Pub. date: 2009 | Online Pub. Date: June 02, 2009 | DOI: 10.4135/9781412971928 | Print ISBN: 9781412950855 | Online ISBN: 9781412971928| Publisher:SAGE Publications, Inc.About this encyclopedia
Alexander W. Pisciotta
Moral panics—artificially created crime scares— have long and strong roots in American history. Researchers, often influenced by critical conflict-oriented Marxist themes, have demonstrated that moral entrepreneurs demonized “dangerous groups” to serve their own religious, political, economic, social, cultural, and legal interests. Although the aims, form, dynamics, and outcome of moral panics vary throughout history, they have, with isolated exceptions, been initiated by powerful interest groups to manage the minds, bodies, morals, and behavior of threatening groups—often, the poor and powerless. Colonial era moral panics were, in large part, based in religion. The early colonies were small, closely knit, religiously based societies. The early settlers knew their neighbors and regarded themselves as their brother's keepers. Outsiders were viewed as deviant and dangerous. The Puritans, intent on building God's “shining city on the hill,” viewed Quakers as a threat to religious and social order. Laws were passed banishing them from the colony. ...