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Explain and Discuss Moral Panics.

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Explain and Discuss Moral Panics Moral panics have been described as a condition, episode, person or group of persons which emerge to become defined as a threat to societal values and interests (Cohen, 1972, p.9). They often occur during times when society has been unable to adapt to significant change and when such change leads to a fear of a loss of control within the normal social structure. This was evident during the 1960s when society experienced such modernising trends as the so called 'sexual revolution'. When events, such as those found in the 1960's, occur there is a concern that moral standards are in decline and entire generations can sometimes be accused of undermining society's moral structure. Moral panics can occur both as novel events, or events which have been in existence within society for a long time and have suddenly become an issue of importance and concern. Many panics result in official change and have serious and long-lasting repercussions, as was the case following the panic concerning so called 'video nasties', which led to the Video Recording Act of 1984 introducing the regulation of videos via the British Board of Film Classification. The debates concerning the issue centred upon the lack of parental control in monitoring children's viewing and the dangers posed by certain programmes and films to young people (Lusted, 1991, p.14). The concern of 'video nasties' reappeared in the 1990's following the murder of the toddler James Bulger by two juveniles. The case was related to the violent film 'Child's Play 3', which the offenders had previously watched. The case and the implications made against the film resulted in further regulations being enacted in 1994. The example of such 'video nasties' illustrates a further characteristic of moral panics, highlighting the fact that they are often based on insubstantial evidence. As Lusted points out there is 'considerable difficulty in establishing causal connections between television violence and violent behaviour' (Lusted, 1991, p.14). ...read more.


Like many other panics the issue being raised is not new and children have often been left alone in the past. Yet, the current concern over juvenile crime has led to a reaction against single parent families and the two concerns are now intrinsically related in the eyes of the public as a result of the media's attention to them. During the past month the concern over the affects of single parent families has again been raised and linked to the issue of the amount of time many fathers are spending with their children. The press are now not simply concerned with those families being raised by one parent, but have expanded their criticisms to those families in which the father figure is absent for any length of time. Following a report entitled 'Talking About My Generation', which was commissioned by the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, both the Daily Mail and the Times published articles on the 10th April, 1997, raising concerns over the amount of time fathers spend with their children. Both articles illustrate the roles of the press in orchestrating panics, with headings such as, 'Where's daddy?'. In both articles fathers are seen to be responsible for neglecting their children and the use of language in both papers can be seen to clearly criticise men who in many circumstances are forced to sacrifice time spent with their children in order to support their families financially. The Daily Mail refers to them as 'Remote', whilst the Times considers them to be 'neglecting their children'. Clearly, the use of such negative language instils certain views in the public's conscience and it immediately creates a negative idea of modern fathers. The inclusion of official reports and figures in press articles serves to heighten public fears over issues and in a way substantiates the claims put forward by the media. Newspapers often point to the decline of public standards in their reporting and orchestration of moral panics, and they continually compare and relate issues to the supposed 'good old days', indicating that in the past such things would not have occurred. ...read more.


Both Harvey and Gallagher can be seen to have been hailed as deviants by the media and the situation brought to light many issues including the supposed link between the corrupting influence of pop music and drugs on the young. This issue had been raised during the 1960's, most evidently in the actions of the media and the authorities in their harassment of The Rolling Stones who were seen to be a threat to society in many ways most notably due to their use of drugs. The national press, particularly the News Of The World believed them to be responsible for the decline of morals within 1960s society and continually instilled fear into the minds of parents throughout the country. As was the case in the 1960's, both Harvey and Gallagher can be seen to have been used as scapegoats by the media in order to find answers as to why many young people are wanting to take illegal drugs. The concern of ecstasy in Britain illustrates many aspects of moral panics and highlights the way such issues are portrayed and orchestrated by the media. Clearly, following the death of Leah Betts the use of the drug has become a prominent fear in our society and every parent is now aware that their child could fall victim to the dangers of ecstasy. Yet, as with many moral panics the truth and realities surrounding the problem remain unclear and distorted as a result of the media's orchestration of the issue. Due to the publicity generated by the Betts' and the media's commitment to their cause, however well intended, the true facts regarding the dangers of the drug have been distorted and exaggerated and have led to the public persecution of those people, such as Brian Harvey and Noel Gallagher, who have made comments opposed to their beliefs on the subject. Such people have, as is the case with so many moral panics, become 'deviants' deemed threatening to our society as a result of the media's reporting of their views and actions. ...read more.

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