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Thornton Source: The British Journal of Sociology, Vol. 46, No. 4 (Dec., 1995), pp. 559-574 Published by: Blackwell Publishing on behalf of The London School of Economics and Political Science Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/591571 . Accessed: 21/10/2011 08:18
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if not transformation. as well as the socialrelationswhichsupportit.ssueno.as moral panicsseem to of guarantee the kind of emotional involvement that keeps up the interestof. they not only find themselves vociferouslyand articulatelysupported in the same mass mediathatcastigatesthem.We argue that 'folk devils'are less marginalizedthan they once were.the articlesuggeststhat whatweremorestablepointsof socialcontrolhaveundergonesome degree of shift. 'Moralpanic'is now a term regularlyused byjournaliststo describea processwhich politicians.The variousstudies of youth culture. Thornton Rethinking'moralpanic'for multi-mediated socialworlds ABSTRACT sociologyof It is now over twentyyears since the well-established deviance along with the emergent sociology of mass media produced the concept of 'moralpanic'. 46 I.and Angela McRobbie SarahL. commercialpromotions departmentsand pressuregroups).but broadsheetnewspaperreaders.acid house musicwasmarketedas 'one of the soundsof 1988'set to outrage'thosewho decrythe mostcontroversial glamorization drug culture'. even the media PfflJ Volumeno.Finally. but their interestsare also defended by their own niche and micro-media. drugtakersand the media reaction to these and other workin post-war phenomenaproducedsomeof the mostimportant Britishsociology.l Moreover.commercialpromotersand media habitually attemptto incite.lt suggeststhat more attention should be paid to the consequencesof the great involved expansionof the mediaand to the manymore participants in publicdebate (including.for example.as well as the ratings of news and true crime television. It has become a standardinterviewquestionto MPs:are they not whippingup a moralpanicas a put to Conservative foil to deflect attentionawayfrom more pressingeconomicissues?It has become a routine means of making youth-orientatedcultural productsmore alluring.This articleargues that it is now time that every stage in the process of constructinga moral panic. notjust tabloid. should be revised.4 S I)ecembo 1995 1eSvSN0007-1315 )londonSchoolof2:conomcs 1995 .
mediaitselfwhichhas helped to createthis phenomenon?' practice.by businessto proto vention.moral panics are constructedon a daily basis. Moralpanics.suggest that both the originaland revised modelsare outdatedin so far as they could not possiblytakeaccount of the labyrinthineweb of determiningrelationswhich now exist between social groups and the media. even ridiculousrhetoricratherthan an exceptionalemergencyinterconsent. Thornton aml themselvesare willingto take some of the blame. niche and micro-mediaand the multiplicity voices. THE ORIGINAL I HEORYOF MORALPANICS Althoughthe argumentthatmediacoveragecan havean activerole in interactionist owesitsexistenceto symbolic creatingdeviantbehaviour (cf.Used by politicians orchestrate mote salesin certainniche markets.whichcompeteand contestthe meaningof the of issues subjectto 'moralpanic'. theoriesof 'labelling' Becker 1963.Wilkins1964).Sue Cameron.and by mediato makehome and social affairs newsworthy. 'reality'and representation. the public.then considerthe strengthsand weaknesses this key concept.The proliferation and fragmentationof mass.once the unintendedoutcomeofjournalistic seem to havebecomea goal. Cohen and Young 1973) which developed and effectivelylaunchedthe conceptof 'moralpanic'. moral panics have become the wayin whichdailyeventsare broughtto the attentionof sometimesweary.560 AngelaMcRobbie SarahL. Given their high rate of turnoverand the increasingtendency to labelall kindsof mediaeventas 'moralpanic'.Attention trol as signs of complicity .and their edited collections (Cohen 1971. Although both the originalmodel of moral panics whichintroducednotionsof ideologyand heand the reformulations in gemonywereexemplaryinterventions theirtime.Not onlydid theirstudies explorehowagentsof socialcontrollikethe policeplayeda rolein 'amfor plifying'deviance.a familiar.This meantgoing beyondthe sociologicalaccountswhichlooked at patternsof ownershipand conbetweenmediaand government. monolithicsocietalor hegemonicreactions.we thinkit is timeto take of stockof the revisions.buttheydevelopeda vocabulary understanding the powerfulpartplayedby the media.disasks.univoto cal media.it wasthe pioneering studies of Jock Young (1971) on the socialmeaningof drugcontaking and Stanley Cohen (1972/1980) on the media-inspired frontationsbetween mods and rockers.we arguethatit is impossible relyon the old modelswiththeirstagesandcycles. Ratherthanperiodsto whichsocietiesare subject'everynow and then' (Cohen 1972/80:9). 'Is it not the cussing 'newjuvenile crime'on BBC2'sNewsnight.They area standardresponse.
