Your opinion is requested


August 17, 2003, 07:41 AM
Just got some essay titles through and thought you guys might have some worthwhile input and/or have a bit of fun with them. Remember that if I decide to include your opinion in the essay then you have a direct line to some ''lefty liberal lecturer'' in a major English university.

State which question you are submitting thoughts upon and then go crazy.

1. Discuss the role of the mass media in the construction of the ''crime problem''

2. 'The punishment of offenders by the state should be based upon the principle of retribution informed by just desserts.' Discuss.

3. How far is the problem of crime a problem of men and masculinity?

4. 'Crime is normal and has a positive social function.' Discuss.

I have left the majorly theoretical ones out, if anyone is up on their 'symbolic interactionism' and 'situational crime control theory' then I can include questions about them too.

So - any thoughts?

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Mark Tyson
August 17, 2003, 08:52 AM
You're not trying to get us to write your essay for you, are you? LOL

August 17, 2003, 09:03 AM
I knew someone was going to say that. :D

Nope, trying to get the opinion of some people on t'other side of the Atlantic.

Thought you guys might have some fun with these too. Especially no.4

August 17, 2003, 12:12 PM
for question 3:
I'm just about finished with a book that caught my eye in the local library -- "warrior dreams" by somebody gibson I think. To be honest, most of it seems to be :barf: but it might be a good source into the mindset of the ivory tower crowd. Worst part is he practically codifies all the "guns are phallic symbols in great....nausating.... detail. To listen to him, you'ld think guys couldn't walk home from the range without getting all knobbly-kneed.

for question 4 --
I'd say there is a point there, but I'd put it at the metaphysical level rather than the social level. If everything was a perfect garden of eden, can you imagine how BORED we'd all get? Maybe I've been listening to a little too much "Conversations With God" lately, but said point is a subtext there.

From a social level, same question... goes right back to the Randian quote -- which I'm sure I'll butcher -- "we want you to break the laws.. lawbreakers can be controlled"


Don Gwinn
August 17, 2003, 12:38 PM
1. In Britain? I'd say the press has played its role. You have some very shrill tabloids. Our tabloids tend to be all about either celebrities or truly outlandish fiction, rarely touching on more "serious" issues like crime or politics. Your media seems to lack that buffer. It seems undeniable that Britain is experiencing an increase in crime, but I would have to agree that your press hypes that idea beyond the truth.
Right now our press is too busy denying that the economy is coming around nicely to bother with denying that crime is more or less under control. ;)

2. I agree with the statement, although probably for different reasons than your professor imagines. I would venture to guess that he expects his students to go to great lengths to explain how the state should be in the business of rehabilitation, or at the very least, incarceration for the purpose of isolating dangerous people from potential victims.
I don't disagree with those purposes as goals for a state justice system, but I do believe that retribution has its place in rehabilitation. I believe a man has to pay a price before he can really be rehabilitated. Yesterday I saw a woman on television who was weeping after watching a tape of herself soliciting an undercover policeman to murder her husband for cash. She tearfully declared that she felt terribly guilty about having tried to take a life, but that she was "working on forgiving myself." Huh?
In short, punishment is an important part of rehabilitation. The simplest way to ensure that people are strongly punished when they do wrong is to admit to the human instinct for retribution and channel it through a legal system which can balance its excesses.

3. Just about every problem in the world has been blamed on men over the last 25 years or so. That's natural; we were in charge of just about everything up until that time. Violent crime, certainly, is mostly the province of men. All crime? I'm not so certain. Women commit an awful lot of crime, and they're better at some types than men (if you count the ability of many women to exploit the inherent weaknesses of many men.)

4. Crime is absolutely normal. I can't imagine what its positive function might be, though. The fact that something is normal or ubiquitous doesn't make it a good or positive thing. It is what it is.

August 17, 2003, 12:51 PM
Hmmm. If any of those topics had anything to do with my class, I'd think about teaching them--though I'd be more likely to present them along with opposing topics and ask students to choose a side and argue it.

