Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Brendan O’Neill on trolls and moral panic

The hysteria over trolls is a classic moral panic | Brendan O’Neill | spiked:
To understand why virtually the entire British media and significant chunks of the political class have become weirdly obsessed with small numbers of trolls who fire vile insults at women, you could do worse than dip back into the late, great Stanley Cohen’s 1972 book, Folk Devils and Moral Panics. An indispensable guide to the modern era’s malarial-like social scares, which come and go like waves of a fever, Cohen’s book popularised the term ‘moral panic’. A moral panic occurs, he said, when ‘a condition, episode, person or group of persons become defined as a threat to societal values and interests’. A moral crusade, fuelled by ‘media sensationalism’, is then launched against these allegedly threatening ‘deviants’, he said, until they loom large in the public mind as ‘folk devils’ whose behaviour poses a threat to public safety or moral norms. In the past, Teddy Boys, football hooligans and drug-taking yoof were elevated to the status of folk devils; today, it’s internet trolls.