It's A Great Day Today. Remember Humor Is A Social Lubricant.

Observations and opinions ... not always my own.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Deviance Amplification - How the media manipulates us.

How news reporting can be used to create the impression of a crime wave where there is none.  

Deviancy amplification spiral (also simply called deviance amplification) is a media hype phenomenon defined by media critics as a cycle of increasing numbers of reports on a category of antisocial behavior or some other "undesirable" event, leading to a moral panic. The term was coined in 1972 by Stanley Cohen in his book, Folk Devils and Moral Panics.

     According to Cohen the spiral starts with some "deviant" act. Usually the deviance is criminal, but it can also involve lawful acts considered morally repugnant by a large segment of society. With the new focus on the issue, hidden or borderline examples that would not themselves have been newsworthy are reported, confirming the "pattern".
      Reported cases of such "deviance" are often presented as just "the ones we know about" or the "tip of the iceberg", an assertion that is nearly impossible to disprove immediately. For a variety of reasons, the less sensational aspects of the spiraling story that would help the public keep a rational perspective (such as statistics showing that the behavior or event is actually less common or less harmful than generally believed) tends to be ignored by the press.
      As a result, minor problems begin to look serious and rare events begin to seem common. Members of the public are motivated to keep informed on these events, leading to high readership for the stories, feeding the spiral. The resulting publicity has potential to increase deviant behavior by glamorizing it or making it seem common or acceptable. In the next stage, public concern about crime typically forces the police and the law enforcement system to focus more resources on dealing with the specific deviancy than it warrants.
(With an increased awareness of a new term called "sexting" media such as Cosomogirl became interested.
In a 2008 survey of 1,280 teenagers and young adults of both sexes on sponsored by The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, 20% of teens (13-20) and 33% of young adults (20-26) had sent nude or semi-nude photographs of themselves electronically. Additionally, 39% of teens and 59% of young adults had sent sexually explicit text messages. A sociologist at Colorado College interviewed 80 students and believes this claim is overblown......   First consider the source of the survey. Cosmogirl is probably read by a small percentage of those under 18.)

        Judges and magistrates then come under public pressure to deal out harsher sentences and politicians pass new laws to increase their popularity by giving the impression that they are dealing with the perceived threat. The responses by those in authority tend to reinforce the public's fear, while the media continue to report police and other law enforcement activity, amplifying the spiral. 
(Poorly done or unsupported opinions from many sources resulted in knee-jerk legislative responses across the country making sexting a felony for minors and resulting in prosecutions and having to register minors as sex offenders. Sexting that involves a minor (sometimes) sending an explicit photograph of themselves to their peers has led to a legal gray area in countries that have strict anti-child pornography laws, such as the United States. Some teenagers who have texted photographs of themselves, or of their friends or partners, have been charged with distribution of child pornography, while those who have received the images have been charged with possession of child pornography; in some cases, the possession charge has been applied to school administrators who have investigated sexting incidents as well. The images involved in sexting are usually different in both nature and motivation from the type of content that anti-child pornography laws were created to address.)
The theory does not contend that moral panics always include the deviancy amplification spiral. In modern times, however, media involvement is usual in any moral panic, making the spiral fairly common.

A news article today:
Teen sexting of photos may be less common than thought
Only 1 percent of kids aged 10 to 17 have shared images of themselves or others that involve explicit nudity, a nationally representative study found. The studies illustrate how sexting may include a wide range of teen behavior, and highlight an issue “about which we as a society have gotten pretty hysterical and probably blew out of proportion,” said Dr. Michael Rich, director of the Center on Media and Child Health at Children’s Hospital Boston.

Enough said... try to be a critical thinker.

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