What is a moral panic


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What is a moral panic

  1. 1. What is a Moral Panic? A. A moral panic is characterized by the feeling held by a substantial number of members of a given society, that 'evil-doers' pose a threat to the society and to the moral order as a consequence of their behaviour. Therefore, they believe "something should be done" about the 'evil-doers' and their behaviour. William J. Goode B. An exaggerated outburst of public concern over the morality and behaviour of a group in society. Stuart Hall et. al. C. A moral panic, an overreaction of the mass media, police and local community leaders to delinquent offences that are in fact relatively trivial, both in terms of the nature of the offence and the number of people involved. Albert Cohen. The Sociological Context of Moral Panics Moral panics are not a new phenomenon. The actions of certain segments of society, most notably youths, have often been seen as immoral and threatening to the accepted norms and patterns found within mainstream culture. The key elements or stages in a moral panic are: Someone or something is defined as a threat to normal values or interests. The threat is depicted in a sterotypical form by the media. There is rapid build up of media interest that promotes public concern Authorities or opinion makers respond to the percieved threat The panic recedes or results in social changes. Cohen used the term 'moral panic' to characterize the reactions of the media, the public, and agents of social control to youth disturbances. The impaact of media presentations/reporting of crime and deviance can lead to: 1. Crime Amplification 2. Societal reaction Research conducted on the incidence of moral panics indicate that the media's reporting of deviance may lead to a process of deviance amplification.Deviance amplification according to Stuart Hall et. al can lead to moral panic followed by policing tactics, which can lead to riots (further deviance). What is Deviance Amplification? The term deviance amplification refers to the unintended outcome of moral panics or of social policies designed to prevent or reduce deviance. Identification of deviant act by police, politician, media ------>Attention of moral entrepreneurs & media attracts new recruits ------> Public's expectation of the required standard of behaviour -----> resulting in the amplification of the deviant behaviour The 1971 work of Jock Young entitled "The Drugtakers" highlights the role of the media in the amplification of deviance. "(The) moral panic over drug taking results in setting up of police drug squads, which in turn produces an increase in drug related arrests". These arrests are not necessarily the result of increased drug abuse, but rather refelects increased police crack down on drug abusers. According to Young this produces a fantasy crime wave. Two types of amplification occurs as a result of such actions: * Amplification of deviant behaviour * Amplification in the number of people arrested for such behaviour.
  2. 2. What is the ultimate result of Moral Panics? Social change is the ultimate result of moral panic. The amplification of the criminal act or deviant behaviour, draws the attention of the relevant authoritites who in turn take stringent measures to deal with the problem to ensure that it does not occur in such magnanimous proportions in the future. For example the development of the Crime Stoppers initative in Trinidad and Tobago, following the spate of kidnappings in the period 2001-2002, which posed a national threat to the citizenry of that territory.