How is Moral Panic portrayed by the News

How is Moral Panic portrayed by the News? Expression at the Handling of the Most Recent Earthquake in Indonesia, Concentrating on Discourse Used.

“During the 1980’s the proliferation of new engineerings transformed the potency of the intelligence media to supply a changeless flow of planetary real?time intelligence. Major media events were communicated to Western audiences outright via Television intelligence media.”

As Piers Robinson ( 2002:9 ) declares, at the morning of the 20 first century, the planetary mass media should be viewed as a entirely different proposition to the intelligence services that were available merely 15 old ages ago. The coming of the Digital Age and the victory of the Internet have resulted in a world-wide intelligence system that operates twenty four hours a twenty-four hours on a assortment of multi-media platforms. This is what Robinson refers to as ‘the CNN effect.’ The cumulative consequence of the detonation in mass media services has been a western society that consumes, via telecasting, wireless, new media and newspapers, such cataclysmal events as war and natural catastrophes as though they were watching them occur in real?time. Events that take topographic point in, for case, the Middle East are relayed to Europe and North America within disconnected seconds of go oning. Yet, as pre?eminent cultural observer Wright Mills ( 1957:314-315 ) compactly observes, the consequence of the instant entree media society has non needfully increased audience interaction with events that take topographic point in the intelligence.

“The media provide much information and intelligence about what is go oning in the universe, but they do non frequently enable the hearer or the viewer truly to link his day-to-day life with these larger worlds. On the contrary, they distract him and befog his opportunity to understand himself or his universe by fixing his attending upon unreal crazes that are resolved within the programme framework… there is about ever the general tone of alive distraction, or suspended agitation, but it is traveling nowhere and has nowhere to go.”

Morality and moral terror are ever at the epicenter of the intelligence broadcasts associating to natural catastrophes and alternate landmark international events, yet with small real-terms action being taken by the authoritiess of the West. Thus, apathy is frequently the effect of the impregnation of intelligence in the West with consecutive broadcasts of touchable human calamities each holding less of an consequence upon the audience each tome that they are portrayed. This is what appears to hold occurred in Indonesia with respects to the recent temblor registered in May 2006 whereby the December 2004 tsunami in the same part that killed upwards of 225000 people ( in add-on to the desolation inflicted by the Pakistani temblors in October 2005 ) has served to cut down the capacity for moral terror in the wider media audience, which has become saturated with a diet of human calamity. The undermentioned scrutiny into the media discourse pertaining to the Boxing Day 2004 catastrophe must therefore follow a cautious analytical attack, trying to follow the manner that the media forms the audience positions on international personal businesss via primary stuff histories. First, nevertheless, a definition of ‘moral panic’ must foremost be observed.

The phrase ‘moral panic’ was foremost coined by Stanley Cohen in relation to the societal turbulence witnessed in 1960’s Britain. Harmonizing to Cohen ( 1972 ) , moral terror evolves because of a sensed menace to a dominant social manner of life, exacerbated by the mass media and the being of ‘folk heroes’ in each and every existing civilization. Moral terror in this sense is a reaction to the perceived ailments taking topographic point within the media’s domestic boundary lines. With respects to the Boxing Day 2004 tsunami in Indonesia, nevertheless, the sense of moral terror displayed by the media was in response to an event taking topographic point on the other side of the universe to people that have no cultural line of descent with westerners. This necessarily sets the episode apart old media illustrations, saloon the 1984-5 drouth in Ethiopia, which evoked similar degrees of moral terror in the western mass media. There is, nevertheless, a pronounced difference between the intelligence broadcasts of the 2004 tsunami and the old Third World natural catastrophe which occurred during the concluding decennaries of the 20th century. Although the major media companies paid due attending to crises such as the Ethiopian drouth, the deficiency of instant entree intelligence services that have come about as a consequence of the Internet and satellite communicating meant that the sum of clip dedicated to covering events in the yesteryear was much less than the sum of clip dedicated to the broadcast of the 2004 Boxing Day temblor in Indonesia. Furthermore, the realization of the construct of globalization in the 20 first century means that the western media audience has an increased degree of cognition sing states that reside on the other side of the universe, though this consciousness is rarely translated into a true perceptual experience of the cultural differences between the East and the West. There is small uncertainty that this all?encompassing theoretical account of media coverage in the modern-day epoch has and will go on to impact the construct of moral terror in the audience with any impressions of get awaying the range of the intelligence looking progressively improbable.

The discourse used by the intelligence services in response to the tsunami of 26 December 2004 and the desolation that it brought telegraphs the increased degree of moral terror engendered in the modern mass media. Of all the emotional residue of this intelligence coverage, fright was the greatest donee of media induced moral terror with the intelligence broadcasts of the Indonesian temblor foregrounding the manner in which nature was cast as the function of the scoundrel in the western media. International media bureaus such as the BBC, CNN and FOX intelligence wholly reported the headline ‘waves of disaster’ and The New York Times ran a headline the undermentioned twenty-four hours which implied that the sea that one time fed the islands of the Indian Ocean had now become the greatest danger to the being of life in this portion of the universe. The reading of the newscasts was that the catastrophe that befell the people of Indonesia, India, Malaysia, Thailand, Myanmar, Singapore and the Maldives could hold happened to people in the West. This needfully affected the degree of moral terror within the audience as fright of a natural catastrophe striking closer to place was greatly elevated as a direct consequence of the ceaseless media coverage.

