Lenuţa TRANDAFIR, PhD candidate*
Abstract. The main support through which the strategies are put in practice is mass media. If in the totalitarian systems, media was strictly controlled through ‘the centre’, in transition democracies and in specially in the advanced ones, the mass media manipulation involves the development of some strategies extremely complicated and subtle, but with an extraordinary force to influence public opinion, because the ordinary people got used to sincerely believe in impartial journalists, thus to depend almost exclusively on their information. Mass media influence, guide and direct public opinion, the interests and the motivations of people, beyond their own will. The control that mass media use to exercise on the reality of life led the US people to consider the information function of media as an oversight function or by controlling information that can be obtained for the most efficient subversive arm, widely. The mass media effect represents a set of processes aimed at the individual and at social level that are produced by use of messages.
“NEGATIVE” NEWS AND RAISING THE AUDIENCE
Nowadays, a decline in terms of vocabulary by teenagers and young people is obvious. Can be a direct link between the vocabulary used and the news present in the Romanian mass media? Journalist Valeriu Negru was right to say that “we have too many mediocre editors who promote broadness, uncensored rudeness. Considering that violence is an easy to sell product, some publications have become stready promoters of violence, primitive intolerance, low boorishness. Same as ether, paper can support many”. In most cases, press writes the articles in tone with the street language and the result is implying a slick state of mind, a general style typical to a slum. The tone is given by the very titles of some articles: a certain member of County Council was subject of deratization, another person “smooths” and a bank facing difficulties has “dodged” its clients, a certain character has scored millions. Certain publications break any barrier regarding aggressive language. Oana ChelaruMurăruş’s opinion is that aggressive language can be looked at in two perspectives:
- a) “Stylistics” verbal violence which is implied by freedom of speech, by the role of the media, the need to capture the reader’s attention by use of lexical innovations and rhetoric (“Academia Caţavencu”)
- b) Nude verbal violence which feeds from a devastating mania and tens to lead to physical agresiveness or psycological
In cases of publications like “România Mare”, „Atac la persoană”, the articles follow the same stereotypical speech patterns and promote only violence and broadness. (Journalistic verbal violence – The minister “grins the beans”, “The protocol palace of Ţapulina”, “HA and HRS – filthy niggers”, “Why are you lying, yo?”, “Tanţo, we’ll strip you naked…”) Television is in the top of violence use. High rated programs are flooded with verbal violence, accompanied by adequate gestures and pornographic allusions. An enthusiastic audience is pleased with “officer Garcea”, a grotesque parody of police officers, but who has become a national “hero”. Also televised bingo shows promote sexual allusions, “sweet” cursing and a whole nation spends hours in front of the TV, in hope a gain who would satisfy their “hunger”. Some TV producers, in use to make their programs more interesting use inappropriate language: “Was our guest high, I mean has he got stoned?”, “Do you think we came from the hairdresser with the curlers still in our hair?”. Of course, not all TV programs and all televisions are to be blamed. In comparison with written press and television, the radio has promoted and sustained a firm policy of fighting against violence.
A high frequency of “negative news” is considered to lead to an increase in ratings and thus generating more money. But is this kind of “goods” really requested by the clients? Friedrich Schiller wrote: “It is a common phenomenon in our nature that sad and horrifying news generate an irresistible feeling… Everybody wants to know the details of a murder, curiosity makes us believe adventurous stories and the pleasure is greater when the story is creepier. This phenomenon is even more alive when we have the object in front of us. Watching from the shore how an entire fleet would sink in a storm at sea would be as appealing for our fantasy as outraging as it would be for our heart. The struggling between opposite beliefs is a torment for the one who endures it, but for a spectator would represent a fantasy. We tend to watch with pleasure the increasing suffering of a victim, until it collapses.”
