Moral Panics Notes

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  • Created by: Elannm
  • Created on: 24-05-16 21:11

Moral Panics



·       Moral entrepreneurs may use the media to put pressure on the authorities to do something about the issue.

·       If successful, their campaigning will result in the negative labelling of the behaviour and may a change in the law.

·       Therefore, by labelling behaviour as criminal the media helps to cause crime.

·       Moral panic = an exaggerated over-reaction by society to a perceived problem – usually driven by the media.

·       In a moral panic:

Ø  Media identify a group as ‘folk devil’ or threat to societal values.

Ø  Media present the group in a negative, stereotypical fashion and exaggerate the problem.

Ø  Respectable people condemn the group and its behaviour.

v  E.g. moral entrepreneurs, politicians and bishops.

Ø  This usually leads to calls for a ‘crackdown’ on the group.

·       However –this may create a self-fulfilling prophecy that amplifies the very problem that caused the panic.


Cohen - mods & rockers:

·       Study of the media’s response to 2 groups’ conflict in Clacton in the 1960s.

·       Mods – wore smart dress and rode scooters.

·       Rockers – wore leather jackets and rode motorbikes.

·       1964 – initial confrontations started between the 2 with stone throwing.

·       The media over-reacted even though the disorder was minor.

·       He uses the analogy of a disaster, where the media produce an inventory or stocktaking of what happened, which contained 3 elements:

Ø  Exaggeration and distortion – exaggerated the numbers involved and the extent of the violence and damage, they distorted the picture through dramatic reporting and sensational headlines.

Ø  Prediction – media regularly assumed and predicted further conflict and violence would result.

Ø  Symbolisation – the symbols were all negatively labelled and associated with deviance, which allowed them to link unconnected events.

v  E.g. their clothes, bikes and scooters.

·       The media’s portrayal of events led to a deviance amplification spiral b making it seem as if the problem was getting out of hand.

·       This led to increased calls for control response by the police and courts.

·       This produced further marginalisation and stigmatisation of the mods and rockers as deviants.

·       The media


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