Fear is an emotion, our emotions are basedupon our own and others actions.
Fear of crime perpetrates the risk-fearparadox which is prevalent across all societies, independent of actualpertinent levels of crime and security within said society. “Fear of crime can be considered contagious,because social interaction is the mechanism though which fear is shared andchronically worried populations are created. Even those that have never been avictim of crime can be seriously worried about it” (Curiel, 2017). The mediadoes engender fear of crime; the media’s socially constructed distorted view ofcrime does result in higher levels of fear of crime within populations, despitethe fact that these media representations very rarely reflect or represent theoutside 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; in order to understand whether fear of crime isengendered by the media or whether it is an inevitable consequence of living inlate modern society, it is very important to take into account these otherfactors; in order to produce a complete answer to the question. 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 most often used to explainthe effects of exposure to certain media and was introduced in the 1970s byGeorge Gerbner. Gerbner’s research concluded that heavy exposure to mediacontent could over an extended time period influence individuals attitudes andbehaviour towards being “more consistent with the world of television programsthan with the everyday world” (Chandler 1995). Results taken from Dowler (2003)indicate that “viewing crime shows is significantly related to fear of crimeand perceived police effectiveness.” Dowler goes onto mention that regularcrime drama viewers are more likely to “hold negative attitudes toward policeeffectiveness, although “regular viewers of crime shows are more likely to fearor worry about crime.
Similarly, regular crime drama viewers are more likely tohold negative attitudes toward police effectiveness, although a bivariateanalysis indicated that newspapers as primary source of crime news and hours oftelevision viewing are not significantly related to fear of crime, punitiveattitudes or perceived police effectiveness.” Fear of crime and the mass media share a relationship which is dependenton its audience (Heath and Gilbert, 1996). Dowler (2003) reported that localcrime news “increased fear among those who lived in the reported area, whereasnon-local crime news had the opposite effect” (Albany.
edu, 2018). Local crime news has the effect of increasing fear of crime in occupantsof higher crime neighbourhoods, furthermore, research has also elucidated thatindividuals whom both watch a lot of crime related television and live in highrisk neighbourhoods also had higher levels of fear of crime than theircounterparts who did not (Dowler, 2003). An individual’s personal experiences,ethnicity, age, income, influence whether or not media has an impact on them. Individualswith prior experience of any involvement in crimes prior to watching crimerelated television would not become fearful of them afterwards, whereas anindividual who has no prior experience being involved in crime, would becomemore fearful after watching particular news or television dramas (Liska &Baccaglini, 1990).
Gerbner et al (1980) found that “the relationship betweenthe fear of crime and the amount of television watched was greatest for femalesand white people”; Gerbner (1980) also pointed towards ‘female, whites andelderly people as more likely to have a fear of crime’; despite their lowerlikelihoods in finding themselves victims of it” (Dowler, 2003). Only a minor proportion of individuals have had personalexperience of violent crime, the remaining numbers of individuals whom do nothold any prior first experience of involvement with violent crime are found to showbelief systems which portray the world worse than it is in reality, thisresults in in the bolstering of the fear victimization paradox (McQuivey 1997).The fear victimization paradox is founded onone’s ability/inability to master involvement in a violent crime. FearVictimization paradox exists independently of the likelihood of involvement incrime, it can happen despite the likelihood an individual could be very likelybecome involved in a violent crime; “a truck driver in the middle of the nightat a rest area, its fear of crime might not be high because it thinks that ithas control over such a situation” (Sandman, 1993). Vanderveen (2008) positsthat “men usually think they can handle it. Women feel more vulnerable”, inreality however, men are more likely to become a victim of a crime (Bureau ofStatistic and Research 1996). Past undertaken research has suggested that crimeinformation portrayed in the form of facts and figures, have no influence onsaid individual’s perception of crime, furthermore, that media influence isjust one of many factors to be taken into account when analysing prevalence tofear of crime, whether on an individual or societal basis (McQuivey, 1997). Olderpeople have a greater fear of becoming a victim of crime ‘because they believethey are more vulnerable’ than younger members in society (Mouzos et.