CAUSES AND MEANINGS OF A CRIMINAL ACT
A criminal act represents the expression of a long series of actions and conducts that are in oppositions with conventional principles in our society. As a product of such actions and conducts, a criminal act involves a variety of causes and conditions that cannot be classified by their importance in committal of a criminal act. Both causes and conditions are interconnected and cannot be separated. Therefore, an important objective of both criminology and sociological investigations is to identify the exact circumstances that generated and favored the crime and these are in close connection with the way of life and personality of the perpetrator. By analyzing the data obtained so far in studies conducted, we can classify both the causes and form of criminal acts in 3 major groups:
- a)by internal structure of the perpetrator’s personality
- b)by conditions and internal / external influences that generated the criminal act
- c)by the relations that can be established between the perpetrator’ personality, his inner motivations and social factors
By expanding this classification, author Vitali Kudreavtev explained the 3 systems in this manner:
- a)a negative development of the personality, which lead to an antisocial conduct of the individual
- b)a negative influence of a certain life event experienced by the individual prior to committing a crime (the so called “motive”)
- c)external conditions that lead to the committal of a crime and the interconnection of these conditions with the perpetrator’s personality
These classifications prove that in terms of criminology the notion of “cause” includes a plurality of conditions, actions, conducts, motives that are in direct or indirect link with the crime. A series of studies proved that “juvenile delinquency” can be linked to a total of approximately 170 distinctive conditions and in average a number or 9 and 10 conditions are present in every particular case.
Any explanation given is complex, it consists of establishing links between the criminal act (the so called dependant “variable”) and a series of actions, phenomena, processes, situations and prior conducts (the so called independent “variables”). Author Francois Simiand considered that explaining a fact implies the knowledge and identifying the very cause that generated it. A fact can imply not only one cause, but a plurality of causes. Given that criminal phenomenon represents a complex reality it consists of a plurality of causes and a thorough analysis should identify the facts and situations that have the most direct and general link to the criminal act. By establishing a complex combination of correlations between precise life experiences and the criminal act, both criminological and sociological studies should focus on factors that also have an indirect or partial link to the criminal act. Certain factors can have a smaller influence prior to the committal of a crime, without having a direct link with the crime, but these factors can be at the root of the motive. In the vision of author Vitali Kudreavtev, the prior conditions consisted of “specific circumstances that accompany causes and thus influencing and generating the effect”. In terms of causes and conditions, the difference between these two is made by analyzing the direct or indirect relations to the effect and its prior conditions. For example, the theft committed by a juvenile can be generated by certain flaws in his socialization process or by his circle of friends. In other cases a causes can be the specific “aggressiveness” of the age or the lack of supervising and control of the juvenile. Some causes can be identical or similar, but particular circumstances shape the overall criminal behavior of an individual.
Particular circumstances can describe either the moral profile of an individual or its prior conditions of life, for example.
A recidivist offender often creates situations that offer him opportunities for committing a crime, which implies that a more attention should be paid to investigating the mechanism that formed and shaped his personality. The motive becomes the cause of the crime and a specific situation dominating the personality of the offender. Identifying these causes and conditions implies a classification based on the effects it had in committal of the crime. Therefore, studies bases solely on biological and psychological grounds tend to reduce the importance of all the factors and conditions.
Author Robert McIver considered that every offender can be a maniac or a genius, a prick or a patriot, a scrupulous or unscrupulous person, an exploiter or a desperate person and therefore all attempts in finding and establishing a physiognomy of crime have failed.
As mentioned before, biological and psychological based studies failed to recognize the plurality of life events that can shape and remodel an individual’s personality. Investigating the causes implies examining an individual’s social life, by identifying general or specific circumstances that generate the committal of the crime. By use of statistics and casuistry research, studies can identify certain circumstances that are common to a specific group of individuals or offenders. Researching these causes is in some cases distorted by certain stereotypes that describe the offender by use of vague concepts like vile, maniac, psychopath and cannot offer an in-depth analysis of the circumstances, motives and causes that generated the criminal act. In this context, the criminal act is considered to be related to a variety of social, economical and cultural conditions that can generate an increase or decrease of certain genre of crimes. The law can consider certain crimes as very dangerous given the social and economical context and after some time the same crimes could be considered less dangerous. In this way, criminal law can generate an increase or decrease of crime in certain periods of time.
