A Guide to the Uses of Fear
“Moral panic” can be defined broadly as any mass movement that emerges in response to a false, exaggerated, or ill-defined moral threat to society and proposes to address this threat through punitive measures: tougher enforcement, “zero tolerance,” new laws, communal vigilance, violent purges. Central to the logic of moral panic is the machinery of taboo. Moral panics generate certain well-known forms of political organization. The object of panic might be an imaginary threat or a real person or group portrayed in an imaginary manner. Panics can encompass in a single movement any number of forms of dread and loathing. The mass media provides the requisite sources of sensation. Now, as then, news that shocks, scandalizes, or evokes fear and dread brings temporary relief from the tedium of modern life. Media panic is intricately woven into the basic structure of politics and governance; it is a technique for running political campaigns, staging and addressing social issues, and solving problems in a variety of communicative or administrative domains.
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