Carcach, 2001).Their physical fitness and strength has declined leaving them in a weakenedstate, and therefore possibly targeting them as easy victims as they are lesslikely to be able to defend themselves (Mouzos et. Carcach, 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) reaffirmedthat 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). (Markey et al.2015) went as far as to not only disagree with previously consistent data implyingthat there is a correlation between violent crime and violent video games,instead offering a narrative where there was “no evidence was found to suggest that thismedium was positively related to real-world violence in the United States.Unexpectedly, many of the results were suggestive of a decrease in violentcrime in response to violent video games.” ‘Hyperreality acts as a pretextfor socio-political regression’ (Miller, 1997). Eco (1987) posits that,Disneyland’s fantasy order is the opposite of the rest of the world, portrayinga world which is supposedly real when in reality, the United States and therest of the world as a whole are really the hyperreal simulation.
An example ofthis ‘perfect crime’ (Baudrillard, 1995): in 2002 an English schoolboy decidedto take a firearm and shoot it at his mother’s assailant in a midnight robberyattempt of their property. By the 1970s the crime orpolice drama had replaced the western for the most prevalent prime-timetelevision fare (Barak, 2015). The boundary between crime entertainment andcrime information has become progressively more blurred in the past years(Dowler, Fleming, & Muzzatti, 2006). Roughly half of the newspapers andtelevision items people come into contact with are concerned with crime,justice or deviance (Barak, 2015). The mass media has influence over the waypeople look at crime; and as a result the images offered to the public are oneof differing appearance to the ones founded on facts and figures, represented bythe government (Curiel, 2017). (Surette, 2006) goes onto point out that crimein the media has become formatted in a way that it is depicted in a way toappear informative and realistic in nature.
The research appreciates that ‘the imagespeople see on television are contrasted against the world which they see’, andas a result people’s ‘perceptual understanding of crime on the media and reallife becomes distorted’ (Albany.edu, 2018); people then fall into a hyperrealistic state in which their idealisticconception of reality, portrayed by the media; has replaced their real one (Miller,1997). Flately (2010) indicated that incontrast to the consistent fall in crime since 1995, people still tend to believethat it is increasing. Public belief in rising crime levels, as aforementioned,can be directly correlated to increasing levels of the media’s representationof crime. Fear of crime is something which can be used as a tool in that acertain level of fear of crime is desirable to inspire problem solving actionand inspire the fearful to take precautions; “exaggerated publicperceptions of crime risks can also lead to serious distortions in governmentspending priorities and policy making” (Bureau of Statistic and Research1996). Functional fear is a tool used bythe masses for the purposes of self-preservation, although this is often takenout of personal context and, one would argue, has led to people’s preconceivedviews in reference to the pertinence of crime in their environment, giving risesocial isolation and the breakdown of social cohesion and solidarity.
This piece of writing wouldconclude that after taking into account the multitude of factors which go intochanging individual’s perspectives and feelings towards fear of crime, inreference to the wording posed in the question, the media can be, but alas isnot the solely to blame for rising levels of fear of crime. This was found outto be because fear of crime is founded upon a number of different variableswhich can include exposure to unrealistic crime imagery as found in crime dramaand violent video games, crime related news, factors such as age, wealth, raceand gender. Hyperreality is a condition where, as aforementioned, individualscan become enthralled in unrealistic media depictions of crime. The purpose ofthe media is to achieve higher level of viewer engagement; this is achievedthrough depicting unrealistic imagery of crime which is unflattering to its coveragein the real world. Surette (2006) confirmed the importance of an emergence ofcrime committed through the vase of social media in that, the landscape of thecriminal world around us is changing. People’s perspectives of crime vary sodrastically due to the hyperreal illusions which people surround their psychewith through inundating their visual cortex with crime imagery which holds verylittle reality against it. In conclusion this piece of writing would offer anargument based on the fact that measuring feelings, reactions and otherelements; as found by all research undertaken in the past, is an incrediblydifficult task.
The task itself blurs the realistic line between perception,experience and documentation in that, measuring whether fear of crime is independentlyengendered by the media or whether it is merely a part of living in a latemodern society, is a nearly impossible task; although we have figured out, aswith any social science research, a multitude of factors come into play withinthe analysis of whether the media give rise to fear of crime. As indicated bythe introductory paragraphs in this piece of writing, fear of crime is afeeling which has existed since the early Greco-Roman period, ever since anyform of media could have ever come into conflict with a human being’s psyche; mediahas always been a factor in the rise of both crime and the fear of it.