Tue, Jun 29, 2004 - Page 8 News List

Why the media feeds on bloodlust

By Ku Er-teh顧爾德

Lately, the hottest stories in the media have come from neither the political nor economic realms.

Since the peak of the election dispute in March and April, political polarization has caused the popularity of political news to fall. All the power struggles remain the same as before -- and the more you watch this kind of news, the more annoying it gets, so you are better off watching less of it.

But what about economic and financial news? Every investor has heard it said that the economy's fundamentals are great, but foreign investors still keep pulling their money out of the local markets and the TAIEX keeps on falling.

The more business news you watch, the less you understand. Signs of an improving stock market are nowhere in sight and you would do better

not wasting more time trying to understand why.

So with political and economic events in the news less often, sensational news is what attracts audiences: kidnappings, shootouts between police and criminals, family suicides, incest, cannibalism, mistreatment of foreign brides and so on. The picture painted in the media is one of a society in chaos.

The problem is that the media do not tell the public whether statistics show that crime is increasing.

Statistics from the National Police Agency reveals that violent crimes and other criminal cases decreased across the board between January and last month compared to the same period last year. The decrease applies to murder, kidnapping for ransom, robbery causing serious injury, intimidation aimed at extorting money and rape.

Of course, this does not eliminate the possibility that police swept some cases under the rug around the time of the election because they were busy with other duties.

It is also possible that the number of criminal cases suddenly increased beginning this month, although that possibility is not very high.

All in all, social order cannot possibly be deteriorating at the rate that the media's reports would lead you to believe.

Media outlets produce a

product, and consumer demand determines what sort of news will sell the most. Demand is in turn stimulated by advertising and marketing on the part of the sellers (in this case, the media outlets). Although marketing is becoming increasingly reliant

on specialized and scientific surveys, a more likely scenario in the media is that sellers have realized that sales figures for a certain product are going down and therefore have decided to test a different product.

And they've had success. Now that they are providing consumers "social" stories, audiences have been reacting passionately. And so the media of course continues to focus on these "social" stories.

Why do consumers of the media demand this sort of material? Naturally, we cannot draw any conclusions without statistical research, but I feel quite

certain that the uneasy social atmosphere that has followed the presidential election has something to do with it.

Maybe the extreme antagonism brought on by the election has made some people manic-depressive, and has awoken

the bloodthirsty beast in man. Perhaps watching tragic and violent social news has become a way for audiences to let off some steam.

From another perspective, we also see how the news that is peddled by the media includes an element of mutual social support and self-redemption: tragic

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