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Moral Panic.

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Moral Panic 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. ...read more.


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. ...read more.


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. ...read more.

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