What are the steps of a "moral panic"?Please include: - What a "moral panic" is - The 5 main features of a "moral panic" - The progress of a "moral panic"

Expert Answers
ako6777 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The term moral panic was first used by Stanley Cohen, a sociologist, in his 1972 study of "The Mods and Rockers" phenomenon (a gang rivalry in the UK during the 1960s).  Moral panic refers to the belief that a group of people are a threat to society (i.e. social values, & culture).

The five main features of moral panic are:

  • Concern: awareness that the group may have a negative impact on society
  • Hostility: anger towards the group in question           
  • Consensus: many individuals must have the same feelings regarding the threat                                                     
  • Disproportionality: the action taken by individuals is disproprtionate to the actual threat                         
  • Volatility: panics are very volatile and tend to come and go quickly

To begin a moral panic, there must be a sub-culture or group of individuals who cause concern and hostility among the general population.  They are typically individuals who go against the norms of society. In today's world, moral panic is typically caused when the media reacts to an event or group of people's actions.  By spreading news of the event people develop a consensus and then respond.  One examples of a recent moral panic is the "war on drugs".  The media covered the abuse of illegal drug use and its impact on society.  The nation, including law makers, became concerned, and the government acted.  Although the "war on drugs" is still being waged, its not as volatile as it was in the 1980s.