Moral Panic Essay Research Paper Firstly I

Moral Panic Essay, Research Paper 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

Moral Panic Essay, Research Paper

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

is characterised by a feeling held by a substantial number of a members of a

given society, that evil-doers pose a threat to society and to the moral order

as a consequence of their behaviour and, therefore, ?something should be done

about them and their behaviour?.The term ?moral panic? suggests a dramatic and rapid

overreaction to forms of deviance or wrongdoing believed to be a direct threat

to society. They tend to occur at times of social upheaval when people are

struggling to adjust; there is a general feeling of lack of control and declining

standards.? At these times people tend

to group into a kind of social collective, further defined by identify victims

on which all that is wrong of society may be blamed.? This helps them feel better and more assured.? They have someone to blame for everything

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?

from mainstream society ? being represented and rumoured as ?not to be trusted?

and as ?troublemakers?, social isolation of the ?out-group? results, and they

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

probably seems that way because of course nothing is the past can be altered

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,

so that society can return to stability and order.?? This is followed by a response from public figures such as

politicians, the police force, magistrates and religious leaders amongst others,

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

be acting on the professed threat by providing remedies, possible solutions,

punishments, and in some cases, legislation and social reform.?? Where these are not seen to be effective,

action groups may spring up and in extreme cases lynch mobs formed where people

take matters into their own hands, therefore, breaking the law themselves.One recent example of a moral panic was the case of the

James Bulger murder in the early 1990s.?

Two 11-year-old boys, Robert Thompson and Jon Venables abducted James

from a shopping precinct in Liverpool. They walked him two miles through crowed

streets to a railway line, where they inflicted massive injuries resulting in

his death. This deviant act committed by fellow children dominated newspaper

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.

When Mary Bell killed at age 11 murdered two toddlers in 1968 there was no such

moral panic, and seemed to be largely ignored by the press.? The media used the Bulger case to symbolise

all that was wrong with Britain, they focused on the difference between

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

increasing focus on child crime, this group?s stigmatisation was further

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

demands for tighter controls, curfews for young people and stricter laws.

However, other statistics showed that juvenile crime had indeed dropped, these

were dismissed by the authorities because claiming the figures a

misrepresentation and only appeared so due to a reduction in numbers in the

juvenile population.?? Politicians and

religious leaders called for the restoration of traditional values of the past

?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

even censorship as the deviancy situation was amplified. There was little

public opposition to the government proposal to install more CCTV cameras to

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,

conveying highly emotional images which will probably be never forgotten by

those who saw them, images of a small boy being led away to his death.? There were also calls for stricter controls

on violent films as it was reported that the boys may have been influenced by

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.