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    Stanley cohen folk devils and moral panics

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  • Название: Folk Devils and Moral Panics: The creation of the Mods and Rockers
  • Описание: Humanities
  • Автор: Stanley Cohen

Folk Devils and Moral Panics
‘. . . a brilliant and subtle exercise in “grounded theory”.’
Stuart Hall, Emeritus Professor, The Open University
‘Richly documented and convincingly presented’
New Society


Folk Devils and Moral Panics
The creation of the Mods and Rockers

First published 1972 by MacGibbon and Kee Ltd
Second edition published 1987 by Basil Blackwood Ltd
Third edition published 2002 by Routledge
First published in Routledge Classics 2011
by Routledge
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© 1972, 1980, 1987, 2002 Stanley Cohen
The right of Stanley Cohen to be identified as author of this work has been asserted by him
in accordance with sections 77 and 78 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reprinted or reproduced or utilised in any
form or by any electronic, mechanical, or other means, now known or hereafter invented,
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and are used only for identification and explanation without intent to infringe.
British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data
A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Cohen, Stanley.
Folk devils and moral panics : The creation of the Mods and Rockers /
Stanley Cohen.
p. cm. – (Routledge classics)
Includes bibliographical references.
1. Young adults–Great Britain–Case studies. 2. Deviant behaviour. 3. Subculture–
Great Britain. 4. Moral panics. I. Title.
HQ799.8.G7C63 2011
ISBN 0-203-82825-9 Master e-book ISBN

ISBN: 978–0–415–61016–2 (pbk)
ISBN: 978–0–203–82825–0 (ebk)


moral panics as cultural politics: introduction
to the third edition

Deviance and Moral Panics
The Inventory
Reaction: Opinion and Attitude Themes
Reaction: The Rescue and Remedy Phases
On the Beaches: The Warning and the Impact
Contexts and Backgrounds: Youth in the Sixties

appendix: sources of data
selected reading list
notes and references
general index
author index





Folk Devils and Moral Panics was published in 1972. It was based on
my PhD thesis, written in 1967–69 and the term ‘moral panics’
very much belongs to the distinctive voice of the late Sixties.1 Its
tone was especially resonant in the subjects then shared by the
new sociology of deviance and the embryonic cultural studies:
delinquency, youth cultures, subcultures and style, vandalism,
drugs and football hooliganism.
When the Second Edition appeared in 1980, I wrote an
Introduction (‘Symbols of Trouble’) that dealt almost entirely
with the ‘Folk Devils’ part of the book’s title (the Mods and
Rockers), especially the developments in subcultural theories
of delinquency associated with the Birmingham Centre for
Contemporary Cultural Studies. In this Introduction to the
Third Edition, I deal only with the ‘Moral Panics’ part of
the title: reviewing uses and criticisms of the concept over the
last thirty years. A selected reading list can be found on pages
There are three overlapping sources for this review:

i n tr o d uc ti o n to th e th ird edit io n

First, is the stuff itself, thirty years of moral panics. Whether or
not the label was applied and/or contested at the time or afterwards, there are clusters of reactions that look very much like
‘classic’ moral panics.
Second, the same public and media discourse that provides the
raw evidence of moral panic, uses the concept as first-order
description, reflexive comment or criticism.2 These are shortterm reactions to the immediate (‘the current moral panic about
paedophiles’) and long-term general reflections on the ‘state-ofour-times’.
Third, is the meta-view from academic subjects, notably media
and cultural studies, discourse analysis and the sociology of deviance, crime and control. Here the concept has been adapted and
adopted, expanded and criticized, and included as a ‘Key Idea’ in
sociology and a standard entry in textbooks and dictionaries.3
Calling something a ‘moral panic’ does not imply that this
something does not exist or happened at all and that reaction is
based on fantasy, hysteria, delusion and illusion or being duped
by the powerful. Two related assumptions, though, require attention – that the attribution of the moral panic label means that the
‘thing’s’ extent and significance has been exaggerated (a) in
itself (compared with other more reliable, valid and objective
sources) and/or (b) compared with other, more serious problems. This labelling derives from a wilful refusal by liberals, radicals and leftists to take public anxieties seriously. Instead, they are
furthering a politically correct agenda: to downgrade traditional
values and moral concerns.

The objects of normal moral panics are rather predictable; so too
are the discursive formulae used to represent them. For example:
They are new (lying dormant perhaps, but hard to recognize;
deceptively ordinary and routine, but invisibly creeping up the



int ro d u ct io n t o th e th i r d e d i ti o n

moral horizon) – but also old (camouflaged versions of traditional and well-known evils). They are damaging in themselves –
but also merely warning signs of the real, much deeper and more
prevalent condition. They are transparent (anyone can see what’s
happening) – but also opaque: accredited experts must explain the
perils hidden behind the superficially harmless (decode a rock
song’s lyrics to see how they led to a school massacre).
The objects of moral panic belong to seven familiar clusters of
social identity:
1. Young, Working-class, Violent Males
Working-class yobs are the most enduring of suitable enemies.
But the roles they played over these decades – football hooligans,
muggers, vandals, loiterers, joy riders and mobile phone
snatchers – were not represented by distinctive subcultural styles.
There is too much fragmentation to identify dominant subcultures. Loyalties – whether to fashion, musical style, or football –
are too diffuse to match each other. Under the exclusionary
regimes set up in the Thatcher years and adapted by New Labour,
the losers drop quietly off the board, too quietly for any public
displays like the Mods and Rockers. Each of the 1992 riots on
out-of-town council estates (in Bristol, Salford and Burnley) was
short-lived and self-contained. Only the identities and barriers
of race have been further strengthened. With the constant exception of football hooliganism, most crowd scenes of these years
(mobs, riots, public disturbance) have been organized on ethnic
lines (Brixton, Leicester and Bradford).
Away from the crowds two very different cases stand out, both
known by the names of the victims. One, the Jamie Bulger story,
was utterly unique, yet triggered off an immediate and ferocious
moral panic; the other, the Stephen Lawrence case, despite being
indeed a harbinger of things to come, produced a late, slow
running and ambiguous reaction, never reaching full panic status.

i n tr o d uc ti o n to th e th ird edit io n

On 12 February 1993, two 10-year-old boys, Robert
Thompson and Jon Venables, led away 2-year-old James Bulger
from a shopping centre in Bootle (Liverpool). They walked with
him for some two and a half miles to a railway line and then
battered him to death. The number of ‘Children Who Kill
Children’ is minute and not increasing. It was precisely the rarity
of the event and its context that made it so horrible. Long before
the trial began in November the Bulger story had become a
potent symbol for everything that had gone wrong in Britain: a
‘breed’ of violent children, whether feral or immoral; absent
fathers, feckless mothers and dysfunctional underclass families;
the exploitation of children by TV violence and video nasties;
anomic bystanders – on the grainy screen of the defective CCTV
they watch as the toddler (arm stretched up, between the two
older boys, one in step, the other moving grimly ahead) is led to
his death.
The Sun instantly called for ‘a crusade to rescue a sick society’. A
few days later, the shadow Home Secretary, Tony Blair, referred to
the week’s news as ‘hammer blows struck against the sleeping
conscience of the country, urging us to wake up and look unflinchingly at what we see’. The Independent (21 February 1993) used
Blair’s phrase to headline its leading article ‘The Hammer Blow To Our
Conscience’. ‘Britain is a worried country,’ it stated, ‘and it has a good
deal to be worried about.’ By the end of the week, Britain was
‘examining the dark corners of its soul’ (The Economist, 27 February
1993). The only bit of late modernist reflexivity came from
someone who makes a living from moralizing: Archbishop George
Carey warned about the dangers of ‘lapsing into moral panic’.
One such danger is a ready susceptibility to simple explanations. A throwaway remark by the trial judge – ‘I suspect that
exposure to violent video films may in part be an explanation’ –
quickly became a factoid that the last video rented by one of the
boys’ father was Child’s Play 3 (a nasty video indeed in which a
child ‘kills’ a manic doll). This had ‘chilling parallels’ to the



int ro d u ct io n t o th e th i r d e d i ti o n

murder of Jamie Bulger; the two boys ‘may’ have watched it (Daily
Mail, 26 November 1993). The panic turned on media violence.
The Sun staged a public burning of horror videos; reports claimed
that Child’s Play had been removed from video shops; Scotland’s
largest video chain burnt its copies. Four months later, a senior
Merseyside police inspector revealed that checks on the family
homes and rental lists showed that neither Child’s Play nor anything
like it had been viewed.
The search for meaning and causes is of course not always
spurious, simple-minded or mythical. Public opinion, social
scientific theories and poetic imagination4 had to strain themselves to make sense of such an event. But during moral panics
and media frenzies the atypical case is compressed into general
categories of crime control (such as ‘juvenile violence’). The
explanatory theory is based on too few cases; injustice results by
targeting too many cases.
Stephen Lawrence was an 18-year-old black youth from South
London. On the evening of 22 April 1993, while standing at a
bus stop with a friend he was taunted with racial abuse by a
group of five or six white youths. They then stabbed him in the
chest and he died some hours later.
This was to become another boundary marking case. It was
not as unusual as the Bulger story, but just as rich and received
more intense public and media exposure over a much longer
period. The visible failure to bring the known group of suspects
to trial led to continuous revelations of police incompetence and
racism. After six years of persistent campaigning and claimsmaking (by various civil liberties organizations, anti-racist
groups and the local black community including Stephen
Lawrence’s parents), an inquest, a botched private prosecution, a
flawed internal police review, and a Police Complaints Authority
investigation, eventually a £3 million Judicial Inquiry was set up
(chaired by a retired judge, Sir William Macpherson). It published
its 335 page Report in February 1999.5 The Report generated

i n tr o d uc ti o n to th e th ird edit io n

enormous public attention and an iconic policy agenda still
refers to policing ‘after Macpherson’ or ‘after the Stephen
Lawrence Report’.6
At first glance, all the ingredients for a moral panic were in
place. The Report itself took a moral stand against the persistent
racism it had identified. For example: ‘Stephen Lawrence’s
murder was simply and solely and unequivocally motivated by
racism. It was the deepest tragedy for his family. It was an affront
to society, and especially to the local black community in
Greenwich’ (Para. 1.11); ‘Nobody has been convicted of this
awful crime. This is also an affront both to the Lawrence family
and the community at large’ (Para. 1.12). Professional incompetence and poor leadership were important reasons for the police
failure, but the overarching problem was ‘pernicious and
persistent institutional racism’, police failure to respond to the
concerns of ethnic minorities and ‘discrimination through
unwitting prejudice, ignorance, thoughtlessness and racist stereotyping’ (Para. 6.34).
Why did all this not quite add up to a moral panic? Despite
the continued use of Stephen’s name, public attention shifted
from the victim to the police. With the quick departure from the
scene of the suspected offenders (their culture of violence and
racism soon forgotten) the police became the only object of
attention. The Macpherson Report found a divided organization
sending out contradictory and confusing messages marked by an
‘alarming inability to see how and why race mattered’.7 Precisely
because of this ‘inability’ the police could hardly be expected to
carry the full burden of the Lawrence fiasco, and even less, the
damaging indictment of ‘institutionalized racism’. There was no
one else to blame – but the police were just unsuitable as folk
devils. Moreover they had the power to deny, downplay or bypass
any awkward claims about their culpability.8
The right wing press, especially the Daily Mail and the Daily
Telegraph, claiming to speak on behalf of all British society, directly



int ro d u ct io n t o th e th i r d e d i ti o n

aided the police. These papers applied, with astonishing accuracy, methods that could appear in a manual on ‘How To Prevent a
Moral Panic’. The notion of ‘institutionalized racism’ was
denounced as meaningless, exaggerated and too sweeping; the
term could stir up resentments among ordinary people (stigma
and deviancy amplification theory); it besmirches the whole
police force because of a few blameworthy individuals; the
British are a tolerant people who have marginalized the far right
and allowed racial minorities to be integrated and accepted. The
Report, proclaimed the Telegraph, could have come from a ‘loony
left borough’. Some of its conclusions ‘bordered on the insane’.
Macpherson (a witch finder looking for thought-crimes) was a
useful idiot duped by the ‘race relations lobby’ (Sunday Telegraph 21
and 28 February 1999 and Daily Telegraph, 26 February 1999).
In the end, the Lawrence case lacked three of the elements
needed for the construction of a successful moral panic. First, a
suitable enemy: a soft target, easily denounced, with little power
and preferably without even access to the battlefields of cultural
politics. Clearly not the British police. Second, a suitable victim:
someone with whom you can identify, someone who could have
been and one day could be anybody. Clearly not inner-city young
black males. Third, a consensus that the beliefs or action being
denounced were not insulated entities (‘it’s not only this’) but
integral parts of the society or else could (and would) be unless
‘something was done’. Clearly if there was no institutionalized
racism in the police, there could not be in the wider society.
2. School Violence: Bullying and Shootouts
The ‘Blackboard Jungle’ (the name of the 1956 movie) has long
served, in Britain and the USA, as a vivid image about the
menacing violence of inner-city schools. Violence is seen as a
constant daily backdrop: pupils against each other (bullying,
playing dangerous macho games, displaying weapons); teachers

i n tr o d uc ti o n to th e th ird edit io n

against pupils (whether formal corporal punishment or immediate rage and self-protection).
There have been sporadic outcries about this backdrop of
school violence and related problems such as truancy, large-scale
social exclusion into special classes or units and more recently
the neighbourhood pusher selling drugs at the school gate.
Fully-fledged moral panics need an extreme or especially
dramatic case to get going. The age-old rituals of bullying in
classroom and playground (girls, for once, getting a fair share of
attention) are usually normalized until serious injury or the
victim’s suicide.
A recent example is the run of high school massacres and
shooting sprees. The first images – from the USA in the midnineties – were quite unfamiliar: school grounds taped off by
police; paramedics rushing to wheel off adolescent bodies;
parents gasping in horror; kids with arms around each other;
then the flowers and messages at the school gates. In the late
nineties, when these events were still rare, each new case was
already described as ‘an all-too-familiar story’. The slide towards
moral panic rhetoric depends less on the sheer volume of cases,
than a cognitive shift from ‘how could it happen in a place like
this?’ to ‘it could happen anyplace’. In the USA at least, the
Columbine Massacre signalled this shift.
On 20 April 1999 two male students dressed in black (one 17
years old, the other just 18) walked into the 1,800 student
Columbine High School in the quiet town of Littleton, Colorado.
They were armed with shotguns, a handgun and a rifle. They
started shooting, initially targeting known athletes, killing a
teacher and twelve fellow students and then shot themselves.
How could this have happened? As Time magazine posed the question: ‘The Monsters Next Door: What Made them Do It?’ (3 May
1999). British newspaper headings (the archetypal carriers of
moral panics) had already covered a range of explanations. On the
print day after the event (22 April) the Daily Mail went for



int ro d u ct io n t o th e th i r d e d i ti o n

ideological motivation (‘Disciples of Hitler’). The Independent
preferred psychopathology (‘The Misfits Who Killed For Kicks’) as
did the Sunday Times (25 April): ‘Murderous Revenge of the Trenchcoat Misfits’. The Guardian sidestepped the problem of motivation
and went for the liberal middle path issue: ‘The Massacre that
Challenges America’s Love Affair with the Gun’ (22 April).
This scurrying around for a causal theory – or, at least, a
language for making sense – is found in all moral panic texts. If
indeed, in President Clinton’s words, Columbine had ‘pierced
the soul of America’ we must find out why this event happened
and how to stop it happening elsewhere. Moreover, if this happened
in a place like Columbine (and most school massacres do happen
in such ordinary places) then it could well happen elsewhere.
As these stories unfold, experts such as sociologists, psychologists and criminologists are wheeled in to comment, react and
supply a causal narrative. Their ritual opening move – ‘putting
things in perspective’ – is not usually very helpful: ‘Schools Still
Safest Place For Children; Many More Dead at Home Than in
3. Wrong Drugs: Used by Wrong People at Wrong Places
Moral panics about psychoactive drugs have been remarkably
consistent for something like a hundred years: the evil pusher
and the vulnerable user; the slippery slope from ‘soft’ to ‘hard’
drugs; the transition from safe to dangerous; the logic of prohibition. New substances are just added to the list: heroin, cocaine,
marijuana and then the Sixties drugs of amphetamines (very
much the Mod pill) and LSD.Then a string of substances: designer
drugs, PCP, synthetic drugs, ecstasy, solvents, crack cocaine and
new associations: acid-house, raves, club culture, ‘heroin chic’
In Britain, Leah Betts joined James Bulger as a melodramatic
example of a moral panic generated by the tragic death of one

i n tr o d uc ti o n to th e th ird edit io n

person. On 13 November 1995, 18-year-old Leah Betts collapsed
soon after taking an ecstasy tablet in a London nightclub, was
taken to hospital and went into a coma. By the next day – for
reasons not altogether clear – the story made instant panic headlines: the anguish of Leah’s parents; the evil pushers of poison;
the insistent message ‘it could be your child’. Leah died two days
later. Her parents began to appear regularly in the media to warn
of the dangers of ecstasy. They became instant experts and moral
guardians – disagreeing with them would be insensitive to their
grief. The warning was symbolically sharpened by Leah’s respectable home background: father an ex-police officer, mother had
worked as a drug counsellor. This meant, explained the Daily
Express, that drugs were a ‘rotten core in the heart of middle
England’. Leah was the girl next door.
This episode has been much analysed: the story itself, the
media reaction, the left liberal counter-reaction (attacking
the media-spread panic) and even a left liberal reaction against
the counter-reaction for being just a mirror-image, merely
inverting one simple message into another equally simple.9
Instead of: a monolithic popular youth culture promotes drug use
and normalizes other anti-social actions and attitudes, we have:
panic coverage by a monolithic media promotes a false consensus
that alienates occasional drug users into further marginalization.
This was to be a long-running story. Nearly six months later,
anxieties were still being raised: ‘Even the best parents, raising
the most level-headed children, fear that one of them somehow
might be next weekend’s Leah Betts, who died after taking
Ecstasy’ (Daily Telegraph, 12 April 1996). Fourteen months after
Leah’s death, the pop star Noel Gallagher had to apologize to her
parents for saying that ecstasy use was commonplace and harmless among some young people. In March 2000, about five years
after the event, Leah’s mother was widely quoted as ‘hitting out’
at a Police Federation inquiry that suggested relaxing some drug
laws. Leah’s father was still a recognizable authority: ‘Ecstasy



int ro d u ct io n t o th e th i r d e d i ti o n

Victim’s Dad in Drug Danger Alert’ (Birmingham Evening Mail, 12
October 2000); ‘Leah Drug Death Dad Not here to Preach’ (Bolton,
UK Newsquest Regional Press, 18 May 2001).
4. Child Abuse, Satanic Rituals and Paedophile Registers
The term ‘child abuse’ contains many different forms of cruelty
against children – neglect, physical violence, sexual abuse –
whether by their own parents, staff in residential institutions,
‘paedophile priests’ or total strangers. Over the last decade,
public perceptions of the problem have become increasingly
focused on sexual abuse and sensationally atypical cases outside
the family.
Reactions to the sexual abuse of children rest on shifting
moral grounds: the image of the offender changes; some victims
appear more suitable than others.10 A series of stories over the
last twenty years about serious abuse in children’s homes and
other residential institutions revealed not panic or even anxiety,
but a chilling denial. The victims had endured years of rejection
and ill-treatment by their own parents and the staff supposed to
care for them. Their complaints to senior staff and local authority
officials and politicians were met with disbelief, collusion and a
tight organizational cover-up. There have been repeated waves of
denial, exposure then denunciation. The same pattern applies to
those traditional folk devils, paedophile priests.11
In the mid-1980s, however, a succession of highly publicized
child deaths under more ‘ordinary’ circumstances, led to a very
different type of panic. Into the familiar criminal triangle – child
(innocent victim); adult (evil perpetrator) and bystanders
(shocked but passive) – appears the social worker, trying to be
rescuer but somehow ending up being blamed for the whole
mess. Social workers and social service professionals were
middle-class folk devils: either gullible wimps or else storm
troopers of the nanny state; either uncaring cold hearted bureau-

i n tr o d uc ti o n to th e th ird edit io n

crats for not intervening in time to protect the victim or else
over-zealous, do-gooding meddlers for intervening groundlessly
and invading privacy.
The Cleveland child sexual abuse scandal of 1987 marked the
peak of this period and condensed its themes: the tensions
between social work, medicine and the law; social workers as
anxious, demoralized and particularly vulnerable as a predominantly female profession.12 For three months from April that
year, a cluster of some 120 children (average age between 6 and
9) had been diagnosed as having been sexually abused in their
families. In June, a local newspaper published a story about
confused and angry parents who claimed that their children had
been taken from them by local authority social workers on the
basis of a disputed diagnosis of sexual abuse made by two paediatricians in the local hospital. The Daily Mail ran the story on 23
June (‘Hand Over Your Children, Council Orders Parents of 200
The resulting moral panic became a pitched battle of claims
and counter-claims. So busy were the key players in fingering
each other – social workers, police, paediatricians, doctors,
lawyers, parents, local and national politicians, then a judicial
inquiry – that there was not even minimal consensus about what
the whole episode was about.
Another episode was more fictitious and one of the purest
cases of moral panic. Superimposed on the very real phenomenon of childhood sexual abuse and incest, came the ‘recovered
memory’ of childhood incest: bitter debates about the existence
of repressed (and recovered) memories of childhood sexual
abuse. In these therapeutic interstices, came the story of ‘ritual
child abuse’, ‘cult child abuse’ or ‘Satanic abuse’. In around 1983,
disturbing reports began circulating about children (as well as
adults in therapy who were ‘recovering’ childhood memories)
alleging that they had been sexually abused as part of the ritual
of secret, Satanic cults, which included torture, cannibalism and


xviii int ro d u ct io n t o th e th i r d e d i ti o n
human sacrifice. Hundreds of women were ‘breeders’; children
had their genitals mutilated, were forced to eat faeces, were
sacrificed to Satan, their bodies dismembered and fed to participants – who turned out to be family members, friends and
neighbours, day-care providers and prominent members of the
community. Claims-making for various parts of this story joined
conservative Christian fundamentalists with feminist psychotherapists.
One form of sexualized violence against children does not
generate counterclaims about its existence nor any moral disagreement: the abduction and sexual killing of children, especially girls. This strikes a depth of horror in us all. There is a
panicky sense of vulnerability – both in the sense of statistical
risk (these events seem to be happening more often) and
emotional empathy (How would I feel if this happened to my
child?). The script becomes more familiar: child disappears on
way home from school; the police set up investigation team;
school friends, neighbours, teachers interviewed; frantic,
distraught parents make appeals on TV; members of public join
police in searching fields and rivers . . .
These offenders are pure candidates for monster status. The
July 2000 abduction and murder of 8-year-old Sarah Payne led
to the News of the World ‘crusade’ (its own word), a series of classic
texts of monster-making. The 23 July front page reads: ‘NAMED
AND SHAMED. There are 110,000 child sex offenders in Britain
. . . one for every square mile. The murder of Sarah Payne has
proved police monitoring of these perverts is not enough. So we
are revealing WHO they are and WHERE they are . . . starting
today.’ The lists of names and the rows of photos reflect what the
paper assumes and constructs as the primeval public anxiety:
‘DOES A MONSTER LIVE NEAR YOU?’ Check the list, then read
The paper called for information about convicted sex offenders
to be made publicly available and itself published over the next

i n tr o d uc ti o n to th e th ird edit io n

two weeks photos, names and addresses of 79 convicted sex
Many obvious and worrying issues were raised: how the list
was constructed (partly from Scout Association records: Scouting
Out the Beasts, the paper explained); how downloading child porn
or the seduction of a 14-year-old schoolboy by his mid-thirties
female teacher belong to the same category as the sexual murder
of a child; the counter-productive effect of driving already monitored offenders underground; the media’s own freedom to
publish. The special dangers of vigilantism and lynch mobs soon
appeared with crowd protests calling for named and shamed
offenders to be moved out of neighbourhoods or council
housing estates. Attention focused on the Paulsgrove estate near
Portsmouth – where each night for a week crowds of up to 300
marched upon houses of alleged paedophiles.
Public figures had to express sympathy with the parents and
share their moral revulsion but also distance themselves from the
mob. This was easily done by repeating the inherently negative
connotations of lynch mob and mob rule, the primitive, atavistic
forces whipped up by the News of the World.13 The rational polity is
contrasted to the crowd: volatile, uncontrollable and ready to
5. Sex, Violence and Blaming the Media
There is a long history of moral panics about the alleged harmful
effects of exposure to popular media and cultural forms – comics
and cartoons, popular theatre, cinema, rock music, video nasties,
computer games, internet porn.14 For conservatives, the media
glamorize crime, trivialize public insecurities and undermine
moral authority; for liberals the media exaggerate the risks of
crime and whip up moral panics to vindicate an unjust and
authoritarian crime control policy. In these ‘media panics’, the
spirals of reaction to any new medium are utterly repetitive and



int ro d u ct io n t o th e th i r d e d i ti o n

predictable. With historical incorporation: ‘the intense preoccupation with the latest media fad immediately relegates older
media to the shadows of acceptance.’15
The crude model of ‘media effects’ has hardly been modified:
exposure to violence on this or that medium causes, stimulates
or triggers off violent behaviour.16 The continued fuzziness of
the evidence for such links is overcompensated by confident
appeals to common sense and intuition. When such appeals
come from voices of authority (such as judges) or authoritative
voices (experts, professionals, government inquiries) the moral
panic is easier to sustain, if only by sheer repetition. The prohibitionist model of the ‘slippery slope’ is common: if ‘horror
videos’ are allowed, then why not ‘video nasties?’ Child pornography will be next and finally the legendary ‘snuff movies.’
Crusades in favour of censorship are more likely to be driven by
organized groups with ongoing agendas.
Some recent media panics are more self-reflective – anticipating having to defend themselves against the accusation of
spreading a moral panic. The media play a disingenuous game.
They know that their audiences are exposed to multiple meanings and respond differently to the ‘same’ message. They use this
knowledge to support their indignation that they could have any
malignant effect; they forget this when they start another round
of simple-minded blaming of others. The powerful, increasingly
homogenized and corporate news media blame other media
forms. But their own effect is the most tangible and powerful,
shaping the populist discourse and political agenda-setting. This
has happened most obviously in my next two examples: welfare
cheats and bogus asylum seekers.
6. Welfare Cheats and Single Mothers
The cutbacks in welfare state provisions during the Thatcher
years were accompanied by the deliberate construction of an

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atmosphere of distrust. Widespread folk beliefs – the assumption
that significant numbers of welfare claims were bogus or fraudulent, made by people taking advantage of (‘ripping off’) the
welfare state – were given official credibility. Governments
confirmed the need for institutional practices (laws, administrative procedures) that would firmly and reliably weed out the fake
from the real. Legal changes assume, along with the public
culture, ‘not just that each claimant is potentially a fraudster but
that he/she is probably so’.17
‘Welfare cheats’, ‘social security frauds’ and ‘dole scroungers’
are fairly traditional folk devils. So too are unmarried mothers.
Over the 1980s, though, there was a ‘kind of subdued moral
panic’ about young, unemployed girls becoming pregnant,
staying single and taking themselves out of the labour market by
opting for full-time motherhood, becoming dependent on
welfare benefits rather than a male breadwinner.18 The campaign
ran most stridently from 1991 to 1993. Conservative politicians
explicitly linked the goal of reducing government expenditure
with moral exhortation for people to take responsibility for their
own lives. ‘Girls’ were depicted as getting pregnant in order to be
eligible for state benefits, even ‘extra handouts’ or to jump the
queue for public housing. The 1993 ‘Back to Basics’ campaign in
Britain cynically constructed the single mother as a potent moral
threat.19 The abuse directed at lone parents led an Independent
editorial (11 October 1993) to note that ‘Conservative politicians are subjecting them to a vilification that would be illegal if
addressed to racial minorities.’
The image of single mothers as irresponsible adults and ineffective parents helps to legitimize and entrench shrinking public
provisions.20 There are further causal leaps: ‘feckless mothers’ get
pregnant to obtain state welfare; they raise children who will be
the criminals of the future; absent fathers are present somewhere, unemployed and also living off the state. All this points to
the same underclass culture that created the problem in the first



int ro d u ct io n t o th e th i r d e d i ti o n

place. But the real problem is none other than: the future of the
nuclear family.
7. Refugees and Asylum Seekers: Flooding our Country,
Swamping our Services
In media, public and political discourse in Britain the distinctions between immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers have
become hopelessly blurred. Refugee and asylum issues are
subsumed under the immigration debate which in turn is framed
by the general categories of race, race relations and ethnicity.
The framing itself does not necessarily imply racism. There are
domains of British society where racism is subdued or at least
contested. Conservatives may well flirt with the idea that ‘political correctness’ is a leftist moral panic, but political instinct tells
them to condemn their members for telling racist jokes.
No such sensitivity is extended to refugees and asylum seekers.
Over the 1990s and throughout Europe a ‘hostile new agenda’
emerged.21 At one level, there is the repeated and ritualistic
distinction between genuine refugees (still entitled to compassion) and bogus asylum seekers (no rights, no call on compassion). But this distinction hides the more profound sense in
which the once ‘morally untouchable category of the political
refugee’22 has become deconstructed.
Governments and media start with a broad public consensus that
first, we must keep out as many refugee-type of foreigners as
possible; second, these people always lie to get themselves accepted;
third, that strict criteria of eligibility and therefore tests of credibility
must be used. For two decades, the media and the political elites of
all parties have focused attention on the notion of ‘genuineness’.
This culture of disbelief penetrates the whole system. So ‘bogus’ refugees and asylum seekers have not really been driven from their
home countries because of persecution, but are merely ‘economic’
migrants, attracted to the ‘Honey Pot’ of ‘Soft Touch Britain’.

i n tr o d uc ti o n to th e th ird edit io n

In tabloid rhetoric, especially the Daily Mail (whose campaign
of vilification is too deliberate and ugly to be seen as a mere
moral panic), the few nuances in these assumptions disappear:
the untypical is made typical; the insulting labels are applied to
all. (The bogus/genuine dichotomy appeared also in 58 per cent
of all relevant articles over 1990–1995 in The Guardian, The
Independent and The Times; one-third of Guardian and Independent references either criticized this idea or were citing others.23)
This area is crucially different from my other six examples.
First, although there have been intermittent panics about specific
newsworthy episodes, the overall narrative is a single, virtually
uninterrupted message of hostility and rejection. There is a
constant background screen, interspersed with vivid little
tableaux:Tamils at the airport, stripping in protest; Kurds clinging
to the bottom of Eurostar trains; Chinese suffocating to death in
a container lorry. Second, these reactions are more overtly political than any others – not just because the problem is caused by
global political changes, but because the reactions have a long
history in British political culture. Moreover, successive British
governments have not only led and legitimated public hostility,
but spoken with a voice indistinguishable from the tabloid press.
The media’s lexicon of verbal abuse has kept up a constant
level of bigotry. A recent analysis shows Scottish newspapers
highlighting the same negative words and racial stereotypes;
presenting asylum myths as fact; openly hostile about the presence of asylum seekers in Britain and openly suggesting they go
back to their country of origin.24 (Note though that only 44 per
cent of references were judged as wholly negative, 21 per cent as
balanced and 35 per cent as positive.)
A socio-linguistic study in a quite different cultural context –
Austrian newspaper reports on the Kurdish asylum seekers in
Italy in 1998 – nicely identifies the ‘metaphors we discriminate
by’.25 Three dominant metaphors portray asylum seekers as water
(‘tidal waves’), as criminals or as an invading army. The repetition of



int ro d u ct io n t o th e th i r d e d i ti o n

these themes in relatively fixed lexical and syntactic forms shows
them as the ‘natural’ way of describing the situation. The ‘naturalization’ of particular metaphors can blur the boundaries
between the literal and the non-literal.
Similar metaphors – plus a few others – appear in British

Water is represented as Flood, Wave, Deluge, Influx, Pour(into), Tide
and Swamp. As in ‘Human Tide Labour Would Let In’ (The Sun,
4 April 1992).
Refugees are more criminal and more violent: ‘Thousands
have already [come to Britain] bringing terror and violence
to the streets of many English towns’ (Sunday People, 4 March
2001). ‘An asylum free-for-all is a time bomb ticking away
. . . that could one day explode with terrifying public
violence’ (Scottish Daily Mail, 13 April 2000). Their primal
dishonesty is that they are Cheats, Fakes, Bogus and Liars. ‘Fury as
20,000 Asylum cheats beat the System to Stay in Britain; Get
them Out’ (Daily Express, 30 July 2001).
Refugees are Scroungers and Beggars, always looking for Handouts
and trying to Milk the system.
This is easy because Britain is a Haven with generous provisions (Milk and Honey) and is such a Soft Touch: ‘Don’t Let Britain
Be A Soft Touch’ (Sunday Mirror, 4 August 2001); ‘Labour has
made UK a haven for Refugees’ (Daily Mail, 7 August 1999);
Britain as ‘the number one destination for asylum-seekers’
(Daily Telegraph, 19 February 2001); ‘the Costa del Dole for
bogus refugees’ (Scottish Sun, 11 April 2000).
These metaphors and images are usually combined: ‘Soft
Touch That Lets in the Refugee Tricksters’ (Press Association,
4 November 1999); ‘Bogus Asylum Seekers That Keep on
Flooding Into Britain: Britain a Soft Touch on Asylum’ (Daily
Express, 26 April 2001); ‘We resent the scroungers, beggars
and crooks who are prepared to cross every country in

i n tr o d uc ti o n to th e th ird edit io n

Europe to reach our generous benefits system’ (The Sun, 7
March 2001).
The headlines of ‘Straight Talking’, David Mellor’s regular
column in the People make up a collage of these themes: ‘Why
we must turn back the Tide of Dodgy Euro Refugees’ (29
August 1999); ‘Send Spongers Packing Before We Are
Over-run’ (13 February 2000); ‘Kick Out All This Trash’ (5
March 2000). Then, after all this, ‘When Telling the Truth is
Called Racism’ (16 April 2000).

The immediate effects of such sustained venom are easy to
imagine, but harder to prove. In three days in August 2001 a
Kurdish asylum seeker was stabbed to death on a Glasgow
housing estate and two other Kurds attacked. The UNHCR issued
a statement saying that this was predictable given the ‘climate of
vilification of asylum seekers that has taken hold in the UK in
recent years’. This branding has become so successful that the
words ‘asylum seeker’ and ‘refugee’ have become terms of abuse
in school playgrounds.
Because this area is so obviously political, a strong opposition
has been generated. Many NGOs – from human rights, civil
liberties and anti-racist directions – give explicit attention to
combating the pernicious effects of panic discourse. More
specialist groups such as the Press Trust and RAM (Refugees,
Asylum-seekers and the Mass Media) work only on countering
media images and myths.
In May 2002, the Labour government announced a new round
of plans under the slogan of ‘zero acceptance’: shut the Sangatte
refugee camp on the French side of the Channel Tunnel; intercept boats carrying illegals; speed up deportation procedures.
Under the heading ‘Asylum: 9 out of 10 are Conmen’ the Daily
Star (22 May 2002) launched a typical side panic against
‘turncoat immigration officers’. Immigration officers, trained at
the taxpayers’ expense, are quitting their jobs and using their



int ro d u ct io n t o th e th i r d e d i ti o n

expertise to set up lucrative consultancies to advise waves of
bogus asylum seekers on how to beat the system.

The concept of moral panic evokes some unease, especially about
its own morality. Why is the reaction to Phenomenon A dismissed
or downgraded by being described as ‘another moral panic,’
while the putatively more significant Phenomenon B is ignored,
and not even made a candidate for moral signification?
These are not just legitimate questions but the questions. Like
the folk objections against labelling, social constructionist or
discourse theory in general, they strengthen the very position
they are trying to attack. Such questions can only be posed if the
lack of congruence between action (event, condition, behaviour)
and reaction is correctly understood to be normal and obvious. To
point to the complexities of the relationship between social
objects and their interpretation is not a ‘criticism’ but the whole
point of studying deviance and social control. Some trivial and
harmless forms of rule-breaking can indeed be ‘blown out of all
proportion’. And yes, some very serious, significant and horrible
events – even genocide, political massacres, atrocities and massive
suffering – can be denied, ignored or played down.26 Most putative problems lie between these two extremes – exactly where
and why calls for a comparative sociology of moral panic that
makes comparisons within one society and also between societies. Why, thus, does rate X of condition Y generate a moral panic
in one country but not in another with the same condition?
All this certainly demands a rather clearer definition of the
concept. Commentators have distinguished the separate elements
in the original definition:27 (i) Concern (rather than fear) about
the potential or imagined threat; (ii) Hostility – moral outrage
towards the actors (folk devils) who embody the problem and
agencies (naïve social workers, spin-doctored politicians) who

i n tr o d uc ti o n to th e th ird edit io n

are ‘ultimately’ responsible (and may become folk devils themselves); (iii) Consensus – a widespread agreement (not necessarily
total) that the threat exists, is serious and that ‘something should
be done’. The majority of elite and influential groups, especially
the mass media, should share this consensus. (iv) Disproportionality
– an exaggeration of the number or strength of the cases, in
terms of the damage caused, moral offensiveness, potential risk
if ignored. Public concern is not directly proportionate to objective harm. (v) Volatility – the panic erupts and dissipates suddenly
and without warning.
I will return to these elements, especially the last two. Before
that, a list of more sophisticated theories not available thirty
years ago.
1. Social Constructionism
Folk Devils and Moral Panics was informed by the sixties fusion of
labelling theory, cultural politics and critical sociology. Today’s
students of moral panics do not have to engage with this theoretical mix-up. They can go straight into the literature on social
constructionism and claims-making.28 This is a well-developed
model for studying the contested claims that are made – by
victims, interest groups, social movements, professionals and
politicians – in the construction of new social problem categories.
Typical cases include: drunken driving, hate crime, stalking,
environmental problems, psychiatric categories such as PTSD
(Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) and various dependencies, eating
disorders and learning disorders. Moral enterprise comes from
many different directions: traditional ‘disinterested’ forces (such
as the helping professions), interest groups (such as pharmaceutical companies) and the rainbow coalition of multi-cultural and
identity groups, each claiming its own special needs and rights.
The rhetoric of victim-hood, victim and victimization is the
common thread in these newer forms of claim-making: secondary


xxviii int ro d u ct io n t o th e th i r d e d i ti o n
victims, such as Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) look
for tougher punishment; animal rights campaigners look for the
criminalization of cruelty towards victims who cannot speak;
putative victims, such as sick Gulf War veterans, want official
recognition of their syndrome and consequent compensation.
Social problem construction always needs some form of
enterprise. It does not, however, need a moral panic. When this
rather special mode of reaction takes place, it may strengthen
(and then be absorbed by) the construction process. Or it never
reaches this point – remaining a shriek of indignation that leads
‘But is there anything out there?’ Constructionists have a range
of well-rehearsed responses to this question. In the ‘strong’ or
‘strict’ version there are constructs and nothing but constructs all
the way down; the sociologist is merely another claims-maker; in
‘weak’ or ‘contextual’ constructionism, the sociologist can (and
should) make reality-checks (to detect exaggeration) while
simultaneously showing how problems are socially constructed. I
would also distinguish between noisy constructions – where moral
panics appear (usually at an early stage) and may be associated
with a single sensational case – and quiet constructions, where
claims-makers are professionals, experts or bureaucrats, working
in organizations and with no public or mass media exposure.
2. Media and Cultural Studies
At their point of origin in the sixties, concepts like ‘moral panic’
and ‘deviancy amplification’ were symbiotically linked to certain
assumptions about the mass media. Vital causal links were taken
for granted – notably that the mass media are the primary source
of the public’s knowledge about deviance and social problems.
The media appear in any or all of three roles in moral panic
dramas: (i) Setting the agenda – selecting those deviant or socially
problematic events deemed as newsworthy, then using finer

i n tr o d uc ti o n to th e th ird edit io n

filters to select which of these events are candidates for moral
panic; (ii) Transmitting the images – transmitting the claims of
claims-makers, by sharpening up or dumbing down the rhetoric
of moral panics; or (iii) Breaking the silence, making the claim. More
frequently now than three decades ago, the media are in the
claims-making business themselves. Media exposures – whether
The Guardian’s tale of government sleaze or The Sun’s headline
‘Would You like a Paedophile as Your Neighbour?’ – aim for the
same moral denouement: ‘We Name the Guilty Men.’
These years have seen major developments in discourse theory
and analysis. I would now be expected to interrogate the speeches
by Brighton magistrates or editorials from the Hastings Observer as
texts or narratives in order to problematize their mediated representation of
the distant other’s stance to a posited external world. All this is far away
from what I now see as the book’s weakest link: between moral
panics and folk devils. The many robust critiques of simple ‘stimulus/response’ and ‘effects’ models have hardly touched the thin
idea of media-induced deviancy amplification. This is not causation in the constructionist sense – moral panics ‘cause’ folk devils
by labelling more actions and people – but causation in the positivist sense and without the inverted commas. This psychology
still uses concepts such as triggering off, contagion and suggestibility. Later cognitive models are far more plausible. For those
who define and those who are defined, sensitization becomes a
matter of cognitive framing and moral thresholds. Rather than a
stimulus (media message) and response (audience behaviour)
we look for the points at which moral awareness is raised
(‘defining deviance up’) or lowered (‘defining deviance down’).
These years have also seen some substantive changes in the
media coverage of crime, deviance and social problems. One
study of crime reporting in Britain over the last five decades finds
that crime is increasingly portrayed as a pervasive threat not just
to its vulnerable victims, but to ordinary people in everyday life.29
Attention shifts away from offence, offender and the criminal



int ro d u ct io n t o th e th i r d e d i ti o n

justice process and towards a victim-centred cosmology. If the
offenders’ background, motivation and context become less
salient so they are easier to demonize. This contrast between
dangerous predators and vulnerable innocents allows the media
to construct what Reiner terms ‘virtual vigilantism’. This can be
seen throughout the new realities of ‘tabloid justice’30 and in the
victim culture encouraged by talk shows such Jerry Springer’s.
These Durkheimian boundary setting ceremonies continue to
be staged by the mass media. But they have become desperate,
incoherent and self-referential. This is because they run against
shifts in media representation of crime and justice since the late
sixties: the moral integrity of the police and other authorities is
tarnished; criminality is less an assault on sacred and consensual
values than a pragmatic matter of harm to individual victims.
Above all, crime may be presented as part of the wider discourse
of risk. This means that moral panic narratives have to defend a
‘more complex and brittle’ social order, a less deferential culture.
3. Risk
Some of the social space once occupied by moral panics has been
filled by more inchoate social anxieties, insecurities and fears.
These are fed by specific risks: the growth of new ‘techno-anxieties’ (nuclear, chemical, biological, toxic and ecological risk),
disease hazards, food panics, safety scares about travelling on
trains or planes, and fears about international terrorism. The ‘risk
society’ – in Beck’s well-known formulation – combines the
generation of risk with elaborated levels of risk management
plus disputes about how this management is managed. The
construction of risk refers not just to the raw information about
dangerous or unpleasant things but also to the ways of assessing,
classifying and reacting to them. Newly refined methods of
predicting risk (like actuarial tables, psychological profiling,
security assessments) become themselves objects of cultural

i n tr o d uc ti o n to th e th ird edit io n

scrutiny. If these methods reach quite different conclusions –
Prozac is a safe drug; Prozac is a dangerous drug – the discourse
shifts to the evaluative criteria or to the authority, reliability and
accuracy of the claims-maker. Even further from the original
‘thing’ the shift takes a moral turn: an examination of the character and moral integrity of the claims-makers: Do they have a
right to say this? Is their expertise merely another form of moral
Reflections on risk are now absorbed into a wider culture of
insecurity, victimization and fear. Both the technical question of
risk analysis and the wider culture of risk-talk, have influenced the
domain of deviance, crime and social control. This is self-evident
in crime control policies such as Situational Crime Prevention that are
grounded in the model of risk and rationality. Contemporary
crime control ideology has not been wholly taken over by the
‘new penology’, based on prevention, rational choice, opportunity, actuarial modelling, etc. In one view, these new methods of
governance and management are still being ‘interrupted’ by
episodic spasms of old morality. Another view sees the theorists
and managers of the criminal justice system employing the rhetoric of risk – while the public and mass media continue with their
traditional moral tales.31 Neither view does justice to the now stylized (almost self-parodying) screams of tabloid panics nor the real
anger, resentment, outrage and fear of the crowd banging the
sides of the security van outside the trial of a sex offender.
The global scope of the risk society, its self-reflective quality
and its pervasiveness create a new backdrop for standard moral
panics. Perceptions of heightened risk evoke images of panic. And
in populist and electoral rhetoric about such issues as fear of
crime, urban insecurity and victimization, the concepts of risk
and panic are naturally connected. The realm of political morality,
however, is just about distinctive enough for the BSE (‘mad cow
disease’) or foot and mouth disease panics not to be moral panics.
Only if risk analysis becomes perceived as primarily moral rather


xxxii int ro d u ct io n t o th e th i r d e d i ti o n
than technical (the moral irresponsibility for taking this risk) will
this distinction wither away. Some argue that this has already
happened. The story of HIV-AIDS shows how the clearly organic
nature of the condition can be morally constructed and result in
changed value positions about sexuality, gender and social control.
The demography of risk was informed from the outset by the
ascription of moral failures to homosexuals and other groups.
This is not quite the same as claiming that the language of the
risk society has taken over or should take over the moral framework.32 Public talk about child neglect, sexual abuse or predatory
street crime strongly resists the language of probabilities. Clever
statistics about your low risk of becoming a victim are no more
consoling than a message from medical epidemiology that you
are in a low risk category for the disease that you are actually
More interesting than ‘applying’ risk theory to the study of
moral panics is to remember that most claims about relative risk,
safety or danger depend on political morality. As Douglas originally argued, substantial disagreements over ‘what is risky, how
risky it is and what to do about it’ are irreconcilable in purely
objective terms. Moreover the perception and acceptance of risk
is intimately tied to the question of who is perceived to be
responsible for causing the hazard or damage to whom.33 This
allocation of blame is intrinsic to moral panics.

