Moral panics are instances of mass fear based on the false or exaggerated perception that some cultural behavior or group of people is dangerously deviant and poses a threat to society's values and interests.
Such panics are fostered by mass media and exploited by self-appointed moralists and politicians.
First coined by Jock Young (1971) and, later, Stanley Cohen (1972) when he studied the public reaction to youths called “mods and rockers” in Brighton, England during the 1960's.
Salem Witch Trials, 1692-93
Satanic Panic, 1980s-90s
Moral panics arise when distorted mass media campaigns are used to create fear, reinforce stereotypes and exacerbate preexisting divisions in the world, often based on race, ethnicity and social class.
Many social problems have been the basis of distorted mass media campaigns. Do you remember any of these moral panics?
-Goode and Ben Yehuda, 1994