Competing moral panics: an analysis of media representations during prolonged social anxiety
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The period of extended social anxiety and fear within New Zealand surrounding the repeal of section 59 of the New Zealand Crimes Act 1961, also commonly known as the “anti-smacking bill”, was a result of two competing moral panics. This research identifies and investigates the phenomenon of competing moral panics, as well as examining shifting media representations of crimes and how the concept of signal crimes interacts with moral panics over time. Competing moral panics is a phenomenon that occurs when there are two separate panics over a particular issue or incident. The competitive aspect is derived from the need for a moral panic to be perpetuated by mainstream media, where each panic is striving for as much coverage as possible in order for society to banish the ‘folk-devil’ that has been identified. Additionally, signal crimes are being used to exaggerate or revive the fears associated with moral panics.