Some health scares require the presence of folk devils that will embody our projections of responsibility for why the episode has occurred.
From mods and rockers to young black men, homosexuals, and homeless youth, folk devils have historically had specific, visible identities reflecting their social, class or ethnocultural status; however, identifying them as the embodiment of collective anxiety and the object of moral approbation and regulation can be difficult.
Thus, key to the rhetorical construction of 'anti-vaxxers' as folk devils were efforts to subject them to caricature and ridicule.
Unlike other folk devils who have clear physical or psychological characteristics (e.g.
The moral panic is a scare about a threat or supposed threat from deviants or "folk devils," a category of people who, presumably, engage in evil practices and are blamed for menacing a society's culture, way of life, and central values.
(7.) Cohen, Stanley (1972), Moral Panics and Folk Devils. London: MacGibbon & Kee.
The word "scare" implies that the concern over, fear of, or hostility toward the folk devil is out of proportion to the actual threat that is claimed.
Where Spurlock employs myth and innuendo to push his panic, Shapiro is more inclined to use "folk devils
," a term sociologist Cohen coined to describe our penchant for singling out villains as the embodiment of a purported threat.
I do no more than list some of the best known 'moral panic' studies: Stan Cohen, Folk Devils
and Moral Panics: The Creation of the Mods and Rockers (London, 1972); Erich Goode and Nachman Ben-Yehuda, Moral Panics: The Social Construction of Deviance (Oxford, 1994).
And probably the text from which to base any examination of the possible link between media reporting and moral panics is Stanley Cohen's 1972 book, Folk Devils
and Moral Panic, in which he proposes that the mass media are ultimately responsible for the creation of such panics.
Yet, there are other areas of concern: crimes against the environment (Block 1993; Hemmings 1993; Tysoe 1993), the crimes of `big capital' (Pearce and Tombs 1993), transnational fraud (Commonwealth Secretariat 1991, 1992, 1993; Clarke 1993; van Duyne 1993), art and antiques theft (Esterow 1967; Gregory and Collier 1992), trade in endangered species (Nowikowski 1992), internationally co-ordinated racist violence (Jensen 1993; Witte 1993) and perhaps others.(4) These transnational folk devils require a transnational police effort, but this removes policing from its nesting site in the state and situates it in the realm of transnational practices.
Transnational police co-operation, it appears, can proceed on the basis of what has historically been a central tenet of the modern state, its monopoly of formal social control: the folk devils are dealt with regardless.
What seems to be happening is a new unfolding dialectic in discourses on crime and its control (the technical management of folk devils).
In Folk Devils
and Moral Panics (1972), Cohen identifies a process whereby youth phenomena begin spontaneously, become popular, are named, and then are linked with some media scandal.
The principal legitimating agent of this punitive discourse is the mass media, which generates moral panics about youth crime by simplifying and distorting the meaning of their acts for public consumption, thereby reconceiving street youth as "folk devils
." This, in turn, fuels the generalized lobby for increased social control at all levels.