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'Abduction epidemic' hyped up by media
Daily Bruin (UCLA) ^ | 08/19/2002 | Ian Eisner

Posted on 08/20/2002 12:23:29 PM PDT by NorCoGOP

LOS ANGELES -- It just wouldn't be summer without a huge wave of media-driven hysteria. Last year's "summer of the shark" sent Americans scurrying from the beaches. This summer, round-the-clock kidnapping coverage has filled the fear-gap, leaving parents and children in a frenetic state of alert. It is the latest example of media-hype gone wild.

The "abduction epidemic" picked up steam following the horrific murder of Danielle van Dam, and since then has reached a fever pitch. Cases usually reserved for local outlets have been transformed into national sagas. Amber Alerts have been burned onto television screens. And the talking heads have been talking. Larry King and his all-star panel fuel the fire each night by doing what they do best -- speculate. Even the usually non-emotive Bill O'Reilly has stirred the paranoia pot by calling this "a summer of hell for America's kids."

Parents are terrified, and who can blame them? With such a sharp spike in the national media's coverage of kidnappings (from around two cases per year to more than a dozen this summer), the public has little reason not to believe the actual abduction rate has jumped accordingly.

But, like last year's "summer of the shark," the current "summer of abduction" is more hype than fact. If parents waded through the media frenzy, they would see the number of child kidnappings by strangers has actually been decreasing in recent years. According to FBI reports, there were 115 cases in 1998, 134 in 1999, 106 in 2000, and 93 in 2001. This year, the drop has continued as 46 cases have been recorded in the first half of 2002.

As it turns out, the actual probability of a child being snatched up and murdered is about one in a million. To provide perspective lacking in the media, a child is twice as likely to fall victim to accidental shooting, 10 times more likely to drown in a backyard pool, and 100 times more likely to be seriously injured or killed on a bicycle. As Barry Glassner, a sociology professor at USC puts it, "It's hard to imagine any serious danger to children that is less likely than kidnapping by a stranger."

But given the recent decline in kidnapping rates and exceedingly long abduction odds, why is the media over-reporting child abductions? The answer lies primarily in the ratings. CNN, FoxNews and MSNBC have all enjoyed solid gains in viewership by exploiting parents' fear of child abductions. As a result, anxiety is being whipped up without adequate justification. According to a Princeton survey, a parent's greatest fear, amid far bigger threats, is now child abduction.

While the media's fear-mongering is passed off by some as "informing the public" or "heightening awareness," the media should under no circumstances give Americans a false impression of the news. No matter the intention, news outlets cannot afford to turn into a giant public service announcement -- even if doing so would aid some abduction cases. If the media was purely in the business of saving lives, non-stop reporting on bicycle-related deaths would be a more effective means of protecting children. But since its job is to report news, the media has responsibility to cover stories in accordance to their impact on society, not ratings or image.

As it stands, adults across the country are left to believe summer is a dangerous time. But behind the hype and hysteria, the real summer epidemic is not child abductions, but media sensationalism. And until the public can separate fear from fact, expect a new summer threat this time next year.

TOPICS: Crime/Corruption; Culture/Society; Editorial; News/Current Events

1 posted on 08/20/2002 12:23:29 PM PDT by NorCoGOP
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To: NorCoGOP
Would you think it is "Brainwashing"...???

Watch out for Amber Alert...It won't be just for lost or missing kids for long..!!!
2 posted on 08/20/2002 12:27:56 PM PDT by freddy
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To: NorCoGOP
Freakin media, you know I had a feeling this would be the case all along. Same thing they do with global warming, always reporting the findings and the cases where the temperature is "higher than normal" or the "highest ever recorded".

Looking at the statistics above, I couldn't help but notice that a child is (if my light-headed self is thinking correctly, darned diet...), a child is 50 times more likely to be seriously injured or killed in a bicyling accident than by a handgun... food for thought..

3 posted on 08/20/2002 12:32:29 PM PDT by Paradox
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To: NorCoGOP
What's Hot - Child Abductions
What's Not - Shark Attacks
4 posted on 08/20/2002 12:36:17 PM PDT by TomServo
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To: Paradox
Ban bicycles!
5 posted on 08/20/2002 12:36:28 PM PDT by BlessingInDisguise
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To: Paradox
Personally, I think the news media is doing good. This stuff is top priority and should have been long ago. Hopefully it will get to the point that sentences will be increased to deal with the problem.
6 posted on 08/20/2002 12:36:37 PM PDT by aimhigh
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To: freddy
Tobacco use dropped every year but it deserved national attention in every news magazine, paper, editorial, and on to the courts.

The first point is that this is not a statistic; I'd rather my child drown in a pool than be kidnapped and subjected to nothing short of satanic torture before being brutally murdered.

The second is that finally these cases are receiving real attention; so possibly the reduction is not based on some national trend of child killers turning over a new leaf but rather fear of being caught.
7 posted on 08/20/2002 12:36:50 PM PDT by Naspino
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Comment #8 Removed by Moderator

To: NorCoGOP
They'll find all those kids in some burned out black church that's been confiscated by John Ashcroft, who, they'll say, escaped in a black helicopter.

Cynthia Mc Kinney will unveil this information during another press conference, that's if the mother ship and Calypson Louie don't get her first...
9 posted on 08/20/2002 12:45:10 PM PDT by gortklattu
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To: BurkeCalhounDabney
I live and work in Washington, D.C. I know a thing or two about "lying with statistics," and I would suggest skepticism in such matters.

Meanwhile, how many Washington interns involved with their Congressmen over kinky sex are disappearing this year and the media is saying nothing about it? I forgot...that was so last year.

