Sunday, March 15, 2020

Distance Makes the Heart

...grow fonder and that we can now say is a load of bullshit.  The reality is hat we are chartering unknown waters with this virus and in fact the powers that be are clearly not Captains of these vessels they are sailing right into an iceberg.

I have long made the metaphor that my transition to Nashville was like diving into waters that were either too deep, too shallow, too warm, to red and too rough for me to navigate.  Not a sailor but a swimmer I was wyay over my head.   And now again I sailed into a new port, a blue water one and it is time to find new tools in which to aid me on my journey.

I still feel I have landed in safe familiar ports and lands and while I watch the world around me stumble, crash and sail in and out of ports, on docks and on land I still feel oddly safer and more secure.  It was not until the idiot owner of the Yoga studio challenged that did I feel that I had dived into the deep end and then I realized that nope I was a pretty strong swimmer, the years in Nashville had given me a strong backstroke and I was a pretty fine swimmer despite my age.  No Michael Phelps but I was not washed up either as some in his pool have become.

The water is full of all kinds of life and some of it is garbage that floats along side destroyying what lies below or washes up on the shores littering the landscape like dead jellyfish but less of a sting.  I did not handle my rage well but I have not and I am definitely still capable of a sting or two and I am not done with rubbing sand in the face of my yoga teacher as she needs to be reminded that yes there are plenty of fish in the sea.

But I look at what I have seen in Nashville and the push for growth and restoration combined to make an already tough shelled sea turtle tougher and the city will rise again as it was, just again with more corruption, fraud, duplicty and some good folks too.  I miss those I miss and the rest not at all but despite it I would not wish any of it on anyone as despite it all as  I was still kept alive and floating by many good sailors until the waves finally pushed me out to land on new shores.

 Nasvhile this week is much like another city I lived in, a college town, a music town, a political town, a tourist destination and a city of legacy and history - Austin.  I cannot say anyting bad about Austin as I well loved it and lived there in a time when it was great; The late 90s were a time it was a city ever changing and SXSW was just a new kid on that block and had not become the behemoth it is now but it was a great place that I must go back to again.  But shake your money maker as like Nashville it is events like those kept that city afloat and this week it too faced cancellations and changes that will run deep into the waters of business and incomes for those who serve the guests that come abroad.  And yet both are doing what they do best, serve BBQ and PBR and they will come.  The most transmittable disease outbreak there is more likely another virus, Herpes, versus the Corvid one.  Ah Nashville and the Bachelorette slut parties, those I don't miss.  But it is not over and still has a long road ahead in some unchartered waters. 

Yesterday Hoboken shut down community centers, yoga studios, day cares and other public like facilities and then today they shut restaurants and bars to delivery or pick up only. So it is only a matter of days before schools and then further martial law to do what exactly.  Newark is closing the schools and the schools offices until the 30th and more towns in the area are sending misinformation and corrected information to again further confuse and elevate already a publics hysteria.

Jersey City will of course have to top that and this should work out again as misguided and confusing as any of the messages that have come from the Captains who wear red hats or those in blue.  This is of course a way to enforce at least a minimum of personal responsibility that few seem to follow.  Irony is that Yoga, Gyms and Community Centers are where people go to find guidance, support and follow healthy protocols and lifestyles that build immunities and establish a healthy life, as do Churches and yet they are the ones shutting doors to those who would most benefit from them. But keep the bars going there and that will work out great.  I do love that Hoboken, home of Frank Sinatra, says fuck that we ain't giving you a chance to vent, to sing or to love either.

We are in unchartered waters with few leaders at the helm of the vessel. The moral panic has begun and studying how the Titanic handled that may be the first sign we are fucked folks and instead of Herpes we caught this. The odd secrecy of not naming the victims, of giving details of their deaths and health, nameless other potential victims with no official diagnosis confirmed, the numbers and data providing actual percentage of people with the disease, diagnosed and confirmed agains the total population which provides a perspective and sense of accuracy, of endless parades of medical experts on television news providing the screed and warning this will get worse.  Ah yes Goody Proctor she warned us of the witches.  And the band played on.

Scott A. Bonn Ph.D.
Wicked Deeds
Moral Panic: Who Benefits From Public Fear?
Moral panics maintain the status quo.
Psychology Today
Posted Jul 20, 2015

The criminological concept known as moral panic offers valuable insights into how and why powerful social agents such as the news media and the police deliberately create public concern or fear of an individual or group.

Moral panic has been defined as a situation in which public fears and state interventions greatly exceed the objective threat posed to society by a particular individual or group who is/are claimed to be responsible for creating the threat in the first place.

The moral panic concept was developed and popularized by South African criminologist Stanley Cohen when he explained the public reaction to disturbances by youths called “mods and rockers” at seaside resorts in Brighton, England during the 1960s. Cohen’s work illustrated how those reactions influenced the formation and enforcement of social policy, law, and societal perceptions of threats posed by the youth groups (1).

Since its inception, the moral panic concept has been applied to a wide range of social problems including but not limited to youth gangs, school violence, child abuse, Satanism, wilding, flag burning, illegal immigration and terrorism.

Central to the moral panic concept is an argument that public concern or fear over an alleged social problem is mutually beneficial to state officials—that is, politicians and law enforcement authorities—and the news media. The relationship between state officials and the media is symbiotic in that politicians and law enforcement need communication channels to distribute their rhetoric and the media need tantalizing news content to attract a wide audience which, in turn, attracts advertisers.

