Saturday, 9 June 2012

Moral Panics, Ms Sara Payne And The Open University

Moral Panics and the Media

"Chas Critcher critically evaluates the usefulness of moral panic models for understanding how politicians, the public and pressure groups come to recognise apparent new threats to the social order, and he scrutinizes the role of the media, especially the popular press.Two models of moral panics are identified and explained, then applied to a range of case studies: AIDS; rave culture and the drug ecstasy; video nasties; child abuse; paedophilia. Examples of moral panics from a range of countries reveal many basic similarities but also significant variations between different national contexts."

Journalism Studies, Volume 3, Issue 4, 2002, Media, Government and Moral Panic: the politics of paedophilia in Britain 2000-1

"Following the murder of an eight-year-old girl in July 2000, a British newspaper, the News of the World, campaigned to change the law on paedophile crimes [sic]. Most of its demands were eventually met. The narrative has four episodes: the initial campaign, popular vigilantism, political response and further debate and action following the murderer's conviction. A moral panic framework is shown to be applicable but ultimately an inadequate explanatory framework, having too rigid a conception of the state, primary definers and the control culture. Supplementary approaches from agenda setting and discourse analysis are needed. The distortion of the issues of child abuse and murder suggests a need for reconceptualisation of moral panics in terms of three dimensions: processes, discourses and normative affirmation."

Evil monsters and cunning perverts: Representing and regulating the dangerous paedophile

"The conceptual shift towards understanding child sexual abuse through the figure of the paedophile has several detrimental consequences. This chapter offers a critique of contemporary media and governmental/legal discourses, pointing to misrepresentation, sensationalism, demonisation and insufficient child protection. Value – This research indicates that discourses and conceptual shifts around child sex offenders are driven by the media but have come to be accepted and perpetuated by the government and the law. This dynamic not only illustrates the power of the media to set agendas but raises questions regarding the adequacy of official governance informed by media discourses."

Media Constructions of, and reactions to, paedophilia in modern society

"The media representation of paedophilia has been:

Possibly socially irresponsible.
Has contributed to the unrealistic social construction of the realities of paedophilia that exist in modern society.

The main conclusions are that:

If the media, especially the tabloid press, took a more responsible, socially conscious and informed approach to the discussion as well as to the reporting of paedophilia this could lead to a more appropriate social construction and a better informed public.

Public education through the media is not a recent phenomenon (McQuail 2007), but in the case of paedophilia it may be the best strategy to get the public to engage with a difficult and sensitive issue.

Although, the media construction and representation of paedophilia has played an important role in the current moral panic surrounding paedophilia in the UK it is not the only factor; with the public and government also playing a pivotal role.

The social construction of reality that is aided by the media can help promote an understanding of paedophilia in modern society and as such allow us to deal with this prevalent social issue in a more realistic and level headed fashion."


"The Sun has been forced to make an embarrassing apology after naming and shaming the wrong man as a sex offender. Owing to a mix up by a picture agency, the tabloid mistakenly used a photograph of David Gazley in place of a picture of Christopher Harris, who has been banned from going near children for life after groping young girls in Great Yarmouth. An apology to Mr Gazley – whose portrait appeared in Saturday’s Sun above the headline “Face of kid ban pervert” – is published in the tabloid today. “We sincerely apologise to Mr Gazley for the hurt and embarrassment caused by our report,” said the newspaper."

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