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The West Memphis Three

This presentation examines how deviance is constructed through labeling theory, collective conscience, and the amplification of deviance. We hope to stress the sociological implications of deviance in our society.

Deontre' Narcisse

on 14 May 2013

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Transcript of The West Memphis Three

The West Memphis Three Deviance: the fact or state of departing from usual
or accepted standards (norms), especially in social behavior.
(Google) Things that affect deviance:

-common viewpoints
Deviance is socially constructed

ex: The West Memphis Three

-Police target Jesse Miskelley and coerce him into a false confession instead of attempting to gather more evidence and convict the real murderer.
-Not only does he vilify himself, but consequently provides “evidence” for the other deviant suspects.
-Additionally, this leaves the real murderer still out there today.
What were the consequences of this deviance?

The theory suggests that distorted information and ignorance about minorities [in this case, goths, non-Christians etc.] in a MASS SOCIETY produce inappropriate responses to perceived deviance.” (105 - Dictionary of Sociology) In short, 6 children were murdered at Robin Hood Hills. Because of labeling theory, an oppressive collective consciousness and deviance amplification not only were three second-graders murdered, but also three young men were stripped of their freedom. The concept of the deviant dismantled the United States judicial system and shattered the notion of innocent until proven guilty. Why were these boys targeted despite lack of evidence?


A social theory that holds that society's reaction to certain behaviors is a major factor in defining the self as deviant. When a person is given a stigmatized label by society, they often begin to embrace their designated role. People are commonly labeled as "criminals" even if they have not committed a crime.
Power for Change & Dangers of Media

-The wm3.org website and the film, "Paradise Lost,"
inspired celebrity influence (Mills)
whose opinions do we value and why?
-Information is easily attainable but we need to be
careful of what we consider legitimate or reliable.
-There is a widespread classification of people and
therefore a creation of unjust biases

-Institutional biases
built a case around suspects
-The notion of "innocent until proven guilty"
-The use of unjust tactics
-Power and influence of police (uniforms)
-Pressure for closure as seen on television

-This case is setting a precedent for the future
-There is a need for accuracy and transferability
-No regrets
-We need to be satisfied with decisions we make
What does this mean for society?
-Set of ideals or shared values that go beyond individual belief or morality.
-Collective becomes more important than an individual's morals.
-"Durkheim reasoned that prior to industrialization people were held together by religion, which gave them a shared collective conscience- a conciousness, set of ideals, or shared values that go beyond individual belief or morality" (Harriford, Thompson 161).

Collective Conscience and
The West Memphis Three

Collective Conscience included the conservative Christian values shared by those in the small town.

Because of these Christian views, the boys who were interested in Satanic themes and black magic were seen to be the culprits.

They also became supported by others who are often ostracized by the collective conscience of the country. ex. Marilyn Manson, Henry Rollins

Harriford, Diane, and Becky Thompson.
When the Center is on Fire, Passionate Social
Theory for our Times. 1. Austin: University of Texas Press, 2008. Print. Screen shot from the film "Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills"(1996) by Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky photo: Hetfield Design. Posters.ws photo: Elev8. 2011 photo: nytimes.com. 2009 photo: Elim Church Newcastle. 2008 photo: blinkoncrime.com online snapshot of wm3.org homepage photo: commercialappeal.com Durkheim's Collective Conscience Deviance Amplification In the case of the West Memphis Three Legal System Stories that carry on
for generations Consequences of incorrect criminal labeling: Labeling Theory
Full transcript