Moral panics

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Moral Panics

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  • 1. Moral Panics

2. How the media represent groups of people in different ways The effects in society of particular kinds of representation or collective identities 3. DEVIANT ACT / CRIME: Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold go on a murderous rampage through their school, killing 12 students and one teacher.IDENTIFICATION OF SUBVERSIVE MINORITY: Teenagers labelled as Little time bombs waiting to go off.STAMPING DOWN HARD: After Columbine Zero tolerance policies in schools. 2nd grader suspended for bringing a nail clipper into school. A 1st grader expelled for pointing a chicken strip at his teacher saying 'bang. Metal detectors. School dress codes: belts had to be visible at all times so nothing could be hidden in trousers.Our children had turned into little monsters, but who was to blame? All of the experts had an answer.SIMPLIFICATION OF CAUSE: Heavy metal music, violent video games, Marilyn Manson, where were the parents? STIRRING OF PUBLIC INDIGANTION: News stories on other school plots. Murders gone down by 20% but coverage of violence had increased by 300% 4. Events can be exaggerated by the media to seem worse than they areThe cause of the events are simplified to make them seem fixableThe media reports the issue has been fixed because there has been stamping down and everyone breaths a sigh of relief.The actual cause of events (if there ever was a real problem in the first place) are never explored and the real problems never fixed In Bowling for Columbine, Michael Moore tries to look at the underlying problems in society and the actual causes of attacks like Columbine. 5. Moral Panic & Ecstasy: Leah Betts IDENTIFICATION OF A PROBLEM: Media 'horror stories' about ecstasy pre-dated the death of Leah Betts. Her case merely provided a hook or peg on which to hang those stories. 6. IDENTIFICATION OF DEVIANTS OR FOLK DEVILS:The picture being painted by the media was one of ecstasy as a 'child-killing drug, available on every street comer.' 'There exists a largely manufactured consensus that drugs are "evil", those who sell them are "monsters", those who take them are "victims"'.SIMPLIFICATION OF CAUSE & STIGMATISATION:The death of Leah Betts 'was not due to the effects of Ecstasy but to water intoxication.' However if this was the case the Bettses seemed unwilling to make it public at the time, instead they championed the view that ecstasy itself led to their daughter's death. Many of the facts were misconstrued or omitted from the newspaper coverage. For example, in 1986, Glasgow Social Services Director, Mary Hartnoll, was persecuted for writing a report in which she calculated that "ecstasy is a relatively safe drug. The risk of death is calculated at one in six point eight million. (The risk of dying from an ordinary dose of aspirin is greater)". Paul Betts declared her 'totally irresponsible' and told her to 'get her facts right'. They were. 7. STIRRING OF IDNIGNATION:The death of Leah Betts generated 'an avalanche of emotive but essentially uninformative copy.' But, 'nobody asked whether the death would have received such widespread attention had it not involved a pretty, white, teenage girl.'STAMPING DOWN HARD:January 16, 1995, during a radio interview, Brian Harvey, of East 17 fame, said that he enjoyed taking ecstasy and other substances. Within hours his group's songs were banned by thirteen radio stations, a DJ smashed one of their singles on air and their services were no longer required for the launch of the mid-week lottery show. Calcutt, in his article, "Ecstasy and Apostasy" notes that Harvey has been branded a modern day heretic. Not only was he made to retract his statement, but he was sacked from his band and threatened with prosecution for incitement. It wasn't long before Paul and Janet Betts were brought in to give their ever so knowledgeable vies on the subject. The journalists adopted a 'pious' tone whilst talking to them afraid that to contradict them at all would be offensive to their plight. As one journalist, Decca Aitkenhead, summed up in her article in Independent on Sunday (January 19) "In post Leah Betts Britain, ecstasy is the equivalent of slaughtering babies". 8. Drugs laws are driven by "moral panic" and should be replaced by a more flexible approach that recognises most drug users harm neither themselves nor those around them, a two-year study concluded on Thursday. Drug use should be treated as a health issue and not just as a matter for police and courts, said a commission formed by the Royal Society of Arts (RSA). It said the current Misuse of Drugs act was "not fit for purpose" and should be scrapped 9. Moral Panic & Jamie Bulger SIMPLIFICATION OF THE CAUSE & STIGMATISATION One of the most prominent media debates of recent times comes in the form of the murder of James Bulger. In November 1991, Robert Thompson and Jon Venables tortured and killed James. Thirty eight people saw him being dragged along the shopping centre floor, and not one of them intervened.The debate centred around three issues: 1. The role of the 'active citizen', 2. Absent fathers and 3. Child violence. Along with the tirade about citizenship came the debate about absent fathers and dysfunctional families. As Bradley remembers The Daily Mail described Jon as a "classic production of a broken home" implying that many children murder on a regular basis if there's trouble at home. He adds that the 'friends' claiming to have noticed the "atmosphere of neglect in the absence of a father figure" were more likely to be academics and social workers. The case managed to highlight a number of issues about authoritarian controls and censorship, particularly regarding the killers' alleged viewing of the horror film 'Child's Play III', involving a doll who comes to life to wreak havoc. The 'copycat' theory of films dates back to the series of 'Video Nasties' but flared up when Judge Morland attributed influence to the video: "I suspect that exposure to violent video films may in part be an explanation." What was revealed after watching the security tape and the film, was that there was little resemblance and the case purely coincidental, but it was enough to provide a springboard for the media's anti-video stance. 10. The Times, January 22, 1994, used the word 'alarm' to sensationalise the more accurate term 'concern', This sensationalisation in turn brought a new urgency to the debate about screen violence, The Times in its conclusion asked "What kind of urban culture allowed such material to circulate freely in the homes of young children?" and The Independent on March 20, 1994 added "We must protect young minds". As Walker points out in his article "Suffer the Little Children", "Aligning themselves with the angels, both influential newspapers left no doubt that they had sighted the devil and he was making for 'young minds'" [French 1997: 94] Once again the media, newspapers in particular, exaggerated the truth of the matter. It was never proven that the killers saw the film which caused so much commotion. Even if they had this would not have been justification to allege that the circulation of 'potentially damaging' films was happening in every household as these newspapers had suggested. 11. Moral Panic Cycle Moral Panic is a cycle because the government put in a law where it gets broken by certain individuals and then the media find out about it and exaggerate the news story and then there is a folk devil (someone to blame) and then it goes back to the start. 12. Folk Devils These are the people who are blamed by everyone else for crimes that have been done. E.g. the youth society is portrayed negatively in the media and majority of the youths would blame people for giving them this portrayal.