Inaccurate hysteria about violence is what’s really harming our community

News Ltd, to its credit, publishes (on an opinion site, not in a newspaper) a call for reality in exaggerated crime reporting, and a discussion of how much damage that sort of hysteria does to the community.

Reality:

Our survey shows that 32 per cent of young Victorians see crime, safety and violence as one of our country’s biggest issues, compared to 21 per cent nationally.

That’s quite a difference and a worrying one at that.

This is despite recent Victoria police crime data showing a 3.8 per cent drop in the overall crime rate in the past year, with a 14 per cent drop in CBD street assaults over the same period.

Consequence:

If young people are pulling back from community participation because of fears for their personal safety then the levels of trust and connection we enjoy in our society will be seriously challenged.

Take this comment from a 12 year old female respondent to our survey:

“I always watch out when I’m in public places…because after watching the news I get really scared about abuse and things like that, because some people have very sick minds.”

Or this from a 13 year old female:

“I am always worrying that when I walk home someone is going to kidnap me. Every single time I walk past a man on the footpath I feel very uncomfortable.”

They’re both truly devastating comments to read from children and completely out of step with the reality of danger in the community.

In other words (and I can’t believe News actually published this):

We have a responsibility as adults – and our media and community leaders particularly so – to recognise that inflammatory talk about crime and violence, while good for circulation figures or votes, can be detrimental to us as a society.

Exactly.

Now why aren’t other supposedly more responsible outlets, like the ABC and The Age, publishing views like this?

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9 responses to “Inaccurate hysteria about violence is what’s really harming our community

  1. Splatterbottom

    “Now why aren’t other supposedly more responsible outlets, like the ABC and The Age, publishing views like this?”

    By ‘responsible’ you mean ‘biased’. Sometimes even the most cravenly biased news outlets get their talking points wrong.

    One consequence of warning kids about the dangers they face is that they might become more cautious. This is not necessarily a bad thing.

  2. The “innacurate hysteria” is not just limited to violence though Jeremy. It’s been the trend of the media for several years now to depict every event, no matter how mundane and ordinary as the “biggest” or “best” or “worst” or “most dangerous”.

    Have a look at the last few years and the epidemics that were supposed to have wiped us out; Bird Flu, SARS, Terrorism, the locust plague.

    I can’t remember where I read it now but someone wrote not long ago that we are, statistically, living in the safest period of world history.

    That, of course, doesn’t sell papers or rate though does it.

  3. Splatterbottom

    PJH: “It’s been the trend of the media for several years now to depict every event, no matter how mundane and ordinary as the “biggest” or “best” or “worst” or “most dangerous”.”

    You can also add climate alarmism to that list.

  4. “This is not necessarily a bad thing.”

    I like the way you just contradict the argument made in the post and the article without addressing it.

  5. Splatterbottom

    Jeremy: “I like the way you just contradict the argument made in the post and the article without addressing it.”

    In the sentence before the one you quoted I gave an example of one consequence of “sensationalist” reporting. I am a bit ambivalent on this issue. I don’t like sensationalist reporting, but the outcomes from it may not be all bad if it gives young people the idea that there are certain risks and that they should exercise reasonable caution in appropriate circumstances.

  6. You can also add climate alarmism to that list.

    Indeed you can. Bolt has a good post today about the utter hysteria behind the UN’s prediction of 50 million climate refugees by 2010.

    Alarmism at its absolute worst.

  7. springhillvoice

    Your point is taken on this specific topic (ie: if people are concerned by violence and it is demonstrable that the Murdoch media is likely responsible for playing a large role in beating up stories and misrepresenting facts that fuel that fear, and if the Murdoch media publish an opinion piece about that situation – then that might be a welcome change from their usual behaviour).

    But, I disagree with your readiness to give them “credit”. In my opinion the Murdoch media’s wrongs are massively outweighed by the occasional apparent slipping through of the truth or reason.

    The reason I hold this view in this particular instance (and it goes for the ABC’s cherry-picked coverage of the same Mission Australia study) is that they do not mention the word “environment” once in that piece.

    The Mission Australia release of the study has the title:

    “Body Image and Environment of Greatest Concern to Young Australians”

    Side issues and discussion is fine but the “News” from the study is that, unprompted, nearly 50% of the 50,000 young people cited the environment as their greatest concern (it was about 30% for body image).

    Now that would warrant a headline and prominence in a story about this study, unless…..

  8. “One consequence of warning kids about the dangers they face is that they might become more cautious”

    There’s being cautious and then there’s being paranoid. A friend of mine recently told me a similar story about her being paranoid about being attacked when she was a kid. She never was.

    Just imagine all the mental health issues being created by the media themselves in their desire to sensationalise stories.

  9. Misreporting and media beat ups, don’t let the facts get in the way of a good story.

    On another topic- Do you know if the greens will making a stand against the massive cash pay rises to MP’s as they forgo some of their perks? Instead of spending public funds on infastructure they give themselves a pay rise.

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