Panic! Panic in the Media… Everywhere and all the Time
It seems that there is a growing panic in the media surrounding representation, interpretation and limited portrayal of particular issues. Some believe there are issues including the environment and government that are rarely given enough media attention whilst issues such as over-sexualisation of children or growing violence in youth are shown more and more frequently causing a moral panic around the world.
In the article, Moral Panic: Who Benefits From Public Fear?, you can delve into how
predominately it is only the media and politicians in power who benefit from this induced sense of social fear. As highlighted in my blog It Seems that the Tail will Always Wag the Dog… the media has almost absolute control over society, particularly when it comes to fear and perceived conflicts. As the article above emphasises:
“The relationship between state officials and the media is symbiotic in that politicians and law enforcement need communication channels to distribute their rhetoric and the media need tantalizing news content to attract a wide audience which, in turn, attracts advertisers.”
This enforces the power of the media and how when in collusion with those in power they are an unstoppable force able to indoctrinate society into consuming media mindlessly.
Stanley Cohen; Emphasising the Danger of Moral Panics
The idea of moral panic actually came from Stanley Cohen in 1972. His Third Edition of his text, Moral Panics as Cultural Politics, was published in 2002 where he focuses solely on the ‘Moral Panics’ part of the title. In this he suggests that moral panic is when a certain individual, event, group or thing’s significance is exaggerated and compared to other serious problems, which induces a panic within society about an ‘issue’ that quite possibly does not exist.
He goes on to describe in detail the types of stereotypes used by the media to further push a moral panic in society. These stereotypes include a young, working class violent male, school violence, child abuse (paedophilia etc.), sex, refugees and blaming of the media.
When you delve into these supposed dangers to society you will most often uncover that they are purposely used to hook society into a state of fear and boxing people or groups of people into stereotyped attributes. And with the increase of media consumption over the decades this panic has become more common as society is always subject to a political, social or personal agenda across all media platforms.
In history examples of the stirring of moral panic include HIV/AIDS in the 1980s, asylum seekers from 2000 to today and even back to the World Wars. Depiction of Nazi spies caused an uproar in society and peaked fear and paranoia in society across the globe, thus also suggesting that propaganda can be a major part of increasing moral panics.
Today there are many examples of simple headlines online that are used to encourage an audience to read the article, as they are fear inducing. This trick used by the media is a major part of moral panic, as people who may not even read the story will be sent into a state of panic as they believe ‘technology is destroying our brains’ etc.
I believe that the only way we can decrease this ridiculous nature of moral panics in society is to be critical of the media and always do thorough research into media stories that seem to have a fear inducing agenda or one inline with the agendas of political leaders.
Next time before falling into the deep trap of panicking about a non existent danger to society, breath, think, research and relax, because the media can be a cesspool of deceit and manipulation unless we mentally fight back searching for truthful, unbiased and critical stories.