“Deviance and Moral Panics”

August 3, 2011 § 1 Comment

Super seriously -- CHILDREN might be reading this.

I have to admit, I was feeling a little down in the plop-hole yesterday evening. I don’t like hating what I read, and didn’t enjoy not enjoying Kimmel’s book. It makes this process feel like work, which only serves to further cheesegrate my ballsack due to I’d rather be writing my dissertation. So blah to blah selections. Although I did have a touching self-teachable moment (which I admit is a very stupid expression, but it was between that and “self-touching teachable moment”) wherein I realized I was applying one reading to another without even thinking about it aka doing precisely what this process is designed to facilitate. Thus I said BUCK UP OLD GIRL! on account of Kimmel’s argument might have made you want to eat your own face, but look at you being all engaged with the shit you’ve read previously! #fuckyeahcriticalreading

Luckily today’s selection, Stanley Cohen’s “Deviance and Moral Panic” made it all better, and brought my list (and spirits) back to Dyer-levels of awesomeness. Because! Moral panics! Talk about issues relevant to my interests. Of course its specific connection to my own work shall remain locked in the vault, for now at least. As I’ve said, I don’t like sharing half-baked ideas — I need to let some of the elements emulsify. So that I’m afraid we must table.

In terms of the exams, Cohen provides an excellent example of or possibly even counterpoint to Mary Douglas’ dirt shit, which has quickly emerged as the obvious frame-text for this particular list. The nutshell version is that societies have rules and that these rules create deviance, since without the norm there can be no exception (5). These “rules” emerge in and as panoptic power (per Foucault, to bring in more list-folk); if the conditions are right, that is, if there is a suitable enemy, a suitable victim, and widespread sense that “something is in the water” and/or “you/your precious children could be next” (xii), views initially proposed and subsequently picked up by panic-driven media, then said deviance (be it Mod or Rocker cultures, Cohen’s particular example, or something more contemporary like OMG VIOLENCE IN VIDEO GAMES) reaches critical mass. It becomes more than just weirdos doing weird crap normal people don’t understand; it becomes a full-blown panic, something to react against, something to write strongly-worded letters about, which completes the first circuit in a (hypothetically) endless feedback loop. There is aberration; there is reaction to the aberration; there is further reactionary aberration; there is reaction to the reactionary aberration, and so on (11). The examination of moral panics can thus be likened to reactions to disaster, though the traditional trajectory of discourses on disaster (warning-impact-reaction) is punctuated by multiple petit disasters/disruptions, committed and sustained by some sort of hivemind and followed by ever-shriller reaction(s) and warning(s) — creating what Cohen describes as a “circular and amplifying” cycle of disturbance (15-19).

In other words, there’s a lot here — way beyond what I need for the dumb exams, which at times like these take a backseat to my actual research, specifically [redacted] [redacted], because LOL OBVIOUSLY.

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