How Online Articles Influence the Way We Understand Violence
The interplay between media and crime is a fascinating phenomenon. Crime in itself is a complex social phenomenon but if one will combine crime and mass media, the resulting media-crime nexus will greatly influence the way people view crime and how they respond to it. The TV networks as well as the Internet work in conjunction to strengthen the interaction of crime and media.
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There are two popular stories available in the World-Wide-Web. The first deals with Raoul Moat and the second talks about the experiences of Captain Jeremy Hahn in Kandahar, Afghanistan (The Official British Army Blog 2010). These two men are involved in a life of violence and most people have access to their lives because of news articles and other sources of information made available by online newspapers, magazines or blogs.
Their stories are different and similar at the same time because they share the same subject matter but at the same time they produce different effects especially when it comes to how the general public comes to interpret violence. In both stories the media and the Internet played a major role in shaping the opinion of the general public.
First of all, the similarities, for there are many. In both stories one can easily see that both are popular at least when it comes to those who have access to the media and the Internet. These people are able to read the stories and many are tuning in to know more about what happened to Moat and to Hahn but not only that they are now able to interact.
This is a new dimension of the World-Wide-Web whereas before it was all about consuming content, today the users are able to create a community and communicate with each other (Hargrave & Livingstone 2009). Although more attention was given to the sensationalised story of Moat it can also be said that many are following the exploits of Hahn and his fellow British soldiers. Their popularity can be attributed to the power of media and the Internet.
The capability of the media to spread the word so to speak can never be understated. In the case of Moat the power of the media was in full force and as a result the story of a violent man who murdered his girlfriend became a sensation.
The following statement perfectly capture the impact of the media: “Raoul Moat dominated the national news for a week, just as he violently dominated the women in his life – and yet now, having maimed, murdered and terrorised during his few days of freedom, he is called a legend” (Mooney, 2010, p.1). As a result the place where he shot himself has now become a tourist attraction.
In the case of Captain Jeremy Hahn one can also argue that his story has become popular thanks to a modern way to spread the news and to tell stories. The World-Wide-Web has made it easy to broadcast a story that in previous centuries would require a great deal of cash to publish and to promote. The evidence of Hahn’s popularity is not as obvious as that of Moat. But it is easy to surmise that there are many people who are interested to know more about his exploits and following the activities of his regiment in Afghanistan.
According to the Ministry of Defence (MOD) war reporting has changed in the 21st century and quoting Pippa Norris, the head of MOD’s digital media strategy: “Those who read blogs cover all age groups, across every social background and nationality” (DefenceFocus, 2010, p.1). This gives a tip of the iceberg insight on how popular Hahn’s blogs can be.
Aside from the popularity of these men and the way the media and the Internet plays a major role in spreading the story that they want to tell it must also be pointed out that they do it for a purpose. Even Mr. Moat knew how to use the media to his advantage. Hahn is conscious of the same thing.
He is writing as a blogger so that the whole world will know what was going on in war against terror. His popularity is put to use in order to communicate something that he believes is important. Moat has the same aspiration. Moat believes that he has a significant message that has to be broadcasted to his fellow citizens.
It is not only the use of mass media and the Internet wherein one can find Moat and Hahn intersecting. It can also be seen in the subject matter that they are dealing with. It is none other than violence which is at the core of their discussion. In the case of Moat it is violence that resulted in him physically harming his girlfriend until finally shooting her to death. Moat’s violence also led to the shooting of a police officer.
In the case of Hahn violence is also the thread that connects all his writings. This is because he is not writing about how to fix a car or how to read the stock market. He is writing about war and war is violence. War requires two opposing groups armed to the teeth and they are out to kill each other. There is nothing glamorous and beautiful about it. War is all about pain, wounds, blood, and death. This is perhaps the main reason why many are faithful in following the exploits of Hahn and his men.
What makes the story of Hahn and Moat similar is how each respective story has influenced the way people interpret violence and how to deal with it. When it comes to Moat he had created a polarising effect when it comes to how people come to see the impact of violence and how the government should treat those who are guilty. On one side there are those who are saying that Moat’s actions and the way he has been treated by the media has created a terrible precedent in that they are glorifying a murderer.
