Timberlake: Marginalized Massacres: The story the media won’t sensationalize


Courtesy photo

With crime rates lower than ever, recent tragedies have lead us to assume we should be taking action, which may be an overzealous response. 

Ian Timberlake

Sandy Hook, 20 children and seven adults murdered, plus injured. Virginia Tech, 32 students and faculty murdered and 23 injured. Aurora theater, 12 movie patrons murdered and 58 injured. Town Center Mall, two shoppers murdered, plus injured. Binghamton School, 14 murdered, plus injured. Fort Hood, 13 murdered and 30 injured. Boston bombing, four murdered and 298 injured. In between all of the aforementioned violent crimes, more than 105 others were killed and more than 64 injured due to other random killing sprees.

Undoubtedly, violent crime is on the rise, given this death spree toll is only five years running. And with everyone today holding a third eye in their pocket, streaming video, picture and text at the speed of light, everyone in the world can be a witness and sit shoulder to shoulder with every news anchor in the world.

You might find it interesting we are at an all-time low in violent crime in more than 40 years and a massive drop since the mid-1990s according to the FBI’s data collection.

In 1992, the United States incurred more than 750 violent crimes per 100,000 people with a murder rate of 9.3 per 100,000 people. At the end of 2012, our nation had a violent crime rate of 377 per 100,000 people. In the last two decades, the rate has only increased between two consecutive years — 2005 and 2006. The murder rate of 2012 is down to 4.6 per 100,000 people, half that of two decades ago.

Included with the decline of violent crime and murder, we have seen a decline in nearly every other category: rape, robbery, aggravated assault, property crime, burglary, larceny and motor theft. These drops weren’t marginal either. The drop ranges from 30 percent in the case of burglary to nearly 65 percent in the case of motor theft in the last two decades.

It’s impossible for me to marginalize crime statistics as significant as these; it may appear I am attempting to marginalize the massacres we have experienced recently as well. In a certain light, I am.

While it would probably be a bad idea to leave me alone in a room with the Boston bombers or the Newtown shooter (if all were still alive), objectively, we need to realize that while things appear to be getting worse, they are actually getting better.

Even if you draw the timeline back a few centuries, on average, crime rates have always been on the decline and societies have continually improved.

Renowned Harvard psychologist, Steven Pinker, said in a Ted Talk you can find online, “In fact, our ancestors were far more violent than we are. Violence has been in decline for long stretches of time, and that today, we are probably living in the most peaceful time in our species’ history.”

With the advent of modern communication, dramatized reporting and easy access to traumatizing and gory digital media from around the world, it’s easy to see how the nasty gets emblazoned into the brains of the common and are therefore none the wiser to the increased number of people dying of old age and happiness.

Dramatization of media has even worked its way into the political realm, not so shockingly. It has facilitated the cry of the people to be loud enough that now, of all times, our government needs to introduce laws of weapon control.

This isn’t an argument about whether weapon laws will be good, bad, or moot. This is an argument about how easy it is for the advent of easy access, instant communication and media drama to suade the people (and thus the government) regardless of the actual statistics and state of society as a whole … but you already knew that, didn’t you?

Of course, so long as there is murder, violent crime and the like, we should make every effort as a society to prevent it, even if it’s at an all-time low. That’s different than allowing the media and the public to lead you to believe your safety is in jeopardy. Only a few minutes after the Boston bombings, the Sandy Hook shooting and every other massacre, news networks scrolled fear mongering lines such as, “How safe are your children?” and, “Are terrorists taking over America?”

The answer to these questions are, “As safe as they have ever been,” and, “I’m more afraid of spiders.”

Ian Timberlake is a senior in aerospace engineering from Chicago.