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So what the media produces is what the public wants to here. The intensification of the media’s articles on subjects are ready-made and they have usually an emotional and far reaching opinion about what should be done. Again Cohen says these are (Cohen, 1980: p 199) “the moral barricades” “are manned by editors, bishops, politicians and other right-thinking people; socially accredited experts pronounce their diagnoses and solutions”
Really what we mean is that if there is a potential to threaten social order then currently Youth Culture is probably the number one culprit. Looking into the Mods and Rockers era of the 1960’s the media was criticised for over-reacting. Reporting huge clashes with young out of control teenagers who were only there for one thing and that was to fight and cause as much chaos and havoc on the beaches of many resorts throughout the UK.
Eamonn Walsh (2009) I predict a riot: Panorama on Mods and Rockers [Online Image] Available at
http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/panorama/2009/05/i_predict_a_riot_panorama_on_m.html ( Accessed 10 November 2010)
In fact many of them liked to have a day out in their particular youth culture. What the public saw as a riot was seen by the Mods and Rockers as having a good time.
Moral Panic therefore can be seen as a perception it can define certain criteria and characteristics of modern day social problems. These problems emerge from time to time and can be directed by the media into their judgement on what the answer or remedy should be. In fact this can increase in intensity and ceased upon by so called specialists or experts, that will maintain that particular theme of contemporary youth culture at the time and make it into a frenzy. So it is easy to see that Moral Panics are reactions to perceived threats.
So how can I liken an event in the same way in these days. Since the election the Conservative and Liberal parties have shown their own government figures that (D. Martin August 2010) “more than 100,000 young people are living on benefit”. What the government are saying is that up to 75% of claimants are able to work and are not sick at all. They can use the figures to blame the outgoing government and create a modern incitement into the current youth, this in turn invokes a moral panic. One M.P was even quoted as saying (Mr Grayling M.P) “These figures are a sad indictment…. and I am shocked at the challenge we now face”. The public are now seeing that many young people are living of benefits that they are paying from their taxes. This clearly can show some intense responses gathering momentum to hysterical effects. This is in many ways is an exaggerated perception that the Coalition wish to cover as a social issue and need the public reaction to be expressed in outrage. But at the same time giving the impression that they are best suited to be able to overcome this fear and do something about it and get young people back into the working environment.
Moving on to a slightly different tack, but still using the same route mentioned above in young people and contemporary youth culture. We can look at young unemployed girls who deliberately get themselves pregnant. This is seen as a social issue that has caused moral panic in the media by what is reported as thousands of young girls staying single getting pregnant and then asking the local authority to house them taking them out of the labour market. As they don’t work they also live on state benefits jump the housing cue and have been given the designation of “deliberately getting pregnant to get all handouts” This ran for a long time in the late 90’s and still comes back into the media as a moral threat to society. This sensationalism I suspect has now bought an urgency into the coalition government where they will stop this “freeloading” and will deal with part of Youth Culture which will see them in a light of dealing with the situation in what will be seen as a popular and welcome move.
A similarity with current trends with Cohen’s study of the Mods and Rockers is young people going around in hoodies. If a crowd appear, the moral panic appears to be that if you wear a hoodie you will be part of a gang on the rampage or maybe even involved gun crime or knives. In an article from “Workers Liberty” dated 5th June 2005 one of the largest retail parks in the Country Bluewater, in Kent decided to ban the wearing of hoodies in their shopping centre. The reason given was that groups of people, young males in particular wearing hoodies might cause customers to find them threatening and stay away from their retail park. I personally think that the moral panic here worked in Bluewaters favour. It sent an immediate message to all customers, don’t go anywhere your hoodie-infested local shops and come to our safe environment.
Apart from stereotyping the youth, there were many retail clothing outlets that actually stocked hoodies and in fact promoted the purchase of them because they knew that young people walking around Bluewater would buy them. They came in their thousands!
Interestingly it could be that such topics involved in Moral Panics have existed for some time. Then suddenly along comes an incident that can start the concept. In fact on most occasions this comes and goes and is soon forgotten ready for the next occasion. One of the occasions that has had very deep and lasting obsession to do with Youth Culture was the Leah Betts episode. This involved drugs abuse in youths and was and still is a relevant contemporary part of youth culture. Another study which had a lot to do with young people taking drugs was written by Jock Young. This was a study into youths smoking cannabis. This time of behaviour was soon latched onto and vehemently condemned. In her book Postmodern and Popular Culture McRobbie says of Young (McRobbie, 1994 p.204) “Young, increased the likelihood for further deviance……. Young, argued that the media can contribute to social problems”. With that said looking at the Leah Betts case, It was one of the biggest media episode’s in history. The drugs abuse circus was in full swing and although it keeps appearing now and again, Leah Betts bought it right into the front line.
A classic Moral Panic headline was given by the Independent on Sunday on January 21st 1996. “Ecstasy is the equivalent of slaughtering babies” This made compelling headlines and allowed the paper to sell many additional copies. The emotional lines of a few simple words was in fact not strictly true. Leah Betts death it was officially stated died from drowning because of the excess water intake she had from taking the Ecstasy Pill.
The whole feeding circus would not let go and her parents made many sacrifices in trying to pursued the general public that ecstasy was the number one danger to youth in this day and age. Even to the point of showing Leah unconscious on the ward of her hospital.
So a Contemporary Youth Culture such as “Drug Taking” is looked at in terms in society, of perhaps unable to take accountability of its own failures.
Just before leaving the Leah Betts story, An unfortunate internal memo from the Glasgow Social Services Director in 1996 was leaked, where the Director had said “Ecstasy is a relatively safe Drug” So was this director being sensible and was her memo taken out of context. She likened “E” as “nothing like as dangerous as drink and tobacco, for instance, and three times more people die of paracetemol, while thousands more young people die driving their first car”. Some people even warned her ” Public people cannot speak honestly about drugs and hope to live!
In conclusion I will use a quote from Cohen as to why “Moral Panics” in Contemporary Youth Cultures will continue to flourish and will not go away. (Cohen, 1987. P 204) “More Moral Panics will be generated and other, as yet nameless, folk devils will be created. This is not because such developments have an inexorable inner logic, but because our society as present structured will continue to generate problems for some its members”
The examples I have given outline contemporary youth cultures in different aspects and undoubtedly are still being able to incite moral panic and will continue in the foreseeable future. Perhaps if the media were unable to do this how would they provide a popular point of view for people to support or indeed worry about that it could affect them.
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