Rachel R Mourao, M.A. Candidate, LatinAmericanStudies
It’s “just” TVSOCIAL CONSTRUCTION OF CRIME“How we define the cultural production of crime as a „social problem‟ and how we regard victims, offenders, and agents of crime control, emerges out of the social interactions between ordinary people, journalists, and sources of information within the structural and political-economic contexts of active processes of news construction and crime management” (Barak, 1994)FEAR OF CRIMEIndividuals who frequently watch television are more likely to feel a greater threat from crime, believe that crime is more prevalent than statistics indicate, and take more precautions against crime. (Dowler, 2003; Wood &Ribeiro, 2010)POLITICAL CONSEQUENCES“The lack of confidence in the courts and police has prompted a growing number of Latin Americans to support quick- fix “solutions” that short circuit or undercut democratic norms” (Prillaman, 2003)
ResearchQuestionsRESEARCH QUESTIONS (1)What is the actual prevalence of crime in Amazonas, and how does it vary by social status? (2) What is the profile of the media-constructed image of the prevalence and character of crime and violence? Hr: Political TV shows are more violent than non-political TV shows (3) In what ways do the actual estimates differ from the image the media presents to the public? (4) What decision-making processes do newsrooms employ when they cover crime in the state?HYPOTHESISMedia’s portrayal of crime in Amazonas is exaggerated, distorted and divorced from the actual prevalence of crime.
How to measurethis?INTERREALITY COMPARISON (DIXON AND LINZ, 2000)Crime on the streets: Estimates of the prevalence of crimevictimization: 2009 National Household Survey – PNAD andMapadaViolencia (Weiselfisz, 2011)Crime on TV: ContentAnalysisof crime shows Comunidade AlertaandAlô Amazonas58 stories from ComunidadeAlertaand Alô Amazonas (June 06 – 17,2011)Unit of analysis: each story (approximately 5 min each)Focus on three aspects of programming:a) Demographicsb) Characterizationsc) World-viewParticipantobservationand interviews: sixweeks in Manaus
Crime onthestreets X Crime on TV Number and Percentage of Stories that Depicted Offense Types by Victimization Rates per 1,000 inhabitants Program* Amazonas, Brazil – 2008 Amazonas, June 2011 Alo Comunidade Alerta CombinedType of Crime Rate Percentage AmazonasTheft 37.86 38.52% % n % n % nRobbery 44.11 44.88% Homicide** 62.5 10 33.3 14 41.4 24Assault 16.08 16.36% Motive Money 0 0 21.4 3 12.5 3Total non-lethal 98.06 99.77% Drugs 50 5 7.1 1 4.2 1victimizations Passion 0 0 14.3 2 8.3 2 No apparent 0 0 21.4 3 12.5 3 reasonHomicides* 24.5 Unknown 50 5 28.6 4 36.7 9 0.24% Theft 0 0 11.9 5 8.6 5Totalvictimizations Robbery*** 0 0 35.7 15 25.9 15 100% Drug/weapon trafficking 37.5 6 11.9 5 19 11Source: PNAD Assault 0 0 7.1 3 5.2 32009 Total 100 16 100 42 100 58*Per 100.000 inhabitants - Source: MapadaViolencia 2011 * Percentages based on total number of crime stories in each show.(Waiselfisz, 2011) ** Includes attempted murder ***Includes burglary/land invasion
Crime onthestreets: victimsLETHALVICTIMIZATIONS(1) 24.8 homicides per 100,000 (2008): 17th most dangerous state inBrazil(2) Youth (15-24 years old): 46 per 100,000 inhabitants(3) 92.4% malesProbability of a victim of homicide being Afro-Brazilian is 290.2% higherthan being whiteNON-LETHAL VICTIMIZATIONS: THE MOST VULNERABLE(1) Theft: Black, female, 40-49 years, employed (sales)(2) Robbery: Black, male, 30-39 years, employed (services)(3) Assault: Black, male, 20-29 years old, unemployedThe more violent the crime, the younger, poorer, and darker the victim
Findings(1) Victims appear only on 41% of the stories, body of a victim52.4%(2) ComunidadeAlerta is more violent than Alô Amazonas(3) Drug-related crimes are newsworthy in Amazonas: authoritysources “News about drug seizures or the arrest of a drug dealer will always make animpact. That‟s because the average citizen likes to see drug criminals beingpunished.” (Military Police Representative, Personal communication, June 29,2011)(4) Robbery, theft and assault underrepresented(5) Underrepresentation of black AND white victimization(6) Underrepresentation and misrepresentation of females: onlypredatory crimes
Conclusions(1) Crime on TV is more violent and random than actual statistics(2) TV stories emphasize the role of criminals, their weapons, and theirconnections to the drug industry.(3) Amazonas, Brazil: Lack of representation of victims in Amazonas’ localmedia being a victim not a benign role in the crime phenomenon.E.g. “(s)he was the victim of drug traffic”, “(s)he made the wrong friends”, “whena citizen owns money to the bank, his name goes to a collection agency. Whena citizen owns money to the drug traffickers, he will pay with his life.”(4) Host (ComunidadeAlerta): “electronic vigilante”, denounces the failures ofthe social system and calls attention to the many risks people face(5) TV shows mediate relationship between people and authorities: lack ofinstitutional democratic spaces for representation