance‟ – 9/11.
Why study the relationship between crime and culture
For decades, cultural representations have been studied in other disciplines
(e.g. social theory, feminist studies).
Media representations of crime constitute the mainstay of cultural
Yet it is a relatively new field within criminology.
Cultural images of crime are enduringly popular because
They offer “a set of stories which address certain social anxieties in its
audience” and are able “to render the messy and troubling complexities of law
enforcement pleasurable by assigning them to the ancient simplicities of crime
o We are a society that experience crime terror.
o Have numerous legislatural responses, policing, etc. to handle
situations like 9/11.
o We generate images ourselves.
o Narratives that get generated address these anxieties.
o Way of justifying a particular CJ response and convincing others it is
Cultural criminology – a focus on cultural dynamics, meaning and power
Draws on subcultural theory & symbolic interactionist tradition in
Criminology – 1960s.
o Interested in how subcultures engage with the media.
o Cultural = CJ agents + subculture groups.
Focus is on meaning & transgression.
Is about power - reveals the complex, contested dynamic between cultures of
control (control agencies‟ downwards symbolic constructions) and cultures of
deviance (rule breakers‟ upwards counter-constructions);
Emphasises those points where norms are imposed & threatened; laws enacted
and broken, rules negotiated & renegotiated; Culture here is conceived of less as an entity or environment than as uncertain
dynamic by which groups law and small construct, question, and contest the
collective space/experience of everyday life.
o They see dynamic operating between representation of crime and
Cultural criminology and images of crime
Is to consider how the „story‟ of crime is told as much through the image as
through the word.
o Visual images that accompany the test about crime e.g. image in a
To theorise or interrogate the visual is „to unearth the hidden social and
ideological concerns that frequently underpin images of crime, violence, and
It is to keep in mind that „framing‟ is something that we all do; once framed, it
hints of a „frame-up‟.
o Images of crime are something bound up with how we frame things,
when we represent crimes we‟re drawing on frames.
Doing a cultural analysis
A focus on narrative content – so we can consider the film‟s surfeit of
possible explanations for crime.
o Way you structure events from beginning, middle to end.
o Order them in a chronological sequence so it appears as if one event
A focus on narrative form – how a film constructs it‟s images; that is, the
story told by the film.
o Uses different plots to tell a story e.g. romance, science – familiar
ways of recognising the beginning, middle and end of a narrative.
o Elements of a narrative – characters, plot, etc.
Doing cultural analysis is to „engage with the processes by which crime is
imagined: “the linguistic turns and tricks, the framing and editing devices in
and through which crime becomes a topic, obtains and retains a place in
discourse”. Loving, Doting Dads versus Monstrous Mothers W6
Agency. The notion that individuals act independently out
of a sense of moral choice and free will, as
opposed to being „acted upon‟ by social forces
Deviance. A social, and usually moral concept to describe
Difference. Concept often used in a negative sense to
encapsulate cultural diversity, whereby patterns
of behaviour of certain groups are identified as
„differing‟ from some presumed norm.
Essentialism. Belief that behaviour is determined/propelled by
some underlying force or inherent essence.
Informs many common sense views on crime and
Familicide/family annihilation. Phenomenon whereby a man is driven by fear of
failure to kill himself and his family.
Feminism. Introduces theories from psychoanalysis and
cultural studies into criminology.
Filicide. Killing of a child by a parent/step-parent.
Heteropatriarchy. A society in which the heterosexual
male/masculine is assumed to be the norm, and
anyone that differs is defined as „other‟ and is
subject to censure or discrimination.
Infanticide. Homicide of an infant under 12 months by its
mother while she affected by pregnancy or
Otherness. Denotes a symbolic entity located outside the
self. Involves perception of the self as distinct
from the not-self (subdivided according to
Psychosocial explanations. Perspectives that draw on psychoanalysis and
sociological understandings, particularly in the
pursuit of knowledge about gendered identities.
Scopophilia. The pleasure of looking; desire to see.
Spousal homicide. Unlawful killing of an individual by their spouse
Unconscious. What is repressed from consciousness.
Media misogyny - Psychoanalytic perspectives
When it comes to constructions of female offending, difference is readily
constructed as deviance by causal association with crime.
o Despite the fact that women rarely stalk, kill or murder – those who do
are highly newsworthy because of their novelty.
Difference in a psychoanalytic interpretation:
o Involves the denial of large parts of ourselves or the projection of those
parts of ourselves, which make us feel vulnerable, onto others. E.g.
Oedipal complex. o Child succumbs to a destructive unconscious solution in which he
expels the part of himself that he finds intolerable (e.g. vulnerability
and humiliation) and projects them onto his newly discovered „other‟.
o Able to disown the harmful feelings that interfere with newly
discovered sense of power and project them onto „woman‟, who is now
defined as different and therefore bad.
o Subsequently, women, femininity, or passivity may be deemed
contemptible and feared because it represents a despised, castrated part
of the self.
The interplay between unconscious fears and culturally reinforced prejudices
defines who, at any given time, is designated the scapegoat other against
whom we bolster our own individual sense of identity and the victimisation of
feminised others goes beyond gendered relationships.
o Understanding otherness helps to explain why identities are often
characterised by polarisation and by the discursive marking of
inclusion and exclusion within oppositional classificatory systems.
Insiders and outsiders.
Us and them.
Men and woman.
Deviant and normal.
1970s: to challenge the androcentrism of traditional criminology.
Applied to constructions of gender in studies of victimisation and seek to
understand the conscious/unconscious that explain why some women fail to
conform to cultural stereotypes of femininity and why legal and media
discourses construct and reflect negative public emotions towards female
o Whether women are treated more harshly or leniently when they‟re in
o Whether women who commit violent crimes in partnership with a man
or in self-defence are passive victims of male op