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Communications & Media
Research Paper
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What is a Moral Panic, and How the Folk Devils are Created? (Research Paper Sample)


This was a research assignment for a media course. Although we were required to cite our references in Chicago format, our professor had unique requirements about how the paper should have been written. Single-spaced, based on a survey, including first-person pronouns since it was essential to reflect the results we gathered and how we interpreted them. I received an A plus on this assignment as well.


What is a Moral Panic, and How the Folk Devils are Created?

This study analyzes the media-constructed concepts of “Satanism” and “Satanists” in Turkey between the years of 1998-2002. Burcu Gelegen who attempted to suicide wrote in her diary, “I sold my soul to the Satan,” and the following murder of Şehriban Coşkunfırat, which happened in 1999 by two boys and one girl to give sacrifice for the Satan was extensively discussed in the press of Turkey and created a haunted society with the fear of the Satanists. The news which multiplied day by day about Satanism and Satanists spread horror all over the country. My main aim is to discuss how media affected society with the construction of the Satanists as folk devils, and the moral panic came along with the concept.
Without a doubt, the news served by media has a massive impact on people since media is the constructor of the story and the builder of people’s perceptions about the issues. No matter the form of the news is served, media is the most crucial element for the individuals to know what is going on around the globe. We don’t only receive the news from media, but the media frames the stories and focuses on what will catch the curiosity of us. With the portrayal of the news stories which are depicted by the media, we shape the society and form societal groups bilaterally. This study will focus on the horror effectuated about Satanism and Satanists, which was felt deeply in between the years of 1998 and 2000 in Turkey. The murder of Şehriban Coşkunfırat took its place as the “first Satanist murder” in Turkey’s history. And after the killing, there was vast chaos, anxiety, and panic amongst the society. To understand the panic Satanists caused, we should understand the concept of folk devils and moral panic beforehand. Just like the media mainly shape the news, the folk devils become folk devils with the significant effect of media too. I will focus on how media constructed the Satanism and Satanists and so how this group of people became a folk devil for the country when this was a controversial issue. And I will use the survey that had been answered by 175 people as a source to understand what people think of Satanism and Satanists now. Moreover, it will be a leading trace of understanding if the effects of the media’s construction on the Satanism is still ongoing or it had vanished long before.
Moral panic is something all individuals face throughout their lives because there is always a period that a moral panic appears in society. It could be presenting something new, or it could be about a discussion that had been existed for a long time but suddenly came to light with the encouragement of the mass media. Moral panic arises when a threat appears to the society regarding their values, morals, and ingrained perceptions they have in their background because of mass media’s distressing definition of specific people or certain events/concepts. Although there
are many definitions and studies on moral panic, the term’s advancement belongs to Stanley Cohen. According to Cohen, we start to consider a moral panic when media affects us through an overreaction to the situation and turn it into a sensational matter, which pushes the society to think that there is a distortion over the social norms. In other words, the media’s representation is the crucial point since people define the situation, gain perceptions about the case following the media’s adaptation of the story. The public starts believing what is reported by the press is the solid truth, and it is happening all around the country to everyone. Although mass media reports the news as the voice of the people, actually it spreads fear amongst the people by framing the story and representing the threat in a form that builds up massive public concern. As an example, while pickpocketing was an enormous problem at the end of the 1990s in Turkey, the amount of news that had been covered made people feel anxiety and scare amongst the issue. Especially women couldn’t dare to go outside for shopping because of the fear of getting mugged. So, a moral panic was developed. And at some point, the whole thing stopped and vanished, not because pickpocketing was prevented and stopped but because the media stopped making news about it. What they did was creating fear, changing the agenda in the country, manipulating and oppressing people. In a nutshell, throughout a moral panic, a problematic issue, a person, or a group of people is attached to an immoral action that indicates a dangerous threat to society’s interests and morals.

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