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Moral Panic on Mental Illness - Essay Example

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Moral panic is simply a grossly exaggerated and widely shared fear in society of a newly discovered threat from an old form of deviance. The deviant persons or out-of-the-norm phenomena made as objects of this fear have been around for a long time, brought to the attention of society and media only by an incident or two that had the effect of a sudden eruption.
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Moral Panic on Mental Illness
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Moral Panic on Mental Illness

Its nature is presented in a stylised and stereotypical fashion by the mass media; the moral barricades are manned by editors, bishops, politicians and other right-minded people; socially accredited experts pronounce their diagnoses and solutions; ways of coping are evolved or more often resorted to; the condition then disappears, submerges or deteriorates and becomes more visible." Another theory describes moral panic as "a process in which individuals receive a group stereotype they did not have before, and is described with blanket statements and exaggerated reports," (Thompson, K., 1998) which only serves to underline the fact that the threats feeding this panic are unwarranted and without ample justification.
5) Disproportionateness - notions on the numbers of moral deviants being feared and the extent of the harm they can do are disproportionate with the actual numbers of these deviants and the harm they are capable of doing. In all cases, deviants are few in numbers and the harm they can do is limited, even non-existent on both counts.
phenomenon, it follows that the deviancy and deviants involved are mere creations of society. The action perceived as deviant as well as the people who engage in it became a "deviance" only because of this labeling anomaly. Much of the blame for this stereotyping practice that leads to moral panic is flung at media, which thrives mostly on exaggeration and sensationalism to boost sales. Media organizations show this bias in their choice of language and photos, space or time allocation and the editorial importance they attach to stories, because they want society to perceive events in a certain way. Burns, H.(2002)

There are three distinct types of moral panic, according to Goode & Ben-Yehuda (1994). These are: 1) the grass roots model - the concern and anger about a threat from a perceived deviant are a response of a broad spectrum of society and population to persistent and widespread stresses; 2) elite-engineered mode - when moral panic is orchestrated by a power elite using social institutions to fight the threat from the perceived deviants, with the side purpose of protecting the elite's economic and political interests; and 3) the interest group model - moral panic is the unintended result of moral crusades launched by specific interest groups.

An example of the interest group model of moral panic is the white slavery scare in the US from 1907 to 1914, which was fanned by fundamentalist Protestants and the women's suffragette movement. The media stories at the time claimed that organised ... Read More
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