The 20th century had witnessed the death of 187 million people due to political violence and that's when the violence took the centre stage in the 20th century and characterized it as the bloody century. Eric Hobsbawm mentions in his writings how human decisions had killed more people in this particular era than any other time, which included the acts of genocide, mass killing of millions of civilians due to wars, through politically repressive acts and gruesome bloodshed (Eric Hobsbawm, 2002). It would be true to say that gruesome violence took place in the 20th century. However, to characterize the whole century to be the most bloody for the violence that took place early on in the century is incredibly flawed. This essay aims to explore the reasons why asserting the 20th century to be the most violent is incorrect.
The 20th century has earned itself the reputation of being the most violent in the history of mankind. Calling this century to be the most violent is a very emotional way of making such an assertion. It invokes within the listener a sentiment of shock, the speaker through such an assertion tries to convey the message of how the 20th century witnessed the terrible ordeal of losing millions of human lives. More than a few historical sociologists who have made a similar claim had intended to express the horrors of such a time. While this claim is historically true it does not possess any factual basis.
The first flaw in this claim is that the pieces of evidence associated with violence among kingdoms, empires, communities, etc existing before the 20th century have not been recorded or lost or are incomplete. Thus claiming 20th centaury to be the most violent is an unproven statement
The second flaw in this claim is that whatever pieces of evidence of violence and mass killing that took place before the 20th century has been documented is ignored and not considered while making this claim. The appalling reality of the past has been documented. In the 19th century alone many wars and conflicts have claimed the lives of many, millions of civilians lost their lives. Some examples of these are, War in Afghanistan, Iran–Iraq War, Soviet-Afghan War, etc cause gruesome bloodshed and massacre
Looking at the example of civil wars erupted in China; millions of people lost their lives. Human lives were lost in such a great number that it affected the population of China. This was the result of the Nanking revolt of 1853-64. Proving that the claim of the 20th century being the most bloody to be flawed (Chesneaux,1973).
Lastly, the issue associated with this claim is that a centaury consists of 100 years. It would be factually inaccurate to describe a 100 year-long period to be most violent for something that happened only at some point in the entire 100 year period.
To begin with, the operation of the advanced mass media has anticipated us from taking note that improvements are being made. By their exceptional nature, the media show a mutilated view of what is happening around the world. It would be wrong to say what has been recorded is not true but the media tends to be attracted to places where there will be scenes of savagery. Since the media lookout for carnage, watchers will be given the impression of a profoundly savage world, no matter what the genuine drift is (Stafford, 2014).
An example of how media can represent a distorted version of the reality is by assuming that at some point in time millions of humans lost their lives due to violence of riots, conflicts, genocides, and wars around the world, and cameras have captured scenes of savagery, filling the wireless transmissions with them. A period of time goes by and the new era that has ushered is relatively peaceful and calmer, the rate of slaughtering has fallen to quite an extent. Owing to the predisposition of the news media, the audience will never be informed of this change. Moreover, the expanding ease of transportation will empower news faculty to travel rapidly to more places, hence expanding the scope of conflict and giving the impression that savagery and violence are increasing (Payne, 2002).
The media is notoriously known to blow things out of proportion and exaggerate the news of violence. The reason behind this could be many, from increasing their ratings to motivating people not to repeat the history and protest against such events. Exaggerating the threats sends waves of emergency among the audience.
Utilizing ancient court and province records in Britain, researchers calculate that rates have dived by a figure of 10, 50 and, in a few cases, 100—for illustration, from 110 murders per 100,000 individuals per year in 14th-century Oxford to less than one manslaughter per 100,000 in mid-20th-century London (Payne, 2002).
Media overstate violence blinding the world on how the world is becoming more peaceful. Broadcasting the decline of violence would prevent a sense of shock in the audience which is not what the media desires. In discretionary and military bureaucracies, starvation for assignments leads to an efficient misrepresentation of the risk of viciousness. Officers are unwilling to report that the likelihood of outside hostility is decreasing, for such a report might lead to a diminishment of military investing. Ambassadors are so also hesitant to confess that the world may well be developing more serene on its claim since that plausibility would make their activities appear less essential.
By the middle 20th century, the media system became more commercial. Ideas perceived as unprofitable were discarded. The attention economy preyed on the emotions of their viewers by exaggerating violence to catch the attention of the viewers and to make more money. Entertainment was being preferred over information (Edwards, 2019).
The 20th century indeed took millions of lives, massacre, and mass killing due to civil and interstate wars proved to be quite bloody. Yet it did not prove it to be the most violent. Mass killings have taken lives before the 20th century when the kingdoms and empires were more violent. Additionally, the tendency of media to sensationalize and over represent violence for their benefits has also played a factor in calling the 20th century to be most bloody.
Chesneaux, J. (1973). Peasant Revolts in China 1840–1949. W. W. Norton
Edwards, E. (2019). Graphic Violence: Illustrated Theories about Violence, Popular Media, and Our Social Lives . Routledge. Hobsbawm, E. (2002). War and Peace in the 20th Century, London review of books, 24 (4), 1-9
Payne, J. (2002) .Violence in the Twentieth Century, a Closer Look. The Independent Review,3, 447–455.
Stafford, T. (2014).Why is newspapers and TV broadcasts filled with disaster, corruption and incompetence? BBC. Retrieved from https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20140728-why-is-all-the-news-bad.
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