Sociology of popular culture.
Structural forces form part of the larger structure that contains or consists of the interaction of different individuals at different levels of the society. Therefore, structural forces can be defined as the factors that influence change at different levels of the society’s interactive activities. Some scholars have come up with the idea that seeks to denounce these factors as forces since their schools of thought negate the probability of society being under the influence of its subjects, but most of the rest seem to support the existence of structural forces within the society and their effects on the interactive activity of man.
The emergence and use of slang as distinct and accepted forms of communication among the youth in society is a good example of a structural force changing the role of these young people in the same set up. Slang is a combination of various aspects of language, including mother tongue and definitive phrases that the youth come up with to ease communication among them, make messages discrete, share ideas on common platforms. As a form of communication, this force has led to the identification of the ability of the youth as communicators especially in music and other forms of expression, As such, the inclusion of the youthfulness and its attributes into major processes such as politics is usually done through language hence changing the role of youth from that of a dormant subject in the society, to the active member involved in driving change in the society (Schennig 45)
Social changes in the society, especially among the youth, are been made more and more open and public. Another structural force that has been instrumental in the change of social roles of the youth is attitude. This being the general expression of liking or disliking towards people, places, actions, or things, makes one of the most important forces acting as evidence of shifts in the roles of youth in society. Traditionally, attitudes formed a major definitive aspect of the teenager and youthful person, but the recent attention to these young people by the society has changed their place in same environment. Leaders want to hear out the views of youth concerning their policies and activity while in government. The church is also putting more effort into trying to marry the attitudes of the youth with their teaching as based on religion making these young people more instrumental in the general societal shifts and activities.
Cultural norm is yet another example of a structural force that is changing the roles of youth in society. Their way of life, regardless of geography and disposition, has been attributed to rebellion and disarray at the mercies of hormonal and mental growth, but this is being embraced as a way of understanding their hardships, views, and roles in life. The training and mentorship of youth leaders shows a change in the public’s ability to trust these young and often disorganized or rebellious members of the society, and entrust them with positions that require responsibility and an acute sense of logic. As more established vehicles of societal change, such as policy making, administration, and government, recognizes the ability of the youth and their non-conformist attitudes to drive positive growth, the roles of these same youngsters in the society’s interactive activities keep changing.
The influence of the media on crime rates has been one of concern and extensive research for a long time. Murders such as the ones in Littleton, United States, seemed to have been orchestrated as gaming scenes as their perpetrators were aficionados of violent games. Unfortunately, many lives were lost and even more altered, but the question lingered as to whether indeed these games, and other forms of media, were directly related to these crimes.
Sternheimer gives numerous examples of the relationship between media – in its various forms – and crime in her book, ‘It’s Not the Media: The Truth about Pop Culture’s Influence on Children’. Crimes ranging from abuse and assault, to cold-blooded murder are reportedly linked to music, computer games, and television games (111). Her feeling regarding the same are laced with a clear understanding of the influential nature of media on the minds, actions, and attitudes of the youth, but she clearly states that there is no comprehensive proof to link the two.
While the Columbine shootings might easily provide an example that contradicts her views, she is quick to point out the difference between aggression and violence, in as much as the two are closely related in this context. Violent computer games and hard rock music might infuse aggressive behavior in the individuals that consume these forms of media, but venting this aggression is another thing altogether. In her opinion, the public is heeding to the calls from the government through its various instruments to view the media with fear so that they fail to see a true representation of the economic and political failures of their governments. In other words, the public has no need to fear the media or attach the current manifestations of social – political, and socio-economic failures, as evidenced by murders and suicide. Rather, they should embrace the media as a source of information, entertainment, and a form of expression.
Social entrepreneurs are individuals or organizations who use social panic to propagate innuendo and selfish ideologies, and are responsible for much of the current media’s negative image. These individuals have used the recent spate of school shootings, musical artist suicides, and others to advance a largely negative image. Their actions have resulted in the portrayal of media as an aid to crime in its various forms, leading to public confusion and unnecessary bias in the consumption of media by the public. Many share the view that television is harmful to children in terms of growth and intellectual development, games cultivate a predisposition for violence, and certain music corrupts the mind of listeners.
