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Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Tough on Crime, to Hell With the Causes of Crime if They Make Money

Does television cause crime? The idea that people copy the violence they watch is debated endlessly by criminologists. But this column concerns an odder and perhaps more interesting idea: if crime leaps out of the box, it is not the programmes that are responsible as much as the material in between. It proposes that violence emerges from those blissful images of family life, purged of all darkness, that we see in the advertisements.
 
Let me begin, in constructing this strange argument, with a paper published in the latest edition of Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine. It provides empirical support for the contention that children who watch more television eat more of the foods it advertises. "Each hour increase in television viewing," it found, "was associated with an additional 167 kilocalories per day." Most of these extra calories were contained in junk foods: fizzy drinks, crisps, biscuits, sweets, burgers and chicken nuggets. Watching television, the paper reported, "is also inversely associated with intake of fruit and vegetables".
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