A moral panic refers to a public panic or fear triggered by alarming media over an issue that is believed to be a threat to the sensibilities and peaceful coexistence in the society. Reactive laws and public policies reinforce a moral panic. The moral panic model originated from the above and has had an enormous effect on sociology and the language cultural studies. It is a model that assumes that a social reaction is merely a moral panic and has become a familiar aspect of any pubic conversation on the issues of social problems and societal risks. The moral panic model has advantages and disadvantages, as a tool that is used for understanding public responses to the issues of mediated crime and deviance.
The moral panic model has been widely accepted in the age of exaggeration, where the mass media and the social media converge on a single issue, that creates anxiety and exploits the issue for its worth. The society is often subjected to a period of moral panic where a condition, person or groups of persons emerge and are defined as a threat to societal interests, peace and values. This is especially presented by the mass media, which reaches many people and thus has a very strong effect (Jewkes, 2009).
There are several advantages of the moral panic model as a conceptual tool for understanding public responses to the mediated crime and deviance. In the multi-mediated world where codes, symbols and signs constantly merge and intertwine in an ongoing stream of presentations and representations, crime and criminal justice are conceived as mediatized phenomena. They underscore the importance of the moral panic model in the sense that it reflects the fears that the society has concerning certain conditions or issues. Therefore, when it occurs, it is likely that it reflects an issue that might be happening or might be near happening. When addressing the issues of mediated crime deviance, the moral panic model helps the criminal justice system to be ready to prevent or control the mediated crime and deviance. This is clearly seen in the sense that when the moral panic happens, the government agencies, responsible for preventing and controlling crimes, formulate laws and other control measures that are meant to cushion the society from the detrimental consequences of the crime. Therefore, the moral panic model is advantageous in the sense that it helps in the prevention and control the villainy before it happens or whenever it occurs (Rohloff & Wright 2010).
Another advantage of the moral panic model is that it helps to tell the issues or the kinds of people that the society considers as a threat to the present values and peaceful coexistence. The issues and individuals that threaten the societal values are the ones that must be addressed with an immediate effect before they cause harm. Some of these issues require prevention rather than control, because if they happen, they are bound to destroy the society. Mediated crime and deviance represents the types of crimes that are difficult to investigate and may be solved by engaging the police. This is why the leaders such as politicians and other societal entities, responsible for the value formulation, play an essential role in analyzing and creating the solutions for moral panics that are in turn manifested as mediated crime and deviance. Therefore, the moral panic model helps the society in identifying these issues or persons early enough, so that the society can come up with relevant ways to control them and prevent societal harm from occurring.
The moral panic model has an advantage of addressing sensitive issues like racial and violent behavior by checking the activities of the youth and encouraging the policy reform that enables the youth to be responsible for the behavior they engage in, and helping them shun away from the activities that might break the society into disintegration.
The moral panic model as a conceptual tool for understanding mediated crime and deviance has certain disadvantages. First, moral panics reflect the reporting of crime by the media by creating an inappropriate and misleading image. The moral panic model ignores the fact that the public can be influenced by the information that is broadcasted by the media and causes more problems than solutions in the society. Therefore, the moral panic model can mislead and lead to the misunderstanding of mediated crime and deviance (Rohloff & Wright 2010).
The use of moral panic model can lead to unfairly profiling and targeting the minority groups. There are certain groups that are targeted by the moral panics and are known as the folk devils. They are considered not to be adapting to the cultural, social and ethical frameworks that the primary definers classify as the acceptable moral behavior or values. Therefore, the targeted ones are those persons or groups that are seen as a threat (whether true or fabricated) to the consensual values and interests. Therefore, the moral panic model can land certain groups or individuals in trouble in the name of solving mediated crime or deviance (Uggen & Inderbitzin, 2010).
The moral panic model can be used to endanger the society’s future, when the belief that the youths represent the future is used to prevent them from accessing the products and environments, necessary for their development or that considered their right. The moral entrepreneurs who advocate for the draconian measures in the name of protecting the youth morality can use it. This is especially the case that is seen in handling teenagers and the issue of sexuality in the face of homosexual issues and pornography.
Therefore, the moral panic model, as a conceptual tool for understanding mediated crime and deviance, has both advantages and disadvantages that make the model efficient and inefficient for the use in certain circumstances.