Moral Panic: Necessary evil, or just plain evil?

Moral Panic is a phenomena which generates public anxiety in response to an issue which threatens the moral codes of society (Oxford Dictionary) or “A moral panic may be defined as an episode, often triggered by alarming media stories and reinforced by reactive laws and public policy, of exaggerated or misdirected public concern, anxiety, fear, or anger over a perceived threat to social order.” (Krinsky, January 2013) Majority of these panics are often catalysed with help in large part from the media. For example the siege at the Lint Cafe in Martin Place, this hostage situation was a highly publicised event in which the whole world was watching. Only to fuel the growing panic, The Daily Telegraph released a rushed 2pm edition of the newspaper to report on the ordeal, with the headline screaming “DEATH CULT CBD ATTACK”, this was at the time when next to no information about any specifics of the attack were known, but alas The Daily Telegraph took their journalistic opportunity and ran with it, only to anger and concern one and all who saw the front page of the newspaper.

However without the media saturated world, we would live in a very primitive society, it has positively aided in the globalisation of our world and informs us of current worldly issues. Although when manipulated, the media can fuel the moral panic of many issues such as terrorism, the hyper-sexualization of children, rape culture, by merely glossing over the top of an issue and reporting main facts, alarming statistics or over exaggerated content in order to alarm, rather than delving deeper into the reality of the situation. This is evident within the way the media sensationalises crime and terrorism. The danger in manifesting moral panic surrounding things like terrorism, (or perhaps perceived terrorism is a better phrase) is it enables the public to attach a stigma to certain individuals or groups and in turn society will assimilate this stereotype into their everyday lives. Much like the example of paedophilia, one of the most heinous crimes to be accused of, and even if proven innocent this label will stick like glue. This is a direct result of the sensationalisation of crime by the media and the inherent stigma the media constructs.

The Sydney siege was a major contributor of the moral panic of terrorism, “reaching Australian shores” (, 2015) it was the first real occurrence of this type of crime, however breaking down the case we learned the perpetrator of the crime was in fact a man who has only recently converted to the Islamic faith, with a history of assault and was on bail for numerous sexual assault charges and accessory to murder of his former wife. By utilising the flag with arabic writing, the perpetrator aimed to concern the citizens of Australia by the foreign nature of the flag and use it as a warning. The perpetrator also requested to be permitted to have a conversation with the Australian government, which was promptly denied. Of course the Sydney siege at Martin Place was a tragedy but the lens that must be used in order to examine and investigate the way the media manifested this highly publicised ordeal

This article details one response to the perceived threat of terrorism by the federal government of Australia:


Charles Krinsky, January 2013, The Ashgate Research Companion to Moral Panics


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