Heightened Social Anxiety; Moral Panics and Deviancy Amplification Loops.

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‘Large Hadron Collider could spell doomsday for Earth in nine days!’ (News track India 2008). Exaggerations, misinterpretations and lack of knowledge can lead people in a society to believe things such as black holes that could potentially consume and destroy the Earth being created by the Large Hadron Collider. This is often the beginning of a phenomenon known as a moral panic unless it proves invalid by the masses or not profitable for institutions or organisations. First coined by Jock Young (1971:37) in his book ‘Images of Deviance’, edited by Stanley Cohen, his peer and colleague. It was Cohen (1973:9) though, in fact, who brought the phrase to the forefront of sociology and defined it when he said:

Societies appear to be subject,
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Cohen (1973) states that there are three key stages in a moral panic ‘(i) Exaggeration and Distortion (ii) Prediction (iii) Symbolisation’. In the first stage the media use emotive language to emphasise and often mask the reality of a situation, for instance in 1988 Edwina Currie said "Most of the egg production in this country, sadly, is now affected with salmonella," interpreted by the media as most eggs produced, causing sales to plummet and eventually her having to resign from her post as health minister (BBC 2005). This exaggeration and distortion causes the public to view the problem with tinted glasses and so causes a panic in this case the sale of eggs to plummet overnight. These events are often brought into light by newspapers or induced by a certain body that may wish to engage in “manipulation for ulterior ends” (Thompson 1998:9). This stage can be explained by Chibnall’s (2001:23) eight Professional imperatives. These imperatives, Immediacy, Dramatization, Personalization, Simplification, Titillation, Conventionalism, Structural Access and Novelty influence reporters to portray crimes in a specific way (Chibnall 2001:23). Summed up by Young (1974:241) newspapers ‘select events which are atypical, present them in a stereotypical fashion and contrast them against a backcloth of normality which is over typical’. For example during the Whitsunday of 1964 in Clacton one news story claimed ‘in one resort, the windows of “all” the dance halls by

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