This 4 part report will be investigating whether the Media’s subjective interpretation of Anti-Social Behaviour makes it easier to demonise the Youth of England and Wales. It will focus on the “news worthiness” of Anti-Social Behaviour within the press in England and Wales and how the Media can twist and contort stories to create a Moral Panic. But firstly what is meant by the terms Media, Youth and Anti-Social Behaviour?
In England, Wales and perhaps most of the modern world the Media governs all. Media can play on the concerns of the public and can create social problems suddenly and dramatically. A concerning statistic revealed by Dorfman cited in Crime, Justice and the Media found that over three quarters (76%) of the public said they formed their opinions about crime from what they see or read in the news. This clearly demonstrates that the media has a dangerous influence and the ability to inform and shape the truth to benefit their societal beliefs. The media views itself as the hero of our society warning and “informing” the country what it should be afraid of, whom and what it should like. However, for the hero to exist there needs to be an enemy. After all there would be no George without the Dragon, no David without Goliath and no Police without the Criminal. So therefore, it’s the media’s self- appointed role of Moral Leader that they create the enemy of the nation.
In this 3 part report, I will be focussing on one of the Media’s most vulnerable and misunderstood enemies, “The devils of the street”, Youth. Firstly, it is important to define what is meant by the term “Youth”. However, it is hard to define what youth really is, where it starts and where it ends. Does it end at 10 years, when the law regards us as being responsible for our sexual behaviour? Or is it 16 years, when the law regards us as mature enough to “have” sexual relationships? Or is it 18, when the law regards us as able to watch sexual activities in the cinema? Does it end at 18 years when the Children’s Act ceases to consider us children? Or do we remain “youth” until 24 years, when social services deem us to be of age and begin to provide adult unemployment benefits? Do we become adult at 12, 14 or 16 years, all ages when the child support agency that insists all young men must pay for any children they “father”? Or is it 19 years, when the child support agency considers a young person’s financial dependency on their parents to come to an end?”. What is worrying is that if the law, legislation and social services cannot define the age where “youth” ends then it makes it much easier for the Media to twist and contort stories of Anti-Social Behaviour of young people to demonise them to a nation.
Anti-Social Behaviour has become one of England and Wales’ favourite aspects of crime to report on. This is due to its flexible definition. It has also “become a hugely important topic in political, media and public debates”. Often criticized over its meaning, the definition of ASB in Britain is left intentionally very wide, involving, according to Home Office “acting in a manner that caused or was likely to cause harassment, alarm or distress to one or more persons not of the same household”. The concept usually dictates to youth’s behaviour attributing to vandalism, graffiti, drunkenness and youths generally hanging about amongst other activities. This behaviour then led to the birth of the much criticized Anti-Social Behaviour Order (ASBO). Asbos were introduced by Tony Blair and brought to prominence as part of his ambitious Respect agenda, launched in 2006. Respect was aimed at treating the causes of crime and creating a framework for a non-criminal response to the low-level offences that blight local communities across the country. Since its inception ASBO’s quickly evolved to become one of the most reported stories in the national and local press, which has gone on to create more of what Cohen described as a Moral Panic.