How might a consumer culture generate crime?
Currently in society, there is probably no greater influence than the television - How might a consumer culture generate crime? introduction. It has become apparent that through this unique mechanism society is unconsciously being moulded. Through television a world of both fantasy and reality is uncovered. Is society able to distinguish the difference between the two? Is it possible that through the media society in general is gradually being moulded to personas of fantasy characters? Do we want to become those in the adverts or television programmes, wanting what is achievable to some but not everyone?
Do problems arise when we realise that we can not have that Mercedes, dream house or ‘American Dream’ that we all long for? Is it then that we turn to crime? Since the birth of television, crime has increased dramatically according to British Crime Surveys. The media has the ability to control the ideas of politics and rewrite history right under our noses without us being consciously aware. This is why vast amounts of money are invested into advertising, because it is inevitable that it works.
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We employ ecological issues which relate to our religious beliefs and we let television use its power which manipulates and affects our own values. The media softens the moral values and the ideas of society and has social and economic consequences on families. Noticeably, children are mostly affected by advertising. They watch a show on television, and they begin to want to wear clothing that a particular character wears or clothing that has the symbol of their favourite character. They begin to act like their favourite character. They even respond to their friends and parents as their favourite character would.
This has led to children even acting out the violent scenes they have viewed on television in reality. Previous moral panics have blamed the media for promoting violence. From time to time, the media industry comes under political attack. Allegations are frequently made that viewing violent media has an adverse affect on the viewer. It appears that many a time allegations are linked to a particular tragedy at that moment e. g. the Hungerford Massacre(linked to Rambo), the columbine shootings(linked to Doom), the James Bulger murder(linked to Childs Play 3) and these are to name but a few.
Gangsters, flash cars and living a life of luxury are a few among many things society in general has come to acknowledge, enjoy and yearn for. As the years have progressed, media marketing has lead society to believe that the life of luxury is accessible to anyone and it appears that nowadays some members of society will go through any extent to achieve it. With the likes of famous footballers such as David Beckham and Thierry Henry promoting mobile phones and flash cars, this is most appealing to the younger generation and such luxurious items is out of reach to many.
The marketing society is being blamed for increases in crime. If so, the question that one asks is how and why is this happening? Ten years ago, it was an extreme rarity for any individual to own a mobile phone. January 2005 and it appears that now a person is deemed of a lower social status if they are without one. From primary school children to the older generation it is apparent and obvious that mobile phones are no longer a luxury item. At present as well as being an unconscious status symbol it is the ‘norm to possess one.
Chairman of the Youth Justice Board, said research showed that the consumer culture had not only made robbery more lucrative but had also motivated offenders in the first place. “For many of today’s teenagers, possessions like mobile phones are a must-have status symbol and some young people have turned to crime to get them. These particular young offenders have often already accepted that they will not achieve a proper education but they still want what they see as the good things of life and symbols of success. ”
Meeting the demands of a consumer culture which targets young people is a major factor related to street crime, according to recent reports. The Young People and Street Crime Report found that the importance among young people, their image, as well as financial and personal factors, were the main triggers in causing them to commit street crime. The research found that those most at risk of offending were young people with no adult earners in the household, teenage boys with no positive male role models and those alienated from mainstream education.
Street crime was also found to be most likely in areas where children from lower class families came into close contact with middle class children. A comment from an 11 year old boy told researchers that it was quite easy to get involved in street crime. “Its quick money and also you don’t have to go through all those years of education before you can start to earn money. You can start earning money straight away. ” The above comment is fear-provoking as how many other members of society are feeling like this and were has it been learnt from.
It is no coincidence that many teenagers involved in gang’s model themselves on gangsters such as the Krays. The glorification of the gangster image in the media is created due to it making lots of money for everybody involved. This provides fertile ground for an attitude that views crime as increasingly and highly acceptable. Combine this with poverty, disruptive parents and an ineffective police and justice system which lead criminals to think that they can get away with anything, and you have a recipe for disaster. Television advertises guns as being of a modern trend.
