The Ambivalent Consequences of Visibility: Crime and Prisons in the Mass Media
Crime, Media, Culture: An International Journal, 2010
14 Pages Posted: 5 Mar 2010
Date Written: February 26, 2010
This article aims to demonstrate that, despite their potential for cultivating communitarianism and deliberative democracy on a large scale, the mass media contribute decisively to the formation of punitiveness amongst the public by means of selective semiotic aestheticisation. They overstate the problem of crime; put the blame on marginalised cohorts and level heavy criticism against the administration of prisons purportedly for laxity; issue urgent calls for ever-greater reliance on the use of strict imprisonment by the authorities and the adoption of self-policing measures by local communities and private individuals; and either mute or neutralise the attendant hardships prisoners suffer at the hands of the state. Breaking with discourses of rational linearity, whereby distorted perceptions of criminal danger result in punitive reactions, the claim is made that the imagery of crime and punishment helps audiences resolve at the level of symbolic expression contradictions which remain unconsciously insoluble at the level of everyday life.
Keywords: crime, prisons, visibility, semiotic aestheticisation, the unconscious
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