twentyyearspreviously. the absence of parental control.Finallythis approachchallenged moral guardians by suggesting that their overreaction was counterproductive.The mediacoverageof devianceactedas a kind of handbook of possibilities to be picked over by new recruits. as StuartHallet al. sometimesreferredto.the same processcould be seen in operation: the 'kids' were seen as unruly and undisciplined. Geoff Pearson's of Respectable Fears( 1983)focuseson the waymoralpanicsoften entail looking backto a 'golden age' where socialstabilityand strong moral disciplineactedas a deterrentto delinquencyand disorder. of In addition. or witha predisposition. Worse still. Overreaction. these involvethe immorality young people.He acknowledges socialcontrolis of uneven and much less mechanistic than the model of deviancy amplificationsuggests.whileothersdescribehowtheycamedown the grasp to the beachto havea lookat the 'fun'. Cohen'sFolk Devils and Moral Panics is rightfullya classicof media sociology. the charactersin this drama course and de-amplification settled into history as recognizable social types belonging to a particular period. segregatingyoung people awayfrom the communitycreateda greater riskof long-termsocialdisordersince'a societycan controleffectively only those who perceive themselves to be members of it' (Young 1971:39). unlike their counterparts the previousdecade. AND HEGEMONY Engagingdirectlywith the law and other rhetoricof Thatcherismin Hooligans:A Hzstory the late 1970sand into the 1980s. HISTORY. contributedto further polarization.oosesto .for soctal Rethinking 'moral panic' multi-medzated worlds 561 wasnow being paid to the ideologicalrole of the mediaand the active construction certainkindsof meaning. ( 1979)laterargued. the problem of too much free time leading to crime. non-rocker public) criticizes the media for over-reporting clashes.However. and the threat which deviant behaviour . or rule-breakingbehaviour.embracinga greaterdegree of complexitythan the many that summaries the workindicate. HOOLIGANS. It was more often the outcome of thanthe productof young people complexchainsof socialinteraction towardscrime individually environmentally. even by the agentsof social control.Cohen hasa sophisticated of how these events fed into popularfolklore ('Whereare the mods and rockers today?'was a question he was repeatedly asked while carryingout his fieldwork)and when the panic had finally run its had set in.though this might havebeen the desiredeffect.therefore. this work explored how deviant behaviourwas interactive rather than absolutist. Indeed one group of respondents (drawn from the non-mod.witha hint of nostalgia. The same anxietiesappearwith of of startlingregularity.
Pearsonshowshow. Policing the Crzsiscan be historyand politicalculture.Angela McRobbte Sarah Thornton and L. practiceof hegemony the of influence sphere which Gramscilabelled whichenlarges moral then becomes panic 'civil an envoy for dominant society'. palatableto British sociologiststhan much of the whichwas and semiologicalanalysisof the mass structuralist media which followed it. becauseof its concern for model of the moral panic and. Halland hiscolleaguesat for the Centre Contemporary CulturalStudies (CCCS). there were a about 'coshboys'and Blitzkidsand how. there were scares the the 1930s. result.Pearsonarguesthat of the complaints the nature and the social response to them provides a normative and consensual lence socialchange and language for understandingthe turbuof discontinuity. of panics defining and ideologythatthe ideaof the media'smoral as distortingsocial issues gives integrated connective way to a more and understanding of the construction meaning across the whole range of of media forms and Policing t)ze Cnsis ( 1979)by Stuart institutions.As a sociology and culturalstudies.during 1940s.This of the panic moral particular shows it not to be an analysis isolatedphenomenonbut a connective partof the strategy.Pursuingthischain through the back of investigation through the nineteenth century.The ideology. seen as bridging the gap between Policing Crisuintroduced the analyse concept the way in which the Gramscian moral panics around of hegemonyto alleged mugging and the criminality young of Afro-Caribbean malescreatedthe social conditions of consentwhichwere necessaryfor the society focused more of towardslaw and order and construction a liberalism less inclinedto the and 'permissiveness' of the 1960s. In the 562 national . be requiring that fication is preciselythat where The argumentabout deviancyamplisuch strategiesare social legislative and action.it shows how form of ideological draws a complex on cohesion which languageof nostalgia. ham a turning marks Universityof Birmingpoint in this respect. because it drew on the first. They orchestrating are a means of consent by actively interveningin the space of opinion social and public consciousness and rhetorical language which through the use of highly emotive has the effect of 'something done about it'.They Marxist a more and theoreticalvocabulary the introduceda more to more terrain. The value study to casta critical is shadowoveranyclaimsabout of this historical in violent crimescarriedout the dramatic rise by moral panics in society act as a young people. identityand labourdiscipline. Instead. acting behalf of the Young and Pearsonshow moral panics as on dominantsocialorder. empirical second. The studies of Cohen.they also reassure indeed followedby strong the publicthatthere is governmentand Itis only withtheoriesstrongleadership. in string of moral panics leisure time and the decline of the Britishwayabout the misuse of of life popularity Hollywood of cinema.
