The best way to explain deviance amplification is through the mods and rockers in the 1960s. Mods and Rockers werre the two youth subcultures that existed in Britain at the time. You could easily tell who they were by their attire and the types of bikes they rode. But first, a video to explain the history of the people… Click the pic!
Cohen highlighted how the media was able to label the Mods & Rockers as folk devils (bad people) and created a moral panic in Britain – people genuinely feared the two subcultures. This led to a sharp increase in the level of social control. Arrests were common and judges were harsher. As with the Brixton Riots, an increase in social control can make things worse not better. People may act out and fulfill their label (self-fulfilling prophecy) which creates more deviance. This leads to more conntrol, which leads to more deviance and the cycle continues… Deviance is amplified.
Back in the 1980s (ish) there was some level of crime among the people of Brixton – and for those who don’t know, Brixton is a predominately black area. Now one day, the chief of police decided that there needed to be a crackdown on crime in Brixton. The next day Operation Swamp was born. Now what Operation Swamp meant was that the police had the right to stop and search anyone they felt was suspicious. In theory it made sense – stop trouble before it began. But after a while, it got a bit… out of hand. It was unlikely that a black person would walk out and not get stopped at least once. This was creating a lot of tension in Brixton – people were fed up.
Then one fateful day a black lad got stabbed and a white police officer went to his aid…people got the wrong impression….and the rest is history. Watch me
The aim of the story above is to explain the role of moral entreprenuers and social control. The moral entreprenuer here was the Chief of Police that decided that Operation Swamp would help reduce people that were victims of crime. What it actually did was simply create another group of people that could be arreseted – it made more deviants. An extension in the number of people you can arrest, inevitably leads to more arrests. the increase in arrests confirmed the police’s label that black people were criminals. The riot itself shows how social control can cause deviance. This is also referred to as deviance amplification. There was so much attention on the black community, they revolted.