Armed or not with these newer theoretical extensions, we can
approach some recurring criticisms of moral panic theory.
1. Why ‘Panics?’
In disputes about definition, the term ‘panic’ has caused
unnecessary trouble. I believe that it still makes some sense as an

i n tr o d uc ti o n to th e th ird edit io n

extended metaphor and furthermore, that there are indeed similarities between most moral panics and some other panics.
The term is unfortunate, though, because of its connotation
with irrationality and being out of control. It also evokes the
image of a frenzied crowd or mob: atavistic, driven by contagion
and delirium, susceptible to control by demagogues and, in turn,
controlling others by ‘mob rule’. Newspaper reports over the last
decade have referred to: in the grips (or climate) of a moral panic ... hit the
moral panic button ... a moral panic has broken out (or struck, been unleashed) ...
moral panic merchants (or mongers) ... seized by a moral panic. I invited
further criticism by using two rather special examples of mass
panics: first, collective delusions and urban myths – implying
that these perceptions and beliefs were based on hallucinations,
entirely imagined realities and second, natural disasters – evoking
images of a hysterical crowd, utterly out of control, running for
their lives from an imminent danger.
After being at first apologetic and accepting the downgrade of
‘panic’ to a mere metaphor, I remain convinced that the analogy
works. Recent sociological literature on disasters and environmental problems has broadened the definition of the social. This
is a denaturalization of nature. The contingencies of ordinary
social life – the divisions of power, class and gender – influence
the risks and consequences of exposure to such events. Models
of ‘environmental justice’ show how dangers such as proximity
to nuclear waste are socially determined. And just as Erikson
used seventeenth century witch-hunts and religious persecution
to understand how deviance and social control test and reinforce
moral boundaries (see Chapter 1) he later showed how catastrophes may be treated as social events.34 These ‘technical’ disasters
are ‘the new species of trouble’, in contrast to traditional ‘natural’
disasters. They have become ‘normal accidents’, catastrophes
embedded within the familiar: the collapse of a football stand, a
rail crash, a bridge falling, the sinking of a channel ferry, a
botched cancer screening programme. The resultant reactions


xxxiv int ro d u ct io n t o th e th i r d e d i ti o n
are not as homogenous, automatic or simple as they are supposed
to be in contrast with the complexities of moral discourse.
Indeed the reactions are similar to the highly contested terrain of
all moral panics.35
The criteria by which certain media driven narratives are easily
recognized as moral panics need more careful explanation: drama,
emergency and crisis; exaggeration; cherished values threatened;
an object of concern, anxiety and hostility; evil forces or people
to be identified and stopped; the eventual sense of the episodic
and transitory, etc. Many such criteria are self-evident. Thompson
correctly notes, though, that two of them are genuinely problematic: first, disproportionality and second, volatility.36 While conservatives complain that moral panic theorists use disproportionality
in a highly selective way that barely hides their left liberal political
agenda, the critique of volatility comes from radicals to whom
the assumption of volatility is not solid or political enough.
2. Disproportionality
The very usage of the term moral panic, so this argument starts,
implies that societal reaction is disproportionate to the actual
seriousness (risk, damage, threat) of the event. The reaction is
always more severe (hence exaggerated, irrational, unjustified)
than the condition (event, threat, behaviour, risk) warrants. Why
is this just assumed? And on what grounds is the sociologist’s
view always correct, rational and justified?
Even in these limited terms, the assumption of disproportionality is problematic. How can the exact gravity of the reaction
and the condition be assessed and compared with each other?
Are we talking about intensity, duration, extensiveness? Moreover,
the argument goes, we have neither the quantitative, objective
criteria to claim that R (the reaction) is ‘disproportionate’ to A
(the action) nor the universal moral criteria to judge that R is an
‘inappropriate’ response to the moral gravity of A.

i n tr o d uc ti o n to th e th ird edit io n

This objection makes sense if there is nothing beyond a
compendium of individual moral judgements. Only with a prior
commitment to ‘external’ goals such as social justice, human
rights or equality can we evaluate any one moral panic or judge
it as more specious than another. Empirically, though, there are
surely many panics where the judgement of proportionality can
and should be made – even when the object of evaluation is
vocabulary and rhetorical style alone. Assume we know that, over
the last three years, (i) X% of asylum seekers made false claims
about their risk of being persecuted; (ii) only a small proportion
(say 20 per cent) of this subgroup had their claims recognized;
and (iii) the resultant number of fake asylum seekers is about
200 each year. Surely then the claim about ‘the country being
flooded with bogus asylum seekers’ is out of proportion.
This, needless to say, is not the end of the matter: the counterclaim may lead only to another round of claims-swapping. But
this does not make questions of proportion, congruence and
appropriateness unimportant, irrelevant or out of date (because
all there is, after all, is representation). The core empirical claims
within each narrative can usually be reached by the most rudimentary social science methodology. It would be perverse to
dismiss such findings merely as one ‘truth claim’ with no ‘privileged status’. Claims about past statistical trends, current estimates and extrapolations to the future are also open to scrutiny.
The problem is that the nature of the condition – ‘what actually happened’ – is not a matter of just how many Mods wrecked
how many deck-chairs with what cost, nor how many 14-yearold girls became ill after taking which number of ecstasy tablets
in what night club. Questions of symbolism, emotion and representation cannot be translated into comparable sets of statistics.
Qualitative terms like ‘appropriateness’ convey the nuances of
moral judgement more accurately than the (implied) quantitative measure of ‘disproportionate’ – but the more they do so, the
more obviously they are socially constructed.


xxxvi int ro d u ct io n t o th e th i r d e d i ti o n
The critics are right that there is a tension between insisting
on a universal measuring rod for determining the action/reaction gap – yet also conceding that the measurement is socially
constructed and all the time passing off as non-politically biased
the decision of what panics to ‘expose’.
3. Volatility
Every critique from the ‘left’ starts by citing Policing the Crisis, the
1978 study by Hall and his colleagues about media and political
reactions to street violence, especially mugging, carried out by
black youth. This critique contrasts labelling theory’s supposed
separate and free-floating moral panics, each dependent on the
whims of moral enterprise (Satanic cults this week, single mothers
the week after) with a theory of state, political ideology and elite
interests, acting together to ensure hegemonic control of the
public news agenda. Far from being isolated, sporadic or sudden,
these are predictable moves from one ‘site’ of tension to another;
each move is patrolled by identical and integrated interests.
In some theories, this is less a contrast than a sequence.
Discrete and volatile moral panics might indeed once have
existed but they have now been replaced by a generalized moral
stance, a permanent moral panic resting on a seamless web of
social anxieties. The political crisis of the state is displaced into
softer targets, creating a climate of hostility to marginal groups
and cultural deviance. Even the most fleeting moral panic refracts
the interests of political and media elites: legitimizing and
vindicating enduring patterns of law and order politics, racism
and policies such as mass imprisonment.37 The importance of
the media lies not in their role as transmitters of moral panics
nor as campaigners but in the way they reproduce and sustain
the dominant ideology.
This sequential narrative – from discrete to generalized, volatile to permanent – sounds appealing. But when did it happen?

i n tr o d uc ti o n to th e th ird edit io n

And what exactly was the shift? Thompson’s claim, for example,
that moral panics are succeeding each other more rapidly does
not deny their volatility. His claim that they are becoming more all
pervasive (panics about child abuse extend to the very existence
of the family) is not, however, a shift because the appeal to pervasiveness (‘it’s not only this’) was a defining feature of the concept.
The notion of a ‘permanent moral panic’ is less an exaggeration
than a oxymoron. A panic, by definition, is self-limiting, temporary and spasmodic, a splutter of rage which burns itself out.
Every now and then speeches, TV documentaries, trials, parliamentary debates, headlines and editorials cluster into the peculiar
mode of managing information and expressing indignation that
we call a moral panic. Each one may draw on the same stratum of
political morality and cultural unease and – much like Foucault’s
micro-systems of power – have a similar logic and internal
rhythm. Successful moral panics owe their appeal to their ability
to find points of resonance with wider anxieties. But each appeal
is a sleight of hand, magic without a magician. It points to continuities: in space (this sort of thing ... it’s not only this) backward in time
(part of a trend ... building up over the years) a conditional common future
(a growing problem ... will get worse if nothing done). And for a self-reflexive
society, an essential meta-message: This is not just a moral panic.
The element of volatility should be studied in two ways. First,
why do full-blown panics ever end? My original answers were
only guess-work: (i) a ‘natural history’ which ends with burn
out, boredom, running out of steam, a fading away (ii) the
slightly more sophisticated notion of cycles in fashion – like
clothing styles, musical taste; (iii) the putative danger fizzles out,
the media or entrepreneurs have cried wolf once too often, their
information is discredited; (iv) the information was accepted
but easily reabsorbed whether into private life or public spectacle – the end result described by the Situationists as recuperation.
A second question concerns failed moral panics. Why despite
having some ingredients, did they never quite take off: alcopops;


xxxviii int ro d u ct io n t o th e th i r d e d i ti o n
computer hackers; cults, new age travellers; lesbian mums;
commercial surrogate births; the Dunblane school shooting;
baby-snatching from hospitals; cloning . . .
The volatility issue needs careful steering. If the idea of panic
is domesticated under the dull sociological rubric of ‘collective
behaviour’, the political edge of the concept is blunted. In this
tradition, a moral panic merely reflects fears and concerns that
are ‘part of the human condition’, or the ‘maverick side of human
nature’ and ‘operates outside the stable, patterned structures of
society’.38 The opposite is true: without the ‘stable, patterned
structures’ of politics, mass media, crime control, professions
and organized religion, no moral panics could be generated or
McRobbie and Thornton are correct that today’s more sophisticated, self-aware and fragmented media make the original
notion of the spasmodic (‘every now and then’) panic out of
date.39 ‘Panic’ is rather a mode of representation in which daily
events are regularly brought to the public’s attention:
They are a standard response, a familiar, sometimes weary,
even ridiculous rhetoric rather than an exceptional emergency
intervention. Used by politicians to orchestrate consent, by
business to promote sales . . . and by the media to make home
and social affairs newsworthy, moral panics are constructed on
a daily basis.40

But surely not quite a ‘daily basis’. Moral panic theory indeed
must be updated to fit the refractions of multi-mediated social
worlds. But the unexpected, the bizarre and the anomalous
happen: the James Bulger murder is neither a daily event nor a
familiar story. The repertoire of media and political discourses
has to design special conventions to translate anomalies into
everyday, long-term anxieties. But they still have to remain within
the format of the transitory and spasmodic – the essence of news.

i n tr o d uc ti o n to th e th ird edit io n

The fragmentary and the integrated belong together: moral
panics have their own internal trajectory – a microphysics of
outrage – which, however, is initiated and sustained by wider
social and political forces.
4. Good and Bad Moral Panics?
The criticism that ‘moral panic’ is a value-laden concept, a mere
political epithet, deserves more complicated attention than it
receives. It is obviously true that the uses of the concept to expose
disproportionality and exaggeration have come from within a
left liberal consensus. This empirical project is concentrated on
(if not reserved for) cases where the moral outrage appears
driven by conservative or reactionary forces. For cultural liberals
(today’s ‘cosmopolitans’), this was an opportunity to condemn
moral entrepreneurs, to sneer at their small-mindedness, puritanism or intolerance; for political radicals, these were easy
targets, the soft side of hegemony or elite interests. In both cases,
the point was to expose social reaction not just as over-reaction
in some quantitative sense, but first, as tendentious (that is, slanted
in a particular ideological direction) and second, as misplaced or
displaced (that is, aimed – whether deliberately or thoughtlessly –
at a target which was not the ‘real’ problem).
As the term itself became diffused and explicitly used in the
media, the liberal/anti-authority origin of its birth made it more
openly contested. A popular strand in Thatcherite Conservatism
was indeed to uphold exactly the meta-politics and causal theories
that fuelled moral panics and to attack the derogatory use of the
concept as a symptom of being ‘out of touch’ with public
opinion and the fears of ‘ordinary people’. This populist rhetoric
remains in New Labour – with the attractive twist that many
with roots in Guardian liberalism (and who had used the concept
earlier) now turn on the ‘jargon-laden left’ for using the term so



int ro d u ct io n t o th e th i r d e d i ti o n

In the British public arena the debate is frozen at this level of
journalistic polemics. An imaginary sequence:

The Sun reports that a 14-year-old school-girl in Oldham
attacked a male teacher with a pair of scissors after he reprimanded her for using dirty language. The teacher’s wound
needed hospital treatment. The girl is ‘of Asian origin’; the
teacher is white. The police are investigating the incident; the
local MP claims that such violent attacks by girls have doubled
in this year. The story, with standard elaborations (the girl’s
father was an asylum seeker; teachers in other schools were too
scared to speak out), runs in the tabloids for two more days.
On the fourth day, The Guardian publishes an op-ed article by
one of its think-piece journalists. She urges caution before a
fully-fledged moral panic breaks out. The police, the school,
the education authority and the police deny that such incidents
are increasing; no one knows where the MP got his statistics.
The teacher’s wound was superficial. Such irresponsible
reporting plays into the hands of extremist parties running for
the local election. The real problems in places like Oldham are
institutionalized racism in the schools and the special pressures
that immigrant parents place on their daughters.
On the day after, a Daily Telegraph editorial denounces the
Guardian piece for deliberately trying to evade and distort
the issue in the name of political correctness. Once again, the
label of ‘moral panic’ is being used to play down the fears and
anxieties of ordinary people – teachers, pupils, parents – who
have to live every day in an atmosphere of violence. It now
appears that the local schoolteachers’ union had warned two
months ago that school violence was driving teachers into
leaving the profession.

This sequence allows for somewhat different readings of
the relationships between moral panics and political ideology.

i n tr o d uc ti o n to th e th ird edit io n

(i) The weakest version sees the concept as a neutral descriptive
or analytical tool, no different from other terms in this area
(such as ‘campaign’ or ‘public opinion’). It just so happens that
the term has been used by left liberals (and their sociological
cronies) to undermine conservative ideologies and popular
anxieties by labelling their concerns as irrational. But the term
remains neutral and its usage could easily be reversed. (ii) In a
slightly stronger version, the liberal appropriation of the term
has gone too far for any reversal. We cannot expect to find
conservatives trying to expose liberal or radical concerns as
being ‘moral panics’. (iii) A third version goes further. The genealogy of the term, its current usage and its folk meaning allow
for one reading only: the term is not just ‘value laden’ but
intended to be a critical tool to expose dominant interests and
ideologies. The school violence sequence depicts one round in
the battle between cultural representations.
These positions rest on shifting sands. In some cases, the logic
of labelling social reaction as a moral panic may indeed lead to
varieties on non-intervention (leave things alone): either because
reaction is based on literal delusion or because the problem does
not deserve such extravagant attention. The difficult cases are
more interesting – the existence of the problem is recognized,
but its cognitive interpretation and moral implications are
denied, evaded or disputed.
Such reactions form exactly the discourse of denial: literal denial
(nothing happened); interpretative denial (something happened, but
it’s not what you think) and implicatory denial (what happened was
not really bad and can be justified). Instead of exposing moral
panics, my own cultural politics entails, in a sense, encouraging
something like moral panics about mass atrocities and political
suffering – and trying to expose the strategies of denial deployed
to prevent the acknowledgement of these realities. All of us cultural
workers – busily constructing social problems, making claims and
setting public agendas – think that we are stirring up ‘good’ moral



int ro d u ct io n t o th e th i r d e d i ti o n

panics. Perhaps we could purposely recreate the conditions that
made the Mods and Rockers panic so successful (exaggeration,
sensitization, symbolization, prediction, etc.) and thereby overcome the barriers of denial, passivity and indifference that prevent
a full acknowledgement of human cruelty and suffering.
The pathetic ease and gullibility with which the mass media
are lured into conventional moral panics may be contrasted to
the deep denial behind their refusal to sustain a moral panic
about torture, political massacres or social suffering in distant
places. Public and media indifference are even attributed to deep
states such as ‘compassion fatigue’.41 Moeller describes a cognitive and moral stupor in which attention thresholds have risen so
rapidly that the media try even more desperately to ‘ratchet up’
the criteria for stories to be covered. In the hierarchy of which
events and issues will be covered, a footballer’s ankle injury will
get more media attention than a political massacre.
Sometimes (as Moeller shows in her analysis of the coverage
of the Bosnian and Rwandan stories) the media try to create
moral concern, but struggle against a palpable audience denial.
This was less compassion fatigue than compassion avoidance:
‘confronted with the images of putrefying corpses or swollen
bodies bobbling along river banks they looked away – even when
they believed that the story was important.’42 The shifting thresholds of attention she describes – the bewildering ways in which
compassion rises and falls, the blurred boundaries of what is
accepted as normal – look just like the volatility of moral panics.
I concluded my book with a vague prediction that more ‘nameless’ folk devils would be generated. The current causes of delinquency are clearer now: the climate of distrust and Darwinian
individualism generated by Thatcherism and sustained in New
Labour; under-regulated market economies; privatization of public
services, welfare state cutbacks, growing inequality and social
exclusion. Delinquents are nameless not in the banal sense that I
meant (not being able to predict the names of the subcultural

i n tr o d uc ti o n to th e th ird edit io n

styles that would replace ‘Mod’ and ‘Rocker’) but because they
remain as anonymous as the schools, housing estates, urban
sprawls from which they came. Pictorial and verbal imaginations
are applied more readily to the naming of social controls: Crime
Watch, Situational Crime Prevention, Closed Circuit Television,
Zero Tolerance, Three Strikes and You’re Out, Anti Social Behaviour
Orders. Social policies once regarded as abnormal – incarcerating
hundreds of asylum seekers in detention centres, run as punitive
transit camps by private companies for profit – are seen as being
normal, rational and conventional.
The idea that social problems are socially constructed does not
question their existence nor dismiss issues of causation, prevention and control. It draws attention to a meta debate about what
sort of acknowledgement the problem receives and merits. The
issue indeed is proportionality. It is surely not possible to calibrate
exactly the human costs of crimes, deviance or human rights
violations. The shades of intentionally inflicted suffering, harm,
cruelty, damage, loss and insecurity are too complex to be listed
in an exact, rational or universally accepted rank order of seriousness. But some disparities are so gross, some claims so exaggerated, some political agendas so tendentious that they can only
be called something like, well, ‘social injustice’.
Sociologists have no privileged status in pointing this out and
suggesting remedial policies. But even if their role is relegated to
being merely another claims-maker, this must include not only
exposing under-reaction (apathy, denial and indifference) but
making the comparisons that could expose over-reaction (exaggeration, hysteria, prejudice and panic). These ‘reactions’ may be
compared to the perceptual realm occupied by the sociology of
risk: assessing not the risk itself nor its management, but the
ways it is perceived. Even if there is no question of physical
danger (death, infliction of pain, financial loss), the drawing and
reinforcement of moral boundaries is as similar as Mary Douglas’s
comparison between physical and moral pollution. People’s



int ro d u ct io n t o th e th i r d e d i ti o n

perceptions of the relative seriousness of so many different social
problems cannot be easily shifted. The reason is that cognition
itself is socially controlled. And the cognitions that matter here
are carried by the mass media.
This is why moral panics are condensed political struggles to
control the means of cultural reproduction. Studying them is
easy and a lot of fun. It also allows us to identify and conceptualize the lines of power in any society, the ways we are manipulated into taking some things too seriously and other things not
seriously enough.

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; its nature is presented in a stylized and stereotypical fashion
by the mass media; the moral barricades are manned by editors,
bishops, politicians and other right-thinking people; socially
accredited experts pronounce their diagnoses and solutions; ways
of coping are evolved or (more often) resorted to; the condition
then disappears, submerges or deteriorates and becomes more
visible. Sometimes the object of the panic is quite novel and at
other times it is something which has been in existence long
enough, but suddenly appears in the limelight. Sometimes the
panic passes over and is forgotten, except in folklore and collective memory; at other times it has more serious and long-lasting
repercussions and might produce such changes as those in legal
and social policy or even in the way the society conceives itself.
One of the most recurrent types of moral panic in Britain since
the war has been associated with the emergence of various forms


folk d evils an d m o r a l pa n i c s

of youth culture (originally almost exclusively working class, but
often recently middle class or student based) whose behaviour is
deviant or delinquent. To a greater or lesser degree, these cultures
have been associated with violence. The Teddy Boys, the Mods and
Rockers, the Hells Angels, the skinheads and the hippies have all
been phenomena of this kind. There have been parallel reactions
to the drug problem, student militancy, political demonstrations,
football hooliganism, vandalism of various kinds and crime and
violence in general. But groups such as the Teddy Boys and the
Mods and Rockers have been distinctive in being identified not
just in terms of particular events (such as demonstrations) or
particular disapproved forms of behaviour (such as drug-taking or
violence) but as distinguishable social types. In the gallery of types
that society erects to show its members which roles should be
avoided and which should be emulated, these groups have occupied a constant position as folk devils: visible reminders of what
we should not be. The identities of such social types are public
property and these particular adolescent groups have symbolized
– both in what they were and how they were reacted to – much of
the social change which has taken place in Britain over the last
twenty years.
In this book, I want to use a detailed case study of the Mods
and Rockers phenomenon – which covered most of the 1960s
– to illustrate some of the more intrinsic features in the emergence of such collective episodes of juvenile deviance and the
moral panics they both generate and rely upon for their growth.
The Mods and Rockers are one of the many sets of figures
through which the sixties in Britain will be remembered. A
decade is not just a chronological span but a period measured by
its association with particular fads, fashions, crazes, styles or – in
a less ephemeral way – a certain spirit or kulturgeist. A term such
as ‘the twenties’ is enough to evoke the cultural shape of that
period, and although we are too close to the sixties for such
explicit understandings to emerge already, this is not for want of

d e v i a n c e a n d mo ral p anics

trying from our instant cultural historians. In the cultural snap
albums of the decade which have already been collected1 the
Mods and Rockers stand alongside the Profumo affair, the Great
Train Robbery, the Krays, the Richardsons, the Beatles, the Rolling
Stones, the Bishop of Woolwich, Private Eye, David Frost, Carnaby
Street, The Moors murders, the emergence of Powellism, the
Rhodesian affair, as the types and scenes of the sixties.
At the beginning of the decade, the term ‘Modernist’ referred
simply to a style of dress; the term ‘Rocker’ was hardly known
outside the small groups which identified themselves this way. Five
years later, a newspaper editor was to refer to the Mods and Rockers
incidents as ‘without parallel in English history’ and troop reinforcements were rumoured to have been sent to quell possible
widespread disturbances. Now, another five years later, these groups
have all but disappeared from the public consciousness, remaining
only in collective memory as folk devils of the past, to whom
current horrors can be compared. The rise and fall of the Mods and
Rockers contained all the elements from which one might generalize about folk devils and moral panics. And unlike the previous
decade which had only produced the Teddy Boys, these years
witnessed rapid oscillation from one such devil to another: the
Mod, the Rocker, the Greaser, the student militant, the drug fiend,
the vandal, the soccer hooligan, the hippy, the skinhead.
Neither moral panics nor social types have received much
systematic attention in sociology. In the case of moral panics, the
two most relevant frameworks come from the sociology of law
and social problems and the sociology of collective behaviour.
Sociologists such as Becker2 and Gusfield3 have taken the cases of
the Marijuana Tax Act and the Prohibition laws respectively to
show how public concern about a particular condition is generated, a ‘symbolic crusade’ mounted, which with publicity and
the actions of certain interest groups, results in what Becker
calls moral enterprise: ‘. . . the creation of a new fragment of the
moral constitution of society.’4 Elsewhere5 Becker uses the same



folk d evils an d m o r a l pa n i c s

analysis to deal with the evolution of social problems as a whole.
The field of collective behaviour provides another relevant orientation to the study of moral panics. There are detailed accounts of
cases of mass hysteria, delusion and panics, and also a body of
studies on how societies cope with the sudden threat or disorder
caused by physical disasters.
The study of social types can also be located in the field of
collective behaviour, not so much though in such ‘extreme’
forms as riots or crowds, but in the general orientation to this
field by the symbolic interactionists such as Blumer and Turner.6
In this line of theory, explicit attention has been paid to social
types by Klapp,7 but although he considers how such types as the
hero, the villain and the fool serve as role models for a society,
his main concern seems to be in classifying the various subtypes within these groups (for example, the renegade, the parasite, the corrupter, as villain roles) and listing names of those
persons Americans see as exemplifying these roles. He does not
consider how such typing occurs in the first place and he is
preoccupied with showing his approval for the processes by
which social consensus is facilitated by identifying with the hero
types and hating the villain types.
The major contribution to the study of the social typing
process itself comes from the interactionist or transactional
approach to deviance. The focus here is on how society labels
rule-breakers as belonging to certain deviant groups and how,
once the person is thus type cast, his acts are interpreted in terms
of the status to which he has been assigned. It is to this body of
theory that we must turn for our major orientation to the study
of both moral panics and social types.

The sociological study of crime, delinquency, drug-taking, mental
illness and other forms of socially deviant or problematic behav-

d e v i a n c e a n d mo ral p anics

iour has, in the last decade, undergone a radical reorientation. This
reorientation is part of what might be called the sceptical revolution
in criminology and the sociology of deviance.8 The older tradition
was canonical in the sense that it saw the concepts it worked with as
authoritative, standard, accepted, given and unquestionable. The
new tradition is sceptical in the sense that when it sees terms like
‘deviant’, it asks ‘deviant to whom?’ or ‘deviant from what?’; when
told that something is a social problem, it asks ‘problematic to
whom?’; when certain conditions or behaviour are described as
dysfunctional, embarrassing, threatening or dangerous, it asks
‘says who?’ and ‘why?’ In other words, these concepts and descriptions are not assumed to have a taken-for-granted status.
The empirical existence of forms of behaviour labelled as
deviant and the fact that persons might consciously and intentionally decide to be deviant, should not lead us to assume that
deviance is the intrinsic property of an act nor a quality possessed
by an actor. Becker’s formulation on the transactional nature of
deviance has now been quoted verbatim so often that it has
virtually acquired its own canonical status:
. . . deviance is created by society. I do not mean this in the way
that it is ordinarily understood, in which the causes of deviance
are located in the social situation of the deviant or in ‘social
factors’ which prompt his action. I mean, rather, that social groups
create deviance by making the rules whose infraction constitutes deviance and by applying those rules to particular persons and labelling them as outsiders. From this point of view, deviance is not a
quality of the act the person commits, but rather a consequence
of the application by others of rules and sanctions to an ‘offender’.
The deviant is one to whom the label has successfully been
applied; deviant behaviour is behaviour that people so label.9

What this means is that the student of deviance must question
and not take for granted the labelling by society or certain



folk d evils an d m o r a l pa n i c s

powerful groups in society of certain behaviour as deviant or
problematic. The transactionalists’ importance has been not
simply to restate the sociological truism that the judgement of
deviance is ultimately one that is relative to a particular group,
but in trying to spell out the implication of this for research and
theory. They have suggested that in addition to the stock set of
behavioural questions which the public asks about deviance and
which the researcher obligingly tries to answer (why did they do
it? what sort of people are they? how do we stop them doing it
again?) there are at least three definitional questions: why does a
particular rule, the infraction of which constitutes deviance,
exist at all? What are the processes and procedures involved in
identifying someone as a deviant and applying the rule to him?
What are the effects and consequences of this application, both
for society and the individual?
Sceptical theorists have been misinterpreted as going only so
far as putting these definitional questions and moreover as
implying that the behavioural questions are unimportant. While it
is true that they have pointed to the dead ends which the behavioural questions have reached (do we really know what distinguishes a deviant from a non-deviant?), what they say has positive
implications for studying these questions as well. Thus, they see
deviance in terms of a process of becoming – movements of
doubt, commitment, sidetracking, guilt – rather than the possession of fixed traits and characteristics. This is true even for those
forms of deviance usually seen to be most ‘locked in’ the person:
‘No one,’ as Laing says, ‘has schizophrenia like having a cold.’10
The meaning and interpretation which the deviant gives to his
own acts are seen as crucial and so is the fact that these actions are
often similar to socially approved forms of behaviour.11
The transactional perspective does not imply that innocent
persons are arbitrarily selected to play deviant roles or that harmless conditions are wilfully inflated into social problems. Nor
does it imply that a person labelled as deviant has to accept this

d e v i a n c e a n d mo ral p anics

identity: being caught and publicly labelled is just one crucial
contingency which may stabilize a deviant career and sustain it
over time. Much of the work of these writers has been concerned
with the problematic nature of societal response to deviance and
the way such responses affect the behaviour. This may be studied
at a face-to-face level (for example, what effect does it have on a
pupil to be told by his teacher that he is a ‘yob who should never
be at a decent school like this’?) or at a broader societal level (for
example, how is the ‘drug problem’ actually created and shaped
by particular social and legal policies?).
The most unequivocal attempt to understand the nature and
effect of the societal reaction to deviance is to be found in the
writings of Lemert.12 He makes an important distinction, for
example, between primary and secondary deviation. Primary
deviation – which may arise from a variety of causes – refers to
behaviour which, although it may be troublesome to the individual, does not produce symbolic reorganization at the level of
self-conception. Secondary deviation occurs when the individual
employs his deviance, or a role based upon it, as a means of
defence, attack or adjustment to the problems created by the societal reaction to it. The societal reaction is thus conceived as the
‘effective’ rather than ‘original’ cause of deviance: deviance
becomes significant when it is subjectively shaped into an active
role which becomes the basis for assigning social status. Primary
deviation has only marginal implications for social status and selfconception as long as it remains symptomatic, situational, rationalized or in some way ‘normalized’ as an acceptable and normal
Lemert was very much aware that the transition from primary
to secondary deviation was a complicated process. Why the societal reaction occurs and what form it takes are dependent on
factors such as the amount and visibility of the deviance, while
the effect of the reaction is dependent on numerous contingencies and is itself only one contingency in the development of a



folk d evils an d m o r a l pa n i c s

deviant career. Thus the link between the reaction and the individual’s incorporation of this into his self-identity is by no means
inevitable; the deviant label, in other words, does not always
‘take’. The individual might be able to ignore or rationalize the
label or only pretend to comply. This type of face-to-face sequence,
though, is just one part of the picture: more important are the
symbolic and unintended consequences of social control as a
whole. Deviance in a sense emerges and is stabilized as an artefact
of social control; because of this, Lemert can state that ‘. . . older
sociology tended to rest heavily upon the idea that deviance leads
to social control. I have come to believe that the reverse idea, i.e.
social control leads to deviance, is equally tenable and the potentially richer premise for studying deviance in modern society.’13
It is partly towards showing the tenability and richness of this
premise that this book is directed. My emphasis though, is more
on the logically prior task of analysing the nature of a particular
set of reactions rather than demonstrating conclusively what
their effects might have been. How were the Mods and Rockers
identified, labelled and controlled? What stages or processes did
this reaction go through? Why did the reaction take its particular
forms? What – to use Lemert’s words again – were the ‘mythologies, stigma, stereotypes, patterns of exploitation, accommodation, segregation and methods of control (which) spring up and
crystallize in the interaction between the deviants and the rest of
There are many strategies – not mutually incompatible – for
studying such reactions. One might take a sample of public
opinion and survey its attitudes to the particular form of deviance
in question. One might record reactions in a face-to-face context;
for example, how persons respond to what they see as homosexual advances.15 One might study the operations and beliefs of
particular control agencies such as the police or the courts. Or,
drawing on all these sources, one might construct an ethnography
and history of reactions to a particular condition or form of

d e v i a n c e a n d mo ral p anics

behaviour. This is particularly suitable for forms of deviance or
problems seen as new, sensational or in some other way particularly threatening. Thus ‘crime waves’ in seventeenth century
Massachusetts,16 marijuana smoking in America during the
1930s,17 the Teddy Boy phenomenon in Britain during the 1950s18
and drug-taking in the Notting Hill area of London during the
1960s19 have all been studied in this way. These reactions were all
associated with some form of moral panic and it is in the tradition
of studies such as these that the Mods and Rockers will be considered. Before introducing this particular case, however, I want to
justify concentrating on one especially important carrier and
producer of moral panics, namely, the mass media.

A crucial dimension for understanding the reaction to deviance
both by the public as a whole and by agents of social control, is
the nature of the information that is received about the behaviour
in question. Each society possesses a set of ideas about what causes
deviation – is it due, say, to sickness or to wilful perversity? – and
a set of images of who constitutes the typical deviant – is he an
innocent lad being led astray, or is he a psychopathic thug? – and
these conceptions shape what is done about the behaviour. In
industrial societies, the body of information from which such
ideas are built, is invariably received at second hand. That is, it
arrives already processed by the mass media and this means that
the information has been subject to alternative definitions of what
constitutes ‘news’ and how it should be gathered and presented.
The information is further structured by the various commercial
and political constraints in which newspapers, radio and television operate.
The student of moral enterprise cannot but pay particular
attention to the role of the mass media in defining and shaping
social problems. The media have long operated as agents of moral



folk d evils an d m o r a l pa n i c s

indignation in their own right: even if they are not self-consciously
engaged in crusading or muck-raking, their very reporting of
certain ‘facts’ can be sufficient to generate concern, anxiety, indignation or panic. When such feelings coincide with a perception that
particular values need to be protected, the preconditions for new
rule creation or social problem definition are present. Of course, the
outcome might not be as definite as the actual creation of new rules
or the more rigid enforcement of existing ones. What might result
is the sort of symbolic process which Gusfield describes in his
conception of ‘moral passage’: there is a change in the public designation of deviance.20 In his example, the problem drinker changes
from ‘repentant’ to ‘enemy’ to ‘sick’. Something like the opposite
might be happening in the public designation of producers and
consumers of pornography: they have changed from isolated,
pathetic – if not sick – creatures in grubby macks to groups of ruthless exploiters out to undermine the nation’s morals.
Less concretely, the media might leave behind a diffuse feeling
of anxiety about the situation: ‘something should be done about
it’, ‘where will it end?’ or ‘this sort of thing can’t go on for ever’.
Such vague feelings are crucial in laying the ground for further
enterprise, and Young has shown how, in the case of drug-taking,
the media play on the normative concerns of the public and by
thrusting certain moral directives into the universe of discourse,
can create social problems suddenly and dramatically.21 This
potential is consciously exploited by those whom Becker calls
‘moral entrepreneurs’ to aid them in their attempt to win public
The mass media, in fact, devote a great deal of space to deviance:
sensational crimes, scandals, bizarre happenings and strange
goings on. The more dramatic confrontations between deviance
and control in manhunts, trials and punishments are recurring
objects of attention. As Erikson notes, ‘a considerable portion of
what we call “news” is devoted to reports about deviant behaviour
and its consequences’.22 This is not just for entertainment or to

d e v i a n c e a n d mo ral p anics

fulfil some psychological need for either identification or vicarious
punishment. Such ‘news’ as Erikson and others have argued, is a
main source of information about the normative contours of a
society. It informs us about right and wrong, about the boundaries
beyond which one should not venture and about the shapes that
the devil can assume. The gallery of folk types – heroes and saints,
as well as fools, villains and devils – is publicized not just in oraltradition and face-to-face contact but to much larger audiences
and with much greater dramatic resources.
Much of this study will be devoted to understanding the role
of the mass media in creating moral panics and folk devils. A
potentially useful link between these two notions – and one that
places central stress on the mass media – is the process of deviation amplification as described by Wilkins.23 The key variable in
this attempt to understand how the societal reaction may in fact
increase rather than decrease or keep in check the amount of deviance, is the nature of the information about deviance. As I pointed
out earlier, this information characteristically is not received at
first hand, it tends to be processed in such a form that the action
or actors concerned are pictured in a highly stereotypical way.
We react to an episode of, say, sexual deviance, drug-taking or
violence in terms of our information about that particular class
of phenomenon (how typical is it), our tolerance level for that
type of behaviour and our direct experience – which in a segregated urban society is often nil. Wilkins describes – in highly
mechanistic language derived from cybernetic theory – a typical
reaction sequence which might take place at this point, one
which has a spiralling or snowballing effect.
An initial act of deviance, or normative diversity (for example,
in dress) is defined as being worthy of attention and is responded
to punitively. The deviant or group of deviants is segregated or
isolated and this operates to alienate them from conventional
society. They perceive themselves as more deviant, group themselves with others in a similar position, and this leads to more



folk d evils an d m o r a l pa n i c s

deviance. This, in turn, exposes the group to further punitive
sanctions and other forceful action by the conformists – and the
system starts going round again. There is no assumption in this
model that amplification has to occur: in the same way – as I
pointed out earlier – that there is no automatic transition from
primary to secondary deviation or to the incorporation of deviant
labels. The system or the actor can and does react in quite opposite directions. What one is merely drawing attention to is a set of
sequential typifications: under X conditions, A will be followed
by A1, A2, etc. All these links have to be explained – as Wilkins
does not do – in terms of other generalizations. For example, it is
more likely that if the deviant group is vulnerable and its actions
highly visible, it will be forced to take on its identities from
structurally and ideologically more powerful groups. Such generalizations and an attempt to specify various specialized modes of
amplification or alternatives to the process have been spelt out by
Young24 in the case of drug-taking. I intend using this model here
simply as one viable way in which the ‘social control leads to
deviation’ chain can be conceptualized and also because of its
particular emphasis upon the ‘information about deviance’ variable and its dependence on the mass media.

I have already given some indication of the general framework
which I think suitable for the study of moral panics and folk
devils. Further perspectives suggest themselves because of the
special characteristics of the Mods and Rockers phenomenon, as
compared with, say, the rise of student militancy or the appearance of underground newspaper editors on obscenity charges.
The first and most obvious one derives from the literature on
subcultural delinquency. This would provide the structural setting
for explaining the Mods and Rockers phenomenon as a form of
adolescent deviance among working-class youth in Britain.

d e v i a n c e a n d mo ral p anics

Downes’s variant of subcultural theory is most relevant and I
would substantially agree with his remarks (in the preface of his
book) about the Mods and Rockers events intervening between
writing and the book going to press: ‘No mention is made of
these occurrences in what follows, largely because – in the
absence of evidence to the contrary – I take them to corroborate,
rather than negate, the main sociological argument of the book.’25
At various points in these chapters, the relevance of subcultural
theory will be commented on, although my stress on the definitional rather than behavioural questions precludes an extended
analysis along these lines.
Another less obvious orientation derives from the field of
collective behaviour. I have already suggested that social types can
be seen as the products of the same processes that go into the
creation of symbolic collective styles in fashion, dress and public
identities. The Mods and Rockers, though, were initially registered in the public consciousness not just as the appearance of
new social types, but as actors in a particular episode of collective
behaviour. The phenomenon took its subsequent shape in terms
of these episodes: the regular series of disturbances which took
place at English seaside resorts between 1964 and 1966. The
public image of these folk devils was invariably tied up to a
number of highly visual scenarios associated with their appearance: youths chasing across the beach, brandishing deckchairs
over their heads, running along the pavements, riding on scooters
or bikes down the streets, sleeping on the beaches and so on.
Each of these episodes – as I will describe – contained all the
elements of the classic crowd situation which has long been the
prototype for the study of collective behaviour. Crowds, riots,
mobs and disturbances on occasions ranging from pop concerts
to political demonstrations have all been seen in a similar way to
The Crowd described by Le Bon in 1896. Later formulations by
Tarde, Freud, McDougall and F. H. Allport made little lasting
contribution and often just elaborated on Le Bon’s contagion



folk d evils an d m o r a l pa n i c s

hypothesis. A more useful recent theory – for all its deficiencies
from a sociological viewpoint – is Smelser’s ‘value added
schema’.26 In the sequence he suggests, each of the following
determinants of collective behaviour must appear: (i) structural
conduciveness; (ii) structural strain; (iii) growth and spread of a
generalized belief; (iv) precipitating factors; (v) mobilization of
the participants for action; (vi) operation of social control.
Structural conduciveness creates conditions of permissiveness
under which collective behaviour is seen as legitimate. Together
with structural strain (e.g. economic deprivation, population
invasion) this factor creates the opening for race riots, sects,
panics and other examples of collective behaviour. In the case of
the Mods and Rockers, conduciveness and strain correspond to
the structural sources of strain posited in subcultural theory:
anomie, status frustration, blocked leisure opportunities and so
on. The growth and spread of a generalized belief is important
because the situation of strain must be made meaningful to the
potential participants. For the most part these generalized beliefs
are spread through the mass media. I have already indicated the
importance of media imagery for studying deviance as a whole;
in dealing with crowd behaviour, this importance is heightened
because of the ways in which such phenomena develop and
spread. As will be shown, sociological and social psychological
work on mass hysteria, delusions and rumours are of direct relevance here.
Precipitating factors are specific events which might confirm a
generalized belief, initiate strain or redefine conduciveness. Like
the other factors in Smelser’s schema, it is not a determinant of
anything in itself – for example, a fight will not start a race riot
unless it occurs in or is interpreted as an ‘explosive situation’.
While not spelling out in detail the precipitating factors in the
Mods and Rockers events, I will show how the social reaction
contributed to the definition and creation of these factors.
Mobilization of participants for action again refers to a sequence

d e v i a n c e a n d mo ral p anics

present in the Mods and Rockers events which will only be dealt
with in terms of the other determinants.
It is Smelser’s sixth determinant – the operation of social
control – which, together with the generalized belief factors, will
concern us most. This factor, which ‘in certain respects . . . arches
over all others’27 refers to the counter forces set up by society to
prevent and inhibit the previous determinants: ‘Once an episode
of collective behaviour has appeared, its duration and severity are
determined by the response of the agencies of social control.’28 So
from a somewhat different theoretical perspective – Parsonian
functionalism – Smelser attaches the same crucial importance to
the social control factors stressed in the transactional model.
A special – and at first sight somewhat esoteric – area of collective behaviour which is of peculiar relevance, is the field known as
‘disaster research’.29 This consists of a body of findings about the
social and psychological impact of disasters, particularly physical
disasters such as hurricanes, tornadoes and floods but also manmade disasters such as bombing attacks. Theoretical models have
also been produced, and Merton argues that the study of disasters
can extend sociological theory beyond the confines of the immediate subject-matter. Disaster situations can be looked at as strategic research sites for theory-building: ‘Conditions of collective
stress bring out in bold relief aspects of social systems that are not
as readily visible in the stressful conditions of everyday life.’30 The
value of disaster studies is that by compressing social processes
into a brief time span, a disaster makes usually private behaviour,
public and immediate and therefore more amenable to study.31
I came across the writings in this field towards the end of
carrying out the Mods and Rockers research and was immediately struck by the parallels between what I was then beginning
to think of as ‘moral panics’ and the reactions to physical disasters. Disaster researchers have constructed one of the few models
in sociology for considering the reaction of the social system to
something stressful, disturbing or threatening. The happenings at



folk d evils an d m o r a l pa n i c s

Brighton, Clacton or Margate clearly were not disasters in the
same category of events as earthquakes or floods; the differences
are too obvious to have to spell out. Nevertheless, there were
resemblances, and definitions of ‘disaster’ are so inconsistent and
broad, that the Mods and Rockers events could almost fit them.
Elements in such definitions include: whole or part of a community must be affected, a large segment of the community must be
confronted with actual or potential danger, there must be loss of
cherished values and material objects resulting in death or injury
or destruction to property.
In addition, many workers in the field claim that research
should not be restricted to actual disasters – a potential disaster
may be just as disruptive as the actual event. Studies of reactions
to hoaxes and false alarms show disaster behaviour in the absence
of objective danger. More important, as will be shown in detail,
a large segment of the community reacted to the Mods and
Rockers events as if a disaster had occurred: ‘It is the perception
of threat and not its actual existence that is important.’32
The work of disaster researchers that struck me as most useful
when I got to the stage of writing up my own material on the
Mods and Rockers was the sequential model that they have
developed to describe the phases of a typical disaster. The
following is the sort of sequence that has been distinguished:33
1. Warning: during which arises, mistakenly or not, some apprehensions based on conditions out of which danger may arise.
The warning must be coded to be understood and impressive
enough to overcome resistance to the belief that current tranquillity can be upset.
2. Threat: during which people are exposed to communication
from others, or to signs from the approaching disaster itself
indicating specific imminent danger. This phase begins with the
perception of some change, but as with the first phase, may be
absent or truncated in the case of sudden disaster.

d e v i a n c e a n d mo ral p anics

3. Impact: during which the disaster strikes and the immediate
unorganized response to the death, injury or destruction takes
4. Inventory: during which those exposed to the disaster begin to
form a preliminary picture of what has happened and of their
own condition.
5. Rescue: during which the activities are geared to immediate
help for the survivors. As well as people in the impact area
helping each other, the suprasystem begins to send aid.
6. Remedy: during which more deliberate and formal activities
are undertaken towards relieving the affected. The suprasystem takes over the functions the emergency system cannot
7. Recovery: during which, for an extended period, the community either recovers its former equilibrium or achieves a stable
adaptation to the changes which the disaster may have brought
Some of these stages have no exact parallels in the Mods and
Rockers case, but a condensed version of this sequence (Warning
to cover phases 1 and 2; then Impact; then Inventory; and Reaction to
cover phases 5, 6 and 7) provides a useful analogue. If one
compares this to deviancy models such as amplification, there are
obvious and crucial differences. For disasters, the sequence has
been empirically established; in the various attempts to conceptualize the reactions to deviance this is by no means the case. In
addition, the transitions within the amplification model or from
primary to secondary deviation are supposed to be consequential
(i.e. causal) and not merely sequential. In disaster research,
moreover, it has been shown how the form each phase takes is
affected by the characteristics of the previous stage: thus, the
scale of the remedy operation is affected by the degree of identification with the victim. This sort of uniformity has not been
shown in deviance.



folk d evils an d m o r a l pa n i c s

The nature of the reaction to the event is important in different
ways. In the case of disaster, the social system responds in order
to help the victims and to evolve methods to mitigate the effects
of further disasters (e.g. by early warning systems). The disaster
itself occurs independently of this reaction. In regard to deviance,
however, the reaction is seen as partly causative. The on-the-spot
reaction to an act determines whether it is classified as deviant at
all, and the way in which the act is reported and labelled also
determines the form of the subsequent deviation; this is not the
case with a disaster. To express the difference in another way,
while the disaster sequence is linear and constant – in each
disaster the warning is followed by the impact which is followed
by the reaction – deviance models are circular and amplifying: the
impact (deviance) is followed by a reaction which has the effect
of increasing the subsequent warning and impact, setting up a
feedback system. It is precisely because the Mods and Rockers
phenomenon was both a generalized type of deviance and also
manifested itself as a series of discrete events, that both models
are relevant. While a single event can be meaningfully described
in terms of the disaster analogue (warning–impact–reaction),
each event can be seen as creating the potential for a reaction
which, among other possible consequences, might cause further
acts of deviance.
Let me now return to the original aims of the study and
conclude this introductory chapter by outlining the plan of the
book. My focus is on the genesis and development of the moral
panic and social typing associated with the Mods and Rockers
phenomenon. In transactional terminology: what was the nature
and effect of the societal reaction to this particular form of deviance? This entails looking at the ways in which the behaviour
was perceived and conceptualized, whether there was a unitary
or a divergent set of images, the modes through which these
images were transmitted and the ways in which agents of social
control reacted. The behavioural questions (how did the Mods

d e v i a n c e a n d mo ral p anics

and Rockers styles emerge? Why did some young people more
or less identified with these groups behave in the way they did?)
will be considered, but they are the background questions. The
variable of societal reaction is the focus of attention.
Very few studies have been made with this focus and the term
‘reaction’ has become reified, covering a wide range of interpretations. Does ‘reaction’ mean what is done about the deviance in
question, or merely what is thought about it? And how does one
study something as nebulous as this, when the ‘thing’ being
reacted to covers juvenile delinquency, a manifestation of youth
culture, a social type and a series of specific events? Using criteria
determined by my theoretical interests rather than by how
concepts can best be ‘operationalized’, I decided to study reaction at three levels, in each case using a range of possible sources.
The first was the initial on-the-spot reaction, which I studied
mainly through observation, participant observation and the
type of informal interviewing used in community studies. The
second was the organized reaction of the system of social control,
information about which I obtained from observation, interviews and the analysis of published material. The third level was
the transmission and diffusion of the reaction in the mass media.
A detailed description of the research methods and sources of
material is given in the Appendix.
To remain faithful to the theoretical orientation of the study,
my argument will be presented in terms of a typical reaction
sequence. That is to say, instead of describing the deviation in
some detail and then considering the reaction, I will start off
with the minimum possible account of the deviation, then deal
with the reaction and then, finally, return to consider the interplay between deviation and reaction. In terms of the disaster
analogue this means starting off with the inventory, moving on
to other phases of the reaction and then returning to the warning
and impact. The book divides into three parts: the first (and
major) part traces the development and reverberation of the


20 folk d evils an d m o r a l pa n i c s
societal reaction, particularly as reflected in the mass media and
the actions of the organized system of social control. This consists
of three chapters: the Inventory; the Opinion and Attitude Themes and the
Rescue and Remedy Phases. The second part of the book looks at the
effects of the reaction and the third locates the growth of the folk
devils and the moral panic in historical and structural terms.
Organizing the book in this way means that in the first part, the
Mods and Rockers are hardly going to appear as ‘real, live people’
at all. They will be seen through the eyes of the societal reaction
and in this reaction they tend to appear as disembodied objects,
Rorshach blots on to which reactions are projected. In using this
type of presentation, I do not want to imply that these reactions
– although they do involve elements of fantasy and selective
misperception – are irrational nor that the Mods and Rockers were
not real people, with particular structural origins, values, aims and
interests. Neither were they creatures pushed and pulled by the
forces of the societal reaction without being able to react back. I
am presenting the argument in this way for effect, only allowing
the Mods and Rockers to come to life when their supposed identities had been presented for public consumption.

I have already said that I will be paying less attention to the actors
than to the audience. Now – before analysing the first stages of
the reaction – I want to say something about the typical stage
and set on which the Mods and Rockers dramas took place. Of
course, such distinctions between ‘audience’, ‘actor’ and ‘stage’
are partly artificial because the dramatalurgical analogy on which
they are based is only an analogy. As the Mods and Rockers drama
ran its course, the whole script changed and the reaction of each
successive audience altered the nature of the stage. Certain things
remained constant, though, and it is worth noting some of the
more distinctive characteristics of the setting in so far as they
affected the actions that took place.
Such scene-setting is rarely indulged in by sociologists. They
have concentrated on global categories such as crime and delinquency and have analysed these phenomena nomothetically in an
attempt to derive general laws and relationships. Ideographic
accounts of specific events or places have been left to journalists
or historians, and are used, if at all, for illustrative purposes only.

