Fearis an emotion, our emotions are based upon our own and others actions. Fear ofcrime purpotrates 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). As a result of only a minor proportion of individuals having hadfirst-hand experience of violent crime, the remaining numbers of individualswithout any prior experience have been found to exhibit belief systems which depictthe world as being worse than it is, resulting in the bolstering of the fearvictimization paradox (McQuivey 1997).
The fearvictimization paradox is founded on one’s ability/inability to masterinvolvement in a violent crime. Fear Victimization paradox exists independentlyof the likelihood of involvement in crime, it can happen despite the likelihoodan individual 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 et al (1980) confirmed his previousresearch in that those individuals who watch more television than averageshowed a ‘higher rate of fear towards their environment’ than those who watchedless.
More recently Dowler (2003) reaffirmed that even when taking into accountfactors such as race, age, gender, income, education and marital status, thoseindividuals whom watch more crime shows tend to exhibit a significantly higherrate of being fearful of crime (Dowler, 2003). Dowler went on to discover thathours of watching television news programs did not have a significantrelationship with higher levels of fear of crime (Dowler, 2003). ‘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 hyperreal simulation.An example of this ‘perfect crime’ (Baudrillard, 1995): in 2004, two Englishchildren, having been raised on cartoons, actually climbed into a bear cage andwere mauled to death.
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 depicted in a way to appear informative andrealistic in nature. The research appreciates that ‘the images people see ontelevision are contrasted against the world which they see’, and as a resultpeople’s ‘perceptual understanding of crime on the media and real life becomes distorted’;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 in contrast to the consistent fall in crime since 1995, peoplestill tend to believe that it is increasing. Public belief in rising crimelevels, as aforementioned, can be directly correlated to increasing levels ofthe media’s representation of crime.
Fear of crime is something which can beused as a tool in that a certain level of fear of crime is desirable to inspireproblem solving action 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). Functionalfear 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, hasled to people’s preconceived views in reference to the pertinence of crime intheir environment, giving rise social isolation and the breakdown of socialcohesion and solidarity.