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The Mean World Syndrome


From anxieties about crime and terrorism to trepidation about expanding government power and illegal immigration, large swatches of the American population seem to be living in a state of perpetual fear. Yet across the board, on issue after issue, studies have repeatedly shown that the very things that scare Americans the most have little to no basis in fact. 

What accounts for this widening gap between perception and reality?

The Mean World Syndrome, based on the groundbreaking work of the late media scholar George Gerbner, offers a timely and clear-eyed take on the origins of some of our most irrational and unrelenting fears. Taking dead aim at a commercial media system that thrives on violence, stereotypes, and the cultivation of anxiety, the film argues that the more television people watch, the more likely they are to be insecure and afraid of others -- and shows how these media-induced fears and anxieties provide fertile ground for intolerance, extremism, and a paranoid style of politics that threatens basic democratic values. Features commentary from George Gerbner, and narration from University of Massachusetts Communication professor Michael Morgan. 

52 minutes

Featuring: George Gerbner, Michael Morgan

Written & Directed by: Jeremy Earp

Produced by: Scott Morris 

Executive Producer: Sut Jhally 

Co-Producers: Loretta Alper, Andrew Killoy, Jason Young 

Distributed by George Matta

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