22 folk d evils an d m o r a l pa n i c s
In terms of the canons of conventional sociological practice this
might be legitimate, but it has meant that information on peculiar
manifestations of these global categories has not been gathered in
any theoretically meaningful terms. Thus, in regard to gang delinquency or collective juvenile violence, there are a number of
theories at a fairly high level together with intricate descriptions
of the interpersonal processes within the groups. But there are
few naturalistic accounts: of what it is like to grow up in a ghetto
or a housing estate, of being at an outdoor pop concert, of taking
part in a rock-and-roll riot in the fifties.1 A surprising amount of
theorization in such fields as gang delinquency and race riots
rests on second-hand or heavily biased sources.
The relevant setting in the Mods and Rockers case, was the
English Bank Holiday by the sea and all that is associated with
this ritual. A journalist who wrote that ‘. . . perhaps it is not taking
things too far to look for an explanation (of the disturbances) in
the character of the British weekend by the sea’2 was only slightly
overstating the importance of such situational elements. This
setting has not changed much since that particular Whitsun day
described thirty years ago by Graham Greene in Brighton Rock.3
Hale had been in Brighton for three hours:
He leant against the rail near the Palace Pier and showed his
face to the crowd as it uncoiled endlessly past him, like a
twisted piece of wire, two by two, each with an air of sober and
determined gaiety. They had stood all the way from Victoria in
crowded carriages, they would have to wait in queues for lunch,
at midnight half asleep they would rock back in trains an hour
late to the cramped streets and the closed pubs and the weary
walk home . . . With immense labour and immense patience
they extracted from the long day the grain of pleasure: this sun,
this music, the rattle of the miniature cars, the ghost trains
diving between the grinning skeletons under the Aquarium
promenade, the sticks of Brighton rock, the paper sailors’ caps.

the inv ent o ry

On the same Aquarium promenade during Whitsum 1965 I
interviewed two pensioners from South London who had been
coming to Brighton most of their Bank Holidays for thirty years.
They spoke of the changes which were visible to anyone: people
looked better off, there were fewer day-trippers and coaches,
there were fewer young married couples (‘all gone to the Costa
Brava’), things were more expensive and – of course – there were
more young people to be seen. The young were highly visible: on
scooters, motor-bikes, packing the trains, hitching down on the
roads from London, lying about the beaches, camping on the
cliffs. But otherwise, to these old people, things had not changed
much. They did not mention it, but perhaps there was one change
‘for the better’ compared to Greene’s Brighton: there was little
of the air of menace that surrounded the razor gangs and the
race-course battles of the twenties and thirties.
The scene of the first Mods and Rockers event, the one that was
to set the pattern for all the others and give the phenomenon its
distinctive shape, was not Brighton, but Clacton, a small holiday
resort on the east coast of England. It has never been as affluent
and popular as Brighton and has traditionally become the gathering place for the tougher adolescents from the East End and the
north-eastern suburbs of London. Like Great Yarmouth, its nearest
neighbour to become a scene for later Mods and Rockers events,
its range of facilities and amusements for young people is strictly
Easter 1964 was worse than usual. It was cold and wet, and in
fact Easter Sunday was the coldest for eighty years. The shopkeepers and stall owners were irritated by the lack of business and
the young people had their own boredom and irritation fanned
by rumours of café owners and barmen refusing to serve some of
them. A few groups started scuffling on the pavements and
throwing stones at each other. The Mods and Rockers factions – a
division initially based on clothing and life styles, later rigidified,
but at that time not fully established – started separating out. Those


24 folk d evils an d m o r a l pa n i c s
on bikes and scooters roared up and down, windows were broken,
some beach huts were wrecked and one boy fired a starting pistol
in the air. The vast number of people crowding into the streets, the
noise, everyone’s general irritation and the actions of an unprepared and undermanned police force had the effect of making the
two days unpleasant, oppressive and sometimes frightening. In
terms of the model, this was the initial deviation or impact.
Immediately after a physical disaster there is a period of relatively unorganized response. This is followed by the inventory
phase during which those exposed to the disaster take stock of
what has happened and of their own condition. In this period,
rumours and ambiguous perceptions become the basis for interpreting the situation. Immediately after the Aberfan coal-tip
disaster, for example, there were rumours about the tip having
been seen moving the night before and previous warnings
having been ignored. These reports were to form the basis of
later accusations of negligence against the National Coal Board,
and the negligence theme then became assimilated into more
deep-rooted attitudes, for example, about indifference by the
central Government to Welsh interests. In the next chapter I will
examine such long-term opinions, attitudes and interests.
I am concerned here with the way in which the situation was
initially interpreted and presented by the mass media, because it is
in this form that most people receive their pictures of both deviance
and disasters. Reactions take place on the basis of these processed or
coded images: people become indignant or angry, formulate theories and plans, make speeches, write letters to the newspapers. The
media presentation or inventory of the Mods and Rockers events is
crucial in determining the later stages of the reaction.
On the Monday morning following the initial incidents at
Clacton, every national newspaper, with the exception of The Times
(fifth lead on main news page) carried a leading report on the
subject. The headlines are self-descriptive: ‘Day of Terror by
Scooter Groups’ (Daily Telegraph), ‘Youngsters Beat Up Town – 97

the inv ent o ry

Leather Jacket Arrests’ (Daily Express), ‘Wild Ones Invade Seaside –
97 Arrests’ (Daily Mirror). The next lot of incidents received similar
coverage on the Tuesday and editorials began to appear, together
with reports that the Home Secretary was ‘being urged’ (it was
not usually specified exactly by whom) to hold an inquiry or to
take firm action. Feature articles then appeared highlighting
interviews with Mods and Rockers. Straight reporting gave way
to theories especially about motivation: the mob was described
as ‘exhilarated’, ‘drunk with notoriety’, ‘hell-bent for destruction’, etc. Reports of the incidents themselves were followed by
accounts of police and court activity and local reaction. The press
coverage of each series of incidents showed a similar sequence.
Overseas coverage was extensive throughout; particularly in
America, Canada, Australia, South Africa and the Continent. The
New York Times and New York Herald Tribune carried large photos, after
Whitsun, of two girls fighting. Belgian papers captioned their
photos ‘West Side Story on English Coast’.
It is difficult to assess conclusively the accuracy of these early
reports. Even if each incident could have been observed, a physical
impossibility, one could never check the veracity of, say, an interview. In many cases, one ‘knows’ that the interview must be, partly
at least, journalistic fabrication because it is too stereotypical to be
true, but this is far from objective proof. Nevertheless, on the basis
of those incidents that were observed, interviews with people
who were present at others (local reporters, photographers, deckchair attendants, etc.) and a careful check on internal consistency,
some estimate of the main distortions can be made. Checks with
the local press are particularly revealing. Not only are the reports
more detailed and specific, but they avoid statements like ‘all the
dance halls near the seafront were smashed’ when every local resident knows that there is only one dance hall near the front.
The media inventory of each initial incident will be analysed
under three headings: (i) Exaggeration and Distortion; (ii)
Prediction; (iii) Symbolization.


26 folk d evils an d m o r a l pa n i c s

Writing when the Mods and Rockers phenomenon was passing
its peak, a journalist recalls that a few days after the initial event
at Clacton, the Assistant Editor of the Daily Mirror admitted in
conversation that the affair had been ‘a little over-reported’.4 It is
this ‘over-reporting’ that I am interested in here.
The major type of distortion in the inventory lay in exaggerating grossly the seriousness of the events, in terms of criteria
such as the number taking part, the number involved in violence
and the amount and effects of any damage or violence. Such
distortion took place primarily in terms of the mode and style of
presentation characteristic of most crime reporting: the sensational headlines, the melodramatic vocabulary and the deliberate
heightening of those elements in the story considered as news.
The regular use of phrases such as ‘riot’, ‘orgy of destruction’,
‘battle’, ‘attack’, ‘siege’, ‘beat up the town’ and ‘screaming mob’
left an image of a besieged town from which innocent holidaymakers were fleeing to escape a marauding mob.
During Whitsun 1964 even the local papers in Brighton
referred to ‘deserted beaches’ and ‘elderly holidaymakers’ trying
to escape the ‘screaming teenagers’. One had to scan the rest of
the paper or be present on the spot to know that on the day
referred to (Monday, 18 May) the beaches were deserted because
the weather was particularly bad. The ‘holidaymakers’ that were
present were there to watch the Mods and Rockers. Although at
other times (for example, August 1964 at Hastings) there was
intimidation, there was very little of this in the Brighton incident
referred to. In the 1965 and 1966 incidents, there was even
less intimidation, yet the incidents were ritualistically reported
in the same way, using the same metaphors, headlines and
The full flavour of such reports is captured in the following
lines from the Daily Express (19 May 1964): ‘There was Dad asleep

the inv ent o ry

in a deckchair and Mum making sandcastles with the children,
when the 1964 boys took over the beaches at Margate and
Brighton yesterday and smeared the traditional postcard scene
with blood and violence.’
This type of ‘over-reporting’ is, of course, not peculiar to the
Mods and Rockers. It is characteristic not just of crime reporting
as a whole but mass media inventories of such events as political
protests, racial disturbances and so on. What Knopf5 calls the
‘shotgun approach’ to such subjects – the front page build up,
the splashy pictures, the boxscores of the latest riot news – has
become accepted in journalism. So accepted in fact, that the
media and their audiences have lost even a tenuous hold on the
meaning of the words they use. How is a town ‘beaten up’ or
‘besieged’? How many shop windows have to be broken for an
‘orgy of destruction’ to have taken place? When can one – even
metaphorically – talk of scenes being ‘smeared with blood and
violence’? Commenting on the way the term ‘riot’ is used to
cover both an incident resulting in 43 deaths, 7,000 arrests and
$45 million in property damage and one in which three people
broke a shop window, Knopf remarks: ‘The continued media
use of the term contributes to an emotionally charged climate
in which the public tends to view every event as an “incident”,
every incident as a “disturbance” and every disturbance as a
The sources of over-reporting lay not just in such abuses of
language. There was a frequent use of misleading headlines,
particularly headlines which were discrepant with the actual
story: thus a headline ‘violence’ might announce a story which,
in fact, reports that no violence occurred. Then there were more
subtle and often unconscious journalistic practices: the use of
the generic plural (if a boat was overturned, reports read ‘boats
were overturned’) and the technique, well known to war correspondents, of reporting the same incident twice to look like two
different incidents.


28 folk d evils an d m o r a l pa n i c s
Another source of distortion lay in the publication, usually in
good faith, of reports which were later to receive quite a different
perspective by fresh evidence. The repetition of obviously false
stories, despite known confirmation of this, is a familiar finding
in studies of the role of the press in spreading mass hysteria.7 An
important example in the Mods and Rockers inventory was the
frequently used ‘£75 cheque story’. It was widely reported that a
boy had told the Margate magistrates that he would pay the £75
fine imposed on him with a cheque. This story was true enough;
what few papers bothered to publish and what they all knew was
that the boy’s offer was a pathetic gesture of bravado. He admitted
three days later that not only did he not have the £75 but did not
even have a bank account and had never signed a cheque in his
life. As long as four years after this, though, the story was still
being repeated and was quoted to me at a magistrates’ conference in 1968 to illustrate the image of the Mods and Rockers as
affluent hordes whom ‘fines couldn’t touch’.
This story had some factual basis, even though its real meaning
was lost. At other times, stories of organization, leadership and
particular incidents of violence and vandalism were based on
little more than unconfirmed rumour. These stories are important because – as I will show in detail – they enter into the
consciousness and shape the societal reaction at later stages. It is
worth quoting at length a particularly vivid example from the
media coverage of an American incident:
In York, Pa., in mid-July, 1968, . . . incidents of rock- and bottlethrowing were reported. Towards the end of the disturbance
UPI in Harrisburg asked a stringer to get something on the situation. A photographer took a picture of a motorcyclist with an
ammunition belt around his waist and a rifle strapped across
his back. A small object dangled from the rifle. On July 18, the
picture reached the nation’s press. The Washington Post said:
‘ARMED RIDER – Unidentified motorcyclist drives through

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heart of York, Pa., Negro district, which was quiet for the first
time in six days of sporadic disorders.’ The Baltimore Sun used
the same picture and a similar caption: ‘QUIET BUT . . . An
unidentified motorcycle rider armed with a rifle and carrying a
belt of ammunition, was among those in the heart of York, Pa.,
Negro district last night. The area was quiet for the first time in
six days.’
The implication of this photograph was clear: the ‘armed
rider’ was a sniper. But since when do snipers travel openly in
daylight completely armed? Also, isn’t there something incongruous about photographing a sniper, presumably ‘on his way
to work’ when according to the caption, the city ‘was quiet’?
Actually, the ‘armed rider’ was a sixteen-year-old boy who
happened to be fond of hunting groundhogs – a skill he had
learned as a small boy from his father. On July 16, as was his
custom, the young man had put on his ammo belt and strapped
a rifle across his back, letting a hunting licence dangle so that
all would know he was hunting animals, not people. Off he
went on his motorcycle headed for the woods, the fields, the
groundhogs – and the place reserved for him in the nation’s

Moving from the form to the content of the inventory, a
detailed analysis reveals that much of the image of the deviation
presented was, in Lemert’s term, putative: ‘. . . that portion of the
societal definition of the deviant which has no foundation in his
objective behaviour.’9 The following is a composite of the mass
media inventory:
Gangs of Mods and Rockers from the suburbs of London
invaded, on motor-bikes and scooters, a number of seaside
resorts. These were affluent young people, from all social
classes. They came down deliberately to cause trouble by
behaving aggressively towards visitors, local residents and the


30 folk d evils an d m o r a l pa n i c s
police. They attacked innocent holidaymakers and destroyed a
great deal of public property. This cost the resorts large sums
of money in repairing the damage and a further loss of trade
through potential visitors being scared to come down.

The evidence for the ten elements in this composite picture is
summarized below:
1. Gangs – There was no evidence of any structured gangs. The
groups were loose collectivities or crowds within which there
was occasionally some more structured grouping based on territorial loyalty, e.g. ‘The Walthamstow Boys’.
2. Mods and Rockers – Initially at least, the groups were not polarized along the Mod–Rocker dimension. At Clacton, for example,
the rivalry (already in existence for many years) between on the
one hand those from London and on the other locals and youths
from the surrounding counties, was a much more significant
dimension. The Mod–Rocker polarization was institutionalized
later and partly as a consequence of the initial publicity. In addition, throughout the whole life of the phenomenon, many of the
young people coming down to the resorts did not identify with
either group.
3. Invasion from London – Although the bulk of day-trippers,
young and old, were from London, this was simply the
traditional Bank Holiday pattern. Not all offenders were
from London; many were either local residents or came from
neighbouring towns or villages. This was particularly true
of the Rockers who, in Clacton and Great Yarmouth, came
mainly from East Anglian villages. The origins of fifty-four
youths, on whom information was obtainable, out of the sixtyfour charged at Hastings (August 1964) was as follows: London
or Middlesex suburbs – twenty; Welwyn Garden City – four;
small towns in Kent – nine; Sussex – seven; Essex – four; and
Surrey – ten.

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4. Motor-bikes and Scooters – At every event the majority of young
people present came down by train or coach or hitched.
The motor-bike or scooter owners were always a minority;
albeit a noisy minority that easily gave the impression of
5. Affluence – There is no clear-cut information here of the
type that could be obtained from a random sample of the
crowd. Work on the Brighton Archway Ventures and all information from other sources suggest that the young people coming
down were not particularly well off. Certainly for those charged in
the courts, there is no basis for the affluence image. The average
take home pay in Barker and Little’s Margate sample was £11 per
week.10* The original Clacton offenders had on them an average of
15s. for the whole Bank Holiday weekend. The best off was a
window-cleaner earning £15 a week, but more typical were a
market assistant earning £7 10s. od. and a 17-year-old office boy
earning £5 14s. od.
6. Classless – Indices such as accent and area of residence, gathered from court reports and observation, suggest that both the
crowds and the offenders were predominantly working class. In
the Barker–Little sample, the typical Rocker was an unskilled
manual worker, the typical Mod a semi-skilled manual worker.
All but two had left school at 15. At Clacton, out of the
twenty-four charged, twenty-three had left school at 15, and
twenty-two had been to secondary moderns. All were unskilled;
there were no apprentices or anyone receiving any kind of
7. Deliberate intent – The bulk of young people present at the
resorts came down not so much to make trouble as in the hope
that there would be some trouble to watch. Their very presence,
their readiness to be drawn into a situation of trouble and the
* This research sample will be referred to subsequently as the ‘Barker–Little


32 folk d evils an d m o r a l pa n i c s
sheer accretion of relatively trivial incidents were found
inconvenient and offensive; but if there really had been great
numbers deliberately intent on causing trouble, then much more
trouble would have resulted. I will make this point clearer when
analysing the impact. The proportion of those whom the police
would term ‘troublemakers’ was always small. This hard core was
more evident at Clacton than at any of the subsequent events:
twenty-three out of the twenty-four charged (ninety-seven were
originally arrested) had previous convictions.
8. Violence and Vandalism – Acts of violence and vandalism are the
most tangible manifestations of what the press and public regard
as hooliganism. These acts were therefore played up rather than
the less melodramatic effect of the Mods and Rockers which was
being a nuisance and inconvenience to many adults. In fact, the
total amount of serious violence and vandalism was not great.
Only about one tenth of the Clacton offenders was charged with
offences involving violence. At Margate, Whitsun 1964, supposedly one of the most violent events – the one which provoked
the Daily Express ‘blood and violence’ report – there was little more
recorded violence than two stabbings and the dropping of a man
on to a flower bed. At Hastings, August 1964, out of forty-four
found guilty, there were three cases of assaulting the police. At
Brighton, Easter 1965, out of seventy arrests there were seven for
assault. Even if the definition of violence were broadened to
include obstruction and the use of threatening behaviour, the
targets were rarely ‘innocent holidaymakers’, but members of a
rival group, or, more often, the police. The number of recorded
cases of malicious damage to property was also small; less than
10 per cent of all cases charged in the courts. The typical offence
throughout was obstructing the police or the use of threatening
behaviour. In Clacton, although hardly any newspapers
mentioned this, a number of the twenty-four were charged with
‘non-hooligan’-type offences: stealing half a pint of petrol,
attempting to steal drinks from a vending machine and ‘obtaining

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credit to the amount of 7d. by means of fraud other than false
pretences’ (an ice-cream).
9. Cost of damage – The court figures for malicious damage admittedly underestimate the extent of vandalism because much of
this goes undetected. Nevertheless, an examination of the figures
given for the cost of the damage suggests that this was not as
excessive as reported. Table 1 shows the cost of damage at the
first four events.
It must be remembered also that a certain amount of damage
to local authority property takes place every Bank Holiday.
According to the Deputy Publicity Manager of Margate,11 for
example, the number of deckchairs broken (fifty) was not much
greater than on an ordinary Bank Holiday weekend; there were
also more chairs out on Whit Sunday than ever before.
10. Loss of trade – The press, particularly the local press, laid
great emphasis on the financial loss the resorts had suffered and
would suffer on account of the Mods and Rockers through
cancelled holidays, less use of facilities, loss of trade in shops,
restaurants and hotels. The evidence for any such loss is at best
dubious. Under the heading ‘Those Wild Ones Are To Blame
Again’, the Brighton Evening Argus quoted figures after Whitsun

Table 1 Cost of Damage to Four Resorts: Easter and Whitsun, 1964


No. of

Estimated cost
of damage


Easter, 1964
Whitsun, 1964
Whitsun, 1964
Whitsun, 1964



Source: Estimates by local authorities quoted in local press.


34 folk d evils an d m o r a l pa n i c s
1964 to show that, compared with the previous Whitsun, the
number of deckchairs hired had dropped by 8,000 and
the number using the swimming pool by 1,500. But the
number using the miniature railway increased by 2,000, as
did the number of users of the putting green. These figures
make sense when one knows that on the day referred to, the
temperature had dropped by 14°F and it had been raining
the night before. This is the main reason why there was less
use of deckchairs and the swimming pool. In Hastings,
August 1964, despite a big scare-publicity build up, the number
of visitors coming down by train increased by 6,000 over the
previous year.12 Newspapers often quoted ‘loss of trade’ estimates
by landlords, hotel keepers and local authority officials, but
invariably, final figures of damage fell below the first estimates.
These revised figures, however, came too late to have any
news value.
Although there were cases of people being scared away
by reports of the disturbances, the overall effect was the
opposite. The Margate publicity department had a letter from
a travel agent in Ireland saying that the events had ‘put Margate
on the map’. Leaving aside the additional young people
themselves attracted by the publicity – they would not be defined
as commercial assets – many adults as well came down to watch
the fun. I was often asked, on the way down from Brighton
station, ‘Where are the Mods and Rockers today?’, and near
the beaches, parents could be seen holding children on
their shoulders to get a better view of the proceedings. In an
interview with a reporter during which I was present, a man
said, ‘My wife and I came down with our son (aged 18) to see
what all this fun is at the seaside on Bank Holidays’ (Evening Argus,
30 May 1964). By 1965 the happenings were part of the scene
– the pier, the whelks, the Mods and Rockers could all be taken
in on a day trip.

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There is another element in the inventory which needs to be
discussed separately because it assumes a special importance in
later stages. This is the implicit assumption, present in virtually
every report, that what had happened was inevitably going to
happen again. Few assumed that the events were transient occurrences; the only questions were where the Mods and Rockers
would strike next and what could be done about it. As will be
suggested, these predictions played the role of the classical selffulfilling prophecy. Unlike the case of natural disasters where the
absence of predictions can be disastrous, with social phenomena
such as deviance, it is the presence of predictions that can be
The predictions in the inventory period took the form of
reported statements from local figures such as tradesmen, councillors and police spokesmen about what should be done ‘next time’
or of immediate precautions they had taken. More important,
youths were asked in TV interviews about their plans for the next
Bank Holiday and interviews were printed with either a Mod or a
Rocker threatening revenge ‘next time’. The following are extracts
from two such interviews: ‘Southend and places won’t let us in any
more. It will get difficult here and so next year we’ll probably go to
Ramsgate or Hastings’ (Daily Express, 30 March 1964). ‘It could have
been better – the weather spoiled it a bit. Wait until next Whitsun.
Now that will be a real giggle’ (Daily Mirror, 31 March 1964).
Where predictions were not fulfilled, a story could still be
found by reporting non-events. So, for example, when attention
was switched to East Anglian resorts in 1966, the East Anglian Daily
Times (30 May 1966) headed a report on a play attended by a
group of long-haired youths ‘Fears When Ton-up Boys Walked in
Groundless’. Reporters and photographers were often sent on
the basis of false tip-offs to events that did not materialize. In
Whitsun 1965, a Daily Mirror report from Hastings, where nothing


36 folk d evils an d m o r a l pa n i c s
at all happened, was headed ‘Hastings – Without Them’. In
Whitsun 1966 there was a report (Daily Mirror, 30 May 1966) on
how policemen on a ‘Mods and Rockers patrol’ in Clacton could
only use their specially provided walkie-talkies to help two lost
little boys. Again, headlines often created the impression that
something had happened: the Evening Argus (30 May 1966) used
the subheading ‘Violence’ to report that ‘in Brighton there was
no violence in spite of the crowds of teenagers on the beach’.
These non-event stories and other distortions springing from
the prediction theme, are part of the broader tendency which I
will discuss later whereby discrepancies between expectations
and reality are resolved by emphasizing those new elements
which confirm expectations and playing down those which are
contradictory. Commenting on this tendency in their analysis of
the media coverage of the October 1968 Vietnam war demonstrations, Halloran et al.13 draw attention to a technique often
employed in the Mods and Rockers inventory, ‘. . . a phrase or
sentence describing in highly emotive terms either the expectation of violence or an isolated incident of violence, is followed
by a completely contradictory sentence describing the actual
The cumulative effect of such reports was to establish predictions whose truth was guaranteed by the way in which the event,
non-event or pseudo-event it referred to was reported.

Communication, and especially the mass communication of
stereotypes, depends on the symbolic power of words and
images. Neutral words such as place-names can be made to
symbolize complex ideas and emotions; for example, Pearl
Harbor, Hiroshima, Dallas and Aberfan. A similar process occurred
in the Mods and Rockers inventory: these words themselves and
a word such as ‘Clacton’ acquired symbolic powers. It became

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meaningful to say ‘we don’t want another Clacton here’ or ‘you
can see he’s one of those Mod types’.
There appear to be three processes in such symbolization: a
word (Mod) becomes symbolic of a certain status (delinquent or
deviant); objects (hairstyle, clothing) symbolize the word; the
objects themselves become symbolic of the status (and the
emotions attached to the status). The cumulative effect of these
three processes as they appeared in the inventory was that the
terms Mods and Rockers were torn from any previously neutral
contexts (for example, the denotation of different consumer
styles) and acquired wholly negative meanings. The identical
effect is described by Turner and Surace14 in their classic study of
the Zoot Suit riots* and by Rock and myself in tracing how the
Edwardian dress style became transformed into the Teddy Boy
folk devil.15
In their case study, Turner and Surace refer to this process as the
creation of ‘unambiguously unfavourable symbols’. Newspaper
headlines and interpersonal communication following the initial
incidents in Los Angeles, reiterated the phobia and hatred towards
Mexican American youth. References to this group were made in
such a way as to strip key symbols (differences in fashion, life style
and entertainment) from their favourable or neutral connotations
until they came to evoke unambiguously unfavourable feelings.
Content analysis showed a switch in the references to Mexicans to
the ‘Zooter theme’, which identified this particular clothing style
as the ‘badge of delinquency’ and coupled such references with
mention of zoot-suiter attacks and orgies. Invariably the zooter was
* These riots took place in Los Angeles in 1943. Sailors indiscriminately beat
up Mexicans and the ‘zoot suit’ – the long coat and trousers pegged at the cuffs
worn by boys with long, greased hair – became the symbol around which the
rioters rallied. In the decade preceding the riots, the treatment of Mexicans in
the media gradually became less favourable and the concept of ‘zoot-suiter’
had been built up as a negative symbol, associated with all sorts of crime and
deviance. See Turner and Surace.


38 folk d evils an d m o r a l pa n i c s
identified with the generalized Mexican group. In the same way,
the Mod and Rocker status traits were, in later stages of the reaction, to wash off on the generalized adolescent group. Their ‘badge
of delinquency’ emerged as symbols, such as the fur-collared
anorak and the scooter, which became sufficient in themselves to
stimulate hostile and punitive reactions.*
Symbols and labels eventually acquire their own descriptive
and explanatory potential. Thus – to take examples from an
earlier folk devil – the label ‘Teddy Boy’ became a general term
of abuse (for example, John Osborne being described as ‘an
intellectual Teddy Boy’); the devil was seen as a distinct type of
personality (drugs were announced to soothe Teddy Boys and
make them co-operative for treatment, statements made such as
‘some of these soldiers here are just Teddy Boys in army uniform’)
and the symbols were seen as changing the person (‘he was
never in trouble before he bought an Edwardian suit’; ‘since my
son bought this thing a year ago his personality has changed’).
Such symbolization is partly the consequence of the same
standard mass communication processes which give rise to
exaggeration and distortion. Thus, for example, misleading and
inappropriate headlines were used to create unambiguously
negative symbols where the actual event did not warrant this at
all or at least was ambiguous. Accounts of certain events in
Whitsun 1964, for example, were coupled with a report of a
‘Mod’ falling to his death from a cliff outside Brighton. Similarly,
in August 1964 there were headlines ‘Mod Dead In Sea’. In
neither case had these deaths anything to do with the disturbances; they were both pure accidents. A reading of the headlines
only, or of early reports not mentioning police statements about
* During the inventory period, scooter owners and manufacturers frequently
complained about the bad publicity that they were getting. After Clacton, the
general secretaries of the Vespa and Lambretta Scooter Clubs issued a statement
dissociating their clubs from the disturbances.

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the accidents, might have led to a misleading connection. This
sort of effect reached its bizarre heights in a headline in the
Dublin Evening Press (18 May 1964) ‘Terror Comes to English
Resorts. Mutilated Mod Dead In Park’. The ‘mutilated Mod’ was,
in fact, a man between 21 and 25 wearing a ‘mod jacket’(?) who
was found stabbed on the Saturday morning (the day before the
incidents at the resorts) in a Birmingham park.*
Another highly effective technique of symbolization was the
use of dramatized and ritualistic interviews with ‘representative
members’ of either group. The Daily Mirror (31 March 1964)
had ‘Mick The Wild One’ on ‘Why I Hurled That Chisel’ and
another boy who said, ‘I take pep pills. Everybody does here.’ The
Daily Herald (18 May 1964) quoted one boy clutching his injured
head as the police bundled him into a van saying, ‘Carry on with
the plan’; another said, ‘We’re not through yet. We’re here for the
holiday and we’re staying. Margate will wish it was Clacton when
we’re finished.’ The Evening Standard (19 May 1964) found ‘The
Baron’ who hated ‘Mods and Wogs’ and said, ‘I like fighting . . . I
have been fighting all my life.’ The Daily Mirror (8 May 1964)
found a new angle with ‘The Girls Who Follow The Wild Ones
Into Battle’ and who said about fighting: ‘. . . it gives you a kick, a
thrill, it makes you feel all funny inside. You get butterflies in
your stomach and you want the boys to go on and on . . . It’s hard
luck on the people who get in their way, but you can’t do
anything about that.’
It is difficult to establish how authentic these interviews are. In
some cases they ring so patently absurd a note that they cannot
be an accurate transcription of what was actually said; the Daily
Telegraph (31 March 1964), for example, carried an interview
* Newspapers farthest away from the source invariably carried the greatest distortions and inaccuracies. The Glasgow Daily Record and Mail (20 May 1964), for
example, described Mods as being dressed in short-jacketed suits, with bell
bottoms, high boots, bowler or top hats and carrying rolled-up umbrellas.


40 folk d evils an d m o r a l pa n i c s
with a Rocker who said, ‘We are known as the Rockers and are
much more with it.’ If any group had a ‘with-it’ self-image and
would even contemplate using such a term, it certainly was not
the Rockers. It would be fair to describe these interviews and
reports as being composite, not necessarily in the sense of being
wilfully faked, but as being influenced by the reporter’s (or subeditor’s) conception of how anyone labelled as a thug or a
hooligan should speak, dress and act. This effect may have occasionally been heightened by a certain gullibility about the
fantasies of self-styled gang leaders.16
Through symbolization, plus the other types of exaggeration
and distortion, images are made much sharper than reality. There
is no reason to assume that photographs or television reports are
any more ‘objective’. In a study of the different perceptions experienced by TV viewers and on-the-spot spectators of another
crowd situation (MacArthur Day in Chicago), it was shown how
the reporting was distorted by the selection of items to fit into
already existing expectations.17 A sharpening up process occurs,
producing emotionally toned symbols which eventually acquire
their own momentum. Thus the dissemination of overwhelming
public support in favour of MacArthur ‘. . . gathered force as it was
incorporated into political strategy, picked up by other media,
entered into gossip and thus came to overshadow immediate
reality as it might have been recorded by an observer on the
In this study, observers recorded how their expectations of
political enthusiasm and wild mass involvement were completely
unfulfilled. Through close-ups and a particular style of commentary (‘the most enthusiastic crowd ever in our city . . . you can
feel the tenseness in the air . . . you can hear the crowd roar’)
television structured the whole event to convey emotions nonexistent to the participants. This effect explains why many spectators at the Mods and Rockers events found them a slight let-down
after the mass media publicity. As Boorstin remarks in discussing

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the effects of television and colour photography: ‘Verisimilitude
took on a new meaning . . . The Grand Canyon itself became a
disappointing reproduction of the Kodachrome original.’19

The cumulative effects of the inventory can be summarized as
follows: (i) the putative deviation had been assigned from which
further stereotyping, myth making and labelling could proceed;
(ii) the expectation was created that this form of deviation would
certainly recur; (iii) a wholly negative symbolization in regard
to the Mods and Rockers and objects associated with them had
been created; (iv) all the elements in the situation had been
made clear enough to allow for full-scale demonology and hagiology to develop: the information had been made available for
placing the Mods and Rockers in the gallery of contemporary
folk devils.
Why do these sorts of inventories result? Are they in any sense
‘inevitable’? What are the reasons for bias, exaggeration and
distortion? To make sense of questions such as these, one must
understand that the inventory is not, of course, a simple sort of
stock-taking into which some errors might accidentally creep
from time to time. Built into the very nature of deviance, inventories in modern society are elements of fantasy, selective misperception and the deliberate creation of news. The inventory is not
reflective stock-taking but manufactured news.
Before pursuing this notion, let me mention some of the more
‘genuine’ errors. On one level, much exaggeration and distortion
arose simply from the ambiguous and confused nature of the
situation. It is notoriously difficult in a crowd setting to estimate
the numbers present and some of the over-estimates were probably no more than would have occurred after events such as
political demonstrations, religious rallies, pop concerts or
sporting fixtures. The confusion was heightened by the presence


42 folk d evils an d m o r a l pa n i c s
of so many reporters and photographers: their very presence
could be interpreted as ‘evidence’ that something massive and
important was happening.
As I will show when analysing the setting in more detail, it was
a problem for everyone present – police, spectators, participants,
newsmen – to actually know what was happening at any one
time. In such situations, the gullibility effect is less significant
than a general susceptibility to all sorts of rumours. Clark and
Barker’s case study of a participant in a race riot shows this effect
very clearly,20 and in disaster research prospective interviewers
are warned, ‘People who have discussed their experiences with
others in the community can rapidly assimilate inaccurate
versions of the disaster. These group versions may quickly come
to be accepted by a large segment of the population.’21
Important as such errors may be in the short run, they cannot
explain the more intrinsic features of deviance inventories: processes such as symbolization and prediction, the direction of the
distortions rather than the simple fact of their occurrence, the
decision to report the deviance in the first place and to continue
to report it in a particular way. Studies of moral panics associated
with the Mods and Rockers and other forms of deviance, as well
as detailed research on the mass communication process itself
(such as that by Halloran and his colleagues) indicate that two
interrelated factors determine the presentation of deviance
inventories: the first is the institutionalized need to create news
and the second is the selective and inferential structure of the
newsmaking process.
The mass media operate with certain definitions of what is
newsworthy. It is not that instruction manuals exist telling
newsmen that certain subjects (drugs, sex, violence) will appeal
to the public or that certain groups (youth, immigrants) should
be continually exposed to scrutiny. Rather, there are built-in
factors, ranging from the individual newsman’s intuitive hunch
about what constitutes a ‘good story’, through precepts such as

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‘give the public what it wants’ to structured ideological biases,
which predispose the media to make a certain event into news.
The weekend of the Clacton event was particularly dull from a
news point of view. Nothing particularly noteworthy happened
nationally or internationally. The fact that the event was given
such prominence must be due partly at least to the absence
of alternative news. The behaviour itself was not particularly new
or startling. Disturbances of various sorts – variously called
‘hooliganism’, ‘rowdyism’ or ‘gang fights’ occurred frequently
throughout the late fifties and early sixties in coastal resorts
favoured by working-class adolescents. In 1958, for example,
Southend Police had to appeal for outside support after rival
groups had fought battles on the pier. In Whitley Bay, Blackpool
and other northern resorts there were disturbances and fighting
often more severe than any of the early Mods and Rockers
episodes. For years British holidaymakers on day trips or weekend
excursions to such European coastal resorts as Calais and Ostend
have been involved in considerable violence and vandalism. In
Ostend, from the beginning of the sixties, there was a period of
the year referred to as the ‘English season’ during which holidaymakers and members of amateur football clubs caused considerable damage and trouble, rarely reported in the British press. The
Mods and Rockers didn’t become news because they were new;
they were presented as new to justify their creation as news.
It would be facile to explain the creation of the inventory
purely in terms of it being ‘good news’; the point is simply that
there was room for a story at that initial weekend and that its
selection was not entirely due to its intrinsic properties. Labelling
theorists have drawn attention to the complex nature of the
screening and coding process whereby certain forms of rulebreaking are picked out for attention, and in Chapter 6 I will deal
with the historical and structural features which opened this
particular behaviour to the type of reaction it did receive. These
are features which relate to social control as a whole and not just


44 folk d evils an d m o r a l pa n i c s
the media. The media reflected the real conflict of interests that
existed at various levels: for example between local residents and
police on the one hand and the Mods and Rockers on the other.
In such situations the media adjudicate between competing definitions of the situation, and as these definitions are made in a
hierarchical context – agents of social control are more likely to
be believed than deviants – it is clear which definition will win
out in an ambiguous and shifting situation.22
Once the subject of the story is fixed, its subsequent shape is
determined by certain recurrent processes of news manufacture.
Halloran et al. refer to the development of an inferential structure: this
is not intentional bias nor simple selection by expectation, but
‘. . . a process of simplification and interpretation which structures the meaning given to the story around its original news
value’.23 The conceptual framework they use to locate this process
– and one that is equally applicable to the Mods and Rockers – is
Boorstin’s notion of the event as news. That is to say, the question of
‘is it news’ becomes as important as ‘is it real?’ The argument
simply is that:
. . . events will be selected for news reporting in terms of their fit
or consonance with pre-existing images – the news of the event
will confirm earlier ideas. The more unclear the news item and
the more uncertain or doubtful the newsman is in how to report
it, the more likely it is to be reported in a general framework
that has been already established.24

It is only when the outlines of such general frameworks have
been discerned, that one can understand processes such as
symbolization, prediction, the reporting of non-events and the
whole style of presentation. The predictability of the inventory is
crucial. So constant were the images, so stylized was the mode of
reporting, so limited was the range of emotions and values
played on, that it would have been perfectly simple for anyone

the inv ent o ry

who had studied the Mods and Rockers coverage to predict with
some accuracy the reports of all later variations on the theme of
depraved youth: skinheads, football hooligans, hippies, drugtakers, pop festivals, the Oz trial.
In Michael Frayn’s delightful fantasy The Tin Men, the Newspaper
Department of the William Morris Institute of Automation
Research tries to show that ‘in theory a digital computer could
be programmed to produce a perfectly satisfactory daily newspaper with all the variety and news sense of the hand made
article’. Once this idea was exploited commercially, ‘The stylization of the modern newspaper would be complete. Its last
residual connection with the raw, messy, offendable real world
would have been broken.’25 The Department’s example is ‘Child
Told Dress Unsuitable by Teacher’:
V. Satis. Basic plot entirely invariable. Variables confined to
three. (1) Clothing objected to (high heels/petticoat/frilly
knickers). (2) Whether child also smokes and/or uses lipstick.
(3) Whether child alleged by parents to be humiliated by having
offending clothing inspected before whole school. Frequency
of publication: once every nine days.

The Department’s other examples include ‘Paralysed Girl
Determined to Dance Again’, ‘I Plan to Give Away My Baby, Says
Mother-to-be’ and ‘They Are Calling It the Street of Shame’. One
could have also fed into the computer ‘Youngsters/Youths/Wild
Ones/Scooter Boys/Hells Angels, Invade/Beat Up/Wreck,
Town/Cinema/Football Match/Pop Festival’.
This is not to imply that all these images are fictitious; after all,
children are told that their dress is unsuitable by teachers, paralysed girls might be determined to dance again, collective episodes
of adolescent violence and vandalism take place often enough. As
one analysis of press distortions in reporting American racial
violence (in the direction of exaggerating supposedly new


46 folk d evils an d m o r a l pa n i c s
elements of planning, organization sniping and leadership)
concludes: ‘Unwittingly or not, the press has been constructing
a scenario on armed uprisings. The story line of this scenario is
not totally removed from reality. There have been a few shoot-outs
with the police, and a handful may have been planned. But no
wave of uprisings and no set pattern of murderous conflict have
developed – at least not yet.’26
One cannot, of course, leave the analysis of ‘general frameworks’, ‘scenarios’, ‘inferential structures’ and ‘selective misperception’ at the social psychological level. One must understand
the bases of the selection in terms of more long-term values and
interests; before doing this, however, we must see how the
perceptual basis of the inventory was developed by means of
more permanent opinions and attitudes. This is the question
taken up in the next chapter.

The relationship between one’s perception of a social object and
one’s attitude towards it is a complex one. In simplest terms, at
least two sequences occur: one perceives and selects according
to certain orientations already in existence and then, what is
perceived is shaped and absorbed into more enduring clusters of
attitudes. These processes, of course, merge into each other, but it
is more the second one that this chapter is concerned with: how
the images in the inventory were crystallized into more organized
opinions and attitudes. These opinion and attitude themes correspond roughly to what Smelser calls generalized belief systems:
the cognitive beliefs or delusions transmitted by the mass media
and assimilated in terms of audience predispositions.1
Once the initial impact has passed over, the societal reaction to
any sudden event, particularly if it is perceived as a dislocation of
the social structure or a threat to cherished values, is an attempt
to make sense of what happened. People talk less about the event
itself and more about the implications of it. This sequence could

48 folk d evils an d m o r a l pa n i c s
be observed, for example, in the mass media and public reaction
to the sudden and unusual event of the shooting of three
policemen in London in 1966: speculations about the shooting
itself and a presentation of the images of the actors involved (the
inventory) were replaced by discussions of the ‘issues’: restoration of the death penalty, arming of policemen, the nature of
violence in society. The combination of this sequence with a
constellation of other events such as the spectacular uncovering
of the activities of organized criminal gangs, laid the foundation
at the time for a moral panic about violent crime. An almost
identical constellation repeated itself in 1971 with the Blackpool
police shooting and the outbursts from senior Scotland Yard
officers about ‘our streets not being safe to walk in’.
Similarly, research on the mass media response to the Kennedy
assassination showed the transition from initial reporting to the
need for interpretation. People had to make sense of what may
be considered an absurd accident. They wanted an explanation of
the causes of the murder, a positive meaning to be given to the
situation and a reassurance that the nation would come through
the crisis without harm.2 All these things the mass media provide
by reducing the ambiguity created by cultural strain and uncertainty. In the case of mass delusions, a significant stage in the
diffusion of the hysterical belief is the attempt by commentators
to restructure and make sense of an ambiguous situation. In
such situations theories arise to explain what cannot be seen as
random events. An outbreak of windshield pitting, for example,
is explained as vandalism, meteoric dust, sand-flea eggs hatching
in the glass, air pollution, radioactive fallout, etc.3
Many of these theories and the themes to be discussed below
are based on no more than the sorts of rumours present in mass
delusions and serve partly the same function: the reduction of
ambiguity. Although the rumours, themes and beliefs derive
mainly from the mass media, they later encounter reinforcement
or resistance in a group setting. The individual is exposed to a

r e a c ti o n : o pi n i o n a n d a tti t ude t h emes

barrage of information and interpretation during which his ideas
change or crystallize: ‘Over time these group formulated and
group supported interpretations tend to override or replace individual idiosyncratic ones. They become part of the group myth,
the collection of common opinions to which the member generally conforms.’4 These collective themes reverberate through
the social system, creating the conditions on which subsequent
stages are built.
This description, of course, oversimplifies the communication
process by assuming a unitary set of values into which the
themes are absorbed like a pool of water absorbing the ripples
from a dropped stone. The communication flow is much more
complicated, and information is accepted or rejected and finally
coded in terms of a plurality of needs, values, membership and
reference groups.
I will consider some of these differences later; at this stage
I want to present in ideal–typical categories the opinion and
attitude themes about the Mods and Rockers as they appeared in
the mass media and other public forms. These themes derive
from all the opinion statements by the media (editorials, articles,
cartoons), in the media (letters, quotations from speeches, statements, sermons, etc.) and in other public arenas such as parliamentary and council debates. What follows is by no means a
catalogue of all types of opinions that were expressed; some
were too idiosyncratic and bizarre to classify. These are just the
themes which emerged with sufficient regularity to justify
thinking that they were fairly widespread and would have some
effect on public opinion as a whole.
The themes are classified into three categories: (i) Orientation:
the emotional and intellectual standpoint from which the deviance is evaluated; (ii) Images: opinions about the nature of the
deviants and their behaviour; (iii) Causation: opinions about the
causes of the behaviour. (The set of opinions dealing with solutions or methods of handling the behaviour will be dealt with


50 folk d evils an d m o r a l pa n i c s
when considering the societal control culture.) These categories
are not entirely exclusive; a statement such as ‘it’s because they’ve
got too much money’, belongs to both the Images and Causation

Disaster – As pointed out when considering the disaster model,
the behaviour was often perceived as if it were a disaster, and this
is, in fact, an orientation which endured through later opinion
statements. As a direct result of the inventory, the psychological
impact and social significance of the Mods and Rockers were
perceived to be of disastrous proportions.
The natural disaster analogy was often explicitly drawn,
perhaps nowhere more clearly than by Mr David James, the MP
for Brighton Kemptown, during the second reading of the
Malicious Damage Bill:
I was not in Brighton during the weekend to which references
have been made, but I arrived there later to find a sense of horror
and outrage felt by the people who live there. It was almost as if
one had been to a city which, at least emotionally, had been
recently hit by an earthquake and as if all the conventions and
values of life had been completely flouted. This was deeply felt.5

In a previous debate, the MP for the constituency in which
Great Yarmouth falls, hoped that the town ‘. . . will never suffer
the ravages which Clacton suffered’,6 while another MP referred
to ‘. . . the delinquent youth who sacked Clacton’.7 Similar analogies were used in editorials after Whitsun 1964: ‘Goths by the
sea’ (Evening Standard, 18 May); ‘the marauding army of Vikings
going through Europe massacring and plundering, living by
slaughter and rapacity’ (The Star, Sheffield, 18 May); ‘mutated
locusts wreaking untold havoc on the land’ (Time and Tide,

r e a c ti o n : o pi n i o n a n d a tti t ude t h emes

21 May), etc. The disaster analogy is, of course, particularly well
suited to describing the reactions of idyllic rural areas and places
such as the Isle of Wight on being subjected to pop festivals and
similar happenings.
Most statements emphasized the threat to life and property,
particularly the latter, and the picture of a town being ‘wrecked’
was reinforced by quoting rumours about resorts armour plating
their deckchairs and insurance companies offering policies to
the resorts to cover them against losses incurred through Mods
and Rockers as well as normal storm damage. But it was clear
throughout that it was not only property that was being threatened, but ‘all the conventions and values of life’. As the Birmingham
Post (19 May 1964) put it, drawing on Churchill’s ‘We will fight
them on the beaches’ speech: the external enemies of 1940 had
been replaced on our own shores in 1964 by internal enemies
who ‘bring about disintegration of a nation’s character’.
In the same way as most disasters are determined by impersonal, inexorable forces against which human action has little
effect, an irrational, unreachable element was seen in the Mods’
and Rockers’ behaviour. A widely quoted article in Police Review
spoke about the ‘frightening’ realization that when law and order
– which is based on nothing more than individual restraint – is
loosened, ‘violence can surge and flame like a forest fire’. It could
be compared with the football riot in Peru: ‘a disallowed goal and
over 300 dead before sanity could be restored. Clacton, Margate
and Lima have one element in common – restraint normal to
civilised society was thrown aside.’8 This orientation to crowd
behaviour is identical to Le Bon’s original conception of the mob
as possessing the irrationality and ferocity of primitive beings.
Reaction from abroad sounded even more like reaction to a
disaster. Italian papers forecast a tourist rush from English holidaymakers scared to go to their own resorts. At least two English
MPs returned prematurely from Continental holidays to survey
the damage in their stricken constituencies. The Chairman of the


52 folk d evils an d m o r a l pa n i c s
Clacton UDC had phone calls from Paris and Washington asking
about conditions in the town.
Prophecy of Doom – As a result of the prediction element in the
inventory, the deviance was not only magnified, but seen as
certain to recur and, moreover, likely to get worse. The tone of
some opinion statements was that of Old Testament prophets
predicting certain doom and then following with exhortations
about what could be done to avert the doom. So, after Whitsun,
1964, Mr Harold Gurden, MP, who had before the event successfully moved a resolution calling for intensified measures to
control hooliganism, stated: ‘The latest incidents reinforce what
I said and the warning I gave. This thing has got worse and will
get worse until we take some steps’ (The Times, 20 May 1964).
Besides conforming to self-fulfilling prophecies, such statements illustrate Becker’s point about the unique dilemma of the
moral entrepreneur who has to defend the success of his methods
and at the same time contend that the problem is getting worse.9
It’s Not So Much What Happened – A variant of the previous two
themes is the type of opinion that attempts to put the behaviour
‘in perspective’ by perceiving that the reports were exaggerated. It
is not the behaviour itself which is disturbing but fantasies about
what could have happened or what could still happen. Ominous
visions are conjured up about what the behaviour might be
leading to: mass civil disobedience, Nazi youth movements,
Nuremberg rallies and mob rule.
It’s Not Only This – If the previous theme looked behind what
happened, this one looks all around it. Through a process of free
association, statements conveyed that the problem is not just the
Mods and Rockers but a whole pattern in which pregnant
schoolgirls, CND marches, beatniks, long hair, contraceptives in
slot machines, purple hearts and smashing up telephone kiosks
were all inextricably intertwined. One must orient oneself not
just to an incident, a type of behaviour or even a type of person,
but to a whole spectrum of problems and aberrations.

r e a c ti o n : o pi n i o n a n d a tti t ude t h emes

The type of associated deviance varied: other deviance of a
similar type (hooliganism, vandalism, violence), deviance of
other types (drug-taking, promiscuity) or other more general
social trends. The point of the association was determined by
attitudinal or ideological variables: so the New Statesman was
worried by other youths being exploited by the ‘hucksters of
music and sex’ and the Tribune by other ‘educational rejects’.
Associations were not only made with adolescent problems:
‘The society which produces the Margate and Ramsgate neurotic
adolescents is also producing a neurotic middle age which cannot
sleep and a neurotic old age which fills our mental hospitals.’10
The invariably high figures for road deaths over Bank Holidays
made other associations inevitable. Under headings such as
‘Madness in the Sun’, ‘The Bank Holiday of Shame’ and ‘The
Destroyers’, it was made clear that bad drivers and bad teenagers
could be seen as functionally equivalent. The Daily Mail (19 May
1964) imagined people saying, ‘It’s a lovely holiday – let’s go out
and smash something. Or kill someone. Or kill ourselves.’ While
admitting that drivers are more murderous and roads offer the
bigger danger, the Mail thought there was little to choose between
the ‘mad variety’ of wild ones on the roads and on the beaches.