As its title suggests.This of begs manyquestionsin relationto the scaleof socialcontrol. (Waddington 1986:257) and writerslike PaulGilroywho drawfrom the studya vocabulary for developing further an analysis of race and ethnicity. Despitethe pivotalpositionPolicingtheCrisisoccupiesin the history of the concept of moral panic.but what is particularly importantis the recognitionthat ideologyis a suffusive socialprocess. the panoramicsweep of its Gramsciinfluencedargumentacrossthe entire landscapeof post-warBritain makes it more a work of classic neo-Marxistscholarship than a sociologyof deviance.and in some respectsshowsan improvement. does not in fact support this contention.Rethinking 'moral panic' multi-medzated worlcls for soczal 563 languageof commonsense.Critical responsehasthus been dividedbetween those sociologistswho take issue with the study's empiricalclaims. (Gilroy 1987) More recently Schlesingerand Tumber (1994) have returned to the sociologyof crime reportingand both responded to Hallet al. displacements.SimonWatney's PolicingDesire(1987) looksnot at crimebut at so-calleddeviantsexual practice.Since sexualityis subjectedto regulation and control through a multiplicityof institutionseach withtheirown distinctive discursivepractices textual and strategies. it operatesas an advancewarningsystem.The authorsare alert to the complexityof historical and social breakdown which. with the voracious appetite and capacityfor substitutions.and that it is not a simplequestionof the distortionof truth. As Watneyputs it the theoryof moralpanicsis unableto conceptualise massmedia the as an industryintrinsically involvedwith excess. relocating PolicingtheCrisiswithina more distinctly CulturalStudiesperspective. the key to understandingfearsand anxietiesaboutAIDS.takingthe debatesof Policing the Crisis further by providing a foundation for a better understandingof how controversial socialand sexual issues become inscribedwithcertainkindsof meaningacrossa wide varietyof media forms. but rather that ideology is a force which works continuously throughthe mobilization of'common sense'.from the site of tensionand pettyanxietiesto full-blown socialand politicalcrisis. as some have suggested.Watneyrightlypointsout that the gradualand stagedcreation of a 'folkdevil'as describedby moralpanictheoristsappliesto neither gay men and lesbiansnor people who are HIV positive. (1981)and re-visitedmoralpanictheoryas a whole.repetitions . and as such it progresses from local issues to matters of national importance. can then be managedonlythroughthe escalation the controland coercion. they claim.moral panics are not. suggestingas Waddingtondoes that the evidence cited in support of the view that the situationwith regard to crime in general and 'muggings'in particularwas not gettingdramatically worse.Insteadthere is a whole world of 'monstrous'representations.
'society'and 'societal reactions' were monolithic and.They areendemicin mediaand society. In original moral panic theory.In the 1990s. Through consideringthe meaningswhichhave developedaround AIDS and homosexuality.when socialdifferentiation audiencesegmentation the and are orderof the day.effectivitiesand modes of discourse. according to Watney. Given the kinds of moral panic to which they attend.Moralpanicsseem to appearand disappear.Watney replaces the vocabularyof the moralpanicwith thatof representation.. Policiesand practiceswhichare concernedwith'policingdesire'do not. Watney suggests that our understanding of moral panics might be fruitfully informed by psychologicalmodels which seek to understand the ambivalence.andin thiscontextthe moral panic is best seen as a local intensification 'the site of the or current front line' rather than a sudden.Ethnographies of . as others have already argued. of each with their different constituencies.Pearson's descriptionof collective memoryand Hallet al.Hall et al.Similarly. (Watney1987:4 1) Classicmoral panic theoristswould ignore the daily endorsement (not to say enjoyment)of heterosexuality an ideologicalnorm and as the consequencesthis has for those who are excluded.we need takeaccountof a plurality reactions.youth cultureand 'deviance' havechanged considerablysince the 1960s. and signifyingabsences. Pearson and Watney perhaps over-state hegemony and overlook the counterdiscoursesfrom whichthey drawand to whichtheycontribute. discourseand the 'other'.Moralpanictheoryis always obligedin the final instance to refer and contrast 'representation' the arbito tration of 'the real'. unpleasantand unanticipated development (Watney 1987:42). studiesand culturalstudiesto producea deeper film accountof processesof exclusionand regulationthanthatavailable in the traditional sociologyof socialcontrol. he is ableto bring to his workconceptsdrawnfrom fieldsof psychoanalysis. and these historicaltransformations bring to light some of the theoreticaland methodologicallimits of these various studies. ultimatelyfunctionalist. 's 'hegemony' excludeyouth. CONTESTING 'SOCI ETY' AND 'HEGE MONY' Britishsocietyand media. if represenas tation were not the site of permanent struggle of the meaning of signs. it is problematic that Cohen's'society'.564 Angela McRobbie Sarah Thornton and L.and is hence unable to develop a full theory concerning the operationsof ideology within all representational systems. excessiveinterestand even fascination displayedby moralguardians for the objectsof theirdistaste.emanate from one or two centralizedagenciesof social control.In so doing.
