Fear age, gender, income, education and marital status;

Fear is an emotion, our emotions are based upon our own
and others actions. Fear of crime gives rise to the risk-fear paradox which is
prevalent across all societies, independent of actual pertinent levels of crime
and security.  “Fear of crime can be considered
contagious, because social interaction is the mechanism though which fear is
shared and chronically worried populations are created. Even those that have
never been a victim of crime can be seriously worried about it” (Curiel, 2017).
The media does engender fear of crime; the media’s socially constructed
distorted view of crime does result in higher levels of fear of crime within
populations, despite the fact that these media representations very rarely
reflect or represent the outside world.   An important comparison which should be drawn
in order to answer the question posed in the title is one between research
completed to study the impact/effects which playing violent video games has on
individuals. There is a distinct relationship shared between playing video
games and watching violence on television, this is because both involve
individuals watching depictions of otherwise unrealistic violence taking place
in front of them.  Social media is
another sphere through which through media engenders fear of crime, as fear of
crime is dependent on a number of varying social factors ranging from as race,
age, gender, income, education and marital status; in order to understand
whether fear of crime is engendered by the media or whether it is an inevitable
consequence of living in late modern society, it is very important to take into
account these other factors; in order to produce a complete answer to the
question.

The corruptive
nature of media has been an issue which society and philosophers have contended
with since the early Greek/Roman times. Plato set a precedent for society which
would later unravel into debates on the consequences of watching too much television
and playing violent video games. He set this precedent by clarifying that
certain plays and poetry could negatively impact youth and should therefore be
burned (Ferguson, 2010). In the 1930s social research commissioned on the basis
of links between watching movies and aggressive behaviour (Ferguson, 2010).
This research set a precedent for all future research to come in this topic, in
that it was found that there were lacks of control groups in the studies, as
well as a difficulty in measuring levels of aggression.

Fear of
crime exists outside the realms of societal pretences and instead is a
condition embedded within the human psyche. Levels of crime and security within
any society are obvious predictors for levels of fear of crime, furthermore, predictors
could be factors such as past experiences, demographic factors, and the
perception of insecurity; which as of recently has emerged as a social
problem.  Jean Baudrillard’s theory of
hyperreality is one which will be closely considered in the answering of the
question posed in the title. Fear of crime and hyperreality are associated in
that Surette (1998) put forward that fiction is closer to news than to reality,
this statement being founded upon a study performed by Mandel (1984) which
determined that between 1945 and 1984 over 10 billion crime thrillers were
produced. Cultivation theory is most
often used to explain the effects of exposure to certain media and was
introduced in the 1970s by George Gerbner. Gerbner’s research concluded that
heavy exposure to media content could over an extended time period influence
individuals attitudes and behaviour towards being “more consistent with the
world of television programs than with the everyday world” (Chandler 1995). Results taken
from Dowler (2003) indicate that “viewing crime shows is significantly related
to fear of crime and perceived police effectiveness.” Dowler goes onto mention
that regular crime drama viewers are more likely to “hold negative attitudes
toward police effectiveness, although “regular viewers of crime shows are more
likely to fear or worry about crime. Similarly, regular crime drama viewers are
more likely to hold negative attitudes toward police effectiveness, although a
bivariate analysis indicated that newspapers as primary source of crime news
and hours of television viewing are not significantly related to fear of crime,
punitive attitudes or perceived police effectiveness.”

Fear of crime and the mass media share a relationship which
is dependent on its audience (Heath and Gilbert, 1996). Dowler (2003) reported
that local crime news “increased fear among those who lived in the reported
area, whereas non-local crime news had the opposite effect” (Albany.edu, 2018). Local crime news has the effect of increasing fear of crime
in occupants of higher crime neighbourhoods, furthermore, research has also
elucidated that individuals whom both watch a lot of crime related television
and live in high risk neighbourhoods also had higher levels of fear of crime
than their counterparts who did not (Dowler, 2003). An individual’s personal
experiences, ethnicity, age, income, influence whether or not media has an
impact on them. Individuals with prior experience of any involvement in crimes
prior to watching crime related television would not become fearful of them
afterwards, whereas an individual who has no prior experience being involved in
crime, would become more fearful after watching particular news or television
dramas (Liska & Baccaglini, 1990). Gerbner et al (1980) found that “the
relationship between the fear of crime and the amount of television watched was
greatest for females and white people”; Gerbner (1980) also pointed towards ‘female,
whites and elderly people as more likely to have a fear of crime’; despite
their lower likelihoods in finding themselves victims of it” (Dowler, 2003).