Spurious Attribution – The tendency towards spurious attribution on
which the putative deviation is built, stems directly from the
inventory. This tendency is not only present in ‘popular’ statements but in more informed attitudes and also, as Matza has
convincingly suggested, in the image of the delinquent held by
contemporary criminologists. In all cases, the function of the
spurious attribution is the same: to support a particular theory
or course of action.
The initial stage in the labelling process was the use of emotive
symbols such as ‘hooligans’, ‘thugs’ and ‘wild ones’. Via the


54 folk d evils an d m o r a l pa n i c s
inventory, these terms entered the mythology to provide a
composite stigma attributable to persons performing certain
acts, wearing certain clothes or belonging to a certain social
status, that of the adolescent. Such composites are of an allpurpose sort, with a hard core of stable attributes (irresponsibility, immaturity, arrogance, lack of respect for authority)
surrounded by fringe attributes varied more or less logically
according to the deviance in question. So, in the famous 1971
Oz trial, the youthful pornographers were awarded the hardcore attributes plus such specialized ones as moral depravity and
sexual perversity.11 It would be quite feasible to get the digital
computer from The Tin Men to programme a few basic composite
stigma stories.
Perhaps the first public catalogue of the auxiliary status traits
attributed to the Mods and Rockers was made by Mr Thomas
Holdcroft, the prosecutor at the first Clacton trial. In his speech,
he listed the following traits: no views at all on any serious
subject; an inflated idea of their own importance in society;
immature, irresponsible; arrogant; lacking in any regard for the
law, for the officers of the law, for the comfort and safety of other
persons and for the property of others. This composite was
captured in the term ‘wild ones’, which, however, was soon to
be replaced in the mythology by the term used by the Margate
magistrate, Dr Simpson: ‘Sawdust Caesars’. The ‘Sawdust Caesars’
speech – to be discussed in detail later – made a tremendous
impact: over 70 per cent of the immediate post-Margate statements used the term or its variations (‘vermin’ and ‘ratpack’).
Although less successful in passing into the mythology, other
labels coined in editorials were equally picturesque: ‘ill conditioned odious louts’ (Daily Express); ‘retarded vain young hotblooded paycocks’ (Daily Sketch); ‘grubby hordes of louts and
sluts’ (Daily Telegraph); ‘with their flick knives, their innumerable
boring emotional complexes, their vicious thuggishness which
is not cunning but a more bovine stupidity; their ape-like reac-

r e a c ti o n : o pi n i o n a n d a tti t ude t h emes

tions to the world around them and their pseudo bravery born
of the spurious comfort of being in a mob . . .’ (Evening Standard).
Not all attribution was so emotive: ‘. . . likely to be timid and
shifty, backward, apathetic, ungregarious and notably inarticulate. Individually he will probably not seem particularly vicious.
He is nearly always unattractive’ (Lucille Iremonger in the Daily
Telegraph). Intellectual opinion produced appropriately intellectual, but otherwise just as spurious attributes: ‘a new Outsider
without Mr Colin Wilson’s brains or the beatniks’ blended flamboyance or stoicism . . . rarely intelligent . . . rarely individualistic
. . . inadequate . . . under-developed’ (Guardian).
In a series of one hundred randomly chosen opinion statements (post-Whitsun, 1964) the following descriptive nouns
were used: louts (5), thugs (5), savages (2), ruffians, maniacs,
hooligans, hoodlums, yobbos, brats, human wolves, lemmings,
rowdies, apes, misfits and morons. Descriptive traits included:
neurotic, sick or unstable (5), show-off or exhibitionist (4),
violent (4), cowardly (4), aimless or rudderless (4), half-baked,
immature (3), precocious (2), dirty, unwashed (2), slick, slickly
dressed (2), foolish or slow-witted (2), cynical, inarticulate. The
attributes of boredom and affluence were mentioned so often as to
warrant discussion as separate themes.
Another type of spurious attribution is guilt by association; all
teenagers going down to the resorts were attributed with the same
guilt, and hence putative deviation, as those who actually caused
damage or injury. Many opinion statements, for example, drew
attention to the role of girls in egging on their boyfriends; a letter
in the Evening Standard (21 May 1964) claimed that the major stimulus to violence came from ‘. . . the oversexed, squalid, wishful
little concubines who hang about on these occasions, secure in the
knowledge that retribution will not fall upon them’. This sort of
attribution was supported by inventory interviews of the ‘Girls
Who Follow The Wild Ones Into Battle’ type, although traits other
than enjoyment of violence were more consistently attributed to


56 folk d evils an d m o r a l pa n i c s
girls; particularly promiscuity and drug-taking. These themes
became more prominent after August 1965 when there were press
reports, based on remarks made by the commander of the Margate
police division, that parents summoned to the police station were
shocked to find ‘. . . that their daughters have been sleeping around
with youths carrying the recognised weekend kit, purple hearts
and contraceptives’ (Daily Telegraph, 31 August 1965).*
The process of spurious attribution is not, of course, random.
The audience has existing stereotypes of other folk devils to
draw upon and, as with racial stereotyping, there is a readily
available composite image which the new picture can be grafted
on to. The emergent composite draws heavily on folklore
elements such as the Teddy Boys, the James Dean–Marlon Brando
complex, West Side Story gangs and so on. As with racial stereotypes there is no necessary logical connection between the
components; they are often self-contradictory.12 Thus Jews are
intrusive, but also exclusive; Negroes are lazy and inert, but also
aggressive and pushing; Mods are dirty and scruffy, but also
slickly dressed; they are aggressive and inflated with their own
strength and importance, but they are also cowardly. An image
rationalizes a particular explanation or course of action; if an
opposite image is perceived as being more appropriate to this
end, then it is easily invoked. Such images are even mobile
enough to be held simultaneously, as in a Daily Mail headline:
‘They’re Pin Neat, Lively and Clean, But A Rat Pack’.
Affluent Youth – The £75 Cheque – Attitudes and opinions are often
bolstered up by legends and myths. The uncivilized nature of
immigrants is illustrated by the story of empty tins of cat meat
found in dustbins of Indian restaurants. Teenage sexual promiscuity is illustrated by the story of schools where girls who have
lost their virginity wear a badge.
* Not for the first time, the only two national papers to use this sort of story
were the Telegraph and the Daily Sketch.

r e a c ti o n : o pi n i o n a n d a tti t ude t h emes

Perhaps the most recurrent of the Mods and Rockers stories
was the one about the boy who said he would sign a cheque for
a £75 fine (see p. 28). Although it took some time to circulate,
this story was still being quoted as long as four years after the
‘event’. The affluence theme is one of the most powerful and
persuasive components in the Mods and Rockers image, based as
it is on the more general stereotype of teenage affluence and
serving itself as a rationalization for the widely held belief that
‘fines won’t hurt them’. Even if the mythical elements in the £75
cheque story and its variants were exposed, this attitude theme
would persist.
Although the term ‘classless’ appeared both in the inventory
and occasionally in subsequent stages, it was apparent that the
dominant image was not of a group actually drawn randomly
from all social classes. This was the ‘new, new rich’.
Divide and Rule – Generals, captains of sports teams and gang
leaders are all aware of the mechanism whereby attack on one’s
own side is deflected by exploiting grievances or jealousies
among the enemy. Similarly, the adult community, faced with an
apparent attack on its most sacred institution (property) and
the most sacred guardians of this institution (the police) reacts,
if not consciously, by overemphasizing differences among the
enemy. The thought that violence might be directed towards
oneself and, worse still, might be attributable to defects in one’s
own society, was neutralized by over-emphasizing the gang
rivalry between the Mods and Rockers. This tendency may again
be traced back to reports of the ‘warring-gangs-clash-again’ type
and is attributable less to conscious and malicious policy than to
the fact that the ‘warring gang’ image is the easiest way for the
ignorant observer to explain such a senseless and ambiguous
crowd situation:
. . . what in fact may be a confused situation involving miscellaneous youths with marginal membership and varied motives is


58 folk d evils an d m o r a l pa n i c s
too often defined by observers as a case of two highly mechanized and organized gang groups battling each other over territory. They project organization onto the gang and membership
status onto a fellow curiosity seeker.13

This effect was compounded by the later commercial exploitation of the Mods and Rockers division. The apotheosis of the
Divide and Rule theme was the suggestion that the problem
could be solved by letting the two groups fight it out in a park or
sports field.
Hot-blooded Youth or Lunatic Fringe – The themes discussed so far
have not been threatened by counter themes, but in answering
the question: ‘how representative are the Mods and Rockers of
young people in Britain as a whole?’, we find two apparently
contradictory opinions.
On the one hand, there is the recurrent ascription to the whole
adolescent age group of a number of stereotypical traits. As
Friedenberg suggests, the tendency of adults to see adolescence,
delinquency and aggressive sexuality as functionally equivalent,
creates the composite status of what he calls a ‘hot-blooded
minority’.14 Thus the entire age group and particularly the
visible representations of teenage culture are endowed with the
spurious deviation of the folk devils they have spawned. Partly
because the teenage culture is less pervasive in Britain than it is
in America, this type of identification was incomplete: distinctions are made between delinquents and the rest.
When moral panics like these reach their peak, though, such
distinctions become blurred and the public is more receptive to
general reflections on the ‘state of youth’. On the basis of the ‘It’s
Not Only This’ theme, disturbing images are conjured up: all
young people are going to the dogs, there is an adolescent
malaise, this is just the top of the iceberg. Educationalists talked
about ‘letting our teenagers down’ and invariably the ‘Boredom’
and ‘Affluence’ themes referred to the whole age group. Articles

r e a c ti o n : o pi n i o n a n d a tti t ude t h emes

were headed ‘Facing the Facts About Youth’, ‘What’s Wrong With
Young People Today’ or (as in foreign papers) ‘British Youth in
Revolt’. Numerical estimates are difficult to make but somewhere near a half of the opinion statements expressed this theme.
As usual, the popular press provided an archetypal statement:
For years now we’ve been leaning over backwards to accommodate the teenagers. Accepting meekly on the radio and television
it is THEIR music which monopolizes the air. That in our shops it
is THEIR fads which will dictate our dress styles . . . we have
watched them patiently through the wilder excesses of their ban
the bomb marches. Smiled indulgently as they’ve wrecked our
cinemas during their rock and roll films . . . But when they start
dragging elderly women around the streets . . . etc.
(Glasgow Sunday Mail, 24 May 1964)

To counteract this theme, however, the great majority of
opinion statements reflected what might be called the ‘Lunatic
Fringe’ theme. The Mods and Rockers were perceived as an
entirely unrepresentative minority of young people: most young
people are decent and conforming, and the Mods and Rockers
were giving them a bad name. The Lunatic Fringe theme occurs
in most editorials and public utterances of MPs, youth leaders
and other self-styled experts who pontificated after the events. It
pervaded the debate on the second reading of the Malicious
Damage Bill:
The Bill has been provoked by the irresponsible behaviour of a
small section of young people, and I emphasise again that it is
an extremely small section.
(Charles Morrison, MP)
. . . one cannot really judge the moral standard of our youth
by the behaviour of those eccentrics who produced the


60 folk d evils an d m o r a l pa n i c s
hooliganism at the seaside resorts which resulted in the introduction of the Bill.
(Eric Fletcher, MP)15

In the strong form of this theme, the ‘rest’ are seen as not only
conforming and decent but positively saintly. The Chancellor of
the Exchequer (Mr Maudling) thought the Mods and Rockers
untypical of ‘this serious, intelligent and excellent generation’,
and according to one paper:
There are two kinds of youth in Britain today. There are
those who are winning the admiration of the world by their
courageous and disciplined service in arduous mountain,
jungle or desert territory – in Cyprus, on the Yemen border, in
Borneo. And there are the Mods and Rockers, with their flick
knives . . . etc.
(Evening Standard, 18 June 1964)

In the 110 opinion statements from public figures, there were
40 explicit references to this theme.
At first glance, the ‘Hot-blooded Youth’ and ‘Lunatic Fringe’
themes would appear to be incompatible; one can either say that
the whole younger generation is going from bad to worse and
that the Mods and Rockers merely exemplify this trend, or that
the younger generation are as good or better than any other and
that the Mods and Rockers are the exceptions to the rule. It
should be comparatively simple then to calculate which view is
more widely held. In fact this is not so. As with stereotyping and
labelling as a whole – and as cognitive dissonance theory makes
clear – attitudinal logic is not necessarily logical. A logical explanation for the two themes appearing simultaneously – as they
often did – might run like this: ‘I know that in the pure statistical
sense, the number involved in this sort of thing must be a minute
proportion of the whole age group, yet so many things that

r e a c ti o n : o pi n i o n a n d a tti t ude t h emes

young people get up to today disturb me (“It’s Not Only This”)
and who knows what this sort of thing will lead to (“It’s Not So
Much What Happened”)? So I can’t help thinking that this is
evidence of a much deeper malaise affecting youth in general.’
In practice, of course, such an argument is hardly necessary;
the paradox is only apparent. In the same way as the first theme
is part of the more general short circuit function of labelling
and stereotyping, the Lunatic Fringe theme also has an important function: to reassure the adult community that all is well,
they can rest secure in the knowledge that not the whole generation is against them. When the theme was repeated in the courts
(as it often was, in the form of statements by police, counsel
and magistrates about how well-behaved the majority of young
people had been in contrast to the offenders) one can see its
other function in ensuring that the denounced person is made to
look fully deserving of his punishment by contrast to the ideal
counter-conception. This is one of Garfinkel’s conditions for a
successful status degradation ceremony:
The witnesses must appreciate the characteristics of the
typed person and event by referring the type to a dialectical
counterpart. Ideally, the witnesses should not be able to
contemplate the features of the denounced person without
reference to the counter-conception, as the profanity of an
occurrence or a desire or a character trait, for example, is clarified by the references it bears to its opposite, the sacred.16

Moral panics depend on the generation of diffuse normative
concerns, while the successful creation of folk devils rests on
their stereotypical portrayal as atypical actors against a background that is overtypical.*
* I am indebted to Jock Young for this notion of levels of typicality which he
uses in his analysis of the mass media imagery of drug-takers.


62 folk d evils an d m o r a l pa n i c s

A Sign Of The Times – From the ‘It’s Not Only This’ orientation, we
would expect that the behaviour was seen not as the sickness
itself but as a symptom of something much deeper. Although the
image of the actor is predominantly a free-will rather than a
deterministic one, the behaviour is seen as related to a contemporary social malaise. The predominant explanation is in social
rather than psychological terms. This seems to reflect an impatience with psychological explanations which are equated with
a ‘soft’ line; even the ‘bad’ or broken home explanation was
hardly ever used.17 Another consequence of seeing the behaviour
as an inevitable result of the way society is going, is that situational factors are played down.
The Mods and Rockers were seen, then, as ‘holding up a
mirror to the kind of society we are’ (Scotsman, 8 June 1964). The
aspects of the social malaise most commonly mentioned were:
the decline in religious beliefs, the absence of a sense of purpose,
the influence of the do-gooders’ approach and the coddling
by the welfare state. These factors are all part of a general swing;
in fact, the ‘swing of the pendulum’ was the most frequently
used metaphor: there had been a reaction to the strict discipline
of the Victorians, but when society sees what has happened (i.e.
the Mods and Rockers), the pendulum will swing back again.
Although the pendulum argument tends to be associated with
a particular ideology – reactionary or conservative – its global,
‘Sign of the Times’ orientation is shared with moral crusades from
other positions. Thus where the Daily Telegraph railed against ‘our
modern welfare society’, writers in Tribune complained of ‘a society
sick with repressed violence’ and concluded that ‘There is something rotten in the state of Britain and the recent hooliganism at
Clacton is only one manifestation of it’ (Tribune, 10 April 1964).
It’s Like A Disease – One of the most misleading and misconceived analogies in regard to explaining delinquency is the

r e a c ti o n : o pi n i o n a n d a tti t ude t h emes

attempt to compare it to a disease.18 People are somehow
‘infected’ by delinquency, which ‘spreads’ from person to person,
so one has to ‘cure’ the ‘disease’. In regard to hooliganism, with
its distinguishing feature of large public gatherings, this sort of
analogy is used even more often and can be propped up with
popular versions of mass-hysteria theory. Many observers likened
the Mods and Rockers to a spreading social disease. The Guardian
talked about an ‘ailment’ to be ‘cured’ and in Dr Simpson’s
memorable phrase, some were ‘. . . infected with this vicious
virus’. One of the most vocal proponents of this theory was
Mr W. R. Rees-Davies, the MP for the constituency which includes
It spreads like a disease. If we want to stop it, we have to be
able to get rid of those children from the school, and quickly . . .
We must immediately get rid of the bad children so that they
cannot infect the good.19 You must weed this type out . . . put
them in a special school so that the others won’t be infected . . .
it’s a contagious germ.20

Cabalism – In this theme, the behaviour which was to a large
degree unorganized, spontaneous and situational, is seen as
having been well planned in advance as part of some sort of
conspiratorial plot.
In their attempt to explain the finding from the polls after
the Kennedy assassination that the majority believed that Oswald
did not act alone, Sheatsley and Feldman call this belief ‘cabalism’.21 Leaving aside the possibility that this belief might be true
(a possibility they do not admit), their interpretation of this
tendency has interesting parallels with the Mods and Rockers
case: ‘Rather than indicating widespread paranoia and demonstrating the consequences of extremist propaganda [sic] . . . in
many cases cabalism provides the most easily understandable
and acceptable explanation.’ People who were reluctant to use


64 folk d evils an d m o r a l pa n i c s
other explanations could, by assuming conspiracy, remove
some of the capriciousness from the situation.
The same tendency towards conspiratorial mythology is
evident in reactions to phenomena such as racial disturbances,22
student demonstrations and – to cite an example closer to the
Mods and Rockers case – riots and disturbances at recreational or
sporting events:
Several reports of disturbances attributed careful pre-planning
to a small cadre of dedicated instigators, who allegedly circulated rumours before the event and selected targets on the
scene. Actual proof of ‘planning’ however, as opposed to mere
repetition of common rumours, is difficult to obtain.23

With the Mods and Rockers, the strong form of the cabalism
theme consisted of assertions that the events were masterminded,
perhaps by a super gang with headquarters in some café on the
M1. The weaker form of the theme merely asserted the role of
leaders; a tightly knit core of criminally motivated youths (to
paraphrase a cabalistic explanation of another crisis, the seamen’s
strike in 1966), who led a gullible mob into a planned battle.
The Daily Telegraph talked about ‘destructive riots which are carefully organized and planned in advance . . . the police underestimated the degree of organized malice’.
Such themes can be traced back to the inventory interviews
with self-styled gang leaders and also reports of secret meetings
by ‘top-level’ policemen and Home Office officials to consider
‘strategy for the next attack’. The ‘fight against crime’ metaphor
lends itself to the counter image of the fight against law and order.
Boredom – Boredom was the most frequently used single causal
concept in regard to the Mods and Rockers. It evoked, however,
two types of themes.
The first blames society, in particular the schools, youth clubs
and churches, for having failed to provide young people with

r e a c ti o n : o pi n i o n a n d a tti t ude t h emes

interests, opportunities, creative outlets or a sense of purpose. In
a widely publicized sermon, the Bishop of Southwell asked
young people to ‘forgive the older generation that has too often
failed to engage your energies’. Boredom is seen not only as a
plausible cause but it is related to defects in the social structure.
The application of opportunity theory to leisure goals may be
seen as a sociologically sophisticated version of this theme.24
The other boredom theme points to the increased opportunities available to the present younger generation not even dreamt
of by today’s adults, and concludes that if anything like boredom
does exist, it is a defect in the psychological make-up of young
people themselves. They suffer, as the Margate Entertainment
Manager put it, from ‘chronic restlessness’. If they have to look
for kicks outside what society has munificently provided for
them, it is because of their own greed, hedonism and ungratefulness: ‘I will not myself accept the proposition that hooliganism is an indictment of society at large. It is purely an
indictment of those who cannot think of anything better to do
in the most beautiful and varied country in the world.’25
In this view, boredom is dismissed as a ‘fashionable excuse’ or a
‘fancy theory’: ‘. . . laziness, selfishness and lust are still the important causes.’26 There is in this theme a note of hurt and bewilderment, which echoes the eternal parental reproach: ‘after all we’ve
done for you . . .’. The strong form of this theme actually asserts that
the cause of the behaviour is that ‘we’ve given them too much’.
Of the opinion statements that mentioned boredom, about
35 per cent endorsed the ‘not enough opportunities’ theme, the
rest the ‘opportunities not taken’ theme. Despite the ideological
gap between these orientations, they tend to provide a common
rationale for solutions of the ‘give them an outlet and a sense of
purpose’ variety, whether these take the form of ‘put them in the
army’ or ‘build a better youth service’. The boredom theme
also implies for some a ‘looking for kicks’ image, which gives
the behaviour a wanton and deliberate aura. This might lead to


66 folk d evils an d m o r a l pa n i c s
the rejection of positivist-type explanations even among those
predisposed to accept psychological or sociological determinism.
They concede that while delinquency in general might be
affected by broken homes, lack of opportunity and in some
senses might be problem-solving behaviour, the Mods and
Rockers were simply ungrateful hedonists, out for kicks. This
explanation is more consonant with the more persistent folklore
elements characteristic of such social types.

Clearly the societal reaction – even that portion of it reflected in
the mass media – is not homogeneous. One cannot assume that
the inventory images and the themes discussed in this chapter,
diffused outwards to be absorbed symmetrically by all of society.
Standard research on mass media influences indicates how
complicated and uneven this flow is, and basic questions need to
be asked about the representativeness of these images and themes
and whether significant differences exist in terms of age, sex,
social class, region, political affiliation and so on. The already
processed images of deviance are further coded and absorbed in
terms of a plurality of interests, positions and values.
In the absence of a full-scale public opinion type survey, these
questions cannot be satisfactorily answered. They are important
enough, however, to attempt, and using the limited data available
– mainly from the Northview sample and Brighton sample –
some of the more striking differences as well as instances where
expected differences did not materialize, will be indicated.
1. Mass Media and Public – The first, and perhaps most striking
difference is that between the mass media and the various types
of public opinion. For most dimensions of this comparison,
the mass media responses to the Mods and Rockers were more
extreme and stereotypical than any of the samples of public
opinion surveyed. This is not to say that the mass media images

r e a c ti o n : o pi n i o n a n d a tti t ude t h emes

were not absorbed and were not the dominant ones to shape the
reaction, but rather that the public coded these images in such a
way as to tone down their more extreme implications. In this
sense, the public could be said to be better informed about the
phenomenon than the media or the moral entrepreneurs whom
the media quoted.*
While the initial orientation of the media to the Mods and
Rockers was in terms of the threat and disaster theme, just less than
50 per cent of the Northview sample responded in these terms.
The others either saw the behaviour as a limited problem or else, in
the case of about 15 per cent, immediately reacted by blaming the
press for exaggerating the phenomenon. Similarly, in the Brighton
sample 55.8 per cent saw what was happening in purely negative
terms, although only half of these used threatening adjectives
(‘disgusting’,‘horrible’,‘terrible’) and the rest, terms like‘annoying’.
The remaining 46.2 per cent were indifferent or puzzled.
In regard to the prediction factor in the inventory, while the
media were sure that the Mods and Rockers would continue,
both the Northview and Brighton samples were less certain. Of
the Northview sample 42.5 per cent thought that the phenomenon would die out and that it was just a passing phase or
fashion; 15 per cent thought it would continue unless it was
dealt with severely and 22.5 per cent thought that it would
inevitably continue:
It’s part of our present day set up. (Doctor)
It won’t die out as long as there are enough yobs with money
who thrive on publicity. (Social Worker)
* Research on some other forms of deviance has pointed to a similar tendency.
One analysis of mass media reports on mental illness showed that they present
ideas further removed from the opinions of experts than the opinions held by
the ‘average man’.27


68 folk d evils an d m o r a l pa n i c s
You can expect it every weekend now – it will go on just like the
marchers. (Councillor)

The rest of the sample did not know whether the Mods and
Rockers would continue. The Brighton sample was evenly
divided: 38.4 per cent thought that the behaviour would
continue unless something was done; 33.8 per cent thought that
it was just a passing phase; and 29.8 per cent didn’t know. Some
of this uncertainty in the two samples reflects the fact that the
questions were asked at a fairly late stage in the development of
the phenomenon, when there already were objective signs of its
decrease in significance. Nevertheless, even at this stage, the
media were ritualistically using the images of prediction and
inevitable disaster.
Asked to describe what sort of young person was involved in
the Mods and Rockers events, both samples used somewhat less
clear-cut images and stereotypes than the mass media. Leaving
aside the special images (for example, from the ‘Sawdust Caesars’
speech) the spurious attribution in the mass media centred
around the stereotype of the affluent yob. The dominant picture
was of adolescents drawn from the traditional ‘delinquent
classes’, but with plenty of money to spend, riding expensive
motor-cycles and more than ever predisposed to senseless
violence. In the Brighton sample, 47.7 per cent thought that
these were ‘ordinary kids’, just out for fun, 33.9 per cent thought
they were just typical delinquents. An almost identical proportion – 32.3 per cent – of the Northview sample thought that the
Mods and Rockers were just the same as any other delinquents;
the added elements were the gang, the uniform, the motorbikes: all the components of the Hells Angel type of image. 12.8
per cent thought that only the ring leaders were the hard-core
delinquent types; the rest just tagged along for kicks. 43.6 per
cent did not think that the Mods and Rockers were of the delinquent type: either because they came from a broader cross-

r e a c ti o n : o pi n i o n a n d a tti t ude t h emes

section of the population or because they had no real criminal
intent and were just out for kicks. A further 11.3 per cent were
undecided about this. In regard to social class composition, the
mass media images were again slightly sharper: in the Brighton
sample 30 per cent thought that the Mods and Rockers were
working class and from secondary moderns, 15 per cent were
unsure and 55 per cent thought they were affluent and from all
social classes.
Another way of looking at the image is to see in what ways – if
any – the Mods and Rockers were thought to constitute an
entirely new phenomenon. A new type of deviance is usually
seen as more threatening than something which has been coped
with in the past and the media tended to stress the supposedly
new elements in the situation: more violence, more mass hysteria
and a higher level of organized gang warfare. Very few of the
Brighton sample saw these as new features; only four (6.1 per
cent) thought that there was more violence. About 30 per cent
thought that what was happening was simply the old folk devils
(spivs, Teddy Boys) under a new name, while the largest group
(56.9 per cent) thought that the new feature was the evidence of
greater affluence and mobility. Slightly more of the Northview
sample (33.1 per cent) thought that the behaviour itself was
quite new:
. . . there used to be hooliganism before, sheer devilment, just
to annoy others . . . but there was nothing vicious: this is the
new element, this pure thuggery. (Headmaster)

15.1 per cent thought that the only new elements were greater
affluence and mobility and a further 37.6 per cent thought that
there was nothing new in the behaviour: what had happened
was that the old actors had moved on to a new stage, the Teddy
Boys had come out of the Elephant and Castle and were getting
more publicity than ever:


70 folk d evils an d m o r a l pa n i c s
In Poplar now, life is probably peaceful and quiet over the Bank
Holidays. (Headmaster)
Instead of half a dozen louts in one place, you have them all
together in Clacton. (Youth Worker)
Instead of fighting it out on Clapham Common or a bomb site,
they go down to the resorts. (Youth Worker)

One frequently expressed version of this picture is the image
of a basic pool of deviants, who keep reappearing in new guises;
as one Northview youth leader put it: ‘. . . now that the
Aldermaston marches are finished, you have all these kids
running about with nothing to do.’ Such images may be just as
misleading as the stereotype of greater violence, hysteria and
organization – or even more so – but they are not as threatening.
It appeared also that the type of stigmatization used by the
press – the branding of the Mods and Rockers as new folk devils
– was not always agreed to by the public. Asked about their feelings if their own son or brother went down to one of the resorts
with a group of Mods or Rockers, most of the Brighton sample
(about 70 per cent) thought that they wouldn’t mind or that
they wouldn’t be sure how they would respond. Twelve per cent
would not let him go down in the first place, and the remaining
18 per cent would have punished him if they found out afterwards. The Northview sample – in roles such as employers,
teachers and youth leaders – were somewhat more likely to let
their knowledge about a boy’s participation in the Mods and
Rockers activities carry over into their other dealings with them.
Four (3 per cent) would not continue to employ him, eleven
(8.2 per cent) would be suspicious and watchful about his other
activities and a further 41.4 per cent would talk to him, try to
understand his behaviour and dissuade him from further involvement. Only 16.5 per cent said that they wouldn’t do anything

r e a c ti o n : o pi n i o n a n d a tti t ude t h emes

and that the boy’s personal life would not be their concern. These
responses obviously varied according to occupational groups:
headmasters stressing how the boy’s action could harm the reputation of the school and employers, such as solicitors, tending to
say that a boy who was a hooligan couldn’t be trusted.
The Northview sample was asked specifically about their
opinions on the way the press and television had covered the
Mods and Rockers phenomenon. Their responses were overwhelmingly critical, if not hostile, towards the mass media:
40.5 per cent felt that the media had exaggerated and blown the
whole thing up, and a further 41.3 per cent actually attributed
responsibility to media publicity for part of what had happened.
Only 4.5 per cent (six respondents) thought that the media
had been accurate and were just carrying out their duty to report
the facts. The remaining 13.5 per cent had no opinion about the
media coverage. Over 80 per cent, then, were explicitly critical
of the role of the media.
I have drawn attention to the public awareness of media exaggeration and distortion and the existence of some differences
between public and media opinions only to emphasize the
different ways in which images are coded and the operation of
some sort of ‘credibility gap’ in the mass communication process.
These are standard findings in the field of mass communication,
and should not be thought in any way exceptional. The differences between the public and the media were not always very
large and might have been smaller if the public samples were
more representative: in one case (Northview) the respondents
were better – and sometimes professionally – informed about
the type of phenomenon in question, and in the other case
(Brighton) the respondents were actually observing the situation
at first hand, and therefore had evidence before their eyes to
contradict some of the more gross mass media distortions. There
is little doubt that the mainstream of reaction expressed in the
mass media – putative deviance, punitiveness, the creation of


72 folk d evils an d m o r a l pa n i c s
new folk devils – entered into the public imagery and it certainly,
as I will show in the next chapter, formed the basis of control
2. Young and Old – Superficially one might expect that age differences in the reaction would be very noticeable: older people
being more punitive and less able to identify with the deviant
group. Neither sample is representative enough – particularly of
the younger age group – to fully support this expectation,
although the findings are in the predicted direction. Only 23.3
per cent of the younger age group in Northview (20–39) saw
the behaviour as a threat, compared to about 55 per cent of the
older groups. The younger age respondents were also more likely
than the others to blame the press for exaggeration and distortion. In the Brighton sample, there was a tendency for the oldest
respondents (over 60) to be more hostile and punitive than the
youngest (under 24) but, on the other hand, the middle-aged
respondents were less hostile than the youngest.
Other sources suggest that age differences are not as straightforward as might be expected and that young persons were by
no means immune from absorbing the mass media imagery or
responding punitively. The effect of the ‘Lunatic Fringe’ theme
might, in fact, have been to alienate the rest of the young
people even more from the Mods and Rockers. Respectable youth
organizations were always quick to denounce the deviants as
being totally unrepresentative of young people in Britain and to
dissociate their members from what had happened. Letters along
these lines were frequently published, and sentiments such as
the following from an article in the ‘Teen and Twenty Page’ of the
Brighton and Hove Herald (23 May 1964) were common: ‘Just what
sort of corkscrew mind finds enjoyment from such a twisted
activity as smashing up shop windows, car windows, scooters
and such? It’s almost unbelievable, isn’t it?’
A content analysis of essays on the Mods and Rockers written
by twenty-five third- and fourth-form pupils in a school in the

r e a c ti o n : o pi n i o n a n d a tti t ude t h emes

East End of London, shows not only how fully the media images
were absorbed but also how little identification with the Mods
and Rockers there was in a group which by social class, age and
geographical position should have shown some identification.
None of the writers saw themselves as potential Mods or Rockers
(despite the current stereotype which saw all youth as divided
along these lines) and the behaviour was quite alien to them:
‘they’ were seen as ‘absolutely stupid’, ‘a childish crowd’, ‘all a
load of idiots’. The behaviour was rarely excused:
Some people excuse the Mods and Rockers by saying that they
are discontented and bored. I think that this is just a ‘front’, for
an awful lot of other teenagers manage to find something else
to do than this senseless fighting.
Although some people think that inadequate recreation
facilities are an excuse for vandalism and destruction, I think
there is none except stupidity and being unconcerned with the
respect that should be given to other people’s and the public’s

About a third of the group did see boredom as a justifiable
reason, or mentioned factors such as the desire for publicity,
provocation by the police or adult condemnation of teenagers.
Of the solutions suggested for the problem, seven were ‘soft’
(more youth clubs, cut down press publicity, provide places for
young people to let off steam, adults should be more tolerant),
six were conventional (fines, repayment of damage) and twelve
were ‘hard’ (using fire hoses on the crowds, tear gas, hard labour
schemes, flogging, long prison sentences, banning the offenders
from the town). The following are two examples from the last
Instead of giving them a few months in detention centres or
fining them, I think it would be better to humiliate them in


74 folk d evils an d m o r a l pa n i c s
some way, e.g. invite the public to see them being given six of
the best across their backside with a birch twig and then let the
public pelt them with rotten fruit while they are in the stocks set
up on the beach. This might teach them a lesson . . .
I think the Mods and Rockers should not only pay for the
damage, but also fix it. If they get out of hand in these seaside
places the fire brigade should be brought in to soak them with
water. Then they shouldn’t be allowed in trains and buses. They
wouldn’t like to walk home to London in soaking clothes and I
don’t think they would do it again.

The fact that these were signed essays written as part of normal
class work might have led to the expression of views thought to
be more acceptable to the teacher, and as this was a grammar
school these were the views of working-class ‘college boys’ rather
than ‘corner boys’. They do at least cast doubt, however, on the
simplistic assumption that age differences alone will produce
different reactions to such juvenile deviance as the Mods and
Rockers. The way the societal reaction, and the mass media particularly, segregate the deviant and bipolarize folk devils from the
rest of the community, is a stronger basis for attitude formation.
During moral panics, such polarization is even more predictable.
3. Locals and Outsiders – It is not clear what differences one would
expect between the attitudes of local residents and those living
elsewhere. On the one hand, locals who were directly exposed to
the situation might be more resistant to some of the distortions
presented in the mass media. On the other hand, they would be
more affected by any negative consequences of the behaviour
(such as loss of trade, damage to the town’s image) and therefore
might respond more punitively.
Neither of these effects was observable in a particularly clearcut fashion and perhaps they balanced each other out. Local
people I spoke to did tend to be more realistic than the press, the
Northview sample and other outsiders in their perception of

r e a c ti o n : o pi n i o n a n d a tti t ude t h emes

what had actually happened. This difference, however, was not
much in evidence in the reaction of local magistrates, press and
moral entrepreneurs. The moral entrepreneurs particularly overestimated the amount of support and sympathy they would get
from local residents. On the other hand, those local residents
who did see the problem as directly affecting their lives, were
very extreme and punitive in their reactions. In the Brighton
sample, 62.5 per cent of local residents characterized what was
happening as ‘terrible’ or ‘annoying’ compared to 45.5 per cent
of outsiders who used these terms. The threat to commercial
interests was obviously a more real one to locals. To this must be
added the presence in towns such as Hastings, Eastbourne and
Margate of a large number of retired and elderly persons to
whom the behaviour was especially alien and frightening.
4. Male and Female – A general impression from various sources
is that females were more intolerant than males. In the Brighton
sample a larger proportion of the females (35.4 per cent)
expressed initial disgust than the males (11.8 per cent). They
were also more likely to want the police to use tougher measures
and all eight of the sample who were in favour of using corporal
punishment were women. The women were twice as likely than
the men to name ‘lack of parental control and discipline’ as the
cause of the Mods and Rockers phenomenon. There were no
great differences on any of the other questions and the tendency
for females to be more punitive in regard to deviance would
need to be supported from other sources.
5. Social Class – Some more general remarks will be made later
on the relevance of social class variables. The survey data alone
showed very few significant social class differences, especially in
terms of initial reaction and general orientation to the events.
There was a slight tendency for working-class respondents to
explain the behaviour in terms of ‘lack of parental control’ while
middle-class respondents were more likely to invoke the ‘looking
for kicks’ image as a causative explanation.


76 folk d evils an d m o r a l pa n i c s
6. Political Affiliation – There was a tendency in the Brighton
sample for the Conservative voters to be more likely to use the
‘disgusting’ or ‘annoying’ categories (64.3 per cent) compared
to 38.7 per cent among the Labour voters. Conservatives were
also more likely to want the police to be tougher and to favour
the use of Detention Centres.
I must repeat that any generalizations from this data about
public reactions as a whole, should be made with caution. In
concentrating on the ways in which moral panics are transmitted
through the mass media and reflected in the responses of the
social control system, I have not dealt adequately – as future
research should do – with the patterning of such reactions in the
wider society.

From the inventory through to the opinion and attitude themes,
one can trace the features by which the Mods and Rockers were
identified as deviants of a particular type and placed in their
appropriate position in the gallery of folk devils. Of course,
moral panics are not intellectual exercises whereby correct labels
are decided upon, in the same way, for example, as the doctor fits
symptoms into diagnostic categories or the botanist classifies his
specimens. The point is that the process of identifying deviance,
necessarily involves a conception of its nature. The deviant is
assigned to a role or social type, shared perspectives develop
through which he and his behaviour are visualized and explained,
motives are imputed, causal patterns are searched for and the
behaviour is grouped with other behaviour thought to be of the
same order.
This imagery is an integral part of the identification process:
the labels are not invented after the deviation. The labellers – and
the ones I have concentrated on are the mass media – have a
ready-made stock of images to draw upon. Once the initial

r e a c ti o n : o pi n i o n a n d a tti t ude t h emes

identification has taken place, the labels are further elaborated:
the drug addict, for example, may be fitted into the mythology
of the dope fiend and seen to be dirty, degenerate, lazy and
untrustworthy. The primary label, in other words, evokes
secondary images, some of which are purely descriptive, some
of which contain explicit moral judgements and some of which
contain prescriptions about how to handle the behaviour.
Thus, what Lemert calls the societal control culture ‘. . . the laws,
procedures, programs and organizations which in the name of a
collectivity help, rehabilitate, punish or otherwise manipulate
deviants’28 contains not just official institutions and personnel
but also typical modes and models of understanding and
explaining the deviance. The fact that such models are seldom
coherently articulated should not lead us to assume their absence
and to interpret images such as those surrounding the Mods
and Rockers as if they had a random relationship to each other.
These images are part of what Berger and Luckman refer to as the
‘conceptual machinery that accounts for the deviant condition’,
and as such, perform a basic function in justifying a particular
view of the world: ‘. . . the deviant’s conduct threatens the societal
reality as such, putting into question its taken-for-granted cognitive and normative . . . operating procedures.’29 The devil has to
be given a particular shape to know what virtues are being
asserted. Thus, the senseless and meaningless image which is the
dominant one attributed to vandalism, affirms the value of utilitarian, rational action. People in our society do things for certain
accredited motives; behaviour such as vandalism which appears
not to be motivated in this way, cannot be tolerated and is nihilated by describing it as senseless. The only way to make sense of
vandalism is to assume that it does not make sense; any other
definition would be threatening.
I will later analyse some of the functions of the conceptual
machinery presented to account for the Mods and Rockers and
consider the forces that shaped its content. The basic mode of


78 folk d evils an d m o r a l pa n i c s
explanation, one that is applied to most forms of deviance, was
expressed in terms of a consensual model of society. Most people
are seen to share common values, to agree on what is damaging,
threatening or deviant, and to be able to recognize these values
and their violations when they occur. At times of moral panic,
societies are more open than usual to appeals to this consensus:
‘No decent person can stand for this sort of thing.’ The deviant
is seen as having stepped across a boundary which at other times
is none too clear.
When this model is taken for granted, the apparent inconsistencies in the inventory and the opinion and attitude themes are
reconcilable. From either side of the ideological spectrum, for
example, one can subscribe to the Hot-blooded Youth and
Sign of the Times themes – or various other notions postulating
a widespread social malaise – and identify the deviant group in
Lunatic Fringe terms. After all, the deviants were like animals,
affected by some sort of disease or the gullible victims of unscrupulous ringleaders. Primitive theories of crowd behaviour (individuals losing their control because of the mob situation) could
be invited to supplement the picture of under-socialized beings,
continually searching for excitement through violence.
The model is not only flat and one-dimensional, but it is
totally lacking in any historical depth. This is a direct consequence of the standard mass media coverage of deviance and
dissent.30 Symbolization and the presentation of the ‘facts’ in the
most simplified and melodramatic manner possible leave little
room for interpretation, the presentation of competing perspectives on the same event or information which would allow the
audience to see the event in context.
The dominant societal models for explaining deviance need
careful consideration by the sociologist, not only because of
their intrinsic interest or because they afford him the opportunity to expose their more naïve and absurd bases but also because
such models form the basis of social policy and the societal

r e a c ti o n : o pi n i o n a n d a tti t ude t h emes

control culture. These conceptions, images and stereotypes affect
how and at what point the deviant is fed into the social control
apparatus. If the sexual offender is seen as sick, then one attempts
to cure rather than punish him; if the typical shoplifter is seen as
the ‘harmless little old woman’ or the ‘kleptomaniac’, then this
group will be less subject to formal legal sanctions. An integral
part of the conceptual machinery then, is the body of justifications and rationalizations for acting in a particular way towards
the deviant. The actual way the control system did operate and
was influenced by the beliefs transmitted by the mass media is
the subject of the next chapter.


This chapter is concerned with ‘reaction’ not in the sense of what
was thought about the Mods and Rockers but what was done
about them or what was thought should be done about them.
My central focus is on the organized system of social control and
the way it responded in terms of certain images of the deviant
group and, in turn, helped to create the images that maintained
these folk devils. While using the terminology from disaster
to cover this whole phase of the moral panic, I will use three
further categories to cover the responses: (i) Sensitization; (ii)
the Societal Control Culture; (iii) Exploitation.

Any item of news thrust into the individual’s consciousness has
the effect of increasing the awareness of items of a similar nature
which he might otherwise have ignored. Psychological cues are
provided to register and act upon previously neutral stimuli. This

re a c ti o n : th e r e s c ue a n d r emedy p h as es

is the phenomenon of sensitization which, in the case of deviance, entails the reinterpretation of neutral or ambiguous stimuli
as potentially or actually deviant.
Sensitization is a form of the simplest type of generalized
belief system, hysteria, which ‘. . . transforms an ambiguous situation into an absolutely potent generalized threat’.1 Ambiguity,
which gives rise to anxiety, is eliminated by structuring the situation to make it more predictable. On this basis, anxiety, say,
about an unidentified flying object, can be reduced by defining
the object as a flying saucer and then assimilating similar
phenomena into this cognitive framework. Sensitization to deviance rests on a more complicated belief system because it
involves not only redefinition but also the assignment of blame
and the direction of control measures towards a specific agent
thought to be responsible. This corresponds to Smelser’s ‘hostile
belief’. So, in such examples as the zoot suit riots, the ‘weeks
immediately preceding the riots saw an increase in suspicion and
negative symbolization and the emergence of hysterical and
hostile beliefs about the Mexicans’ responsibility for various
community troubles.2
The first sign of sensitization following initial reports was
that more notice was taken of any type of rule breaking that
looked like hooliganism and, moreover, that these actions
were invariably classified as part of the Mods and Rockers
phenomenon. In the days following the first two or three major
happenings, newspapers carried reports of similar incidents
from widely scattered localities. In the week after Margate
(Whitsun, 1964), for example, incidents were reported from
several London suburbs and Nottingham, Bromley, Windsor,
Coventry, Waltham Cross, Kingston, Blackpool and Bristol.
This build-up of reports has its exact parallel in the initial stages
of mass hysteria. In Johnson’s famous study of how a small
American town was affected by a ‘Phantom Anaesthetist’ scare,
the first signs of hysteria were calls reporting gassing symptoms


82 folk d evils an d m o r a l pa n i c s
or prowlers after an initial story (headed ‘Anaesthetic Prowler on
the Loose’) of a woman supposedly having been gassed.3 The
police found nothing, but within a few days dozens of reports
came in, elaborate precautionary measures were taken and there
was intense police and public activity to apprehend the Phantom
Anaesthetist. An identical build-up is described in a 1954 study
in Seattle, Washington following initial reports about car windshields being damaged4 and in another study in Taipei after
reports that children had been slashed by razor blades or similar
Many of the hooliganism incidents reported after the inventory were ‘real’ enough – having been partly stimulated by the
type of publicity which made many young people easily
provoked and on the look-out for trouble. The point is that
whether or not the incidents happened, public sensitization of
the sort that occurs in mass hysteria, determined the way they
were reported and, indeed, whether they were reported at all.
The following is one such incident:
On the 20th May, 1964, two days after Margate, 23 youths
appeared in West Ham Magistrates Court, charged with using
insulting behaviour. The boys had apparently swarmed over
the pavement pushing each other and shouting after they had
come out of a dance hall in Forest Gate the night before. The
police tried to disperse them after there had been a lot of horseplay. The Evening News (20/5/64) under the heading ‘23 Mod
Crowd Youths Fines’ noted that the boys wore Mod clothes
and reported the chairman of the bench saying, ‘You must all
know that this sort of thing cannot be allowed to go on.’

The first point to make about the report is that without sensitization, this sort of incident might not have been interpreted as
being part of the Mods and Rockers phenomenon; it might have
been written off by spectators and policemen alike as ‘horseplay’

re a c ti o n : th e r e s c ue a n d r emedy p h as es

or another ‘dance hall brawl’. A manifestation of public sensitization was the number of false alarms received by the police. In
Stamford Hill, for example, the police stated after answering a
false alarm, ‘People are a bit jumpy after the trouble on the coast.’
The low threshold at which the public became ‘jumpy’ enough
to call the police was paralleled by increased police vigilance,
partly in response to public pressure. In Skegness, for example,
following relatively minor incidents on a Saturday night, during
which the police arrested four youths and intervened in a dance
hall fight, reinforcements were sent for on the Sunday. According
to the local paper, it was clear that this action was taken because
of threats of ‘Clacton and Margate trouble’; the reinforcements
‘. . . enabled the police to put on the biggest show of strength that
Skegness has known. And it did the trick’ (Lincolnshire Standard, 22
May 1964). A similar event occurred at Woking, where fears of a
Mods and Rockers battle at the fair spread around the town.
Acting on these rumours and a request from the fair’s proprietor,
the police patrolled the fair and kept in radio contact with
reserves. There was no trouble at all (Woking News and Mail, 29 May
1964). Later in the month, on police advice, a big road scooter
rally in Battersea Park was called off to avoid Mods and Rockers
It is apparent from many reports, that the police and courts’
actions were consciously affected by the original incidents. This
is less clear in the West Ham magistrate’s remarks, but in a
number of other cases the reference was more explicit. In
Blackburn, for example, the Police Superintendent, prosecuting
two youths charged with using threatening behaviour (they had
been in a crowd of twenty flicking rubber bands at passers-by),
said in court:
This case is an example of the type of behaviour that has been
experienced in many parts of the country during the last few
weeks and it has been slowly affecting Blackburn. We shall not


84 folk d evils an d m o r a l pa n i c s
tolerate this behaviour. The police will do everything within
their power to stamp it out.
(Lancashire Evening Telegraph, 29 May 1964)

As might be expected, such sensitization was more obvious in
the resorts themselves, even outside the Bank Holiday period.
The week after Whitsun, 1964, the police in Brighton stopped a
coachload of young people and ordered it out of town.
Magistrates, especially in Brighton and Hastings, made it clear in
their pronouncements from the bench that they would regard
hooliganism and related offences as manifestations of the Mods
and Rockers phenomenon. As such, this type of deviance would
be reacted to in terms of the inventory images and subsequent
opinion themes.
The other significant point arising from the Forest Gate incident, is the type of headline given to the report. Invariably other
incidents received similar treatment: ‘Mods and Rockers Strike
Again’, ‘More Teenage Violence’, etc. It is inconceivable that this
type of symbolization could have been used without the inventory build-up and it is also unlikely that these reports would have
been given the prominence that they were given. Throughout
this period, the press, itself sensitized to signs of deviance, was
the main mechanism for transmitting the sensitization to others.
It did this, not only by reporting and reinterpreting hooliganism-type events but, as in the inventory period, creating
stories out of non-events. So, for example, after Whitsun, 1964,
the East Essex Gazette (Clacton) carried the headline ‘Thugs Stay
Away from N.E. Essex’ and many other similar ‘all quiet here’
stories were printed. Another type of non-story was the reporting
of an incident together with denials by local figures, such as
Chief Constables, that the incident had anything to do with the
Mods and Rockers.
These negative stories have the same cue effect towards the
deviant symbols as the positive stories. Sensitization occurs

re a c ti o n : th e r e s c ue a n d r emedy p h as es

because symbols are given a new meaning; disaster studies show
how in sudden disasters, or where the precipitating agent is
unknown, warning cues are assimilated within the normal frame
of reference – the roaring sound of a tornado is interpreted as a
train, or the sound of water in a sudden flood is interpreted as a
running faucet.6 Such cues are not missed when the population
is sensitized to them, and in fact the tendency then is to overreact. During moral panics and in situations of physical threat,
one ‘doesn’t take a chance’ or is ‘rather safe than sorry’.
In the same way as first-hand experience, word of mouth or
folklore teach a community to recognize the sign of a tornado,
so did the media create an awareness of what signs would signify
this particular threat and what actions were called for. Media
reports during this period not only used but elaborated on the
previous symbolization. Incidents in the days immediately
following a Bank Holiday, for example, were invariably reported
as ‘revenge battles’. These usually had nothing to do with the
original incidents and were merely ‘ordinary’ hooliganism events
being reinterpreted. Another type of assimilation of news into
the mainstream of the belief system was shown by a Daily Telegraph
report (18 May 1964) about the drowning of three boys from
an overturned punt at Reading. The headline read ‘Mods and
Rockers See Three Drown’. In fact, although youths identified as
Mods and Rockers were present on the river bank, they were just
as peaceful as the hundreds of other holidaymakers with them.
The owner of the punt specifically stated (in an interview in the
Daily Mail) that the boys who hired the punt were ‘not the Mod
and Rocker type’.
Right through the sequence then, each incident is taken as
confirming the general theme. Turner and Surace describe the
identical process:
Once established, the zooter theme assured its own magnification. What previously would have been reported as an


86 folk d evils an d m o r a l pa n i c s
adolescent gang attack would now be presented as a zoot-suit
attack. Weapons found on apprehended youths were now
interpreted as the building up of arms collections in preparation for zoot-suit violence.7

In summary, the effects of sensitization appear to have been:
(i) greater notice being taken of signs of hooliganism, (ii) reclassification of such events as being Mods and Rockers activities,
(iii) crystallization of the symbolization process started in the
inventory. The crucial issue is not whether the incidents were
‘real’ or not, but the process of their reinterpretation. The line
between this process and pure delusion is not easy to draw.
Although both the Phantom Anaesthetist and the Phantom
Slasher were demonstrably psychogenic phenomena, they started
off with real events, which had to be reacted to in a particular
way. ‘Mrs A.’ who started off the Mattoon incident actually had a
mild hysterical attack, but the crucial point was her dramatic
interpretation of her symptoms which aroused press interest. As
the news spread, similar symptoms were reported, more exciting
stories were written and the ‘affair snowballed’.8 Jacobs notes
the identical effect in his Taipei study: reports of slashings
were ‘. . . both a product of and helped to intensify the hypersuggestibility and hysteria so characteristic of the affair’.9
This snowballing effect is identical to deviance amplification,
and is characteristic of moral panics at their height. One does not
want to make too much of this analogy, because the Mods and
Rockers after all were not imaginary phantoms, but the parallels
in the diffusion of the belief systems are remarkably close.
For one thing, in both phenomena, the dominant vehicles for
diffusion are the mass media. Even the sequence of reporting
described in mass delusion studies had exact parallels in the
Mods and Rockers reports: for example, when the actual incidents tailed off, the papers held the excitement alive with other
types of reports (non-stories, opinion statements, descriptions

re a c ti o n : th e r e s c ue a n d r emedy p h as es

of local reaction). Features on the resorts described the feeling of
relief that it was all over, mingled with apprehension that more
might come: ‘Giving A Collective Sigh of Relief’, ‘Margate Is
Quiet, But Licking Its Battle Scars’, ‘A Town In Fear – What Can
Be Done To Stop More Fights?’ Compare these quotes with a
Mattoon paper during the equivalent phase: ‘Mattoon’s “mad
anaesthetist” apparently took a respite . . . and while many terrorstricken people were somewhat relieved, they were inclined to
hold their breath and wondered when and where he might strike
next.’10 Several attacks were reported on the night of that item.
There is a further type of sensitization worth noting: what
may be termed the ‘widening of the net’ effect. A characteristic
of hysteria is that the ‘wrong’ stimulus is chosen as the object of
attack or fear. This process may be observed during the protracted
manhunt following sensational crimes or jailbreaks: in the wave
of hysteria all sorts of innocent people or actions are labelled as
suspicious. Thus, during the much publicized 1971 manhunt for
the alleged Blackpool police killer, Sewell, numerous suspects
were ‘spotted’ and brought in for questioning by the police.* In
his pioneering study of a case of moral enterprise – the passing
of the sexual psychopath laws – Sutherland noted the fear
aroused during the manhunt for a violent sexual offender: ‘Timid
old men were pulled off streetcars and taken to police stations . . .
and every grandfather was subject to suspicion.’11
When the general cueing effect produced by sensitization is
combined with the type of free association in the ‘It’s Not Only
This’ theme, the result is that a number of other deviants are
drawn into the same sensitizing net. In the phase after the inventory, other targets became more visible and, hence, candidates for
social control. These targets are not, of course, chosen randomly
but from groups already structurally vulnerable to social control.
* This process is, of course, facilitated by the invariable publication of Identikit
compositions, out-of-date photos and artists’ impressions.


