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The 2011 English Riots

A Contexualized, Dynamic, Grounded Exploration

Tony Jefferson

After a brief account of what happened, the question is posed of whether the idea of moral panic is the most revealing approach with which to understand the riots. Before answering, the question of how novel were the riots is addressed in relation to policing, social media, riot areas, the rioters, rioting behavior, the State’s response and the reaction of communities. The elements of a dynamic, grounded explanation are then tentatively offered, followed by an attempt to situate this explanation within the context of the contemporary lives of disadvantaged youth lacking both political support and an economic future. The conclusion returns to the question of moral panic. It suggests that since most of what happened had clear precedents in the series of urban riots since the 1980s, there is plenty of evidence to support the idea that the constructions of the 2011 riots are best understood as a moral panic. However, the small indications of new developments, namely, the sheer vindictiveness of the state’s post-riot response—hunting down the rioters, harsh sentencing, naming juveniles—as well as the spread of rioting to new areas and the practice of communities ‘fighting back’, are important to explore for what they reveal about the present neoliberal conjuncture. They seem to be morbid symptoms of an apparently intractable series of crises characterized by, among other things, an unprecedentedly grim situation for poor, unemployed, disaffected youth living in deprived areas.

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Social Response to Age-Gap Sex Involving Minors

Empirical, Historical, Cross-Cultural, and Cross-Species Considerations

Bruce Rind

Social response to age‐gap sex involving minors has become increasingly severe. In the US, non‐coercive acts that might have been punished with probation 30 years ago often lead to decades in prison today. Punishment also increasingly includes civil commitment up to life, as well as scarlet‐letter‐like public registries and onerous residence restrictions for released offenders. Advocates and the general public approve, believing that age‐gap sex with minors is uniquely injurious, pathological, and criminal. Critics argue that public opinion and policy have been shaped by moral panic, consisting of unfounded assumptions and invalid science being uncritically promoted by ideology, media sensationalism, and political pandering. This talk critically examines the basic assumptions and does so using a multi‐perspective approach (empirical, historical, cross‐cultural, cross‐species) to overcome the biases inherent in traditional clinical‐forensic reports. Non‐clinical empirical reviews of age‐gap sex involving minors show claims of intense, pervasive injuriousness to be highly exaggerated. Historical and cross‐cultural reviews show that adult‐adolescent sexual relations have been common and frequently socially integrated in other times and places, indicating that present‐day Western conceptualizations are socially constructed to reflect current social and economic arrangements rather than expressions of a priori truths. Analogous relations in primates are commonplace, non‐pathological, and not infrequently functional, contradicting implicit assumptions of a biologically‐based “trauma response” in humans. It is concluded that, though age‐gap sex involving minors is a significant mismatch for contemporary culture—and this talk therefore does not endorse it—attitudes and social policy concerning it have been driven by an upward‐spiraling moral panic, which itself is immoral in its excessive adverse consequences for individuals and society.

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“Work pays”

Slovak neoliberalism as “authoritarian populism”

Nicolette Makovicky

Focusing on the implementation of the New Social Policy in January 2004 and the social unrest that followed, this article traces the discursive construction of welfare dependence as a “Romani” problem through the creation of a media-led “moral panic”. Situating this “moral panic” within the wider context of competing populist narratives in postsocialist Slovakia, it argues that the ethnicization of the unrest constituted a rearticulation of nationalist populist symbols into liberal political logic. Employed by the opposition, the first of these narratives posited liberalization as the dispossession of the working majority by corrupt elites. This was countered by a second narrative presented by the center-right coalition that posited welfare as a system of “just rewards” for those willing to work, while constructing the Romani minority as social deviants. As such, it appeared to be a variant of what Stuart Hall has called “authoritarian populism”: an attempt by the leading coalition to harness popular discontents in order to justify exceptional levels of government intervention into social life.

