Posts Tagged ‘stanley cohen’

Can you think of an issue which concern you a lot? Is there any matter in the public sphere in which you engage yourself and feel that change and/or control is needed? Politics, health, the environment, they are all examples of topics which can create moral panic in a society. Have you ever stopped to think why everyone is worrying or if there really is something to worry about? What is the source of moral panic?

Stanley Cohen (Turnbull 2012) defines moral panic as;

“…A condition, episodes, person or group of persons emerges to become defined as a threat to societal values
and interests; its nature is presented in a stylized and stereotypical fashion by the mass media; the moral barricades are manned by editors, bishops, politicians and other right-thinking people.”

One such condition can be body image. There is a lot of talk and discussions of “the ideal body” both in social conversations and in the media. Health has always been important to us, but recently it seem to me that being super sporty, eating right and having the perfect body has emerged as a trend in our society. During the last years everyone have got a membership at the gym, it is no longer only the pros who has expensive outfits for cycling-sports or jogging, we all have to buy the healthiest bottled water, sushi, herbs and nuts are required for us to be truly nutritious  and smokers are looked upon as aliens we have never seen before.

There is an obsession today about eating correct and being fit and it can be experienced as threatening to our social values and interests. Children are very often a reason to moral panic; what examples do we set for our children? All this talk about obesity and being healthy, how might it influence the thinking of a child? I believe mainstream media is a source of moral panic, and so is social media. In mainstream media there are “experts” telling us what and why, and they know how to push the right buttons to get us worried (as well as to listen to their solutions to the problems, aka advertising), and in addition to that we actively debate and share the same news on twitter and facebook. Are we not creating our own panic doing that? I would say at least we are contributing.

We also need to use our common sense. We do not seem to question what the media tells us or why it tells us the stories that it does, we just accept everything. Isn’t it funny how their stories might differ from day to day? Are we worrying about obesity or eating disorders? One day I hear that we are to busy with our careers so we only serve our children McDonalds and the other day I get the impression that “no carbs” are the only option on the menu! Somehow we do not seem to notice, but we discuss obesity and “too skinny models” over the same dinner without noticing, and after dinner we still run to the gym in panic not to keep in shape. Contributing? Yes.

We are the ones who sets examples to our children, not the media. We decide what we serve for dinner at home, not the media. There might be bad role models presented in the media, but we have the opportunity to teach them different, in the end it is us who decides if there is a reason for moral panic, not the media.


Turnbull, S 2012, BCM110 “Media Issues, Moral Panics and Assignments”, lecture notes, accessed 22/04/2012, eLearning@UOW.