88 folk d evils an d m o r a l pa n i c s
One such target was the practice of sleeping rough on the
beaches which is usually tacitly condoned in seaside resorts.
During the summer holidays after the hooliganism publicity,
however, towns like Brighton and Margate began to take a stricter
line towards this activity. In Brighton, in August 1965, the police
rounded up 15-year-old girls sleeping on the beach and took
them to the police station. No charges were made, but parents
were contacted to come and fetch their daughters. This was
‘. . . part of the town’s new policy to make parents responsible for
their daughters’ safety’ (Evening Standard, 30 August 1965). The
Daily Mirror (31 August 1965) referred approvingly to the ‘morals
patrols’. Other groups caught in the net were more puzzling; for
example, all teenage weekend campers were banned from a
camping ground outside Brighton. This type of teenager perhaps
shares nothing more with the Mods and Rockers than the status
of being adolescent.
The most important targets affected by sensitization, though,
were the beatniks. Immediately after Clacton, there were rumours
in Hastings about a plan to spray the caves near the town with a
strong-smelling chemical to make them uninhabitable by beatniks. In November 1965 the Bournemouth Private Hotel and
Guest Houses Association campaigned to ban beatniks from the
town, and a similar resolution was passed by the Great Yarmouth
Hotel and Guest House Association. This resolution made it clear
that no differentiation was to be made between the Mods and
Rockers and the beatniks, they all had the same symbols:
‘. . . these people . . . are easily identified by their unkempt locks,
their bedrolls, their scooters and motor-cycles, etc.’
To talk about this widening of the net does not imply that,
before the Mods and Rockers, these resorts welcomed beatniks
with open arms. In many cases, though, there did exist an uneasy
tolerance, particularly by the police who are well aware of the
distinction between the beatnik and the potential ‘hooligan’. This
was traditionally the situation in Brighton, where only a few

re a c ti o n : th e r e s c ue a n d r emedy p h as es

weeks before Clacton, the Chief Constable was quoted as saying
about the beatniks, ‘They are no nuisance at all.’12 Clacton and
subsequent events decreased the local tolerance quotient and
opened the door to the moral entrepreneurs. The Brighton and Hove
Gazette (5 May 1964) warned about the danger of letting the
beatniks sleep on the beach and cause damage during the
summer. It quoted protests from traders and advocated having
powerful floodlights turned on the beaches. At various times
during 1964, local councillors suggested hosing the beatniks off
the beach or waking them up with searchlights on their faces at
5 a.m. A local MP called for a total ban on beach sleeping.
On the whole, the police resisted such pressures, holding the
view that the beatniks were neither harming anyone nor breaking
any particularly important rules. One result of sensitization
though, was, in some instances, to narrow the gap between the
moral crusaders and the rule enforcers. And in areas far away
from the scenes of the Mods and Rockers events – for example,
in Devon and Cornwall – the phenomenon was used to justify
new control measures against beatniks, beach sleepers and

Sensitization is merely one mechanism involved in the amplification of deviance. Although the official agents of social control
were just as susceptible as the public to this mechanism and, in
fact, by their own actions also magnified the deviance, we have
to consider their role in the reaction stage quite separately. Theirs
is not the pristine, relatively unorganized response to onthe-spot deviance but an organized reaction in terms of institutionalized norms and procedures. The social control agents
correspond to the organizations responsible in the rescue and
remedy phases for dealing with the consequences of disaster; the
police, medical services, welfare organizations, etc. The sum total


90 folk d evils an d m o r a l pa n i c s
of the organized reaction to deviance constitutes Lemert’s ‘societal control culture’ (‘. . . the laws, procedures, programs and
organizations which in the name of a collectivity help, rehabilitate, punish or otherwise manipulate deviants’).13
The aim of this section is to describe some common elements
of the control culture that developed around the Mods and
Rockers. In response to what pressures did it operate? How was
it affected by previous stages in the sequence? How did the
established agents of control adapt to the deviance and what
new forms of control were developed? These questions will be
answered by distinguishing firstly three common elements in
the control culture: diffusion, escalation and innovation. Then
the reaction of three main types of social control will be described
in detail: (i) the police; (ii) the courts; and (iii) informal action
at the local level, particularly in the form of ‘action groups’
directed at forming an exclusive control culture.
1. Common Elements
(i) Diffusion – The first most visible feature of the control culture
was its gradual diffusion from the area where the deviant behaviour made its immediate impact. This feature is analogous to the
way in which the social system copes with disaster in the rescue
and remedy phases: the emergency rescue system on the spot is
eventually supplemented or replaced by agents from the suprasystem (e.g. national or even international organizations).
Similarly, in cases of mass hysteria the scare is felt far beyond its
immediate victims. The involvement of control agencies such as
the police might move from local to regional to national levels,
a ‘state of emergency’ might be declared or a public inquiry
In response to the Mods and Rockers, involvement diffused
(not, of course, in a straight line), from the local police force, to
collaboration with neighbouring forces, to regional collabora-

re a c ti o n : th e r e s c ue a n d r emedy p h as es

tion, to co-ordinating activity at Scotland Yard and the Home
Office and to the involvement of Parliament and the legislature.
In this process, a number of other agents were drawn into the
control system; for example, RAF planes were used for airlifts of
police and AA and RAC patrols helped by warning the police of
any build-up of motorbike or scooter traffic on roads leading to
the resorts. Transport police on railway lines leading to the resorts
were alerted and at later stages directly involved in control operations by turning back ‘potential troublemakers’ before they
reached their destinations.
(ii) Escalation – It was not only the number of control agents
that was extended, but the whole scope and intensity of the
control culture. A crucial determinant of this escalation process
is the generalized belief system that emerges from the inventory.
It is this belief system which serves to legitimate the action
of control agents and which is eventually assimilated into the
existent mythology of the control culture. The exaggeration
and negative symbolization provided the immediate legitimation: if one is dealing with a group which is vicious, destructive,
causing the community a financial loss and repudiating its
cherished values, then one is justified in responding punitively.
To quote again from the zoot suit riots study: the new
symbols provided the sanction to regard Mexicans as no longer
associated with a favourable theme, but ‘. . . evoked only the
picture of persons outside the normative order, devoid of morals
themselves and consequently not entitled to fair play and due
If one conceives of the situation as catastrophic and moreover
thinks it will happen again, get worse and probably spread
(Disaster – Prophecy of Doom – It’s Not So Much What Happened
– It’s Like A Disease), then one is justified in taking elaborate
and excessive precautionary measures. This sort of relationship
between belief systems and social control is illustrated nicely in
social policies towards drug addiction:


92 folk d evils an d m o r a l pa n i c s
If the addiction problem can be inflated to the proportion of a
national menace, then, in terms of the doctrine of clear and
present danger, one is justified in calling for ever-harsher
punishments, the invocation of more restrictive measures and
more restrictions on the rights of individuals.15

It was in terms of the ‘doctrine of clear and present danger’
that the control agents operated and it was the logic of their own
definition of the situation which forced them to escalate the
measures they took and proposed to take to deal with the
problem. This orientation is reflected in the opinion statements
where the phrases that most frequently appear are ‘tighten up’,
‘take strong measures’, ‘don’t let it get out of hand’, etc. The
dominant themes were retribution and deterrence, together
with the protection of society which was given a special legitimation by invoking the image of those who had to be protected:
innocent holidaymakers, old people, mums and dads, little
children building sand castles and honest tradesmen.
(iii) Innovation – The final common feature of the control
culture was that it was not only extended in degree but also in
kind, by the actual or suggested introduction of new methods
of control. This reaction corresponds to ‘innovation’ in Cohen’s
adaptation of Merton’s typology to conceptualize responses to
deviance.16 To Cohen, innovation as a response mechanism
denotes the disregard of institutionalized limits on the choice of
means, e.g. McCarthyism or use of third degree. I would include
this aspect, but also the type of innovation that is open to control
agents and not to deviants – to change or propose to change the
institutionalized limits themselves through legislative means.
The reaction of the control culture was innovatory in the sense
that the range of control measures was found wanting: both in
the way it was implemented and its content. Any changes or
proposed changes were again legitimated by invoking the belief
system. If, for example, one is dealing with an affluent horde of

re a c ti o n : th e r e s c ue a n d r emedy p h as es

scooter riders, then ‘fines won’t touch them’ and one has to
propose innovatory measures such as confiscation of scooters or
forced labour camps. The same beliefs which justify escalation,
may also justify the innovation (in Cohen’s sense) which is
involved in the suspension of certain principles governing individual liberty, justice and fair play. Those police and court
practices – discussed later – which involved such suspension
or were merely novel, were at first regarded with suspicion, or
dismissed as being over-reactions. They eventually became
accepted and routinized: various Council vans converted into
police squad cars became no longer a novelty in Brighton.
The Margate opinion statements were analysed to determine
the extent to which the mass media reflected the innovatory
response. The results are presented in Table 2. Although the nonspecific solutions are more difficult to classify, a fairly large
proportion of them are innovatory in the sense that they call for
a tightening up of existing measures rather than just an efficient
implementation of them. As for the specific measures, nearly all
were innovatory to some extent, but more particularly the largest
single category: the demand to give more powers to the police.
The true innovators either listed several solutions in different
permutations or else spelt out their plans in intricate detail.
They tended to be innovators in Cohen’s sense. The following
are four such solutions, representative of the various degrees of
sophistication in this reaction:17
1. Ban the wearing of Mod clothes, issue a ‘get your hair cut’
order (a law to be passed to keep men’s hair reasonably short),
let it be known that mob violence will be dealt with more
strongly – especially by the use of hose pipes, birching and hard
work on the land.
2. Use fire hoses, repayment of damage and probation
orders with special conditions forbidding ‘yobs’ to ride motor
vehicles or travel more than six miles from home, forbid ‘each


94 folk d evils an d m o r a l pa n i c s
Table 2 Opinion Statements on Solutions to the Mods and Rockers
Number of statements discussing solutions
Number not proposing specific solutions
Number proposing specific solutions
Non-Specific Solutions:
% ‘Hard’ (stiff sentences, clamp down hard, more
discipline, tighten up, etc.)
% ‘Soft’ (strengthen home life, build up citizenship,
creative outlets, etc.)
Specific Solutions (Single most important solution
proposed in each statement):
More powers to police (road blocks, tear gas, dogs,
commando equipment, fire hoses, etc.)
Corporal punishment
Longer prison or detention centre sentences
Heavy fines or compensation
National Service
Non-military National Service (building roads, digging
the Channel tunnel, etc.)
Disqualify from driving or confiscate bikes
Cut out all publicity
Attendance centre type schemes (especially work in
public, like mending deckchairs)




convicted yob’ to associate with others convicted, forbid them to
drink, to leave home on the next Bank Holiday or to stay out
after 9 p.m.
3. Further power to be given to the police by using road blocks
to intercept troublemakers; an extension of the Vagrancy Act to

re a c ti o n : th e r e s c ue a n d r emedy p h as es

deal with beach sleepers; the greater use of remand in custody as
a punishment (‘Seven days inside and the hated compulsory
bath, can have a salutory effect on the young hooligans with no
previous convictions’); police dogs; detention centres; attendance centres; the publishing of names and addresses of juveniles
found guilty of the Margate type of offence.
4. Because of the ambiguities involved in defining ‘unlawful
assembly intended to provoke a breach of the peace’, the
common law should be changed to prevent hooliganism. Power
should be given to the police, whenever they find it necessary, ‘to
stop a gang travelling on road vehicles on the basis that it constitutes unlawful assembly, to confiscate the vehicles without
compensation, leaving the members of the gang the burden of
proving that they were an innocuous cycling club’.
Tables 3 and 4 show the extent to which innovatory responses
occurred in groups drawn from the public – the Brighton and
Northview samples respectively.

Table 3 Brighton Sample: Single Most Favoured Solution to the
Mods and Rockers Problem

Number Percentage

On-the-spot measures such as fire hoses;
‘instant justice’; more powers to the police
Detention centres
Fines, compensation
Army, National Service
Corporal punishment
Others, don’t know



96 folk d evils an d m o r a l pa n i c s
Table 4 Northview Sample: Judgements on Appropriate Punishments for the Mods and Rockers

Average Weight*

Rank Order

Full repayment
Work scheme
Heavy fines
Detention centre
Confiscate licences
Confiscate vehicles
Punish parents
Corporal punishment




Very much in favour
In favour
Strongly against


Support for innovatory proposals was particularly clear in the
Northview sample. The principle of restitution was the dominant
one; not simply through financial reparation but by supporting the
‘work scheme’ idea: this involved visible restitution (repairing
broken windows or sweeping the streets) organized along paramilitary lines. Other work that was suggested included cleaning
hospitals, observing in casualty wards and taking spastic children
on holidays. One respondent (a headmaster) suggested that the
offenders should be taken on naval exercises to see how tough they
are . . . ‘if they have the courage, it will make them into men’. The
confiscation of bikes or licences was also a consciously applied

re a c ti o n : th e r e s c ue a n d r emedy p h as es

innovatory principle, and one magistrate went further in suggesting
that the offenders should be given hammers to smash up their own
bikes: ‘a childish action should be met with a similar punishment’.
2. The Control Agents
(i) The Police – As society’s officially designated agents of civil
power, the police play a crucial role in the labelling process, both
in the immediate reaction to deviance, as well as the ongoing reaction in later stages of the sequence. Their immediate definitions of
the situation will be described when analysing the impact phase.
At this stage, police action may be conceived as part of the
control and sensitization processes. The police had to react to any
perceived threat to law and order in terms of their perception of
their allocated social role. Sensitization may have operated indirectly in that the police were spurred to action not so much out
of conviction but to satisfy the public that they were doing their
job properly. This normal effect was heightened by the peculiar
pressures to protect the town’s image that are exerted on holiday
resort police forces by civic and commercial interests. This factor
is particularly operative in the holiday season. To these pressures
must be added the on-the-spot factors such as strain caused by
undermanning, lack of sleep and inadequate specialized training
in crowd control. These situational pressures and difficulties,
together with an assimilation of the inventory images, created
the type of cultural and structural pre-conditions which must be
spelt out before studying the initial social reaction.
The elements of diffusion, escalation and innovation can all be
distinguished in the police reaction. In the first place, the preparations for each Bank Holiday weekend became increasingly
complex and sophisticated. At the initial incident in Clacton, the
police were almost totally unprepared but in the course of the
amplification process, an organization and set of practices were
built up specifically geared to Bank Holiday hooliganism. Police


98 folk d evils an d m o r a l pa n i c s
action in this respect was often highly ritualistic. Even when it
was clear that the behaviour was dying out, the operations were
mounted on the same scale.
The simplest response of the police to their definition of the
situation and the pressures placed on them, was to implement
the ‘show of force’ principle and to increase the sheer number of
officers on duty. It became standard practice to cancel police
leave for the Bank Holiday weekend. In Brighton, Whitsun 1964,
the total amount paid out in police overtime was £2,000 – four
times the cost of the Clacton damage before the holiday began.
At the next weekend, August 1964, bringing reinforcements by
air from the Metropolitan area and feeding them cost Hastings
£3,000. Table 5 shows the overtime cost to Brighton over the
next four Bank Holidays.
Not only was leave cancelled for the local force, but reinforcements were used from neighbouring forces and the network of
co-operation was extended to Scotland Yard. In August 1964, by
Table 5 Police Overtime Costs, Brighton, Easter 1965–Easter 1966
Bank Holiday

Cost of Police Overtime

Easter 1965
Whitsun 1965
August 1965
Easter 1966


Minus £1,000 normally
spent on overtime each
Bank Holiday
Extra cost


(Information supplied by the Chairman of the Watch Committee at meeting of
Brighton Council, 28 April 1966.)

re a c ti o n : th e r e s c ue a n d r emedy p h as es

calling on the Metropolitan Police ‘Sky Squad’ and neighbouring
forces, the Chief Constable of Hastings trebled the existing police
strength on the spot. Before Whitsun 1965, plans were made at
the Home Office to use the RAF to fly reinforcements. Increase
in numbers was accompanied by an increase in the range of
equipment used. At a fairly early stage wider use was made of
truncheons by some forces and others introduced police dogs
and police horses. Brighton pioneered the conversion of vehicles
borrowed from civil defence, water, public health and education
departments, into police vans with two-way radios. Other forces,
such as Clacton, favoured walkie-talkie communication.
Although each local force had their own specific variations,
most used similar control tactics, at first on an ad hoc basis and
later as considered policy. These tactics included:
(i) Keeping ‘suspicious’-looking youths, who might cause
trouble, pinned into one spot, usually on the beach.
(ii) Keeping crowds on the pavements moving along in order
to avoid any obstruction.
(iii) Keeping certain previously designated ‘trouble spots’ free
of likely looking Mods or Rockers.
(iv) Immediate arrest of actual troublemakers.
(v) Harassment of potential troublemakers, e.g. by stopping
scooter riders to produce their licences or confiscating
studded belts as dangerous weapons.
(vi) Separating the Mods and Rockers, preferably by breaking
them up into small groups.
(vii) Rounding up certain groups and giving them ‘free lifts’ to
the roads leading out of town or to the railway station.
Given the highly charged emotional atmosphere at the time
and police antagonism towards the Mods and Rockers, these policies or their variants produced responses that could be classified
as innovatory. Forced by their own definitions, the police adopted


100 folk d evils an d m o r a l pa n i c s
practices involving a suspension of principles such as neutral
enforcement of justice and the respect for individual liberty.
Such abuses of power included the unnecessary involvement of
the public in the crowd control tactics. Holidaymakers, adults
and youths alike, found themselves caught up in the overzealous
application of these tactics – stopped if they were walking too
fast, moved along if they were walking too slow, planted on to the
beach when they wanted to go elsewhere, their protests not only
ignored but putting them under threat of arrest.
Most harassment was reserved for the young people who
could be identified through the process of symbolization.
Clothing styles, hair-styles and scooters were made grounds for
regarding someone as a legitimate target for social control and in
a crowd situation such symbols tended to blur. The practice of
keeping certain previously designated trouble spots clear was
certainly innovatory. A group congregating in such a spot, even
if this was a bus shelter and they were sheltering from the rain,
would risk arrest if they refused to move. The position is not
analogous to, say, a certain spot being temporarily designated as
a no-parking area; the assumption here is that the motorist
would have somewhere else to park. The Brighton police apparently assumed that the only alternative would be to ‘get out of
town’. In certain cases, purely on the basis of symbolization,
young people were in fact forced out of town – either by being
given ‘free lifts’, or by being turned away from the station.
Harassment was usually more subtle than straightforward
expulsion. This particularly took the form of stopping scooters to
examine the driver’s licence or the machine’s roadworthiness.
Such practices can be interpreted as either the ascription of
secondary status traits (anyone who drives around dressed like
that must be driving illegally) and hence providing an excuse to
pin a charge, or simply to make things so unpleasant and inconvenient for the scooter-boys that they would move away.

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In Brighton, Easter 1966, some teams of uniformed police
officers kept up continuous patrols, stopping groups of teenagers, lining them up and searching them for drugs or weapons.
Working on the widening-of-the-net principle, those sleeping
in cars, under deckchairs and boats were woken, searched and
ordered to move on. Some were taken to the police station and
made to strip. The drug scare at that time provided an easy
rationalization for this; the Daily Sketch (12 April 1966) quoted a
‘police spokesman’ as saying: ‘It is impossible to search them
thoroughly without taking them to the police station and making
them strip.’ In fact, only one drug charge was made.
Between 5.30 and 6.00 a.m. on Whit Monday, 1966, the
Brighton police were observed using a particularly innovatory
technique – they would place ‘No Waiting’ signs in front of cars
at that time legally parked, wake the occupants up and point to
the sign outside the car and tell them to move off. A prominent
citizen of Brighton with whom I was observing this practice,
humorously referred to it as ‘knocking up cars’. When asked
what the police did if the youths in the car objected, he replied,
‘Well, we can always knock them off for obstruction.’
Much publicity was given to a special technique perfected by
the Southend police. It was even quoted by a Chief Judge of the
United States Court of Appeal in addressing the Chicago Crime
Commission on the need for the police to get broader powers of
search and seizure:
You may have heard how the constables of Southend, England,
deal with the teenage hooligans known as ‘Mods’ and ‘Rockers’
when they visit that seaside resort. Chief Constable McConnach
says: ‘Anything which reduces their egos is a good thing. I do
not encourage any policeman to arrest them. The thing to do is
to deal with them on the spot – we take away their belts. We
have a wonderful collection of leather belts. They complain that


102 folk d evils an d m o r a l pa n i c s
they cannot keep their trousers up, but that is their problem

It is clear that besides the innovatory component, these sorts
of techniques also involve the control agents in ‘the dramatization of evil’.19 Deviants must not only be labelled but also be
seen to be labelled; they must be involved in some sort of ceremony of public degradation. The public and visible nature of this
event is essential if the deviant’s transition to folk devil status is
to be successfully managed. This staging requirement fits in well
with the common police belief that a good way to deal with
adolescents, particularly in crowd situations, is to ‘show them
up’ or ‘deflate their egos’. Formal as well as folk punishments
involving public ridicule have been a feature of most systems of
social control.
At the initial incident at Clacton, the police provided a
striking example of this public dramatization. Following an
incident in which twenty to thirty youths were refused service
at a cafeteria, the police frogmarched two youths to the police
station, with about one hundred others following behind,
jeering and shouting. At 7.30 on the last evening of the
Whitsun 1964 weekend, the Brighton police rounded up all
the Mods and Rockers in the vicinity of the beach and marched
them in a cordon through the streets to the station. This ‘sullen
army’ (Evening Argus, 19 May 1964) was watched along the
route by a crowd of onlookers. They were then escorted on to
the train. Care was taken that no one would turn back from

* In 1970 Southend police were still using the same technique, this time to cope
with skin-heads. The bootlaces, belts and braces of ‘likely looking troublemakers’
were confiscated and local shopkeepers were ‘requested’ not to sell replacements
to young people. Leaving aside its dubious legal status, there is no evidence that
this tactic has the slightest deterrent effect. It says much for the persistence of the
Southend police that it continues to be used and widely supported.

re a c ti o n : th e r e s c ue a n d r emedy p h as es

the first station out of Brighton: any young person with
long hair or jeans had to convince the police that he lived in
Brighton or Hove before being allowed out of the station.
Successful symbolization provided the basis for these – and
other – innovatory and dramatizing measures and ensured their
Such extensions or abuses of police power might be regarded
by some as marginal and legitimate. Others were more serious,
including allegations of wrongful arrest. In the Barker–Little
sample, twenty out of the thirty-four codable answers to the
question ‘Why did the police arrest you?’ involved charges of
arbitrary arrest. These boys claimed that they had either been
doing nothing or moving away from trouble when arrested.
Even allowing for what is thought of as the typical delinquent
response of self-righteousness, this is a fairly high proportion.
The following case is typical:
The boy claimed that he had been playing ‘childish games’
on the beach with other Mods and came off the beach with
a piece of wood which he had been kicking about on the
sand. He tossed it on a pile of rubbish by the steps. ‘A policeman
said: “Pick that up laddie” and like a fool I did. He arrested
me and I was charged with carrying an offensive weapon.’
The boy saw that, faced with an apparent riot, the police
needed to arrest somebody to deter others. He pleaded guilty
in court because he thought it would be best to get it over with
and was fined £75 for this and threatening behaviour (his first

I personally observed three similar incidents and, in addition,
friends and relatives of other boys were contacted who had
stories of wrongful arrest. One such story concerned a boy who
had volunteered to go along with the police as a witness after
two friends had been arrested for throwing stones. On arrival at


104 folk d evils an d m o r a l pa n i c s
the police station, despite protests, he was arrested and charged
as well. Somewhat more substantial evidence is contained in a
report prepared for the National Council of Civil Liberties on the
incidents at Brighton, Easter 1965. This was the highwater mark
of police over-reaction. Over 110 arrests were made, the vast
majority of them for offences directly or indirectly provoked by
the police activity, i.e. obstruction or using threatening behaviour. There were very few cases involving damage, personal
violence or drugs. There was only one offensive weapon charge:
a boy carrying a steel-toothed comb.*
Nine separate allegations of wrongful arrest were made in
letters to the NCCL.† These came from independent sources and
there is no apparent collusion. It was difficult to follow up all
these cases, but at least three resulted in successful appeal. (In at
least another fifteen cases, not known to the NCCL, there were
successful appeals for wrongful arrest or disproportionately high
sentences.) All these letters made the same general complaint:
that the police had decided in advance to take strong measures or
to arrest a certain quota and had thus made arbitrary arrests
before any offence was committed or provoked offences to be
committed. The following are extracts from two such letters:
. . . a friend came up and greeted us perhaps a little louder than
he should have, and was pulled aside by a police sergeant and
reprimanded for doing so. While waiting for him, my friends
* I was informed from unofficial sources that the police had been reprimanded
after the weekend for being too enthusiastic. This might have been in response
to a report in The Times critical of the police, the high number of appeals involving allegations of wrongful arrest and the publicity generated by the NCCL. In
any event there appeared to be a change in policy by Whitsun, when, although
there were just as many police present, they were considerably less active.
†The original copies of these letters and other documents were studied. Initials
only are used, and other identifying information altered in all quotations from
these sources.

re a c ti o n : th e r e s c ue a n d r emedy p h as es

and I were told to ‘move on’ by a police officer who, as he said
this, pushed my friend Dave. He replied to this statement that
he was waiting for our friend who was still talking to the police
sergeant. The policeman then said the same thing again, still
pushing Dave. ‘Move on.’ My friend Dave replied that he was
moving on, which of course he was. The policeman told my
friend not to give him any lip, my friend then asked what he had
said to be lippy, the policeman then shoved my friend against
a beacon by a zebra crossing saying that he had told him to
move on and he was to get across there; my friend was just
about to go across the crossing when a car pulled out in front
of him, stopping him from crossing; the car was only there for
a few seconds and within that time the policeman said to Dave,
‘I told you to move, you’re under arrest . . .’ A police van pulled
up and my friend was literally thrown into the van.
(Letter from C.F.)
I was overtaken by a group of Rockers (25 or 30) who were
walking along the pavement chanting ‘Digadig – Dig’ and
generally behaving in a manner which I understand would be
likely to frighten some people. I was not part of this group. I
was not chanting, shouting or in any way behaving in a manner
which did or could have frightened anyone or led to any breach
of the peace . . . my friend and I were merely walking to catch
the train. Just as the Rockers had passed us a police van drew
alongside the kerb and police jumped out of the van. I distinctly
heard one policeman say: ‘He will do.’ I was grabbed, punched
in the mouth and bundled into a police van. I offered no resistance nor did I give any abuse – I was much too surprised at the
unexpected turn of events to say or do anything.
(Statement from T.M.)

T.M. and his friend, P.W., arrested at the same time, were found
guilty after being remanded in custody for ten days. Later both


106 folk d evils an d m o r a l pa n i c s
had their appeals allowed at Brighton Quarter Sessions, one of
them being awarded costs.
These reports also indicate another aspect of police activity –
corresponding more closely to Cohen’s ‘innovation’ – the unnecessary use of force. The police often used violence in handling
crowd situations, e.g. by pushing and tripping young people
from behind as they moved them. Force was particularly used in
making arrests even when the offender had not struggled or
resisted. A freelance photographer (J.G.) trying to photograph
such an incident had his camera smashed and after complaining
and refusing to move away, was arrested. The court was told that
he was ‘leading a mob of screaming teenagers across the beach’
and he was charged with obstructing a constable whom he
claims not to have seen till after his arrest.
Such specific claims are difficult to substantiate; observation
in Brighton over that weekend, though, bears out the fact that
such violence was not uncommon:
Outside the aquarium, about a dozen Mods were brought up
from the beach following an incident. The police formed a
rough chain across the pavement leading to the van. As each
boy was shoved into the van he got a cuff on the head from at
least three policemen in the line. I also saw a sergeant kicking
two boys as they were hurled into the van.
(Notes, Brighton, Easter Monday, 1965, 11.30 a.m.)

A number of further allegations were made, either in the
NCCL letters or to myself, involving abuses which could not be
substantiated by observation as they did not occur in public. I
can only say that these allegations of police misconduct after
arrest were internally consistent. A repeated complaint was of the
use of force in the police van – three boys writing to the NCCL
claimed that they had been punched, kicked or held face downwards on the floor during the ride to the station. Every letter

re a c ti o n : th e r e s c ue a n d r emedy p h as es

complained about the conditions in custody in the Brighton
Police Station. Most were placed in overcrowded communal
cells, together with the usual weekend drunks, from time of
arrest up to anything like three days.*
They were refused water or washing facilities and in one
case (T.M.) given only two bread and tea meals in the twentyseven hours between his arrest and his removal to Lewes
Prison to be remanded in custody. Another boy claimed to have
been given only bread and marge for forty-eight hours. All
the boys, including one with a kidney complaint, whose father’s
representations about this were ignored by the Chief Constable
and Magistrates Clerk, had to sleep on the concrete floor. Six
separate allegations were made that the police had beaten up
some of the boys in the cells. The nephew, wife and mother of
a 22-year-old man arrested for letting down the tyres of a
police van claimed to have witnessed police brutality in the
station when they visited him. Another complaint, made in
three letters and repeated by some of the boys in the Barker–
Little sample, was that the police coerced boys into pleading
guilty: ‘A policeman came three times to the bars . . . and
made the statement that those who pleaded guilty would be
dealt with sooner and more leniently, while those who pleaded
not guilty would be held at least a week in remand’ (letter
from J.G.).
It should be stressed that such allegations represented very
much a minority view. One of the most unambiguous of public
attitudes – and one that was fed back to reinforce the actions
of the police – was of support and admiration for the police.
The foundation for this attitude was laid in inventory reports
about ‘How the Police Won the Battle of Brighton’. These reports
* The Brighton police denied a NCCL charge that sixty youths had shared
a cell. Because of lack of space ‘they were put in the cell corridor’ (Guardian,
28 April 1965).


108 folk d evils an d m o r a l pa n i c s
polarized the images of the good, brave policemen with the evil,
cowardly mob. The Daily Mirror (19 May 1964), for example,
reported on how two hundred Mods advancing on the Margate
Town Hall were routed by one brave policeman. In fact, the
Mods were milling around, rather than advancing and there
were at least four policemen. But the counter-conceptions had to
be stressed between ‘The Hoodlums and the Real Heroes’; the
police, self-controlled and patient, had to meet a provocative
jeering mob, hundreds of whom were ‘. . . turned away by a
handful of men in blue’.*
These images were definitely absorbed by the public. Of the
total number of post-Margate opinion statements, less than 1 per
cent were critical of the police (mentioning, for example, their
provocative tactics or their hyper-sensitivity to leather jackets or
long hair). The rest only had praise for the police, or went further
to make the familiar charge that the policeman’s hands were tied
and that he should be given more powers. In the Brighton
sample, 43 (i.e. 66.2 per cent) agreed with the methods used by
the police, a further 13 (20 per cent) thought that the police
should have been tougher and only 9 (13.8 per cent) criticized
the police for being unfair or provocative.
Additional signs of public support for the police could be
seen in the courts, where prolonged applause from the public
benches followed statements by the Chairman complimenting
the police. The same reaction occurred during parliamentary
debates. Letters to local papers in the resorts were mainly in
praise of the police, ‘this gallant bulwark of society’ (Brighton and
* This sort of imagery is identical to that used in covering crowd clashes between political demonstrators and the police: ‘Police Win Battle of Grosvenor
Square’, ‘The Day the Police Were Wonderful’, ‘Fringe Fanatics Foiled at Big
Demonstration: What the Bullies Faced’, etc. For a detailed analysis of the media portrayal of the police in one such case, the 1968 Vietnam demonstrations
in London, see Halloran et al.20

re a c ti o n : th e r e s c ue a n d r emedy p h as es

Hove Herald, 23 March 1964). The Hastings and St Leonards Observer
(8 August 1964) published fifteen letters about the Mods and
Rockers: thirteen expressed gratitude to the police, one did not
mention them and one writer complained about his son and
daughter being unjustifiably harassed by the police. This last
letter resulted in ten letters in the next issue denouncing the
writer’s attitude and accusing him of being emotional, unbalanced and waging a private vendetta against the police. These
letters again expressed gratitude to the policeman ‘. . . and his
allies [sic] the magistrates’. One writer said: ‘If I had a thousand
pounds, I would give it to the police. What would we do without
them?’, and another called for money to be sent to the Police
Convalescent Home ‘. . . as tangible appreciation for the police
winning the Battle of Hastings, 1964’. Such calls did not go
unheeded: besides the hundreds of letters sent to them directly,
the Brighton police received over £100 for the Police Benevolent
Fund and, according to a local journalist, were embarrassed by
the sheer volume of congratulations that poured in.
(ii) The Courts – Whereas police decisions and procedures leave
unknown the number of deviants not labelled and processed,
court decisions and procedures enable the next stage of the
system to be more precisely observed. One can record in quantifiable terms the proportions who are processed and sent on to
the next stage and one can also ‘measure’ this decision in terms
of the severity of the sentence.
The high points in escalation were the sentences given at
Whitsun, 1965 (Brighton). In keeping with the control agent’s
dilemma, any quiet weekend after these sentences was claimed
as proof of their deterrent value and any trouble was either
played down or used to justify the need for increased and still
harsher penalties. Comparable figures for each incident unfortunately could not be located because the hearings were not always
reported in full, and, in the case of sentences passed after remand
or bail, not reported at all as the interest had by then died down.


110 folk d evils an d m o r a l pa n i c s
Attempts to obtain fuller figures from official sources were not
successful. Tables 6 and 7 summarize the available information
for the first of these two incidents.
In the case of Brighton, Easter 1965, so many were arrested
(between 110 and 120) and the situation in the two sittings of
the court so confusing, that estimates of the numbers actually
charged ranged from 70 to 110. Of the actual charges it is only
clear that the greatest number were for ‘Wilfully Obstructing the
Police in the Execution of Their Duty’ or ‘Use of Threatening
Behaviour whereby a Breach of the Peace was Likely to be
Occasioned’. These two accounted for nearly three-quarters of all
sentences. Others included assaulting the police (about seven)
Table 6 Court Action – Margate, Whitsun 1964
Threatening behaviour
or threatening words
Threatening behaviour
plus offensive weapon
Offensive weapon
Malicious damage or
wilful damage
Assault plus offensive
Assaulting police
Obstructing police


Conditional discharge



£25 fine



£50 fine
£75 fine
Detention centre (3 months)



Detention centre (6 months)



Jail (3 months)



(Note: Because of incomplete information it is impossible to match the offences
with the sentences.)

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Table 7 Court Action – Hastings, August 1964


Threatening behaviour
Abusive behaviour

Case dismissed*
Conditional discharge
£10 fine
£20 fine
£25 fine
Detention centre (3 months)
Detention centre (3 months)
+ £50 fine

Malicious damage
Wilful damage

Detention centre (2 months)
Detention centre (3 months)
Detention centre (4 months)

Obstructing police

£10 fine
£20 fine

Offensive weapon

Detention centre (3 months)
Detention centre (6 months)

Assaulting police

Detention centre (6 months)
Prison (3 months)












* All except this case bound over for £25 to keep the peace for two years.

unlawful possession of drugs (five) and a few each of malicious
damage, obscene language and stone-throwing. Because virtually
every offender was remanded in custody, it is difficult to trace all
subsequent sentences. It is only clear that greater use was made


112 folk d evils an d m o r a l pa n i c s
of the detention centre – a trend throughout the period – and
fines were increased. These cases supplied the greatest proportion of successful appeals; in one case the Recorder substituted a
£25 fine for a sentence of three months in a detention centre
because it was a first offence. The press reported very few of the
successful appeals.
The use of the remand in custody by the Brighton magistrates
at Easter 1965 warrants special attention as this was a consciously
applied innovatory principle. It was clear that the magistrates
were using their power to remand as a ‘form of extra-legal
punishment’,* in order to provide the youths with a short taste
of imprisonment.
The grounds on which bail can be refused, especially for juveniles, are fairly limited, but it was quite apparent that these
grounds were not being applied to individual cases and that bail
was refused as a matter of principle. The Chairman of the
Magistrates, Mr H. Cushnie, was widely quoted as saying that
bail would not be entertained at all, no matter what surety was
offered.† While most newspaper reports of the court proceedings quoted the magistrates’ reason for remand as being ‘in order
to enable the police to make enquiries’, this, in fact, was not
the reason given in court when bail was opposed. Inspector
W. Tapsall, prosecuting, said that his opposition was, firstly, on
the grounds that if the boys were allowed to go free on bail
justice would not be done and, secondly, that the public must be
* Editorial comment in the Observer (25 April 1965). A senior magistrate in the
North view sample claimed that word had gone round the magistrate’s clerks
at the time to make greater use of the remand in custody; he commented himself: ‘Although it is not strictly legal and is rather naughty, a remand in custody
for more than a week is a good idea.’ A recent study has shown the general
haphazard and inadequate bases for magistrates’ decisions to remand defendants on bail or in custody.21

At Whitsun 1964 the Brighton magistrates in fact granted bail to a 17-year-old
arrested for insulting behaviour. The amount of bail was £1,250.

re a c ti o n : th e r e s c ue a n d r emedy p h as es

protected. The first of these grounds is not a legal one and the
second not easily justified. Often on the basis of no other
evidence than the reading of the charges, a boy who had done
nothing more than refuse to ‘move along’ would be certified as
an ‘unruly person’. The result was that many relatively minor
cases, including those involving juveniles, were remanded in
custody in prison for up to three weeks. In one case two juveniles, eventually fined £5 each for obstruction, spent eleven days
in Lewes Prison.
The punitive and arbitrary use of remand was illustrated in
one case where the accused, after already being remanded in
custody once for eleven days, was again refused bail and
‘sentenced’ to a further week in custody. A few minutes later he
was taken back to the court and informed that the constable
whom he was alleged to have obstructed, was going on leave, so
the ‘sentence’ would be reduced to four days to enable the case
to be heard before the constable’s holiday. Few knew the procedure for appealing against being remanded, and in one case
referred to the NCCL, a boy (D.H.), who did know the procedure, was refused a form to apply to the Judge-in-Chambers for
bail. This is a serious allegation in view of the fact that a test case
brought by the Council on behalf of a 16-year-old boy resulted
in his immediate release from prison on bail.
There were a number of other unusual actions by the courts. In
two cases (Hastings, August 1964 and Brighton, Easter 1965)
there were rulings by the magistrates that the names of all juveniles be published. The Hastings Chairman (Mr A. G. Coote) also
ordered in certain cases that fingerprints should be taken. The
Brighton Chairman (Mr Pascoe) announced that warrants would
be issued for the arrest of any father who failed to attend the
court. In at least one case a father who was not notified of the date
of the hearings was subjected to the indignity of his name being
published as being ‘too busy’ to attend his son’s hearing. Parents
who were present at the preliminary hearings were often rudely


114 folk d evils an d m o r a l pa n i c s
addressed by the magistrate or clerk, not allowed to say what they
wanted to, and their offers to stand bail were, of course, refused.
It was hard for some of the parents to escape the conclusion that
their attendance too was a form of ‘extra-legal punishment’.
The court actions – and those of the other control agents – must
be seen as the logical result of the way the control culture had
defined the situation. The logic of this definition – a product of,
and in turn a determinant of the inventory images and attitudes –
left the magistrates in no doubt about their role: they had to clamp
down hard, make an example of these offenders and deter others.
This type of logic imposed by the assimilation of a belief system is
not, of course, unknown in the history of criminal trials. The
immediate parallel that suggests itself is the Teddy Boy phenomenon of the 1950s; control agents then acted in ways identical to
their reaction to the Mods and Rockers a decade later. Tony Parker,
in his account of the trial of Michael Davies, has described vividly
how Davies was sentenced ‘. . . not so much for what he might have
done, as for being a symbol of something which the contemporary public found abhorrent and threatening to their stable way of
life’; the build-up of prejudicial and melodramatic headlines
(‘Edwardian Suits – Dance-Music – and a Dagger’) meant that not
only Davies’s alleged offence was on trial, ‘. . . but everything about
him, and all he had the misfortune to represent’.22 The boy stabbed
to death on Clapham Common was a symbol of what the public
had expected the Teddy Boys to be capable.
The Davies case was an extreme example. The hundreds of
routine Mods and Rockers offences processed by the courts
displayed some of the more subtle facets of the complicated relationship between belief systems and the operation of social
control. One might quote the case of ‘Peter Jones’ to show the
use of situational logic and, subsequently, the deviant’s social
background, in justifying control measures. Jones was sentenced
to three months in a detention centre for using threatening
behaviour in Brighton on Whit Monday, 1965. He had thrown a

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make-up case (?) at a group of Rockers being chased by Mods.
On appeal, his counsel said that Jones had passed six ‘O levels’
and wanted to sit for three more. He had never been in trouble
before and was shocked at his first contact with the law. A letter
was read from his headmistress saying what a disgrace it was that
a school prefect and house captain with an example to show, had
shown it this way. The Deputy Recorder allowed the appeal
because, although the detention centre would give Jones a
chance to study, he would not get the same facilities as at school.
The sentence was altered to a conditional discharge. Nevertheless,
maintained the Recorder, the magistrates were absolutely right
in taking the line that they did in the circumstances at the time.
They had to have regard to the deterrent effect on others. Those
who did not have the advantage of Jones’s background were seen
as justifiable offerings on the altar of general deterrence.
The extent to which action was influenced by the generalized
belief system rather than judgments on the individual offender
on the one hand or generalized principles of sentencing on
the other, can perhaps best be indicated by quoting some
pronouncements by magistrates in giving their judgments. The
following extracts are all by the Chairman of the Hastings Bench,
Mr A. G. Coote, at Whitsun 196423; they are representative of
other pronouncements at the time:
In considering the penalties to be imposed, we must take into
account the overall effect on the innocent citizens of and visitors
to the Borough. Though some of the offences committed by
individuals may not in themselves seem all that serious, they
form part and parcel of a cumulative series of events which
ruined the pleasure of thousands* and adversely affected the
* One of the Hastings magistrates was evidently one of these ‘thousands’.
During the hearing he revealed that he was in a crowd which had retreated into
Woolworths for safety during an incident.


116 folk d evils an d m o r a l pa n i c s
business of traders. The Hastings Bench has always taken a
stern view of violent and disorderly conduct and we do not
propose to alter that attitude. In pursuance of that policy we
shall impose in these cases penalties – in many cases the
maximum – which will punish the offenders and will effectively
deter other law breakers.
We shall find that because of the prevalence of this type of
occurrence and the necessity of condign punishment we must
send you to prison.
Your conduct is of the kind we are determined to end in this
(Emphasis added)

These sorts of statements are comprehensible in terms of the
dramatization element in the societal control culture. This
element is illustrated with particular vividness in the court, the
perfect stage for acting out society’s ceremonies of status degradation. These are encounters in which each side knows its lines,
and, as Erikson comments on a church trial during Puritan times
‘when the whole affair is seen as a ceremony and not a test of
guilt, as a demonstration rather than an enquiry, its accents and
rhythms are easier to understand’.24 This ceremony not only
publicly labels the deviant but functions to stir up moral indignation to a still higher pitch.
The ritualism of the Mods and Rockers’ courts was emphasized
by the atmosphere in which the proceedings took place. Invariably
the preliminary hearings were arranged at times when courts do
not usually sit: Bank Holidays, Sundays and, in one case, until
midnight. Extra drama was sometimes provided by the use of
special buildings. These arrangements were made – and publicly
announced – as long as two weeks before the Bank Holiday as if
to give notice of the impending ceremony. In Margate, the court
was surrounded by a ‘horde of screaming teenagers’, the doors
were guarded by a strong force of police and another twelve

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policemen mingled with the crowds in the public gallery. The
courts were invariably crowded and in the case of Brighton at
least, where I observed a number of hearings, it was apparent that
many spectators attended in the spirit of a gladiatorial display.
After an ‘interim statement’ made by the Chairman at one sitting,
the crowd broke out into spontaneous applause. Sentences, particularly when accompanied by homilies, were often greeted by
loud clapping. The question of guilt or innocence did not take up
much time, and the resemblance of the proceedings to a mock
trial was brought home to those relatives who claimed that the
police had told them before the trial to bring along enough
money for the fines. The monotony of the ritual hearings with the
repeated certification of the offender as an ‘unruly person’ was
livened only by audience participation and the occasional screams,
scuffles and bangings from the cells below.
The magistrates themselves acted out their role in meaningless
exchanges with witnesses or relatives and outbursts of ritual
hostility towards the offender. Parents were often informed too
late to be present at the hearings and when they were there, they
were subjected to the following type of questioning:

Did you know that your son was in Brighton?
Did you know that he was in the Automat?

This exchange was greeted by gasps of surprise in the audience and ‘I told you so’ looks between the magistrates, the implication clearly being that the father was somehow responsible for
his son’s supposed offence and should have known, although
sixty miles away at the time, of his son’s presence in the Automat.
Most direct hostility was reserved for the offenders, as in the
following encounter between the Chairman and a 17-year-old
boy, fined £20 for obstructing the police:


118 folk d evils an d m o r a l pa n i c s


Various police forces were trying to avoid
something dreadful happening and were forced
to keep you on the move.
We were trying to get home.
It was a pity you came here in the first place.
Yes, it was.

This dramatization of deviance, so important in creating
the polarization effect, was illustrated nowhere more clearly
than in the public pronouncements of the Margate magistrate,
Dr George Simpson, at Whitsun 1964. Perhaps never before have
the obiter dicta of a local magistrate been so widely quoted and it
was only in the Oz trial six years later that a judge – Michael
Argyle – received the same treatment and for exactly the same
Virtually every court report quoted Dr Simpson’s ‘Sawdust
Caesars’ speech in full and his terminology significantly influenced the mass media symbolization and the process of spurious
attribution. His phrases were widely used as headlines: ‘ “Sawdust
Caesars hunt in pack,” says magistrate’; ‘ “Clamp down on Mods
and Rockers – A Vicious Virus,” says J.P.’ ‘Town Hits Back on Rat
Pack Hooligans’, etc.
Any ambiguity and any unanswered questions about the
nature of the deviance and the deviant’s confrontation with
social control were resolved by Dr Simpson’s verbal structuring
of the situation; as a commentator on the press pointed out:
‘. . . by Tuesday, papers were being influenced not by what
happened, or even what their own reporters were telling them
had happened, but by what Dr Simpson said had happened’
(Spectator, 22 May 1964).
The melodramatic atmosphere already having been created,
Dr Simpson opened the show by issuing a warning that any
interruption or disturbance would be most rigorously dealt
with. What noise there was, added to the drama: the crowds

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outside, and the audible reaction to the scale of the fines including
cries from the boys’ girl-friends and even gasps of surprise from
policemen on hearing that boys they had arrested for threatening behaviour, had been given £50 or £75 fines. The first of
the forty-four youths to come before the court was a 22-year-old
from London who pleaded guilty to using threatening behaviour.25 It is worth quoting in full the message he received because
it was really meant for a much wider audience:
It is not likely that the air of this town has ever been polluted by
the hordes of hooligans, male and female, such as we have
seen this weekend and of whom you are an example.
These long-haired, mentally unstable, petty little hoodlums,
these sawdust Caesars who can only find courage like rats, in
hunting in packs, came to Margate with the avowed intent of
interfering with the life and property of its inhabitants.
Insofar as the law gives us power, this court will not fail to
use the prescribed penalties. It will, perhaps, discourage you
and others of your kidney who are infected with this vicious
virus, that you will go to prison for three months.

