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6 Dec 2012

Fear and the media

Fear and the media  (statistics are South African, but theory applies to the world)

Let’s say we have an island. Three-hundred people inhabit this island. Life is pretty easy here. There isn’t much crime. Once every ten years someone is murdered. And once every twenty years someone is thrown off their bicycle at knife point. Over a year period, that’s a one in three-thousand chance of being murdered and a one in six-thousand chance of being viciously and traumatically, removed from your bicycle.
Would you feel safe living there?
I would!

Now let’s say there are one-hundred-and-eighty-thousands of these little islands, which brings our total population up to 54-million. And there is a TV station, which connects all these islands together and reports on the most violent of the 49 murders that happen each day as well as the 25 people who were liberated from their bicycles, across all islands.
Now who feels safe living there?
It’s a slightly different picture now isn’t it…?

For the 2011 / 2012 period in South Africa, the chances of your being murdered were one in three-thousand-four-hundred. That’s better than our island statistic. The chance of being carjacked was one in five-thousand-seven-hundred, which is pretty close to our island.

I’m not saying there is no crime in South Africa. However, the problem is blown out of proportion by the media. Many people walk around fearing when next they’ll be attacked. Truth be told though, if we look at the original island model, there isn’t much to fear. (adapted from Richard Brodie’s Virus of the Mind, statistics from South African Police Service website)


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2 comments:

  1. Unless one of the islands is more crime-prone than the others -- then the people who live there have something to fear. Your model supposes that the crime rate is the same across all the islands. Does that translate to the real South Africa?

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  2. Well, it's a made up model, so the crime rate is the same on all islands.
    It's only a model to illustrate the various numbers and statistics with which the media bombard society.
    Most people don't understand statistics properly.
    All this model does is breaks it down into something people can understand, so they can grasp the fact that crime is unfairly blown out of proportion by the media.
    A murder rate of one in three-thousand-four-hundred per year is not good, not at all.
    However, it's not the cesspool that the media makes it out to be...

    And yes, to a degree the numbers do translate to the entire South Africa.
    However, only in the fact that the statistics I used are national.
    Obviously, some provinces and cities have more crime than others, but we can still have national / average statistics.
    However, that's not the point of this.

    ReplyDelete