Wednesday, April 09, 2014

"Superpredators:" Blast from the Past

Students who have taken my six-week self-defense course for women already know this:  the rate of violence has been in decline for the past couple of decades.

But that was not at all obvious a couple of decades ago.  In fact, the early 1990s saw a spike in youth violence.  Some experts were predicting the worst was yet to come, and felt they needed to deploy hyperbole on what they saw as the inevitable.  The term "superpredator" was coined by political scientist John DiIulio to describe teens who were increasingly violent.  These teens were supposed to unleash chaos upon our fair Gothams.

It never happened.

Almost as if on cue, after these predictions hit the mass media, the crime rate began dropping.  And dropping.  And dropping.  Today's rates of violence are at record lows.


(if the embedded video is not visible here, go here.)

However, hyperbole won out over fact.  Punitive punishments and harsher penalties for juveniles became the law.  Panicky policy repercussions from that era have lingered a long while.

When you consider your personal safety risks, what do you value?  How do you distinguish the hype from the fact?  Predicting the future will never be easy, but you can do better when you winnow out the alarminst labels and recognize the "dog whistles" for what they are.

No comments:

Post a Comment