Societies and Moral Panic

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INTRODUCTION Societies can sometimes be exposed to periods of moral panic. A condition, episode, person or group of people appears as a threat to certain societal standards and interests. This phenomenon is depicted in a stylized and stereotypical fashion and presented to the public through the moral perspective of editors, bishops, politicians, and other influential people, whose principles define the societal values. These people pronounce their diagnoses and resort to certain ways of coping (although, sometimes, the parties can come to an agreement and a way of coping could evolve). After the condition disappears, submerges or deteriorates, it becomes even more visible. Every now and then the object of the panic is quite unusual, although mostly it is something that has been debated for a long time, but that suddenly appears in the spotlight. Occasionally, the episode is overlooked and forgotten, except in folk-lore and collective memory, but at other times it manages to create a serious impact, producing changes in legal and social policy or even in the way society conceives itself (Cohen, 2002). Since the war in Britain the most recurrent types of moral panic has been associated with the emergence of various form of youth (originally almost exclusively working class, but often recently middle class or student based) whose behaviour is deviant or delinquent. To a greater or lesser degree, these cultures have been associated with violence. The Teddy Boys, the Mods and Rockers, the Hells Angels, the skinheads and the hippies have all been phenomena of this kind (Cohen, 2002). Youth appeared as an emergent category in post-war Britain, on one of the most striking and visible manifestations of social changes in the period. Youth... ... middle of paper ... ... Treatment such as the one presented can fuel a feeling of rebellion of the black youth against the system that has mistreated them. The label of criminal placed upon black youths in society leads to society defining their acts as criminal and extending this judgement to them as people. Having been labelled, there is an expectation that this criminality must be expressed. With this attached stereotype, the general population will perceive them to be criminal and treat them accordingly. This produces unanticipated effects: the label of criminal is intended to prevent individuals from participating in criminal activities but it actually creates the very thing it intended to stop. It produces a self-fulfilling prophecy which is defined as a false definition of a situation, evoking a new behaviour that makes the original false assumption come true (Burke, 2005).
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