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With Reference To A Relevant Example(S), Explain What Is Meant By The Term 'folk Devil' And Discuss How This May Or May Not Influence The Public Perc

2238 words - 9 pages

The role of a folk devil is to create a moral panic. These folk devils are publicised which leads the people themselves to adapt another persona, in some cases a sense of pride, but ultimately leads to public outcry for affirmative action to be taken by the police and eventually the government. Folk devils are the first stage and the subject of moral panics. The term “folk devil” was coined by Stanley Cohen in his “Folk Devils and Moral Panics”. He used it to describe a person or group of people who were used as scapegoats for the current issues of society. Although the term was coined in the 1970's to describe Mods and Rockers, the concept can be traced back far into history and can also be applied to modern occurrences throughout the world. Some of the best examples of folk devils are the Teddy Boys, Paedophiles, Punks, and immigrants. Folk devils are created through stereotyping in the media to create another version of the subject than reality. Folk devils are often associated with certain symbols such as the safety pin that became specific to punks. The identifying of folk devils relies heavily on stereotyping and heavy reporting that is disproportionate to the level of action that is truly taking place. By using the folk devils as scapegoats, it reinforces stereotypes and segregation, increasing policing and the public's fear, and most importantly maintains segregation; sometimes increasing it.
The role of folk devils is extremely influential on the public perception of crime. By creating folk devils it allows the general public to be at ease, as long as they are distant from those targeted by the media. The media uses folk devils to convince people that all of the problems in society lie within these groups of people or a single person. The labelling of folk devils is the attempt to displace social anxieties of the public by the more powerful institutions (Critcher, 2008) Teddy boys are said to be Britain's first “post-war teenage folk devils” (Munice 2009, 9). They were portrayed to be sexually perverted and violent youths that ran a muck through society. In the mid-1950's, these men found themselves excluded from the working class districts of London due to their lack of power and status. They began to dress in a distinct manor that mocked the upper classes. The Teddy Boys can be said to have begun the definition of folk devils by fulfilling all the criteria Cohen names. The Edwardian dress and sideburns became symbols of the Teddy Boys. The media turned them into a distinguished group and created a moral panic by over reporting and dramatising the events surrounding the group, such as when the movie Blackboard Jungle premiered what is called the first rock riot occurred where the Teddy boys began “jiving in aisles”, “razoring seats”, and “attacking 'intruders' in their 'territories'” (Munice 2009, 196).
Following the Teddy Boys came a variety of moral panics centred around different folk devils. The media thrived off incidents...

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