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Alison Fyfe

Early twenty-first century North American journalists often claim that social changes such as women's liberation and civil rights have had a dark side for girls. For supposedly abandoning the safety of their traditional role in the home, girls are disproportionately characterized as being at risk of victimization, while also being increasingly cast as risks to themselves and others. Using mixed-methods content analysis, this article demonstrates that the social construct of risky girls crystallized for Toronto news after the 1997 murder of Reena Virk in British Columbia through a raced, classed, and gendered moral panic over bad girls. Discourses changed from talk of youth violence before the murder to talk of risky girls after it. By conflating victimization with offending, risky girl discourses prioritize risk management over needs. This conflation results in the increased policing and incarceration of girls and youth of color, ultimately reinforcing social inequalities like racism and patriarchy.

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‘At the Mercy of the German Eagle’

Images of London in Dissolution in the Novels of William Le Queux

Antony Taylor

Queux's attitudes to the metropolis in the context of debates about urban decadence. Drawing on contemporary fears about the capital and its dissolution, it considers the moral panics about London and Londoners and their relationship to Britain's martial

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Emma Celeste Bedor

. Flickinger , and Linda L.M. Bennett . 1999 . “ ‘Video Malaise’ Revisited: Public Trust in the Media and Government .” Harvard International Journal of Press/Politics 4 : 8 – 23 . Bray , Abigail . 2009 . “ Governing the Gaze: Child Sex Abuse Moral

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Living in a hybrid material world

Girls, ethnicity and mediated doll products

Angharad N. Valdivia

Drawing on a theoretical framework that combines Media Studies, Latina/o Studies, and Girls Studies with the concept of hybridity, I explore American Girl, Dora the Explorer, and Bratz—three mediated doll lines—as manifestations of an ethnic identity crisis that in turns generates a moral panic that seeks to return whiteness and conventional femininity to its normalized mainstream standing. Issues of production, representation, and reception of mediated doll lines illuminate both a synergistic marketing strategy and a contested reception of hybrid mediated dolls. As such, mediated doll lines can be productively examined as they are an excellent vehicle for understanding contemporary agendas over gender, age, class, and ethnicity.

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Rural Failures

Representations of (Im)mobile Young Masculinities and Place in the Swedish Countryside

Susanna Areschoug

Critical boyhood scholars have consistently problematized the moral panic directed at boys’ educational achievements, for instance, by illustrating how the issue is intersected by power hierarchies such class and race, but have not been as attentive to the spatialized dimensions of this discourse. In the Swedish debate, boys in (post)industrial towns in rural regions—affected by decades of deindustrialization—are often pointed out as at risk of becoming unemployed societal liabilities. Documenting the lives, aspirations, and future trajectories of young and rural working-class boys, the television series The School Boys (Skolpojkarna) analyzed in this article reproduces this trope and connects anxieties regarding “redundant” masculinities with rural spaces. Using feminist and post-structural approaches to gender and space, I show how this media production, supplied for educational purposes, mediates normative understandings of young rural masculinity.

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Femininity Out of Control on the Internet

A Critical Analysis of Media Representations of Gender, Youth, and MySpace.com in International News Discourses

Shayla Thiel-Stern

This article raises issues related to the gendered representation in the print media, particularly English-language newspapers, of girls who use MySpace as foolish innocents who invite sexual predation. It examines the ways in which the stereotyped representation of girls and boys promotes the hegemonic discourses that construct girlhood as a time of helplessness and lack of control, and that blame the technology itself, in this case MySpace, for a multitude of cultural problems. Ultimately, these discourses portray MySpace as a dangerous place where adolescent girls flaunt sexuality, where sexual predators lurk, and where boys commit violence, thus creating and reinforcing a moral panic and extending stereotypes about girls and boys, and about technology.

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The Mystery of the Missing Men

How Do Young Men Experience "Belong-ing" in Higher Education

Vicki Trowler, Robert Allan, and Rukhsana Din

There is something of a moral panic about the relative paucity of men in higher education in many countries. Closer examination shows that it is often men from subordinate groups in their contexts, such as working-class men (in the UK context) or African men (in the South African context) who are most underrepresented. This article draws on research in Scotland, South Africa and England to examine the experiences of young men positioned as “nontraditional” in their localized HE contexts who do attend university. Our studies found their experience of “belong-ing” to be mediated by their underrepresentation, as well as constructions of masculinity at system/context or at individual/group level. Understanding the latter can help ameliorate the effects of the former.