Moral Panics 1

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  • Moral Panics 1
    • Moral panics
      • The media also causes C&D through labelling.
        • For example, moral entrepreneurs who disapprove of some particular behaviour may use the media to put pressure on authorities to 'do something' about the alleged problem
          • If successful, their campaigning will result in negative labelling of the behaviour and perhaps change the law
      • In a moral panic:
        • The media identify a group as a threat to societal values (folk devils)
          • The media present the group as a negative stereotype and exaggerate the scale of the problem
            • Moral entrepreneurs, editors, politicians, bishops and other 'respectable' people condemn the group and its behaviour
              • This usually leads to a 'crackdown' on the group although it may also lead to a self fulfilling prophecy that amplifies the very problem that caused the problem in the first place
    • Stanley Cohen (1972): Mods and Rocker
      • Cohen wrote a book on moral panics called 'Folk Devils and Moral Panics'
        • This book talked about how a few fights between the Mods and the Rockers between 64 and 66 led to a moral panic
      • Although the disorder of the Mods and Rockers was relatively minor, the media over reacted by portraying the events as a major disaster. The inventory of the events presented by the media contained three elements:
        • Exaggeration and distortion
          • The media exaggerate the numbers involved and the extent of the damage and distorted the events through dramatic headlines
        • Prediction
          • The media assumed and predicted that further conflict and violence would occur
        • Symbolisation
          • Symbols of mods and rockers were negatively labelled and associated with deviance, allowing the media to link unconnected events with C&D
      • Cohen argues that the Media's portrayal of events produced a deviance amplification spiral
    • According to functionalists, moral panics can be seen as ways of responding to the sense of anomie or normlessness created by change.
      • By dramatizing the threat to society in the form of a folk devil, the media raises the collective consciousness and reasserts social control when values of society are threatened
    • Neo Marxists consider moral panics in the context of capitalism
      • Hall et al (1979) argued that the moral panic over 'black muggers' in the 70s served to distract people's attention away from the crisis in capitalism


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