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Believe it or not there is a Facebook page that was created to honour Moat. For those who may not know what a Facebook is it is a social network website that has the power to connect people from all ages, background and nationality. It is therefore revealing when the Facebook page was set-up, with a title that says: “RIP Moat You legend” and attracted a lot of attention (Sims, 2010, p.1).
One reporter even said that it is “an extraordinary outpouring of sympathy” for a killer (Sims, 2010, p.1). But this simply underscores the point that there are those who see the violent events in a different way.
On the other side of the fence there are those who are terribly disgusted by the behaviour of Moat. They condemn his actions and fearful of the way society has created such monsters. There is not only growing concern but there is also a negative backlash on the way many people are trying to glorify Moat as if he was a wrongfully accused fugitive forced to be on the run.
This means that when people see the actions of Moat and Hahn there is some ambivalence. The judgment should be clear-cut and this means that Moat must be condemned for his actions and Hahn should be treated a hero.
But real life is sometimes stranger than fiction. Although there are many who were appalled by the actions of Moat there are also those who lift up as if he is a hero standing up for those who are weak. On the other hand Hahn and his men should be glorified and the government that sent them there should be rewarded with positive feedback because of the way they spent resources and manpower to help those who are not citizens of the United Kingdom.
The British were never obligated to help the Afghan people but here they are sending soldiers and supplies to help the region establish democracy. But instead of praise the British government and indirectly the soldiers are being questioned by many as to why they are there meddling with the affairs of the Afghan people (Burns, 2009).
It is indeed strange to receive criticism when none was expected and to receive praise when condemnation was supposed to have been the norm. Going back to the story of Moat, it seems as if those who supported him cannot focus on the simple fact that what he did was terribly wrong. They look at the story and the circumstances surrounding the story in a different way. As if on blinders they cannot focus on the murdered girl and the police officer that was shot in the face. All that they can see is the struggle of Moat.
It must be made clear that indeed Moat experienced difficulties while dealing with the negative aspects of his life. It was pointed out by many commentators that his inability to develop a close and loving relationship with his father is root cause of some of his major problems and this includes his drug addiction and his temper.
It is the lack of a strong nurturing family that was considered as the culprit in the whole fiasco. In other words those who showed their support to Moat ignored the fact that Moat was a murderer and they were only interested in the issues of lesser importance.
The reaction of the media and the general public with regards to the life of Moat was greatly different from the way people reacted to the story of Captain Hahn. It has to be made clear that the same subject matter is present in his story and the British soldiers that are with them, for they too contended with violence. This is because they are in the midst of a war. There is nothing pleasant in armed conflict. As mentioned earlier it is all about inflicting the most serious damage on the enemy so that one side can force the other to surrender.
There is violence in both stories but in the case of Captain Hahn it is easy to focus on who is the good guy and who is the villain. The good guys are the soldiers sent there by the government and the enemies are the extremists who threaten peace and order in the said region.
The difference and similarities in the stories of Moat and Hahn can only be understood by the popularity of social networking sites, easy access to information, and the ability of people to interact with the source of information. As a result it is not easy to predict how people come to understand violence.
In the past the reaction of the general public can easily be separated in black and white. The good and the bad can be easily determined. This means that consumers of information are given a new capability that was never available to them in the past. It is the power to interpret the news.
This ability of the reading public, viewers of TV news and consumers of Internet content has created two camps in every major issue with regards to the way the government deals with the subject matter of violence. The first group will always applaud the way the government use everything in its arsenal to deal decisively with evildoers. The second group on the other hand are there to make their protests loud and clear because they believe that the government is always prone to use excessive force when it comes to the enemies of the state.
There are similarities as well as differences in the story of Moat and Hahn. Both men are made popular by the use of technology, the Internet and easy access to mass media content. They also share both supporters and critics. There are those who criticise the actions of Moat while there are many who supported him. The same thing is true for Hahn and his fellow British soldiers. Instead of praise they sometimes receive ridicule especially from those who question why they are spending valuable resources in a war that cannot be won.
Burns, J. 2009, Criticism of Afghan War is on the Rise in Britain. Web
Defence Focus 2010, Blogs of war – stories from the front line. Web.
Hargrave, A. M. & Livingstone S. 2009, Harm and Offence in Media Content: A Review of the Evidence, Intellect Books, UK.
The Official British Army Blog 2010, Hotting it up in Kandahar. Web.