Reflections on “Moral Panic”

This reading reflection is based on the reading “Rethinking Moral Panic for Multi-Mediated Social Worlds” by McRobbie and Thorton. The article sets out to discuss the impact of moral panic as incited by the media. Moral panic can be described as the process by which the media shifts its lens towards modern trends in society that it feels is worthy of scrutiny. In some cases this scrutiny has the effect of creating the very processes in which it is meant to stem. Moral panic as described by the article is:

A standard response, a familiar, sometimes weary, even ridiculous rhetoric rather than an exceptional emergency intervention. Used by politicians to orchestrate consent, by business to promote sales in certain niche markets, and by media to make home and social affairs newsworthy, moral panics are constructed on a daily basis. (560)

This concept becomes significant to us as educators because it is often applied to youth culture. Often the media tells us about different aspects of youth culture that are harmful and are causing our youths ill effects. The controversy around violent video games is an example that comes to mind. Every so often moral panic is incited when a violent youth crime occurs and the perpetrator has been found to enjoy particular video games. A campaign is then usually undertaken to ban violence in video games (and thus bring about world peace). I agree with the article that the moral panic reaction is often over exaggerated as:

“Deviant behavior was interactive rather than absolutist. It was more often the outcome of complex chains of social interaction than the product of young people with a predisposition, individually or environmentally, towards crime or rule-breaking behavior.” (561)

I think that this article is important because it points out the need for each of us to begin to examine our assumptions about the media specifically when it focuses on youth and youth culture. We are consistently told that this generation of young people is radically different then previous generations and that this is both a cause for alarm and a cause for reform, however as this article points out these claims may just be apart of a media driven stereotype about adolescence.

(An example of Moral Panic?)


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