The following are a few of Dr Simpson’s further comments:
‘It’s a pity that you didn’t stick to your knitting’ (to a 19-year-old
knitting worker fined £50 for carrying an offensive weapon).
‘Margate will not tolerate louts like you’ (to an 18-year-old,
given six months in a detention centre).
To a 19-year-old plumber’s mate accused of carrying a roll of
newspaper with coins in the middle as an offensive weapon: ‘I
don’t suppose you were using this newspaper to further your
literary aspirations.’
Defendant: ‘I’m sorry. I don’t understand.’
‘Never mind, you’ll understand what I’m going
to say now: £50.’


120 folk d evils an d m o r a l pa n i c s
‘Perhaps your school will consider a framed reproduction of
your conviction’ (to a 17-year-old grammar school boy fined £75
for possessing an offensive weapon and using threatening
On the second day of the hearings: ‘It would appear that you
have not benefited from yesterday’s proceedings. We listened
to these paltry excuses and there is no doubt that you were a
part of the dregs of these vermin who infested the town
yesterday and the day before, and we think the penalty must be
‘It is strange to see this procession of miserable
specimens, so different from the strutting hooligans of

The follow-up to this ceremony was the inflation of
Dr Simpson into a folk hero: he personalized the forces of good
against which the forces of evil were massed. Like all such folk
heroes, he, single-handed – ‘a small man in a light grey suit’
(Daily Express, 19 May 1964) – had overcome sheer brute strength.
‘The Quiet Man Who Rocks the Thugs’, had his personality,
career and views on various social issues presented to the public.
He told reporters that he realized from the beginning that he was
dealing not just with a local fracas but with something that had
become a national problem. It had reached ‘colossal national
proportions’ (Disaster); he was aware of a ‘general pattern of
deliberate viciousness’ (It’s Not Only This), scooters and motorbikes were ‘almost in the nature of offensive weapons’ and he
wished he had the power to deprive hooligans of their means of
transport (Innovation).
His justice was not that of the impersonal, faceless representative of social control. Like Batman saving Gotham City, he had
saved his own town, where he had lived ‘as a beloved local family
doctor for twenty-four years’. On the Sunday night before the
hearings, he had, according to the Daily Mail (19 May 1964),

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toured Margate with his wife to see the gangs. His wife described
what they saw:
We saw for ourselves how tired the policemen looked. We have
lived in Margate for twenty-four years and last night was
dreadful. The town was full of dirty grubby teenagers. It must
not be allowed to happen again . . . I think my husband did the
right thing. These people have got to be taught a lesson.

On the day after the hearings, many newspapers carried
photographs of Dr Simpson, quietly strolling along the deserted
Margate beaches, ‘surveying the Whitsun battleground’, and
contemplating how nice it was ‘to be able to walk along here
again without fear of being molested’ (Daily Express, 20 May
1964). At the same time as he rejoiced in the problem having
been dealt with satisfactorily – ‘I think I taught them a lesson in
court on Monday’ – he had to remind society that the problem
was still there: ‘it may take more than one dose of nasty medicine
to persuade these thugs that this behaviour does not pay.’
3. Towards an Exclusive Control Culture
The courts and the police, as officially designated agents of social
control, had to operate in terms of a socially sanctioned role.
They could not opt out of this role; they had to take some action.
Their action was also limited to rule enforcement, rather than
the creation of new rules. The fact that these limits were often
exceeded, is attributable not to their absence, but to the perceived
innovatory aspects of the behaviour itself, sensitization, symbolization and the whole belief system. Rationalizations such as
‘new situations need new remedies’ account for those elements
exclusively directed at the particular deviance being controlled.
It would, however, be an incomplete analysis of the control
culture to look only at the official control agents. Social control is


122 folk d evils an d m o r a l pa n i c s
much broader in scope, including as it does informal mechanisms such as public opinion on the one hand, and highly
formalized institutions of the state on the other. I described the
reaction to the Mods and Rockers as diffusing from the relatively
unorganized on-the-spot reaction of the local community (the
pristine form of the social reaction in the amplification model) to
an increasing involvement of other individuals and groups. Such
diffusion produces a generalized belief system – mythologies,
stigmas, stereotypes – but it also produces or tries to produce
new methods of control. The informal societal reaction can be
extended and formalized, the ultimate formalization being
achieved when new laws are actually created.
This section will be concerned with the ways in which the
local reaction moved towards the creation of an exclusive control
culture with methods – as well as a belief system – specifically
directed towards the Mods and Rockers. This movement
embodies many of the typical features of the whole moral panic,
the same features that have been documented in analyses of rule
creation and social problem formation. Cases of the former – the
abolition of slavery, the prohibition movement, the passing of
the Marijuana Tax Act, the creation of the sexual psychopath laws
– and of the latter – the drug problem, the pornography problem,
the pollution problem – have suggested the operation of a certain
more or less fixed sequence. This starts off with the perception
by some people of a condition which is trouble-making, difficult, dangerous or threatening and requiring action: ‘something
should be done about it’. A specific rule is deduced from the
general value which is felt should be protected or upheld, and, if
appropriate, a method of control is suggested.
Early students of social problems envisaged a somewhat rigid
sequence from awareness to policy determination to reform or
control.26 As with the amplification model, such formulations
assume too mechanistic a flow, without recognizing that, say,
unqualified rejection is not the only reaction to deviance and

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that the transition from one stage to another has to be explained.
Even less deterministic models, however, have to take into
account certain universal conditions, of which I would like to
suggest at least three: legitimating values, enterprise and power.
Values must always be present to legitimate what Becker
calls ‘blowing the whistle’: that is, enforcing existing rules or
attempting to enforce new rules. (His analogy of blowing a
whistle is in some respects unfortunate in that it implies that an
essential property of the referee – impartiality – is present. In the
game of deviance this is hardly so: society is the referee and the
other side at the same time.) In his own research on the Marijuana
Tax Act Becker analyses the legitimating values of humanitarianism, the Protestant ethic particularly of self-control and the
disapproval of action aimed solely at achieving ecstasy.27 The
presence, alone, of such values does not guarantee successful
rule creation or social problem definition; there must also be
enterprise: someone takes the initiative on the basis of interest
and uses publicity techniques to gain the support of the organizations that count. Finally, this ‘someone’ must either be in a
position of power himself or must have access to and be able to
convince such powerful institutions as the mass media, legal and
scientific bodies and political authorities.
Once such conditions can be met, the general appeals – ‘all
right thinking persons would deplore . . .’, ‘we cannot tolerate . . .’
– must be applied to the particular case in question. The appeal
must be supported by a belief system – the inventory images, the
opinion themes – which conveys the message that the phenomenon is indeed the appropriate target for action. Often, crusades
and appeals are justified on the basis of deviation which is wholly
or partly putative. Thus, for example, Sutherland shows that
all the propositions on which the sexual psychopath laws are
based are demonstrably false or at least questionable.28 Putative
deviation has similarly been documented in areas such as drug


124 folk d evils an d m o r a l pa n i c s
In regard to the Mods and Rockers, there was a process
whereby members of the public, acting as informal control
agents, brought pressure to bear for rule creation; that is, they
referred their ‘local’ problem to the legislature. It is significant
that the action took this form rather than merely pressing for
more efficient action by the control agents. In sudden unexpected forms of deviance, the institutionalized agencies are often
thrown off balance and any deficiencies they have become
obvious. They are sometimes themselves blamed for the deviance: this is a common reaction following political assassinations
which expose inadequacies in security arrangements. In the case
of the Mods and Rockers, though, there was widespread support
for the police and the courts; it was believed that they were doing
their job as best they could but were handicapped by being given
insufficient powers or by having to deal with a problem that was
really the government’s. Blame and responsibility were thus
shifted upward in the hierarchy.
Students of natural disasters have noted a similar scapegoating
process: those involved in the disaster are usually exonerated –
‘they only did their job’ – and government figures become
targets for attack and protest in a situation for which they had no
conceivable direct responsibility.30 Similarly, ‘non-natural’ disasters, such as the Ibrox Park incident during which spectators
were crushed to death after a football match, have to be defined
as part of a national problem, in this case spectator safety and
crowd control at sporting fixtures. I would suggest, in fact, that
this pyramidical conception of blame and responsibility, together
with a parallel belief system which sees the phenomenon in
question as being only the visible tip of a more broadly based
condition (It’s Not Only This) are further prerequisites for
successful moral enterprise.
The whole process in which informal agents stepped in and
attempted to institutionalize new control methods is analogous
to the process in a disaster whereby the emergency or thera-

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peutic social system refers the problem to the ‘suprasystem’ or
‘restorative social system’. The crude responses of the emergency
social system meet the immediate needs for food, shelter and
rescue in a disaster in the same way as the police and courts met
the immediate problems presented to the community by the
Mods and Rockers: the identification and labelling of the deviants, the protection of person and property, the handing out of
retribution. The slower responding organizations of the suprasystem then come into action; with the diffusion of news, the
disaster (depending on its nature and the type of inventory that
is made about it) may be defined as a national problem. There
follow public meetings, inquiries, petitions and, as in the case of
rule creation, the demand is made that emergency systems be
given more power or that the suprasystem take over.
The first step is to see how those immediately affected defined
the problem. Clearly, hooliganism is not a ‘crime without a
victim’ and the development of exclusive control measures
depends, in part, on how the victims articulated the way they
had been affected. As could be expected from the orientation
themes, the initial reaction by the victims in the local community was to define what happened as disastrous. In fact, it was the
initial reaction of self-styled spokesmen of the seaside resorts
which did so much to arouse the panic and subsequent sensitization. The pattern was set after Clacton, with the various panic
statements made to the press: ‘I’ve seen riots in South America,
but this was almost mob rule’ (Mr J. Malthouse, the manager of
a seafront hotel); ‘Clacton would be one gigantic wreckage
tonight except for our fine British bobbies’ (Councillor E. Payne,
Chairman of the resort’s publicity council). Similar statements
were made after the subsequent events. ‘We were on the very
edge of a total riot. Only a little more hysteria next time and it
will be quite beyond control. And at the moment there is nothing
that can really stop a next time happening’ (Mr A. Webb, President
of the Brighton Hotels Association). This sort of reaction was


126 folk d evils an d m o r a l pa n i c s
played up by the press: Brighton was ‘a town seething with
anger and resentment’ (Evening Argus, 18 May 1964); Margate was
‘a town in fear . . . hopelessness . . . and bubbling anger’ (Evening
Standard, 19 May 1964) and the owner of a café ‘damaged in the
riots’ pleaded with the reporter not to publish his name: ‘They
will come back and smash up my shop. I want no more trouble.
Go away.’
Some local people evidently translated their fears into action;
there were rumours after Clacton and every other event, of vigilante squads being formed by local tradesmen to protect their
property. After Easter 1964, although there was only a very
minor incident in Margate, some local residents there were sufficiently sensitized by the Clacton build-up, to start preparations
for the summer. Amusement caterers armed themselves with
children’s baseball bats, and the manager of a seafront coffee
club wanted every establishment to have a doorman armed with
a tear-gas missile to keep the gangs away.
It is difficult to judge how representative this sort of reaction
was. Clearly, newspaper reports exaggerated the intensity of the
feeling and the vigilantes and tear-gassers were very much in the
minority. Only a small number of tradesmen were personally
affected by the disturbances; most only heard about them at
second hand. Nevertheless, in seaside resorts depending almost
wholly on summer visitors, the fear of loss of trade was a very
real one and in such avenues of community opinion as editorials
and letters in the local press, council debates and public speeches
(e.g. on school prize-giving days), a genuine anxiety was
reflected. One precondition for the development of exclusive
control culture was therefore present: the definition by certain
people of the situation as inimical to their interests and that
something should be done about it.
It is important to be clear about the nature of these interests
because it is the perception of what interests are to be protected
that shapes the subsequent campaigns for rule creation. In the

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last analysis the ‘interests’ may derive from what Ranulf referred
to as ‘the disinterested tendency to inflict punishment’,31 but
more immediately, interests were presented in purely financial
terms. The campaigns for action were based on appeals to
commercial interest and the leading figures behind these
campaigns were often leaders of commercial and business
organizations. Chambers of Commerce and Hotel and Guest
House Associations were among the most prominent pressure
groups, and the Council intervention was based on protecting
the town’s holiday trade, its ‘good image’. The commercial
interest can be seen operating in the sequence of statements
made by these individuals and organizations: the first reaction
was to panic, but as soon as it was realized that this might, in
fact, operate against the towns’ interest by creating further panic
(not only sociologists know of self-fulfilling prophecies) early
statements were modified and local figures objected that press
reports had been exaggerated. Thus the Mayor of Margate
I consider that the whole affair has been badly mishandled in
that nation-wide publicity has been given to the activities of a
comparatively few witless hooligans. Had they been ignored
and even if they are ignored from now on these louts will be cut
down to size and their minor disturbances will be dealt with
locally in a proper manner. Can it now be agreed to let local
people deal with local events?

The commercial interest gave the demands a peculiar form: ‘If
this happens again, people won’t come here on holiday; we must
get rid of the Mods and Rockers either by driving them out, or
by not letting them in in the first place; we don’t care where they
go – let them go and wreck up Margate (or Hastings, or Brighton,
or Eastbourne) as long as they don’t come here.’ These demands
echo the sanction of banishment used in tribal and other simpler


128 folk d evils an d m o r a l pa n i c s
communities, the same primal in-group aggression towards
the deviant enshrined in our folklore by Westerns in which the
outlaw is ‘ridden out of town’.
At this point there appears a contradiction within the
demands. Although many local people were, like the Mayor of
Margate, dismayed with the publicity, rather than ‘seething
with fear and anger’, they knew that nothing would be done if
the problem were defined in purely local terms. To create rules,
a problem must not only be conceptualized in mass-appeal
terms, it must also be defined in such a way that it is seen as
the legitimate responsibility of the suprasystem. In other words,
it is not enough to ‘let local people deal with local events’; the
event had to be magnified to national proportions and the
responsibility for it shifted upwards. So after the initial Clacton
event there were immediate calls for Home Office inquiries
and ‘the Government’, ‘dogooders’ or ‘reformers’ were made
This shifting upwards of responsibility has, in fact, its own
commercial motive. Because the ‘looking for kicks’ image was so
prevalent, it was realized that to define the problem in purely
parochial terms would reflect on the resort’s facilities. Whereas
outside opinion interpreted ‘boredom’ in a broader sense, local
people thought in terms of on-the-spot boredom and were
anxious to dispel any ideas that a lack of recreational facilities in
the resort could have caused the trouble: ‘There’s plenty to do in
X; if they were bored it’s not our fault.’
Given the presence of such preconditions for successful
role creation as problem awareness, the recognition of specific
legitimating values, self-interest and the beginnings of a pyramidical conception of responsibility and causation, what form
did the local demands take? The first type of demands were not
for specific policies, but were rather undifferentiated appeals
for assistance. Calls were made for Home Office inquiries, for
the laws to be ‘tightened up’, for the courts and the police to

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be given ‘more powers’. A statement by the Chairman of the
Hastings Bench is typical of such vague generalized appeals:
. . . the three justices sitting today are unanimous in their view
that it is now time for Parliament to consider what measures
shall be adopted to crush this form of mass hooliganism,
which is now patently repetitive at holiday times. If nothing is
done, thousands of innocent people will continue to suffer
fear, injury and damage to property.

A similar generalized build-up took place in editorials,
letters to the press and in statements by local MPs. At an early
stage some specific policy proposals were also made, and these
increased under the impact of sensitization and the crystallization of opinions. Thus out of twenty-three letters printed in the
Evening Argus in the four days after Whitsun 1964, seven specifically proposed corporal punishment.
The disaster analogy was often made explicit in the suggestion that the government should be given emergency powers,
such as setting up of road blocks at the main entrance to target
towns ‘and turning back . . . any scooters, motor vehicles or larger
vehicles on which doubtful looking teenagers were travelling . . .
Entry by rail could also be restricted . . . we did these things
successfully during the war’ (Editorial, Hastings & St Leonards Observer,
8 September 1964). The vigilante-type solutions also appeared
– as in the examples from Margate quoted earlier – and in such
proposals as those of a Brighton restaurant proprietor in 1964,
who wanted to arm with cudgels a thousand of Brighton’s
‘decent young people’, and send them to ‘beat the hell out of
these Mods and Rockers’ (Evening Argus, 18 May 1964).
The next stage was the attempts by organizations to formalize
policy statements. In some cases, abortive action groups were
formed. This is the stage at which resolutions are passed, petitions signed and deputations sent. After Whitsun, 1965, the


130 folk d evils an d m o r a l pa n i c s
Great Yarmouth Hotels and Guest Houses Association called for
the banning of Mods, Rockers and beatniks:
We cannot believe that it is not possible . . . to find some legal
way of putting this town completely out of bounds to these
people . . . We call upon all other trade associations and persons
who hope to continue to carry on their business in Great
Yarmouth to join us and demand that some positive action is
taken as the time for compromise is past.
(Caterer and Hotel Keeper, 1 July 1965)

In August 1965 sixty Margate traders called for new legislation in a petition which was sent to the Chamber of Commerce
and passed on to the MP. In September, a meeting of the Brighton
LVA supported a proposal for protest action by Brighton traders
against light penalties imposed on hooligans. A committee
member, who was also on the Chamber of Commerce, intended
to ask the next Chamber meeting to make representations to the
watch committee and local MPs. At the same time in Margate, the
Isle of Thanet LVA. decided to press local police to receive a deputation and one member stated: ‘It’s time that the business people
of the town did something about this. Let’s try to protect
ourselves. Every licencee should urge his customers to sign a
petition so that we can get a law passed to ensure that anybody
found sleeping out at night will be prosecuted on sight’ (Morning
Advertiser, 4 September 1965).
A feature of appeals at this stage is that the opinion and attitude
themes are articulated more clearly and the proposals show all the
inventory elements and the subsequent sensitization. An example
of this is the net-widening effect in the call to ban beatniks and
beach sleepers as well as Mods and Rockers, and in campaigns in
seaside resorts against hooliganism at other times of the year.32
This type of agitation for the establishment of an exclusive
control policy was not confined to local organizations. At a fairly

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early stage, those individuals whose opinions are invariably
quoted by the mass media on ‘youth problems’ proclaimed their
solutions: vicars, youth workers, probation officers, marriage
counsellors, psychiatrists, headmasters, disc jockeys and respectable pop stars (‘They Are Just Louts,’ says Dreamer Freddie, Daily
Mirror, 23 May 1964). Speeches were made at conferences,
church services, prize-giving days and passing-out parades.
These pronouncements, together with the whole media
bombardment, helped to create a separate control culture in the
sense of spreading the mythologies and stereotypes, but they did
not directly lead to exclusive control policies. The demands made
were too vague, not addressed to anyone in particular and not
made by organized pressure groups with much power. There
were one or two exceptions to this. For example, at the annual
general meeting of the Magistrates Association in October 1964,
the following resolution was debated:
That in view of the recent troubles between gangs of young
people, this Association urges the Home Secretary to introduce further legislation, possibly by the extension of the principle of the Attendance Centre, whereby these delinquents are
not only punished but the punishment is such as to direct
their energies into productive channels for the benefit of the

After considerable discussion the resolution was defeated by
103 votes to 84; although another resolution which seems to
have been directed at the Mods and Rockers was carried:
That this Association urges the provision of powers whereby
disqualification from holding a licence or confiscation of the
vehicle could be ordered in certain cases where a motor vehicle
is used for the furtherance of crime or for certain breaches of
the peace.33


132 folk d evils an d m o r a l pa n i c s
At a certain ill-defined point, some of the sporadic campaigns
and appeals became formalized into fully fledged action groups.
Even granting the overall paucity of the literature on rule and
social problem creation, very little attention has been given to
the nature of action groups that have operated in such areas as
the control of drugs, prostitution, homosexuality, pornography
and obscenity. In the latter case, for example, the work of such
groups as Mrs Mary Whitehouse’s National Viewers’ and Listeners’
Association, the Clean Up TV Campaign, the Longford Committee
and the Festival of Light, cry out for attention in terms of the
sociology of moral enterprise.
From another perspective, such action groups can be seen as
germinal social movements. They meet most of the formal
criteria spelt out in the literature on such movements,34 although
they are difficult to classify in terms of its typologies. The action
groups correspond closely to what Smelser calls ‘norm-oriented
movements’ and are preceded by and undertaken in the name
of ‘norm-oriented beliefs’,35 that is, the mythology presented
in the inventory and crystallized in later stages. All of Smelser’s
value-laden stages were present before the action groups were
formed: strain (deviance); anxiety; an identification of the
agents responsible; a generalized belief that control was inadequate; a belief that the trouble can be cured by reorganizing
the normative structure itself (‘there ought to be a law’);
and, finally, the formulation of specific proposals to punish,
control or destroy the agent. In content as well as development,
the Mods and Rockers action groups shared an important characteristic with crusading social movements: the advocation
of programmes entailing the rigorous implementation of
folk prescriptions such as better law enforcements and stiffer
I shall describe two groups which arose wholly in response to
the Mods and Rockers disturbances. Although these groups gathered a great deal of momentum, they left behind them almost no

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organizational residue, few of their policies were implemented
and they failed in producing any direct legal change. Nevertheless,
their activities are of considerable interest both in terms of
illustrating the belief system and reaction built around the
Mods and Rockers, and in highlighting some more general
features of moral panics, moral enterprise and the sociology of
law enforcement.
The Seatown* Council Group was only in the most rudimentary sense a group at all. In April 1966 twelve senior Aldermen
and Councillors tabled a motion urging the Council to press the
government to create an enforced work scheme for convicted
Mods and Rockers. The motion received wide publicity, under
such headings as ‘Make the Rockers Dig’ and ‘Hard Labour Plan
For The Rowdy Mods’. The exact text was as follows:
That despite the unceasing efforts of the police and notwithstanding the imposition of heavy fines on offenders or even
their being sentenced to periods of detention, Public Holidays
continue to be characterised in seaside resorts and other places
by disturbances created by bands of so-called Mods and Rockers,
to the disturbance of residents and visitors, to the diversion of
the Police from other duties and to the excessive strain upon
them and the undoubted detriment of the resorts concerned.
Accordingly this Council Resolves:
That H.M. Government be urged to take steps to legislate
that these offenders might be sentenced to periods of enforced
work for the public benefit and to make the necessary arrangements therefor.
It is further resolved:
That copies of the foregoing resolution be forwarded to the
local Members of Parliament, the Association of Municipal
* I have used the names ‘Seatown’ and later ‘Beachside’ to disguise the identities
of the two resorts whose action groups I studied.


134 folk d evils an d m o r a l pa n i c s
Corporations and the British Resorts Association with requests
that they give their full support.

The scheme was elaborated in press statements by one of the
main signatories of the motion, Alderman F., who had in mind
the formation of a Labour Corps, run on similar lines to an Army
glasshouse. The youngsters ‘should be given a short haircut, strict
discipline and made to work on the roads or other national
Immediately after the motion was announced, I contacted
Alderman F. who referred me to the other major figure behind
the motion, Alderman K., who in the next four months, through
letters, discussions and a questionnaire, was my main source of
information about the group. At the time of the motion being
tabled, Alderman K. was Chairman of the Watch Committee. He
is also a journalist who, for many years, had contributed a regular
feature on the Bank Holiday for a local newspaper.
The motion was debated two months later, by which time
there were seventeen signatures. It was carried by a clear
majority: approximately forty in favour and ten against, with
about twenty abstentions (mostly from the minority Labour
group). The following were the main arguments behind this
attempt to achieve normative change.37
The central justification for any action would be to put an end
to behaviour that was causing Seatown a loss of trade and was
damaging its image. The action then, would be purely on the
basis of rational self-interest. To some this self-interest involved
another dimension: ‘. . . our moral obligation to protect and
honour the name of Seatown,’ and the problem was perceived
on a wider screen (It’s Not Only This):
Of course the incidents in Seatown and other places are clear
indications of more serious trouble. This is largely concerned
with the obvious attitude of some young people that they

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must be allowed to do exactly as they wish and must not be
restrained in any way however annoying their conduct may be
to others.38
Seaside towns are not for thugs but for good family people
who want to enjoy themselves in peace and happiness. But
from Blackpool to St Ives this is not possible today.

The appeal for action was often highly personalized: ‘If those
who oppose the motion had any relative injured by these thugs,
they would be taking a different position.’ Individual cases were
used to support the appeal, as, for example, a story quoted in the
debate by Alderman F., about a honeymoon couple in Seatown
being pushed around by a group of thugs: the husband couldn’t
defend himself because of their sheer numbers:
His wife was in tears and he was trembling with rage when he
saw me. ‘Alderman,’ he said, ‘I can’t tell you what an indignity
I’ve suffered on my honeymoon. A bride of a week and I didn’t
have the courage to defend her. For the rest of our lives our
memories of our honeymoon will be marred by that experience.’39

The next step was to define the problem in such a way that
legislative action was the only suitable solution. The police and
courts had not defaulted in their duties, but their weapons were
inadequate to deal with an entirely new problem. The novelty of
the problem was consistently stressed: the greater numbers and
the greater mobility which demanded deterrence on a new scale
and above all the greater affluence which made fines anachronistic and ineffectual. What was needed was a period of discipline directed to turning out better citizens and, as the only
existing institutions which do this – the detention centres – were
costly and in short supply, something new must be devised. The
Labour Camp scheme was the logical answer imposed by this
definition of the situation.


136 folk d evils an d m o r a l pa n i c s
In the course of the debate most of the popular arguments
against this position were raised: the troublemakers were only a
small hard core and one shouldn’t be driven into panic measures
which might affect the gullible ones who were simply following
the crowd; this sort of problem has existed before; all had been
done to meet the problem – particularly by the police – and the
law properly enforced was enough; the problem was, in fact,
already diminishing; the type of legislation proposed would be
retrograde, panic legislation ‘which would put the clock back
100 years’ and was ‘. . . the thin end of the wedge leading to
enforced labour camps’; that if Seatown should do anything, it
should be to attract all sections of the community: these youngsters should be welcomed to Seatown so that they could see it as
‘a place to be looked after, not to give trouble in’. These counter
arguments received little support in the debate.
The extent to which the motion was supported locally is difficult to gauge in the absence of a reliable measure of public
opinion. Alderman F. claimed to have received 108 letters about
the plan; only two not in favour. Alderman K. also claimed wide
local support:
Apart from this particular issue there is overwhelming support
from the local press and the vast majority of those who have
written to the Press supporting much stronger action to deal
with the grave nuisance of these completely anti-social hooligans. Seatown has no sympathy at all for the modern ‘head
shrinking’ approach to this grave problem.

Although such claims might be accurate in regard to the official
media of public opinion and the professional moral entrepreneurs,
my own evidence suggests that public opinion gravitated away
from the extremes at both ends (‘Clamp down, keep them out’ and
‘Welcome them’) and took up an indeterminate position somewhere between apathy and the punitive extreme. In any event, the

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proposal left behind little sustained interest either among its
formulators or the wider public and was not incorporated in any
legislation. The group did, however, contribute to and to some
extent institutionalize the already hostile atmosphere in the town
towards young people, and its supporters were instrumental in
denying facilities to an experimental youth project in Seatown.
The other action group I would like to consider met with
roughly the same fate although it had more immediate impact,
was more diverse in its aims and methods and set up a much
more formal organizational framework. It is also of particular
interest in providing an insight into the characteristics of an
exemplary, if extreme, moral entrepreneur. This action group is
the ‘Beachside’ Safeguard Committee.
Beachside had experienced the Mods and Rockers disturbances since their earliest beginnings in 1964. The resort was
particularly affected in 1965 when the usual concern was voiced
by Councillors and local newspapers. None of these protests was
carried very far though, and it was only after incidents at Easter
1966 that any organized community action was taken. These
incidents themselves were not very different from previous Bank
Holidays, nor were many more arrests made. The moral enterprise of one individual – whom I shall call ‘Geoffrey Blake’ – was
the new element in the situation. Although the following account
of the action group draws upon a number of sources, the picture
of Blake’s own involvement derives entirely from a series of
interviews with him during 1966.
Blake, the proprietor of a small private hotel near the seafront,
had long felt that ‘something should be done’. The Easter disturbances were the last straw; during and immediately after the
weekend, he discussed his views with a friend, also a hotel
owner. He decided that the best thing to do would be to call a
public meeting. He had some experience in public relations and
knew that this was the best way to get publicity. From the
beginning, the campaign was run with a certain professionalism.


138 folk d evils an d m o r a l pa n i c s
Letters were written ‘on behalf of a group of private citizens’
to various public figures and bodies inviting them to a public
meeting to try to find ‘a severe and final deterrent’; people were
‘being frightened by these ignorant louts’. Letters went to the
MP for Beachside, the Chief Constable, the Town Clerk, the Clerk
to the Magistrates and the Secretary of the Beachside Hotel
Association. An advert was printed in the local paper calling the
public to a meeting to discuss the ‘scourge of the Mods and
Rockers’. Blake obtained full national publicity, and before the
meeting in April four national papers carried stories of the
campaign. In the subsequent few weeks he gave two radio and
four TV interviews, and claimed to have received ‘about eighty’
letters of support and ‘numerous’ phone calls from all over the
country. All these sources congratulated him on his action as a
public-spirited citizen, offered him various suggestions and
wished him good luck ‘with the cause’.
The meeting was attended by some four hundred members of
the public and about the same number, according to Blake, had
to be turned away. No official council representative attended.
The meeting’s chairman, elected from the floor (Beachside’s
Conservative MP for fifteen years until the previous election)
said that he was ‘astonished at what can only be called the virtual
boycott of the meeting by leading citizens’. Blake attributed the
council’s boycott to their ‘typical burying their heads in the sand
attitude . . . they are right out of touch’. More realistically (in
view of their subsequent co-operation) the eventual chairman of
the Safeguard Committee, Mr ‘Hale’, attributed the council’s
boycott to their antagonism towards Blake’s methods.40 They
resented his usurpation of their duties and his implication that
they had failed to grasp the urgency of the problem.
The meeting discussed procedural questions, considered what
sort of organization should be set up, and listened to concrete
suggestions about what to do with the Mods and Rockers. The

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most favoured suggestion was reintroduction of the birch; other
suggestions were: more severe fines, conscription and stopping
the youths before they came into the town. In Blake’s words ‘it
was generally waving the stick at them’.
The main outcome of the meeting was the formation of the
Safeguard Committee aimed at putting the enterprise on a representative and organized basis. Its brief was to press civic leaders
to inform the Home Secretary of the local demand for action: he
should be pressed to ‘restore law and order to this ancient County
Borough’. The meeting also wanted to deplore the adverse
publicity which had blown the matter up. The Committee
consisted of some thirty members representing various local
organizations: Chamber of Trade; Chamber of Commerce; Hotel
and Guest House Association; Licensed Victuallers Association;
Hotel and Restaurants Association; Ratepayers Association; Taxi
Association; Motor Coach Association; Townswomen’s Guild;
Fruiterer’s Guild; Newsagents Association; Amusement Parks
Association, etc.
The Committee was broken down into a deputation of four
under the chairmanship of Hale, a local businessman. The other
members were Blake himself, a representative of the Chamber of
Commerce and a representative of the Licensed Victuallers
Association (an ex-policeman).
The deputation met a group of council officials: the Mayor,
the Deputy Mayor, the Chairman and Deputy Chairman of the
Watch Committee, the Town Clerk, the Deputy Town Clerk and
the Chief Constable. The local paper reported that ‘both sides
drew a veil over the talks’ (‘Beachside Mail’, 20 May 1966) and no
statements were made. Hale confirmed that the meeting was
secret, but revealed that the police and corporation had given
them a sympathetic hearing and had promised co-operation. The
deputation in turn had conceded that their methods – particularly in calling a public meeting – were mistaken in appearing to


140 folk d evils an d m o r a l pa n i c s
put the council on trial.* Hints were made that among the plans
considered was the use of helicopters to bring reinforcements
and the application of strong-arm methods by the police to
break up the gangs. Forms were obtained from the Chief
Constable for the enrolment of fifty special constables to help the
police during the approaching Whitsun weekend.
It is difficult to trace the history of the group beyond this
stage. Whitsun was remarkably quiet in Beachside. It is extremely
unlikely that this was due to the presence of special constables;
the fact was that there were very few young people present at all
to make any trouble.† Inquiries could not establish how many
special constables were on duty, if any. If the young people were
kept out of town by some other ingenious scheme, this was not
generally known and, in any event, was either unsuccessful or
not used in August when, in fact, there were considerable disturbances in the town. The Committee appears to have disintegrated, leaving behind, though, a fair impact on local opinion
and having directly influenced policy at least temporarily. It is
possible that the police and council would have acted without
the Safeguard Committee but the Committee and all the publicity
generated by Blake probably precipitated some action.
What sorts of individuals are the moving forces behind such
action groups? Becker distinguished two species of moral entrepreneurs – rule enforcers (control agents) and rule creators. The
prototype of the rule creator is the moral crusader or crusading
reformer; he is the man who, with an absolute ethic, sets out to
eradicate the evil which disturbs him. Although Becker noted
* It is extremely unlikely that Blake himself made this concession; his whole
enterprise was based on the perception that the authorities had failed.
† During a conversation with Blake over this weekend, he apologized that I had
to travel all the way to Beachside and not see any trouble. Moral entrepreneurs
have some interest in the continuation of the deviance they object to in order
to justify their own actions.

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that not all supporters of moral crusades are so pure and singleminded in their motives, he did not describe these other types.
Supporters of the Mods and Rockers action groups may be
divided into the genuine crusaders and the pragmatists. The
crusader is moved by righteous indignation as well as selfinterest. Unlike the pragmatist, he sees the action as a ‘cause’ or
a ‘mission’ and he sees the enterprise as continuing even after
the short-term goals are achieved. Indeed, objective evidence
means little to him; as Smelser notes of norm-oriented beliefs in
general: if evil occurs, it is as predicted, if not, plans were
changed because of trickery.41
Typically also, the crusader sees beyond the immediate
problem and locates it in a much wider context. Although individuals like Alderman K. showed some of these characteristics, it
was Geoffrey Blake who clearly exemplified them all.
I would not want to claim that the following profile of Blake
– drawn directly from interview notes – is typical of supporters
or even crusaders. At the same time, Blake was ‘representative’ in
the sense of personifying so many elements of the belief system
about the Mods and Rockers.
Personal Information: Aged 40; working-class parents. On
leaving school, served an apprenticeship; was active in the
Union which he now thinks has ‘gone to the dogs’ since being
absorbed into the bigger trade-union structure; the unions
have got too powerful: ‘It’s another sign of the masses taking
over, you lose your sense of identity in the bigger organization.’
Navy during the war. Interested in music and entered into
show business through jobs such as press agent and publicity
manager. Eventually managed a famous pop star. Knows
‘everything about the publicity world’ and is cynical about it:
‘there’s nothing they won’t do to get money. You can give me
all this crap about the press and TV having a duty to the public,
but really there’s only one thing they’re after and that’s a good


142 folk d evils an d m o r a l pa n i c s
story to sell.’ Bought the hotel 21/2 years previously because he
couldn’t stand the pace of life in London; he wanted to slow
down. Fond of Beachside and wouldn’t go anywhere else in this
country but wouldn’t mind going to New Zealand or America.
Sees himself as a candidate for emigration ‘because of the way
things here are going’.
Perception of the Problem: On the surface, he stresses that
the protection of commercial interests is his main motive. He
claims there is objective evidence for the incidents having
affected the town’s holiday trade: one sixty-bedroom hotel
had only two bookings over Easter, his own bookings went
down and he knows of other cancellations. A sea-front novelty
shop which normally does £1,000 of business, took only £40.
People ‘had been terrorized by the mobs. In my hotel people
were staying in the whole day; they were too terrified to move
about . . . £4,000 has been lost through cancellations. In the
fifteen weeks of the peak season, we have about 7,000 people
per week down here. It’s a family resort and they are the ones
who are scared away. Must we lose these thousands of people
and our living because of fifteen hundred to three thousand
ignorant louts? And if we lose a thousand “innocent” Mods
and Rockers, so what? . . . What we’re trying to do in Beachside
is to protect our safety and our town. All traders have to live
and this is my home; they are therefore depriving me of my
living. This is the most blatant misuse and abuse, what the
trade unions would regard as the most serious crime possible:
depriving a man of his living.’
It is clear, though, that Blake had other motives and orientations. ‘It’s not just the commercial questions; it’s also a humiliation. I mean, that we should have to stand by and not be able
to do anything.’ The problem was not just Beachside’s: ‘It’s not
just our problem, it’s a national problem and that’s why I’m
willing to give you all the information I can. Perhaps our experi-

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ence will be able to help others . . . These hooligans are not just
hooligans in Beachside, they’re hooligans at home as well,
during the week and not just Bank Holidays.’ It was not just a
question of damage or violence: ‘. . . authority was getting into
disrespect. It was being blatantly refuted . . . this is like a disease
running rife, if it goes unchecked, there’s no knowing where it
will end . . . This is mob rule and it must be brought to heel;
you’ve got to start stemming the flood before it’s too late . . .
We must make some stand.’
Individual action had to be taken, because the ‘powers
that be’ had failed to see the urgency of the problem. ‘It’s an
immediate problem and therefore you have to take immediate
steps – it’s like road accidents: if you clamp a 15 m.p.h. speed
limit everywhere, road deaths will immediately go down, it’s as
simple as that . . . You must look at it like this: there’s a break in
the dike and therefore you’ve got an immediate problem: how
to stop up the dike. It’s just this that the authorities don’t see.
It’s no good sticking your head in the sand and putting across
a high moral tone. This might pay off in ten years time, but it’s
no good now. You might be making things better for 1976, but
it won’t help in 1966. It’s not that I don’t think of these deeper
implications . . . It’s like a drowning man; he doesn’t want to
invest in a life boat . . . I know that to do your type of research
properly it will take ten years to find things out, but what use is
that to us now? . . . You need an emergency law, something like
the Emergency Tax.’
How specifically had the official agents failed? ‘The council
have been blatantly inactive . . . They don’t want to get their
hands dirty. The police could aid us, but if you ask me, the
Chief Constables are just concerned with keeping their crime
rates down so they don’t want many arrests; their heads are in
the sand, just like anybody at Whitehall. Do you remember that
film “Carlton-Browne of the F.O.”? . . . they file something away
and pretend it doesn’t exist . . . they didn’t even use the reserves


144 folk d evils an d m o r a l pa n i c s
over Easter. Mind you, the policemen themselves are doing
great jobs, but their hands are tied. They’re the ones who wear
the handcuffs today, not the criminals . . . in the same way as
the church has lost its power, so has the policeman.
‘You’ve got to have the right line of authority to deal with
this sort of thing – ripping up cinema seats. But if the police try
to use their authority, you get cries about a “police state”. This
is just crap.’
The courts are also found wanting: ‘There was this case last
month of the Recorder commuting a six-month detention
centre sentence to a fine . . . and then I heard a rumour that the
£50 fine was not allowed because it was too difficult to collect
. . . people don’t see the need for a radical solution to a radical
problem. Look at something like kicking a policeman in the
face – you know what the sentence here for that was? A £2 fine.’
What Sort of Solution? Any solution had to be applied urgently
and it had to be drastic. ‘A serious problem demands a serious
solution. Many solutions we have suggested have met with the
cry about “protecting citizens’ rights”. They say we are taking
civil liberty; but what about the terror they strike in others so
you can’t walk along the front safely? No sane man will attack
someone and just beat him into the ground. You have to deal
strongly with this lot.’
He favours most ideas put forward at the public meeting;
above all, any method should affect the offender personally.
‘Anything that’s personal must work. That’s why I’m sure that
bringing back the birch will work; it must work. Take the Isle of
Man; they used the birch when they had this trouble and as far
as I know, none of those thugs ever went back. It’s the only
way: something personal, something that will hurt. It also
doesn’t cost the ratepayers much and it’s also immediate and
decisive and not long drawn out. Look, if you read in the paper
“Two boys were birched at Beachside today”, that’s it, isn’t it?

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It’s not “Severe fines were imposed following incidents a week
ago” which is then followed by an appeal!’
Blake also favoured schemes to exclude the Mods and Rockers
from the town in the first place: ‘Why not stop them before they
come in? After all, an Englishman’s home is his castle, and we’re
trying to protect our castle . . . I’d like to see them totally banned
from Beachside . . . It would be quite easy: you just have to station
a few policemen on the two bridges and roads leading into town.
Yes, banning them would be just the job; I wouldn’t mind if we
had something like the Chateau D’If to send them to.’
Another effective means of punishment would be public ridicule: ‘They should be exposed to public ridicule. This is what
the Vicar suggested. He would like to see the pillory used; this
would really work. They want to do things in public, therefore
they should be ridiculed in public.’
Other innovatory ideas were ‘. . . to form some groups of citizens to go round inspecting things. If they saw anyone giving
trouble, they could jump out of their car and clamp a heavy ball
and chain on these thugs’ feet, so heavy they couldn’t walk.
This would soon put a stop to it . . . or you could get hold of a
corporation dustcart with a cage, put the thugs into this and
drive them round the town.’
There were also suggestions to improve law enforcement by
the police: ‘Why was the Unlawful Assembly Law not put into
action? A court could be set up in any public building and the
court could then ban these people, take them to the town boundaries. Look it up in “Moriarty’s Police Law” – the Riot Act, Unlawful
Assembly, Breach of Peace – it’s all there . . . the Police tried to
keep them moving, but this isn’t enough. They just moved up
and down the front terrorizing people. Large police patrols with
dogs would be just the thing. You see, dogs will bite immediately
and you can’t argue back to a dog. A bite or two and that’s it.’
These and other measures should be applied to all the
youths involved. ‘It’s all very well talking about getting the


146 folk d evils an d m o r a l pa n i c s
ringleaders, but I don’t think this will get you anywhere. OK the
German thing was caused by their leaders, but first you had to
shoot the soldiers, didn’t you? Then you get the leaders.’
His general viewpoint on punishment is that ‘the public
must know that their wrongs are being judged severely. It’s like
this dog here; if I tell him to jump down, he knows what will
happen to him if he doesn’t listen. And the same with my little
boy; people do things if there’s proper authority behind what
they’re told.
‘You’ll always have crime, I know that; people will chance
anything, they’ll chance their life even. But look at these Great
Train Robbery sentences: thirty years: now if somebody’s about
to steal a 3/6 Post Office book, he’ll think about those thirty
years before he does anything. Or take the abolition of hanging.
You blokes say that you can show statistics to prove that
hanging doesn’t make any difference; well I don’t know if it
does good in general. But if it saves ten out of 200 that’s
enough, isn’t it? . . . All the world is busy turning the other
cheek, but there are some things you have to rebuff . . . I like the
idea of these road gangs in Finland: my brother came back
from a holiday there and told me how they get them all on the
road gangs; traffic offenders and all. They say there is much
less crime there now. Or take Saudi Arabia, where they cut off
a hand for theft; that must be effective! . . . You see, what
the brains of the country are forgetting is what we feel like.
They have to try and do something; the government is so damn
inactive that they don’t care for the people, they don’t bear
them in mind.’
Perception of Causes: Immediate factors were important, for
example, the publicity and the influence of the mob: ‘The mass
hysteria gets them; you see bank clerks dressed up as Mods.
They do things they wouldn’t do by themselves.’ But there are
fundamental, long-term causes: ‘Basically, I think it all stems

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from boredom. Boredom, plus the affluent society, this is the
basic problem. If they had to work they would have no time for
all this . . . there’s too much done for them and therefore they’ve
got time and money on their hands. The automation and everything must make them bored with life; craftsmanship is gone,
everything is mass produced. And they just have to switch on
the TV to be entertained. You’ve got to keep them away from all
sorts of temptation, just like the cows you keep away with an
electric fence . . . What else do they have to do except sign on at
the Labour? They don’t even have to do it twice a week now. This
is a national problem; if Labour gets back again, this country will
go to complete economic ruin, and then they’ll have to work,
won’t they? It might be a good thing from this point of view.
‘We’ve got to deal with it severely now, but this doesn’t mean
that I don’t see the roots of the trouble; which is that we’ve let
them down. It’s neglect by their parents, that’s what it is, a
sheer lack of interest. There’s no sense of authority any more; at
home there’s too much familiarity with “mum” and “dad” and
this leads to contempt of all authority . . . There’s no respect any
more for law and order. It’s really a question of the masses
taking over. You have some Four Star hotels in Beachside, in
the old days you had to be somebody to get in there, now
anyone can go, there’s no more respect . . . All this business
about giving them a vote at eighteen. What ideas do they have
at eighteen? You’ll be having a Mod as Prime Minister next. It’s
mass rule like the masses of the Chinese; it’s going to get just
the same here with no birth control being used . . . There is too
much emphasis on the mass; you have all these coloured
people coming in here. Well, I don’t want to live with them, Japs
or anyone else. They’ve got their own places; Ghana, Palestine,
these places have got home rule now, so these people should
go back to their origins. But MPs are too concerned with
national issues to see these things; they don’t see that people
in their own constituencies don’t want, for example, to live with


148 folk d evils an d m o r a l pa n i c s
immigrants . . . The power of the trade unions is another thing,
they now rule the world; the mass is ruled by the mass . . . Public
opinion? Well, the way public opinion works is like this: the
intelligent people think about something, then the less intelligent, then the even less intelligent, and then the voters! I’m
going to live in the jungle if the country goes on like this; we’re
going back, I’m sure of that. It’s nothing but mob rule; for the
mob is ruling and Trafalgar Square is their rebel headquarters.
‘When there were troubles after the First World War, people
said, “It’s the aftermath of the war” and they’ve used the same
excuse after the last war. But it’s been twenty years now, so
there must be other causes; though perhaps we’re due for
another war now . . . You can spend ten years trying to find out
these deep causes, but for us it’s an immediate problem; we’ve
got to earn our livelihood.’

The profile is partly one of an archetypal moral crusader, who
is fighting for a ‘cause’ and ‘making a stand’. In this respect, Blake
shares much with the more respectable crusaders of our time –
the Mary Whitehouses, the Lord Longfords, the Cyril Blacks:
single-mindedness, dedication, self-righteousness, a tendency to
exaggerate grossly and over-simplify even more so. But in addition, the profile is familiar enough to those acquainted with the
authoritarian personality syndrome and its correlates: cynicism
and destructiveness, authoritarian submission, extreme punitiveness, puritanism, racial prejudice,* fear of the masses and
projection. I must repeat that I am not suggesting that this
* Blake apparently experienced little dissonance between cognition and behaviour in regard to this attitude. Some time after these interviews, he received
national publicity again, this time for asking a West Indian guest to leave his
hotel. Blake announced that his policy was not to accept coloured or foreign guests. This incident was one of the first of its kind referred to the Race
Relations Board and was used as the test case to establish whether antidiscrimination legislation applied to private hotels.

