When examining criminalization, one must look at both what is criminalized and what is not. Many things are criminalized while some things are not, and many people question why this is so. Things that most people conjure up in their minds as criminal acts are often the most criminalized acts, such as theft, murder, and more. These are all acts that are seen nowadays as terrible criminal acts that if they are performed, people hear about it almost immediately. Some of the more unconventional acts include marijuana use, domestic violence, and corporate crime.
Most crimes are criminalized because of the media and how society interprets that portrayed information.
In the perspective of violence, society today sees ‘street’ crime (theft, murder, rape, etc.) more threatening than corporate crime because of the media coverage and social construct of each crime. When something is said to be socially constructed, it is meant that it is something defined and interpreted by society. When examining the concern involving human (more specifically in this case: criminal) behavior and society, there are numerous factors that can play a role in the various outcomes.
The media is crucial when discussing crimes that are socially constructed because the media is a staple in society. Though, the most common variable in regards to the criminalization of crimes is the media. Media comes in different forms such as movies, TV shows, apps, papers, radio, and so on. The media plays a large role in the criminalization of certain crimes and in society.
In the “Public Perception of Crime” article it states, ‘News outlets are more likely to define a crime as newsworthy if it is: violent, committed against white and vulnerable victims (especially if the offender is non-white), unusual, [and] local’. It continues with, ‘This means that they focus on the most violent and uncommon crimes, distorting the public’s perception of what the crime problem looks like’. Essentially, due to the focus of media on the most violent, uncommon crimes, the images of crimes that people think of are those unusual, violent crimes. Additionally, in The Mean World Syndrome documentary, it states that ‘61% of news covers fires, crime, disasters and accidents’. This helps to support the fact that most of what Americans are exposed to those uncommon, violent crimes. It means that the American public is typically not exposed to corporate crimes due to the fact that they don’t fall within the ‘criteria’ listed above.
This idea of crime is not technically incorrect, but it is indeed disproportionate. Since the media is deciding to shine light on only the worst cases, the other crimes are seemingly mundane to people, which fabricates this ideal that corporate crimes are not as extremely violent and uncommon as other crimes. Additionally, in The Mean World Syndrome documentary, it is discussed that much of the media consists of violence and how this then produces a fear and/or misconception of violence in reality. This makes people in society believe that there is causation between violence as portrayed in the media and violence exhibited in the day to day lives of society, but it is important to note that correlation does not mean causation.
The social construction of crime is critical when determining why certain crimes are criminalized more or less than others or criminalized all together people’s minds travel to the image of the low-income minority man instead of a wrongful corporate business, I think that it comes down to the portrayal of these crimes in the media and how that media defines the crimes and then how the society interprets it and furthers that definition. Looking at a news cast, they can be describing a crime that did in fact involve a low-income minority male and use certain words to depict him as a terrible human as well as include a mug shot of him or another photograph that portrays him horribly. But when a corporate business commits a crime, they usually just give the facts, no extra words as well as use photographs of the men behind it in suits, looking charming. With this in mind, then we look at the societal aspect–how people interpret this information. It comes down to an overgeneralization of groups within society.
People see the minority man displayed terribly in media for so long and that’s the image that constructs this mentality against the low-income minority man. I think it also comes down to finding a single person to blame. When a corporate business commits a crime, it’s a business meaning that there are many people in change, thus to blame. It’s a bit harder to point fingers at all these people involved rather than to point at the single low-income man. This is from the society again, that they have this mentality that it’s easiest to find guilt for a single person than for a business.
With marijuana, I think that it was originally criminalized simply because it is a drug. It is a hallucinogenic drug that had a terribly stigma. The hallucinogenic drug is what weighs more than tobacco cigarettes in the eyes of society because people perceive it as something that can hinder your ability to think straight, thinking that it only makes you act dumb and reckless. This resulted in it having a terrible reputation. Now people started to break away from this mentality because they realized that it was actually beneficial in the medical world. The second it became useful, society’s views shifted and a new perspective was constructed for marijuana.
And in regards to domestic violence, this is another societal shift. Before, women were treated as property of men, so men were able to do whatever they wanted to women. this was a social norm. As time went on, women realized their worth and once they got a taste of work (during the war when all the men went off to fight) they didn’t want to give it up. They began fighting for rights and slowly but surely a majority of society shifted to seeing women and men as equals. And since then, women have been taking steps towards equality and have made it known that domestic violence is a crime. Women make up half of society, so they worked to shift the view of domestic violence.