The Boston Globe stated the following in an op-ed, “SOCIOLOGISTS USE the term ‘moral panic’ to describe a sudden episode of hysterical behavior set off by exaggerated threats and fueled by endlessly reiterated stories of dangerous behavior.” (Wolfe, Alan. “This panic won’t create air safety”. Aug. 23, 2006.)
For past examples, see the hysteria regarding the role-playing game Dungeons & Dragons in the 1980s (Journal of Religion and Popular Culture) and the hysteria over the Pokémon franchise during the late 1990s (“ChildCare Action Project“). The hysteria over Pokémon continued even after the Vactican, which according to People, “declared that the Pokémon trading card and computer game is ‘full of inventive imagination,’ has no ‘harmful moral side effects’ and is based on the love-thy-neighbor notion of ‘intense friendship’”.
For a current example, consider the recent reports that a group of teenager girls at a high school in Gloucester, Massachusetts made a “pact” to get pregnant. There was a single source for the “pact” claim, the high school principal. The family and friends of the girls, as well as other local officials, stated there was no evidence of a “pact” between the girls. The high school principal has since said he couldn’t remember where he heard about the “pact” (USA Today, AP).
But that little fact hasn’t stopped over 2,598 stories which match the search terms “+gloucester +pact” from showing up on a Google News search. There are also 4,208 hits for the same search terms on Google’s Blog Search.
A lot of the stories are of the basic “Oh my God! It’s the End of days! We must repent!” type.
All of these stories appear to miss several facts regarding teen pregnancies: It may be a shocker to some, but both premarital sex and unplanned teen pregnancies have been happening for decades.
Yes, I know, shocking for me to say that.
It may have been less socially acceptable back then (you can argue amongst yourselves as to why), but it happened.
To bury your head in the sand and ignore the facts surrounding the issue at large does nothing to help prevent the situation in the future.
For another current example, consider yesterday’s opinion piece in The Free Lance–Star.
The basic premise of the story is the following: pornography causes prostitution, which results in sex trafficking; ipso facto, if you ban pornography, no prostitution, therefore no sex trafficking.
Do I really need to point out the logical fallacy in that argument?
For the dense out there: There are records about prostitution going back to the beginning of time. So, how are Hugh Hefner and Larry Flynt responsible for the “world’s oldest profession”?
Furthermore, sex trafficking has been happening for an equal amount of time as prostitution. Consult Saint Justin Martyr’s The First Apology for evidence of the use of children as prostitutes during Roman times. Or consult The New York Times for evidence of the use of 200,000 Chinese and Korean women as sexual slaves by the Japanese before and during World War II.
Admittedly, this opinion piece was better than the previous one that the paper ran, written by syndicated columnist, Michael McManus, who is clearly an anti-Semite and homophobe, and has previously essentially stated, “don’t let your kids around homosexuals, because homosexuals will sexually abuse your kids”. Of course, they did cite said anti-Semite and homophobe in Monday’s opinion piece.
Again, instead of addressing the issues that contribute to prostitution and sexual trafficking, including — but not limited to — organized crime, drug addiction, an inadequate family unit, and incompetent child protective services, The Free Lance–Star attempts to blame pornography as the sole and proximate cause of both prostitution and sexual trafficking.
What a bunch of idiots.