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constellation of attitudes typifies moral panics in general or will
always be found in the control culture dealing with such folk
devils as the Mods and Rockers. The central role, though, played
by individuals such as Blake in cases of moral enterprise needs to
be studied; this implies looking at the type of society in which
such attitudes originate and which subsequently allocates to the
individuals who embody them, key parts in its ceremonies of
social control.
I will conclude this section by considering how much of this
agitation and action group activity permeated through to bodies
such as the legislature to which the appeals were ultimately
addressed. At the most elementary level, individual MPs clearly
took an immediate and considerable interest in disturbances in
their own constituencies. Their appeals were similar to those of
others in calling for the suprasystem to take over or augment
emergency system arrangements. Immediately after Clacton, the
MP for Harwich urged stiffer penalties and said that he would
welcome an opportunity to discuss the matter with the Home
Secretary. He assured local traders and hoteliers that their
commercial interests would be protected and that the hooliganism would not happen again. He specifically proposed to
increase the penalty for malicious damage exceeding £20, to a
prison sentence of up to five years. At the same time, the Home
Secretary called for reports on the outbreaks and other MPs made
generalized appeals: ‘Jail These Wild Ones – Call by M.P.s’ (Daily
Mirror, 1 April 1964).
As the events built up, appeals became more specific, more
influenced by the belief system, and articulated in a more formalized framework. After Whitsun 1964, full reports from the
affected areas were sent to the Home Secretary and arrangements
were made for a joint meeting of Chief Constables. One MP forecast that the wave of hooliganism could become a general election issue and tabled a series of questions, including a suggestion
that the police should be given new powers to act against those


150 folk d evils an d m o r a l pa n i c s
who incite their companions to violence, without being actually
involved themselves. Other MPs announced that they intended
calling for a return of corporal punishment for hooliganism. A
Brighton MP came to London after watching the weekend events
to put questions to the Prime Minister. His idea was to revive the
type of National Service Act which sent Bevin Boys to work in
the mines and other types of national non-military service. There
should also be ‘reconditioning centres’ like those run by the
Ministry of Labour in the days of pre-war unemployment.
The boys could be drafted into building projects, and become
the equivalent of the Foreign Legion. If necessary, this labour
could be used for building the Channel Tunnel. This MP had a
private meeting with the Home Secretary in which plans were
proposed to establish police reinforcements in camps on the
South Downs during Bank Holiday weekends. Forces ready to
move at a moment’s notice could be drafted from London.
Although this might have occurred without the MP’s intervention, this policy was put into practice by the next Bank Holiday.
After the initial events of 1964, the subject of the Mods and
Rockers directly or indirectly entered into Parliament in the
following sequence:
31 March: Drugs (Prevention of Misuse) Bill published.
8 April; House of Lords: Earl of Arran tables resolution calling for the
raising of the minimum driving licence age for certain vehicles
from 16 to 19 ‘. . . in view of the invasion of Clacton by young
motor cyclists on Easter Sunday and the consistently heavy casualty rates among the youngest age groups.’
15 April; House of Commons: Mr Frank Taylor tables resolution ‘That
this House in the light of the deplorable and continual increase in
juvenile delinquency and in particular the recent regrettable
events in Clacton urges the Secretary of State for Home Department

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to give urgent and serious consideration to the need for young
hooligans to be given such financial and physical punishment as
will provide an effective deterrent.’
27 April; House of Commons: Two hour debate on Mr Gurden’s notion,
‘Juvenile Delinquency and Hooliganism’.
4 June; House of Commons: ‘Seaside Resorts (Hooliganism)’: statement
by the Home Secretary.
4 June; House of Lords: ‘Hooliganism and Increased Penalties’ (statement by Home Secretary read).
23 June; House of Commons: Malicious Damage Bill, Second Reading.
2 July; House of Commons: Malicious Damage Bill, Third Reading.
The Drugs (Prevention of Misuse) Bill was obviously conceived
and drafted well before the Clacton event a few days earlier. The
Bill, nevertheless, was presented by the mass media as if it were a
result of what had happened at Clacton and, moreover, its
supporters justified it by employing images from the Mods and
Rockers inventory.
Clacton, in fact, provided one of the first big scares about
drug use among juveniles. Press headlines such as ‘Purple Heart
Happy Hoodlums’ and ‘Drug Crazed Youths’ were fairly common
and concern was expressed that there was a causal connection
between pep pills and hooliganism. A local MP wrote: ‘One of
the difficulties was that these young people had taken purple
hearts . . . there was undoubtedly a man selling purple hearts
along the front at the time and it was felt that very strong action
should be taken against him.’42
There was little evidence of much drug usage at Clacton;
there is even less evidence of any causal connection between


152 folk d evils an d m o r a l pa n i c s
hooliganism and the use of amphetamines.* The result of all
the publicity, however, was massive support for what The Times
(31 March 1964) called ‘hastily constructed legislation’ and The
Economist (4 April 1964) ‘a singularly ill-conceived bill’. Whatever
else it was, the Bill (which aimed to reduce peddling by
increasing the penalties for possession to fines of up to £200
and/or six months in prison) was not effective; the next three
years saw a rapid increase in the amount of drug usage in seaside
towns. There was an apparently random relationship between
policy and problem in the sense that a patently ineffective policy
was supported, partly at least, for the ‘wrong’ reasons, whereas,
when the ‘right’ reasons presented themselves, no policy was
The first actual parliamentary debate on the Mods and Rockers
took place a month after Clacton. The debate was on a motion,
from Mr Harold Gurden, noting ‘. . . with concern the continuing
increase in juvenile crime and outbreaks of hooliganism among
young people’ and calling for more intensive measures to deal
with the problem. The context of this motion was clear: ‘I use
the word hooliganism, as implying vandalism in the context of
the recent events at Clacton, where, I was glad to learn today, the
courts have imposed heavy fines on those concerned.’43
There was nothing in this two-hour debate – from which I
have quoted extracts in Chapter 3 – to suggest that MPs were in
any way immune from absorbing the inventory images. In the
course of this long debate, though, the seaside incidents were
mentioned explicitly only five times and the term ‘Mods and
* A research report44 on the association between amphetamines and general delinquency does in fact quote a case of a boy who took large dosages at both the
Clacton and Brighton events in 1964. There is no evidence, though, that such a
pattern is typical; in any event, the amphetamine users in the research sample
were not any more likely to have committed violent crimes than the non-users.
The authors’ conclusion that any relationship between delinquency and drugtaking is parallel rather than causative is borne out by observation at the resorts.

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Rockers’ not at all. Apparently, there had not yet been time for
symbolization to take its full effect. Two months later, during the
second reading of the Malicious Damage Bill, the images had
crystallized; twelve of the sixteen Members spoke about the
seaside resort events and seven specifically referred to ‘Mods and
Rockers’. All other symbols were also more sharply drawn.
At times of moral panic, politicians in office, even though one
might expect them on the basis of their personal records to be
full of moral indignation, often act to ‘calm things down’ and
minimize the problem. Thus it was with the Home Secretary, Mr
Henry Brooke, the only participant in the first debate who
expressed an awareness of the exaggerations and distortions.
Some of the reports of what happened at Clacton over the
Easter weekend were greatly exaggerated . . . At Clacton more
than 1,000 young people came by one means or another,
apparently with little money on them, intending to sleep wherever they could find some form of shelter. The weather was bad
over the Easter weekend and there was little or nothing to do.
They became bored, tempers flared and a certain amount of
fighting broke out. There was nothing like a riot or gang warfare.
Clacton was not sacked.45

He went on to note that acts of assault, theft or malicious damage
were isolated and committed by a small group of individuals. After
the Whitsun events, he made a formal statement in response to
nine specific questions that had been tabled. The statement again
noted that the numbers involved were not large, paid tribute to the
work of the police, endorsed the salutary deterrent effect of sharp
sentences and, while rejecting suggestions for giving the courts
more powers (such as confiscation of vehicles and corporal punishment), proposed to deal with malicious damage.46
The decision to focus on malicious damage is interesting in
view of the fact that in the earlier debate, the Home Secretary


154 folk d evils an d m o r a l pa n i c s
had specifically stated that the penalties for dealing with
vandalism were entirely adequate and he did not see the need for
changes in the law. A few weeks later, under the immediate influence of the Whitsun inventory, he announced that he would ask
Parliament to widen and strengthen the powers of the courts.
The Malicious Damage Bill was introduced soon afterwards and
became effective on 31 July.47
It was clear from the Home Secretary’s original statement and
the subsequent debate on the second reading that, while the Act
was obviously to apply to vandalism in general, it was an emergency measure directed specifically at the Mods and Rockers. As
such it may be seen as a normative formalization by the control
culture, and the Act was justified by MPs and others almost
wholly by appeal to the belief system. It would be a severe deterrent against violence and vandalism; it would ‘re-establish and
reinforce the principle of personal responsibility’;48 it recognized the affluence of the potential offenders: ‘We must not
forget that many of these youngsters are the sons and daughters
of comparatively well-to-do people. All that is necessary in their
case once they are fined is to get their parents to pay the fine so
that their little darlings can go free. There is no punishment for
these youngsters at all.’49
The measures were exclusively hailed as direct reprisals
against the Mods and Rockers: ‘Brooke Hits Hooligans in the
Pocket’, ‘Brooke Rocks the Rockers’, ‘New Move to Stamp Out
Mod Violence’, etc. The specificity of the Act was shown in
Mr Brooke’s own statement: ‘I hope that, with the help of the
House, it [the Act] will be in operation before the August Bank
This statement underlines the ritualistic element in the Bill
which, even on admission of its supporters, proposed fairly
modest changes. In fact, the legislative changes took place in
direct response to the demands to the suprasystem for ‘something to be done – and soon’. As the Home Secretary stated:

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I want the Bill also to be a reassurance to the long-suffering
public. They were long-suffering at these holiday places, for
many of them had their Whitsun holidays or their Whitsun
trade spoiled by these young fools. I want to reassure them by
showing them that the Government means business.

This reassurance was a true ritualistic response to deviance in
the sense that Cohen intended: ‘. . . affirmations and gestures of
indignation by means of which one aligns oneself symbolically
with the angels, without having to take up cudgels against the
devil.’51 Whatever the ‘devil’ was in the seaside resorts, it was not
primarily vandalism. Parliament was not simply being misled by
inventory exaggeration of the amount of vandalism; the two
Members representing seaside resorts who spoke during the
debate, went out of their way to inform the House that, in fact,
there was very little damage done: ‘in the main the Bill deals only
with damage, there was practically no damage done in
Brighton’52; ‘I know that Brighton, which is a much bigger place,
had all the damage and we had relatively little, with much talk
and not very much harm.’53
The explanation for directing exclusive normative control
against what was really putative deviation, lies in the nature of
vandalism as the most visible manifestation of the phenomenon
and the one most calculated to evoke social condemnation.54 To
align oneself symbolically with the angels, one had to pick on an
easy target; the fact that the target hardly existed was irrelevant;
it could be, and already had been, defined.
To summarize this long section on the control culture: the
official reaction to the Mods and Rockers was mediated by a
belief system and in turn generated a set of beliefs to rationalize
the control methods used. The methods and beliefs were supplemented by the not altogether successful attempts by unofficial
agents to create an exclusive control culture. A few rules were
created – mostly ritualistic in nature and not evidently effective


156 folk d evils an d m o r a l pa n i c s
– and these survived beyond the period of their initial usage.
More to the point, the whole amalgam of the societal reaction
survived its origins in the form of mythologies and stereotypes
about the folk devils it had partly created.
The burden of my analysis in the next chapter will be to show
that the reaction did not have its intended or anticipated effect,
but, in fact, increased or amplified the deviance. Before going on
to this, one further element in the reaction to deviance, exploitation, needs some attention.

Without defining precisely what he meant, Lemert drew attention to the phenomenon of deviance exploitation.55 His examples of
the special exploitative culture which surrounds deviants were
confined mainly to direct exploitation on the basis of the deviant’s marginal status or aspirations to normality. Thus, the physically deformed, the aged, widows, the mentally ill, members of
minority groups, ex-convicts, are preyed upon by fraudulent
individuals and organizations, offering patent medicines, faith
cures, youth restorers, skin lighteners and other treatments or
services. Not all exploitation is so crude though; there is also
what Lemert called ‘the socioeconomic symbiosis between criminal and non-criminal groups’.56 This refers to the direct or indirect profit derived from crime by persons such as bankers,
criminal lawyers, corrupt policemen, court officials and lawyers
involved in ‘fixes’.
I will categorize these types of exploitation (to which Lemert
and Goffman tend to confine their remarks) as commercial exploitation. There is another exploitative pattern, though, in the use of
the deviant in communication, particularly public, to defend or
announce an ideology, for example, religious or political. The
latter is illustrated in Erikson’s study of the early Puritans’ reactions to various forms of religious deviance.57 This pattern is

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exploitative in the sense that the deviant is being used for societally defined ends without any regard to the consequences of
this on the deviant himself. I will refer to this type as ideological
exploitation. Another type, which may contain both ideological
and commercial elements, is the exploitation of the deviant as an
object of amusement or ridicule. The historical case of hunchbacks being used as court jesters has its contemporary variants in
the practice of exhibiting those with more bizarre physical
deformities at circuses and fairgrounds.
The commercial exploitation of folk devils such as the Mods
and Rockers is obviously linked with the general market in
teenage consumer goods. While the stereotype of the scheming
millionaires who ‘exploit’ innocent teenagers into buying clothes
and records against their will is grossly oversimplified, it is
nevertheless clear that the market is quick to seize a peg on
which to display its products. (A well-known non-commercial
salesman, Billy Graham, promised, before his 1966 visit to
London, to preach on the theme ‘Mods and Rockers for Christ’.)
The Mods and Rockers division was ready-made for such
exploitation, and commercial interests were able to widen this
division by exaggerating consumer style differences between the
two groups. Special Mod boutiques, dance halls and discotheques
were opened, a book was published called Dances for Mods and
Rockers, and in at least one large dance hall in South London, a
white-painted line was drawn in the middle of the floor to separate the Mods and Rockers. Consumer goods were advertised
using the group images; some of the very shops in Brighton
which had protested about loss of trade caused by the disturbances were selling ‘The Latest Mod Sunglasses’. Clubs and coffee
bars in seaside resorts were advertised as ‘The Top Mod Spot of
the South’ or ‘The Mods’ Own Club’.
This type of symbiotic relationship between the condemners
and the condemned, the ‘normal’ and the ‘deviant’, was shown
nowhere more clearly than in the mass media treatment of the


158 folk d evils an d m o r a l pa n i c s
Mod–Rocker differences. The Daily Mail quiz ‘Are You A Mod or
Rocker?’, published immediately after Clacton, was only the
most notorious example of this. The whole inventory phase may
be seen as an exploitation or manipulation of symbols by the
mass media; even symbols at times must be seen to stand for
some real event, person or idea, and if these did not manifest
themselves, then they had to be manufactured.
Seaside resorts were invariably full of journalists and photographers, waiting for something to happen, and stories, poses and
interviews would be extracted from the all too willing performers.
One journalist recalls being sent, in response to a cable from an
American magazine, to photograph Mods in Piccadilly at five
o’clock on a Sunday morning, only to find a team from Paris Match
and a full film unit already on the spot. ‘Mod hunting,’ as he
remarks, ‘was at that time a respectable, almost crowded subprofession of journalism.’58 The fact that those who were hunted
were willing performers, does not make the pattern any less
exploitative; presumably hunchbacks were not always unwilling
to perform the jester role. A boy persuaded by a photographer to
pose kicking a telephone kiosk, is in a real sense being used. It is
clear that people who denounce deviance may at the same time
have a vested interest in seeing deviance perpetuated, at least
temporarily, until the phenomenon loses its ‘sales value’.*
Ideological exploitation involves a similar ambivalence in the
sense that the exploiter ‘gains’ from his denunciation of deviance
* Social scientists are clearly not immune from this sort of involvement with
their subject matter. The researcher who, in spite of himself, hopes that the
phenomenon will take a particular form in order to prove his theories or give
him some other more ideological satisfaction, is only the more obvious example of this and I cannot claim that I always viewed the Mods and Rockers without any such involvement. When the object of study is deviance, there is the
risk of other sorts of involvement. As one researcher59 notes: ‘Many criminologists have an intense (and perhaps vicarious) personal interest in the criminal
exploits of their subjects. Many are intrigued voyeurs of the criminal world.’

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and would ‘lose’ if the deviance proved, in fact, to be less real and
less of a problem than is functional for his ideology. This type of
exploitation occurs as part of the sensitization process as it
involves the use of the Mods and Rockers symbols in previously
neutral contexts. At annual meetings of Chambers of Commerce,
Boy Scout and Air Training Corps ceremonies, school prizegivings, mayoral inaugurations and in numerous other public
contexts, the Mods and Rockers symbols were used to make an
ideological point. Audiences were told what to do to prevent
themselves or others from becoming Mods and Rockers or were
congratulated on not already being Mods and Rockers. The events
and their symbolic connotations were used to justify previous
positions or support new ones:
The men in the B.B.C. who feed violence, lust, aimlessness and
cynicism into millions of homes nightly must squarely consider
their responsibility.
One of the main reasons for what happened is the present
Government’s attitude to working-class adolescents as fair
game for blatant exploitation by commercial interests.
. . . consider now the effect of TV violence in relation to
happenings at Brighton and Margate and use your great power
to help provide an answer.
The true criminals are the maladministrators of this country,
an inadequate educational system, lack of decent housing and
all the amenities that make a decent citizen.60

Exploitation was often for more specific ends: the President of
the National Association of Chief Educational Welfare Officers
called for more officers to be recruited: ‘The matter is urgent if
we wish to avoid these Clacton and Brighton affairs spreading
into other parts of the country.’ Similarly a Marriage Guidance
Council called for volunteers to run group discussions for young
people. Numerous youth clubs called for more funds to build up


160 folk d evils an d m o r a l pa n i c s
facilities which would prevent the Mods and Rockers ‘disease’
from spreading. All such appeals, which, of course, negatively
polarized the Mods and Rockers even further, were made in
terms of interest group perspectives (particularly useful for
political parties as 1964 was election year). The fact that the
deviance was reacted to in terms of such perspectives, and that
the Mods and Rockers were all things to all people, was shown
in those instances where the Mods and Rockers, instead of being
denounced, were welcomed for ideological reasons. So, for
example, some of the Provos and members of the Destruction in
Art movement hailed the Mods and Rockers as the avant-garde of
the anarchist revolution. On his arrival in London, the Provo
leader, Bernard de Vries, was optimistic about the spread of the
movement in Britain and was sure that if the Mods and Rockers
were given opportunities for demonstrations and happenings,
they would turn pacifist.61
Like other aspects of the societal reaction, the exploitative
culture both reflects and – as the next chapter considers – creates
the amplification of deviance. What I have suggested in this chapter
is that, in addition to the ordinary deviation amplification sequence
(initial deviance, societal reaction, increase in deviance, increase in
reaction, etc.), a similar process is at work within the reaction
itself. This is indicated, during the moral panic, by the presence
within the control culture of such features as sensitization, diffusion, escalation, dramatization and exploitation. These were parasitic on each other, as were the different groups of reactors: for
example, the media reacting not so much to the deviance, but to
what the magistrates said the deviance was. Thus, almost independent of the deviance, the reactors amplified the situation. One
of the flows that can be visualized runs something like this:
(i) Initial deviance leading to:
(ii) the inventory and (iii) sensitization which feed back on each
other so as to produce:

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(iv) an over-estimation of the deviance which leads to:
(v) an escalation in the control culture.
Such escalation (in addition to feeding back on the other
reaction stages, for example, by proving that the deviance is
threatening enough to require all this effort) affects the way in
which the deviance itself develops, the subject of the next


This is the point at which to return to the ‘impact phase’, the
original scene of each event, and observe something of the
interaction between the various audiences and actors involved.
How was the stage set? How were the crowd scenes (there were
few leading roles) played out? How did the various elements in
the societal reaction – media, control agents – influence what
was happening?
After this chapter, the disaster sequence will have to be abandoned and the dramatalurgical analogy will also have nearly
exhausted its utility. What have been visualized as audiences and
actors will have to be analysed as occupants of particular
positions – young, old, middle class, working class – in a particular society, England – at a particular time, the 1960s. But for the
time being the dramatalurgical analogy is far from played out;
indeed, more than at any other point in the narrative is it justified
to use the language of the theatre to describe what was happening.
In a real sense, being on the beaches was being on stage.

o n t h e be a c h e s : th e w a r n i n g a nd t h e imp act

For a very obvious reason, disaster researchers have devoted considerable attention to studying the warning phase: reactions to warnings are crucial in determining the effects of the disaster. Research
has concentrated on the stages in the psychological reaction to
threat, paying particular attention to the defence and coping mechanisms which inhibit a realistic assessment of the approaching
disaster.1 The culmination of a sequence involving recognition and
validation of the appropriate cues, the expression of emotional
responses such as fear and anxiety and a definition of the alternative actions available in the situation, may be disbelief or distortion (the danger will occur later than expected, it will be worse
elsewhere). The eventual outcome depends on factors such as set
or anxiety level (‘if a person is “set” to expect a disaster a minor
suggestion will raise the probabilities of occurrence in his mind
considerably so that reaction to the disaster, whether it is imminent
or not, is precipitated’2) and familiarity with similar situations.
While parallel processes developed in the warning before
each Mods and Rockers event, a crucial difference was that
there were very few of the factors tending to produce denial,
disbelief, defence and other such end-products described in
disaster research. There was little warning before the initial
Clacton event, but the inventory build-up and reaction to this
and subsequent events was such that the widely disseminated
warnings and threats were generally believed. Few were predisposed to erect the elaborate defence mechanisms that are used,
for example, to discount the possibility of nuclear warfare.
The inventory, particularly the prediction factor, was crucial in
building up a reaction to deviance identical to the sensitization
which occurs in an ‘effective’ disaster warning:
If a threat cannot be denied, there is likely to be an increased
sensitization to the danger, so that cues to danger result in


164 folk d evils an d m o r a l pa n i c s
overreaction and emotional and sometimes precipitous behaviour. Where threat cannot be discounted, aggressive and
projective behaviours begin to develop and scapegoating,
polarising of antagonists, and other hate and fear situations
are generated.3

The analogy between the warning phase of a natural disaster
and a situation close to the Mods and Rockers disturbances is
also used by Thompson in his description of the tension in a
resort prior to an expected Hells Angels invasion: ‘As the weekend
began, the atmosphere at Bass Lake was reminiscent of a Kansas
hamlet preparing for a tornado.’4
Such elements could be observed throughout the whole
sequence of the reaction to the Mods and Rockers, and they were
condensed and concertinaed before each single event. As such,
they were part of the general sensitization process already
described, but two further unfolding features of the warning
phase need to be noted. The first is the tendency for the warning
system to become more complicated and formalized and to start
earlier; the second is the increasingly unreal and ritualistic nature
of the system as evidenced by the number of false alarms and
warnings out of proportion to the imminent threat.
Initially, the warning system operated only locally and was
confined to certain seaside resorts on the south coast. Although
there was nothing intrinsic in the Clacton event to expect that it
would be repeated, the way it was reacted to made the threat of
a repeat performance very real to the other resorts. It needed
only one interview with a Rocker who said (or who was quoted
as saying) ‘Next time Brighton will get it’ to increase the threat.
The atmosphere of expectation and apprehension before the
Bank Holiday immediately after Clacton can be gauged from the
local press at the time.
A few days before Whitsun, a Brighton paper carried a story
headed: ‘Rioting Rockers Plan Raid on Brighton Soon’ (Evening

o n t h e be a c h e s : th e w a r n i n g a nd t h e imp act

Argus, 13 May 1964). It was claimed that a number of seaside
towns had been warned by letter and anonymous phone calls
that they would be targets for the next Mods and Rockers ‘invasion’. Details were given of police preparations (‘we will crack
down on them immediately’) and on the Saturday, there was
another report ‘Seaside Towns Ready for Trouble’ in which it was
disclosed that police leave had been cancelled in Brighton,
Eastbourne and other resorts. At about the same time an editorial
in another Brighton paper (Brighton and Hove Gazette, 15 May 1964)
carried a warning about ‘. . . the riot-raising Rockers who,
rumour has it, have it in mind to do a Clacton on Brighton’. In
case the action properties of this warning cue had not been
assimilated by the public, readers were urged: ‘. . . if they see
signs of a “little Clacton” brewing, they should give the police
their active support in reporting it.’ This type of warning is
equivalent to inhabitants of a flood area being told to evacuate
when sirens sound; but while their evacuation would reduce the
effects of the disaster, the Brighton inhabitants, sensitized to
report signs of a ‘little Clacton’ would, in fact, create deviance in
something like the original sense suggested in the transactional
approach. This is the paradox intrinsic in moral panics.
Warnings in Margate at that time were more specific as there
had been minor incidents there over Easter. The build-up in the
Isle of Thanet Gazette in April and May, with articles such as ‘Put
Them in the Stocks’, and stories of local vigilantes, leaves little
doubt that the Mods and Rockers were expected. As early as
3 April an editorial noted that the Easter hooliganism ‘. . . can be
construed as a foretaste of the type of behaviour which will be
rife on our seafronts during the coming holiday season, unless
swift and effective action is taken right now . . .’.
After the second wave of incidents confirmed expectations,
warnings became articulated at a much broader level. The
national press and other sources of public opinion made it clear
that the Mods and Rockers were now an institutionalized threat


166 folk d evils an d m o r a l pa n i c s
to seaside resorts. Symbolization made the cues for recognizing
incipient deviance (‘little Clactons’) much easier to pick up.
Warnings were sounded earlier and the threat was expressed in
terms of certainty and not probability. So, by August 1965, the
Evening Standard (27 August 1965) carried a prominent report
describing police preparations and quoted a police spokesman
about leave being cancelled ‘. . . as a precaution against the usual
riots between rival teenage gangs’ (emphasis added).
As the societal control culture moved towards diffusion, escalation and innovation, so did the warning system become more
formalized and bureaucratized. Shortly before August Bank
Holiday, 1964, the Home Office Airborne Police Scheme to fly
reinforcements in RAF Transport Command, was publicized. A
local paper, in a report headed ‘Town Is Ready For All Comers’
announced that besides elaborate police preparations, special
arrangements had been made to open the Town Hall courtroom
over the weekend. (Hastings and St Leonards Observer, 1 April 1965).
These were not only warnings but stage-setting ceremonies:
there was no doubt that the show would take place, one just had
to make sure that the folk devils and their denouncers would
have the appropriate arenas for their performance.
Certain Chief Constables institutionalized the practice of
formal press conferences to explain preparations. Elaborate plans
were made well in advance and national institutions such as the
Home Office began to take a coordinating role. These ‘secret’
plans were judiciously leaked well before the expected event
ostensibly to warn the Mods and Rockers what was in store for
them, but also to reassure the public that something was being
done. A week before Easter 1965, the Sunday Telegraph (11 April
1965) carried a detailed report of a Home Office conference the
previous week attended by the Commissioner of Police and Chief
Constables from all forces in southern England which might be
affected. At the same time in Clacton, arrangements were made
to station a squad on the main road junction on the outskirts of

o n t h e be a c h e s : th e w a r n i n g a nd t h e imp act

the town to transmit warnings to a seafront patrol equipped
with walkie-talkie sets. In 1966 an even more sophisticated
warning system was set up. The Chief Constable of Hastings
revealed at a conference of senior police officers at Leicester
University that a secret network of plain-clothes police and
informers were operating in clubs and coffee bars.5 Agents who
had infiltrated the ranks of Mods were passing information direct
to Scotland Yard and had apparently noticed a sinister development – the rise of self-appointed mob leaders. According to the
Chief Constable, danger signs of this advanced planning could
have been noticed well in advance at football riots and the
organized interruption of political meetings during the General
Election. The police now had their own early warning system to
detect such signs: ‘These people will not be able to get together
without our knowing something about it beforehand.’*
As in the cases of mass delusion described previously, the situation was ambiguous enough to allow for a number of false
alarms to occur. Unfulfilled expectations, however, did not lead
to a breakdown in the warning system or the erection of psychological defences against threat; if things did not happen, this
could be explained in terms of the effectiveness of the deterrent
(‘they know we won’t stand for them in X’) or a change in the
invasion plan. When public interest in the Mods and Rockers
died down, and there was consequently less need for such
rationalizations, the warnings became less publicized – despite
the fact that the behaviour itself had not considerably changed its
pattern. The deviance was now a regular occurrence, so there
was no need for formal warnings. One merely had to consult a
calendar to find out the date of the next show.
* See Withey’s remarks about ‘overreaction’ and emotional behaviour. One
might speculate that such fantasies about planning (cabalism) and spies
infiltrating coffee bars, provided control agents with a satisfaction analogous to
gang-leaders’ fantasies about gang life.


168 folk d evils an d m o r a l pa n i c s

What happened and what was the atmosphere during the impact
phase of a typical incident? The first feature to be noted was that
in every instance, the young people present constituted a crowd
or series of interlocking crowds, rather than a group (or gang) or
even less, two highly structured opposing groups (or gangs). In
terms of the organizational criteria used by sociologists to define
such phenomena,6 the collectivities were at the least defined ends
of the continua, and were far removed from the image of cohesive gangs presented in the inventory. Leadership was more spontaneous, actions were more momentary and less premeditated,
emotions were more transitory, organization was weaker and
goals were less clearly defined than most descriptions of the incidents using the ‘warring gangs’ image, lead one to believe.
Neither could the crowds be characterized in terms of the
classic stereotypes of crowd or mob mentality. There was little of
the initial psychological homogeneity which is supposed to
characterize such groupings, and there was a considerable range
in background and motivation. Homogeneity developed only
through continued interaction and even at the peaks of crowd
activity there were very diverse patterns of participation. These
were not like revolutionary crowds or lynch mobs, but, on the
whole, a series of passive and uncertain groups waiting to be
Passivity and expectancy were the dominant moods, and the
context – the ritual Bank Holiday weekend by the sea – was one of
leisure and entertainment. Brighton, Clacton, Margate, Southend
– whatever the differences between them – share common characteristics on these occasions: a certain shabbiness, the overstrained
and overpriced commercial facilities, a strange sensation of crowds
moving almost randomly around you, and the all-pervasive smell
of onions, hot dogs and fish and chips, the sense of cheapness and
somehow having been cheated.7

o n t h e be a c h e s : th e w a r n i n g a nd t h e imp act

But while Graham Greene was right in detecting a certain
desperate air in the search for pleasure at these times, such
moods are balanced by the positive exaltation produced by being
away from home, from responsibilities, from routine.8 For the
kids coming down to the resorts during those heady years of the
mid-sixties, the weekend was an event, a happening, a ceremony
which, in some senses, was affirmative. This was where the
action was. It was the action of consumption which Goffman
talks about when describing the ‘fancy milling’ process in such
crowd settings:
. . . mere presence in a large, slightly packed gathering of revelling persons can bring not only the excitement that crowds
generate, but also the uncertainty of not quite knowing what
might happen next, the possibility of flirtations, which can
themselves lead to relationship formation, and the lively experience of being an elbow away from someone who does manage
to find real action in the crowd.9

Such generalized processes have to be put in their specific
cultural setting and seen at a particular time in history: the point
at which a whole new generation was beginning to define just
simply being present in a crowd as an event. The pop concert, the lovein, the happening and (most appropriately named of all) the
be-in, could be events even if, and perhaps especially if, nothing
at all happened. One was just with others. The only structure was
that brought to the event by its participants.
Now while the Mods and Rockers scenes were every bit as
unstructured as this, most of the crowd – with the exception of
the constant beatnik population and the hippies and flower
children of the later years – had not quite reached the cultural
sophistication by which non-action is defined as action. Their
aim was excitement, but for most of the time nothing happened
and so the dominant feelings were boredom, listlessness, ennui,


170 folk d evils an d m o r a l pa n i c s
a sense of drifting aimlessness and lack of any specific plans. In
these respects, of course, the kids were not much different from
most adults on holiday at any time. But this mood was missed by
the outsider because it clearly was incongruent with the folk
devil image.
The following conversation, overheard between two 15-yearold girls huddled together on a windswept Brighton beach,
conveys something of this tone:
First Girl:
What’s the time?
Second Girl: Three o’clock.
Blimey, we don’t have to sit around here for
another three hours, do we?
We could get a train before.
Well, but you never know.
(Notes, Easter Sunday, 1966)

Let me quote two further examples, one from the notes of a
youth worker on the Archways project, the other from a journalist:
I asked them why they had come down. Many didn’t know, but
from later conversation, I gathered it was to pick up girls. Some
came because they went to Clacton last year and Margate the
year before; some came because everyone else was coming. I
asked them where they had planned to sleep. Few had planned
anything; they’d expected to find a spot on the beach. Few had
considered cold weather or rain. Some had come without even
a blanket . . . The general impression I formed of what they
actually did in Brighton was rather hazy. ‘Nothing’, was the
usual response. They seemed to wander about rather aimlessly;
they were bored and cold . . .10
I asked an Eltham boy whether he was enjoying himself.
‘Not really.’ Why did he come then, when this was all he knew
he could find? ‘There’s nothing doing in London.’ But what is

o n t h e be a c h e s : th e w a r n i n g a nd t h e imp act

there doing anywhere that you’d like to do? ‘Well, if you put it
like that, there isn’t.’11

There are two significant points to be made about such reports.
The first is the total and almost cynical awareness by the kids of
what their situation was: a boy who said to me, ‘Well, we’re
bored at home, so it’s a change to come down here and be bored
at Brighton,’ was being more than a little serious. Then, there was
the apparent lack of understanding by outside observers as to
why such feelings were dominant at all. These feelings can make
sense as I will suggest in the next chapter, in terms of the discontinuities in leisure values stressed in Downes’s theory of fringe
working-class delinquency.
This boredom was accompanied, though, by the perpetual
hope (which, under the impact of the inventory and the subsequent societal reaction, became a more conscious expectation)
that something would happen; after all, ‘you never know’. A
conversation with an Archways volunteer (who had misinterpreted the situation from his own middle-class perspective)
conveys this expectancy:
Was Brighton what you expected?
Fifteen-year-old Mod: Well, I didn’t expect anything, I don’t
Well, you know, I just thought I’d see
what was happening, and if things
turned out right, then we’d have a ball,
wouldn’t we?

It is clear in the context that for ‘things to turn out right’
would mean that there would be trouble or excitement: fights
between Mods and Rockers, baiting of the police, throwing girls
into the sea, ‘buying up some pills’, or ‘finding a bird’. If these


172 folk d evils an d m o r a l pa n i c s
things happened, one could ‘have a ball’; there was no specific
plan in coming down other than to take part in or (more likely)
to watch any sign of fun.
Trouble, excitement, action (or in the later skinhead version
‘aggravation’), was built into the crowd scenes. There were not
just the common elements described in other reviews of disturbances at sporting and recreational events12 – an influx of
outsiders into a small town or amusement centre, their high
visibility in terms of interests, age group and overt symbols such
as dress – but a particular sequence of societal reactions which
created new scenarios to play out. Increasingly, the action became
more ritualistic and predictable. While only a quarter of the
Barker–Little sample (at the beginning of 1964) admitted to
going to Margate expecting trouble, all of them expected trouble
at the subsequent weekend’s gatherings. As trouble became
defined as institutionalized, the hope that something would
happen became a definite expectancy.
The inventory reporting can be seen as having a reinforcing
effect on already existing tendencies to expect and look forward
to trouble. Constant repetition of the violence and vandalism
images and reports about preparations for the next ‘invasion’
generated an atmosphere in which something had to happen.
With the exception of those ‘troublemakers’ who, like Matza’s
positivist delinquents, nearly corresponded to their stereotype,
the young people coming down constituted a massive audience.
Usually this was an audience at a non-event, but the non-event
had to be made into an event in order to justify the journey
and the predefinitions of what the situation would be. Whatever
little initial homogeneity there was in the crowd, could be attributed to this expectancy factor, as reinforced by the societal reaction. A group of boys walking down the beach could get caught
up in a nexus of mutual misunderstandings; ego thinking that alter
will perform a certain role and expect the same of him, while
at the same time alter perceives ego in identical terms and both

o n t h e be a c h e s : th e w a r n i n g a nd t h e imp act

perceive that the publicly defined situation was making demands
on them.13
Once a dominant perception is established the tendency is to
assimilate all subsequent happenings to it. It is in this context
that one must view the relatively trivial incidents which attracted
attention and sometimes triggered off trouble. Through the
process of sensitization, incidents which would not have been
defined as unusual or worthy of attention during a normal Bank
Holiday weekend, acquired a new meaning.
Two boys stopped to watch a very drunk old tramp dancing
about on the beach. They started throwing pennies at his feet.
Within 45 seconds there were at least 100 people gathered
round and in 60 seconds the police were there. I turned my
back on the crowd to watch the spectators gathering on the
promenade above and by the time I turned back, two policemen
were leading a boy away from the crowd.
(Notes, Brighton, Easter, 1965)

Other similar precipitating, or potentially precipitating,
incidents were road accidents, a Rocker walking past a group of
Mods, a group of youths being refused service in a bar or café
and scooter riders being stopped to produce their licences.
Where incidents did not occur ‘naturally’ they had to be created.
The following is what I mean by a more natural type of incident
– natural in the sense of having a culturally understood precipitant and sequence:
. . . The boys (from Ealing mainly) were in the dance suite in a
body of about 35 people. They were obviously creating a disturbance because a bouncer told one of the group to leave. The
boy obviously took exception to being singled out and so pulled
a gun from out of his pocket and threatened the bouncer with
it. Apparently the bouncer had said, ‘Go on, then, pull the


174 folk d evils an d m o r a l pa n i c s
trigger’ to which the youth replied, ‘I haven’t any fucking
bullets.’ The gun was a toy cap gun. The youth was then in the
position of having his bluff called and was defenceless.
Obviously, loss of face was involved in this as well. His friends
realized this and created a tremendous uproar in the dance
suite to make sure that they did keep the upper hand. There
was a bloody fight and the police and ambulance were called.14

Often though the sequence was more contrived, and while
malice or damage might have been the end result, the initial step
was less likely to be maliciously inspired, than in Matza and
Sykes’s term ‘manufactured excitement’. Crowd members,
usually younger ones, could be seen self-consciously and deliberately trying to attract attention with ploys such as throwing
stones at a paper policeman’s helmet floating on the sea, ducking
girls into the water, ganging up to bump someone on the
dodgem cars, riding on the children’s merry-go-round, jumping
from the pier with an open umbrella held aloft. These were the
events out of which trouble could come. More often than not the
crowd would not respond; when it did so it would act momentarily and then return to just simply waiting around. One might
see a hundred kids milling around, some of them throwing
stones, others shouting and then suddenly moving on together
as if nothing had happened.
The air of expectancy generated in these incidents is very
similar to the ‘milling process’15 observed in crowds gathering
around a road accident or similar event. One finds not just a restless, excited physical movement, but a process of communication in which individuals try to restructure an ambiguous
situation by seeking cues in the reaction of others. It is this type
of restructuring which marks the next crucial stage: without it, a
concentrated and even excited crowd would have soon disintegrated. A socially sanctioned meaning was given to the situation
by seeing others act and through the development of rumours.16

o n t h e be a c h e s : th e w a r n i n g a nd t h e imp act

In the milling process, individuals become more sensitized to
each other and a common emotional tone develops, mediated by
the type of circular reinforcement described earlier. In such
ambiguous situations, rumours should be viewed not as forms
of distorted or pathological communication: they make sociological sense as co-operative improvisations, attempts to reach
a meaningful collective interpretation of what happened by
pooling available resources.
Rumour, then, substitutes for news when institutional channels fail. Compared to news, it is low in formalization and this
element – as Shibutani suggests – is inversely related to collective
excitement. The suggestibility and behavioural contagion
reported in certain crowd situations are again not pathological
processes, but are forms of reciprocal reinforcement of emotional
responses which provide the channels and controls for rumours
to develop.17 A rapid dissemination of mood and content via
rumours, constricts the range of alternative responses and the
intensity of non-inhibited responses increases. One is sensitized
to concentrate on particular targets, shutting other considerations out. In constructing rumours, only those items consonant
with the mood are selected. The participants seek a justification
for their action and the rumours provide the ‘facts’ to sanction
what the crowd wanted to do anyway.18
This analysis applies equally to the spread of definitions to
the control agents and the mass media during the reaction
phases. In the present context, the point is that the content of the
shared definition that emerged in the crowd about what was
happening, owed much to this reaction.The mass media provided
the images and stereotypes with which ambiguous situations
could be restructured; a stone-throwing incident might not have
progressed beyond the milling stage if there were no readily
available collective images to give meaning to the activity. These
images provide the basis for rumours about ‘random’ events; so,
an incident in which a girl was carried on a stretcher to an


176 folk d evils an d m o r a l pa n i c s
ambulance was variously explained by the crowd gathering
round as ‘this bloke with her must have knifed her’, ‘too many
pills if you ask me’, ‘these Rockers’ birds just drink all the time’.
Different versions of such events are circulated and eventually
assimilated into one theme that receives collective sanction. Each
link in the chain of assimilation involves preconceptions derived
from sources such as the mass media; without publicity about
‘stabbings on the beach’ or ‘drug orgies’ the rumours about the
girl being carried to the ambulance would have assumed an
entirely different form.
The form and content of the rumours are important because
they serve to validate a particular course of action: the deviant, as
well as the control agent, uses collective imagery (which may be
objectively false) to justify action. This type of process is paralleled in the genesis of other types of violent outbreaks such as
race riots. The sequence includes: (i) murmurs of unrest before
the outbreak; (ii) the spread of specifically threatening rumours
(‘something is going to happen tonight’); (iii) the precipitating
spark (which may itself be an inflammatory rumour, for example,
of police brutality); and (iv) fantastic rumours spread during the
disturbance (for example, of murder by the other side) which
are used to justify violence.
The following are examples of these four types of rumours
during the impact phase: (i) ‘I heard a bloke say the cops at
Southend are really getting tough this Easter’; (ii) ‘There’s going
to be trouble on the pier tonight when these Rockers get there’;
(iii) ‘Let’s go – there’s a big fight at the station’; (iv) ‘There were
thirty of them beating up one of our blokes.’ In Clacton, the
specific rumours circulating were those alleging hostility from
the ‘other side’: in this case, local residents. There was a story of
a group being refused breakfast at a café, and another about an
old woman stopping three boys in the street and shouting abuse
at them about their clothes. In later incidents, numerous rumours
spread to reinforce the Mods–Rockers barrier (‘The Mods are

o n t h e be a c h e s : th e w a r n i n g a nd t h e imp act

wearing lipstick this time’, ‘You can smell the grease on those
Rockers; they never wash’). Later on, stories of police brutality
and intimidation were particularly common (‘They beat this
bloke up in the cells’). One legend circulating in Brighton in
Easter 1965, was about a drunken out-of-uniform policeman
brawling with some boys in a café; they didn’t know that he was
a policeman and when he was getting the worst of the fight he
screamed a ‘signal’ and his friends arrived to arrest most of the
boys there.
The truth of such rumours is not at issue: the point is that they
can be traced to certain elements in the societal reaction and they
serve both to validate a mood and course of action, and to
solidify a diverse crowd into a homogeneous mob. The rapidly
fluctuating content of the rumours also illustrates a significant
aspect of the Mods and Rockers phenomenon: the way in which
the targets chosen for hostile action changed under the impact
of the belief system.
In the first place, if, during any one event, an object of hostility
became inaccessible, or rumours were spread of new targets, a
satisfactory substitute would be accepted. If there were no
Rockers in sight, the Mods would quite happily turn on the beatniks; in the course of one morning, the target could rapidly
change from Rockers, to beatniks, to police, depending on the
mood of the crowd, rumours of victimization or actual police
interference. In the second place, the dominant target throughout
the whole sequence changed: in Clacton, the enemy was Clacton
(the shopkeepers, the weather, the lack of facilities); in Margate
and Brighton, at Whitsun (under the impact of the warring
gangs image), the enemy was the Rockers; later on (under the
impact of the control culture), the enemy became the police.
Implicit in the analysis so far is a recognition of the importance of symbolization. This process provided a short-circuited
definition of the situation whereby deviants and control agents
used culturally sanctioned signs and symbols to justify or validate


178 folk d evils an d m o r a l pa n i c s
perceptions or actions. The inventory symbols prepared the
crowd for action because shared images and objects contribute
to uniform action: if a dance hall becomes defined as ‘The
Top Mod Spot of the South’, then the defence of it against
invading Rockers takes on a symbolic significance. Symbols such
as clothing, hair-style, linguistic innovations and other stylistic
attributes also create a sense of group cohesion. A crucial stage in
the emergence of folk devils, is the point in the moral panic
when such symbols become recognized (initially, in an exaggerated and distorted way), elaborated on and then diffused.
Stigmatization and other negative sanctions then become easier
to apply and the chance of triggering off an amplification
sequence – through facilitating identification and solidarity
within the group – is multiplied.
In the rapidly shifting crowd situation and the heightened
emotional atmosphere, the slightest cue or sign could become a
significant symbol. The following are some examples of symbolization and sensitization during the impact period:
A young journalist, who was trying to get into the Margate
courtroom, was shown to the cells instead of the Press Bench
because he had fairly long hair and was wearing jeans. ‘You
look just like them,’ he was told.
(Interview with P.B., 19 November 1964)
Wearing a white shirt and tie with a conventional sportscoat, I
was walking with a group of Mods down the promenade which
had temporarily been made a ‘one-way’. After we were moved
along by the police, I turned round and together with a number
of others started walking back the wrong way. Although I was
pushed once, the police were not as abusive to me as to the
others; the boys on either side of me were bodily turned around
and pushed in the other direction.
(Notes, Brighton, Easter, 1965)

o n t h e be a c h e s : th e w a r n i n g a nd t h e imp act

Wearing a pair of old jeans and an army-type anorak, I had a
hamburger and a cup of tea in a café. Not having any change, I
gave the waitress a £5 note and being in a hurry started walking
towards the cash desk. I heard the manager angrily say, ‘Hasn’t
he got anything else?’, but as soon as he saw me approaching
he smiled nervously and said, ‘Oh, I was going to argue until I
saw you.’
(Notes, Brighton, Easter, 1966)
A boy accidentally fell to his death over the cliffs at Saltdean
(Brighton) during the night. When his friends woke up and
missed him, one went across to the houses on the other side of
the road to phone the police. ‘But,’ he told a reporter, ‘they
wouldn’t open their doors at first. They thought we were out for
trouble; you know what it is.’
(Evening Argus, 18 May 1964)

So far, this dissection of the crowd scenes has remained in the
context of generalizations about crowd and collective behaviour
and some particular links suggested by the transactional approach.
The wider backdrop remains the development of the Mods and
Rockers phenomenon as a whole but, for the moment, we will
remain in the theatre.

A more direct influence on the behaviour than the belief system
was the presence of spectators during the impact period. If the
mass media can be said to have created a metaphorical audience,
one may also talk of a literal audience: the adults who lined the
beaches and promenades to watch the battle being enacted before
them. As early as Whitsun 1964, one local paper (Brighton and Hove
Herald, 23 May 1964) carried a photo of a man in a crowd of boys
swinging deckchairs, holding his child above his head to get a


180 folk d evils an d m o r a l pa n i c s
better view of the proceedings. Crowds of adults were always
conspicuous at each stage of an event: milling around any sign of
potential excitement, watching fights, making a path through
which arrested boys could be bundled into the police van,
crowding the public benches of the courts. If it cannot be said that
they came down with the specific intention of watching the Mods
and Rockers, certainly – at least when the phenomenon reached
its peak – they regarded the troubles as part of the scene, and were
subject to the same hope and expectancy as the boys and girls
themselves. When the events tailed off in 1966 and there was little
of a show to be seen, the gaping spectators were even more noticeable. Old hands could be seen pointing out the scene of previous
campaigns: ‘You should have seen it last year, love,’ ‘Remember
they were throwing all those deckchairs from up there?’
It is difficult to generalize about the motives which brought the
spectators to the scene. The simplest explanation is that they came
because there was nothing to do or else – when the young people
were present in such great numbers that they occupied much of
the available space – because they were forced to watch. One did
not get the impression, though, that there were many unwilling
spectators. Sheer curiosity accounted for a large element of the
motivation. This is analogous to the phenomenon of ‘mass convergence’ observed in disaster studies: the public flock to the scene of
the disaster not so much to help, but to stare compulsively at the
damage and rescue work. One might, in addition, speculate along
conventional psychoanalytical lines, that the adults watching in
fascinated horror were gaining some vicarious satisfaction from
the sight of aggressive or sexually suggestive behaviour.
A more convincing sociological explanation is that the Mods
and Rockers events were viewed as a ceremony. This was a
modern morality play,* in which good (the police and the
* A team of researchers studying football hooliganism have noted a similar
element in these public confrontations between policemen and deviants

o n t h e be a c h e s : th e w a r n i n g a nd t h e imp act

courts) met evil (the aggressive delinquent). Like all morality
plays – or bull fights, which the atmosphere often resembled –
there was little doubt about which side would win: the devil’s
place was known in advance. This type of morality image was
sedulously cultivated by the mass media in the interest of
consensus, and the audience reaction showed that the image was
absorbed. The passive fascination (which might correspond to
the psychoanalytical ‘vicarious satisfaction’ and the aficionado’s
admiration for the brave bull) was livened only when the forces
of good triumphed. On a number of occasions spectators were
observed cheering the police when they made an arrest and
when boys were bundled into a police van, the type of remark
one heard was ‘that’ll teach them a lesson’, or ‘put them in Lewes
for a few nights, that’ll show them’. In the courts there was
applause from the public benches when the Chairman praised
the police.
Whatever the reason for the spectators’ presence and involvement, it is as important to observe their effect on the behaviour
during the impact, remembering that just about everyone
present – including the Mods and Rockers – played the spectator
role at one time or another. One direct effect of the numbers of
spectators was, in fact, to hinder the police in performing
their duties of crowd control. The more important effect of the
audience, though, was more subtle in that its very presence
provided an encouragement to deviance. The audience is part of
the crowd, and even if it may disapprove, it makes the crowd
larger numerically and increases the expression of strength and
support for what is being done. Turner and Killian quote the
‘. . . Spectators seemed to adopt the attitude that the scenes were comparable
to those shown at old-fashioned music halls where villains and heroes were
booed and cheered in a ritualized manner.’19 There is a crucial difference,
though, between these situations: at football matches it is often the police who
are the villains, at the resorts it was always the Mods and Rockers.


182 folk d evils an d m o r a l pa n i c s
Southern Commission on the Study of Lynchings to show that
the spectators often constituted a source of protection for the
very elements of which they might disapprove.20 In the presence of an audience, the more active members of the crowd
become committed to a line of action, because to back down
would be to lose face. A passive audience may also have unwittingly contributed to creating what F. H. Allport originally
termed ‘the impression of universality’ whereby the crowd
member loses some responsibility through assuming that ‘everybody is doing it’. Exaggeration – by observers and participants
– of the numbers involved, only heightens this effect.
In the case of violence, as Westley suggests,21 the presence of
others can lead to a direct escalation. In each type of violence he
analyses – by mob members, concentration camp guards and
police – the violators have a symbiotic relationship to a supportive
audience. The police, because of public support for the use of
violence against criminals and other non-persons such as the
insane, can use an audience to legitimate illegal forms of violence.
Escalation occurs when there is a combination of a group willing
to use violence and an audience to which it plays and will
encourage it and give it moral support. For the crowd the presence of spectators and cameras might have decreased inhibitions
about provoking the police. The kids were one up in a situation
which called for some restraint on the part of the police and they
knew that the police image would suffer if unnecessary violence
was observed by the audience.