Thornton 1995) find that youth are inclinednotto lamenta safe and stablepastbutto have overwhelming nostalgiafor the dayswhen youthculturewasgenuinelytransgressive. lifestyleinto social upheaval. a tabloidfront page zsfrequentlya self-fulfillingprophecy. drug-taking hippies.By the end of August. many magazines were wondering why the tabloids were ignoring the issue.'In retrospect. The sleeve notes described the new sound as 'drug induced'.3 Innuendo.January1989)2. imagined possible headlines like 'London Gripped by Ecstacy!'or 'Drug Crazed New Hippies in Street Riot' (TimeOut 17-24 August .To quote one music monthly. 1989 and 1990 beganwitha predictionon the backof the albumthat launchedthe musicgenre. Here youth havea point. the youth-orientated music and style press repeatedlypredictedthat a moral panic about Acid Hollse was 'inevitable'. 'sky high' and 'ecstatic'and concluded with a prediction of moral panic: 'The sound of acid tracking will undoubtedly become one of the most controversial sounds of 1988. Whatbetterway to turn difference into defiance. The 1990s youth culture is steeped in the legacy of previous'moral panics'. haircutsand dance styleswhichwere to accompanythe activities. said Knowledgeof this youth-cultureethos is such that its exploitation has become a routine marketing strategy of the publishing and recording industries.Moralpanic can therefore be seen as a culminationand fulfillmentof youth cultural agendas in so far as negative news coverage baptizestransgression. in turning youth into news.for what gets amplified is not only a 'deviant'activity.Sociologists might rightlysee this in terms of 'deviancyamplification'.they amount to a 'pricelessPR campaign' (Q. Moralpanics are one of the few marketing strategies open to relatively anonymousinstrumental dancemusic. then full-blown exposes about Ecstacyuse in Britishclubs. appeared in the music press for monthsbefore the storywas pickedup by the tabloids. provokinga split between those who adhere to its undergroundcreed and those who decry the glamorization drug of culture. mass media both frame subsultures as major events and disseminate them. confident of eventual moral panic. youth but have their own discourseswhich see the process as one in which a 'scene'is transformedinto a 'movement'. foulmouthedpunksand gender-bendingNew Romantics partof their are celebratedfolklore.but the statementis best understood as hopeful.this seems prescient. while others.but the records. they are often set on being culturally'radical'. the 'moral panic' about 'Acid House'in 1988. For example. fighting mods and rockers. Following London Records' sleeve notes.leisureinto revolt? Disapprovingmass media coverage legitimizesand authenticates youth culturesto the degree that it is hard to imaginea Britishyouth 'movement'without itt For.Rethinking 'moral panic'for multi-medzated worlds soctal 565 contemporaryyouth culture (cf.Whetheryollth culturesespouse overt politicsor not.
to keen ignore the topic for as long as they makingstatements. arguing for 'effectivepunishment'and the need voiceto to give of tnoralregeneration society. When Labourand Conservatives for the and order. and articulate response from Labour.However. September1988.At leastsome of the agentsof socialcontrol .drugabuseandjuvenile up to of delinquency. must sociologistas expert.takinginto account the might fruitfully explore the precise sphere of influence and effectivenessof these organizations. in almostweekly basis over a period the diminishing demonizationby the Tories of young single mothers havingchildrenwithoutbeing married. interestgroups.arrestsand recommendinglegislation. hasa long historyin the fieldof seriouscrime. This well and recording magazinepublishing) versedin the 'hip'ideologies youth subsultures.e.Forexample. we can'tignore the manyvoices during moral panics. their skillsat working and in particular of effectiveness these groups moreor 'soundbites' the with mediaand providinghighlyprofessional an invaluableresource to media machinery lesson cue make them smallbudgets. the prominenceof the politicalsociology.manymediaare inclined sometimesdissenting. government.4 i.groups. of the NationalCouncil panics.the proliferation groupsrecentlyset they which campaignon behalf or with folk devils and the skillwith developmentin political engage withmediais an extremelyimportant take the same line on law culture.At the same time.g.duringthe 'sillyseason'. for in One of the main aims of pressuregroups is timelyintervention able to respond instantlyto the media moral panics. of In additionto the difficultywe havein excludingratherlargesocial or and groups industrialactivitiesfrom accountsof 'society' 'consenwhich now contributeto the so sus'.Sue Slipman.playeda leading role. havingbeen a deviant. This marksa seriesof developmentswhichhaveoccurredperhaps the in response to the impact of moral panic theory itself.to be relevant of demonization the group they represent.the tabloidsfinally the bait and subjected the culture to the full front-page took were The treatment. pressure debate to expertsare mobilized intervenein lobbiesand campaigning groups.Labouroppositionandthe police only possiblycould. In the 1990s. In the absenceof an immediate other.566 L. and McRobbie Sarah Thornton Angela In 1988). belatedly moral panic was incited by a couple of culture industries(e. such groups occasionally A new function as a virtualform of oppositionto the government. This phenomenonof becomingan expert. and to provide inforThe mationand analysisdesigned to counter this representation.They to working tight schedulesand withincreasingly to be doing theirdutybyproviding'balance' the allow mediato be seen can in their reporting. they show how 'folkdevils' anddo 'fightback'.the spokeswoman moral on an forOne ParentFamilies. of three or six months.media.
