Fear of control groups in the studies, as well

Fear
is an emotion, our emotions are based upon our own and others actions. Fear of
crime purpotrates the risk-fear paradox which is prevalent across all
societies, 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 and
chronically worried populations are created. Even those that have never been a
victim of crime can be seriously worried about it” (Curiel, 2017). The media
does engender fear of crime; the media’s socially constructed distorted view of
crime does result in higher levels of fear of crime within populations, despite
the fact that these media representations very rarely reflect or represent the
outside world.   An important comparison which should be drawn
in order to answer the question posed in the title is one between research
completed to study the impact/effects which playing violent video games has on
individuals. There is a distinct relationship shared between playing video
games and watching violence on television, this is because both involve
individuals watching depictions of otherwise unrealistic violence taking place
in front of them.  Social media is
another sphere through which through media engenders fear of crime, as fear of
crime 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 is
engendered by the media or whether it is an inevitable consequence of living in
late modern society, it is very important to take into account these other
factors; in order to produce a complete answer to the question.

The corruptive nature of media has been an
issue which society and philosophers have contended with since the early
Greek/Roman times. Plato set a precedent for society which would later unravel
into debates on the consequences of watching too much television and playing
violent video games. He set this precedent by clarifying that certain plays and
poetry could negatively impact youth and should therefore be burned (Ferguson,
2010). In the 1930s social research commissioned on the basis of links between
watching movies and aggressive behaviour (Ferguson, 2010). This research set a
precedent for all future research to come in this topic, in that it was found
that there were lacks of control groups in the studies, as well as a difficulty
in measuring levels of aggression.

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Fear of crime exists outside the realms of
societal pretences and instead is a condition embedded within the human psyche.
Levels of crime and security within any society are obvious predictors for levels
of fear of crime, furthermore, predictors could be factors such as past
experiences, demographic factors, and the perception of insecurity; which as of
recently has emerged as a social problem. 
Jean Baudrillard’s theory of hyperreality is one which will be closely
considered in the answering of the question posed in the title. Fear of crime
and hyperreality are associated in that Surette (1998) put forward that fiction
is closer to news than to reality, this statement being founded upon a study
performed by Mandel (1984) which determined that between 1945 and 1984 over 10
billion crime thrillers were produced. Cultivation theory is most often used to explain the effects
of 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 an
extended time period influence individuals attitudes and behaviour towards
being “more consistent with the world of television programs than with the
everyday world” (Chandler 1995). Results taken
from Dowler (2003) indicate that “viewing crime shows is significantly related
to fear of crime and perceived police effectiveness.” Dowler goes onto mention
that regular crime drama viewers are more likely to “hold negative attitudes
toward police effectiveness, although “regular viewers of crime shows are more
likely to fear or worry about crime. Similarly, regular crime drama viewers are
more likely to hold negative attitudes toward police effectiveness, although a
bivariate analysis indicated that newspapers as primary source of crime news
and 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 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-local
crime news had the opposite effect” (Albany.edu, 2018). Local crime news has the effect of increasing
fear of crime in occupants of higher crime neighbourhoods, furthermore,
research has also elucidated that individuals whom both watch a lot of crime
related television and live in high risk neighbourhoods also had higher levels
of fear of crime than their counterparts who did not (Dowler, 2003). An
individual’s personal experiences, ethnicity, age, income, influence whether or
not media has an impact on them. Individuals with prior experience of any involvement
in crimes prior to watching crime related television would not become fearful
of them afterwards, whereas an individual who has no prior experience being
involved in crime, would become more fearful after watching particular news or
television dramas (Liska & Baccaglini, 1990). Gerbner et al (1980) found
that “the relationship between the fear of crime and the amount of television
watched was greatest for females and white people”; Gerbner (1980) also pointed
towards ‘female, whites and elderly people as more likely to have a fear of
crime’; despite their lower likelihoods in finding themselves victims of it”
(Dowler, 2003).

As a result of only a minor proportion of individuals having had
first-hand experience of violent crime, the remaining numbers of individuals
without any prior experience have been found to exhibit belief systems which depict
the world as being worse than it is, resulting in the bolstering of the fear
victimization paradox (McQuivey 1997). The fear
victimization paradox is founded on one’s ability/inability to master
involvement in a violent crime. Fear Victimization paradox exists independently
of the likelihood of involvement in crime, it can happen despite the likelihood
an individual could be very likely become involved in a violent crime; “a truck
driver in the middle of the night at a rest area, its fear of crime might not
be high because it thinks that it has control over such a situation” (Sandman
1993; Sparks and Ogles 1990). Vanderveen (2003) posits that “men usually think
they can handle it. Women feel more vulnerable”, in reality however, men are
more likely to become a victim of a crime (Bureau of Statistic and Research
1996). Past undertaken research has suggested that crime information portrayed
in the form of facts and figures, have no influence on said individual’s
perception of crime, furthermore, that media influence is just one of many
factors to be taken into account when analysing prevalence to fear of crime,
whether on an individual or societal basis (McQuivey, 1997). Older people have
a greater fear of becoming a victim of crime ‘because they believe they are
more vulnerable’ than younger members in society (Carcach et. al., 2001). Their
physical fitness and strength has declined leaving them in a weakened state,
and therefore possibly targeting them as easy victims as they are less likely
to be able to defend themselves (Carcach et. al., 2001). Gerbner et al (1980) confirmed his previous
research in that those individuals who watch more television than average
showed a ‘higher rate of fear towards their environment’ than those who watched
less. More recently Dowler (2003) reaffirmed that even when taking into account
factors such as race, age, gender, income, education and marital status, those
individuals whom watch more crime shows tend to exhibit a significantly higher
rate of being fearful of crime (Dowler, 2003). Dowler went on to discover that
hours of watching television news programs did not have a significant
relationship with higher levels of fear of crime (Dowler, 2003).

 

‘Hyperreality
acts as a pretext for socio-political regression’ (Miller, 1997). Eco (1987)
posits that, Disneyland’s fantasy order is the opposite of the rest of the
world, portraying a world which is supposedly real when in reality, the United
States 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 English
children, having been raised on cartoons, actually climbed into a bear cage and
were mauled to death.  

By the 1970s the crime or police drama had replaced the
western for the most prevalent prime-time television fare (Doyle, 2006). The
boundary between crime entertainment and crime information has been blurred
progressively more in the past years (Dowler, Fleming, & Muzzatti, 2006).
Roughly half of the newspapers and television items people come 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 a result the
images offered to the public are one of differing appearance to the ones
founded on facts and figures, represented by the government (Doyle, 2006).
(Surrette, 2006) goes onto point out that crime in the media has become
formatted in a way that it is depicted in a way to appear informative and
realistic in nature. The research appreciates that ‘the images people see on
television are contrasted against the world which they see’, and as a result
people’s ‘perceptual understanding of crime on the media and real life becomes distorted’;
people then fall into a hyperrealistic state in which their idealistic
conception 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, people
still tend to believe that it is increasing. Public belief in rising crime
levels, as aforementioned, can be directly correlated to increasing levels of
the media’s representation of crime. Fear of crime is something which can be
used as a tool in that a certain level of fear of crime is desirable to inspire
problem solving action and inspire the fearful to take precautions; “exaggerated public perceptions of
crime risks can also lead to serious distortions in government spending
priorities and policy making” (Bureau of Statistic and Research 1996). Functional
fear 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, has
led to people’s preconceived views in reference to the pertinence of crime in
their environment, giving rise social isolation and the breakdown of social
cohesion and solidarity.