Societies generally appear to be the subject of moral panic now and then. Moral panic is a condition where there is a concern over the behaviour of certain group or a particular category and is a threat to the societal values and interests.(Cohen 1973).
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In the past it has been the ‘drug culture’ of the fifties and sixties, or the disruptive behaviour of the Mods and Rockers, today we face panics over ‘children who kill other children and also the threat to our health from outbreaks of BSE and E.coli food poisoning, teenagers gripped by a ‘new and threatening drug epidemic, paedophile is one of the most prominent moral panic now a days( Watson 1989).
To get a clear view on moral panic the essay focuses on the case study of moral panic created by the recent Paedophilia case as Craig Sweeney, 24, was jailed for life at Cardiff crown court for the kidnapping and sexual assault of a three-year-old girl in 2006.
Firstly the essay discusses about how the media handles moral panic in good terms and would also explore on advantages of moral panic and the results of it. Secondly the essay expounds on the criticism of moral panic and the role of media in causing moral panic and as well as controlling it . Lastly the essay explains about the internet and in context to moral panic.
Firstly the essay explains about the media handling moral panic and the advantages of moral panic. Modern moral panics are unthinkable without the media as the best way to understand the moral panics is through the media. The media used the case of a three year old girl getting sexually assaulted by Sweeney who was 24 years who was known to the girls family in 2006. The article was published in Guardian newspaper and the media issued a moral message for the nation to take on and poses that its a evil world so the nation needs strict rules. The media highlights and presents many issues and concerns to society and the public to gain awareness about the societal issues. The media played an specific role in expressing and activating hostility towards the paedophiles. Cohen ( 1973) states that the understanding the role of media becomes central . Most of the people are dependant on the media in knowing about the causes of deviance and their social reaction depends upon the information available. The media also informs about right and wrong and the boundaries beyond one shouldn’t venture. Thus the media becomes central during moral panics.
Furthermore, moral panics cause society to believe that the crime is worse. The path of the panic, that is in response to the growing concern and panic over child sex offences has more serious and lasting implications such as incorporation into legislation and social policy, that is the National Sex Offenders Register (Paedophile Register) in the late 1990s, However, according to Thompson(1998) there is a chance of the moral panic to either quickly die out and the intents and purpose is forgotten and also it might be that the public and media are searching for some new news. There has been criticism of moral panic and the media in the recent years. In fact according to Ben- Yehuda (1985), ” Moral panics serve as a mechanism for simultaneously strengthening and redrawing society’s moral boundaries”. The moral panic of the particular paedophilia case did not focus only on that three year old but also focused on the increasing rate of the paedophilia cases in the UK. Having looked at the good term of moral panic further the essay criticises moral panic.
According to Watney( 1988) moral panic is criticised for implying that the state as a monolithic entity which initiates or exploits moral panics. Secondly the criticism of moral panic is in relation to the media. As mentioned above in the essay that the media is central during moral panic, However the media has been criticised in many ways. Cohen (1972) argued that the characterized press coverage of the events as ‘exaggerated attention, exaggerated events, distortion, and stereotyping. It basically explains that the media tends to exaggerates the news and creates a greater amount of panic in the beginning of the moral panics. Thus the case of the three year old sexually getting assaulted, the media not only were the events over-reported but the coverage awarded them far outweighed their importance. Due to distorted and repeated false stories of the media seemed that the order of the day with little time or interest being given to what actually happened in fact generally the coverage of the press was seen to follow a stereotypical pattern and is a firm indicator of a moral panic taking place .
For instance the case paedophilia, the media tend to cover the same stories in which the public might loose interest. The public on the other hand must show the potential to react to a particular issue in order for a media campaign to be built. For as Goode and Ben-Yehuda explain, that ” the media may well be ‘infused with hysteria about a particular issue or condition’ but if this does not generate public concern then there is no moral panic” (Goode & Ben-Yehuda 1994: 26). However according to Fishman and Davis (1980) the repeated or the prolonged moral panics about the specific issues like the paedophilia cases which are a rise in UK give rise to the development of the dynamic characteristics of the social problem. On the other hand Rocheron and Linne(1989) explains that the moral panic is still criticised because it tends to attribute to the mass media which has the power to manipulate the public opinion and also fails to differentiate between what the public thinks as well as what the paper say.
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The new media also plays an important role in the case of moral panic. The real truth about paedophiles and the cases about paedophilia is not new to the public. What is suggested, however, is that there is now far more known about the prevalence of paedophilia. According to Curen J(1991)The news in internet are well reported, and newspapers can be browsed online on the internet which have done their bit to expose paedophile rings. Thus the public, when asked about their panic and violent fury toward paedophiles, quite understandably often point to the ‘figures’ they are presented with (often by the press), figures which tell them child abuse is everywhere. However, Jenkins (1992) the internet can be the cause of moral panic, as due to the easy access now a days and the youth are exposed to the crime through the videos online and also pornography can be a reason for the increasing rate of the paedophile cases in UK. Thus the new media like the internet might be one of the causes for the increase rate in such cases.
To sum up the view of moral panic, the essay critically discussed about the concept of moral panic referring to the case of paedophilia where by a three year old girl was sexually assaulted by a 24 year old man. The essay critically analysed the concept of moral panic as it expounds on both sides of the coins that is the criticism of moral panic as well as the advantages of it. Firstly the essay discussed about the reaction of the media in context to moral panics in good terms and further more it also looks upon the advantages of moral panic like in creating awareness to the public. The essay also explains about the results of the paedophilia cases in the UK. Secondly as the essay is critically analysing the concept of moral panic, looks upon the criticism of moral panic and the reaction of the media. As the essay explains about the exaggeration of the moral panic with in the media and also states that the repeated news does not have an impact on the public. Finally the essay explains about the new media that is the internet in context to the rise of the paedophile cases. As explained before due to the easy access to the World wide web it is possible that the youth are prone to watch pornography which might be a concern in the rise of the paedophile cases. Thus the moral panic is critically analysed.
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