Only a minor subsection of
the population have first-hand experience of violent crime, in reference to
this, the majority of people whom have not had any direct contact with violent
crime, believe the world is worse than it is; the result of this is major sections
of the population within societies becoming more afraid of getting victimized
than need be (McQuivey 1997). The fear victimization
paradox is founded on one’s ability/inability to master involvement in a
violent crime. Fear Victimization paradox exists independently of the
likelihood of involvement in crime, it can happen despite the likelihood an
individual could be very likely become involved in a violent crime; “a truck
driver in the middle of the night at a rest area, its fear of crime might not
be high because it thinks that it has control over such a situation” (Sandman
1993; Sparks and Ogles 1990). Vanderveen (2003) posits that “men usually think
they can handle it. Women feel more vulnerable”, in reality however, men are
more likely to become a victim of a crime (Bureau of Statistic and Research
1996). Past undertaken research has suggested that crime information portrayed
in the form of facts and figures, have no influence on said individual’s
perception of crime, furthermore, that media influence is just one of many
factors to be taken into account when analysing prevalence to fear of crime,
whether on an individual or societal basis (McQuivey, 1997). Older people have
a greater fear of becoming a victim of crime ‘because they believe they are
more vulnerable’ than younger members in society (Carcach et. al., 2001). Their
physical fitness and strength has declined leaving them in a weakened state,
and therefore possibly targeting them as easy victims as they are less likely
to be able to defend themselves (Carcach et. al., 2001). Gerbner et
al (1980) confirmed his previous research in that those individuals who watch
more television than average showed a ‘higher rate of fear towards their
environment’ than those who watched less. More recently Dowler (2003) found
that even when taking into account factors such as race, age, gender, income,
education and marital status, those individuals whom watch more crime shows
tend to exhibit a significantly higher rate of being fearful of crime (Dowler,
2003). Dowler went on to discover that hours of watching television news
programs did not have a significant relationship with higher levels of fear of
crime (Dowler, 2003).

Hyperreality acts as a pretext for socio-political
regression (Miller, 1997). For Eco (1987), Disneyland’s fantasy order is the
opposite of the rest of the world, supposedly real, when in fact, the whole of
America and the world are the hyperreal simulation. This ‘perfect crime’
(Baudrillard, 1995) is not abstract: in 2004, two English children were mauled
to death by bears in a zoo after having climbed into their cage; brought up on
cartoons, they only knew about cuddly teddy bears.

By the 1970s the crime or police drama
had replaced the western for the most prevalent prime-time television fare
(Doyle, 2006). The boundary between crime entertainment and crime information
has been blurred progressively more in the past years (Dowler, Fleming, &
Muzzatti, 2006). Roughly half of the newspapers and television items people
come into contact with are concerned with crime, justice or deviance (Doyle,
2006). The mass media has influence over the way people look at crime; and as a
result the images offered to the public are one of differing appearance to the
ones founded on facts and figures, represented by the government (Doyle, 2006).
(Surrette, 2006) goes onto point out that crime in the media has become
formatted in a way that it is camouflaged as to depict an informative and
realistic nature. The research appreciates that images which people see on
television are compared against the world which they see, this being the foundation
upon which people’s perspectives between crime on the media and real life become
distorted; as a result people fall into a hyperrealistic state in which their idealistic
conception of reality has replaced their real one (Surrette, 2006).

Flately (2010) also points out that there has been a steady
fall in crime since 1995, but people still tend to believe that it is
increasing. Public belief in rising crime levels, as aforementioned, can be
directly correlated to increasing levels of the media’s representation of
crime. Fear of crime is something which can be used as a tool by government in
that a certain level of fear of crime is desirable to inspire problem solving
action and inspire the fearful to take precautions; “exaggerated public perceptions of
crime risks can also lead to serious distortions in government spending
priorities and policy making” (Bureau of Statistic and Research 1996). Functional fear is a tool used by the masses for the purposes
of self-preservation, although this is often taken out of personal context and,
one would argue, has led to people’s preconceived views in reference to the
pertinence of crime in their environment, giving rise social isolation and the
breakdown of social cohesion and solidarity.