Moral Panic about Drug Use
Moral panic can be defined as a process of arousing intense feelings about an issue by making an awareness of a moral danger that threatens social stability through dissemination of exaggerated fear mainly through the media, in a society - Moral Panic about Drug Use introduction. The obstructions to the fear are erected through legislation. The exaggerated fears are created by politicians and to some extent the elite in the society. The issue of social concern is portrayed to be a taboo and a threat to the social order. This leads to hostility towards the issue and actions taken toward the social issue are disproportional to the threat. The media play a significant role in the dissemination of moral panic by ensuring the masses are not involved in the decision-making process. The dissemination of moral panic is achieved through frequent scare stories, and without allowing public deliberation about the issue. Under such circumstances, the majorities are left confused by the issue and legislations propose the only solution to curb the threat. In addition, no direct experiences of the threat are elaborated, as the majorities in a population are made to belief vague and untrue information to arouse fear of the perceived threat that does not exist in reality (Feeney 1). In this paper, the author evaluates the moral panic about drug use.
The dangers of the perceived threat are orchestrated by the elite people in the society and propagated through the media. In the society, panic is aroused and if someone counters or stands against the exaggerated fear, the media strongly condemns such a person/entity. The reason for disseminating fear is to cause panic and show the masses that only the state can deal with the issue through legislations. An example of a moral panic related to drug use was orchestrated by the media in 1995. This was after the death of Leah Betts as the result of taking ecstasy (Wood 1). At the time of Leah Betts death, Ecstasy was a new drug whose side effects were unknown. However, at the time, the little research done had shown the likelihood of the drug causing depression and anxiety. The indications, were hypothesized could lead to mental disorder in individuals later in life. In addition, the drug was postulated could kill a person even when taken once, but conclusive evidence about the effects of the drug had not been reached, at the time L. Betts died. The side effects were unclear at the time. The death of Betts provided a favorable setting for the creation and propagation of a moral panic concerning the use of Ecstasy, as the media portrayed the drug as highly dangerous and a threat to human existence. Exaggerated fears that the drug caused the users, especially youths become irrational addicts were disseminated through the media. The masses were made to believe the use of Ecstasy posed a great threat to human beings. This is because the masses were made to believe the use of the drug was similar to annihilating babies (Wood 2).
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People who contradicted the media opinion concerning Ecstasy were seen to have sinned no matter their outright truth. For instance, Mary Hartnoll ascribed that the risk of dying after taking Ecstasy was 0.0000147% (1/6,800,000) (Toynbee para 3). This was far much lesser compared to the risk of dying after taking Aspirin. Hartnoll put facts in the presence of the fear created by the media; however, not advocating the use of ecstasy, she was condemned for putting an irresponsible statement. The media fuelled and made the masses accept the drug was dangerous, and its use was against the norms because of the consequences of its side effect. This created a moral panic among the masses. Conclusion
A moral panic is created by the elite in the society, mainly politicians. In addition, the media play a significant role in propagating the panic, exaggerated through fear. The debate surrounding a panic issue is not allowed, and decisions are made by the elite who advantage when the exaggerated fear is believed as the outright truth by the masses. Moral panic has applied to drug use wherein, if the elite individuals want to curtail the use of a certain drug, they orchestrate a moral panic issue that portrays a drug as extremely dangerous, though safe.
Feeney, Chekov. “Drugs, bail and moral panics-a response.” 2013. Web. 23 January 2014. . Web document. Toynbee, Polly. “A heroine amid the drugs hysteria; The vilified social worker who claimed Ecstasy is relatively safe should be praised for being sensible; Public people cannot speak honestly about drugs and hope to live.” The Independent Wednesday 17 April 1996: Online. Online Newspaper. Wood, Matthew. “Moral Panics.” 2013. Web. 23 January 2014. .