Crime, Moral Panics and the Media Essay

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Most people use second hand information as their core source of information about crime, this source of information usually being the media. When carrying out sample research in Birmingham, Susan Smith (1984) discovered that 52% of people obtained most of their information about crime from the media, 36% obtained it from hearsay or alleged experiences of friends and neighbours, 3% from their own experiences, and 1% from the police service themselves (cited in Jones, 2001; 8). However the media tend to exaggerate upon areas of criminal activity causing a moral panic.

‘A moral panic is a semi- spontaneous or media generated mass movement based on the perception that some individual or group
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As mentioned earlier Stanley Cohen (1972) is one of prominent sociologists that devised the term ‘moral panic’. He defined the concept as

‘A sporadic episode which, as it occurs, subject’s society to bouts of moral panic, or in other terms, worries about the values and principles which society upholds which may be in jeopardy’ (Cohen, 1987; 9).

The term ‘moral panic’ was introduced by Stanley Cohen (1972) in his book entitled ‘Folk Devils and Moral Panics’. This was as a result of the studies he carried out on the UK’s media and social reaction to the ‘Mods and the Rockers’ in the 1960’s. The research was based upon a group of working-class youths; there were two groups of people who fought on the Clacton beach leaving many beach huts vandalised. Therefore this became front page news within the media, the press claiming that ‘Clacton had been terrorised by rampaging groups of ‘Mods’ and ‘Rockers’’ (Jones, 2001; 84). The media captured the interest of the public by using eye catching head lines and phrases, some of the phrases incorporated in the test include ‘riot’, ‘siege’, and ‘screaming mob’ (The Guardian). They use such words in a ‘moral panic’ to try and catch the attention of the public’s eye.

A moral panic is not a new phenomenon it is an…