However, of all the implied discourse refering to moral terror none had greater consequence than the imagination used by the intelligence channel in the yearss and hebdomads following the tsunami. Pictures of desolate small towns and farming areas were accompanied with images of displaced and despairing people, many transporting kids through the wreckage. Intertwined within these disking images ( which were broadcast endlessly in the immediate wake of the catastrophe ) were interviews with western subsisters. Once once more, this served to underscore the fright that the catastrophe in South Asia was in fact closer to place than the audience foremost realised, which inherently affected the moral terror of both the media and viewer alike.

The function of advertisement within all signifiers of the modern media ( including newspapers, wireless, telecasting and new media ) was besides affected by the sense of moral terror that accompanied coverage of the Indonesian temblor. Because of the demand to give due attending to the human-centered nature of the crisis, major national newspapers refrained from their usual diet of inordinate advertisement. Harmonizing to The Guardian’s Stephen Brook ( 2005:3 ) , the twenty-four hours after the event ( 27 December 2004 ) saw The Sun print its first advert on page 24, The Independent on page 26 and The Times on page 27. Under normal fortunes all of these periodicals would hold started advertisement within the first five pages of the day-to-day edition. Television was similarly affected with a moneymaking Pepsi advert demoing footballs on surfboards being indefinitely shelved as a consequence. Viewed through this prism, moral terror in relation to the 2004 Indonesian temblor was in fact translated as hyper sensitiveness, albeit in merely a impermanent, fugitive sense.

Moral terror was besides increased due to the cultural differences between the western media audiences and the location of the natural catastrophe. Ever since the terrorist onslaughts on the World Trade Centre in September 2001, the western media have fed their audience a day-to-day diet of updates on the province of political personal businesss in the Middle East with the consequence that Islam is today perceived as the greatest menace to the dominant western manner of life: moral terror on an unprecedented graduated table. Because the states affected by the Boxing Day 2004 temblor ( peculiarly Indonesia ) were preponderantly states of the Muslim religion, moral terror was accordingly portrayed from a spiritual angle with Bill Broadway of the Washington Post ( 2005:9 ) relaying the folklore in South Asia which stated that Allah had preordained the calamity as penalty for Muslims contending one another in Aceh – the worst affected country in Indonesia. The equation of a annihilating natural catastrophe with spiritual impressions of The Apocalypse had a profound consequence on the sense of moral terror fostered within western media audiences who accordingly feared a similar cataclysmal recoil in the developed universe.


In the concluding analysis the media coverage of the 2004 Boxing Day temblor in Indonesia was a symptom of the altering face of the media and the universe which dominates its coverage. The media in the early portion of the 20 first century is an wholly more international establishment – coverage on events that take topographic point 1000s of stat mis off in existent clip. Likewise the planetary community, which is much more incorporate today than it was a mere ten old ages ago. As a consequence, the degree of moral terror induced by the intelligence coverage of the catastrophe was elevated to an unprecedented degree, triping the US $ 7 billion in assistance sent to the parts most affected by the tsunami. Fear generated by both the imagination and the discourse utilised by the media in the yearss and hebdomads that followed the catastrophe contributed to a sense of craze that rapidly dissipated one time the international alleviation attempt was underway. Therefore, finally, as Gauntlett concludes, although moral terror is greatly enhanced by the media in the modern-day epoch, the power and rule of the audience should non be overlooked in make up one’s minding who or what manufactures cultural consensus.

“It seems more appropriate to talk of a slow but engaged duologue between media and media consumers. Neither the media nor the audience are powerful in themselves, but both have powerful arguments.” ( Gauntlett, 2002:234 )


Cohen, S. ( 1972 )Folk Devils and Moral PanicsLondon: MacGibbon & A ; Lee

Edkins, J. ( 2003 )Trauma and the Memory of PoliticssCambridge: Cambridge University Press

Gauntlett, D. ( 2002 )Media, Gender and Identity: an IntroductionLondon: Routledge

Robinson, P. ( 2002 ) The CNN Effect: the Myth of News, Foreign Policy and Intervention London: Routledge

Ross, K. and Nightingale, V. ( 2003 )Media and Audiences: New PositionsHymen: Open University Press

Wright Mills, C. ( 1957 )The Power EliteOxford: Oxford University Press


Broadway, B. ( Saturday January 8, 2005 )Divining a Reason for Devastation, in,The Washington Post

Brook, S. ( Monday July 11, 2005 )ITV pulls ?1 Million Ads after Attacks, in,The Guardian: G2

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