Defining Deviance: Discussion Summary

Many of this week’s discussion posts highlight the idea that moral entrepreneurs create moral panics out of self-interest to gain social power. For example, CCC410 believes that “the name ‘moral entrepreneurs’ is proof enough that their incentives are exploitative and self-interested.” Blue makes a similar point: “The fact that moral entrepreneurs most often represent and seek to further the particular moral ideologies of interest groups, is a good sign that they are mostly motivated by their own, respective, self-interested causes.” Others, such as littlelionman, use real examples of moral panics to examine this concept: “the example from the reading of wealthy businesses using money to influence politics and legislation in their favor seems a clear example of the first category, where the only concern is for the company’s private morality (or lack thereof) without concern for the repercussions for the rest of society.” In her discussion of the Mexican drug war, mari suggests that, “Maybe the moral entrepreneurs behind the American war on drugs had primary motives other than reducing drug use/abuse,” meaning they may have been motivated by self-interest rather than the interests of society (by reducing drug use/abuse).

Many posts also suggest that moral panics could result in positive social change. In their discussion of human trafficking, littlelionman and mari agree that, with increased awareness, a moral panic surrounding human trafficking could ultimately lead to a safer society. Zeitgeist makes a similar point, specifically about child pornography and its failure to launch into a moral panic: “If there was a moral panic surrounding child pornography that advocated for the idea that children should not be used in pornography which created more of a stigma against people who make these movies, then that would be an example of how moral panics have the potential to provide a way for social change.” This also relates to thelmalouise’s point about “benefit” being a social construct, as some may “benefit” from the creation of moral panics while others may be negatively affected.

Finally, some discussion posts provide alternatives to moral claims-making. Blue asserts that moral claims-making should be supported with “rational” arguments and “moral philosophy” versus “emotional arguments and fear mongering.” Blue then suggests that moral panics should be replaced with “reasoned, considerate, intellectually honest moral claims that are spread to the general public through a didactic dissemination rather than through scares and inflated fears,” meaning social issues should be publicized through honest, informative, and widespread discussions versus “scares” and “inflated fears.” Similarly, mari points out that, because an “understanding of trafficking’s operational logic is beyond our current intellectual framework, we do not have the means of effectively, and internationally, combating human trafficking.” In other words, with better public understanding of some pivotal issues, such as human trafficking, they can ultimately result in a moral panic centralized around the issue at hand, rather than a struggle for social power.

There are many non-profit organizations that are concerned with human trafficking and slavery awareness in the United States. Some examples include: GEMS, UNIAP, and Freedom Network USA. Organizations that focus on alternatives to drug wars/drug policy reform include: Drug Policy Alliance, Families Against Mandatory Minimums, and the American Civil Liberties Union. These organizations work to combat these social issues through awareness, honesty, and community empowerment. Although their efforts have not ignited “moral panics,” they have changed the lives of many and will continue to do so by fairly and effectively spreading awareness.

Failure to Launch: Human Trafficking and Slavery in the United States

Human trafficking and slavery in the United States exemplify issues that have failed to launch into a moral panic. Here are some possible reasons as to why these issues have not resulted in the creation of a moral panic:

1. The hidden nature of the crimes.

2. Almost no media coverage.

3. The difficulty in distinguishing between human trafficking and “voluntary” sex work.

4. Because they are “hidden,” many do not perceive these issues as “immediate threats” (p. 188).

5. Inconsistent sentencing for the guilty; different understandings of trafficking laws and their application.

How else can Jenkins’ ideas be applied to these issues? What are some other issues that have “failed to launch?”