Social issues as media constructions: The case of ‘road rage’
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‘Road rage’ is a term that became frequently used in the media in the 1990s. While it referred to a wide and imprecise range of behaviours, it appears to have resonated with the desires and concerns of media audiences. In this article we consider the reasons why ‘road rage’ has proved to be such a popular media object and examine the essential question of whether there has been a real increase in a type of crime that could be labelled ‘road rage’. A content analysis is used to measure the degree to which criminal and non-criminal events are captured in ‘road rage’ stories in the media. These results are juxtaposed against the incidence of ‘road rage’ events reported to the police and survey findings on the perceived likelihood of being involved in a ‘road rage’ incident. The sudden appearance and rapid diffusion of road rage as an object of media attention is interpreted using the natural history approach to social problems. The results add to a growing body of findings which can be used to illuminate the trajectory of media interests in regard to ‘new’ crimes.
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