Think about the last time you checked the news. Did you feel good afterward? Or, as is often the case these days, did you feel more afraid, angry, cynical, and hopeless? Broadcast news has developed over the years to compete with entertainment for TV ratings. As a result, they tend to sensationalize danger and wrongdoing, evoking fears of corruption and impending doom. The negative effects this has on society at large make up what communications specialist George Gerbner has called the Mean World Syndrome.
The Mean World Syndrome is one of Gerbner's main points under his cultivation theory, which deals with the impact watching television has on how we see the world. The Mean World Syndrome goes one step further, describing the perception that the world is more dangerous than it really is based on what's shown in mass media. According to The Atlantic, there are 3,000 studies before 1971 alone that suggest "a strong connection between television watching and aggression." A lot has been done to shield children from violence on television, but Gerbner argues that we're missing the point. Instead of focusing on ways to hide the violence, he questions the ways in which the violence is portrayed.