Political communication of crime
This thesis seeks to develop our understanding of the contemporary crime communication landscape. While this landscape is considered in its constituent parts, including specific features of current British politics, the evolving media sphere and the voice of the public, this thesis argues for a conceptualization of this realm that grasps its fluid and dynamic character. Original research is conducted through case studies of the 2010 UK General Election, the Phone Hacking Scandal and the 2011 Riots. Discourse analysis is employed in order to enhance our awareness of supralinguistic behaviour and of the play of power in the construction of crime narratives. This is contrasted with influential current accounts of ‘populism’ which, it is argued here, tend to be unduly deterministic and to err towards the dystopian. The research suggests that structural shifts in the media landscape, specifically the recent ubiquity of new media coinciding with an undermining of the singular tabloid narrative, have enabled a redistribution of power in the symbolic construction of crime which can make it harder for political actors to capture the crime question for populist purposes. Furthermore, this shift has empowered the public voice and has infused political debate with a chaotic plurality of views. Nevertheless, the symbolic weight of crime issues remains prominent in this landscape and Randall Collins’ Interaction Ritual Chains (2004) is employed to add a microsociological picture of the escalation from small scale narrative to broad righteous anger. This requires an adaptation of this model to address interactions that occur outside the context of physical co-presence. Such perspectives on the plurality of mediated communication today both broaden and update our grasp of the political communication of crime and in so doing argue for a degree of optimism concerning the scope for democratic debate about criminal justice issues.