Stanley Cohen uses the term ‘moral panic’ to describe the identification of groups of people that are deemed to threaten our whole way of life and from whom society must be protected’. (Kelly & Toynbee P363) He defines the term as a sporadic episode which, when it happens, causes people to worry about the values and principles held by society that may be in jeopardy. This quite often led to a nostalgic view that the past had been a more harmonious time of life without such disorder and that the youth certainly behaved, on the whole, better in days gone by.
Throughout each era of sporadic moral panic in terms of the youth threatening social order, there has emerged groups that have fit the criteria and Cohen concerns himself primarily with the ‘Mods and Rockers’ that fought in seaside towns in the UK in the 1960’s. His belief is that the mediation of these events led to the construction of ‘Folk Devils’ (Cohen 1973) which in turn both outraged and terrified people, but this fear was out of proportion in relation to what actually took place. For Cohen, public opinion, reaction and emotion was provoked from the way the media exposed the facts of such events; it was out of proportion in relation to what actually happened and therefore the media ‘played a major role in fostering irrational fears about anti-social behaviour’ (Kelly & Toynbee P 370)
Stuart Hall in his work of Policing the crisis (1978) takes the approach of Cohen and takes it further into the in the early 1970’s ‘contributed to a widespread belief that there was a crisis in society’. (Kelly & Toynbee P 370) He talks of the divided society in terms of equality, social and political unrest and how the British state became the ‘primary definer of disorder’ (Kelly & Toynbee P 371) when they cracked down on crime and introduced the term ‘mugger’. The media then took this primary defninition and it became a common term creating law and order society, with the deep rooted causes of inequality...
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