Arrested Development: The Mr. Big Sting as a Failed Social Problem

Thumbnail Image
Mutch, Stephanie
Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
University of Guelph

The use of the Mr. Big sting undercover policing tactic by Canadian police services has led to debate and controversy among civil libertarians, legal actors, and academics. It has not, however, led to widespread discussion or concern amongst the general public. Using a social constructionist framework, this study investigates why Mr. Big stings have failed to become a widely recognized social problem in Canada. An ethnographic content analysis of print media discourse reveals that weak claims-making led to this problem’s failed emergence. Unable to support complex, specialized problem claims, it is suggested that the media’s preference for simplicity left it unable to adequately present claims that sought to establish Mr. Big stings as problematic. These findings suggest that the media may be ill-suited to fulfilling its democratic role in promoting accountability among police and other public intuitions.

Mr. Big Sting, Social Problems, Ethnographic Content Analysis, Contextual Constructionism, Undercover Policing, News Media