Art Eatman
August 17, 2003, 01:11 PM
"1. Discuss the role of the mass media in the construction of the ''crime problem''"

Several facets: The media is in business to make money, via the sale of advertising--and this requires readers or viewers. Thus, to get the public's attention, they must offer excitement. "If it bleeds, it leads" is the use of excitement and fear. Fear sells. Fear of crime benefits not just the media but those who seek re-election...

Attention focussed by the media leads politicians to seek power by offering to "solve the problem". This leads to more laws and more enforcement, which requires more taxes. More taxes = more money to dispense, which leads to more political power of the government. "The Golden Rule: Those with the gold, rule."

In the U.S., even when the various rates of serious crimes are in decline, the media has caused many people to believe the opposite is true.


Chris Rhines
August 17, 2003, 01:14 PM
I love it when someone posts interesting questions for pontification. Thanks, St. Johns.

1. Discuss the role of the mass media in the construction of the ''crime problem'' Very hard to establish a causative link between mass media and the 'crime problem' (which I take to mean 'the existence of crime'.) But it's not too much of a stretch to theorize that the media industry has a profit interest in a high crime rate. Crime tends to sell, and media outlets need to sell to stay in business.

A further question for discussion - why does crime news sell?

One more - considering that the mass media in the US has been about as thouroghly nationalized as is possible in a western nation, does the government has a vested interest in keeping the crime rate high? Why, or why not?

2. 'The punishment of offenders by the state should be based upon the principle of retribution informed by just desserts.' Discuss. Important distinction there, " the state..."

As stated, I disagree. The punishment of offenders should be based upon the concept of reparation, which can be objectively determined. Revenge cannot. A secondary, debateably worthy concept of punishment, is to prevent further offenses.

3. How far is the problem of crime a problem of men and masculinity? Ah-hah! A gold-plated invitatation to rant and rave about the evils of the male gender!

Leave out the term 'men' - it makes no sense in the statement. As for masculinity, again, a general causative link is pretty well impossible to establish. I'm certain that some people committ crimes due to an 'excess of masculinity,' but is it a primary factor? I tend to think no. Most crimes are committed because of pure, pluperfect profit motives, just like every other human action.

4. 'Crime is normal and has a positive social function.' Discuss. This question really requires a redefinition of the term 'crime'. I put the question to you; define 'crime'. Be specific. Violation of the law? Actions taken that are contrary to the will of the government? Violating the NAP?

Good food for thought.

- Chris

August 17, 2003, 01:36 PM
As much as I hate the mass media, I don't think they have anything to do with the crime problem; at least not in a direct fashion.
Crime is a function of the loss of civil liberties and of the weakness of the larger society. That may sound odd, but if you think about it (and especially if you examine historical crime patterns) you'll soon conclude that this is so.
In 1900, a criminal assaulting someone in the Tube in central London would have to risk being turned on by any passers-by. He might have been shot by somebody with a handgun. He might have had three or four husky gentlemen sit on him until the police came.
No more. Nobody is carrying a gun and nobody is going to risk a civil suit for "assaulting" a criminal - whether that risk of a civil suit is real or not hardly matters. The perception is that one doesn't have the "right" to jump on, much less pummel a criminal.
You could also compare crime patterns in other countries against your own. Look at why some categories of crime are much in higher in GB than in the US, then ask why this is so. A homeowner risks much in defending his property against a "hot" burglar in your country (I would certainly categorize defense of life and property as a civil liberty). "On paper" a British subject still has the "right" to defend himself, but in reality the legal permutations are so tortous and the risks so great that most people have less fear of the burglar than of having the legal system turn on him should he defend himself.

Crime will drop only when the society refuses to tolerate such behavior. All of the social programs on earth won't stop a punk from snatching a gold chain when he knows that:
A. His victim (and any witnesses) will not interfere, and;
B. He risks little in any case because should he be caught, the legal system will not punish him.


