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An introduction: British print media accounts of new religious movements 1975-1985

Cole, M.A. (1988) An introduction: British print media accounts of new religious movements 1975-1985. Masters thesis, Durham University.



This thesis is a sociological account of the controversy that surrounds New Religious Movements with special emphasis on the role of the print media in sustaining the controversy. The research that is reported here was conducted primarily by means of content analysis of articles appearing in four leading British publications between 1975 and 1985. Results are compared with on going research in the U.S. and Belgium in an effort to gain some cross-cultural insight into the phenomenon. This thesis is not, however, confined to a presentation of statistical data for it attempts to make sense of the findings within an interpretative framework. The thesis begins with a discussion of certain key concepts and then reviews the authoritative works on New Religious Movements, showing that the dominant theories do not pay enough attention to the role of the mass media in the development and maintenance of crucial moral boundaries. The sociological literature on the topic of deviance in the mass media and the social construction of moral panics is reviewed in Chapter Two, with special attention being given to the relevance of this topic to the treatment of New Religious Movements. The methodology of content analysis is outlined and assessed for its usefulness in the social sciences in Chapter Three. The findings from the British study are presented in Chapter Four and compared with those from studies in both the U.S. and Belgium. Wide variations were found in the treatment of individual NRMs. The predominantly negative tenor of print media items about them was largely a function of the overwhelmingly negative portrayal of one particular movement; the tenor of items changed over time; but endorsement of anti-cultism was weaker than expected. The image of a control group of older minority religious movements was found to be significantly different from that of the NRMs. Finally, conclusions are drawn concerning the present study, with potentially productive areas for future research being highlighted.

Item Type:Thesis (Masters)
Award:Master of Arts
Thesis Date:1988
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:08 Feb 2013 13:41

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