Criminology aims at identifying certain characteristics of a crime that can be generally applied to all crimes, despite the context and period of time analyzed. Therefore causality, in terms of criminology, must not be confused with judicial causality which refers only to the consequences of an individual’s actions. Criminological causality implies also a plurality of general and specific circumstances and conditions and the committal of a crime should be analyzed based on these conditions and circumstances, known in legal terms as mitigating or aggravating circumstances.
Author Vitali Kudreavtev considered that in terms of criminological causality certain aspects should be focused on:
- a)a crime generates more that one effect
- b)same cause applied to different individuals can generate different or opposite effects
- c)“small” causes can generate serious effects if the individual is already “attuned” to these causes
- d)a crime is not a direct reaction to the cause that generated
- e)same purpose can be attained by legal ways and by criminal methods.
Causality establishes the general and particular conditions, the main and secondary circumstances and establishes the order in which these conditions and circumstances generated and lead to the committal of a crime. Statistics and casuistry can be used successfully in the study of causality.
Causality is not only a theoretical notion, it also requires field study of events and facts, connections that can be established between them and certain general or particular facts. In this way by establishing direct links between examined facts the constants or variables of a crime can be discovered. Analytical skills in evaluating and researching facts and events can generate a completed and accurate study for the causality of a crime.
In criminology, an individual is analyzed in a statistical approach, using statistic research methods. This type of research is based on their ability to describe criminality or certain particularities of the crime. In such cases, the frequency of crimes and the presence of certain factors is expressed in numbers or indexes that allow to sort criminality in variables and parameters. A variable describes a certain fluctuation of criminality in a given period of time and in certain conditions. They express specific circumstances of a crime and therefore they describe a certain pattern in committal of specific crimes that can be used to analyze the actions that led to these crimes. For example we can refer to a correlation regarding celibacy and criminality, an aspect that was studied intensively in terms of criminality.
In order to respond to the question “Why marital status acts like a factor against criminality?” we should discover other intermediary factors that can offer a comparison between single and married individuals and why the former commit more crimes than the latter. The link between marital status and crime is at start only an event and it cannot offer an explanation for a certain crime. This question can help identify particular circumstances to a much general question “Why some individuals break the law more often that others?”. If this question is confirmed by field studies then it can generate, based on other observations, a general system that explains criminality. Obviously, the more complex the facts are and in greater numbers, the more complex the resulted system will be.
In the last decades of the 20th century, many authors tried to develop such systems that were based not on causes but on influences and probabilities, as stated by author Hubert M. Blalock Jr. These systems are useful for establishing connections between various factors that affect the nature and distribution of criminality and with use of 2 or more variables functional and co-relational dependencies could be established between researched facts. In criminological analysis, given the plurality of factors and conditions, the most used units of measure are the co-relation factor and regression factor.
Operationalism adepts consider these dependencies not to be causes and they allow them to decipher the regularities and uniformities of criminality and using them to build superior descriptive models. Some authors consider real facts to be particular circumstances of criminality and use theoretical facts to define a real event as a logical sum of a theoretical sentence or system of sentences. Albert Cohen considered such theoretical sentences to calculate the variations based on the variations of another variable.
Explaining criminality does not include the fact that a particular circumstance should define this phenomenon. Therefore explaining the question “why?” does not mean only one particular factor or event can be established, but a plurality of such factors and events. Albert Cohen considered that establishing a sum of factors and events as the cause of a crime is based solely on the intuition and deduction of the researcher. Proving that rarely this set of factors and events meets the general conditions of the theory, Albert Cohen recognized the utility of using statistical instruments in researching criminological causality and testing of theoretical hypothesis.
