Media Representations of Crime and Cultural Stereotypes

29 Sep

This blog is in reference to an article published in the Sunday Times on the 15 September 2013, by Camilla Cavendish.

In the article, Ms. Cavendish wrote about the horrific failings to protect Daniel Pelka, the little boy, who was beaten and starved to death by his parents. And who would have probably survived his horrendous ordeal, if Coventry Council’s Social Care Child Protection team had properly carried out their duty to protect him from the harm inflicted upon him by these wicked and pitiful excuses for parents.

In the article, Cavendish makes particular reference to the fact that Daniel’s parents are Polish.

What relevance does the fact that his parents are Polish, you may ask? The answer, is none! That Cavendish was quick to point this fact out, only serves to smear and damage relations between the English and Eastern European immigrants.

Although, I believe unintentional on Cavendish’s part; making reference to the ethnicity or cultural identity of an individual or individuals charged with a particular crime, only serves to perpetuate cultural and ethnic stereotypes. The only exception to making such a reference, is when identity is indeed relevant to the crime; which in this case, it is not.

Cavendish is not the only journalist guilty of this cultural stereotyping. In fact, most journalists do so. Whether intentional or not; I do not know. But, the fact of the matter is, perpetuating cultural and ethnic stereotypes is the outcome, when making reference to an ethnic or cultural identity when identity is not relevant to a particular crime, is damaging to intercultural relations and therefore society as a whole.

It is like saying that all members of the clergy or paedophiles; or that all Muslims are terrorists; or that all football goers are racist hooligans; or that all Black people are muggers; or that all unemployed people are work-shy. Do you get where I am going with this?

All media and journalists have a duty to report the news, but they should do so morally and with consideration to the negative impact their reporting has, or may have, on a particular ethnic, religious or cultural community.

If the media and journalists continue to perpetuate such stereotypes, the misinformed sheep and incapable of society- who continue to believe everything that they read in the newspaper or hear on the tv or radio- without scepticism or independent thought to challenge- will never change their views of those who are culturally or ethnically different. This does not sit well for society and certainly not for inclusion, participation and acceptence of those who are somehow different.

If, as a society, we wish to effect change and aspire to greater equality in challenging prejudices and discrimination, we must remember this. However, as readers and viewers, we also must take responsibility for the media that we digest daily. Sadly, for many of us; this will not happen, because we are more inclined to follow and be led than challenge and lead the case for change. Unfortunately, such unthinking and reckless reporting only serves to breed mistrust. There is much evidence to support the view that a large proportion of people do believe what they read and hear in the media. It is not just a case of the great unwashed, but the great brainwashed, falling into the abyss like lemmings of the cliff. Sad times.

Author: Jason Schumann

Cultural Analysis, Debating Culture, Freedom of Expression, Ethics of Journalism, Moral Panic, identity, Human Progress, Media, Crime and Ethnicity, Politics, Stereotypes, Daniel Pelka, Camilla Cavendish, Sunday Times News Review, racism,


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