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Media and the Construction of Random Drug Violence

NCJ Number
Social Justice Volume: 18 Issue: 4 Dated: (Winter 1991) Pages: 85-103
H H Brownstein
Date Published
19 pages
From 1986 to 1990, the news media in New York City portrayed drug-related violence as spreading and becoming random in its selection of victims, thereby effectively supporting the movement of government policies toward the right.
The growing concern about crack cocaine influenced the political context of drug policy and led to addresses and press releases from the governor, focusing on drug abuse and a campaign against it. The news media took the government's notions about crack and constructed a reality in which drugs, especially crack, were identified as responsible for widespread and random drug-related street violence. Frequent news stories focused on crack, other drugs, and drug-related criminal violence. However, both official statistics and other studies showed that most drug-related violence was confined to people living in or near drug communities and that few innocent bystanders were victims. Nevertheless, reactionary policies have resulted, focusing on law enforcement and prison expansion and diverting attention and resources from the larger social and structural problems. As a result, Federal, State, and local criminal justice systems have been overwhelmed, and civil liberties have been eroded. Notes and 61 references


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