From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
"Society appears to be subject, every now and then, to periods of moral panic. A condition, episode, person or group emerges to become defined as a threat to societal values and interests."--Folk Devils and Moral Panics (1972) by Stanley Cohen
A moral panic is a reaction by a group of people based on the false or exaggerated perception that some cultural behavior or group, frequently a minority group or a subculture, is dangerously deviant and poses a menace to society. Stanley Cohen defined it more broadly as an "episode, condition, person or group of persons" that has in recent times been "defined as a threat to societal values and interests." They are byproducts of controversies that produce arguments and social tension, or aren't easily discussed as some of these moral panics are taboo to many people. Moral panics are often associated with sexual issues, and are occasionally employed as strategies to achieve political goals.
These panics are generally fueled by media coverage or outright propaganda around a social issue, although semi-spontaneous moral panics do occur. Mass hysteria can be an element in these movements, but moral panic is different from mass hysteria in that a moral panic is specifically framed in terms of morality and is usually expressed as outrage rather than unadulterated fear. Moral panics (as defined by Stanley Cohen) revolve around a perceived threat to a value or norm held by a society normally stimulated by glorification within the mass media or 'folk legend' within societies. Panics have a number of outcomes, the most poignant being the certification to the players within the panic that what they are doing appears to warrant observation by mass media and therefore may push them further into the activities that lead to the original feeling of moral panic.
- Culture of fear
- Deviancy amplification spiral
- Fear, uncertainty and doubt
- For the children
- Herd mentality
- Mass hysteria
- Missing white woman syndrome
- Seduction of the Innocent
- Sex party
- Urban legend
- Video nasty