ON MORAL PANIC

  1. One of the most interesting, most real-world-applicable things I studied at university was the phenomenon of moral panic.
  2. It's essentially what's explored in Michael Moore's (sadly forever relevant) Bowling for Columbine.
  3. The term was first coined in McLuhan's "Understanding Media" in 1964 but really took off in Cohen's 1972 "Folk Devils and Moral Panics."
    Moral panic occurs when "[a] condition, episode, person or group of persons emerges to become defined as a threat to societal values and interests."
  4. Just a couple of noted examples include the so-called "satanic ritual abuse" of the '80s and '90s, the "War on Drugs" that's ongoing, still.
  5. The funny thing about moral panics is that they tend to arise in response to catastrophes we either have no explanation or don't like the explanation for.
  6. It's why when Columbine occurred everything from music through to video games were blamed.
  7. It's why whenever a "loner" shoots up a school, church or, now, club, we look not at the gun in their hand but their religion, their sexuality, what music they listened to, what games they played, books they read, whether they were mentally ill or not.
  8. Yes, we love to blame mental illness despite the fact that mentally ill people are more likely to be victims than perpetrators of crime.
  9. Yes, we love to look to performers like Marilyn Manson who are used as social scapegoats, viewed inhuman, despite the fact that it was the NRA that had the gall to host its convention in Denver just days after Columbine.
  10. Yes, we love to do exactly what the gun lobby wants us to do:
  11. To find something, ANYTHING, that distracts us from the fact that whether they were gay, straight, cisgender, transgender, neurotypical, mentally ill, black, white, Muslim, Christian, atheist... whether they listened to Taylor Swift or Korn...
  12. They were ABLE TO GET THEIR HAND ON THAT GUN.
  13. Watching the news today, listening to insufferable drive home radio, I was hit with excuse after excuse for why this man did what he did.
  14. And maybe those excuses were valid. Maybe some of the speculation is true.
  15. But not only does this discourse distract from the issue at hand (GUN VIOLENCE) it throws countless people under the bus. The mentally ill, POC, people who harmlessly practice their religion day to day and mourn these atrocities just as much as the rest of us.
  16. Moral panics have a purpose: to make us panic about anything but the real problem. We cannot let them distract us. We cannot let them win.