Media, Criminality and Criminal Justice in One Image

A hoax repeatedly mediated to be true will become true and eventually be perceived to be true. This is the power of media. With technological developments and advancements enlarging itself into attaining its potential monstrosity, more and more, media has become a part of the digital man’s source of influence, information and foundation for daily ideas, decisions and reflections. The mere fact that western lifestyles permit more than three hours of television viewing daily is enough to cause both pediatricians and sociologists anxieties.

And this influence definitely includes how people would eventually perceive criminality and criminal justice. A famous London crime scene that happened recently is reported like so: “For hundreds of thousands of people commuting into London, the morning of July 7, 2005 began just like any other. But at the peak of the rush hour, bombs were detonated in three crowded subway trains and aboard a London bus. At least 52 people died, along with four bombers, and 700 were injured.

A week later, millions stood in silence to honor the victims of the deadliest attack in Britain since World War II. A week after that, the transport system was hit again – with attempted explosions on three more Tube trains and another bus. ” (CNN, 2005. ) The news report above clearly depicts the bombing incident as an attack against the hard working commuters of London. Londoners on this paragraph wrote by a news reporter perceived Londers as innocent victims. It also clearly promoted in the new brief that the nation has a role to honor the victims like they were victims of war.

While the world tunes in to BBC or CNN and get the latest hour by hour news on their iPod’s, the suspected terrorists are shown on the television screens and add to the increasing negativity of the public against people in the middle east. The situation becomes so scary that even peaceful loving Pakistan nationalities in London are accepting the fact that they might be questioned by modern Sherlock Holmes, with their finger prints and DNA sampled by CSI operatives. The plot of media’s role in developing criminality perception thickens. The role of media in the issue of crime can be seen in two levels.

First, media projects what crime is. Crime is anything that brings someone to jail, gets somebody dead, makes someone unhappy in the many forms media can depict. Crime is definitely scary and always violent. The news, movies and television attain high ratings when they showcase programs that are more violent, depict corrupted politicians and police, super heroes and blood and gore of villains. But these visualizations do not exactly and precisely educate the audience what crime is. At best, the audience learns that when the police arrests them, “they have the right to remain silent”.

But what is crime? “What is classified as a crime is supposed to reflect the values of society and to reinforce those values. If an act is regarded as harmful to society or its citizens, it is often, but not always (take smoking and drinking for example), classified as a criminal offence. The United Kingdom relies on Parliament to classify what acts are criminal and what the penalties for these criminal offences are; the idea being that those most harmful to us carry the harshest penalties. In other words, crime is what the government says it is.

Of course, what this means is that what is a crime one year might not be a crime the next, and that penalties for crime can also change a great deal. ” (crimeinfo. com, 2006) Second, media shapes the public’s perception of criminal justice, its definition and forms. Media has not been constructive in helping the public have access to the criminal justice systems that works for them in the real world. Media is presumptous by nature. In media’s innate characteristics to become frenzy over a news item, to beat other competitors to the latest juicy story, it gathers stored data and presents the issue with a ready bias.

This is found in public functions such as sentencing as well. Intent to be informative is commendable. If media could present in a way to raise the level of debate to gather critical mass that can lead to institutional reforms, then it would have been constructive. Unfortunately, media has remained argumentative and threatening in its discourse that borders affecting judicial discretion. A perfect example of this would be its hounding of public reactions, airing them in bombarding manner even before the judge gets all pertinent medical or psychiatric reports.

Definitely, there will be pressure and judges are not always in the best of confidence to rid of being tainted from outside perceptions. In any case, media would not likely to have full access to all the information in court therefore, media must be careful especially when it comes to workings in these public institutions. “Of course, the media is entitled to examine the sentencing function of the courts. However, like all of us, it should at least wait until the judicial function has been completed and not use the privilege of substantial control over information dissemination for sloganism and pious certainty.

The responsibility of the media is to give the detailed information that is needed for the community to properly participate in this democracy; paint the complete picture of the statistical reality of those who are gaoled by our institutions; be candid about the human frailties which we all share and which some of us are less able to address than others; and finally, confirm the cold hard fact that the criminal justice system frequently fails the poor. ” (Boe, 2006. ) Research continue to observe relationships between media and their audience’s perception of crime and punishment.

Heavy viewing of television violence leads to more fear versus more aggression. Individuals who consume more hours of television viewing time feels greater amount of threat from crime and believe that there’s more crime than government statistics show. When the public watches more crime news they tend to increase fear but if the crime happens outside of their immediate vicinity, the public feels safer where they live. The fear raised by media from the extra ‘reality’of crime has become elements that serve political and economic private interests.

