Moral Panic

March 9, 2010

Today I came across the term moral panic. Intrigued by the combination of moral and panic I looked it up and according to Wikipedia it is the intensity of feeling expressed in a population about an issue that appears to threaten the social order. In other words, people panic about increased teenage drug abuse, hooded youth gangs or how the social media turn us all into sociopaths, often fueled by tabloid newspaper reports.

Wikipedia further explains that those who start the panic are often so called moral entrepreneurs (someone who seeks a group to adopt a certain norm) whereas the ones that are a threat to society are folk devils (an outsider who can be blamed for crimes or social problems). This sounds all too familiar. Whether it’s about drugs, satanic cults, sexual topics, obesity or media influences, everything unknown is first and foremost a potential danger to the status quo. The role of the media is especially interesting as they, regardless their orientation, often like to act as agents for certain moral standards.

What’s caused by this is not only a constant level of anxiety but more importantly a chronic mistrust amongst people. I believe this is a sad thing, as most people and unknown lifestyles are usually not dangerous, they are just unfamiliar. We should try to be more open, be interested and try to find out more about things before we condemn them as potentially dangerous and a threat to us.


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