Monday, July 28, 2008

No fear; No TV

Oregonian columnist Renee Mitchell today bemoaned the reported decline of civility in the city. People no longer greet each other, or wave or learn each other’s names, she opined.

“We’re afraid to venture out at night because we don’t know who’s out there, lurking in the darkness. Or what they’re capable of,” she wrote.

She cited statistics showing that more and more people are feeling unsafe beyond the confines of their houses. The nights are particularly unnerving.

Her solution was to encourage neighbors to attend National Night Out events on August 5. Dozens of the neighborhood get-togethers are planned around the city.

That’s well and good, but what about the rest of the year? And what about that lingering feeling that to be alone on our streets at night is taking your life into your hands.

I wrote Renee to suggest that people should consider simply shutting off their TVs — in particular the lurid crime reporting foisted on a gullible, but sensation-seeking public. FOX News on KPTV, and its ratings-hungry mimics, thrive on broadcasting mayhem. It’s cheap, reality-twisting reporting.

Much of the rest of TV does the same, making violence and its lurid appeal its stock-in trade. I suggested to Renee that her own newspaper, as it struggles to maintain readership, seems to be printing more crime news and giving it more prominence.

Several years ago media researcher George Gerbner discovered that heavy viewers of TV had an inflated sense of how much crime is in their communities. They had come to accept the crime-infested media portrayals over the reality of the world outside their doors. In short, TV was frightening them into home-bound isolation. He called the phenomenon “The Mean World Syndrome.”

So if you want to feel safer and better about your neighborhood, by all means go to the National Night Out in your neighborhood. But if you want to feel better permanently about the world around you, TURN OF THE TV NEWS. Better yet, call the stations to complain.

P.S. On a related note, attendance at our inter-generational Thursday Game Board Nights at the bottom of our hill is picking up. And, yes, we are learning each other’s names and getting to know, trust, and like each other.

Labels: , , , , ,


Anonymous Anonymous said...

One man tucks a bomb in the sole of his shoe and everybody has to walk barefoot before boarding a plane.

An adult molests a child and suddenly, all adults are predators. (I haven't met an American parent who has not instructed his or her child not to talk to strangers).

Think of how the typical advertisements are formulated: Fear/Ridicule + corrupted scientific data = sales!

For many cultures this pattern of response is crazy. Try living in a different country and you will see what I mean.

The mean world syndrome only applies to Americans because this is how American society behaves or have been "cultivated".

Sometimes, people with PHDs even associate violence with video games. Yet, in Japan - where most of the violent video games originate or are inspired, violence in their society are a rare event.

You may be right that turning off the TV could help. But, having a remote control at your command could be a false belief that you can actually control your environment. Because for many in your populace, choices are already preselected before they are even presented... the "broadcast" is not limited to TV.

7:07 AM  

Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home