The politician that has the best security program, that best hates bad people can get more points come election time. They become more popular when they join the sensational discourse on crime and punishment. Topics on crime and criminal justice has always strung sensitive chords of public sentiments. The death sentence for example is one sure discourse to get people’s attention. Security products and services, in turn earn millions each year. Gadgets, high technology alarm systems and anti-crime services rake in more profits when there is more fear installed in the public’s perception.

Collaboration between media and business interest in shaping consumer minds is becoming more evident. Harold Evans, a long time editor of the London Times know that the danger of loosing focus on journalistic ends will commense when media start to focus on business. When journalists pursue their mission, “the problem many organizations face is not to stay in business, but to stay in journalism. ” (Gardner, 2001) Media is able to affect public criminality views first by the way media bombards the information on its televiewers. It’s not enough that the evening news report the crime scene.

They need to show elaborate pictures, they feature analysts or crime specialists that would further elaborate the story until the story can drag on for days. These televised programs appeal to emotion and can climax to soliciting rage and fear among their televiewers, all for the first goal of getting high television ratings to get high valued sponsorships. And if that does not suffice, with all of media’s technological developments, it can probe deeper into elements that can make the crime story border on the sensational. They often hypothesize police efforts, go into investigations that are off limits to the public in reality.

Issues pertaining to the television hit Crime Scene Investigation: CSI were recently raised. As the program presents with full audi visual spectacle how each crime scene is being investigated on, real life courts are affected by the public’s perception that this type of scientific investigation can happen, all in one sitting which is unfortunately not always plausible. While people across the world becomes more and more mediated, media’s role in the construction of the public’s criminality and criminal justice system become more important and crucial.

The public’s perception of the three dimensional characteristics of good guys and bad guys are largely dependent on how media bombards its portrayal to the man on the street. “Clear evidence suggest that negative, unbalanced and inaccurate reporting would most likely advocate fear and tension among London communities. The national press reports on asylum issues more frequent local or black and ethnic minority newspapers. ” (Onofrio, 2004) As it is, politics and governance which are both in the heart of crime and justice has been stereotyped by media as a charade.

Sociologists convince their discourses whether the grief for Diana, Princess of Wales was real or more or less constructed by so much percent. More cultural examinations on the state of public minds can be traced back to how media presented this to its televiewers and how their audiences were influenced. In a big way, criminality and criminal justice have been affected by the media virus. Media has instilled into the concept of criminality and punishment the same characteristics found in it. For one, both support activities that thread dangerously on sensationalism.

The criminal justice system has enough innate sensational elements as it is and it does not need more dosages from media. The system has also become a source of spectacle and entertainment rather than a place for intellectual discourse on justice and ethics. Like media, the effort to always present facts in an entertaining way to the extent of truth distortion have been adapted by the justice system. And last but not least, media has corrupted public’s perception of the justice system in general. Normally, people would not like to watch movies or news stories that are not interesting.

And gloomy stories cater to more audiences by nature. It is imperative for media to show the most gruesome to catch the most attention. Unfortunately, the picture painted is not accurate. There are yet more credible justices. There are yet more goodness in people. In reality, government has kept the effort to maintain safetyness in the streets of Britain. But thanks to media, there are more fear than the will to fight against terrorist after coverage of the London train bombing. The public’s perception shape the culture of nations. Media will remain as one of the key elements that shape public’s perception.

If a culture of fear is prevalent, criminal justice systems will be created based on this culture of fear. These justice systems exist in real. When reel perceptions become irresponsible, distort facts, deliberately or not, intentionally or not, seepage of these distortions affect public decision. A misinformed public decision leads to problems that are irreparable. When high school children arm themselves with machine guns and kill schoolmates like they were characters in latest crime programs they watch everyday, the public needs to think twice, contemplate hard and act fast.

Civilization cannot allow these inventions like the media to destroy solid social institutions such as the criminal justice system. References: Advocado Press. 1991. Becoming Media Savvy. Louisville, Ky: Advocado Press. Allen, T. & Seaton, J. (editors), 1999. The Media of Conflict , Zed Books, London. Annan, K. , 1999. Towards a Culture of Prevention: Statements by the Secretary-General of the United Nations , Carengie Commission on Preventing Deadly Conflict, New York. Boe, Andrew. March 2006. The criminal justice system and the media. Brisbane Institute.

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