August 17, 2003, 01:47 PM defines crime as:

1- An act committed or omitted in violation of a law forbidding or commanding it and for which punishment is imposed upon conviction.
2- Unlawful activity: statistics relating to violent crime.
3- A serious offense, especially one in violation of morality.
4- An unjust, senseless, or disgraceful act or condition: It's a crime to squander our country's natural resources.

Definition one gives rise to some serious problems - violating a law is all well and good as a definition, depends on whether or not you consider the law to be just in the first place. To use the example so frequently referred to around here - the state of self-defense laws in the UK.

It also makes you wonder about actions that are carried out within the definition of a certain law that you consider to be unlawful. Some peoples reaction to the Patriot Act is an example.

Definition three is very thorny ground.

Those definitions were taken from the American Heritage Dictionary.

There are some other interesting definitions found on but taken from Websters:

Crime is strictly a violation of law either human or divine; but in present usage the term is commonly applied to actions contrary to the laws of the State.

and this as a footnote for further thought:

Crimes, in the English common law, are grave offenses which were originally capitally punished (murder, rape, robbery, arson, burglary, and larceny), as distinguished from misdemeanors, which are offenses of a lighter grade.

Duncan Idaho
August 17, 2003, 01:48 PM
3. How far is the problem of crime a problem of men and masculinity?When men abdicate their masculinity to the collective, they - and those they supposedly care about - are left helpless before the animals otherwise known as criminals. In short, collectivist nancy-boys are poison to their respective societies. Only anarchy and doom awaits civilizations that choose to travel that road.

August 17, 2003, 06:11 PM
Nope, trying to get the opinion of some people on t'other side of the Atlantic.Nuts. Here I am on this side of the Atlantic....

August 17, 2003, 07:53 PM
2. 'The punishment of offenders by the state should be based upon the principle of retribution informed by just desserts.' Discuss.Wrong premise. Punishment for violation of state laws ought to be based on stone-cold economics. The principal of restoration and restitution should everywhere apply. The concept of retribution has no place in society that has a functioning law system.

Punishment metted out to a perp is directly proportional to the economic cost of the perps crime. In all cases the perp is to restore what what taken. After restoration has taken place then economic value of the wrong is assessed to the perp, known at restitution.

At no time should the state benefit from the punishment given out to a law breaker. An individual is wronged and therefore should be compensated, not the state. A crime is committed against a citizen or inhabitant of the state. States need to be completely out of the business of profiting from crime committed against its charges.

August 17, 2003, 08:13 PM
Some societies that I have studied in anthropology (can't remember names for the life of me right now) had a value attached to crime system. A criminal act had to be paid for - pigs, corn; economics - some people could afford to murder.

August 18, 2003, 01:35 AM
Weregeld. We had it in England when my folks lived there. (Actually before William the Bastard arrived)

Snake Eyes
August 18, 2003, 01:49 AM
1. Discuss the role of the mass media in the construction of the ''crime problem''

I recently read a book that does some in-depth analysis of exactly this. The Culture of Fear by Barry Glassner looks at how the media inspires fear by focusing on things that are statistical anomalies. If you think about it, this makes perfect sense because commonplace occurrences/illnesses/dangers are just that--commonplace. Ergo, not newsworthy. Glassner posits that the media contributes to this "culture of fear" in America by making relatively rare things seem more likely.


August 18, 2003, 05:02 PM
the media does fuel the fear of crime in this country....leading to the perception that crime is on the rise...untrue
the only 2 goals for the penal system that make ANY sense are these:
incapacitation- removing dangerouns offenders from society for as long as possible thereby preventing them from committing more crime
rehabilitation- trying to fix the offenders problem
those are the only 2 goals that make any sense for your hard earned tax dollards because they are only ones that WORK.....
now you may debate the effectiveness of those 2 rehabilitation, it is hard to do, no one knows how to do it all the time, and if they dont want it, it is next to if you dont want to try and rehabilitate anyone, then incapacitate them
crime is normal, not necesarrily healthy, but normal
cant be prevented

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