Social panic is defined as a situation where a person, place, or event, is escalated by definition to the level of being viewed as a threat to the ideals and well being of the society (Cohen 52). In the realms of politics, the use of social panics has been documented as widespread phenomena, as individuals seek to raise concerns and worry to levels that might play into their strategies. By doing so, these individuals cultivate the right amount of concern as to warrant the inception of new means to change the perceived problematic issue or situation, thus optimizing their chances at success.
A lot of research into the sociology behind this phenomena points at the natural tendency of man to follow the individual, or people, who identify a problem, point it out, and publicly declare to solve it for the sake of social welfare. However, on most of these occasions, that same individual has motives that might be either ulterior or otherwise, but the masses have already identified with him/her. This clearly explains the rampant use of the social panic by politicians in their campaigns to try and woo as many supporters as they can. Tobias states how they achieve this through the “creation of non-existence social problems, the exaggeration of existent one in terms of magnitude, and the ever-present promise to solve them” (65). A good example of this kind of social manipulation is seen in the Australian Prime Minister’s election campaign. Julia Gillard uttered some controversial statements as a form of social panic aimed at escalating the influx of illegal immigrants into the country as a problem. She said, “Stop the boat people getting on boats”, and relied on the social perception created by her potential electorate to improve her position in the run for office.
As expected, the social panic concept‘s application in politics usually has moral ramifications. Issue of human right infringement and other evils have come up each time this concept gets mention. A good example is Julia Gillard’s statements regarding illegal immigrants, which though placing her in the social panic beneficiary’s seat, raised the touchy issue of racism. Social panic and morality are practically inseparable in the eyes of politics as many of the issues raised during use of social panic tend to be immoral. Some politicians have in exercising social panic to their advantage deprived the society of its basic rights. The detention of prisoners in Australia has for long been a selling point for Prime Ministers claiming it strives to separate criminals and the righteous in society. These incumbent politicians find favor with the masses who view this as a method of ensuring their security in country ravaged by violence and crime. What many fail to realize is that after the completion of his/her sentence, an individual’s continues detention is in direct contravention of their rights to freedom once again demonstrating the ability of social panic a misused tool.
Society has high regard for the welfare of children and their protection from all sources of harm. The proliferation of pornography and harmful content via the internet has come up as a recent source of harm from which political figures seek to fuel their campaigns. The welfare of children is a sensitive issue, and in trying to capitalize on this, some of this winning politician inadvertently, or otherwise, infringe on some human rights. The use if internet filters, content espionage programs, bans on a large scale intended to protect the plight of children harms the other members of society as it is goes against their right to accessing information. This exemplifies another instance where regimes use social panic to impose their rule on the society, yet the underlying situation is opposite of the intended end.
Sociology is a social science aimed at a generalized study of human interaction (Anderson et. al 2). Some aspects of human interaction go beyond the concept of interaction, whereby human behavior becomes subject to more complex concepts. Aspects related to communication and leadership would be better understood while undertaking more detailed, scientific, and detailed characteristics if man from the perspective if psychology. In essence, sociology only scrapes the top of human interactive activity which has been demonstrated to be a deep, complex, and detailed affair.
The ability of sociology to explain the dynamic at play during complex human behavior portrayed during politics is therefore governed by this principle. In addition, the ability of media to transcend the barriers of time, age, and generation overpowers the capability of sociology as a discipline in trying to understand various aspects of the same. A good example is the inability of sociology to explain the tendency of certain individuals to blur the line between truth and lies because of ulterior motives. Therefore, sociology should refrain from attempting to understand complex human behavior and restrain its scope to its definition – the continued study of human interaction and its various aspects.
Andersen, Margaret L, and Howard F. Taylor. “Developing a sociological perspective.” Sociology: Understanding a Diverse Society. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth/Thomson Learning, 2008. 2. Print.
Attorneys, Lawyers. “What is Moral Panic and why does it occur?” LAW INFORMATION. WordPress.com, 5 Jan. 2011. Web. 18 Mar. 2014.
Cohen, Stanley. “Opinion and attitude themed.” Folk Devils and Moral Panics: The Creation of the Mods and Rockers. Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge, 2011. 52. Print.
Sternheimer, Karen. “Fear of video games.” It’s Not the Media: The Truth About Pop Culture’s Influence on Children. Boulder, Colo: Westview Press, 2003. 111. Print.