Thursday, June 7, 2012

People Eating Each Other

Everywhere I look I'm finding news clips about people eating each other.  It started in Miami about about a week and a half ago with that guy who apparently ate part of another guy's face.  Now I hear about it in other parts of the country and even the world.  This is beginning to look like a classic example of constructing a crime wave.  Vincent Sacco is one of the leading researchers on this topic.  Among many other publications, he wrote a readable book called When Crime Waves in which he discusses how news organizations make it appear that there's been a rise in a particular criminal behavior.  He points to a number factors that happen in the corporate news industry to increase coverage of a particular crime, but that are completely independent of any actual increase in that behavior.  By extension, this is one of the ways that news constructs public opinion and consciousness.  If a fundamental goal of the corporate news is attract viewers and generate revenue then the sensational and extraordinary is one effective way to do this.  When a particular issue or topic temporarily grabs the public's attention (such as kidnapping, elderly abuse, or the current zombie phenomenon), then responsible news workers and news organizations go out and find more stuff like it.  Not only that, but they also might try to link other less interesting content to that particular theme in an effort to "feed off" the popularity of the theme and increase consumption.  The actual frequencies of the specific behavior might not be changing at all, but the news' attention to it has and now they're trying to fit everything they can into that popular theme.  With the increasing amount of surveillance cameras, cell phone cameras and other such recording devices (there's a whole literature on panopticism and a surveillance society) recording and disseminating strange events occurring randomly around the globe, the news' ability to construct a crime wave or other wave is even greater.  Now much of it happens online, through social media sites.

No comments:

Post a Comment