10 posted on 08/20/2002 12:47:40 PM PDT by Tall_Texan
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To: NorCoGOP
Amazingly, last week the NBC Nightly News one day did its entire InDepth segment on the media hype, and the fact that the media needs its Annual Summer Scare Story, since there's little else going on. Regardless of whether you worry or fret about the statistics being uniformly-gathered or accurately reported, the fact is that abductions outside of custody cases ARE down and the media, pack journalists that they are, have to have their fix of SOMETHING lurid - and this was handy.

We oughta start a poll as to what NEXT summer's big scare story will be. It won't be anthrax - that's a yawner the media keeps trying to hype without success. And it won't be "The West Vile Nirus" as Tom Brokejaw once called it. 11 deaths of elderly nationwide ain't much of a story. That's 0.22 deaths per state. I can't think of a LOWER cause of death rate.

How about........a mysterious malady that causes children's teeth to loosen and fall out. It could cause a PANIC.


11 posted on 08/20/2002 12:58:21 PM PDT by Wright is right!
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To: NorCoGOP
The 11-year-old in Utah doesn't count. Her attacker knew the family.
12 posted on 08/20/2002 1:44:12 PM PDT by D.P.Roberts
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To: NorCoGOP
I expect this particular media frenzy will -- despite the efforts of freaked-out parents -- influence upwardly the incidence of child abductions.

The thrill of being the subject of a nationwide conversation should be enough to push some of these animals over the edge. You can bet Elizabeth Smart's abductor enjoyed every minute he spent in the limelight (made even more enjoyable since he wasn't expecting anywhere near that much attention!) and is, at this very moment, contemplating a(nother?) sequel to regain center stage from those come-lately amateurs.

13 posted on 08/20/2002 1:47:46 PM PDT by newgeezer
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To: newgeezer
You have to wonder what would ever influence the media to ever STOP hyping these abductions now. It's not like they'll run out of ammo - there have always been abductions, but now's the time to run the stories into the ground. And (for the time being, anyway), the stories are apparently ratings-boosters; otherwise we'd never hear about them. This will probably be status quo until we get a ground war in Iraq or another domestic terror strike.
14 posted on 08/20/2002 1:58:27 PM PDT by Semaphore Heathcliffe
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To: Semaphore Heathcliffe
This will probably be status quo until we get a ground war in Iraq or another domestic terror strike.

I'm sure you're right. It'll take something big to push this off the screen anytime soon.

15 posted on 08/20/2002 2:04:28 PM PDT by newgeezer
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To: NorCoGOP
It's all about that little locator chip the government wants to plant into kids. It will probably double as a bug to record every second of family life in America.

It is scary to see how the media decides what our reality will be though. If the media decides a mountain doesn't matter, it's existance is removed from our field of view and it vanishes. If a mole hill seems important to the media, they insert it as a mountain into our field of perception.

We do need to know how many or America's young are being murdered by predatory beasts in human form each day. It matters not that the count is coming down, one child sacrificed to the monsters that walk among us is one too many. The question is: Why has the media been covering for such deranged perverts until now?
16 posted on 08/20/2002 2:10:46 PM PDT by F.J. Mitchell
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To: F.J. Mitchell
From what I picked-up on c-span about 2 months ago - There is pending legislation to be introduced that calls for any crime committed on a 16 year-old or younger to be a federal crime and worthy of those mechanisms being put into motion.

This federal "guardianship" could be treatied-away....UN or what-have-you....

Gotta raise consciousness and build consensus to pass this legislation. Kinda like the Limbergh baby's abduction and murder convinced everyone that kidnapping should be a federal crime in itself.

I believe we'll be hearing more of this in the future.
17 posted on 08/20/2002 2:57:31 PM PDT by martian_22
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To: martian_22
"I believe we'll be hearing more of this in the future."

It will take the Feds to consolidate the efforts of all law enforcement agencies into one massive and hopefully highly effective search and intercept team-a national Amber alert that can save precious lives. I do not believe the Fed has the will or the courage to mete out the death penalty to convicted murderous pediphiles as it did at the time of the Lindberg Baby's Kidnapping and murder. Maybe that is because history infers and maybe correctly so, that the man executed for that atrosity was probably not guilty and was just a convenient sacrifice to satisfy the demand for justice. Justice is not the sacrifice of an innocent that allows the guilty to live and continue to prey upon the innocent.

DNA and much more, makes determination of guilt much more scientific today, but also makes it easier for the guilty to mark the not guilty with irrefutible evidence.

I have sat on many Juries and was repulsed by the way prosecutors and defence attorneys alike-as the first order of business, began to insert emotions into a proccess that is supposed to be ruled by pure logic and proper evidence. Describing the heinousness of the crime or how much the victem suffered and how it impacted upon their family, has nothing to do with the guilt or innocence of the accused. Yet our Judicial system allows both the prosecutors and the defence to insert emotions into the mix.

Conviction should be based upon facts and nothing else. Once a scum bag has been convicted on the evidence beyond a reasonable boubt, then allow emotions to run as wild as they will during the sentencing phase, and let the punishment deter the crime. If hanging, lethal injection or the electric chair doesn't deter the crime, try tying the limbs of the perpertrator to four bull dozers, let them drive off as slowly as they can, until the executee's limbs are at the part of separating from the body, then stop the bulldozers and everyone go home, leaving the perp to think about what he/she has done and to make peace with God. Next morning, fire the dozers up and then, full speed ahead.

Compassion for the guilty is endorsement for the agony of their victims.

18 posted on 08/20/2002 5:00:51 PM PDT by F.J. Mitchell
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