maandag 31 mei 2010

Morele paniek

Vorige week is in Italië een boekje verschenen van de socioloog Massimo Introvigne: Preti pedofili. La vergogna, il dolore e la verità sull'attacco a Benedetto XVI (Pedofiele priesters. De schaamte, de pijn en de waarheid over de aanval op Benedictus XVI). Het is een bewerking van diverse artikelen die Introvigne de afgelopen maanden heeft geschreven over de sexueel-misbruik-affaire, en bevat als aanhangsel de relevante Vaticaanse documenten en wetgeving. Negentig pagina's die de moeite waard zijn (hopelijk wordt het ook tenminste in het Engels vertaald).
Een van de interessante thema's die hij aansnijdt is dat van de zgn. "morele paniek". Hier een citaat van Introvigne (niet uit het boek, maar uit een artikel over dezelfde kwestie op de website van het sociologisch onderzoeksinstituut waar hij directeur van is):
Why is there talk again of pedophile priests, based on old cases in Germany and the U.S., which drags in people who are close to the Pope and now even the Pope himself? Does sociology have something to say about this or should we leave it completely to the journalists? I believe sociology has much to say, and it must not remain silent because of a fear of displeasing some.
The current discourse on pedophile priests – considered from a sociological perspective – represents a typical example of “moral panic”. The concept was coined in the 1970s to explain how certain problems become the subject of a “social hyper-construction”. More precisely, moral panics are defined as socially constructed problems that are characterized by a systematic amplification of (true) facts in the media or in political discourse.
Two other characteristics have been cited as typical of moral panics. First, problems that have existed for decades are reconstructed in the media and political accounts as new, or as the subject of a recent dramatic increase. Second, their incidence is exaggerated by folk statistics plucked from the air which, while not confirmed by academic studies, are repeated by the media and inspire persistent media campaigns. Historian and sociologist Philip Jenkins, of Pennsylvania State University, has emphasized the role of “moral entrepreneurs” in the creation and management of panics whose agenda is not always revealed. Moral panics may be entertaining for the media, but do not bring any good. They distort the perception of the problems and compromise the efficacy of the measures which should resolve them. After a harmful analysis inevitably there comes a harmful intervention.
Let there be no misunderstanding: at the origin of moral panics are objective and real dangers. Moral panics do not invent a problem; they exaggerate its statistical dimensions. In a series of excellent studies, Jenkins demonstrated how the issue of pedophile priests is perhaps the most typical moral panic today. Two characteristic elements exist: a real fact which serves as a starting point, and an exaggeration of this fact by moral entrepreneurs.

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