Archive for December, 2011

Post Three – England Riots – August 2011

On the 6th of August 2011, one of the biggest civil unrest that England has ever seen in generations took place. Disgusting scenes of looting, rioting and violence spread across the UK in the space of one week.  5 people died, 3000 people were arrested and nearly £100 million of damage was caused. Not only was this a shocking event for the country, it has opened up questions about how new media has a power and a hold on us today socially. Social media was the main outlet for communication for rioters and communities, is new media to blame for the riots?

New and Social media heavily dominated the riots; this fuelled the copycat behaviour, mixed with boredom and anger. People subsequently became predominantly influenced by what new media was injecting into them and moral panic began to spread out onto social networking and other media based outlets within communities.  Blackberry Messenger was the worst and most controversial to affect and heavily influence the riots. Because it is a private network, the police were unable to tap into what people were planning, hence why the riots got so out of hand and lasted so long.

Twitter and Facebook were used to coordinate and encourage rioters towards violence and looting. It was said that there was nearly 2.5 million ‘tweets’ relating to the rioting causing heavy amounts of civil unrest within society  . One example ; “Heading to Tottenham to join the riot! who’s with me? #ANARCHY”.  Facebook also heavily dominated the situation with its messenger service, status updates and events made to organise rioters made the problem worse. Two men Jordan Blackshaw and Perry Sutcliffe-Keenan were the first to be charged with extremely harsh sentences for posting a group on Facebook, for a meeting point to start a riot.

In a positive light, Twitter and Facebook was also used to keep people up to date with riot information from the police in their areas and huge clean up operations were planned on Facebook and Twitter, to allow the community to help drive away the rioters.

New media in a bad situation does become some form of threat. When thrown into a situation of heavy moral panic, the outlet is used negatively, causing people to panic more, and push everything out of proportion. Although it has been proved that aspects of social media did cause the riots to flare up, this doesn’t mean a bad light should be cast upon social media and new media on the whole. ‘Social movements do not need Twitter, Facebook or BlackBerry messaging to succeed — they need any method of communication (like talking to the bloke next to you) and a sense of injustice (or futility or boredom) to motivate action’ – Stewart Mitchell he states here that new media and Social media isn’t a threat; it’s the people who are saturated within it and use it in a negative sense. The problem with new media, compared with Old media, is that it isn’t as established, it’s still developing and advancing every day, people are unsure of how far it goes, and how dangerous it can really be. Proving that New media has become a powerful influence socially on society today, and when in the wrong hands , can cause and encourage  disgusting behaviour, just like the England riots.

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Post Two – The Phone Hacking Scandal.

On the 10th of July 2011, The News of the World (NoW) ceased publication of its national tabloid pages. With over 4000 victims, journalists of NoW caused one of the biggest scandals in the landscape of media today; the phone hacking scandal. Not only does this scandal confirm how far journalists will go for a ‘good’ story, it asks the questions about media ownership, the police, press regulations and most importantly the relationship between politicians and journalists. Is our privacy safe in this media saturated world and how much power does old media co operations  like NoW have on our lives?

Through impeding phone calls and voice mails NoW created stories on people’s lives. In 2005, a report by Clive Goodman on Prince William spraining his knee  led to the trigger of a chain of events, that would not only end the life of the 168 year old news paper, but would change the codes and conventions of journalism forever.  It was then established that the articles had originated from Prince Williams voicemails. A police enquiry was started in 2006, resulting in Clive Goodman being arrested and jailed along with co-conspirer Glen Mulcaire for 6 months.

After months of allegations against various journalists within News of the World, Rebekah Brooks, Rupert and James Murdoch were now heavily in the lime light: with the government leading an inquest into NoW, looking into illegal activity that encroached on people’s private rights. The Guardian then uncovered in July that Milly Dowler’s phone was hacked when Brooks was editor. When her phone was being hacked, the Dowler’s were lead to believe she was still alive; this shocking act was among many that NoW had caused, it all ended with several arrests including Brooks. With  Murdoch’s empire becoming more fragile , with his bid for BSkyB failing   and the loss of  NoW ,  it changed the dynamics of journalism and created questions of why this was happening unnoticed for so many years.

With many hidden reports erupting about the NoW’s power to develop stories out of hacking into voicemails, it proves how much old media co-operations can control society and the sheer power they hold. Murdoch is the second largest media conglomerate in the world, being the founder of News Corporation and owning various different companies and newspapers, he immensely dominates the Media landscape today. His presence with old media within society has a huge effect on government, and his influence is greatly sought after by political parties.

Most crucially, the phone hacking scandal was kept under wraps for a very long time, and alot of the investigations into it were uncovered by journalists, not the government. It hints that Murdoch, who is profoundly part of old media, may have more control than people think. Even though the government may bring in some regulations into the media and journalism, it will be limited due to the fact that it is the private sector. Even though the rise of new media is producing more diverse and interesting ways to consume the news, old media for example newspapers, are more established, and at the moment, in terms of impacts on society, have more power. It begs the question can we trust the press, and old media, after the phone hacking scandal, uncovering how powerful old media can really be?

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