Fear is an emotion, our emotionsare based upon our own and others actions. Fear of crime perpetrates therisk-fear paradox which is prevalent across all societies, independent ofactual pertinent 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 corruptive nature of media has been an issue which society andphilosophers have contended with since the early Greek/Roman times. Plato set aprecedent for society which would later unravel into debates on theconsequences of watching too much television and playing violent video games. Heset this precedent by clarifying that certain plays and poetry could negativelyimpact youth and should therefore be burned (Ferguson, 2010).
In the 1930ssocial research commissioned on the basis of links between watching movies andaggressive behaviour (Ferguson, 2010). This research set a precedent for allfuture research to come in this topic, in that it was found that there werelacks of control groups in the studies, as well as a difficulty in measuringlevels 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 media contentcould 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 hadpersonal experience of violent crime, the remaining numbers of individuals whomdo not hold any prior first experience of involvement with violent crime arefound to show belief systems which portray the world worse than it is inreality, this results in in the bolstering of the fear victimization paradox (McQuivey1997). The fear victimization paradox is foundedon one’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 dataimplying that there is a correlation between violent crime and violent videogames, instead offering a narrative where there was “no evidence was found to suggest thatthis medium 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” distorted’ (Albany.edu, 2018).’Hyperrealityacts as a pretext for socio-political regression’ (Miller, 1997). Eco (1987)posits that, Disneyland’s fantasy order is the opposite of the rest of theworld, portraying a world which is supposedly real when in reality, the UnitedStates and the rest of the world as a whole are really the hyperrealsimulation. An example of this ‘perfect crime’ (Baudrillard, 1995): in 2002 anEnglish schoolboy decided to take a firearm and shoot it at his mother’sassailant in a midnight robbery attempt of their property.
By the 1970s thecrime or police drama had replaced the western for the most prevalentprime-time television fare (Barak, 2015). The boundary between crimeentertainment and crime information has become progressively more blurred inthe past years (Dowler, Fleming, & Muzzatti, 2006). Roughly half of thenewspapers and television items people come into contact with are concernedwith crime, justice or deviance (Barak, 2015). The mass media has influenceover the way people look at crime; and as a result the images offered to thepublic are one of differing appearance to the ones founded on facts andfigures, represented by the government (Curiel, 2017). (Surette, 2006) goesonto point out that crime in the media has become formatted in a way that it isdepicted in a way to appear informative and realistic in nature.
The researchappreciates that ‘the images people see on television are contrasted againstthe world which they see’, and as a result people’s ‘perceptual understanding ofcrime on the media and real life becomes distorted’ (Albany.edu, 2018); people then fall into a hyperrealistic state in which theiridealistic conception of reality, portrayed by the media; has replaced theirreal one (Miller, 1997). Flately(2010) indicated that in contrast to the consistent fall in crime since 1995,people still tend to believe that it is increasing. Public belief in risingcrime levels, as aforementioned, can be directly correlated to increasinglevels of the media’s representation of crime. Fear of crime is something whichcan be used as a tool in that a certain level of fear of crime is desirable toinspire problem solving action and inspire the fearful to take precautions; “exaggeratedpublic perceptions of crime risks can also lead to serious distortions ingovernment spending priorities and policy making” (Bureau of Statistic andResearch 1996). 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 pieceof writing would conclude that after taking into account the multitude offactors which go into changing individual’s perspectives and feelings towardsfear of crime, in reference to the wording posed in the question, the media canbe, but alas is not the solely to blame for rising levels of fear of crime.
This was found out to be because fear of crime is founded upon a number ofdifferent variables which can include exposure to unrealistic crime imagery asfound in crime drama and violent video games, crime related news, factors suchas age, wealth, race and gender. Hyperreality is a condition where, asaforementioned, individuals can become enthralled in unrealistic mediadepictions of crime. The purpose of the media is to achieve higher level ofviewer engagement; this is achieved through depicting unrealistic imagery ofcrime which is unflattering to its coverage in the real world. Surette (2006)confirmed the importance of an emergence of crime committed through the vase ofsocial media in that, the landscape of the criminal world around us ischanging. People’s perspectives of crime vary so drastically due to thehyperreal illusions which people surround their psyche with through inundatingtheir visual cortex with crime imagery which holds very little reality againstit. In conclusion this piece of writing would offer an argument based on thefact that measuring feelings, reactions and other elements; as found by allresearch undertaken in the past, is an incredibly difficult task. The taskitself blurs the realistic line between perception, experience anddocumentation 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 a feelingwhich has existed since the early Greco-Roman period, ever since any form ofmedia could have ever come into conflict with a human being’s psyche; media hasalways been a factor in the rise of both crime and the fear of it.