Erich Goode & Nachman Ben-Yehuda.
Moral Panics.The Social Construction of deviance.
Oxford. UK. 1994.
Preface and Acknowledgments
The Canudos Massacre: Brazil, 1893-7
The Boys of Boise
Rumor in Orleans, France, May 1969
1 A Prelude to Moral Panics: Three Moral Crusades
The Prohibition Movement, 1900-1920
The Crusade for Anti-marijuana Legislation, the 1930s
The Sexual Psychopath Laws, the 1930s to the 1950s
Moral Crusades and Moral Panics
2 Enter Moral Panics
Enter Stanley Cohen
Actors in the Drama of the Moral Panic
The Contribution of the Moral Panics Concept
3 Moral Panics: An Introduction
Indicators of the Moral Panic
The Locus of Moral Panics
A Critic of the Moral Panics Concept
Criteria of Disproportionality
Determining Harm: The Anti-pornography Movement
Determining Harm: The Anti-abortion Movement
Disproportionality: A Recapitulation
Moral Panics: An Inherently Ideological Concept?
Moral Panics: An Overview
Moral Panics: Four overlapping Territories
A Representative Moral Panic: LSD in the 1960s
A Representative Moral Panic: Satanic Ritual Abuse
4 Deviance and Morality
Everything Is Relative: Or Is It?
"Societal" versus "Situational" Deviance
Deviant Categories Old and New
Does Relativism Condone Injustice?
Deviance and Moral Panics
5 Deviance, Moral Entrepreneurs, and Criminal Law
The Objectively Given or Grassroots Approach
The Subjectively Problematic Approach: Crime as a Political
Rule Creators and Moral Entrepreneurs
Moral Entrepreneurs and Moral Panics
Common Law or "Primal" Crimes
6. Social Problems
The "Discovery" of Social Problems
Contextual Constructionism: Concern versus Harm
Multiple Definitions of Problems
Social Problems and Moral Panics
7 Collective Behavior
Contemporary or Urban Legends
Mass Hysteria and Collective Delusion
Persecutions and Renewals
8. Social Movements
Interest Groups: Insiders versus Outsiders
Social Movements: Claims and Arguments
Social Movements and Moral Panics
9 Three Theories of Moral Panics
The Grassroots Model
The Elite-engineered Model
10 The Renaissance Witch Craze
Witchcraft, Witch-hunts, and the Witch Craze.
The Historical Development of the European Witch Craze
The European Witch Craze: The Unanswered Questions
Timing: Why Did the Witch-hunts Begin?
The End of the Medieval Order
Witchcraft as an Ideology: The Question of Content
Timing: Termination of the Witch Craze
11 The Israeli Drug Panic of May 1982
Narrative of the 1982 Israeli Drug Panic
Morality, Deviance, Ideology, and Moral Panics: The
Question of Content
The May 1982 Moral Panic: Morality and Interests
12 The American Drug Panic of the 1980s
The Decade of the 1980s: Measures of Public Concern
Why the Drug Panic?
Crack Babies: A Panic-driven, Mythical Syndrome?
Is the Objectivist Perspective Irrelevant?
1986-1989: A Moral Panic over Drug Abuse?
Epilogue: The Demise and Institutionalization of Moral Panics
Index of Authors
Index of Subjects
Contemplating the folly of collective action has preoccupied countless social observers for millennia. This book is no mere debunking exercise, however. Much seemingly unreasonable behavior makes sense if viewed through a particular conceptual lens. To counter the classic "Why?" question - why do so many of us become fearful of and concerned by seeming threats that are less harmful or dangerous than others? - we offer the 'Why not?" question; to most of us, such fears and concerns make a great deal of sense. Rationality is bounded by culture, and what seems unreasonable and irrational within one cultural framework is distinctly reasonable and rational in another. Yes, beliefs and actions that offer striking departures from empirical reality - what is widely recognized to be true - generally demand an explanation. But by what rules do we establish empirical truth? What cultural framework informs us that one assertion is true and another false? Even when we admit the empirical truth or falsity of certain versions of events in the material world, why does one set of events stir our fear and concern, while another does not? Here we establish that this question cannot be answered with fact or logic, with a rational assessment of risk or danger. Again, the "Why?" question; and once again, the "Why not?" question.
