Moral panics and media terrorism

Moral panics and media terrorism

There seems to be a lot of moral panics at the moment. Unhappily, they are largely engineered by fearful people determined to indulge their prejudices by undermining the safety and security of society. Every disinformation campaign slandering a minority group and engineering a moral panic threatens the safety of that group in very real and demonstrable ways.

The media, including social media, are all too keen to identify the local minority status of criminals and others they wish to demonise, be that their ethnicity, religion, sexuality, gender identity or other arbitrarily notable quality. Rarely, if ever, does the media bring to our attention that a heterosexual, cis-gendered, white, middle-class man attacked someone, preferring to report that the person ‘was attacked’. Our innate emotions are being weaponised to turn us against one another so that we are distracted, feel beset by threats on all sides, and are thereby easier to control. We are being taught to blame the victim in every case because this fosters a culture that holds those with power to be held blameless when they abuse it.

A culture of fearing and blaming the oppressed is corrosive to social cohesion and actively dangerous for anyone who finds themselves out of favour or without sufficient power, as this article on ‘stochastic terrorism’ shows. As educated people, we must learn to recognise these cheap tactics and help others to learn to recognise when they are being manipulated.

Assistant Librarian (Promotions) at the University Library. An enthusiastic advocate of libraries, diversity, inclusion, equity, and social justice for all, inside and outside the workplace.

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