Friday, July 09, 2010

Folk devils and moral panics

There have been reports of attempted child abductions in Stockport recently. Obviously this is really horrible raw stuff. But it also shows how different channels fuel this.

1. Emails from parents in the area warning that "two men" have been approaching kids. Quite detailed descriptions were included and in the initial press reports. There are FOUR incidents cited. I got these round robin emails and sensed a slight conspiratorial tone.

2. A Facebook page has been set up - well reports of one, I'm not on it so can't check.

3. The Stockport Express reports concentrate on the reassurances from the police. The posters however exaggerate the danger and feeling of panic. There are no descriptions of the would-be abductors.

4. Following 22 incidents which have been reported to the police, the official police statement, quoted on the BBC, actually says one of the reported incidents was false. There is nothing to link the incidents. And there are no descriptions of the would-be abductors. "Incorrect information is also being published on community and social networking websites leading to more fear in the community."

We teach our kids "stranger danger" and all of that sensible stuff. There are beasts out there, as we found out in 2008 with this case.

But I can't help but wonder who fuels this, and why. And how sensitive the mainstream media are to responsible community information in such times, but only to a point.

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