A crime is an act going against the guidelines set by a state or a person in authority and is punishable. Crime could be categorized as victim crime, violent crime, political crime, property crime, state crime and organized crime. Rebellion is the refusal to obey law or order. It is blatantly resisting the orders of established authority; it could be individual or collective, peaceful or violent. In the past, rebellion and crime were linked. The rebellion was seen to lead to crime directly. The current study shows that rebellion and crime are not necessarily linked. Moral panics are the situation of public anxiety or crisis in response to a problem that is perceived to be a threat to the societys moral standards position. Due to a change in times, ideologies and laws, rebellion and crime should never be linked. The modern world and go through changes that have brought new perception on the relationship between rebellion and crime. This paper discusses the moral panic theory. It analyses both strengths and weaknesses.
Strengths of the Moral Panic Theory.
The examination of status and power in the society shows that some groups have the power to define some subcultures as a threat to society. Cohen demonstrates that dominant groups in society can introduce control legislation even if it is not appropriate for the general good. The Dangerous Dogs Act which was enacted in the UK is a good example; the act was enacted after several people were attacked by Pitt Bull terriers which were then banned even though all dogs can attack so banning one particular breed does not solve the problem. Britain has become the most watched democratic nation on the face of the earth with one CCTV camera to eleven people. This happened after the Jamie Bulger murder and a growing threat of homegrown terror, the guardian. Rebellion in the modern society could be considered a gateway to a new way of doing things. Something could at first be considered a threat to community interests but after more and more people indulge in it is finally a norm. Social change is inevitable in any civilized society so rebellion should not be branded crime without outlining the right way to do things and the wrong way to do things in society.
The moral panic theory explains the development of a panic in which one of the stages is amplification. The step of amplification shows the power of the media. The media could either exaggerate a story or fail to create awareness of a problem that affects society. The media plays a vital role in developing the society moral panic.The media could present a moral panic that the perpetrators of certain actions are evil, selfish or immoral and that steps need to be taken to control their actions. They use this power to serve their agenda or to serve the public genuinely. A good example of the media using their power well is when they highlight a perpetrator of an act of child sexual abuse and therefore encouraging the victims of this crime to come forward to seek for justice (Tan and Haining 2016 p 132). The media could also play a role in causing awareness of certain acts taking place in society to make them branded socially acceptable or outlawed.
In todays society, some acts of rebellion could be scorned upon or even considered criminal depending on how the media brought them out to society. Certain actions in the society could be branded socially acceptable yet detrimental to societal standards. Cohens theory explains how the media and moral entrepreneurs exert power in society. In defining whether an issue can be termed as evil or a moral panic, Cohen argues that it wholly depends on whether it conforms itself to that definition. Actions are considered moral panics because they threaten the innocence of the children or they simply do not resonate with the societal norms. It is normal for parents to tell their children to abstain from sex till they are married yet the children are likely to be exposed to pornography that would encourage them otherwise. Some teenagers would watch pornography just because they want to go against what their parents have advised. This type of rebellion cannot be considered a gateway to crime in any way as it is just because of the raging hormones in the said teenagers who would like to explore or rebel. Some acts of rebellion are just as a result of the stage of life a person.
The process of civilization contributes to the occurrence of moral panic. Dissemination of knowledge on a large scale has enabled the exaggeration and distortion of events (Cohen, 2003 p 15). The increase in the democratization of knowledge further allows the inaccuracy in the calculation of what is dangerous and what is not. Due to an increase in the levels of liberty in the modern world, some practices that should be scorned upon are allowed to go on openly due to the freedom and unrestrained liberty. An example of the dangers of this liberty is the fragmentation of religious practices in society, or some cases lack defined the behavioral standard. Some religions may approve practices that are either backward or just unacceptable. The benefits of living in a liberal society are that one cannot infringe on anothers liberty. Certain acts of rebellion, for instance, indulging in Satanism in a society that practices other forms of religion are not criminal, yet they should be considered socially unacceptable.
A moral panic will start only when a certain act is publicized enough. When there is a threat to children, a moral panic will be more widespread. The Floridas abduction and murder of Adam Walsh boosted the campaign about missing children, the parents of Walsh became well-known activists for this front it was even claimed that over a million children had vanished. Consequently, a countries system for recording missing people was set up and a national Centre for exploited or missing children was established. All this progress was because a single child had been murdered and his parents had taken it upon themselves to ensure the same would not happen to any other children. Similarly, in todays world, a moral panic about a certain aspect of rebellion that had started more than ten years ago would not be correct to define that same aspect of rebellion today as they are prone to change. It is an injustice to interlink rebellion to crime in the modern day without finding out the cause of the rebellion and consequently the outcome of the rebellion.
