Moral Panic

A “Moral Panic” refers to the response and resulting actions of a specific group of people based on the false notion that another particular group of people pose a threat to society. Stanley Cohen, in his work, Folk Devils and Moral Panic defined the concept as “as a sporadic episode which, as it occurs, subject’s society to bouts of moral panic, or in other terms, worry about the values and principles which society upholds which may be in jeopardy.” [Cohen, 1987]

Characteristics
Moral Panics have been described as “a condition, episode, person or group of persons [who] become defined as a threat to societal values and interests." [Cohen, 1987: 9]

3 Stages
There are a number of stages which contribute to a “Moral Panic” situation.

Stage 1: Initial Event
An event takes place and because of its controversial nature the media decide it is worthy to be over dramatized. The event is then reported in such a way as to create a sense of worry, panic and anger. E.g. The American Pastor planning to burn the Quran in 2009.

Stage 2: Propaganda realized
The event in question is linked with a wider spectrum of society and the story of the event is expanded significantly. “Experts” are then invited to give their opinions and suggest that this event is the first of a wave or the start of a trend.

Stage 3: Resolution
Society then seeks a resolution commonly resulting in a change in the law which would castigate the people who the original event was centred on. E.g. Young black males being randomly stopped and search due to a rise in knife crime.

References
as a sporadic episode which, as it occurs, subject’s society to bouts of moral panic, or in other terms, worry about the values and principles which society upholds which may be in jeopardy.” [Cohen, 1987] http://www.aber.ac.uk/media/Students/hrb9701.html
“a condition, episode, person or group of persons [who] become defined as a threat to societal values and interests." [Cohen, 1987: 9] http://www.aber.ac.uk/media/Students/hrb9701.html

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