Moral Panic


A moral panic is a feeling of fear spread among a large number of people that some evil threatens the well-being of society

The Moral Panics have been arriving thick and fast thanks to our aging population and the communication power of social media.

But most of us are unaware that 'Moral Panic' is even a thing. It's a thing alright! A big thing!

"Moral Entrepreneurs" are constantly hunting for 'the next big thing' that can be weaponised to help political careers, sell newspapers, drive eyeballs to website, or just make people click subscribe on a youtube channel.

To really inspire Moral Panic, a rumour has to be

  1. specific
  2. conceptually dense.

Take this vague "societal change agent"

"Some people are trans"

That's not very scary. Here's a more specific rumour, thanks to Australia's newly un-elected prime-minister:

"Government social workers are going into schools and convincing kids to become trans!"

This hits so many fears at once.

  • government
  • socialism
  • kids
  • brainwashing
  • trans

It's a powder keg!

A moral entrepreneur who spreads such a rumour has really achieved wonders in the opportunistic moral outrage game. Never mind that they're reciting a modern take on the tired "homosexual recruitment" moral panics from the 1970s.

How about this vague "societal change agent"

"Some people are immigrants"

No, not specific enough.

Wait til you see what the Melbourne Age has "uncovered"

"African teens, inspired by a violent new type of music, 'drill', are wielding knives and rioting in gangs at night! And police are powerless!"

Wow, that's Moral Panic TNT!

  • immigrants
  • asylum seekers
  • race
  • teens
  • music
  • new
  • wielding
  • rioting
  • gangs
  • night
  • police

...and that's my winner of the Moral Panic Powderkeg of the Year for Australia 2018.


Trans whisperers played a strong game, but the new type of music really pushed the African teens into the lead.

Moral entrepreneurs are only set to get better at this game.

But how can we protect ourselves and our communities against moral panic?

Image Credit

Trophy icons made by Vectors Market, Panic icon from Freepik, both via, licensed by CC 3.0 BY


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