stronglycontestedthe vocalityof the traditionalmoral guardians.whenJohn Majorattemptedto buildupon the moralpanicaround'singlemothers'(if not initiated. Of course. and commercialinterests have planted the seeds.New sociologies to shift attentionawayfrom the conventionalpoints in the circuitof and amplification controland look insteadto these other spaces. New liaisons have been developed and new two initiativespursued. religious fervour.the playingdown of the scaleof such incidentshas been a recurrentfeatureand a point by of recommendation the policein relationto the media.among more vocaland 'effective'intervention: other things.deflected the empty rhetoric backonto the Tory party. MORAL PANICS FOR EVERY MEDIUM Not only need the attitudesand activitiesof different social groups be and organizations taken into accountand not subsumedunder a . In particular. by often characterized Althoughmoral panicsare anti-intellectual.soczal multi-mediated worlds 'moralpanic'for Rethinking 567 have been listeningwhen figureslikeJock Young and Geoff Pearson were invited to add their voices to these debates. folk devils and moral guardians.a metaphor which depicts a complex society as a single person who experiences sudden fear about its virtue. tativenews sourcesand to institutionalized For of is alwaysthe possibility backfire. The delicatebalanceof relationswhichthe moralpanicsociologists saw existing between media. and courted discourses. This leads us to query the usefulnessof the term 'moralpanic'. there agenda-setting.due to higher numberof authoriBut.Each of the categoriesdescribedby moral panics theorists has undergone a process of fissure in the intervening years. only a predominantlyright-wingnational press arguably stops them from being amenable to the current left. example. governmentis alwaysadvantaged. has given way to a much more complicatedand fragmented set of connections.turningthe campaignintoan ad-hocinvestiof gationinto the personalmoralityand sexualpractices Tory MPs. because in recent incidentswhere there have been fears that disorderor olltbreaksof riotingmightspreadto otherareasor to othercities. agents of socialcontrol. the media. we need to acknowledgethe perspectivesand articulations of socialregulationneed different sectorsof society. The term's anthropomystifymorethantheyreveal. In the of l990s.Its arguably morphismand totalization conception of moralsoverlooksthe youthful ethics of abandonand the moral imperativesof pressuregroups and vocal experts.then certainlyfueled by governmentspokespeoplebecause it helped legitimizewelfare cutbacks)with his 'Backto Basics'campaign. and historicallymost effectivelyused by a certain the right.of moral panic in seeking to gain the favourable attentionof youthfulconsumers. followed by Labour. groups seem to be makingever pressuregroupshave.
Britain saw a mass. like the long-established News which takes Boyz.these niche and micro-media even attemptto incite moralpanics. Another area of developmentis the gay and lesbianpresswho are by represented several national and regional.tightertarget 1 the980s and marketing new technologieslike computermailingand desk-top the 13 (Marketing August 1993).Take.the media diversification. 73 remarkable per cent increasein consumermagazinetitlesduring . and Despitetheir proliferation social of of the diversity Britain's areobviouslynot a positivereflection there are large groups of people in interests. therefore. weekly and monthly papers.The SWPpaper. hope.magazines and free sheets.the long-term 'thoseat the lowestlevels Buteven here.two rivalpoliticalgroups. So-called counterto whatthey perceiveas the biasedmediaof the mainstream. Some 30 magazinesnow targetand House.and.a branchof the SWP)as 'ANAL'scum. different developmentsare verymuchdependenton the developmentof these recognitionof the presenceand a'pinkeconomy'and the commercial income. can Moreover.Othergroupsand agenciesproducea never-endingflow a in newsletters and press releases many of which are written on house-stylecustomizedto the needs of thejournalists nationaland folk devils now produce their own media as a local media. otherwords.onand how fascismwas sweeping the country other hand. some of which have become a Gay by sub-divided age. seen above. the of aboutthe lostneighbourhoods fascistBNP paperwrotehysterically membersof the Anti-NaziLeague the whiteworkingclassand vilified the (ANL. successof many publishing magazineshas been in the discoveryand effectiverepresenthese of of tation nichesof opinionand identity. D and E 'socialgrades'whicharecategorized Surveyas the unskilledworkingclass and by the National Readership in of subsistence'.whichspeak In the wakeof the their membersand attemptto reach out beyond. The Big Issue is now perceivedas the newspapervoice of the of homeless. As Whenthe mass media of tabloids and TV become active in the presswere moralpanicabout'AcidHouse'. of analysedtheir copy and decried the mzsrepresentation Acid pages.568 L.Crucially.the subsultural 'inevitable' re-printedwhole front They trackedthe tabloidseverymove. editorially the interested crucially.both of whichhave their own tabloidpapers.thereareglimmersof employedand poorlypensioned. moral panic is a favouritetopic of the youth press.but also the disparateperspectivesof different consensual niche and micro-medianeed to be explored. speakup for youth.This is partlybecause which the media are not economically. electionof a BNP councillorin Tower Hamletsin autumn 1993. lesspolitical editorialline from the younger. recounted . for example.the resultof moredetailedmarketresearch. of persistence high levelsof gay discretionary however.Of course. anzl McRobbie Sarah Thornton Angela 'society'. ready. theirown the SocialistWorkersParty (SWP)and the British National Party to (BNP).
