Critical Readings: Moral Panics and the Media

Critical Readings: Moral Panics and the Media

Critical Readings: Moral Panics and the Media

Critical Readings: Moral Panics and the Media

Synopsis

First coined by Stanley Cohen in 1972, 'moral panic' is a key term in media studies, used to refer to sudden eruptions of indignant concern about social issues. An occurrence of moral panic is characterised by stylized and stereotypical representation by the mass media, and a tendency for those in power to claim the moral high ground and pronounce judgement. In this important book, Chas Critcher brings together essential readings on moral panics, which he contextualises in the light of moral panic scholarship through an editor's introduction and concise section introductions. The first section discusses moral panic models, and includes contributions on the history and intellectual background of the concept. Differences in thinking between British and American moral panic scholarship are also examined. A second section features important case studies, including AIDS, Satanism, drugs, paedophilia and asylum seekers. This is followed by readings that look at themes such as the importance of language, rhetoric and discourse; the dynamics of media reporting and how it affects public opinion; and the idea of the 'risk society'. Finally, readings critique and debate the use and relevance of moral panic models. Critical Readings: Moral Panics And The Media is a valuable resource for students and researchers in media studies, criminology and sociology. Essays by: David L. Altheide, Nachman Ben-Yehuda, Joel Best, Theodore Chiricos, John Clarke, Stan Cohen, Chas Critcher, Mary deYoung, Julie Dickinson, Erich Goode, Johanna Habermeier, Stuart Hall, Sean P. Hier, Tony Jefferson, Philip Jenkins, Hans Mathias Kepplinger, Jennifer Kitzinger, Daniel Maier-Katkin, Angela McRobbie, Peter Meylakhs, Suzanne Ost, Bryan Roberts, Liza Schuster, Stephen Stockwell, Kenneth Thompson, Sarah L. Thornton, Sheldon Ungar, Simon Watney, Jeffrey Weeks, Michael Welch, Paul Williams.

Excerpt

To unravel the notion of 'moral panic' in conceptual terms, Chas Critcher's perceptive introduction to this volume reminds us, it is helpful to consider its initial formulation in Stanley Cohen's book, Folk Devils and Moral Panics: The Creation of the Mods and Rockers, first published in 1972. Cohen, having borrowed the phrase from a colleague (Jock Young's study of the social meaning of drug-taking), proceeded to elaborate a general theory of what constitutes a moral panic, and how they operate. The oftquoted opening passage of his book offers a succinct description of its principal features:

Societies appear to be subject, every now and then, to periods of moral
panic. A condition, episode, person or group of persons emerges to
become defined as a threat to societal values and interests; its nature is
presented in a stylized and stereotypical fashion by the mass media; the
moral barricades are manned by editors, bishops, politicians and other
right-thinking people; socially accredited experts pronounce their
diagnoses and solutions; ways of coping are evolved or (more often)
resorted to; the condition then disappears, submerges or deteriorates
and becomes more visible. Sometimes the object of the panic is quite
novel and at other times it is something which has been in existence
long enough, but suddenly appears in the limelight. Sometimes the
panic passes over and is forgotten, except in folklore and collective
memory; at other times it has more serious and long-lasting reper
cussions and might produce such changes as those in legal and social
policy or even in the way the society conceives itself.

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