Fear is an emotion, our emotions are based upon our ownand others actions.
Fear of crime gives rise to the risk-fear paradox which isprevalent across all societies, independent of actual pertinent levels of crimeand security. “Fear of crime can be consideredcontagious, because social interaction is the mechanism though which fear isshared and chronically worried populations are created. Even those that havenever been a victim of crime can be seriously worried about it” (Curiel, 2017).The media does engender fear of crime; the media’s socially constructeddistorted view of crime does result in higher levels of fear of crime withinpopulations, despite the fact that these media representations very rarelyreflect or represent the outside world. An important comparison which should be drawnin order to answer the question posed in the title is one between researchcompleted to study the impact/effects which playing violent video games has onindividuals. There is a distinct relationship shared between playing videogames and watching violence on television, this is because both involveindividuals watching depictions of otherwise unrealistic violence taking placein front of them. Social media isanother sphere through which through media engenders fear of crime, as fear ofcrime is dependent on a number of varying social factors ranging from as race,age, gender, income, education and marital status; in order to understandwhether fear of crime is engendered by the media or whether it is an inevitableconsequence of living in late modern society, it is very important to take intoaccount these other factors; in order to produce a complete answer to thequestion. The corruptivenature of media has been an issue which society and philosophers have contendedwith since the early Greek/Roman times.
Plato set a precedent for society whichwould later unravel into debates on the consequences of watching too much televisionand playing violent video games. He set this precedent by clarifying thatcertain plays and poetry could negatively impact youth and should therefore beburned (Ferguson, 2010). In the 1930s social research commissioned on the basisof links between watching movies and aggressive behaviour (Ferguson, 2010).This research set a precedent for all future research to come in this topic, inthat it was found that there were lacks of control groups in the studies, aswell as a difficulty in measuring levels of aggression. Fear ofcrime exists outside the realms of societal pretences and instead is acondition embedded within the human psyche. Levels of crime and security withinany society are obvious predictors for levels of fear of crime, furthermore, predictorscould be factors such as past experiences, demographic factors, and theperception of insecurity; which as of recently has emerged as a socialproblem. Jean Baudrillard’s theory ofhyperreality is one which will be closely considered in the answering of thequestion posed in the title.
Fear of crime and hyperreality are associated inthat Surette (1998) put forward that fiction is closer to news than to reality,this statement being founded upon a study performed by Mandel (1984) whichdetermined that between 1945 and 1984 over 10 billion crime thrillers wereproduced. Cultivation theory is mostoften used to explain the effects of exposure to certain media and wasintroduced in the 1970s by George Gerbner. Gerbner’s research concluded thatheavy exposure to media content could over an extended time period influenceindividuals attitudes and behaviour towards being “more consistent with theworld of television programs than with the everyday world” (Chandler 1995). Results takenfrom Dowler (2003) indicate that “viewing crime shows is significantly relatedto fear of crime and perceived police effectiveness.” Dowler goes onto mentionthat regular crime drama viewers are more likely to “hold negative attitudestoward police effectiveness, although “regular viewers of crime shows are morelikely to fear or worry about crime. Similarly, regular crime drama viewers aremore likely to hold negative attitudes toward police effectiveness, although abivariate analysis indicated that newspapers as primary source of crime newsand 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 whichis dependent on its audience (Heath and Gilbert, 1996). Dowler (2003) reportedthat local crime news “increased fear among those who lived in the reportedarea, whereas non-local crime news had the opposite effect” (Albany.edu, 2018). Local crime news has the effect of increasing fear of crimein occupants of higher crime neighbourhoods, furthermore, research has alsoelucidated that individuals whom both watch a lot of crime related televisionand live in high risk neighbourhoods also had higher levels of fear of crimethan their counterparts who did not (Dowler, 2003). An individual’s personalexperiences, ethnicity, age, income, influence whether or not media has animpact on them. Individuals with prior experience of any involvement in crimesprior to watching crime related television would not become fearful of themafterwards, whereas an individual who has no prior experience being involved incrime, would become more fearful after watching particular news or televisiondramas (Liska & Baccaglini, 1990). Gerbner et al (1980) found that “therelationship between the fear of crime and the amount of television watched wasgreatest for females and white people”; Gerbner (1980) also pointed towards ‘female,whites and elderly people as more likely to have a fear of crime’; despitetheir lower likelihoods in finding themselves victims of it” (Dowler, 2003).