That is what the media and countless television programmes will have us believe. The ‘gangster’ culture is a plague. Scarface, The Godfather, Reservoir dogs and many more films are all evidence that society has become obsessed with the gangster culture. Society in general enjoys watching films about serial killers and gangsters. It is considered the norm to see someone shot dead and think it is cool and humorous. If society has become desensitized to all this, is it any wonder crime is increasing and children are fighting, stealing, joyriding and so forth.
Crime is popularized and glamorized by the media and a large portion of our youth have fallen victim to this caricature of reality. Society has most recently pointed fingers at the music culture particularly urban music such as UK garage and rap music. Blames are being made suggesting that the ‘gangster’ culture is being glamorised and is to be blamed for crimes especially street and gun crime. The reasons fingers are being pointed are that advertising sells certain images. Adverts on music channels at present consist of many rap music artists who in effect promotes themselves as well as the music they are selling.
If they are selling there music they are then selling their image. Once, the image is sold, then surely fans listening to their music will listen to whatever image they see or portray in their music when observing interviews, music videos, concerts, etc. Many a time, once celebrities start to follow a certain trend, whether it is having loads of so-called bling (jewellery) to having an unusual haircut (e. g. David Beckham’s Mohican) their fans will soon follow whether the trend was liked in the first place or not. 004, the culture minister Kim Howells criticised rap music associated with gang culture which glamorises guns. He described it as “hateful lyrics that… macho idiot rappers come out with”.
Howells may have a point but then when considering other aggressive lyrics from other non-rap musicians such as Johnny Cash, “I shot a man in Reno to watch him die” or John Lennon, “Happiness is a warm gun”. Why has Howells not pointed the finger at them, is it the same category of stereotyping that causes a finger to be pointed at Heavy Metal musicians when a child with a heavy metal musicians t-shirt goes berserk with a gun.
Society problems are increasingly seen as cultural ones, which music such as gangster rap not only reflect, but create. If rap artist, Eminem has homophobic lyrics, he is responsible for homophobia, if UK garage artists So Solid Crew rap about guns, they are responsible for the ‘gangster culture’. Most recently reggae artists are being held responsible for promoting homophobia in the recent puma adverts advertising clothing using the Jamaican flag colours.
Reggae artists were used to promote these adverts but problems arose where gay activists were protesting that these reggae artists that were promoting this major brand name have consistently sang songs about killing gay men. The protesters therefore believed that if reggae artists promote Puma then they are effectively promoting their music and therefore promoting killing gay people and homophobia. Music artists and those who manufacture it are well aware of its power to influence vulnerable youngsters.
In the last twenty years records, CDs, videos, DVDs and television and film, have been used to promote and market music and this is exactly how the media is making their money. Many parents find it difficult to communicate with their youngsters who are absorbed by the world of glamour that the media industry has created. ‘Top of the Pops’ has given rise over the years to numerous complaints not only about lyrics but also about the artists and their dance routines. The camera angles seem calculated to show the most erotic movements all of which inspire young children to follow the example set.
It is not surprising that youngsters are targeted by the music industry as the most likely source of disposable income. But selling music is only one part of the rationale. It is also in the business of selling ideas, beliefs and behaviour. Youth culture has always been viewed as distasteful and disturbing by those at the more adult end of society. From Teddy Boys to mods and rockers to the psychedelic Sixties to punk, older generations saw music as heralding moral permissiveness, social decline and all-round bad behaviour.
There is now a mainstream view that youth culture is not just a problem, but one of the key problems with society today; that dodgy music is not just a bad influence on kids, but a key influence in shaping the future. The problem that the media is creating in society today is that there are distinct, yet illusional, social classes and the media’s exercised power of creating and destroying these classes in our minds are becoming more and more evident. The media leads us to believe that these are individual classes within society, and that most of us belong to the middle class.
The middle class society is one that has been predominately created by the media, and the media presents the middle class as the majority of people in society. In the way presented by the media, there are distinct differences between the working class, middle class and the upper class. Upon research it has become apparent that most of us are of the working class. The media makes us think we all belong to the middle class, whether we are working class or not. Class bias definitely exists in the media which is evident from television programmes and films.