The same author considered that often causes and factors are confused based on the assumption that every factor can generate crime. In fact the influence of one factor cannot be manifested without the influence of other factors and the analysis must be able to identify multiple variables, that can surpass the analysis skill and capacity of one researcher and therefore complex mathematic analysis must be used.
For example in a relation between criminality and population density we should identify a series of variables like ”concentration of goods”, “bigger stress and emotional charge in cities”. If the interpretation of the relations is correct, we should be able to establish a causality link between these two, in which case psychological characteristics are determined by the population density. A simple correlation doesn’t imply causality, but causality always implies correlation. The use of such simple correlations is a way to guide the research and generate more and more complex correlations. But these methods fail in cases where facts are independent of each other and have a small precision where variables do no fit only one causal system. Robert McIver considered such methods to be “mechanistic deformations” that alter the criminological research.
Statistical associations of two or more events represent only the first stage of researching causality. Two conditions are necessary:
- a)causal order – the independent variable appears before the dependant variable
- b)absence of false causal relation – the original relation is not in effect prior to variations of the dependant variable.
Given these facts, it is proven that “noncausality” is easier to demonstrate than causality and multiple studies and research reports stated that “concomitant variables” do not represent causality and both authors Travis Hirschi and Hanan Selvinconsidered the criteria used in these studies to be false and illegitimate:
- if a relations between 2 variables is not perfect, then it is noncausal – if a factor is not a necessary of sufficient condition for a crime, then the factor does not represent a cause for the crime
- if a factor is not only specific to offenders, then the factor is not a cause of the crime
- if for a situational factor a relation can be established between the independent variable and the crime, then the factor is not a cause of the crime
- if a relation between an independent variable and the crime can be established and this relation is modified by a psychological variable, then the relation established is not causal
- measurable variables are not causes
- if a relation between a dependant variable and the crimes is conditioned by the value of other variables, then the independent variable is not a cause of the crime.
By demonstrating that these criteria are based on a misunderstanding of the correlations between abstract concepts and variables and the identity between causes and conditions, Hirschi and Selvin concluded that ”rejecting the theory of multiple causality implies negation of a possible change of social structure” and therefore prevents the efforts for decreasing criminality.
Obviously, establishing direct connections between different factors should not be resumed to only deciphering statistical correlations, but seeking lawfulness should be the starting point. Statistics should be used in conjuncture with other methods. If none of the statistical observations of quantitative data does not provide an answer to etiological problems, authors considered that etiological analysis should use multiple methods in order to generate larger series of correlations and dependencies between the facts that cause and the facts that condition criminality, including the general characteristics of human behavior. In general, explaining criminality scientifically means establishing a conceptual model that can correlate facts and events that are interconnected. Such conceptual models, in order to be valid, must meet at least two conditions:
- a) the models must be usable in larger explicative systems (a theory that can precisely explain certain facts)
- b) the facts and events used with such models must be capable of being subject to testing.
Very few conceptual models meet these two conditions, a series of concepts and notions present in criminology have no correspondent to real facts. The concepts do not establish a clear hierarchy for the elements used and this make that causality is confused with the conditions and identification of variables.
In other cases, by knowing certain singular facts and conditions, the concepts aim at predicting the criminal behavior of individuals, disregarding change or evolution of initial conditions. This aspect is relevant when models are applied to a large number of cases and the result is totally different from the one expected.
Author Paul Horst considers that a case study has proven useful in many studies, given the fact that the analyst can choose which cases to analyze and which factors could best explain the criminal behavior. By evaluating specific individual and social circumstances a case study allows the analysis of the factors that can generate errors.
Paul Lazarsfeld considered that analyzing cases that generate errors in the conceptual models can lead to an improvement of the empirical research. By analyzing such cases errors in indexing model variables can be discovered and improved. Also such method allows identifying the conditions in which a certain correlations between variables is correct and therefore the efficacy of model can be increased. Another issue that occurs in criminological researches regards the false substitution in conceptual models of factors with the predefined factors such as “evil is generated by evil”. This substitution is explained by author Albert Cohen as ”prejudice” and is considered to be a nonscientific notion that considers moral as a general and universal principle in space and time.
