From Human Security Report, via Simon Fraser
To quote the Beatles, I used to get mad at my woman, I beat her and kept her apart from the things that she loved. Yes I was mean, but I’m changing my scene, and I’m doing the best that I can. This in lyrical form, is kinda what many social scientists are saying about large groups of humans beating and killing other humans. It’s getting better all the time. There is a steady decline in both the quantity of lethality of war. We are now living in what may be the most peaceful time in history, yet the weird magic mirrors trick of mass media makes it look like the most fearful.
To digress, this tendency of mass media to magnify violence may decrease as media becomes less massive. I am not especially interesting in reading about distant peoples unless they are dying (something we have in common), so a mass media that’s firehosing the same news to everyone will hype this up. With social media, however, you can hear about who broke up with who, less interesting globally, but more interesting to me (sorta, not really, just an example). As media becomes more social and local, you will be able to get the same attention impact without so much violent impact. That is, good news or non-violent news is still interesting if its close to home. As that balances out, that may correct some perceptual balances in the world. But I digress. To digress again, though, social media should also affect advertising in that your crush could pop up advertising a car, something relatively more powerful than a Hollywood endorsement.
But, to regress, recent and past studies have pointed out that violence is actually declining across the world. I have heard everyone from evangelical end-timers to bleeding heart liberal saying that the world is seeing more and more war, but it’s really not. The amount of dead that makes headlines today would have been a breakfast fart for a World War II General. The amount of dead it takes the US to freak out would make Genghis Khan scratch his head. Violence has always been been horrifying in the flesh and media brings that flesh directly into peoples homes. Of course sometimes it doesn’t, there are unworthy dead like the almost 1 million the US has gotten killed in Iraq, but even they get some cover. To quote a quoter (Greg Scoblete):
According to a new report from the Human Security Report Project, the number of deaths from armed conflicts around the world continues to fall, even while intercommunal wars have jumped and other conflicts have become increasingly difficult to bring to an end. What wars are fought are less lethal, too. “The average annual battle-death toll per conflict in the 1950s killed almost 10,000 people; in the new millennium the figure is less than 1,000,” the report states.
I’ve been reading the same thing in an old book by Fareed Zakaria.
War and organized violence have declined dramatically over the last two decades. Ted Robert Gurr and a team of scholars at the University of Maryland’s … tracked the data carefully and came to the following conclusion: “the general magnitude of global warfare has decreased by over sixty percent [since the mid-1980s], falling by the end of 2004 to its lowest level since the late 1950s.”
As you can see from the chart above, violence between states has almost ceased, and I do believe that George W. Bush’s adventures in Iraq and Afghanistan were tragic outliers. The latest study shows that things have gotten relatively worse since 2005, but the broader historical stroke is still down. While there is a trend towards more drawn out, ‘low-level’ conflicts, I do think the world is getting less violent. In fact, less violence (9/11 for example) now goes a long way.