Tuesday, August 9, 2011

The Media: Their Role in Creating Chaos

As a child, I was taught by my Mother not to trust strangers. She instilled into me that some strangers mean to do us harm. Shit, not even policemen could be trusted in certain circumstances. I didn't know how true this statement was until one day as I walked home from school with my other siblings, we were approached by a man in a car who told us that our Mother was in the hospital, and he was told to come pick us up. We didn't get in, and he drove off. Who was waiting for us at home? Our Mother! I was in Kindergarten that year, and have NEVER forgotten how close I came to being that child on the milk carton.

Throughout the years as my friends and I walked to/from school, there were men who made attempts to abduct us. I don't think our parents realized how dangerous the tree-lined boulevard actually was. We took it as a fact that it was best to walk against traffic so you could see "them" approach, and then cross to the other side of the street before their doors flung open. I've often been told that I have this un-approachable look on my face, and a "don't-mess-with-me" type attitude. It was acquired at a very young age out of necessity.

This blog post isn't entirely about my dubious encounters as a child, but how the media sensationalizes stories like these for ratings. It can harm the community at large by encouraging copycat incidents by those who may have thought about performing such crimes, but were not seriously thinking about acting on them. The news can influence those with abhorrent and/or crimimal thoughts to act on them, and even give ideas on how to implement them. With the reporting of these crimes, the media often gives details of the original crime. This can give ammunition to those who are easily swayed to do wrong.

In the case of child abduction, there wasn't much reporting of this type of crime. In 1974, a 4 year-old named Heidi Peterson was abducted. This started a string of missing children cases which to this date are unsolved. Did media coverage play a role in the increase? I do believe it did. There is a point to which reporting turns to over-emphasizing the details to increase ratings.

There were numerous school shootings in the United States a few years back. I don't think there would have been so many of them if other emotionally unstable children wouldn't have been given the information on how the attacks were acted out, or if the media were not to have continually reported on it. The would-be perpetrators saw how much media coverage the massacre received and for their 15 minutes of fame, decided to do it themselves.

And now in London riots. What started out as a protest revolving around a shooting has escalated to an all-out battle between police and hoodlums. Media coverage showed the chaos and mayhem, and those who had criminal intentions made their way to add to it. Hell, with my own eyes, I saw people laughing as they called on their cell phones for others to join them.

Do I think the media should be controlled? To a point. Better judgment should be used on not only what is covered, but HOW it's covered! To exercise better control over the content that is shared, and how often to share it. A little restraint goes a long way.

It could even save a life. Maybe yours.

rainwriter jones

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