Firstly I would like to examine the definition of moral
panic and then go on to discuss an example in order to demonstrate its cycle
and characteristics.According to Goode & Ben-Yehuda (1994) ? A moral panic
standards.? At these times people tend
that is wrong, a scapegoat or ?folk devil? as describe by Stanley Cohen.The cycle of moral panics begins as suggested with a deviant
or criminal act, which is generally considered to be a threat to the fabric of
society.? The media identify and exaggerate
the deviancy in simplified terms, sometimes selectively misrepresenting and
occasionally even deliberately instigating events in the pursuit of headlines.
The deviants are as a result stigmatised and acknowledged as an ?out-group?
are categorised almost as a sub-culture.?
In turn those involved may gradually identify with this role, further increasing
the likelihood of deviant behaviour. People generally hark back to what they
perceive to be the ?good old days? when everything was more secure, it just
and of course when people think back they tend to concentrate more on happy
rather than unhappy experiences.??
Following the media frenzy and stigmatisation of the ?out-group?; public
fears and indignation are aroused and agitated, there are calls for action to
be taken and for ?something to be done? in order to defuse the deviant actions,
which in turn further concentrates focus and concern by the pubic at large,
this is known as deviancy amplification. The authorities must then be seen to
James Bulger murder in the early 1990s.?
Two 11-year-old boys, Robert Thompson and Jon Venables abducted James
streets to a railway line, where they inflicted massive injuries resulting in
headlines and created a panic and outrage.?
The murder was portrayed by the media as a horrific act, which
symbolized the degeneration of modern British society, despite the fact that
statistically such murders were extremely rare and the UK, though not unique.
moral panic, and seemed to be largely ignored by the press.? The media used the Bulger case to symbolise
innocence and evil and why we as a society had allowed it happen, it suggested
the increase of public indifference, lowering family values and increasing
isolation, generating massive public guilt and predicting a breakdown in the
cohesive fabric of society itself.Fuelled by the press reports, people searched for reasons
why this might have happened.? There was
fuelled by police claims that juvenile crime was on the increase, and young
people were out of control, flouting the law due to insufficient penalties for
their misdemeanours.? This prompted
were dismissed by the authorities because claiming the figures a
misrepresentation and only appeared so due to a reduction in numbers in the
?when such crimes didn?t happen?, a debatable point, as it could be argued that
in fact we are probably just more sensitised and to it now due to increased
reporting and public awareness campaigns etc.?
Public opinion demanded stricter authoritarian controls and
control crime, after all, surveillance cameras proved instrumental in the
identification of James Bulger?s killers, however, they had also served another
purpose, and that was to make the public feel more involved with the tragedy,
the film Child?s Play III though there is little evidence in place to support
this argument.In conclusion, moral panics are not a new phenomenon; they
tend to arise in periods of social upheaval and change.? The path of a panic can take one of two
directions; it can quickly die down and is more or less forgotten to a great
degree or can have more serious and lasting implications such as new
legislation and changes in social policy. Society plays their part, encouraged by the press – people
who are in the midst of a moral panic clamour for any available news and
basically believe anything they are told.?
Moral panics feed off guilt that is spread by contagion to make people
feel more comfortable by blaming another group for their deviances.