Fearis an emotion, our emotions are based upon our own and others actions. Fear ofcrime gives rise to the risk-fear paradox which is prevalent across allsocieties, 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 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 anissue which society and philosophers have contended with since the earlyGreek/Roman times. Plato set a precedent for society which would later unravelinto debates on the consequences of watching too much television and playingviolent video games. He set this precedent by clarifying that certain plays andpoetry could negatively impact youth and should therefore be burned (Ferguson,2010). In the 1930s social research commissioned on the basis of links betweenwatching movies and aggressive behaviour (Ferguson, 2010).
This research set aprecedent for all future research to come in this topic, in that it was foundthat there were lacks of control groups in the studies, as well as a difficultyin measuring levels of aggression. Fear of crime exists outside the realms ofsocietal pretences and instead is a condition embedded within the human psyche.Levels of crime and security within any society are obvious predictors for levelsof fear of crime, furthermore, predictors could be factors such as pastexperiences, demographic factors, and the perception of insecurity; which as ofrecently has emerged as a social problem.
Jean Baudrillard’s theory of hyperreality is one which will be closelyconsidered in the answering of the question posed in the title. Fear of crimeand hyperreality are associated in that Surette (1998) put forward that fictionis closer to news than to reality, this statement being founded upon a studyperformed by Mandel (1984) which determined that between 1945 and 1984 over 10billion crime thrillers were produced. Cultivation theory is most often used to explain the effectsof 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 anextended time period influence individuals attitudes and behaviour towardsbeing “more consistent with the world of television programs than with theeveryday 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 crimeand 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-localcrime news had the opposite effect” (Albany.edu, 2018). Local crime news has the effect of increasingfear of crime in occupants of higher crime neighbourhoods, furthermore,research has also elucidated that individuals whom both watch a lot of crimerelated television and live in high risk neighbourhoods also had higher levelsof fear of crime than their counterparts who did not (Dowler, 2003).
Anindividual’s personal experiences, ethnicity, age, income, influence whether ornot media has an impact on them. Individuals with prior experience of any involvementin crimes prior to watching crime related television would not become fearfulof them afterwards, whereas an individual who has no prior experience beinginvolved in crime, would become more fearful after watching particular news ortelevision dramas (Liska & Baccaglini, 1990). Gerbner et al (1980) foundthat “the relationship between the fear of crime and the amount of televisionwatched was greatest for females and white people”; Gerbner (1980) also pointedtowards ‘female, whites and elderly people as more likely to have a fear ofcrime’; despite their lower likelihoods in finding themselves victims of it”(Dowler, 2003). Only a minor subsection of the population have first-handexperience of violent crime, in reference to this, the majority of people whomhave not had any direct contact with violent crime, believe the world is worsethan it is; the result of this is major sections of the population withinsocieties becoming more afraid of getting victimized than need be (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; Sparks and Ogles 1990). Vanderveen(2003) posits that “men usually think they can handle it. Women feel morevulnerable”, in reality however, men are more likely to become a victim of acrime (Bureau of Statistic and Research 1996). Past undertaken research hassuggested that crime information portrayed in the form of facts and figures,have no influence on said individual’s perception of crime, furthermore, thatmedia influence is just one of many factors to be taken into account whenanalysing prevalence to fear of crime, whether on an individual or societalbasis (McQuivey, 1997). Older people have a greater fear of becoming a victimof crime ‘because they believe they are more vulnerable’ than younger membersin society (Carcach et.
al., 2001). Their physical fitness and strength hasdeclined leaving them in a weakened state, and therefore possibly targetingthem as easy victims as they are less likely to 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). Hyperrealityacts 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 thehyperreal simulation. This ‘perfect crime’ (Baudrillard, 1995) is not abstract:in 2004, two English children were mauled to death by bears in a zoo afterhaving climbed into their cage; brought up on cartoons, they only knew aboutcuddly teddy bears.
By the 1970s the crime or police drama had replaced thewestern for the most prevalent prime-time television fare (Doyle, 2006). Theboundary between crime entertainment and crime information has been blurredprogressively more in the past years (Dowler, Fleming, & Muzzatti, 2006).Roughly half of the newspapers and television items people come into contactwith are concerned with crime, justice or deviance (Doyle, 2006).
The massmedia has influence over the way people look at crime; and as a result theimages offered to the public are one of differing appearance to the onesfounded 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, portrayed by the media; 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 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 by government in that a certain level of fear of crime isdesirable to inspire problem solving action and inspire the fearful to takeprecautions; “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 by the masses for thepurposes of self-preservation, although this is often taken out of personalcontext and, one would argue, has led to people’s preconceived views inreference to the pertinence of crime in their environment, giving rise socialisolation and the breakdown of social cohesion and solidarity.