One Moral Panic after Another

Advice from Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy
Advice from Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy

Think of a society as a knitted sweater-a moral panic is the alarm that goes up when something is pulling on a loose piece of yarn. Then alarmists say that something is “threatening the very fabric of society.” It’s all going to unravel, we’re all going to die and we must act now.

It really doesn’t matter if it is true or not; it works on the public mind anyway. Commie infiltrators were pulling the string for about 60 years. Pointy-headed liberals are always apt to pull it, hippie freaks once gave it a good tug and “socialists” a catchall word for bad guys, are always sneaking up to give it a yank. The price of freedom is eternal vigilance, etc, etc.

One symptom of a certain kind of mental illness is hyper-vigilance-a constant state of fear. By that definition, America is mentally ill and in fact, one in five Americans are taking some kind of psychotropic drugs! TV news and especially Fox, drills a constant refrain into American brains: the sky is falling, the Russians are coming and we’re all about to be enslaved under Sharia law.

Worries about the fabric of society unraveling are not new. Socrates (500 BC) was concerned that people would lose their ability to remember, now that so many of them were writing things down. In the 1950s comic books were going to make us violent, stupid and for the poor innocent kids who read Batman-GAY! Dungeons and Dragons in the 1980s would cause suicides, homicides and Satan worship.

You would think folks would get tired of being scared. I still have hope that they will, but I see no sign of that happening yet. I want to blame Rupert Murdoch and his Fox News, but Murdoch’s main motivation is winning; give the people what they want and you will win. In regard to his U.K. paper, The Sun, he told the editor the people wanted “lots of t*ts.” Why do we, in America, prefer Armageddon to mammaries?

Better sweater?
Better sweater?

If it were just foolishness, it would be different. But fear makes us stupid, it makes us pinpoint some enemy and hate them. Fear is very, bad for the national mental health. It could well be a symptom that something is genuinely wrong, but is being blown way out of proportion. The way I see it, if something unravels the fabric of society, we’ll just knit that sucker back together again.

Might even come out better the next time around.

Folk Devils and Moral Panics video

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