Moral Panic Definition

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Deborah Cameron is a linguist whose focus research is on what people’s attitudes are towards language. She writes a long definition on moral panic in Verbal Hygiene explaining how the media and general public exaggerate concerns beyond reason. Cameron reports that Jock Young describes moral panic as the public’s reaction that is “completely disproportionate to the actual problem.” Cameron explains that the causes of moral panic are analyzed in a simplistic manner, but the concern to the problem escalates to intolerable levels. She uses the term “folk devil” as an example of how they are identified in gang related violence and is a scape goat to the exaggerated issues reported by the media. Cameron also states from what scholars have suggested “that moral panic…is a product of modern mass media…”, if there is media attention the event will turn into an issue. However, if the media does not give attention, then the event will go unnoticed. In “American Werewolf in Kabul…” Sean Brayton, a Ph.D student researching the specifics of critical race theory and media studies, analyzes the concept of moral panic as being an important cause of the potential threat of national security to the United States of America. He illustrates the three main elements of moral panic: folk devils, ambiguous terms, and moral entrepreneurs using the reality of John Walker Lindh’s journey through multiple identities. Comparing Cameron’s definition of moral panic to Brayton’s discussion of moral panic, which originated from Cohen’s developed description of the context in 1972, there is agreement that media overemphasize concerns beyond practicality. Both Cameron and Brayton use the term “folk devils” to represent a subgroup of individuals that is a leading cause of moral panic, yet with different purposes. Cameron suggests that the term “folk devil” is usually branded to social minorities that bear the burden enmity and blame by the socially ideal majority, whereas Brayton expands Cohen’s...
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