Crime, Moral Panics and the Media Essay

Crime, Moral Panics and the Media Essay

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Most people use second hand information as their core source of
information about crime, this source of information usually being the
media. When carrying out sample research in Birmingham, Susan Smith
(1984) discovered that 52% of people obtained most of their
information about crime from the media, 36% obtained it from hearsay
or alleged experiences of friends and neighbours, 3% from their own
experiences, and 1% from the police service themselves (cited in
Jones, 2001; 8). However the media tend to exaggerate upon areas of
criminal activity causing a moral panic.

‘A moral panic is a semi- spontaneous or media generated mass movement
based on the perception that some individual or group, frequently a
minority group or subculture, is dangerously deviant and poses menace
to society. These panics are generally fuelled by the media, although
not always caused by, media coverage of social issues… These panics
can sometimes lead to mob violence… (

Some of the governing models of moral panics include Jock Young (1971)
and Stanley Cohen (1972). Stanley Cohen fabricated the idea of moral
panics in his book Folk Devils and Moral Panics (1972), whilst Jock
Young concentrated more on the correlation of deviance amplification
and drug taking. The main feature of a moral panic is deviance
amplification; this was looked at in more detail by Stanley Cohen
(1972) in what he called the deviancy amplification spiral. Some
examples of media moral panics include; internet pornography, violence
in video games, immigration, single parents etc… Moral panics can
affect the public’s perceptions of crime in many ways, making the

... middle of paper ...

...vious alternative source
of information is conversation. However, questions then arise to how
the other person’s opinions were reached. Even rumours have to start
some where” (Jones, 2003; 90)


Bradley, A (1994) A Morality play for all times [WWW DOCUMENT] URL


Cohen S (1972) Folk Devils and Moral Panics. Oxford: Martin Robertson.

Cohen S (1987) Folk Devils and Moral Panics. Oxford: Martin Robertson.

Critcher, C (2003) Moral Panics and the Media. Oxford: Oxford

Goode, E and Ben- Yehuda, N. (1994) Moral Panics. The social
construction of deviance. Oxford: Blackwells.

Williams, S (2004) Textbook on Criminology. US: Oxford University

Jones, S (2003) Criminology. Great Britain: Cromwell Press.


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