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Title: The politics of tragedy : child-on-child homicide and political culture
Author: Green, D. A.
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 2006
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This thesis is a comparative study of the cultural, political and media impacts of two child-on-child homicides—the 1993 English case of James Bulger and the 1994 Norwegian case of Silje Redergård. A discourse analytic approach is used to study the meanings and effects of newspaper coverage of both homicides in order to explain the cases’ dissimilar effects. Discourse theory provides insights into how the culturally distinct language used to describe social problems implies concordant solutions. The intention is to compare the intra-and inter-jurisdictional ways in which each homicide was contextualised in the broadsheet and tabloid press coverage. These case studies are the vehicles by which the culture-specific penal sensibilities governing penal policy decision-making are assessed and compared. The politicisation of penal policy debates in England has meant that policymakers now defer to assessments of public opinion to an extent unseen in earlier post-war decades. The media has simultaneously expanded its influence on public affairs, often speaking for the public, and politicians court the public via the media, often conflating the two. Lost in these interactions is both a sense of the unmediated and informed public will, and a public forum where the issues are engaged on a level of proportionate to their importance. The first aim of this research is to describe a set of interlinked problems facing professional experts and penal policymakers, most of which are more acutely experienced in England than in Norway. Adversarial political culture, the media, and poor measures of public opinion each constrain the range of choices available to policymakers, minimising opportunities for the deliberative consideration of all available knowledge. The second aim is to provide ameliorative proposals to broaden the range of choices policymakers consider to include knowledge’s politicians often ignore, the media often overlook, and opinion polls often fail to measure. The ‘Deliberative Poll’ is one promising means to facilitate ‘public judgement’, a more durable assessment of the informed public will which appears less susceptible to populist manipulation and distortion than current, weaker assessments. Providing opportunities for public deliberation could also generate the kind of trust among citizens that characterises those nations where the politicisation of crime is not so pressing an issue.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available