Weaknesses of the Moral Panic Theory.
Stan Cohen takes an interactionist approach to shows how an unlawful act is labeled and how certain groups are stigmatized (Brisman, and South, 2015 p 450). There is a problem with this approach as Cohen neglects the idea of identities and labels being negotiated, he fails to consider that not all members of the public would react as he supposes in his theory. Interactionism fails to consider the negotiation of labels, identities, and roles. At times moral panics erupt, with horror and anger but after a while, the behavior could become normal sometimes to the extent of even becoming mainstream culture. It would be unfair to brand certain acts of rebellion as a criminal when cultural practices vary among the society. Currently, there is acts rebellion among the youths which cannot be branded as a crime or a gateway to crime. Example of these actions include underage sexual activity and mixing with a bad peer group. It is important always to be open-minded and open to another perspective on the cases with rebellion (McCoy and Pugh 2014, p 1)
Society has undergone considerable social change. Cohen in his study did not account for the modernity to postmodernity aspect; he assumes that society would have a uniform response to moral panics which is wrong since we live in a liberal world and therefore we could have many different reactions to moral panics. (Monod, 2017 p54) A fragmented society would mean what is considered rebellion would vary from one member of society to another. An example is the start of rave music which was started by a portion of society that was seeking a non-conformist identity. Nowadays the line between what is normal and what could be considered an act of rebellion is blurred for example underage drinking could be considered normal in one society yet an act of rebellion in another society. It would be unfair to compare the moral panic about cannabis to child sex abuse, a negative reaction to some problems can be considered justified. It shows the line between rebellion and crime extend. However, it demonstration that rebellion does not necessarily lead to crime in the modern day society. Morality is not fixed and what might have been a panic a decade ago may be completely different at the moment as the moral climate change over time. The consideration inevitable characteristics of society such as change are very important when analyzing the relationship between crime and rebellion. Failure to consider this variable may lead to inaccurate information.
Cohens theory fails to consider the influence of mods and rockers in the structured debate. Cohen assumes that public reaction to media distortion will be general and in a particular way, this is an error since society would not necessarily react the same way or even react at all to a given media reporting (Downes, Rock, Chinkin, and Gearty, 2013. Some people can even be a skeptic of journalists, tabloids and newspapers, people are nowadays aware of political biases, so they tend to filter out what they consider true from what they consider untrue while they consume media. Society is not wired to give an automatic response, and each member of society is supposed to behave independently. Assuming that the media easily sweeps the people when it disseminates false information, it encourages conformity pressures that enforce consensual misleading beliefs. Cohen in his study treats the media as one entity. The media as we know it today is a variety of individual groups each aimed at a certain viewpoint; each media source has a different agenda. While taking into consideration media bias and the power of the media, it would be reasonable to say that some acts of rebellion could only be considered criminal in the past because of a certain bias. In a post-modern society, one should be careful to weigh out an act of rebellion; it could be a cry for help from a teenager or even an indicator that society gets it wrong sometimes.
We live in a dynamic society, so it is best to remain open to change. The moral panic theory by Cohen although bearing a great amount of truth never took into consideration the changing times and the liberal world we live in today. Societal values vary from one society to the next and what is considered normal also varies from person to person. Nature of the social and cultural expectations are critical for evaluating the relationship between crime and rebellion. The approach helps one to avoid the general and automatic reaction. No single study is timeless since in a dynamic social change takes place from time to time, and people must embrace the change to survive within the society. Rebellion and crime could be linked in a pre-modern society, but in a post-modern society where morals and culture vary from society to society, it would be inaccurate to link the two. Rebellion in modern day could be a mask for another problem which does not necessarily lead to crime. The difference between rebellion and crime is defined by the norm and accepted practices of a given society. Conclusive, crime and rebellion are different between has the close correlation.
List of Reference.
Brisman, A. and South, N., 2015. New Folk Devils, Denials and Climate Change: Applying the Work of Stanley Cohen to Green Criminology and Environmental Ha...
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