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Analyzing The Moral Panic Of Media Media Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Media
Wordcount: 1080 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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Thompson(1998) describes 5 key elements in a moral panic. It is something or someone who is defined as a threat to values and interests; the threat is depicted in an easily recognisable form by the media, with use of aspects such as Exaggeration, distortion, prediction and symbolisation. This then causes a rapid build up of public concern. Newspaper coverage and news broadcasts are commonly known to exaggerate issues in society which then encourage the public to react timorous to the concerns. Lastly, moral panics are continuously used to result in; a response from the authorities or opinion-makers. Thus, this included changes made evident from law enforcement, the councils and general charity organisations. The final element is that panic recedes or results in social changes.

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There are many issues that are often subject to moral panics such as Youth Crime/Gun Crime, Binge Drinking, child abuse, sex and violent behaviour, drug abuse, paedophilia, the law and asylum seekers and immigration policy. A moral panic can be defined in several ways, one definition is a kind of short-hand for public hysteria, by definition irrational, and is almost always held to be indicative of someone elses behaviour rather than our own (Critcher, 2003). The media directs its judgments and perspectives at members of society that are classed as unacceptable or deviant.

In his book Moral Panics and the Media, Chas Critcher explains that Moral panics involve a ¿½heightened level of concern over the behaviour of a certain group or category and the consequences that the behaviour presumably cause for the rest of society(Critcher,2003,pg 23). A moral panic must be manifested in concrete ways in other words there must be a public commentary in the form of media; such as newspaper coverage and news broadcasts. In relation to Thompsons description the media then proposes legislation and social movement activity. The media is acting as a voice for the public; some may argue that it offers biased/distorted views of issues which therefore cause a moral panic. Conversely, it can also be argued that the media plays a crucial role in establishing a moral panic as a way of creating awareness to the public; thus without media involvement this is not possible.

A key subject that is continuously making heavy appearances in tabloid newspapers and news broadcasts daily; is Gun/Knife crime which is commonly affiliated with youth culture/youth gangs.

To understand how Thompsons, Critchers and other theorists concept of moral panic works, analysis of media coverage is critical.

The media has developed and distorted representations of British youth for a long time, and certain coverage in British cinema, documentaries, press coverage and broadcasting have made it evident that the representation of ¿½youth¿½ is seen as a threat to many. However the coverage differentiates from different forms of media. The coverage of moral panics in broadcasting differs to press; television news broadcasts, are described as unbiased and therefore have a minor affect on moral panics as the impact might have not been on such a large scale. However in major moral panics they tend to have the same large amount of coverage on daily.

British Youth are constantly being associated with factors such as drug abuse, low achievers, under age drinking, ASBO¿½s , violence; leading to such headlines as ¿½Britain a nation of yobs¿½. The term ¿½yob¿½ and ¿½thug¿½ is commonly used in numerous press cuttings specifically from tabloid newspapers such as¿½The Sun¿½ and the ¿½Daily mail¿½. It can be argued that the depiction of a sterotypicaly ¿½thug¿½ is being used as the ¿½Folk Devil¿½. Moreover the use of these metaphors are adding to the sensation of the moral panic ¿½Yobs must get tough sentences not a slap on the wrist¿½, ¿½Another stab victim dies, yet yobs with blades could escape with fine¿½, ¿½Thug stabs student to death¿½ and ¿½Blade Britian¿½.

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The headlines are poignant and direct,¿½1 day. 5 dead¿½, this encourages the readers to be aware but also an element of paranoia can be injected provoking public distress, causing a stir in society. There is use of emotive language such as ¿½His mother has run out of tears¿½ and use of alliterations in ¿½Kids killing kids, families in fear, its time to say, No More¿½, these are examples of rhetoric which newspapers use to persuade its readers in supporting their views. An example the initial making of a moral panic is a headline used in the Daily Mail; ¿½Random attack by thugs every 30 seconds¿½. This can be described as heavily exaggerated which provokes public reaction and emotion.

On the other hand, youth crime is rapidly increasing, in society. ¿½The ‘amplification’ which takes place through the media’s work serves to appeal to the public so that they concur with ready-made opinions about the course of action to be taken. Combined with the opinions of the ‘experts’ who are wheeled out to give their diagnosis, they reach an agreement about how to cope with the situation in hand, and the problem either disappears or at least deteriorates.¿½(Burns:2000). In reference to Youth crime; various ¿½anti-gun/knife crime¿½ campaigns have been made and according to an article in 2008 from the ¿½Sunday Mirror¿½ the home secretary Jacqui smith states that ¿½thugs carrying knives will face four years in jail¿½. It can also be argued that moral panics can result in social change.

In Conclusion, Sometimes ¿½panics¿½ have existed in society for a considerable time but a particular event has triggered the significance; although generally they pass as quickly as they came and are long forgotten. The media¿½s involvement plays a crucial role in the establishment of moral panics, as it raises awareness of serious ongoing issues. However it can be argued that it promotes a bias nature which can ultimately prevent the public from the truth. ¿½Yobs must get tough sentences not a slap on the wrist¿½.(The Sun;2008). The media¿½s powerful role can be criticised for using moral panics to enforce the ideas and rules about the government. Moral panics will continue to dominate society and the media; provoking public concern and sometimes legislation but there will always be questions doubting whether it does reinforces public opinion and if it is a voice for the people or a propaganda tool for the rich and powerful.


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