understand the reasons behind Jonesboro, Springfield, Pearl,
Paducah, and all the other outbreaks of this "virus of violence,"
we need to understand first the magnitude of the problem.
The per capita murder rate doubled in this country between
1957--when the FBI started keeping track of the data--and
1992. A fuller picture of the problem, however, is indicated
by the rate people are attempting to kill one another--the
aggravated assault rate. That rate in America has gone from
around 60 per 100,000 in 1957 to over 440 per 100,000 by
the middle of this decade. As bad as this is, it would be
much worse were it not for two major factors.
First is the increase in the imprisonment rate of violent
offenders. The prison population in America nearly quadrupled
between 1975 and 1992. According to criminologist John J.
DiIulio, "dozens of credible empirical analyses . . . leave
no doubt that the increased use of prisons averted millions
of serious crimes." If it were not for our tremendous imprisonment
rate (the highest of any industrialized nation), the aggravated
assault rate and the murder rate would undoubtedly be even
don't naturally kill; they learn it from violence in the
home and most pervasively, from violence as entertainment
in television, movies, and interactive video games.
The second factor keeping the murder rate from being any
worse is medical technology. According to the US Army Medical
Service Corps, a wound that would have killed nine out of
ten soldiers in World War II, nine out of ten could have
survived in Vietnam. Thus, by a very conservative estimate,
if we had 1940-level medical technology today, the murder
rate would be ten times higher than it is. The magnitude
of the problem has been held down by the development of
sophisticated lifesaving skills and techniques, such as
helicopter medivacs, 911 operators, paramedics, CPR, trauma
centers, and medicines.
the crime rate is still at a phenomenally high level, and
this is true worldwide. In Canada, according to their Center
for Justice, per capita assaults increased almost fivefold
between 1964 and 1993, attempted murder increased nearly
sevenfold, and murders doubled. Similar trends can be seen
in other countries in the per capita violent crime rates
reported to Interpol between 1977 and 1993. In Australia
and New Zealand, the assault rate increased approximately
fourfold, and the murder rate nearly doubled in both nations.
The assault rate tripled in Sweden and approximately doubled
in Belgium, Denmark, England-Wales, France, Hungary, Netherlands,
and Scotland, while all these nations had an associated
(but smaller) increase in murder.
virus of violence is occurring worldwide. The explanation
for it has to be some new factor that is occurring in all
of these countries. There are many factors involved, and
none should be discounted: for example, the prevalence of
guns in our society. But violence is rising in many nations
with draconian gun laws. And though we should never downplay
child abuse, poverty, or racism, there is only one new variable
present in each of these countries, bearing the exact same
fruit: media violence presented as entertainment for children.
of Violence, Peace, and Conflict, Volume 3, p.159
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