The senior author lives in a suburb of New York City, a municipality some friends, acquaintances, and colleagues refuse to venture into. Why? Robbery, murder, violence, crime. The statistics on crime reveal roughly 1.2 million robberies in the United States each year - relatively few of which result in physical harm - and about 25,000 murders. Goodness, the rationalist would argue, your odds of being injured in a household accident or being killed by a host of diseases are greater than being a victim of a serious crime. Why should such a low-odds threat - violent crime - deter one from engaging in pleasureable urban activities? To many of us who live with the fear of urban crime, the rationalist's position seems inane and meaningless.
The junior author lives in Israel; political violence figures heavily in the fears and concerns of Israelis (and foreigners who have loved ones n, or are contemplating visiting, Israel), especially since the Palestinian iprising, or Intifada, began, in December 1987. Many Jews have begun avoiding going into predominantly Palestinian areas, such as the Old City of Jerusalem, East Jerusalem, and the occupied territories - the West Bank and Gaza. Those who do so are warned by their peers: why expose yourself to such danger? they ask. Yet, the number of individuals who have been killed in Israel and the territories by political violence in the past six years is under a thousand souls, of whom perhaps 200 were Jews killed by Arab terrorists. The chances of dying ,n an automobile accident is far greater. Why the exaggerated fear? What makes one threat more fearful than another, more prodigious source of danger and death?
The subject of this book is fears and concerns such as these. Again, while they seem exaggerated from a strictly rational or empirical perspective, they make sense when viewed through the lives of the people experiencing them. They should not be dismissed as unreasonable, irrational or pathological. At the same time, an investigation of such seemingly unreasonable fears and concerns should not degenerate into an apology for them. Some fears spawn harmful policy, and rationalizing them may help to neutralize political forces working to nullify that harm. In short, these fears and conerns are part and parcel of the human condition, an expression of human frailty. We are all subject to them; all societies are wracked by them. An investigation of their bases and dynamics will help illuminate the bases and dynamics of society generally. It is a pity they have not been subject to the systematic study they deserve. This book represents a step in correcting that deficiency.
We would like to thank Stan Cohen, Mimi Ajzenstadt, and Menachem Horowitz for their valuable assistance and advice. In addition, the senior author would like to thank the Lady Davis Fellowship Trust for granting him a visiting professorship at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem for the spring semester of 1993, which made it possible for this book to be written. The office staff of the Department of Sociology at Hebrew University, too, must be thanked for their generous assistance. He would also like to thank his wife, Barbara Weinstein, for her encouragement and assistance. He would like to thank too the Council for International Exchange of Scholars for having the good sense to award her a Fulbright Lectureship, which made our stay in Israel a geat deal more comfortable than would otherwise have been the case.
The second author would like to thank Etti Ben-Yehuda for her continuous support love and encouragement, and Tzach and Guy for their patience and love.
Some pages and chapters of this book were borrowed or adapted from several of the authors' previously published Works. parts Of the Prologue, "A Representative Moral Panic: Satanic Ritual Abuse," and Chapters 7 and 8. were borrowed or adapted from Erich Goode, Collective Behavior (Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1992), pp. 50-2, 55, 337-42, 434-40, and passim. A few pages of "The Prohibition Movement, 1900-1920" and Chapter 12 were borrowed or adapted from Erich Goode, Drugs in American Society (4th edn) (McGraw-Hill, 1993 ), pp. 166-7, 48-57. In addition, Erich Goode, "ne American Drug Panic of the 1980s: Social Construction or Objective Threat?" Violence, Aggression and Terrorism, 3(4) (1989), pp. 327-44, has been incorporated into Chapter 12. Chapter 4 was adapted, and the section, "A Representative Moral Panic: LSD in the 1960s," borrowed, from Erich Goode, Deviant Behavior (4th edn) (Prentice-Hall, 1994). Chapter 10 is adapted from Nachman Ben-Yehuda, "The European Witch Craze of the 14th to 17th Centuries: A Sociologist's perspective," The American _7ournal of Sociology, 86(1) (1980), pp. 1-31, and Deviance and Moral Boundaries: Witchcraft, the Occult, Science Fiction, and Scientists (University of Chicago Press, 1985), pp. 23-73. Chapter 11 is adapted from Nachman Ben-Yehuda, "The Sociology of Moral Panics: Toward a New Synthesis," The Sociological Quarterly (published by JAI Press Inc.), 27(4) (1986), pp. 495-513, and The Politics and Morality of Deviance: Moral Panics, Drug Abuse, Deviant Science, and Reversed Stigmatization (State University of New York Press, 1990), pp. 97-133. Permission to use or reprint this material is gratefully acknowledged.
