MORAL PANIC is the intensity of feeling expressed in a population about an issue that appears to threaten the social order.
According to Stanley Cohen, author of Folk Devils and Moral Panics (1972), a moral panic occurs when "[a] condition, episode, person or group of persons emerges to become defined as a threat to societal values and interests."
The Mods and Rockers
Why might older people have been worried about the advent of this youth culture?
According to Stanley Cohen, the media exaggerated the amount of violence. Why might this have been the case?
Those who start the panic when they fear a threat to prevailing social or cultural values are known by researchers as “moral entrepreneurs", while people who supposedly threaten the social order have been described as “folk devils."
Moral panics are in essence controversies that involve arguments and social tension and in which disagreement is difficult because the matter at its centre is taboo .
The media have long operated as agents of moral indignation, even when they are not self-consciously engaged in crusading. Simply reporting the facts can be enough to generate concern, anxiety or panic.
The 5 Characteristics:
Moral panics have several distinct features. According to Goode and Ben-Yehuda, moral panic consists of the following characteristics:
There must be awareness that the behaviour of the group or category in question is likely to have a a negative impact on society.
2. Hostility Hostility towards the group in question increases, and they become "folk devils". A clear division forms between "them" and "us".
3. Consensus Though concern does not have to be nationwide, there must be widespread acceptance that the group in question poses a very real threat to society. It is important at this stage that the "moral entrepreneurs" are vocal and the "folk devils" appear weak and disorganised.
4. Disproportionality The action taken is disproportionate to the actual threat posed by the accused group.
Football Hooligans in the 1980’s
All seater Stadiums
Life bans for trouble makers
Police under-cover operations.
5. Volatility Moral panics are highly volatile and tend to disappear as quickly as they appeared, due to a wane in public interest or news reports changing to another topic.