In this essay I will look at the theories of Stanley Cohen a social scientist, born in South Africa in 1942 and Stuart Hall a cultural theorist and sociologist, born 1932 in Jamaica. I will be analysing and comparing their theories and separating the differences in the views of Cohen and Hall et al. and noting the similarities in their ideas. Their theories are in regards to the effect of media on social disorder.
Media is described as ‘Communication channels through which news, entertainment, education, data, or promotional messages are disseminated. Media includes every broadcasting and narrowcastingmedium such as newspapers, magazines, TV, radio, billboards, direct mail, telephone, fax, and internet.’
Cohen and Hall et al were looking at disorderly behaviour, they were concerned with the way disorderly behaviour was ‘mediated’; ‘The way things are represented to us through language or customary ways of thinking’ (Kelly and Toynbee, 2010, p.370). Cohen and Hall et all were not arguing the fact that disorder did happen, their concern was how this was portrayed to the public through media.
Cohen proposes that the media portrays anti-social behaviour in such a way which builds the identity of ‘folk devils’; these are ‘people who are portrayed as deviant and are blamed for crimes and other social problems’ (Kelly and Toynbee, 2010, p.370). In Cohen’s original study they were the groups of ‘mods’ and ‘rockers’, groups of young people who sometimes fought each other and attacked shops in mid-1960’s Britain. These groups exaggerated the definition between the perception of ‘normal people’ and ‘deviants’ which was central to Cohen’s analysis of moral panic. Cohen argues that through the portrayal of such folk devils, the media can create a moral panic in society, the media increase or amplify those anxieties, shaping a mood of public fear and outrage in turn creating a ‘them and us’ situation. Folk devils today get names such as ‘yobs’, ‘hoodies’ and ‘undesirables’. However, all anti-social behaviours have penalties which are attached to these socially unacceptable activities.
Hall et al. explained that the government use terms to identify deviants such as ‘muggers’ or ‘rioters’ labelling them as such through the mass media to the public, rather than as people they use their behaviour or anti-social behaviour as a label. Whereas Cohen theorises that the media use the terms of groups – such as ‘mods’ or ‘hoodies’ to explain young people in society, putting them in a group as a description.
Anti-social behaviour is deemed as any behaviour that is detrimental to society; Types of social disorder are not viewed the same by everyone; through the past into the present things have become more socially acceptable or unacceptable. In different cultures and countries there are different attitudes to anti-social behaviours; for example, in Dubai social disorder has a very different level to that in the United Kingdom or America.
The government’s response to social disorder in the UK was the ‘ASBO’. An anti-social behaviour order is a civil order. The ASBO is made against a person who has been shown to have engaged or be engaging in anti-social behaviour. The order was introduced in the United Kingdom by the government in 1998, they were designed to correct minor incidents that would not ordinarily warrant criminal prosecution. The orders forbid and ban acts such as a return to a certain area, drinking alcohol or association with others. Many see the ASBO as connected with young people, not knowing that they can be given to anyone acting anti socially regardless of age. The ASBO was not a criminal penalty and didn’t appear on the individual’s criminal record at all. The government used ASBOs as a way to battle disorderly behaviour that would not usually