Mon | Aug 2, 2021

Letter of the Day | Is dancehall’s link to crime a convenient red herring?

Published:Friday | April 23, 2021 | 12:10 AM


With the current public discourse surrounding dancehall music and its contribution to crime, an opportunity has yet again been presented to examine the efficacy of this line of thinking. Professor of psychology Laurence Steinberg concluded from his 2013 peer-reviewed article that, “There is little credible evidence that violent media causes people to commit real-world violence.”

He went further to state that, “These widespread beliefs are a convenient distraction from the real causes of problem behaviour.”

It is indeed likely that the prime minister of Jamaica is in need of a “convenient distraction” as the complaints about the Government’s response to COVID-19 mount and groans over the lack of a crime plan continue to get loader than a sound system in the midst of a sound clash. This need for a distraction seem to be the basis for PM Holness drawing for the often-blamed scapegoat for many ills within our society. The prime minister seem to suggest untruthfully that there is a causal link between dancehall music and criminal activities in Jamaica.

This connection between entertainment and crime has been researched globally on multiple occasions, and indeed by many governments. Some examples include studies carried out by governments of Norway, Britain, Australia and Sweden, all of which found no evidence that violent media led to violence. In fact, countless other studies have come to similar conclusions.

Some of these include Seymour Feshbach et al, 1971: Found that violent entertainment was more likely to defuse than stimulate aggression. He argues that violence under “the guise of dramatic fantasy is found throughout history and it seems likely that the vicarious participation in these fantasies does satisfy some human need”.

• US government study, 1972: The findings suggest little evidence existed that the consumption of violence had “an adverse effect on the majority of children”.

• Ronald Milalsky, 1982: conducted a longitudinal study on 3,200 persons and found no evidence of behavioural effect from consuming media violence.

• Oene Wiegman, 1992: A study of 14 groups from six countries found that ... the opinion formulated on the basis of social learning theory that media violence consumption leads to aggressive behaviour cannot be supported.

• Dr Sheryl Ulson, 2004: In a study of 1,254 seventh- and eighth-graders, plus 500 parents, found there was no causal relationship between violent media consumption and violent behaviour.

• Dr Stanton Semenow, 2004: Here the author suggests that even the assumption that the consumption of violent media leads to criminal action is “absurdity”.

• Max Fisher, 2012: found no causal link between the consumption of violent media and actual gun violence.

• Dr John Kiburn, 2009: A meta analysis of 25 studies, which included 12,436 subjects, found a correlation so small that they concluded: “If the goal of society is to reduce violence, scientific, political and economic efforts would likely bear more fruits in other realms.”

• Dr Christopher Ferguson, 2013: “People may object morally to some of the content that exists in media, but the question is whether the media can [create] criminal behaviour. The answer seems to be no.” He argues further: “We basically find that genetics and some social issues combine to predict later adult arrests. Despite ongoing concerns about media influences, media do not seem to function as a risk factor for adult criminality.”

• Mcfarlane, 2020: There is no meaningful relationship between music and ‘real life’ violence when compared to police-recorded violent crime data.

The outcomes of these research, therefore, suggest that the prime minister’s concerns about music, and in particular dancehall music, is misplaced. His time, therefore, may be better spent influencing and communicating an effective crime plan that the citizens of Jamaica may have some confidence in.



Vice President, People’s National Party