then be shocked and offended the next.of thislocalizedvariety.Moreover. their moralism need be finely tuned.Both attemptedto fuel violent politicalaction with their respectivemoral panic discourses.if only 51 per cent female. they can vicariouslyenjoy and/or secretlyadmire the transgression one moment.Rethinking 'moralpanic'formulti-mediated worlds social 569 full-outNazismwasjust aroundthe corner.not the BNP hooligan. When consideringthe waymoralpanicsworkwithindifferent publications. if only becausethe paper is set on maintaininga young (andnot graying)readership.those'traitors' to the workingclasswho gavethe BNP the protectionof the state. This case suggeststhatmoralpanics. one need keep in mind that Sun readerstake their paper a good deal less seriously than Mail readers take theirs.Even the nationaldailies have dependablydifferent stances. Tabloids like the Sun prefer to espouse an altogether different brandof moraloutrage. whatpartsexaggeratedor totallyinvented.in a waywhichwasin uncannyharmony of withThatcherism.but the police. Duringthe Thatcheryears.undoubtedlyinformsits respectablegirl'sbrand of moralindignity. But one needn'tturn to specialist magazines newspapers find and to the plurality divergencesof opinionthatcharacterize and today's(and probablyyesterday's)'moral panics'. the Sun'sfavouritemoral panics are of the 'sex. drugs and rock'n'roll' variety.sensationalheadlines.storiesabout other people havingfar toomuch fun.due to the actionsof their chief 'folkdevil'.Witha toplesssixteenyearold on page 3 and a hedonistic pro-sex editorial line. hysteriaaboutsingleand teenage mothers is perfectmaterialfor a DailyMailmoralpanic.(cf. As Mark Pursehouse discovered in interviewingSun readers.Hence.the Daily Mailpractisedand perfectedthe characteristics hegemony.The factthattheMail is the only nationaldailywithmore femalethan malereaders.these kindsof storyhavethe advantageof allowingtheir readersto have their cake and eat it too. But that doesn't stop them from being the most preachyand prescriptive Britain's of dailypapers.with page after page of the 'Sun says . the broadsheetshave not only made use of more visual and colour material.' However. wasa dailyprocessof reachingout to winconsent It through endlessly defining and redefining social questions and representing itself as the moral voice of the newly self-identified middleclassas wellas the old lower-middle class. one of the key pleasures in readingthe Sunis the processof estimatingwhatpartof a storyis true. . they also seen to have adopted tabloid-style headlines to accompanytheir tabloidsupplements. the covers of the Guardian section frequently sport G2 exaggerated.The paper whose tone and agenda is closest to 1960/1970s-stylemoral panic is probablythe DailyMail.are not necessarily hegemonic. Pursehouse1991) In the last few years. 'BLOODON THE STREETS': They're PackingPistolsin Manchester' announcesa story about the .arguably with a measure of success. .For example.
on on the other.but not absolution. and the 'media'. (cf. .In keepingwiththiscommitment severalof theseprogrammes were explicitlyaimed at countering youthful folk devils and moral panics. But. communication and imagery.the capitalletters signifying an ironic borrowing of tabloid style. as the Sun's languageis understoodby manyof its readersas tongue-in-cheek. Thus an informativeand rational BBC2Reportageprogrammeon the use of Ecstasy raveculturecan in be set againstthe much more traditional sensational fearfulCook and Report(ITV) on the samesubject( 1992). Given the more 9 measuredcopy which follows. MEDIATEDSOCIAL WORLDS In additionto unpacking'society'.these mixtures of outrage and amusement point to the 'entertainment value' of moral panics.carefullyattunedto the popularityof 'humaninterest'stories.ever alert to new possibilities concernand indignation.Television producer Janet Street-Porter.newdefinitionsof youthprogramming haveopeneda space for counter-discourses. pioneered'YouthTV' in the mid-eighties throughher Def II serieson BBC2.570 AngelaMcRobbie SarahL Thornton aruS increasinguse of firearms youngdrugdealerson mountainbikesin by Manchester's Moss Side (Guardzan August 1993). for It would seem that professional journalisticstyle. the one hand.something mentioned but not really integrated into previous models. etc. it is willing to undercut with occasionalirony. we'vefound that each paper has its own styleof in-housemoralism. Curran and Sparks 1991 for a critiqueof the sastigmatic perspective' accountsof politicsand the of presswhichoverlookentertainment. strategyfor maintaining one healthy circulation figuresis for a newspaperto castitself in the role of moral guardian. drawing on the cut-up graphic style of punk and indicatinga new commitment on the part of broadcastersto take youth seriously.the sametendenciescan be found in radio and television.drawson a moralistic voice which. Social reality is experienced through language. Althoughthe multiplicity contemporary of moralpanicsis perhaps best demonstratedin relationto printmedia. the Guardzan's irony gives it an alibi. the third considerationin updating models of 'moral panic'need be that the media is no longer somethingseparablefrom society. Social meanings and social differences are inextricably tied up with representation. the Guurdzan would seem to be using this'shockhorror'languageto lightenup the story.particularly around drugs. Thus when sociologistscall for an accountwhichtellshow life actually and whichdealswiththe is. the British As pressbecomesmorecompetitive.jokes.) In consideringtheDailyMail.Moreover. the Sun and the Guardzan. Even with only four terrestrial channels. for the purposes of variety.
