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Friday, September 11, 2015

Moral Panic: Who Benefits From Public Fear?

By Scott Bohn
Psychology Today Blog
Originally published July 20, 2015

Here is an excerpt:

Moral panics arise when distorted mass media campaigns are used to create fear, reinforce stereotypes and exacerbate pre-existing divisions in the world, often based on race, ethnicity and social class.

Additionally, moral panics have three distinguishing characteristics.  First, there is a focused attention on the behavior, whether real or imagined, of certain individuals or groups that are transformed into what Cohen referred to as “folk devils” by the mass media. This is accomplished when the media strip these folk devils of all favorable characteristics and apply exclusively negative ones.

Second, there is a gap between the concern over a condition and the objective threat it poses. Typically, the objective threat is far less than popularly perceived due to how it is presented by authorities.

Third, there is a great deal of fluctuation over time in the level of concern over a condition. The typical pattern begins with the discovery of the threat, followed by a rapid rise and then peak in public concern, which then subsequently, and often abruptly, subsides.

Finally, public hysteria over a perceived problem often results in the passing of legislation that is highly punitive, unnecessary, and serves to justify the agendas of those in positions of power and authority.

The entire article is here.
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