18 June 2016

Did Media Distortion of Reality for Ratings Provoke the Assassination of Labour MP Jo Cox?

Americans continue to think that crime is going up even as it continues to fall.

Statistics for violent crimes (rape, sexual assault, robbery, aggravated assault and simple assault fell from 80 victimizations per 1,000 persons in 1994 to 19 per 1,000 in 2010. (You can see the actual crime rate in the light green line above.) Meanwhile, Americans remained convinced that crime rates were going up even as they were dropping.

This perception is not coming from direct experience. It is coming from the news. The problem is not that the world is getting worse but instead that in the competition for ratings, news is getting better at focusing on all that is alarming. It is worth remembering that what the news does is filters through the behavior of 7 billion people each day to report on the most outrageous and alarming acts. 

Which brings me to this heartfelt bafflement about how the media may have driven someone to assassinate Labour MP Jo Cox in Britain. James O'Brien is talking about UK but he could easily be talking about the US in this piece.

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