Describe in your own words how the deviancy amplification spiral operates to produce a moral panic. Illustrate with two examples.

Essay by Lisa2406University, Bachelor's March 2004

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A deviancy amplification spiral occurs when a moral panic i.e. an overreaction to forms of defiance or wrong doing believed to be a threat to society, is stereotyped in a negative manner by the media who exaggerate the facts so that it makes a good story. As a result of this there is a rapid build up of public concern which forces authorities or opinion makers to respond to the threat, resulting in either social change or the panic ceases.

From the early 60's to the present day the media have had a central part in the role of creating moral panics especially those regarding drug abuse and defiant behaviour among young people. I have chosen to illustrate this using two examples - the mods and rockers' of 1964 and the death of Leah Betts in 1995 resulting from ecstasy.

Mods and Rockers'

The mods and rockers' were two British youth movement who were involved in small-scale scuffles and vandalism in Clacton on Easter Monday 1964.

Although there were only small scale scuffles the media exaggerated the potential threat and the level of violence and damage that was caused. They distorted the facts and portrayed the events using the headlines 'day of terror' and 'hell-bent on destruction', but what wasn't reported in the newspapers was that the cameras didn't get to Clacton to the day after the scuffles and that an eye-witness said that there was a maximum of £200 damage. Nevertheless, the media exaggeration forced the police to intervene strongly by arresting more people to try to prevent the threat, and as a result of this public concern was increased.

Leah Betts

The death of Leah Betts is a classic example of moral panic regarding youth culture and drugs. Leah Betts was an 18 year old student who...