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Critically analyse media representations of organised crime, with specific reference to their change over time

Perhaps the most influential information we get with regards to how society perceives organised crime is through their coverage within the media. Whether this is through the use of films that are seen at the cinema, stories that are relayed to us via the print or radio press or through dramas, news stories and documentaries that are shown on television. Most people have an idea of how they see organised crime, whilst others are merely obsessed about it. With specific reference to the organised crime genre within cinema it will be possible to critically analyse the media representations of crime and be able to see how they have changed if at all over the decades since the film genre was introduced. One of the main reasons for letting the film aspect of the media be the focal point of the study is because it is one of the longest running forms of media and has been influencing people long before television was introduced. This very reason will give us a longer timescale on judging the differences over time. To help us discuss the subject matter at hand we will also delve in to the works of certain key thinkers who have contributed greatly to this field of media representation of organised crime. By relating the matter to such literature and research we will be able to relate the subject to a wider sociological and criminological framework.  Using their work where possible to provide back up and empirical evidence towards key points made during the course of the text there will be some progress made to making a substantial analysis of the subject.

Organised crime for many of us has a split personality; some see it as a moral victory over certain aspects of the law whilst other aspects of it are really quite brutal and inhumane.

A more valid representation of African organised crime might have been a film that wasn't made by a Hollywood production company. In a worldwide context there is relatively little comparisons between depictions of organised crime. Japanese Yakuza films are released very regularly whilst films around the Chechen mafia are relatively rare to come by. The same can be said of North Korea; in fact political regimes such as those that exist in Northern Korea have been likened to being run in similar ways to organised gangs. If we are to see certain regimes such as those under Adolf Hitler as being similar to that of organised crime then the documentation of such activities throughout history has been consistently high. There is also an argument to suggest that depending on who is in charge of the broadcasting or production company then only certain issues get relayed to the public. It is quite popular these days for certain American news broadcasters to sensationalise a specific crime at the expense of organised or corporate crime because that is the more interesting story whether it is in the public interest or more likely to effect people or not. In opposition to many mob films Glassner (1999) talks of American journalists doing a disservice to minority neighbourhoods by inaccurately and disproportionately giving white victims of crime more coverage than black victims of crime. With this kind of reporting being endemic to many broadcasting networks of North America real organised crime becomes lost in sensationalism and demonising ethnic groups.

To briefly some up the points discussed in the body of the analysis we will hopefully conclude how media representations have shown organised crime and how it has changed over time. It is safe to say that the most influential with regards to how the public perceives organised crime is within cinema. From the early mobster films to modern day parodies and postmodern gangster coms the biggest impression left with individuals comes via other peoples portrayals on the big screen. Although we have briefly touched upon news reporting the one downfall of examining this area is that you would need a vast longitudinal study to compare news stories around the world over a long period of time. What we have definitely found however is that the mafia have pretty much always been seen as the charismatic public good that defy the law. With a few exceptions to the case there is a prevalent portrayal of organised crime and in particular the type of organised crime that most media representations concentrate on. In fact you could also say that media representations of organised crime do not actually tackle any real issues. Most depictions are not studies but rather organised crime is used as a side tool to make the characters have a setting and a background, most of the time organised crime is just a backdrop to other media goals. There is a possibility that because filmmakers aren't the moral intermediaries we expect them to be and due to this we should not expect an accurate reflection on organised crime any time soon. On the other hand if any other depiction of organised crime apart from news reporting for any other cause is produced then it may be seen as propaganda. It is safe to say that charting the changes of media representations over time is a difficult one because it is a hard subject to quantify and I'm sure that until we get to the ultimate big brother state with a camera on every street, object and concealed on every person then we may never really get an honest picture of what is going on in the world with regards to organised crime. With current terrorist issues maybe we should think of organised crime in terms of new definitions as this can commonly be seen and portrayed as the new evil. 

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