Assess Sociological Explanations of the Role of the Mass Media in Creating Moral Panics About Crime and Deviance

1259 Words Feb 2nd, 2015 6 Pages
Assess sociological explanations of the role of the mass media in creating moral panics about crime and deviance:

A moral panic is the process of arousing social concern over an issue, this is often an exaggerated over-reaction by society to a perceived problem, which is usually driven or inspired by the media. In this situation the reaction ends up amplifying the problem out of proportion to its real seriousness. This creates anxiety amongst the general population, and this therefore puts pressure on the agents of social control to deal with the problem, who then act accordingly to the group responsible for the panic. There is a strong relationship between mass media and crime. On average, around 30% of newspaper content is dedicated
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This creates public anxiety and puts a great deal of pressure on the authorities to stamp down on the problem group and its rebellious activities. New laws, increased policing and severe punishments are often a result of the media’s coverage of the issue. Although, a self- fulfilling prophecy may develop as the group resists the attempts that are put in place to control it, this leads to an increase in arrests and more reporting. A deviancy amplification spiral therefore results, meaning that deviance could increase as a result of the moral panic.
An early moral panic involves Mods VS Rockers in 1964. Events that were actually just a few scuffles between youths and vandalism were report in an exaggerated way. The media portrayed this event as a ‘Day of Terror’ and words such as ‘Riots’ and ‘battle’ were used. Cohen suggests over reporting of this far outweighed the importance of the actual event. He argues that the media tapped into a social consensus, that all the public shared concerns about the general decline in morality of the young and the emergence of a strong youth culture. Consequently the two groups were perceived in a stereotypical and distorted way.
According to Furedi (1994) moral panics arise when society fails to adapt to dramatic social change or modernization. For example, the first moral panics about youth in the 1950s and 1960s coincided with youth becoming a distinctive consumer group with values, norms of behaviour and