Moral panics arise when distorted mass media campaigns are used to create fear, reinforce stereotypes and exacerbate pre-existing divisions in the world, often based on race, ethnicity and social class.

Additionally, moral panics have three distinguishing characteristics. First, there is a focused attention on the behavior, whether real or imagined, of certain individuals or groups that are transformed into what Cohen referred to as “folk devils” by the mass media. This is accomplished when the media strip these folk devils of all favorable characteristics and apply exclusively negative ones.

Second, there is a gap between the concern over a condition and the objective threat it poses. Typically, the objective threat is far less than popularly perceived due to how it is presented by authorities.

Third, there is a great deal of fluctuation over time in the level of concern over a condition. The typical pattern begins with the discovery of the threat, followed by a rapid rise and then peak in public concern, which then subsequently, and often abruptly, subsides.

Finally, public hysteria over a perceived problem often results in the passing of legislation that is highly punitive, unnecessary, and serves to justify the agendas of those in positions of power and authority.

Moral panic is both a public and political response to an exaggeration or distortion of the threat posed to society by some allegedly harmful individual or group. More specifically, moral panic includes an exaggeration of certain events by enhancing the empirical criteria such as the number of individuals involved, the level and extent of violence, and the amount of damage caused.

Of course, this is not something that happens spontaneously, but rather, is a result of the complex dynamics and interplay among several social actors. As originally explained by Cohen, at least five sets of social actors are involved in a moral panic. These include: 1) folk devils, 2) rule or law enforcers, 3) the media, 4) politicians, and 5) the public.

First, in the lexicon of moral panic scholars, folk devils are those individuals who are socially defined or alleged to be responsible for creating a threat to society. Unlike some deviants, folk devils are completely negative. They are the embodiment of evil and the antagonists in a moral panic drama.

Second, law enforcers such as the police, prosecutors or the military are vital to a moral panic as they are charged with upholding and enforcing the codes of conduct and official laws of the state. These agents of the state are expected to detect, apprehend and punish the folk devils. Law enforcers have a sworn duty and moral obligation to protect society from folk devils when they present themselves. Furthermore, law enforcers must work to justify and maintain their positions in society. A moral panic can offer law enforcers legitimacy and purpose by ridding society of folk devils that allegedly threaten its wellbeing.

Third, the media are a particularly powerful set of actors in the creation of a moral panic. Typically, news media coverage of certain events involving alleged folk devils is distorted or exaggerated. News coverage makes the folk devils appear to be much more threatening to society than they really are. Public concern and anxiety are heightened by journalistic hyperbole concerning the folk devils.

Moreover, there are two important news media practices that contribute to moral panic. These are known as framing and priming. Framing refers to the way an issue is presented to the public or angle it is given by the news media. Framing involves calling attention to certain aspects of an issue while ignoring or obscuring other elements. In other words, framing gives meaning to an issue.

Dr. Gaye Tuchman proposed that the news media rely on “news frames” to determine what events to cover and how to cover them (2). Just as the photographer’s choice of lens affects a photograph, the journalist’s choice of news frame affects a story. Tuchman theorized that journalists select news frames for a story based in part on routine procedures and the organizational constraints of their particular medium.

In addition, the choice of frame is influenced by prior news frames, the power and authority of news sources, history, and even ideology. Thus, news frames are contested or negotiated phenomena rather than being based solely on objective events. Most importantly, an audience will react very differently to an issue or story depending on how it is framed by the news media.

In contrast, priming is a psychological process whereby the news media emphasis on a particular issue not only increases the salience of the issue on the public agenda, but also activates previously acquired information about that issue in people’s memories. The priming mechanism explains how the news frame used in a particular story can trigger an individual’s pre-existing attitudes, beliefs and prejudices regarding that issue.

An example of priming would be the triggering of varied individual responses such as outrage or pity to the framing of Dr. Conrad Murray—Michael Jackson’s accused killer and personal physician—during his 2011 manslaughter trial. Given the news media’s prior framing of the legendary Michael Jackson as an eccentric and troubled genius, people naturally had different reactions to the framing of Dr. Murray due to their own individual interpretations of the image of Jackson.

Fourth, politicians are also vital actors in a moral panic drama. As elected officials who must operate in the court of public opinion, politicians must present themselves as the protectors of the moral high ground in society. Similar to law enforcers, politicians have a sworn duty and moral obligation to protect society from folk devils when they arise.
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Politicians often fuel a moral panic by aligning themselves with the news media and law enforcers in a moral crusade against the evils introduced by the folk devils. In other instances, such as the U.S. war on drugs launched in the late 1980s, a key politician such as President Ronald Reagan may define the folk devils—that is, urban crack cocaine dealers—and precipitate a moral panic over the evils of crack cocaine and alleged threats these evils present.

The fifth and final set of actors, the public, is the most important player in the creation of a moral panic. Public agitation or concern over the folk devils is the central element of a moral panic. A moral panic only exists to the extent that there is an outcry from the public over the alleged threat posed by the folk devils.

Moreover, the success of politicians, law enforcers and the media in precipitating and sustaining a moral panic is ultimately contingent upon how successfully they fuel concern and outrage toward the folk devils among the public.

Can you think of a recent social phenomenon that can be considered a moral panic? I’d like to hear from you.

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