History Professor Jennifer Evans explores QAnon, comparing the moral panic it unleashes on social media with similar threats to the social order throughout history. A short excerpt can be found below with the full article, “Folk devils and fear: QAnon feeds into a culture of moral panic,” online.
Using conspiracy theories that include child sex traffickers and restaurants serving human flesh, QAnon has unleashed a modern-day moral panic.
It is now more than 30 years since sociologists proposed moral panic as a way to understand the incitement of fear around a perceived enemy. In the opening paragraph of his canonical study of popular media from 1972, Folk Devils and Moral Panics, sociologist Stanley Cohen outlined his basic thesis:
Societies appear to be subject, every now and then, to periods of moral panic. A condition, episode, person or group of persons emerges to become defined as a threat to societal values and interests.
In President Donald Trump’s America, those people are queers, racial minorities and Jews.