Menace or moral panic? Methamphetamine and the New Zealand press

Wallace, Carla-Louise
Cocker, Alan
Mercer, Brad
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Master of Communication Studies
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Auckland University of Technology

This thesis, presented as a collection of articles, journalistic in its tone, is titled "Menace or Moral Panic? Methamphetamine and the New Zealand Press". Within the collection, evidence and background information is presented that supports a claim that a moral panic fitting Stanley Cohen's classic model occurred between 1999 and 2004.This moral panic was also identified using Stuart Hall's definition of a moral panic outlined in his mugging study published in 1978 as well as the more contemporary model of Goode and Ben-Yehuda (1994). Jock Young's theory of The Deviance Amplification Spiral is also addressed and can be applied to this collection when considering the close 'symbiotic' relationship that our press here in New Zealand have with our police force. In looking at this particular subject it is vital that we look at how drugs and drug use play a role in the media. Also as part of the backgrounding for this collection it was of critical importance to find whether a moral panic happened anywhere else in the world in relation to methamphetamine. Two previous moral panics about methamphetamine are featured in this collection as part of a case study presented in "Ancient Anecdotes meet Modernity: Drugs and the Rise of Methamphetamine" in which between the years of 1989 and 1996 America passed through two moral panics brought on to a considerable extent by a mixture of media hype and political opportunism. By including a foreign case study we can begin to see how the New Zealand methamphetamine situation had similarities to the American example, making identification of New Zealand's moral panic more definitive. Giving verification to the claims, a lengthy analysis of twenty-five samples from the New Zealand press is also featured in this collection. By looking at the way the stories from the samples developed identification of the various stages of the moral panic become more visible. The last article in this collection investigates, using expert interviews, if there is enough evidence to support the claim that methamphetamine may be a menace to New Zealand society, but that the extent of that menace may be exaggerated by a moral panic brought on by our media and fuelled by our police force.

Methamphetamine abuse , Drugs and mass media , Moral conditions , Deviant behavior in mass media , Press , Communication Studies
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