Only a minor subsection ofthe population have first-hand experience of violent crime, in reference tothis, the majority of people whom have not had any direct contact with violentcrime, believe the world is worse than it is; the result of this is major sectionsof the population within societies becoming more afraid of getting victimizedthan need be (McQuivey 1997). The fear victimizationparadox is founded on one’s ability/inability to master involvement in aviolent crime. Fear Victimization paradox exists independently of thelikelihood of involvement in crime, it can happen despite the likelihood anindividual could be very likely become involved in a violent crime; “a truckdriver in the middle of the night at a rest area, its fear of crime might notbe high because it thinks that it has control over such a situation” (Sandman1993; Sparks and Ogles 1990). Vanderveen (2003) posits that “men usually thinkthey can handle it. Women feel more vulnerable”, in reality however, men aremore likely to become a victim of a crime (Bureau of Statistic and Research1996).
Past undertaken research has suggested that crime information portrayedin the form of facts and figures, have no influence on said individual’sperception of crime, furthermore, that media influence is just one of manyfactors to be taken into account when analysing prevalence to fear of crime,whether on an individual or societal basis (McQuivey, 1997). Older people havea greater fear of becoming a victim of crime ‘because they believe they aremore vulnerable’ than younger members in society (Carcach et. al., 2001). Theirphysical fitness and strength has declined leaving them in a weakened state,and therefore possibly targeting them as easy victims as they are less likelyto be able to defend themselves (Carcach et.
al., 2001). Gerbner etal (1980) confirmed his previous research in that those individuals who watchmore television than average showed a ‘higher rate of fear towards theirenvironment’ than those who watched less.
More recently Dowler (2003) foundthat even when taking into account factors such as race, age, gender, income,education and marital status, those individuals whom watch more crime showstend to exhibit a significantly higher rate of being fearful of crime (Dowler,2003). Dowler went on to discover that hours of watching television newsprograms did not have a significant relationship with higher levels of fear ofcrime (Dowler, 2003). Hyperreality acts as a pretext for socio-politicalregression (Miller, 1997). For Eco (1987), Disneyland’s fantasy order is theopposite of the rest of the world, supposedly real, when in fact, the whole ofAmerica and the world are the hyperreal simulation.
This ‘perfect crime'(Baudrillard, 1995) is not abstract: in 2004, two English children were mauledto death by bears in a zoo after having climbed into their cage; brought up oncartoons, they only knew about cuddly teddy bears.By the 1970s the crime or police dramahad replaced the western for the most prevalent prime-time television fare(Doyle, 2006). The boundary between crime entertainment and crime informationhas been blurred progressively more in the past years (Dowler, Fleming, &Muzzatti, 2006).
Roughly half of the newspapers and television items peoplecome 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 aresult the images offered to the public are one of differing appearance to theones founded on facts and figures, represented by the government (Doyle, 2006).(Surrette, 2006) goes onto point out that crime in the media has becomeformatted in a way that it is camouflaged as to depict an informative andrealistic nature. The research appreciates that images which people see ontelevision are compared against the world which they see, this being the foundationupon which people’s perspectives between crime on the media and real life becomedistorted; as a result people fall into a hyperrealistic state in which their idealisticconception of reality has replaced their real one (Surrette, 2006). Flately (2010) also points out that there has been a steadyfall in crime since 1995, but people still tend to believe that it isincreasing.
Public belief in rising crime levels, as aforementioned, can bedirectly correlated to increasing levels of the media’s representation ofcrime. Fear of crime is something which can be used as a tool by government inthat a certain level of fear of crime is desirable to inspire problem solvingaction and inspire the fearful to take precautions; “exaggerated public perceptions ofcrime risks can also lead to serious distortions in government spendingpriorities and policy making” (Bureau of Statistic and Research 1996). Functional fear is a tool used by the masses for the purposesof 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 thepertinence of crime in their environment, giving rise social isolation and thebreakdown of social cohesion and solidarity.