Sociology Index


Moral panic is a panic or overreaction to forms of deviance or wrong doing believed to be threats to the moral order. Moral panics are usually fanned by the media and led by community leaders or groups intent on changing laws or practices.

Sociologists are less interested in the validity of the claims made during moral panics than they are with the dynamics of social change and the organizational strategies of moral entrepreneurs

There are five crucial elements that define the moral panic: concern, hostility, consensus, disproportionality and volatility. Concern must be at a heightened level over the perceived threat, and manifest in a concrete way.

This can include ‘opinion polls, public commentary in the form of media attention, proposed legislation, social movement activity, and so on.

There is an increased level of hostility toward those involved in the behaviour that is considered central to the moral threat or moral panic.

Moral panics gather converts because they touch on people's fears and because they also use specific events or problems as symbols of what many feel to represent ‘all that is wrong with the nation’.

Moral panics revolve around many issues. An example of moral panic is the fear that revolves around mobile phone cameras and CCTV cameras.

Moral panics was first popularized in 1972 when Stanley Cohen wrote ‘Folk Devils and Moral Panics: The Creation of the Mods and Rockers’. When a condition, episode, person or group of persons emerges to become defined as a threat to societal values and interests, then moral panic occurs.

Moral panics project fears that surround the introduction of new communications media, including film, television, information phone calls and Internet. These panics are generally fuelled by media coverage of social issues. A moral panic is framed in terms of morality and usually expressed as outrage rather them unadulterated fear over the potential misuse of some technology or practice.

In a technological society, it is the new technologies that figure prominently as the focus of moral panics. Internet pornography and its accessibility to children has been perhaps the longest-running moral panics of recent times.

The Folk Devil Reacts: Gangs and Moral Panic - Jenna L. Cyr 
Previous analyses of moral panics and gangs have emphasized the impact of media images as well as the public, police, and legislative response in relation to the immediate threat posed by gangs and gang members. What is absent from the current moral panic literature is the effect that a moral panic may have on the group (or individual) to whom it is directed. In this article, survey data from gang-involved and non-gag-involved youth, as well as police and gang task force members, are used to extend the empirical analysis of moral panics into the communities at which they are directed, using the criteria set forth by Goode and Ben-Yehuda (1994). The gang moral panic seems to have the power to change how youth in gang-impacted communities conceive and present themselves. -

Moral Panic and Holland’s Libertine Youth of the 1650s and 1660s 
Benjamin B. Roberts, History Department at the Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam, the Netherlands 
Leendert F. Groenendijk, Faculty of Arts and Faculty of Psychology and Educational Sciences at the Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam, the Netherlands 
During the 1650s and 1660s, the Dutch Republic witnessed a wave of moral panic created by moralists. Every natural disaster, economic setback, and war that the Republic was involved in was considered to be a sign of God’s wrath on Holland’s newly acquired freedom, wealth, and secular society. This article examines the moral crusade of the 1650s and 1660s, and discovers that moralists were more upset that the Dutch Republic became a secular society and did not evolve into a theocratic state or "Dutch Israel," as they had hoped. Holland’s youth were used as a scapegoat to create moral panic among political leaders in order to reform Holland’s secular society.

Primary Definitions of Crime and Moral Panic:
Research on crime news continues to generate scholarly interest, particularly in the realm of social constructionism. From this perspective, researchers have documented the process by which crime is shaped into news—especially the pivotal role played by law enforcement officials. In this study, the authors contribute to this area of inquiry by administering a content analysis of 105 feature articles on crime published in four national newspapers between 1992 and 1995. In addition to exploring the topics of crime, they systematically examined the nature of quotes offered by two groups of experts, namely, state managers (e.g., police and politicians) and intellectuals (e.g., professors). The significance of primary definitions of crime within the context of the dominant ideology and moral panic is discussed at length.

Kill the Cat Killers: Moral Panic and Juvenile Crime in Slovenia - Gregor Bulc 
Through the concept of moral panic, the author analyzes public reactions to three high school boys from Trzic, Slovenia, who were accused of killing more than forty cats in March 2000. The author uses discourse analysis to interpret newspaper articles and television reports and to examine the nature of quotes offered by state agents and experts. The analysis is based on the constructionist paradigm and focuses on the claim makers rather than the behavior and people defined as deviant. The author emphasizes the considerable role of the mass media, experts, interest groups, and popular myths in the emergence of the moral panic. He argues that moral panics regarding youth function as a symptom of broader ideological struggles between different discourses and regulative practices.

Aids, Moral Panic and Opinion Polls - Yvette Rocheron , Olga Linn´┐Ż 
This article looks critically at the current literature about Aids and relates some of the assumptions to the concept of the `moral panic'. It discusses this concept in relation to what we know about mass communication effects today and looks at the encoding and decoding of messages in a specific social context.

Moral Panics: The Social Construction of Deviance - Goode and Ben-Yehuda
Moral Panics is an indispensable text for every scholar. Moral panics is one of the most important sociological ideas.