Moral Panics

To what extent is Moral Panic Theory (Cohen: 1972) the best way to explain Britains recent ‘gang violence’ problems? How else might you account for these problems?

This essay aims to examine Cohens Moral Panic Theory in relation to the recent gang violence observed in the UK. Whilst there is a vast amount of literature which supports Cohens claims that ‘folk devils’ only emerge in times of widespread ‘Moral Panic’, others have neglected to examine whether groups or individuals can be labelled as folk devils when moral panics aren’t taking place. Using a number of sources (journals and articles pertaining to the area in question), I will aim to examine whether Cohens theory can best be used to explain Britains recent gang violence problems, and also additional reason that may account for these problems.

‘Pub shooting may be gang related’, ‘Door-step killing said to be gang related’ and ‘Gang of children tortured boy and left him for dead’ are just some of the kinds of headlines that can be seen on a daily basis within UK newspapers. But are these terms an accurate representation of the incidents that seem to occur almost daily in the UK, or are newspapers exaggerating their reports, and consequently instilling a sense of panic into the general public? These questions have yet to be concretely answered, with few scholars taking an interest in whether the way gang culture is portrayed in the media   leads to a manipulation of the general public into fearing certain groups when, in reality, many of us are largely ignorant as to the contexts in which these ‘folk devils ‘ appear. Although several studies have documented reasons for gang membership (Miller, B. 1958- Reasons including increased street-wiseness and autonomy from conventional authority, and more recently ____, which established causes relating to poverty and peer pressure), there has been little focus on how the media portrays gangs. In Cohen’s own words, a moral panic is defined as a an instance when a...