a moral panic is a feeling of fear spread among many people that some evil threatens the well-being of society. it is "the process of arousing social concern over an issue – usually the work of moral entrepreneurs and the mass media".
in recent centuries the mass media have become important players in the dissemination of moral indignation, even when they do not appear to be consciously engaged in sensationalism or in muckraking. simply reporting the facts can be enough to generate concern, anxiety, or panic. stanley cohen states that moral panic happens when "a condition, episode, person or group of persons emerges to become defined as a threat to societal values and interests". examples of moral panic include the belief in widespread abduction of children by predatory paedophiles, belief in ritual abuse of women and children by satanic cults, and concerns over the effects of music lyrics.
some moral panics can become embedded in standard political discourse, which include concepts such as "red scare"