Consensus. The achievement of social unity through shared agreement.
Demonisation. The act of labelling individuals/groups whose norms,
attitudes/behaviours are seen to constitute „evilness‟.
Traditionally characterised as folk devils and subjects of
Deviance. Social and usually moral (as opposed to legal), concept to
describe rule-breaking behaviour.
Deviancy amplification The moral discourse established by journos and various
spiral. other authorities, opinion leaders and moral entrepreneurs
who collectively demonise a perceived wrong-doer/group
as a source of moral decline and social disintegration,
setting off a chain of public, political and police reaction.
Folk devils. Individual/group defined as a threat to society, it‟s values
Labelling. Sociological approach to crime and deviancy that refers to
the social processes by which certain groups classify and
Moral panic. Hostile and disproportional social reaction to a condition,
episode, person or group defined as a threat.
Risk. Concept that emerged to dominate discussions of late
Risk society. Denotes the social shift for the pre-industrial tendency to
view negative events as random acts of god/nature, to the
post-industrial preoccupation with manmade changes and
Signal crime. Incidents/offences that, when seen/experienced, may trigger
a change in public beliefs/behaviour.
Social reaction. Social process characterising responses to crime and
deviance encompassing public, political, CJ and media
relations, often used to signify the processes of labelling,
stereotyping and stigmatising.
Stigmatising. Process by which an individual/group is discredited because
of some aspect of their appearance/behaviour.
Subculture. Groups of young people whose appearance, norms and
behaviour differ from those of the mainstream or parent
Youth. Imprecise period between infant and adulthood. In media
reporting they‟re more frequently linked to offending than
“A moral panic may be defined as an episode, often triggered by alarming media
stories and reinforced by reactive laws and public policy, of exaggerated or
misdirected public concern, anxiety, fear, or anger over a perceived threat to social
Varied in intensity, duration and social impact.
Media‟s role in the creation of moral panics. The reactions of „society‟s guardians‟ (e.g. media) to an immediate problem.
o Reaction was largely disproportionate to the alleged threat posed.
o Exaggerated and gave rise to anxiety in the public.
Crimes that are being reported are largely disproportionate – kind of reporting
that amplifies a problem and demands an immediate response.
The moral panic model
Defining features of moral panics:
o Moral panics occur when the mass media take a reasonably ordinary
event and present it as an extraordinary occurrence.
o The media set in motion a deviancy amplification spiral in which a
moral discourse is established.
o Moral panics clarify the moral boundaries of the society in which they
occur, creating consensus and concern.
o Moral panics occur during periods of rapid social change, and can be
said to locate and crystallise wider social anxieties about risk.
o It is usually young people that are targeted, as they are a metaphor for
the future and their behaviour is regarded as a barometer with which to
test the health/sickness of a society.
How the mass media turn the ordinary into the extraordinary
Like any other newsworthy event, the media construct moral panics according
to their criteria of „news values‟.
o Exaggeration and distortion are key elements in the meeting of the
required threshold to turn a potential news events into an actual story.
Moral panics also frequently involve predictability – media prognoses that
what has happened will inevitably happen again.
Simplification occurs through a process of symbolisation whereby names can
be made to simplify complex ideas and emotions.
o A word