Defining the Devil: How the Commercial Appeal Made Monsters Out of Innocents

Emily Lenning, Western Michigan University

This paper will be an exploration into the connection between media and what has become known in the sociological and criminological communities as the "war on youth culture". Through an analysis of contemporary literature and select instances in which the popular media has concerned itself with specific acts of youth violence, consideration will be given to the idea that the media promotes moral panics surrounding America's youth that serve to create tension between youth subcultures and the larger population. Specifically, this inquiry will consider how the media perpetuates negative stereotypes about teenagers who fail to conform to societies expectations. The thesis of this paper is that, by promoting a criminal view of alternative youth cultures, the media perpetuates the criminal treatment of law-abiding youth in the larger culture. Furthermore, this paper will attempt to illuminate possibilities for positive relationships between the media and justice. The case of the West Memphis Three, three teenage boys convicted of murder, will be used to discuss the media's ability to not only persecute the innocent, but defend those that have been denied proper justice.

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Updated 05/20/2006