The main point is that the working class is disappearing from the minds from a majority in society, leaving everyone with the impression that if they are not poverty-stricken then they belong to the middle class. This is happening all too often and this is when relative deprivation occurs. Media sheds less light on the working class and when they are portrayed, it is often in stereotypical roles. This has been observed in the entertainment and news media. The less we know about the working class the more likely we are to forget the working class altogether and effectively forget that a majority are of the working class.
When it comes to TV the working class is misrepresented and underrepresented in not only the news, but in the media altogether Car adverts appear to promote the working class person as speeding down wide empty roads with well dressed young men and women and in some cases the nuclear family, creating the ‘car culture’. This effectively advertises a false impression of how society should be. Those viewing these adverts believe that they should have the cars that the working class citizens in the adverts do. Once again this is a prime example of relative deprivation.
In short, cars are often stolen for the same reason that they are bought and they are largely bought for the reasons hinted at in advertising. Cars can be seen as a magical solution more widely to higher your status and end your worries. The extent of implicit and explicit support for unnecessary, illegal or carefree/careless driving in advertisements, popular and high culture and years of observation suggests that the term car culture is inadequate and that the expression joyriding culture may be considered more appropriate.
We are currently living in a joyriding culture which encourages all men and some women drivers to relive themselves and gain emotional satisfactions through the ownership or use of a car. Further evidence for the popularity of car culture and joyriding can be seen in teenage magazines. In an article in Mizz magazine, 1993, an insight was giving into joyriding and the ways in which a motor stealing prevention scheme has prevented teenager’s car thieving and joyriding.
It is clear that the magazine wanted to captivate the audience by creating a quote that would attract its young women readers. The front cover quotes, ‘Don’t get in a car with these boys’ yet the introduction to the article more teasingly suggests a certain romantic heroism, the interviewer talks to the boys who were prepared to sacrifice their freedom for the sake of impressing the girls in flashy cars The boys chosen for the interviews are arranged leaning on a car looking up at the camera much like a pop group posing for publicity pictures.
What causes particular concern about this article is that given the target market of the magazine and its normal content the boys are portrayed as a pop group and despite the warning of car crime the whole article appears to be glamorised. As Mizz is a magazine aimed at teenagers, when reading this article, how would they possibly differentiate right from wrong after reading? The article does not discuss as to why they initiated joyriding in the first instance but it does discuss how their families are not that well off and are considered of the working class.
Could it be the whole marketing of car advertisements and how cars are cool which led to joyriding? Is it the sheer glamour of it all? Or is it because they feel unconsciously relatively deprived? Both poverty and inequality are increasingly implicated in violent crime. Poverty is generally regarded as absolute deprivation, and modern criminologists study inequality, which is regarded as relative deprivation. Consequently, a country in which everyone is poor will have poverty but no inequality. Likewise, a fairly well-off country can have inequality but no poverty.
Structural poverty may exist in different forms in different regions of the same country. Elliott Currie stated, “It is sometimes argued that advanced societies are more alike than different in their experience of crime, an argument that serves to deflect attention from some of the structural factors often identified as important causes of crime. If crime looks much the same everywhere, then such factors as poverty or income inequality, which do vary considerably across the post industrial world, can’t be very important after all. ”
The relationship between inequality and crime is believed to operate through a person’s individual assessment of the equity of a particular distribution of economic resources. Their assessment is partially shaped by the sociocultural environment, but there is no one-to-one relationship between national statistical measures and psychological factors which is also known as making the ecological fallacy. If inequity is perceived, there must be some interpretive or intervening mechanism that channels or diffuses the effect in different directions.
In criminology, that intervening mechanism, relative deprivation, and some individuals respond by resorting to property crime to address their grievances, and other people develop a deep anger which can be manifested in violent ways. Karl Marx stated, “A house can be large or small; as long as the surrounding houses are equally small it satisfies all social demands. But if a palace rises beside the little house, the little house shrinks into a hut. ” Not all people who perceive wage inequality resort to crime.
Some become entrepreneurs, others get involved in political action, and still others direct the feelings of anger and frustration toward themselves. The type of crime traditionally associated with economic inequality is property crime, but this may be simply an opportunity explanation since when poor people live side by side with rich people, there is more opportunity. In recent years, however, the deep anger explanation has become more popular, and many criminologists now associate economic inequality with violent crime. .
