Crime, Media Logic, and the Discourse of Fear

David L. Altheide, Arizona State University

The mass media and popular culture help shape our symbolic environments. Geographic borders are pentrated by electronic formats that are shared worldwide. In this age of global communications, significant news coverage of events in one specific location have implications for the entire city and country, as well as the world. Increasingly, major media. especially electronic communications, "work" with media logic, or the rationale, emphasis,and orientation promoted by media production, processes, and messages--tends to be evocative, encapsulated, highly thematic, and perhaps above all, quite familiar to audiences and easy to use. As bnews media throughout the world have adapted "entertainment formats" to attract audiences, crime in particular, and fear in general, has become a major part of the message. One consequence of this emphasis is to promote a discourse of fear, or the pervasive communication, symbolic awareness, and expectation that danger and risk are a central feature of everyday life. As this discourse becomes more common and taken for granted it influences many aspects of everyday life including the rapidly expanding popular culture. National and international priorities are influenced by this discourse, as in the United States, where "terrorism" reports are strongly influenced by a long history of crime reports.

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Updated 05/20/2006