'Do we look like boy racers?' The role of the folk devil in contemporary moral panics
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This article addresses the failure of studies concerning moral panics to take into account the reaction of those individuals who are the subject of social anxiety. It responds to the suggestion by McRobbie and Thornton (1995) that studies of moral panic need to account for the role played by the ‘folk devils’ themselves, for a moral panic is a collective process (Young, 2007). The paper presents findings from ethnographic fieldwork with the ‘boy racer’ culture in Aberdeen, qualitative interviews with members of ‘outside’ groups, and content analysis of media articles. The societal reaction to the ‘boy racer’ subculture in Aberdeen is evidence of a contemporary moral panic. The media’s representation of the subculture contributed to the stigmatization of young drivers and the labelling of the subculture’s activities as deviant and antisocial. The drivers were aware of their negative portrayal in the media; however their attempts to change the myth of the ‘boy racer’ were unsuccessful. Although subcultural media can provide an outlet of self-expression for youths, these forms of media can also become caught-up in the moral panic. Ironically the youths’ own niche and micro media reified the (ir)rationality for the moral panic.
RightsThis is the author's final version of this article. The final, definitive version of this paper has been published in Sociological Research Online, 14(1), January 2009 by SAGE Publications Ltd. All rights reserved. © Karen Lumsden. Available from http://dx.doi.org/10.5153/sro.1840 and http://online.sagepub.com
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