Friday, July 8, 2011

Bill Hicks accidentally observes psychological phenomenon

I'm reading transcriptions of comedian Bill Hicks's stand-up gigs, in Love All the People, and coming across surprising connections to some ideas I've covered in this blog. For example, from a 1991 gig in Pittsburgh:

Watch CNN: it's the most depressing thing you'll ever see, man. 'WAR, FAMINE, DEATH, AIDS, HOMELESS, RECESSION, DEPRESSION, WAR, FAMINE, DEATH, AIDS.' Over and over again. Then you look out your window: (makes crickets chirruping sound). Where's all this shit going on, man? Ted Turner is making this shit up.

Hicks here is touching on an idea explored by Dan Gardner in Risk: The Science and Politics of Fear. Gardner pointed to surveys showing that people tend to think their own localities are unusually peaceful and safe, while over-estimating the risk of crime in society in general. This is because we know about wider society through news media, who tend to focus on negative stories and sensational crimes, giving us a sense that society is much more dangerous than it really is. But we know about our own locality because we live there, we see how it is, we look out the window as Hicks does, and there are no burning cars or rotting corpses, ebola-stricken refugees or terrorists.

I'll report again if I see other relevant stuff!

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