Failure to Launch: Why Do Some Social Issues Fail to Detonate Moral Panics?
Posted: 15 Dec 2008
Date Written: January 2009
A ‘moral panic’ is characterized by such themes as the novelty of a particular menace, its sudden explosive growth, and the menace it poses both to accepted moral standards and to vulnerable groups and individuals. Some problems, however, apparently have all the features that would generate a self-feeding media frenzy, and, yet, they do not do so. I will explain this absence of panic by examining the issue of internet child pornography. The failure to construct the problem in ‘panic’ terms reflects the technological shortcomings of law-enforcement agencies, which force them to interpret available data according to familiar forms of knowledge, rather than comprehending or publicizing new forms of deviant organization. This lack of awareness then conditions the nature of political investigation and media coverage.
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