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
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
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
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 Hollands Libertine Youth of the 1650s and 1660s
Benjamin B. Roberts, History Department at the Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam, the
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 Gods wrath on Hollands 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. Hollands youth were used as a scapegoat to create
moral panic among political leaders in order to reform Hollands secular society.
Primary Definitions of Crime and Moral Panic:
MICHAEL WELCH, MELISSA FENWICK, MEREDITH ROBERTS
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 newsespecially 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 -
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
Aids, Moral Panic and Opinion Polls - Yvette Rocheron , Olga
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.