The only way you can really answer the question – has violence gone up or down? – is to count how many violent incidents have there been as a proportion of the number of opportunities, and has that gone up or down over the course of history?
And in all cases, the long-term historical trend, though there are ups and downs and wiggles and spikes, is absolutely downward. The rate of violent crime in the western world has fallen by more than half in just a decade.
The rate of death in war fell by a factor of 100 over a span of 25 years.
People are more brave, more unified.
In the wake of last November’s shootings in Paris, people talked a brave game, approvingly retweeting the Tous au Bistrot campaign asking visitors to carry on defiantly enjoying cafe culture.
If you want to understand trends in the history of global violence, look to data, not headlines, says Harvard psychology professor and linguist Steven Pinker. The news cycle will never be a good indicator of historical trends because no reporting occurs where problems aren’t also occurring. “Because you never see a reporter standing outside a school saying, ‘Here I am in front of Maplewood High School, which hasn’t been shot up today,’ or, ‘here I am in the capital of Mozambique and there’s no Civil War.'” So what does the data show?