Creating Fear: News and the Construction of Crisis

Transaction Publishers
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Taking advantage of electronic information bases, Altheide, whose previous interpretive studies of the mass media are well known, uses a "tracking discourse" method to show how the nature and use of the word "fear" by mass media have changed over the years. His analysis examines how some of the topics associated with fear (e.g., AIDS, crime, immigrants, race, sexuality, schools, children) have shifted in emphasis, and how certain news organizations and social institutions benefit from the exploitation of fear.

This book is about fear and its expanding place in our public life. The author documents the rise of a "discourse of fear" in the present era: the pervasive communication, sym­bolic awareness, and expectation that danger and risk surround us. Altheide offers explanations of how this occurred and suggests some of its serious social consequences. In doing so, he focuses on the nature and use of social power and social control. The mass media play a significant role in shaping social definitions that govern social action. Relatedly, his methodological and theoretical foundation in classical social theory, existential-phenomenology, ethnomethodology, and symbolic interactionism leads him to view social power as the capacity to define situations for self and others.

Creating Fear is focused on sorting out the ways that the mass media and popular culture help define social situa­tions. It helps understand the nature, process, and organiza­tion of mass media operations, including news procedures, perspectives, and formats. It recognizes the need to expand our methodological frameworks to incorporate new infor­mation technologies and databases and to ask different ques­tions. This volume, which attempts to break the circle of fear discourse, will be of interest to sociologists, communi­cations scholars, and criminologists.

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Additional Information

Publisher
Transaction Publishers
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Published on
Dec 31, 2002
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Pages
223
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ISBN
9780202365268
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Language
English
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Genres
Language Arts & Disciplines / Communication Studies
Social Science / Media Studies
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Eligible for Family Library

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Those of us on the lookout for insights into social behavior must be impressed when a book strikes us as being powerful enough to shake firmly held beliefs in a single reading. Even as we explore the vagueness of social science, we unveil bias that prejudices how we think, what we teach. One bias in the social sciences derives from the influence of `cognitive dissonance' invoking thoughts of message reinforcement, not opinion change, and suggesting minimal effects of the press. Author David Fan goes far in dissuading those of us who have fallen under the minimalist spell. His clear examination of the power of the American press on public opinion provides compelling evidence for the profound impact the press has on our thinking. Fan, a cellular biologist, parades an impressive array of data to support his contention that opinion can be measured by the application of his mathematical model to the content of national news reports. His findings confirm a clear connection between the content of national news and the results of national opinion polls. Public Relations Review

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Fear has become an ever-expanding part of life in the West in the twenty-first century. We live in terror of disease, abuse, stranger danger, environmental devastation and terrorist onslaught. We are bombarded with reports of new concerns for our safety and that of our children, and urged to take greater precautions and seek more protection. But compared to the past, or to the developing world, people in contemporary Western societies have much less familiarity with pain, suffering, debilitating disease and death. We actually enjoy an unprecedented level of personal safety.



When confronted with events like the destruction of the World Trade Centre, fear for the future is inevitable. But what happened on September 11th 2001 was in many ways an old fashioned act of terror, representing the destructive side of the human passions. Frank Furedi argues that the greater danger in our culture is the tendency to fear achievements representing a more constructive side of humanity. We panic about GM food, about genetic research, about the health dangers of mobile phones. The facts often fail to support the scare stories about new or growing risks to our health and safefy. Our obsession with theoretical risks is in danger of distracting society from dealing with the old-fashioned dangers that have always threatened our lives. In this new edition Furedi relates his own thinking on the sociology of fear to the thought of earlier thinkers such as Darwin and Fred and to the sociological tradition of Durkheim, C. Wright Mills, Anthony Giddens and others.

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