Outline the view that Society is both Fearful of, and Fascinated by Crime. To explore why Society is both fearful and fascinated by crime, we need to understand firstly what is meant by ‘crime’. A crime can be taken as a specific act of deviance which breaks the formal rules or laws as stated by that specific culture or society. A crime is something that is unacceptable to society as well as is forbidden by the law. Anything that is unacceptable to society but is allowed by law is not a crime.
The normative definition of crime is considered to be abnormal behaviour that goes against the existing norms and cultural standards. The norms and cultural standards actually define how people should conduct themselves. Therefore a crime can depend on whether you look at it from a legal or normative definition. The law is different from country to country and society to society, with different definitions of crime. What may seem wrong in one society may be perfectly normal in another.
This meaning of crime is more widely known as a Social Construction.
What defines a crime has changed over the centuries, and years from today what is considered a crime now will no longer be one and there will be many new crimes as a result of social construction. This essay will attempt to explain why Society is both Fearful of and Fascinated by crime. So what makes us fearful of crime? The news and press are filled with horror stories of abductions, murder and abuse to name a few, but was it always like this? In the subsequent years after the Second World War.
Stories are told of ‘the good old days’ where there was ‘more respect for authority’, and people could leave their front doors unlocked. There were no such things as hard drugs and children could play without fear of abduction. The local bobby was known to all and there was a strong family and community feel. Compare this to the present day, where we are subjected to gangs of young people terrorising housing estates or built up residential areas, and targeting any and all manner of person from the four year old playing to the elderly.
Child abuse and pornography are on the increase and knife crimes are rising. According to official statistics crime has increased over the last 60 years. Before the 1930s there were fewer than 100,000 offences recorded, but in 1992, over 5 million offences were recorded (Maguire et al 1997). The public’s fascination with crime lies at the heart of popular culture and crime occupies a large proportion of people’s time and imagination. The media feeds our thirst for more real life crime stories. There are various areas of media that discuss crime.
The most obvious are tabloid newspapers and news reports on television. However crime can also be discussed in academic journals, true crime magazines and books, crime fiction, TV, and films. Tabloids and TV news are the most widely available accounts of crime to the general public. Society follows these stories with fascination. If the story is about something bad, they feel fear, as well as fascination, because they wonder if this could possibly happen to them. There has been a surge in stories as the media latches onto the latest headline grabber.
Knife crime one week, teenage pregnancies the next, the media loves a Moral Panic. This term was first used in the early 70’s by Stanley Cohen. A moral panic refers to the reaction of a group of people based on the false belief that another group poses danger to the society. They see that group as being a major threat to their social values and cultures. The most common themes in moral panics are the influences and behaviours of young people . Moral panic can be initiated by a small outburst of deviant behaviour, which generates enormous media reaction.
The media decides how to show this deviant behaviour via front-page headlines, primetime news etc. This will in turn determine how the general public interprets and reacts to the report. As a result of the publics reaction the police may intervene more strongly in any further outbreaks or disturbances, because of the pressure of the ‘public eye’. This may increase the number arrested leading to a spiral of increased police activity and mass public concern, which is defined as a deviancy amplification spiral.
Moral panic is socially constructed and has a real impact on the whole of society. The combination of the fear and fascination of crime is important in the reporting of moral panic. The fascination of taking an interest in watching and reading the medias version of events. The fear being the response, the event or what the situation creates. The fear also of a society frightened by what the media report on, a seemingly fractured and disheartened society overrun by crime. This could all lead to a decline in the solid social structure and moral values. Word Count: 819
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