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Jemima Fairbairn

Early theories connecting media and crime were characterized by an overwhelmingly negative
view of both the role of the media and the susceptibility of the audience. In an age of uncertainty
and instability, when it was believed that social action was heavily determined by external forces
rather than being a matter of personal choice, the emerging mass media became the focus of many
theories about the harmful effects of powerful stimuli. Like Martians with their ray guns, the new
media of mass communications were perceived through early 20th century eyes as alien invaders
injecting their messages directly into the minds of a captive audience.
Merton’s development of anomie helps us to understand the strain caused by a disjuncture between
the cultural goals of wealth and status,and legitimate means of achieving those goals. For those
with few means of attaining success through normal, legal channels, the mass media especially
the advertising industry might be said to place incalculable pressure, creating a huge ungratified
well of desire with little opportunity of fulfilment. It is in such circumstances that some individuals
pursue the culturally desirable objectives of success and material wealth via illegitimate paths.
Merton’s work follows Durkheim’s theories concerning the characteristics of society and how
individuals struggle to achieve social solidarity despite the atomization they face. Recent
commentators on anomie have suggested that disaffected individuals overcome feelings of
isolation and normlessness by forming communities based on shared tastes and opinions, and that
the Internet has, for some, countered the sense of dislocation that gaps in wealth and status
inevitably produce.
Despite their differences, functionalism , Marxism, and feminist theories of communication all
associate the workings of mass media with contributing to the maintenance of social conformity,
order, and control. Historically, the roots of mass media involvement in social control can be traced
back to the 1960s with “the success of prosocial entertainment programs and public information
campaigns” and to the “development of a number of media-based anticrime programs and the
widespread adoption of media technology in the criminal justice field” a decade later (Surette,
2007: 171). Today, in addition to the anticrime advertising, case processing using media
technology, and police surveillance systems based on the older technologies of audio- and
videotaping, there is an abundance of newer media technologies “capable of both facilitating and
constraining communication, interaction, mobility, and the creation and realisation of fluid
identities” (Greer, 2010: 491).
Moreover, the digitized, computerized, and networked information and communication
technologies exemplified by the Internet have created virtual worlds with their own changing
norms, values and codes of practice, altering the ways in which “people engage and interact in
time and space,” giving “new meaning to what it is to be ‘social’” (Ibid.). These technological
transformations have created new opportunities and risks for crime and victimization, and for
surveillance and crime control. For example, Closed Circuit Television cameras, information
gathering, and data processing have transformed how people perceive and negotiate their social
worlds with caution and reserve, aware that “cybercrime” is all about. At the same time, while the
news media, law enforcement, and external observers have raised concerns over the rise of Big
Brother and 1984, the public has tended to resign itself to a lack of privacy and to the installation
of surveillance cameras in public places to prevent crime (Surette, 2007).
Jemima Fairbairn

In 2010, the mass media can be used to influence people’s attitudes about crime and criminal
justice, for better or worse. The popular media can be used to provide the police with more crime-
related information. Media technology has also become a staple used to speed the processing of
criminal cases, to videotape police patrols, vehicle stops, and subsequent interrogations. It can be
useful in the investigation, surveillance, and deterrence of crime and in the prevention of
victimization by intercepting, for example, potential terrorist bombers foiled by TSA full-body
video scanners when trying to pass through airport security. In these applications of media
technology to crime and social control, the question typically asked by inquiring minds is at what
costs or benefits to the general public?
For example, while programs designed to increase public cooperation by advertising crime have
proven effective in gathering information and in solving some crimes, the overall effect on crime
is not significant. Media programs that teach the public about crime prevention techniques are
quite popular. They also increase public knowledge and change attitudes about crime prevention,
but not actual crime prevention behavior. Similarly, while surveillance programs do show
deterrence effects, their ability to do so without displacement remains unproven. With these
caveats in mind, Surette (2007) is ambivalent at best acknowledging that media technologies can
enhance both due process and crime control models of the administration of justice. His concern
is that the message conveyed by the news media, in conjunction with the entertainment message
that crime is individually caused, is that the resolution of crime becomes overly dependent on
technological rather than social interventions. Other noted costs to the public include the potential
for decreased citizen involvement; increased depersonalization of the criminal justice system and
isolation of the police from the policed; increased citizen fear and suspicion of the criminal justice
system; and, the polarization of society due to the creation of affluent, technologically secured
garrison communities.
mass media could be a major cause of deviance and crime in today’s society because it influences
the young and vulnerable like children to imitate violence that it sees. Although this is seen to be
of little effect in real life, where there is at maximum only correlational evidence of a link. Sarah
Thornton’s study on 'club culture’ also suggests that today’s society is so fragmented that there are
so many different responses to the media that it is unclear as to whether it does have a direct effect,
and whether that’s a bad thing. As much as deviance, the media may well cause deviance, but this
is not necessarily criminal. Therefore in modern society where there is an increase of media
consumption and a majority that own at least 1 internet device is could be argued that media
influences us to be deviant from the norm, but this may not result in the types of violent crimes
that are reported on a daily basis.