Friday, April 07, 2006

Fear Factor

Probably the day before my promotional test I should write about my training schedule, like how I ran through forms with Brian on Wednesday morning and swam laps at the Y today . . . but instead I'm going to write about something different: something that causes people in our culture to be fearful of their environment, to worry constantly about crimes against their person, to be willing to give up civil rights for surveillance. What is that thing?


Remember back in the 80's how researchers were trying to prove a link between violent TV shows and violent behavior? I remember because students were writing about this in papers! The researchers had mixed results. Studies didn't suggest a link between watching violence on TV and being violent oneself.

But later, they found a correlation between TV violence and a fearful view of the world.

Jacqueline Mitchard, one of my favorite columnists, wrote about this in her column today.

George Gerbner, dean of the Annenberg School for Communication has said that what lots of TV really fosters is the "mean world" syndrome--a perception of the world as a rude and dangerous place.

I'm not a scholar of popular culture, but studies like these overlap my area of rhetorical theory. I've looked at some studies recently and . . . well, it seems to be true. The more TV you watch--especially stuff like reality shows, news shows, news tabloids, and crime shows--the more scared you are!

This helps me understand several things:

1. Why I'm can't get all fired up about learning to protect myself from, oh, people stealing my car, or raping me or beating me up or kidnapping my children. I don't watch enough TV!
2. Why some people ARE all fired up about learning that. Most people watch more than I do.
3. Why a lot of moms I know are more worried about their kids walking down the street to play at the park than they are about their kids playing video games in their room all day. I'd fear the latter more: it would make my kids zomboid, uninteresting, and flabby!

Hey, do any of you have any thoughts about TV and fear? Does this make any sense to you?

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