Views on the rationality of collective action have swung back and forth over the centuries. 71e eighteenth century has been characterized as the Age of Reason; leading intellectuals argued that men and women acted out of strictly rationalistic principles -they were motivated to seek pleasure and avoid pain. Cesare Beccaria (1738-94) held that the state should administer punishment to wrongdoers just sufficiently painful to counterbalance the pleasure they would derive from committing criminal acts (Gibbons, 1992, p. 16). Being rational, most of us will seek to avoid pain by not committing crimes.
But by some time in the nineteenth century, something of an age of unreason was upon us. In 184 1, Charles Mackay (1814-89), a Scottish poet, journalist, and song-writer, published a book entitled Memoirs of Extraordinary Popular Delusions. (In a later edition, he changed its title.) In it, Mackay described such phenomena as the Crusades, prophecies, astrology, fortune-telling, the witch mania of Renaissance Europe, belief in haunted houses, popular admiration for thieves and bandits, political and religious control of hair and beard styles, and "rulipomania," or the economic craze that gripped the Netherlands in the seventeenth century, which entailed buying and selling tulip bulbs at incredibly high and, supposedly, inflated prices. Mackay argued that nations, "like individuals, have their whims and their peculiarities, their seasons of excitement and recklessness, when they care not what they do." Whole communities, he asserted, "suddenly fix their minds upon one: object, and go mad in its pursuit; millions of people become simultaneously impressed with one delusion, and run after it, until their attention is caught by some new folly more captivating than the first" (1932, p. xix).
These views were echoed half a century later in the writing of Gustave LeBon (1841-193 1). In The Crowd, published in 189 5, UBon argued that when people assemble in gatherings, they lose their individual characteristics and become transformed into a homogeneous, irrational mob, whose members are characterized by stupidity (1982, p.9), suggestibility (p. 10), impulsivity and "irresistible impetuosity" (p. 11), babarism (p. 12), "irritability, incapacity to reason, the absence of judgment and of the critical spirit, the exaggeration of the sentimenC (p. 16), credulity (pp. 20ff), and intolerance (p. 37). Members of the crowd are like a hypnotized individual in the hands of a hypnotist. "The conscious personality has entirely vanished; will and discernment are lost" (p. 11). In a crowd, every member is like "an automaton who has ceased to be guided by his will" (p. 12). The individual in a crowd has become someone who "descends several rungs in the ladder of civilisation," a "creature acting by instinct (p. 12).
The views of Mackay and LeBon found a later, somewhat more sophisticated, expression in the work of Robert Park (1864-1944) and Herbert Blumer (1900-87), who argued that irrational, even destructive behavior could be generated by means of a mechanism Blumer referred to as social "contagion" (Park, 1972; Blumer, 1939, 1969), whereby "discomfort, frustration, insecurity and ... alienation or loneliness" are communicated from one individual to another, thus generating "social unrest," a widespread feeling in the form of "vague apprehensions, alarm, fears, insecurity, eagerness, or aroused pugnacity" (Blumer, 1969, pp. 72, 73).
But during the 1960s and 1970s, the pendulum swung back in the "rationalist" direction. Rational calculus or game theory (Berk, 1974) argued that, in engaging in collective actions that attempt to attain a specific goal people tend to weigh the costs and benefits of their behavior in a careful, rational, calculating fashion; they arrive at a course of action that maximizes their reward and minimizes their cost.
The "resource mobilization" perspective (McCarthy and Zald, 1973; Zald and McCarthy, 1987) argued that social movements are successful to the extent that movement entrepreneurs and strategists can marshall talent, skill, knowledge, money, media time and attention, connections with the rich and powerful - in short, resources - and focus them on a particular issue or condition.
A cadre of sociologists examined crowd behavior and found that the traditional "irrationalist" approach was empirically in error; human gatherings do not typically act in the frenzied, destructive, irrational fashion described by Mackay, LeBon, Park, and Blumer. Instead, crowds assemble and disperse according to ordinary, everyday physical, social, and contextual factors and contingencies, such as employment, childcare, and the lay-out of public squares and streets; very few members of any crowd engage in the irrational behavior posited by our quartet of early theorists (McPhail and Miller, 1973; Miller, 1985; McPhail, 1991).
And the study of disasters, too, manifested this pendulum shift to a more rational and less self-destructive view of human action: It has shown that, in the face of disaster, most people do not engage in the barbaric, selfish, unthinking, emotional, and the often self-destructive behavior depicted in the media; rather, they tend to act in a relatively calm, rational, and even altrustic fashion. In fact, these researchers argue, one of the most important features of disaster-related behavior is the impact that rationally-instituted and administered bureaucratic organizations have on the process of coping with disaster-generated havoc (Barton, 1969; Dynes, 1970).