In some behaviorist conceptions, the social behavior is evaluated based on its conformity to regulations, rather than by its intrinsic tendencies. According to this theory, an individual’s obedience to regulations is generated by 4 factors:
- the pressure of the social group that integrated the individual
- the process of internalizing the regulations and values of the group (in general terms the education and socialization processes)
- the fact that sometimes the individual is not aware of the possibility of choosing alternative behaviors
- the fact that breaking regulations will have punitive effects.
Such conception regarding the correlation between regulations, behavior and pressure of the social group is based on the older notions of behaviorism that considered that every social system would react with punitive sanctions against any individual who would threaten the existence of the group. This conception offers a complete explanation of the criminal personality by using a system that is widely spread and used by psychologist, sociologists and criminologists.
In conjunction with other conceptions, this behaviorist conception generated etiological analyses in order to analyze criminal behavior by using a plurality of methods and concepts from other disciplines. A big advantage of this conception is that is considering the criminal act to be both an individual problem and a social problem.
In time, multiple conditionings of criminal behavior were elaborated and proved that a criminal act is the result of economical, social and cultural factors generated by the very nature of our society.
For this reason, although a criminal act does not exclude an individual’s responsibility, a collective responsibility of the entire society exists.
In general, the concepts that use etiological analysis for criminal acts are represented by “provision” (a general standard of conduct represented by the expectations of a group regarding the way of conduct within that group), “conformity” (defined as the compatibility of a conduct with the expectations of a group) and “deviant” (noncompliance with the general rules of the society).
Etiological analysis in criminology consists in researching the causes of criminal acts and the research process must analyze these causes to a biological, psychological and social extent. In criminology the research requires to establish a complete diagnostic in order to perceive and evaluate certain problems of the society, group or individual that can be dysfunctional or destructive by the effects it has.
Placing such problems on a structural level of the society (malfunctioning of the society by the refusal or incapacity of its individuals to fulfill the roles they were socialized for) or on a pathological level (where the noncompliance to the general rules of the society are considered deviant behavior, signs of an abnormal behavior), American sociology legitimated both an conservative ideological perspective and an subjective perspective, a behavioral one. Regarding the last one, many authors denounced the cultural and ideological criteria used to label a deviant behavior, arguing that a more flexible and dynamic concept should be used to approach the deviant behavior at a global scale.
In our country, mass media can be characterized by 2 aspects, being an “iceberg reality”: a part that sacrifices the financial aspect for the sake of truth (the so called virago press) and another part who wants only to maximize profits and is willing to sacrifice its principles and subject to manipulations (the so called tabloid press).
Mass media is acknowledged as intermediations between different social groups. In politics, mass media lead to two things: evaluation of officials and access to information. Citizens could take part in the public dialogue through mass media, by enlarging the consumer’s and voter’s groups and thus transferring the power to the people. “In antiquity mass media was considered to be a necessary intermediation between different social groups. In ancient Greece democracy was conditioned by the participation of citizens who had equal rights in a debate that lead to decisions that were agreed upon by the citizens.”
According to McLuthan, the role of mass media is much more complex than transmitting semiotic messages, it consists of transmitting any kind of material with an informative value, either persons, goods or informations.
From a financial point of view, mass media represent a pressure factor in the general frame of informative means. In a symbolic way, mass media can be considered to be a factor for propagation of ideas and becomes a symbol of democracy, educating the citizens and therefore creating a bridge between citizens and the legislature.
According to Harol Lasswell, “mass media hold 3 vital functions: supervising the world by presenting all facts that occur, offering an interpretation of current events and socializing individuals in their social environment.”
In a democracy, the freedom of speech is guarded by the “watch dog of democracy” (mass media are considered to be the 4th power in a state) and television has an impressive popular support. We should remember that in December 1989 the army raised the rating of television and this provided a strong foothold for the democratic changes that followed.
