Use 'Moral Panics' to describe 'crime reconstruction in television documentaries' (America's Most Wanted)?

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brettd eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The idea of a moral panic is when society reacts strongly and emotionally to any kind of threat to social mores or laws. Often times it overreacts or blows things out of proportion. In terms of serious or violent crimes, especially when publicized on popular television crime shows such as America's Most Wanted or FBI Files, the phenomenon of moral panics is used to the advantage of law enforcement.

To do this most effectively, they try to recreate the crime, using the real victims whenever possible.  This puts a human face on the crime, gives the audience a visual to relate to and imagine, and instead of merely "looking for a suspect in an attempted homicide", they can help to create and accelerate moral panic by recreating the fear, horror and/or anger that is associated with such crimes.  This motivates and outrages the public, and they sometimes take this emotion and become more involved in helping to solve crimes.

In short, law enforcement and the TV networks have to shock and enrage their audience over a case of violence to the social order so that they will help to restore that order and bring a person to justice.  TV networks exploit this opportunity so they can increase their ratings, but in the name of catching violent criminals, law enforcement doesn't mind, and society generally doesn't either.