And yet, it must be admitted, while much collective action is appropriate to the task, goal, challenge, or threat at hand, not all of it can be characterized as completely rational. Erroneous beliefs purportedly accounting for the events of the day are often held, and strategy may be pursued which seems almost designed to defeat self-professed goals. In a crisis, enemies may be designated who pose no concrete threat whatsoever; not uncommonly, fear arises over nonexistent conditions; major, serious, life-threatening problems are sometimes ignored; harmful behavior may be tolerated. While much. possibly most, collective action does fit the rationalistic model, some of it - at times, in specific locales, seemingly, all of it - does not. No one wishes to return to the bizarre and fantastical theories of LeBon and his ilk, yet events of interest to us all simply cannot be accounted for by means of the strictly rationalistic model.
How are we then to account for seemingly irrational behavior when it does occur? At least two explanations have been offered.
First, extreme or radical relativity can, in effect, define rationality out of existence; no objective standard exists, this perspective holds, by which one assertion, belief, or view can be regarded as more, or less, rational, true, or effective. There is no "ontologically privileged" position from which the concrete, literal truth of assertions, or the effectiveness or ineffectiveness of specific goal-directed actions, may be determined (Aronson, 1984; Kitsuse and Schneider, 1989; Kitsuse and Spector, 1973; Spector and Kitsuse, 1977; Woolgar and Pawluch, 1985; Ibarra and Kitsuse, 1993).
And second, the less powerful members of a society may hold views or pursue policies which may subvert their own interests, but which may serve the interests of the more powerful members of the society. In the latter case, the supposedly irrational behavior under scrutiny may be quite rational for the segments, categories, or classes of the society who command society's resources, but irrational for those who don't realize they are being manipulated and exploited (Hall et al., 1978; Reinarman and Levine, 1989; Zatz, 1987; Levine and Reinarman, 1988).
Our dissatisfaction with these recent developments - the strictly rationalist perspective, radical relativism, and the assumption that elites dominate social institutions to the extent that they can control or dictate human consciousness and behavior -led to the writing of this book. We see these perspectives as incapable of understanding some of the more fascinating and revealing episodes of collective action in human history. Such episodes, we contend, can be regarded as a test for theories of human behavior in general. In these episodes, people have become intensely concerned about a particular issue or perceived threat -which, as measured by concrete indicators, turns out not to be especially damaging - and have assembled, and taken action, to remedy the problem; yet, somehow, at a later point in time, they lost interest in the issue or threat, often turning their attention to other matters. These episodes have been referred to as moral panics.
THE CANUDOS MASSACRE: BRAZIL, 1893-7
For twenty years, a religious mystic who came to be known as Antonio Conselheiro wandered the northeast backlands of Brazil, "preaching against ungodly behavior and rebuilding rural churches and cemeteries that had fallen into disrepair in the forbidding, semiarid interior" (Levine, 1992, p. 2). In 1893, Conselheiro led a pious group of disciples into an inaccessible mountain valley in Bahia; there, on the site of an abandoned ranch, he founded a religious community - Canudos. Thousands were attracted to it, drawn "by Conselheiro's charismatic madness. He promised only sacrifice and hard work and asked residents to live according to God's commandments and await the coming of the Millennium, when would come redemption, the Day of judgment" (p. 2). Conselheiro's vision was that the weak would inherit the earth; the order of nature itself would be overturned, with rainfall blessing the customarily and region, ushering in an era of agricultural abundance. Within two years the settlement became the second largest city in the state of Bahia; at its height, Canudos's population was more than a tenth of that of the city of Sao Paulo at the time (p. 2).
Landowners did not take kindly to the loss of their labor-force; they demanded government intervention. The Catholic church, struggling against what it saw as heterodoxy, apostacy, and the influence of Afro-Brazilian cults, likewise demanded immediate action. The army dispatched soldiers to capture Conselheiro. The task proved to be far more formidable than any official had dreamed. ne first three assaults were repulsed by tenacious resistance from Conselheiro's followers. The campaign stretched out over two years. Finally, in October 1897, Canudos was encircled by 8,000 troops serving under three generals and Brazil's Minister of War, and was bombarded into submission by heavy artillery. The repression of the community had been violent and bloody. Thousands of Conselheiro's followers were
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