One of the most important facilities offered by mass media – the internet – generated the most unwanted crisis system in the history of mankind. Internet is a powerful communication tool capable of managing any crisis on the globe.
The distinction between true and false is hard to make, because on the internet we can find all sort of data and information. By connecting to the World Wide Web, any individual is one click away from a possible murder and can have easy access to “Terrorist’s manual” or “How to build an improvised explosive device”.
It is well known we are in the middle of a crisis generated by the computers connected to the internet, given the fact that it created some of the most dangerous weapons as “computer viruses” or “hackers” who can hack in military codes, perform terrorist acts or even break into bank accounts.
The television has an impressive manipulative force basically because its credibility is based on the images it provides. (What an individual has seen on television with his own eye is considered to be true) “Manipulation of public opinion can be achieved through talk-shows, debates and documentaries and by repeatedly presenting certain facts or by offering more air time to a party involved in a political debate. Basically there are 3 elements that can lead to manipulation of public opinion and these are the producer, the composition of the staff and the script / scenario of the TV show”. Strategies are developed in response to a media message, but every decisions of the legislature is taken by analyzing and communicating this decisions to the population by means of mass media. Even if mass media don’t generate major decisions of the legislature, it can have an influence in the success of these decisions. For example, the public’s opinion determined by a military intervention on the territory of a foreign power was shaped by the emotional reactions generated in mass media.
Mass media and television specifically play an important role. It is possible that this is only part of a bigger plan orchestrated by political leader or groups of interest for applying different social and economical strategies. Mass media amplify the public’s interest for certain events, but yet mass media cannot generate these events. No message will have an impact on public’s opinion if it’s not properly presented to the audience, in accordance with the general interests.
In the end I would like to conclude that there is no challenge that cannot be solved and every challenge can generate solutions to a problem. The most important thing is to wake up in time, identify the problems and elaborate an accurate strategy for each of these problems.
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* licenţiată în Filozofie, Jurnalism, Relaţii Internaţionale şi Studii Europene, Universitatea „Spiru Haret”, master: Managementul informaţiilor privind combaterea terorismului, Academia Naţională de Informaţii; Securitate şi Apărare Naţională, Universitatea Naţională de Apărare „Carol I”, doctorand al Academiei de Politie „Al. I. Cuza, Bucureşti
 Valeriu Negru, 1999, p.7; http://www.ziarelive.ro/despre/valeriu-negru.html
 Mircea Vasilescu, Mass-Comedia. Situaţii şi moravuri ale presei de tranziţie, Editura Curtea Veche, Bucureşti, 1999, p. 4
 Oana Chelaru Murăruș, 1999, p. 8; http://dilemaveche.ro/taxonomy/term/372
 România Mare and Atac la persoană publications, year 1999
 Sursa: http://ro.scribd.com/doc/65232604/Scrieri-Estetice-de-Friedrich-Schiller, cf. Solomon Dumitru, 1999, p. 15
 Vitali Kudreavţev, 1972, pp. 112-113, http://ro.scribd.com/doc/142499235/Personalitatea-Infractorului
 Francois Simiand, Sociologie, Publisher Other, 1966, p. 29
 Robert Mclver, On Community, Society, and Power: Selected Writings, 1970, p. 119
 Vitali Kudreavţev, pp. 115-125
 Hubert M. Blalock Jr., Methodology in social research, McGraw-Hill, New York, 1968, p. 242-246
 Albert Cohen, Les valeureux, Book: Fiction. French, Paris, 1970, p. 124
 Robert McIver p. 140
 Travis Hirschi, Hanan Selvin, Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency, 1970, p. 127
 Travis Hirschi, Hanan Selvin, p. 129
 Paul Horst, Psychological Measurement and Prediction, Horst Belmont, California, 1966, p. 138
 Paul Lazarsfeld, The language of social research ; a reader in the methodology of social research, Free Press, New York, 1966, p. 117
 Sursa: http://ro.scribd.com/doc/46539882/Termenul-Mass-Media
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