But. The ownership of home video-cameras.tantamountto 'comingout'.sportand nature programmes. Subtle differences of gender identityare negotiatedwhen. say.The contest to determine news agendas is the first and last battle of the political campaign. the point and is that these accountsof realityare alreadyrepresentations setsof and meanings about what they perceive the 'real' issues to be.a working-class womansays she dislikesall soapoperas. Audiencescan be creditedwith possessinga greaterdegree of 'media literacy' than they did in the past.could now be redefinedas part of an endlessdebateaboutwho 'we'are and what'our'nationalculture is.Jools Holland and Paula Yates. At another level. These are profoundly'homeaffairs'.the kinds of social issues and politicaldebates whichwere once includedon the agendasof moralpanictheoristsas sitesof socialanxiety.either as visualized participants audibleinternalaudiences.the new space for broadcasting home video materialon nationaltelevision(in serieslike VideoDiartes).and even crisis. The strengthof the old modelsof moralpanicwasthattheymarked the connection between 'the media'and 'socialcontrol'.Whatmay be constitutively new is the degree to whichmedia have become something with which the social is continuouslybeing defined.Similarly. the possession of degrees in media studies all point in this direction. nowadays. Finally.pointmore and . most political strategiesare media strategies.Socialage and generation(rather thanbiologicalage) are playedout in the relationbetweenRadiosOne and Two or Capital 1tMand Capital Gold.Rethinking 'moralpanic'for multi-mediated worlds social 571 realissuesratherthanthe spectacular exaggeratedones. the increasing relianceon the audienceas a resourcefor successfultelevision. the riskof being cliche.the existence of 'right to reply' programmes.Moreover.for a man to admit at his devotion to the films of Joan Crawfordand Judy Garlandis. For example. the hard and fast divide between media professionalsand media 'punters'seems to have broken down to some extent.preferringinsteadnews. These versionsof 'reality' wouldalsobe impregnatedwiththe markof media imageryratherthan somehowpure and untouchedby the all-pervasive tracesof contemporary communications. characterizations 'Mirror like reader'or 'Times reader' often give us as good an indication of social class as the mentionof a particular occupation.punctuating producingreality.developed by Channel Four'sTheTubein the early 1980s and best reflected in the 'fluffed' mannerismof its two presenters.seemsto givea or positiveplace to the audience in the processof programmeproduction. Also important here is the introductionof a distinctively amateurish(ratherthan professional) style of presentation. in some contexts.The dailyintensityand drama of theirappearance the manyvoicesnowheardin the background and but in the foreground. The media have long been seen to be embedded in the fabricof society.
drawn attention to the importance empoweringfolkdevilsso thattheyor theirrepresentaof tivescan challengethe cycleof sanctionsand socialcontrol. of Crucially. societal regularities and drawingof lines betweenthe permissible the less acceptable.the police.influencingsocialpolicyand attitudesto deviancegenerally.They now contributeto the shape of publicdebate. The theoryhas also influencedbusinesspractice.second.movies and computer games. magazines. and However.Recentmoralpanicsdo remain overwhelminglyconcerned with moral values.listenersand the varioussocial groups categorizedunder the heading of public opinion cannot be readoff the representation socialissues.Withfew exceptions.they were the spaceof consensus. it will be attractive to a contingent of consumers who see themselves as alternative. A new model need embrace the complex realmof reception. nothing could be betterfor salesthana bit of controversy the threatof censorship.publicity becauseitsassociations moralpanichavemade with it newsworthy. spaceof an the easily convinced public.avant-garde. hard and fast boundariesbetween 'normal'and 'deviant' .As a result.572 Angela McRobbte Sarah Thornton aruS L. the culturalgood will receive a lot of free.rebelliousor simplyyoung. to the reality of dealing with social difference than to the unity of currentaffairs(cf. for certain products like records.Whilethe theory beganits life in radicalsociology. rather than alienatingeveryone.the strengthof the argumentquickly found its way into those very areas with which it was originally concerned.self-helpand interestgroups have sprungup across the country and effectively positioned themselvesas authoritative sourcesof commentand criticism.Cultureindustrypromotions and marketing people now understand how. if negative.viewers. of The moralpanicswe havebeen discussinghere are less monolithic than those the classicmodel implied. while sectorsof the media regularlyremind viewersof the dangersof moralpanicand thus of alienatingsections of the communityby falsely attributingto them some of the characteristics the so-calledfolk devils.Pressure groups. the audience played a minor role and remainedrelativelyuntheorized.as agentsof socialcontrolnow showsome awarenessof the dangersof overreaction.readers.radical. In the old models of moral panic.playinga majorrole in contestingwhatthey perceive as dangerousstereotypesand popularmisconceptions.the theory has.albeitthroughan undoubtedlymorecircuitous route.Connelland Curtis1981).The promotional logic is twofold: first. over the years. Hall.the suggestionof sexual scandalor subversiveactivity. CONCLUSIONS Whathasbeen arguedhere is thatthe modelof moralpanicis urgently in need of updatingpreciselybecauseof its success. lobbies.the spaceof mediamanipulation.
