Lecture 11: Moral Panics
Moral Entrepreneurs & Rule Creation
Crusade: eliminate perceived evil
Getting a particular object / social behavior negatively labelled
Threat to society
Values, health, race,
Theory of moral panic and deviance: more elaborate form of this proposition.
Getting a negative label removed: for example, homosexuality was for a long time an image that moral crusaders tried to
ban as a threat to society.
100 years later: some groups fought hard to remove the stigma surrounding it and became successful while some did not
and still have outlaws in place against homosexuality.
Deviance is created:
By society; or rather some powerful actors belonging to society.
Most often, deviance is created by certain actors in society.
They are what we refer to as moral entrepreneurs : crusaders that want to change things by eliminating perceived evil [2
forms;  some phenomenon and groups as a threat to society  pass laws to police it and those who have this power
have the power to point to others and label them as deviant people/threats.
Individuals that can come together and make a social movement
RCMP was active in promoting antidrug laws
Driving force behind almost all legislations concerning drugs in Canada.
Social Movements Battered Women’s syndrome
1920’s Prohibition: alcohol considered to be evil; small Christian group got together and rallied to ban the sale of alcohol.
Some succeeded and some did not
Organizations: like the RCMP are in the business of enforcing rules and laws.
Specific interests: justification of occupation, gaining status, increase their resources and funding available to people.
Organizational interests are at the center of creating evil.
Great deal of discretion
Use it to label and create deviants
Often to those not prone to rule breaking
Other Related Concepts
Deviant Career: because of their continued deviant behavior, the roughnecks were continuously caught and more likely to
Continuous involvement with deviance as a result of labeling.
Chambliss: roughs vs the saints
Inequalities in labeling process: class based nature suggests that the poorer you are, you are more likely to end up in the
grips of the CJS. [one way or another]
Effects lifechances and subsequent deviance
Practical Effects in Canada
Labeling Theory: influence by Youth Offender Acts (1984) | created as a means to prevent children from being effected by
their involvement in crime.
Going through a phase of neoliberal conservatism Stanley Cohen & Moral Panics
Media: profit driven exaggeration, distortion = Created a new reality
Public: reaction to events
Disaster Mentality: getting out of hand; indicative of larger problems
Politicians and Legislation: election driven; introduce legislation
Law & Enforcement
Diffusion: strengthened ties between branches, new branches created
Escalation: agencies / enhancements of power, scope of law enforcement is broadening; stiffer sentences | Zealous and
Action groups (Becker’s Moral Entrepreneurs)
Creation / Management of panic
Work with: Media politicians, law enforcement, public
Folk Devil: personification of evil; the target that is required for the moral panic. [EG: Osama Bin Laden provided as
Who Starts Moral Panics?
Grassroots Model: The Public is behind it; there is an existence of widespread fear already.
Elite Model: The rich, powerful individuals and groups start it | the poor are just a means to an ends for them and they
have a lot of influence that makes it easy for them to manipulate the public.
Political elite starts panic
Divert attention rom real social