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Criminal Justice Myths And Facts Essay

1690 words - 7 pages

Compare and contrast crime "myths" and "facts."

The media plays a huge role in forming people's perceptions of crime. Without the media we would remain ignorant to occurrences outside our direct social groups. The media and especially news coverage therefore provides us with an important point of contact with the rest of society. In evaluating its effect on popular perceptions of crime it becomes important to consider where most of the information comes from and how representative it is on actual criminality. If it takes "facts" (the truth, the actual event, a real thing) or if it is heightened to a crime myth. With a myth being based upon "exaggeration" or heightening of "ordinary" events in life. Crime myths become a convenient mortar to fill gaps in knowledge and to provide answers to question social science either cannot answer or has failed to address. Myths tend to provide the necessary information for the construction of a "social reality of crime (Quinney, 1970)." As crime related issues are debated and re debated, shaped and reshaped in public forms, they become distorted into myth, as largely seen in the mass media.

The social construction of myths of crime and criminal justice seems to follow a series of recurrent patterns. These patterns allow for an unprecedented amount of social attention to be focused upon a few isolated criminal events or issues. This attention is promoted by intense, but often brief, mass media coverage of a select problem. Intense social concern of an issue is achieved by a variety of means from the mass media, government, law enforcement officials, interpersonal communications, and the interests of reform groups whom all play major roles in focusing the publics attention on select social problems. One of the largest most powerful myth makers in this enterprise is the mass media.

With modern communication (e.g. electronic based communication) virtually replacing traditional vehicles of communicating myths (eg solely word of mouth, and later written word), modern mass communication has allowed myths to spread in unprecedented numbers and at frightening speeds. "Fear is produced more readily in the modern community than it was earlier in our history because of increased publicity..." (143.. from dossier pg 4). What were once stories restricted to dissemination to small interactive social groups are now instantly projected to millions of people worldwide through mass media. This increasing ability to project myth has been coupled with an ever-decreasing circle that control the means and mediums of myth production. With the restricted number of myth makers today, it has given mass media and government almost a monopoly of the myth industry. Today the media and government select our crime problems for us and focus our attention on social issues. The role of the individual and small social groups no longer predominates in the dissemination of modern crime mythology.

The media chooses and presents...

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