and Tumber. Hall.MelodyMaker(27 February1988). in fact. (Dateaccepted:October1994) AngelaMcRobbie. S. 1981 'The "unity"of current affairs television' in Tony Bennett et al. and Pearson.rebelliousand threatening. Pursehouse.H. L. (eds) Newspaper Histoty. S. l 991 'Pressand Popular Culture'. H. 2. NewYork: FreePress. Cohen. (ed. Cohen'sFolkDevilsand MoralPanics and Young'sTheDrugtakers havebeen on the syllabi of many A-level sociology courses anct unlverslty courses In sociology. et al. Norman1993) (cf. P. 4. London: Hutchison. G. 1991 'Looking at the Sun: Into the Nineties with a Tabloid and its Readers'. Boyce et al. be new. J. Gilroy.quite simply. social work. (eds) 1973 The Manufactureof the News: Deviance. 'Acid Daze'. 1983 Hooligans:A Histotyof Respectable Fears. .Social Problerns and the Mass Media. Culture and Society13: 215-37.The repetition of the phrase 'Acid Daze' suggests the storieswerePRled. Darren Reynolds 'Acid House'. irascible. Few sociologistswould dispute the expansion over the last decade of what used to be called. the chances of it being delivered directly through the channels of the mediaare much less certain. 'New Acid Daze'.London: Constable.. London: Constable. Schlesinger. London: MacMillan. 1978 'The Press as an Agency of Social Control: An historical perspective' in G. .J. 1979 Policing the Crisis: Mugging. Cf. CulturalStudies from Birmingham 1: 88-133. Cohen. This may not. and Young.Rethinking 'moralpanic'formulti-mediated workls social 573 wouldseem to be less common. Perhaps the first publicity campaign intentionally court moraloutragewas to conducted by Andrew Loog Oldman who.London: MacMillan. and morerecentlymediastudies. Oxford: Basil Blackwell. while a of consensual social morality might still be a political objective. (eds) Popular Television Film. Cohen. back in the 1960s.) 1971 Imagesof Deviance. Sleeve notes of The Ho?vse Sound of ChicagoVolume AcidTracks III: releasedin January1988by LondonRecords label (a of Polygram International).1972/1980 FolkDeviEs Moral and Panics: The Creationof the Mods and the Rockers. I. and Sparks. promoted the Rolling Stones as dirty. London: BFI. S. 1963TheOutsiders. * . Hall. Thornton Department MediaStuxlies of University Sussex of NOTES 1. S. Soul Underground (April 1988). J.if only becausemoralpanicsare now continuallycontested. BIBLIOGRAPHY Becker. S. Department SocialScience of Loughborough University of Technology and SarahL. Curran. Connell. The diversification forms of media and the sophisticated of restructuring variouscategoriesof audience requirethat.the mass media. the State and Law and Order. and Curti. RecordMirror(20 February1988). Harmondsworth: Penguin. 1994 Reporting Crime: The Media Politics of . Media. social policy.'Acid Daze'. 3. C. M. P. Curran. 1987 ThereAin'tNo Blackin the UnionJack:TheCultural Politicsof Raceand Nation. New Musical Express(6 February1988).
AIDS and the Media. Oxford: Wilkins. Waddington. 37(2): 245-59. Thornton. 1964 SocialDeviance: London: TaviPolicy. MoralPanic:A Questionof Proportion'. Young. 1971 TheDrugrs: TheSocial Meaningof Drug Use. London: Paladin. S. Thornton PornograCnminalJustice. L.Actionand Research.Watney. BntishJournalof Sociology . polity. 1987 PolicingDesire: phy.574 and AngelaMcRobbze SarahL. J. L 1995 ClubCulture: Social Media and Subsultural Capital. A. Music. as P. 1986'Mugging a stock. London: sityPress. J.Oxford:OxfordUniver.S. Methuen. T.
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