By the system I mean mainly the political system, the justice system, the media system, the education system and any other major institution that influences the public as well as the public themselves. Society as a whole tends to be more interested in finding someone to blame than to find out what the cause of violence is and how to prevent it. Most people spend too much time looking for quick answers and fail to look deeper. This leads to efforts to try to prevent violence just barely before it happens.
Whether it is the prosecutors, victim rights advocates, media demagogues or anyone else many people often try to avoid any consideration of what could be considered mitigating circumstances. This usually involves any thing that could elicit sympathy for the defendant like a rough upbringing. In many cases all this involves is simply failing to investigate the background but in some cases it involves disputing it even when abuse is exposed. This could involve someone who wants a quick answer and wants to put all the blame on one the person who committed the most recent act of violence. If a researcher discovers testimony of abuse opponents might say they are just trying to excuse the crime and the abuse didn’t happen. Then in some cases if there is corroborating evidence they might recognize the abuse but then they may later put the emphasis on the testimony and forget the corroborating evidence. Unfortunately this leads to overlooking the long term causes to violence and prevents people from understanding how to find the most effective way to prevent violence in the long run. The emotional desire to meet certain preconceived ideas may cause some people to overlook any thing that disagrees with these preconceived ideas even after there is evidence to prove otherwise. In some cases they may acknowledge the evidence only as long and it is right in front of them then later forgets it and reinforces their preconceived ideas.
The Mass Media is in a position to educate the public but instead it routinely prays on their emotions and tries to use them to boost their ratings. Shows like Nancy Grace and Jean Valez Mitchell are among the worst. So called victim rights advocates often act with self righteous indignation and condemn and demonize a particular perpetrator. They constantly look for more reasons to make the villain look bad and ridicule anything that refutes this. Whenever someone tries to bring up abuse as a child as mitigating circumstances they act as if this is intended as an excuse. They may deny the abuse or they may claim that others have gone through rough childhood without killing, which is true but the rough childhoods of killers are usually much worse than what others go through. This also passes up on the opportunity to recognize how serious child abuse is when it comes to contributing to crime. By overlooking this they fail to point out how programs that prevent child abuse could prevent much more crime as well. They incite more anger which often leads to even more violence. By putting so much emphasis on punishment as a deterrent they convince a large percentage of the public that punishment actually works as a deterrent which is not true, or it least it isn’t true if we rely solely on punishment as a deterrent. If there is some reliance on punishment backed up by counseling and education this will work much better. In the long run it is important to prevent the abuse that leads to the crime in the first place. If this is done than there won’t be any need for the rehabilitation since they would have been raised right in the first place.
When it comes to emotional or controversial subjects many people might be more inclined to choose their beliefs based on their belief system and their biases which are often shaped by the system. In order to change this what may be necessary is a massive public campaign to encourage rational thought and teach the public about potential ways that their beliefs could be distorted by demagoguery or other manipulation tactics. The public needs to understand the difference between information that is based on research and information that is based on political manipulations.
First posted on Tripod on 8/27/09
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