Terrorism and Moral Panic in America

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Societies will always have problems that cause some sort of reaction from individuals who believe that their social stability is being endangered. There have been a number of moral panics which have captivated society in terror and more often than not, owing to unfamiliarity. This essay will discuss the perception of a moral panic and will look at the case of the September 11th Terrorist attack against the United States of America, which triggered a colossal conflict of morality within modern day society. This essay will also analyse terrorism as a perceived deviance, the role of the moral entrepreneur and folk devil, in order to develop a level of understanding to the causes of this particular moral panic and its effects on society.

A moral panic can be defined as a phenomenon, frequently initiated by disquieting media and reinforced by responsive laws and public policies, of embellished public concern, angst or anger over a perceived danger to societal order (Krinsky, 2013). The media plays a crucial role in emphasizing a current moral panic. In Jock Young’s chapter Images of Deviance (1971), he comments on the phenomenon of deviance magnification, he deems dramatic media coverage of deviant behaviours to be ironic, owing to the fact that it unintentionally increases rather than restrains the apparent deviance. In hind sight the media create social problems, owing to the fact that they can present them dramatically and are able to do it swiftly (Young & Cohen, 1971: 37).

The appalling nature of the (9/11) terrorist attack was sufficient for the act to be defined as a national threat by then president, George W. Bush. In accordance with Cohen (1972), the first element in defining a moral panic is via a threat to values and ...

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