Jeffrey Fagan and his colleagues, in their recent multi-city study of crime, drugs and neighbourhood change in the US, describe as a progressive unravelling of low income communities. As these researchers point out, the resulting depletion of stable adult supervision and support means that youth gangs or drug dealers may become the dominant informal control and socialisation force (Fagan et al 1993). More generally, it leaves youth more and more dependant for help, advice and role modelling on their peer groups and on an increasingly pervasive consumer culture.
Market society is underpinned by a distinctive set of cultural values and norms and as it develops, these come to push aside others which have traditionally helped communities to maintain social cohesion in the face of economic deprivation and uncertainty. It breeds violent crime by weakening or eroding alternative political values and institutions through which those it hurts most could make sense of their situation in progressive terms and take effective collective action against it.
It is often been argued that the advertising industry are especially likely to breed high levels of violent crime into this countries if advertising becomes more prominent in these countries. The tendency of market society to breed violent crime helps explain high levels of crime life- threatening violence in the US, as well as in parts of the Third world and the former soviet bloc.
Cultures that hinder the freedom of speech through the media many times have the lowest crime rates, as well as the closest family structure. Television has the power to educate and inform. In many nations and cultures where television is more controlled or not as saturating as it is in the United States, the values of that society are more unchanging. Life is viewed by the interaction of family and friends, and not by what is presented in the media.
Media moguls in those cultures do not challenge the ideology that is passed down from generation to generation. We don’t talk about this issue much in our recent thinking about violent crime. But it is significant within the history of criminology. Robert Merton discussed the condition of social strain and suggested it was rebellion which leads men outside the environing social structure to envisage and seek to bring into being a new, that is to say a greatly modified structure.
It is important to note that Left Realism has not so far attempted to elaborate any new theory of the causes of crime, rather the strategy has been that of elaborating and adapting existing bodies of theory into the action and reaction model. The major influences have been the anomie or relative deprivation theories derived from the classic contributions of Merton (1938) and Cloward and Ohlin (1960) combined with theories of social and economic marginality. Lea and Young stated, Relative deprivation, a conflict between socially diffused goals and needs and the restricted availability of the legitimate means for their achievement would likely be resolved by a turn to criminality among those groups additionally marginalized from participation in the political processes of modern industrial societies. ” Serious critics of Left realist criminology have pointed to the restricted applicability of the theory to particular areas of crime.
Street crime such as household burglary, shop lifting, and street robbery are those which come most readily to mind when considering relative deprivation as illegal means to socially sanctioned goals. However, the relative deprivation theory views the causes of delinquency not so much in an instrumental response to deprivation as might be evidenced by engaging in burglary as an income supplement but in the development of a subculture in which alternative values develop precisely as a way of coping with the frustrations of exclusion from legitimate routes to success.
In this sense the role of interpersonal expressive violence or ritualised forms of conspicuous consumption as ways of establishing status in the absence of conventional means and symbols can be understood. Also ‘crimes of passion’ such as homicide and interpersonal violence such as sexual assault and rape have a concentration among the poor and deprived and can be seen as arising from dynamics of relative deprivation. Box, describes the dynamics of rape by men from poor and deprived backgrounds, When men from this latter group rape they rely primarily on physical violence because this is the resource they command.
Being relatively unable to ‘wine and dine’ females or place them in a position of social debt, and being less able to induce in women a sense of physical and emotional over-comeness these ‘socially’ powerless men are left with a sense of resentment and bitterness which is fanned and inflamed by cultural sex-role stereotypes of ‘successful’ men being sexually potent. Once again is the above comment purely what these men have subconsciously viewed within the media. Is rape and murder an excuse for being socially deprived? The marketing society is not about the values it is about selling lifestyles, and as long as society can view those lifestyles they will yearn for it. It is evident that some will turn to crime for it? Worryingly, we do not know to what extent some are willing to go to in order to satisfy their deprivation.
Christmas day and a mother of three had nothing to give her children, she says, “I had to steal because the children where being picked on by the other kids, I was flat broke”. Many of us will argue with the above statement and that surely she could have found other means of money or got a job. However, until we are placed in that predicament do we have the right to comment? We will we always want more no matter how poor or wealthy we are? How do we really know when we are relatively deprived?