This is the point at which to analyse the more explicit on-thespot role of the mass media which, as we have seen, operated
from the outset in reinforcing and giving shape to the crowd’s
sense of expectancy and in providing the content of rumours
and shared definitions with which ambiguous situations were

o n t h e be a c h e s : th e w a r n i n g a nd t h e imp act

restructured. Although popular commentators on the Mods and
Rockers often blamed ‘publicity’ for what happened (and the
press responded with indignant editorials about its ‘duty’ to
publish the ‘facts’), the term ‘publicity’ was used in a somewhat
restricted sense. It either referred to the publicity immediately
before the event (during the warning phase), which advertised
the disturbances and pin-pointed the resorts where they would
take place, or to the supposed gratification young people derived
from the exposure to publicity during the event.
The first of these factors operated in the gross sense of publicizing the event in such a way that it might look attractive, but it
is unlikely to have directly influenced the choice of target: asked
where they got the idea from (of going to Margate), 82.3 per
cent of the Barker–Little sample mentioned friends as their
source, only 2.9 per cent mentioned newspapers and 2.9 per
cent television. Only a handful I spoke to at any stage said that
anything in the press or television initially decided them on a
particular resort. The media more likely reinforced rather than
initiated rumours already current. There were certain exceptions,
though, when during the weekend a sensational report or
TV interview might have directly attracted new crowds. One
notorious BBC interview in which two Rockers said that reinforcements would be arriving was followed by a sudden influx
of both Mods and Rockers, large numbers of whom might have
been attracted by the excitement the interview promised.
There were also signs of direct publicity-seeking behaviour in
the sense that on-the-spot attention from journalists, reporters
and photographers was a stimulus to action. The following
account is by one of the boys in the Barker –Little sample: ‘By the
railway station a cameraman asked, “Give us a wave”. So me and
a group ran about and waved some flags we bought. My picture
was in the paper. We were pleased; anybody would be.’
If one is in a group of twenty, being stared at by hundreds
of adults and being pointed at by two or three cameras, the


184 folk d evils an d m o r a l pa n i c s
temptation to do something – even if only to shout an obscenity,
make a rude gesture or throw a stone – is very great and made
greater by the knowledge that one’s actions will be recorded for
others to see. There is a tendency for the participant in such situations to exaggerate the extent of his involvement and to look for
some recognition of it. Thus at every weekend, young people
could be observed at newspaper kiosks buying each edition of
the evening paper as it appeared and scanning it for news of
disturbances.The exploitative element in this feedback is reflected
in the rumours – which, at least in one case, I am certain were
firmly based – that press photographers were asking suitably
attired young males to pose kicking in a window or telephone
The cumulative effects of the mass media, though, were at the
same time more subtle and more potent than simply giving the
events pre-publicity or gratifying the participants’ need for
attention. Through a complex process that is not yet fully understood by students of mass communication, the mere reporting
of one event has, under certain circumstances, the effect of triggering off events of a similar order. This effect is much easier to
understand and is better documented in regard to the spread of
crazes, fashions, fads and other forms of collective behaviour,
such as mass delusion or hysteria, than in cases of deviance. The
main reason why this process has been misunderstood in regard
to deviance – particularly collective and novel forms – is that too
much attention has been placed on the supposed direct effects
(imitation, attention, gratification, identification) on the deviants, rather than the effects on the control system and culture
and hence (via such processes as amplification) on the deviance.
The simple triggering-off or suggestibility type effects can be
seen even in apparently individual forms of deviance such as
suicide. A particularly vivid example is the spread in selfimmolation as a form of suicide following the report in 1963 of a
Vietnamese monk burning himself to death as an act of political

o n t h e be a c h e s : th e w a r n i n g a nd t h e imp act

protest. This is a form of suicide almost completely unknown in
the West; in the period 1960–63, there was only one such case in
England, yet in 1963, there were three and in 1964, nine. A similar
progression in numbers occurred in America.22 In this case, the
contagious or imitative effect was in the technique rather than the
motivation behind the act. Cases where the motive as well as the
technique is stimulated by mass communication, might be the
spread of prison riots, prison escapes and racial and political riots.
A particularly well-documented example is the Swastika Epidemic
of 1959 –60. The contagion effect could be clearly shown in plotting the curve of the epidemic.23
An example closer to the Mods and Rockers is the spread
during the fifties of the Teddy Boy riots and similar phenomena
elsewhere in Europe. Most commentators on these events
acknowledged the role of publicity in stimulating imitative or
competitive forms of behaviour24 and some studies have been
made on the mass media coverage of such events.25 At the same
time, though, blame was put on ‘publicity’ in the restricted sense
and there was little awareness of the complex ways in which
mass communication operates before, during and after each
‘impact’. The causative nature of mass communication – in the
whole context of the societal reaction to such phenomena – is
still usually misunderstood.
The common element in all these diverse examples of the
amplification of violence is that an adequate medium of communication must be present for spreading the hostile belief and
mobilizing potential participants. The mass communication of
the news of one outbreak is a condition of structural conduciveness for the development of a hostile belief which, in turn, has
to sensitize the ‘new’ crowd (or individual deviant) to incipient
or actual action and lower the threshold of readiness by providing
readily identifiable symbols. The possibility that the mere
reporting of one event might have a triggering and eventually
amplifying effect, has been apparent to many observers of


186 folk d evils an d m o r a l pa n i c s
contemporary crowd violence. This recognition lies behind
suggestions to consciously use the media to achieve aims of
crowd control.26
The triggering-off, sensitization and other such effects of
mass communication described so far, deal with the way in
which the likelihood of deviant behaviour during the impact
was increased: one almost had to attempt to see or take part in
trouble. The inventory and subsequent opinion themes, though,
also affected the form and content of the behaviour. The societal
reaction not only increases the deviant’s chance of acting at all, it
also provides him with his lines and stage directions.
The crucial effect here is the way in which deviant behaviour
is shaped by the normative expectations of how people in that
particular deviant role should act. Much of the Mods and Rockers
behaviour can be conceptualized in terms of a role-playing
model. Posing for photos, chanting slogans, making warlike
gestures, fantasizing about super-gangs, wearing distinctive
insignia, making a mock raid on an ice-cream van, whistling at
girls, jeering at the ‘other side’: all these acts of ‘hooliganism’
may be seen as analogous to the impersonation of mental
illness resorted to by those defined as mentally ill. The actor
incorporates aspects of the type cast role into his self concept
and when the deviant role is public – as hooliganism is by
definition – and the deviants are in a situation of heightened
suggestibility, then this incorporation is often more conscious
and deliberate than in those types of ‘private’ deviance such as
mental illness, homosexuality and drug-taking, to which transactionalist writers have applied such concepts.
New recruits might search for and positively try to exemplify
the values and imagery portrayed in the stereotypes. The media
created some sort of diversionary side-show in which all could
seek their appropriate parts. The young people on the beaches
knew very well that they had been type cast as folk devils and
they saw themselves as targets for abuse. When the audiences, TV

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cameras and police started lining themselves up, the metaphor of
role-playing becomes no longer a metaphor, but the real thing.
One acute observer at the live TV coverage of the Mod Ball at
Wembley (a week after the initial Clacton event) described a girl
in front of the cameras worshipping a hair salvaged off Mick
Jagger’s trousers, as being like a man acting drunk when he is
hardly tipsy, ‘acting out this adoration. She sees she is being
watched, grins sheepishly and then laughs outright.’27
In the present context, the importance of the role-playing
perspective is that the content of the type cast role was present in
the inventory and crystallized more explicitly in the process of
spurious attribution or labelling. This is not to say that a new one
to one link between the labelling and the behaviour was formed.
For one thing, the type cast hooligan role was known to the
potential actors before the deviance even began; like the labellers
themselves, they could draw upon an existent folklore and
mythology. The point, however, was that the normative element
in the role was reinforced by the societal reaction: although the
actors might already have been familiar with the lines and
the stage direction, they were now confirmed in their roles. In
the same way as the ‘chronic’ schizophrenic begins to approximate closer to the schizophrenic role, so did the Mods and
Rockers phenomenon take on every time an increasingly ritualistic and stereotypical character.
Although the hooligan role was ready made and had only to
be confirmed by the labelling process, there were other elements
in the behaviour which could be directly traced to the societal
reaction. The first of these was the way in which the gap between
the Mods and Rockers became increasingly wider and obvious.
Although (as I will show in the next chapter) the Mods and
Rockers represent two different consumer styles – the Mods the
more glossy fashion-conscious teenager, the Rockers the tougher,
reactionary tradition – the antagonism between the two groups
was not initially very marked. Despite their real differences in


188 folk d evils an d m o r a l pa n i c s
life styles – visible in symbols such as the Mods’ scooters and the
Rockers’ motor-bikes – the groups had a great deal in common,
particularly their working-class membership. There was, initially
at least, nothing like the gang rivalry that is supposed to characterize the type of violent conflict gang enshrined in folklore by
the ‘Sharks’ and ‘Jets’ of West Side Story. Indeed, one could not
justifiably talk of ‘gangs’ at all in any meaningful sociological
sense. The only structured grouping one could find in the early
crowds was based on slight territorial loyalty and it was tenuous
enough to be broken up in the crowd situation.
Constant repetition of the warring gangs’ image, however, had
the effect of giving these loose collectivities a structure they
never possessed and a mythology with which to justify the structure. This image was disseminated in the inventory, reinforced
through the symbolization process, repeated in the ‘Divide and
Rule’ and ‘Cabalism’ themes, used to advantage in the form of
commercial exploitation and repeated during the warning phase.
Even if these images were not directly absorbed by the actors,
they were used to justify control tactics, which, as we shall see,
still further structured the groups and hardened the barriers
between them.
The mass media – and the ideological exploitation of deviance
– also reinforced another type of polarization: between the Mods
and Rockers on the one hand, and the whole adult community
on the other. If one is seen as the ‘enemy’ in the ‘war against
crime’, it is not difficult to respond in similar spirit: one ‘rejects
the rejectors’ and ‘condemns the condemners’. The specialized
effect of the Lunatic Fringe theme, is to segregate and label those
involved by emphasizing their difference from the majority. A
striking parallel from a similar form of deviance was the labelling by the motor-cycling ‘Establishment’ of riders identified
with the Hells Angels image as the ‘one per cent who cause all
the trouble’: the term ‘one percenter’ was then used by the
groups as an honorific epithet, reinforcing their commitment.28

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The police – the main control agents operating during the impact
period – had two types of effect on the behaviour; the one
immediate and the other more sustained. The immediate effect
of police policy and action was to create deviance – not only in
the sense of provoking the more labile members of the crowd
into losing their tempers but in Becker’s sense of making the
rules whose infraction constituted deviance. The types of control
tactics adopted by the police under the impact of sensitization
and symbolization involved a certain arbitrary element. The
practice, for example, of designating certain areas in advance as
‘trouble spots’ meant that youths with the appropriate symbols
could be moved along even if they were causing no apparent
harm. In one case in the Brighton court, a constable from
Eastbourne, who had been helping the local force, gave evidence
that he had seen a number of youths standing under a bus shelter;
they were not doing anything, but he ‘had heard that this was a
trouble spot’ and had told them to move away. Not all moved
away quickly enough and one was arrested. ‘If you allow him to
get away with what he did,’ the constable told the court, ‘and not
move when the police told him to, then others would be free to
come down. It was necessary in the public’s interest that these
youths should not shelter from the rain in this particular shelter.’
The police (and the courts) acted on the assumption that certain
forms of behaviour, although not criminal in themselves, were,
under the particular circumstances, so situationally improper* as
to call for official action. It must be emphasized that the majority
of arrests throughout were for offences which are both potentially
provocable and involve considerable police discretion. This means
* The notion of situational impropriety is derived from Goffman; his discussions of attitudes to ‘lolling’ and ‘loitering’ are particularly apposite to the situation on the beaches where the police appeared to be given a license to move
people along who were doing nothing; one had to appear purposeful.29


190 folk d evils an d m o r a l pa n i c s
that the sheer number of charges could give a distorted picture of
the disturbances. In Brighton, Whitsun, 1965, for example, there
was little serious trouble: the weather (there was hail and sleet)
had sent people home early and the Chief Constable even issued
an official statement that most young people had been well
behaved and the police were in control. But ‘in control’ meant
making a large number of discretionary arrests; from late Saturday
to Monday there were over 110 arrests. These were not clear-cut
offences, such as possessing an offensive weapon or assault, but
charges which required highly subjective definitions of what
constituted ‘obstruction’, ‘abusive’, ‘threatening’, ‘insulting’,
‘disorderly’ or ‘unruly’ behaviour. These terms could only acquire
an objective and reified status through the acceptance of situational logic which, in turn, was based on the belief system. The
following are examples of this situational logic; the first two are
from statements by the Inspector prosecuting in the Brighton
court, the second two are from Hastings:
In a case of wilful obstruction: ‘In the circumstances which
operated in Brighton at the time, it can be seen that what the
boys did was likely to provoke a breach of the peace.’
In a case of using threatening behaviour: ‘We will allege that
he was one of nine or ten Rockers chanting “We want blood”
and we would also allege that in these particular circumstances
in Brighton at the time he should be classified as unruly and we
will oppose bail on these grounds.’
An 18-year-old girl was at the back of a crowd which was
being moved. She refused to move quickly and turned round
to her side where the constable was walking and said, ‘Don’t
push me, you . . . copper; I will report you.’ The prosecutor
commented: ‘This is a case where in ordinary circumstances
the police would shrug the thing off, but in an inflammable
situation of this nature, silly little girls like this could cause a
great deal of trouble.’

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In one of the few cases that were actually dismissed in Hastings
(August 1964) on the grounds of insufficient evidence, a boy,
P.G., was charged with abusive behaviour. According to the
evidence, a constable had seen a large group of ‘unruly youths’
walking along obstructing the road. Along with other officers, the
constable moved one part of the group along the promenade.
P.G. was one of the group and the constable heard him jeer at
another officer and make personal observations including the
remark, ‘Look at freckles.’ This sort of remark ‘might not have
been taken much notice of in normal circumstances, but because
of the inflammatory nature of the occasion, it assumed much
greater proportions. Things could snowball very rapidly.’

The last two cases, together with personal observation of
similar incidents, bear out Becker’s point that a great deal of
enforcement activity is devoted not to the enforcement of the
rules, but getting respect from the people the enforcer deals
with: ‘This means that one may be labelled as a deviant, not
because he has actually broken a rule, but because he has shown
disrespect to the enforcer of the rule.’30 This factor assumed a
particular significance at the seaside resorts, where police were
hypersensitive to being exposed to public ridicule. In view of the
audience watching their actions, this feeling was understandable. No matador wants to be laughed at.
The more sustained effects of police action were less visible,
but, in terms of the amplification model, as important. These
effects were to increase the deviance by unwittingly solidifying
the amorphous crowd forces into more viable groups for engaging
in violence and by further polarizing the deviants against the
These sorts of effects are well known to students of gang behaviour. The early Chicago sociologists – particularly Thrasher and
Tannenbaum – documented the ways in which attack, opposition
or attempted suppression increase the group’s cohesion. According


192 folk d evils an d m o r a l pa n i c s
to Thrasher, such attack was virtually a necessary prerequisite for
any embryonic street group to become a gang. More recently,
Yablonsky has shown the same effects and they have also been
documented in the general literature on crowd control in political, racial and other types of disturbances.
The crowd situation offers, par excellence, the opportunity for
police intervention to have the unintended effect of solidifying
the opposition. Such solidification and polarization takes place
not simply in the face of attack, but attack that is perceived as
harsh, indiscriminate and unfair. Even if the attack was not like
this, the ambiguity of the crowd situation offered the maximum
possible opportunity for rumours of such police action to spread.
In the same way that the Mods and Rockers were perceived
symbolically and stereotypically by the police, the police too
were perceived by the crowd as the ‘enemy’. Here was a Punch
and Judy show, with each side having a partially false perspective
on the other and each acting in order to justify this perspective.
It was not just a question, though, of a nexus of mutual
misunderstandings; the police did objectively act in such a way
as to increase solidification and polarization. In the first place,
their control tactics were based on the assumption that the young
people present were either divided into two homogeneous
groups, Mods and Rockers (the Divide and Rule theme) or
constituted a single homogeneous mass. Both these assumptions
were false. By emphasizing the Mods and Rockers’ difference
(e.g. by preventing the two groups from coming into proximity)
the police might have widened the gulf between the groups. In
one particular case (not in a seaside resort) the police, under full
publicity, attempted to call two groups together for a peace
treaty.* By seeing the crowd as a homogeneous mass, to be
*Yablonsky comments on a similar peace treaty: ‘The meeting gave a degree of
official recognition to the illegal activity of a disorganized connection of neighbourhood youth. Moreover the treaty may have structured a loosely developed

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controlled on the basis of the visible stigmata of dress, a greater
sense of cohesion develops. If subject to indiscriminate harassment or even if only witnessing the innovatory use of violence
by the police, the more marginal and passive sections of the
crowd could quite easily develop a sense of resentment and
grievance. This could be the first step towards a sense of identity
and common purpose with the real or imagined hard core of the
crowd, with ‘police brutality’ as a convenient rallying point.
It should be noted that feelings of persecution were particularly acute among the Rockers, who were observably discriminated against by the police. This group was more visible than the
amorphous Mod crowds and also occupied in the public mind
the traditional ‘yobbo’ status. Their existent minority group
status vis-à-vis the Mods and their sense of fighting a rearguard
battle against the new emancipated teenagers, was reinforced by
the police who naturally enough found it easier to identify a
minority group. The literature on crowd control points to this
type of partiality as being particularly provocative and police are
usually impressed with the necessity to avoid entering into issues
that move the crowd.
Another source of solidification stemmed from the fact that
the opposition was largely ineffectual. From the initial incident
at Clacton, the police were faced with a new situation for which
there had been little precedent. Unlike the Metropolitan Police,
the police forces of small seaside resorts have little or no experience in handling potentially violent crowd situations such as
political demonstrations. The tactics of crowd control emerged
on an ad hoc basis and were necessarily over-influenced by false
perceptions of the situation and the highly charged emotional
atmosphere. This meant that hallowed strategies such as ‘the
show of force’, which most manuals on crowd control advocate
conflict. The meeting confirmed the fact that there was trouble brewing
between rival groups. Now two “gangs” had a war truce.’31


194 folk d evils an d m o r a l pa n i c s
in such situations, were not properly implemented. Either the
‘force’ was not strong enough, or had a comic opera aspect (e.g.
the use of converted public health vehicles as patrol vans), or
police action was often hesitant instead of quick and decisive, or
action went beyond the show of force to the actual use of force.
In the face of control that was manifestly inadequate to deal with
the crowd if it did, in fact, become a viable violent mob, the
crowd could easily develop a sense of its potential power. If one
hundred Mods are chasing a handful of Rockers across the beach,
the sight of a handful of policemen in turn pursuing the Mods
can only appear somewhat ludicrous and undignified. It only
needed one unfortunate policeman’s helmet to fall off for the
situation to move very far from a successful show of force.
The third source of solidification and polarization was the
effect of dramatization. Although, by definition, a show of force
has to be publicly demonstrated if it is to have a deterrent effect,
it need not be overdramatized.The dramatic techniques described
earlier, such as frogmarching two youths to the police station or
marching a group through the streets, could only have the effect
that Tannenbaum intended in his phrase ‘the dramatization of
evil’. These techniques effectively polarize the forces of good and
evil and solidify by creating the sense of resentment, which is a
natural reaction to being exposed to public ridicule. If such
effects are combined with a sense of persecution, the whole situation could take on a mythical, chimerical meaning. The activist
Mod or Rocker (real or imaginary) could, like Shellow and
Roemer’s ‘Hells Angels’ function not only as vicarious exemplars
of behaviour that some young people might fantasy but also act
as legendary champions who will rescue the persecuted; they
quote one motor-cyclist witnessing police harassment: ‘Just wait
till the Hells Angels hear about this when they come in tomorrow.
They’ll come down and tear this place apart.’32
That this type of polarization did, in fact, occur, can be seen in
the changing attitudes towards the police. In the first series of

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events, the crowd, with a few exceptions, maintained fairly
good-humoured relations with the police. ‘Attacks’ on the police
were usually disrespectful gestures, such as knocking off helmets.
As the moral panic progressed, though, the lines hardened and
relationships between the crowd and the police deteriorated. In
Brighton, August 1965, a policeman attempting to arrest the
apparent leader of a group of one hundred Mods charging across
the beach, was immediately stoned and when he lost his helmet
in a scuffle, it was pounced upon and used as a football. In Great
Yarmouth at Easter, 1966, four policemen were assaulted and
one of them kicked about the head. The following incidents
illustrate the strained atmosphere and the way in which hostility
to authority became generalized:
A policeman walked quite peacefully between two rows of boys
near the aquarium. Some of them started whistling the Z-car
theme and one shouted out ‘Sprachen the Deutsch constable?’
A boy was throwing stones outside a shop under the archway.
The owner came out and shouted at him: ‘If you come down here
you must behave.’ The boy retorted (not quite loud enough for
the man to hear): ‘Or else you’ll get your fuckin’ army on to us.’
(Notes, Brighton, Easter, 1966)

The role of the courts in the control culture can be seen as
reinforcing the tendency towards solidification and polarization.
The sentences were seen as not only sanctioning police action,
but as being intrinsically harsh and unfair: this was the overwhelming response among the boys in the Barker –Little sample.
The use of the remand in custody as a punitive measure was a
particularly widely felt grievance. The dramatization effect
achieved by the magistrates’ pronouncements left little doubt –
certainly among the offenders’ friends and relatives waiting in
the foyer of the Brighton court – that the magistrates were using


196 folk d evils an d m o r a l pa n i c s
their powers for ritual reasons: they were denouncing deviance
by making an example of the offender. Such denunciations –
combined with the widely held view that the police had been
arresting on a ‘quota’ system – led readily enough to feelings of
resentment and martyrdom.
It should be noted throughout that the amplificatory effects of
the control culture were fed back into the mass media, which
further exaggerated them, thus producing another link in the
sequence. If the policemen did not see themselves as ‘the brave
men in blue’ fighting the evil mob, nor the magistrates themselves as society’s chosen mouthpieces for denouncing evil, these
polarizations were made on their behalf by others.

Before providing a brief summary of this chapter, two footnotes
should be added to my argument about the unintended effects of
the societal reaction.
The first relates to the supposed ‘inevitability’ of the societal
reaction. While it is true that each stage of the reaction appears
to be a logical product of the prior one, the deviance amplification model is a typical rather than an inevitable sequence. There
are no overwhelming technical reasons why it should not be
broken or at least re-routed at various points, for example, by
creating alternative modes of presenting the news. Even direct
intervention by control agents could be different and not produce
all the effects I have suggested. Thus – to take examples on an
admittedly small scale – one might compare the Mods and
Rockers’ events with a similar situation where disturbances were,
in fact, prevented. Shellow and Roemer have described a case of
threatened Hells Angels’ disturbances and the polarization of
crowds of motor-cyclists arriving at a resort for Labour Day
weekend motor-cycle races.33 They outline three conditions
under which exuberance and rowdiness lead to rioting:

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(i) Recreational, service and control facilities ‘flooded’ by overwhelming numbers of visitors, who were then left at loose
ends, ready for any kind of ‘action’.
(ii) Ineffectual, often provocative, attempts at control and
expression of authority by police or officials.
(iii) Development of a sense of group solidarity among members
of the crowd.
All these three conditions were present during a typical impact
period; in the American resort, polarization was partly, at least,
prevented by an educational programme aimed at impressing
three facts on the police:
(i) that motor-cyclists are not essentially different from other
citizens and need not be treated as a breed apart;
(ii) that motor-cyclists are not a homogeneous class but come
in a variety of shapes and sizes; some innocuous, some
potentially troublesome;
(iii) that indiscriminate, harsh treatment of all motor-cyclists
would confirm the latter’s sense of persecution, increase
group solidarity among them, and go far towards creating
the very polarization we wished to avoid.
For reasons that are not technical, it is unlikely that such
methods will be tried very often* nor, of course, are they likely
to be successful ways of preventing primary deviation. They need

* Shellow and Roemer also make recommendations which might well apply to
British seaside resorts about improving the recreational facilities in order to
prevent the milling that precedes crowd disturbances. The Brighton Archways
Ventures might be viewed as an attempt in this direction. Another attempt to
control a juvenile crowd disturbance, this time by deliberately exploiting the
ambiguous nature of the crowd situation, is described in W. Buikhuisen, ‘Research on Teenage Riots’, Sociologia Neerlandica 4 (Winter, 1966 –7), pp. 1 –21.


198 folk d evils an d m o r a l pa n i c s
consideration, though, in the light of assertions that there is
something fixed and inevitable in the way deviance of the sort in
question might be controlled.
The second footnote – a theoretically more important one – is
that I have tended to consider only the negative or unintended
consequences of law enforcement and social control. This should
not be taken to mean that police and court action had no deterrent effect or that a certain amount of violence and vandalism
was not contained or prevented. A problem, though – as in evaluating all types of social control – is that it is by no means clear
what constitutes successful law enforcement, either in its deterrent or preventive aspects. Many claims for such success are difficult to evaluate. For an example of ‘deterrence’ one may take the
fact that some 65 per cent of the boys in the Barker–Little sample
said that they would not get mixed up in that sort of thing again
and most gave the punishment, and fear of worse, as the reason.
Most also believed, though, that they would be the only ones
deterred, and even individual deterrence was limited by the fact
that each event tended to attract crowds from specific geographical areas; only four of the Margate group had been at Clacton.
Their own friends certainly weren’t deterred by the punishment:
they either thought of it as a joke or, at worst, thought that the
mistake had been to get caught.
For an example of ‘prevention’ we may look at Clacton, Easter,
1965, where, in response to local pressure to avoid a repetition
of the previous year’s incidents, the police took elaborate precautions including the use of walkie-talkies and the deliberate policy
of making things miserable for all scooter riders entering the
town. There were virtually no arrests and it was claimed that the
show of force had worked. In fact, though, the 1964 incident
was quite isolated as far as Clacton was concerned, Margate and
the south coast resorts always being more popular with the
Mods. The very few Mods who might have set out for Clacton in
Easter 1965, were possibly stopped by the weather which, if

o n t h e be a c h e s : th e w a r n i n g a nd t h e imp act

anything, was worse than the previous year. The best one can say,
then, for these two claims of successful ‘deterrence’ and ‘prevention’ respectively, is that the evidence is ambiguous.
In the final chapter, the broader implications of these footnotes will be related to the whole question of de-amplification
and how the growth of moral panics and social types ever
becomes arrested.
In summary, the societal reaction may be thought to have
affected the nature, extent and development of the deviant
behaviour during the impact phase in the following ways:


The societal reaction in general and the inventory in particular:
(a) reinforced and magnified a predisposition to expect
trouble: ‘something’s going to happen’;
(b) provided the content for rumours and the milling
process, thereby structuring the ‘something’ into potential or actual deviance; such rumours and images facilitated deviance by solidifying the crowd and validating
its moods and actions;
(c) created a set of culturally identifiable symbols which
further structured the situation and legitimized action.
The presence of an audience gave encouragement to deviance and helped escalate violence.
The mass media in general:
(a) operated to publicize the events;
(b) led to direct publicity-seeking behaviour;
(c) created a triggering-off or contagion effect, whereby the
hostile belief was spread and the participants mobilized
for action;
(d) provided the content for deviant role-playing behaviour
by transmitting the stereotypical expectations of how
persons in the particular deviant roles should act;
(e) together with the commercial exploitation, magnified
the Mods–Rockers dichotomy and gave the groups a


200 folk d evils an d m o r a l pa n i c s


greater structure and common ethos than they originally
(f) together with the ideological exploitation, polarized the
deviants further against the community.
The agents of control:
(a) ‘created’ deviance by applying situational logic to law
(b) because control was unfair, indiscriminate, ineffectual,
based on spurious attribution and overdramatized –
or perceived in these terms – repeated the effects of 3
(e) and (f), thus solidifying an amorphous crowd into a
more unified, hostile and polarized collectivity.

It is no less difficult to untangle the reasons for the societal reaction to a form of deviance or social problem than it is to understand why the behaviour or condition is there in the first place.
In this concluding chapter, I would like to suggest some of the
reasons for the reactions to the Mods and Rockers and place
these in the specific historical and cultural context in which the
phenomenon developed. The crucial question to ask is not the
simple transactional one of why the behaviour was seen as
deviant at all – the answer to this is fairly obvious – but why the
reaction took the particular form and intensity it did at the
particular time. What was it that prompted the control culture’s
responses, the Margate magistrate’s remarks, the indignation of
people like Blake or a Brighton newspaper editor’s description of
the incidents as ‘without parallel in English history’?
Models such as that of deviation amplification are incomplete
unless set in the context of such questions. So far, in a series of
somewhat mixed metaphors, we have viewed the objects of the

202 folk d evils an d m o r a l pa n i c s
moral panic as Rorshach blots, folk devils, actors on a stage,
images flickering on a screen. This was, after all, how they
appeared to society: as processed images. But both the images
and the way they were reacted to were socially created and –
without making any metaphysical assumptions about the ‘true’
reality – we must look for the real social contexts of this creation.
The central indictment of the way the mass media handles such
areas as deviance, social problems and politics, is precisely that
no such alternative explanatory frameworks are presented. It is
not just a matter of bias, unreliability or unfairness but the use of
stereotypical modes of presentation and frameworks such as
that of the ‘event of news’, which virtually deny the possibility of
the consumer obtaining a serious perspective on the underlying
social content of what is being reported.
This one-dimensionality is a feature not just of the media but
of some sociological theories of deviance. A common enough
criticism of transactional theories is that they play down the original sources of the behaviour which is being reacted to, thus
giving an asymmetrical picture of the transaction. My present
criticism is that it is the reaction itself which is often left unexplained. Models such as deviation amplification deal well enough
with what happens in the machine (the feedback and snowballing
effects during the reaction sequence) but inadequately with why
the initial reaction takes place and even less adequately with why
the whole sequence itself might come to an end. For these problems we have to look outside the machine and outside the theatre.

The twin themes of affluence and youth – the second essentially
subordinate to the first – have dominated most analyses of postwar social change in Britain. In the popular rhetoric, they have
appeared under the Macmillan ‘Never Had It So Good’ slogan, in
the sociological version, under the guise of the embourgeoise-

co n t ex t s a n d ba c kg r o un d s : y o uth i n t h e s ixt ies

ment debate. Any analysis, for example, of the way in which the
mass media over this period attempted to interpret and make
political sense of what was happening, would have to understand the whole theme of the changing styles of life which
followed in the wake of ‘affluence’. Specifically, one would have
to focus on the myth of the classless teenage culture and how this
was perpetuated by the mass media. Youth – even when, and
perhaps especially when, it was being troublesome – was initially
the supreme, the most glamorous and the most newsworthy
manifestation of the affluence theme. Justifiably, an important
study of the popular press during the period 1935–65 uses the
youth theme as a metaphor for social change.1
Before the war, the major spending power lay with the over
twenties. No age group emerged – in terms of fashion or
symbolic allegiance – in a self-conscious attempt at isolation
from the dominant culture. In the years between 1945 and 1950
the grounds for change were laid by a constellation of economic
and demographic variables. There was a large unmarried teenage
generation (between 15 and 21) whose average real wage had
increased at twice the rate of the adults’. This relative economic
emancipation created a group with few social ties or responsibilities and whose stage of development could not really be
coped with by the nuclear working-class family.
Within a very short time, the ideal teenager was presented in
consumption terms. As a reward for full production, he was to
be allowed the full spectacle of commodities that the market
could offer, and moreover offer and package in a way especially
designed for him. This is not to say that he was simply ‘exploited’
or ‘manipulated’; such concepts, particularly when applied to
pop music, are too crude to allow for the way in which the
adolescent consumer is also an active agent in creating modes of
expression which reflect his cultural experience.2
Soon, the emerging styles became associated with deviant or
publicly disapproved values. The Teddy Boys were the first youth


204 folk d evils an d m o r a l pa n i c s
group to mark their symbolic innovation – and it was a considerable one – with defiance, anger or gestures of separation. In exactly
the way that occurred later with the Mods and Rockers, such
emerging styles became indelibly confused with other phenomena.
On the one hand they were confused with the general youth theme:
Hot-blooded Youth, It’s a Sign of the Times, Affluence . . . On the
other, they were perceptually merged into day-to-day delinquency
problems, the mundane troubles which make up nearly all the
work of the control system and had little to do with (and never
have) the headline troubles which are the stuff of moral panics.
Before tracing the particular stylistic antecedents of the Mods and
Rockers, some rather general account of the relationships between
the youth culture and aggressive fringe delinquency is needed.3
The most superficial way of identifying this relationship is
through the It’s Not Only This and Hot-blooded Youth types
of themes, that is, the assumptions that teenage culture is firstly
homogeneous and, secondly, congruent with delinquent or
deviant values. The argument is that in the absence of a ritualized
transition to full adult status, a limbo is created characterized by
conflict, uncertainty, defiance and deviance. An autonomous
youth culture, embodying values insulating the group from the
problems of the age transition, provides the source of such
diverse forms of deviance as delinquency, student radicalism and
a drug-connected dropping out. Such manifestations are seen to
be exacerbated by the new affluence – as in the Affluence and
Boredom themes.
This picture is considerably misleading. It ignores the ways in
which adult society actively uses the whole idea of adolescence
and the youth culture in particular, to neutralize any real generational conflict. The young are consigned to a self-contained
world with their own preoccupations, their entrance into adult
status is frustrated and they are rewarded for dependency. The
teenage culture makes them into ineffectual outsiders.4 The
culture itself is not homogeneous; although its artefacts might

co n t ex t s a n d ba c kg r o un d s : y o uth i n t h e s ixt ies

be blandly classless, it is highly stratified along class, regional,
educational and other lines. Moreover, since its creation in the
fifties, a mainstream of teenage entertainment culture has been
conformist in character, and conspicuous for its passivity and
continuity with adult values. The first pop heroes embodied the
highly conservative values involved in the success stories of being
discovered and making it: thus Tommy Hicks, the merchant
seaman from Bermondsey, became Tommy Steele, Harry Webb, the
factory clerk from Cheshunt, became Cliff Richard, and so on.5
This strand continued into the sixties via some of the Liverpool
groups, and then Tom Jones, Lulu, Engelbert Humperdinck and
others. Despite protestations to the contrary from both apologists
and defenders of the pop scene, it was not just the Mums and Dads
who bought these records.
There are, of course, other streams, which perhaps now have
become dominant. But their links with delinquency are not the
simple ones of extrapolation from message to behaviour which
are usually assumed to operate. It is some of the complexities of
the relationship between social class, the teenage culture and
what I will call expressive fringe delinquency, that I would like to refer
to. The focus is not on mundane day-to-day delinquency (which
consists primarily of property offences) but on behaviour
labelled variously as hooliganism, vandalism, rowdyism and
which occurs during middle to late adolescence. More specifically, it is on those manifestations of this behaviour associated
with collective symbolic styles. Such behaviour should not be
explained as being either instrumental or expressive, but simultaneously as both, and it is these parallel routes to the Mods and
Rockers’ events that need separate consideration.
A Problem and a Solution
The instrumental route is that concentrated on by subcultural
theorists of delinquency.6 The argument is that although growing


206 folk d evils an d m o r a l pa n i c s
up in industrial society presents certain common problems, the
structural and normative diversity of our society allows the
problems to be experienced differentially, particularly across
class lines, and only makes certain solutions available. A stream of
working-class adolescents over the last fifteen years or so have
gone through the school system without showing allegiance
to its values or internalizing its aspirations. They leave their
secondary moderns as soon as possible, accurately perceiving the
implications for their future lives of the education they’ve
received. As Downes says, they are not inherently disillusioned
about the jobs any more than they are about education: the
jobs are dull and tedious. Money becomes – quite rightly – just
about the most important occupational criterion. There is a sense
of personal redundancy and waste, a drifting from job to job
without any real expectation of the next one being any more
interesting than the previous one. As Goodman puts it, nobody
asks whether jobs are worthy, dignified, useful, honourable: one
grows up realizing that during one’s productive years one will
be spending eight hours a day doing something that is no good.
All this, it might be said, is not new: how many people do feel
that their jobs are worthwhile and dignified? And, moreover,
when have working-class adolescents not been left out of the
conventional educational and occupational races? Over the last
fifteen or so years, though, one significant new feature has
appeared – the mass teenage culture – to point some to new
aspirations. One must take care not to exaggerate the universality
of the culture’s effects: it does not serve as a direct shaper of aspirations in the sense of creating specific desires, say, to become a
pop star and, indeed, in some traditional working-class areas and
whole underdeveloped regions such as the north-east of England,
it has hardly permeated through at all. But from the beginning its
manifestations were pervasive. The new glossy constellation, in all
its guises, had no serious rival: not the traditional working-class
culture, not the youth service and not political or community

co n t ex t s a n d ba c kg r o un d s : y o uth i n t h e s ixt ies

involvement.While the culture is superficially classless, its meaning
differs across class lines. The middle-class adolescent has always
had other alternatives: satisfaction through education or job, or
‘constructive’ solutions such as community social work, charity
walks, Duke of Edinburgh-type schemes. (It is only recently that
this group has been collectively involved in action that opens it to
some public condemnation, for example, drug involvement and
organized reaction against the regimentation of school.)
For the working-class adolescent only the town was left. And
here – right from the drab cafés of the fifties to the more sophisticated entertainment arenas of the next decade – ways have been
blocked. These scenes provided few opportunities for excitement, autonomy and sense of action. Either nothing at all was
offered or it was dull and mediocre. He did not have enough
money to participate nor the talent, luck or personal contacts to
really make it. So, faced by leisure goals he could not reach, with
little commitment or attachment to others, his situation
contained an edge of desperation.7 He saw himself as effect
rather than cause, he was pushed around by ‘them’. Rather than
accept all this, rather than do nothing at all, he manufactured his
own excitement, he made things happen out of nothing.
It was precisely this form which the happenings on the
beaches took. This is not to read into the situation a sophistication and awareness absent in the participants themselves. The
Mods in the mid-sixties were all too aware of the absurdity of
both their problem and their solution. This was the characteristic
mood I described in the last chapter: the drifting, the apparent
purposelessness, the ever-present but somewhat desperate hope
that something would happen and, in the end, the readiness to
make that something happen. If one asked the boy or girl on the
street corner, the beach, the Wimpy, the amusement arcade, the
pier, the disco, what they wanted to do, they would answer
‘nothing’. And this answer had to be taken at its face value. All
that was left was to make a gesture, to deliberately enter into


208 folk d evils an d m o r a l pa n i c s
risky situations where putting the boot in, throwing rocks
around, dumping a girl into the sea, could be seen for what they
were. Add to this volitional element the specific desires for
change and freedom over the holidays, to get away from home,
the romance of roughing it on the beaches or sleeping four to a
bed in a grotty seafront boarding-house, finding a bird, getting
some pills. One chose these things, but at the same time one was
in a society whose structure had severely limited one’s choice
and one was in a situation where what deterministic forces there
were – the lack of amenities, the action of the police, the hostility
of the locals – made few other choices possible.
The Style
The first signs of all this, the first murmurings of separation later
to be expressed so explicitly and vehemently by such groups as
the Rolling Stones and The Who, came with the Teddy Boys. They
were the first group whose style was self-created, although they
were reacting not so much against ‘adults’ but the little that was
offered in the fifties: the café, the desolate town, the pop culture
of the dance halls, Locarnos and Meccas aimed at the over twenties.8 Their style was adapted from a different social group – the
Edwardian Dandy – and its exaggeration and ritualization were
mirrored in the groups’ activities: a certain brutality, callousness,
indifference and almost stoicism.
Although it was less than most people – and certainly the
press – imagined, the violence was there and it was frightening
enough to provoke a moral panic.9 There was nothing as dramatic
as the Clacton incident which ‘made’ the Mods and Rockers, but
the Teddy Boy style was also very clearly shaped by the societal
reaction to its initial manifestations. The stylistic innovations
were seen – and quite rightly so – as being not just ones of dress,
but as heralding a new cultural contour to be taken into account
in society’s normative map making.

co n t ex t s a n d ba c kg r o un d s : y o uth i n t h e s ixt ies

The heroes of the fifties were cast in the very American mould
of the brute and the hipster: Brando and Dean being the most
perfect and Presley the nearest musical equivalent. But while this
type emerged from and pointed towards many more complicated streams in America, the Teddy Boy was extraordinarily
simple in what he represented. It would have been difficult to
predict from ‘Rock Around the Clock’, ‘Disc Jockey Jamboree’
and the rumblings that sometimes accompanied them, all the
proliferation, confusion and sorting out in the youth scene
during the subsequent few years.
The Mods were to emerge in what Nuttall calls the classic as
opposed to the romantic idiom. The Teddy Boy style – born in
what was very much the traditional working-class areas of South
London – ended up (as clothing styles often do in their last
dying moments) in grotesque extremes which gave way to the
more ‘reformed’ drape suit. This was the point at which the new
teenager of the end of the fifties, personified perfectly in Colin
Macinnes’ stylized Absolute Beginners,10 really began to stake his
claim. These kids were sharp and self-confident, although unsophisticated and gauche compared to their American equivalents.
Even among the middle classes at the time, no type as sophisticated and hip as Salinger’s Holden Caulfield could be found.
They adopted what was briefly called the ‘Italianate’ style of
dressing, drifted into the world of Expresso bars and were drawn
musically to rhythm and blues, particularly small groups, rather
than the loud excesses of rock.
Some, like Nuttall, see these kids – and not the Rockers, as was
popularly believed – as the real descendants of the Ted. They
inherited his vanity, confidence and fussiness; they were too
fastidious for the motorway caffs which at that time were
attracting another stream. And it was their ‘sharp dressing’ which
led to the modern, the modernist, the Mod. By now, the beginning of the sixties, changes were diffusing rapidly, the youth
culture was being opened up to new influences and it was


210 folk d evils an d m o r a l pa n i c s
difficult to sort out the types. Already the art school students and
college or university drop-outs were appearing on the scene, and
the musical focus switched from loud rock, from the brief skiffle
craze and from the older conformist ballad tradition, to indigenous groups such as the Beatles, the Kinks, the Pretty Things, the
Rolling Stones. A bright hysterical ambience began concentrating
in the London clubs such as the Flamingo and the Marquee. This
was where the Mod era began and it had reached at least one of
its peaks by 1963.
In the meantime, the Rockers were evolving. They could justifiably be seen as similar to the Teds in at least two senses: they
were in many respects the lumpen, those who hadn’t caught on to
the new teenage image personified by the Mods; also, they were
more outgoing and direct, closer to the butch image of earlier
years. But, as Nuttall stresses, they were not just transformed
Teds: they leaned towards the romantic stream in their longing
for the earlier crudities of pure rock. Their transitional models
– like the Italianate styles had been for the Mods – were the
ton-up boys of the motorways. These boys saw the Teds becoming
too respectable – a few years before the end of the decade, Teddy
Boy suits were already being sold at jumble sales – and they went
directly to the old American ‘Wild Ones’ theme: the black leather,
the motor-bikes, the metal studs. Away from the city and the
coffee bars, they belonged on the motorway and the transport
cafés. The more legendary of the cafés, such as the Busy Bee and
the Ace on the southern end of the M1 are still, more than ten
years later, shrines for the faithful. ‘Rockers’ – the term, of course,
deriving from the loyalty to early rock – was simply the name
given and taken by this group.
So, leaving aside all the other significant developments on the
youth scene that were beginning to tick over, by 1962–63 the
Mods and Rockers division was already there. But – and this is
what is missed by all commentators, however sensitive to the
nuances of this division – it was not a division between all adoles-

co n t ex t s a n d ba c kg r o un d s : y o uth i n t h e s ixt ies

cents, nor, more importantly, was the division public knowledge
in any significant sense. To the groups themselves, the gap might
indeed have seemed sharp enough:
‘Mod’ meant effeminate, stuck-up, emulating the middle
classes, aspiring to a competitive sophistication, snobbish,
phony. ‘Rocker’ meant hopelessly naïve, loutish, scruffy and
above all betraying: for the mods . . . wanted a good image for
the rebel group, the polished sharp image that would offset the
adult patronization by which this increasingly self-aware world
of the adolescent might be disarmed.11

But such contrasting self-images were never part of the outsider’s consciousness. And the wholly unequal balance between the
groups by 1963 must also be understood. The Rockers were left
out of the race: they were unfashionable and unglamorous just
because they appeared to be more class-bound. The images of
lout and yobbo which they had inherited from the Teds hardly
made them marketable property. The Mods, on the other hand,
made all the running and although the idiom they emerged out
of was real enough, it was commercial exploitation which made
them completely dominant. This was the Mod era, the manic
frenzied years of all-night discos in the West End and the New
Towns of southern England, the steel toothed combs, the purple
hearts, the peculiar tone of near hysteria caught so perfectly by
Tom Wolfe in his description of the ‘kinetic trance’ of ‘Noonday
Underground’ at Tiles in Oxford Street.12
The life in such scenes (‘Two hundred and fifty office boys,
office girls, department store clerks, messengers, members of
London’s vast child workforce of teenagers who leave school at
fifteen, pour down into this cellar, Tiles, in the middle of the day
for a break’)13 was literally and metaphorically underground. On
the surface, the intensity of the Mod thing was diluted, but only
slightly, by commercialism: Carnaby Street, Cathy McGowan,


212 folk d evils an d m o r a l pa n i c s
Twiggy, transistor radios always on to Radio Caroline (opened
on Easter Sunday, 1964), boutiques, the extravagant velvets,
satins and colours of the more flamboyant of the early Mods. By
the middle of 1964 there were at least six magazines appealing
mainly to Mods, the weeklies with a circulation of about
500,000, the monthlies about 250,000. There was also Ready,
Steady, Go, a TV programme aimed very much at the Mods, with
its own magazine related to the programme and which organized the famous Mod ball in Wembley. This was the time when
whole streams within schools, sometimes whole schools and
even whole areas and housing estates were talked of as having
‘gone Mod’.
In this rapid diffusion, the outsider could be forgiven for
missing some of the less superficial changes. Unlike the commercial entrepreneurs (who saw this all along) he missed, for
example, the significant emergence at this time of the workingclass girl, who received her relative economic freedom much
later than the male. The special market aimed at her was just
beginning to reach its apex and in many ways Mod was a more
female than a male phenomenon. At the Bank Holiday weekends
the 15-year-old Mod girl, with her pasty, mask-like make-up,
her flapping bell-bottomed trousers, her flat chest, her painted
staring eyes and clutching her cheap Japanese transistor to her
ear, was always the dominant sight. More pathetically and more
obviously than anyone else, she had been cheated.
The public only saw those of her kind who made it or were
about to make it. Like Tom Wolfe’s Linda: the 17-year-old Essex
girl who left school at 15 (as most of her six brothers and sisters
had), starting a job as a clerk, drifting into Tiles, finding a job (at
£9 10s. a week) selling shoes in the arcade next to the club, being
spotted by chance and getting her photo published ‘– and Linda
is on the verge, she could become a model or . . . a figure, a celebrity,
however these things happen . . . and yet Linda doesn’t give all
that much of a damn about it.’14 And there were few Lindas.

co n t ex t s a n d ba c kg r o un d s : y o uth i n t h e s ixt ies

The outsider also never saw that this diffusion had produced a
considerable and very rigid streaming within the Mod idiom
itself. Almost from the beginning there was a distinction between
the more extravagant stream, attracted to the frothy world of the
boutiques, the camp, the flotsam of the art school followers.
They were very different from the sterner group, with their wide
jeans, old army anoraks or combat jackets, canvas shoes. These
were the ones who, on their Corgis or Lambrettas, were thought
to be involved in the clashes with the Rockers at the resorts. In
fact, by 1964–5, the so-called Mod was hardly recognizable.
Leaving aside such groups as the beats, the Rockers themselves
and the Anglicized plastic flower children, youth workers at
Brighton could distinguish at least between the scooter boys (dressed
in plain but smart trousers and pullovers, plus anoraks, often
trimmed with fur; usually uninterested in violence, but involved
with the law in a range of driving offences); the hard Mods (wearing
heavy boots, jeans with braces, short hair, the precursors of the
Skinheads, usually prowling in large groups with the appearance
of being jumpy, unsure of themselves, on the paranoic edge,
heavily involved in any disturbance) and the smooth Mods (usually
older and better off, sharply dressed, moving in small groups
and usually looking for a bird).15
To the extent that one could distinguish any core values in this
period, these were certainly values congruent with both the style
that was selected and the structural problems that had to be
faced. There was something more than the rejection of the work
ethic which our earlier analysis of the working-class adolescent
situation pointed to. These groups – as Dave Laing suggests – had
no real conviction about the rationality of the division between
work and play, production and consumption. They were not the
occupants of the passive consumption role that society had
condemned them to and then condemned them for playing:
‘Because they no longer believed in the idea of work, but had to
submit to the necessity of it, they were not passive consumers as


214 folk d evils an d m o r a l pa n i c s
their television and light ale elders were.’16 Laing goes on to
quote from an article in Heatwave about the ‘furious consumption
programme which seemed to be a grotesque parody of the
aspirations of the Mods’ parents’.17 What the adult saw on Ready,
Steady, Go and on the beaches was a stylized version of this
programme. They could not see the way in which the clothes,
the pills and above all the music were actively used by the kids as
catalysts, and modes of expression. Quite rightly, Laing, Nuttall
and other such commentators see the essence of the Mods’
subversive potential not in the occasional outbursts of violence
and still less in drug-taking (an activity which, in its pill form at
least, mirrors the bourgeois consumer notion of how to buy
solutions to problems) but in their calculated attempt to live in
leisure time, not just to consume but to create themselves into
Mods. The fact that such erosion of the work ethic occurs in
other groups18 does not make it less significant.
A few lines about some of the music of the time are necessary.
By looking at two groups in particular – the Rolling Stones and
The Who – as well as using a general stylistic analysis, one arrives
at the same roads to the beaches as did theories stressing instrumental solutions. Music was much more important for the Mods
than the Rockers – and also than for the Teds who had not grown
up as a generation through the whole Rock explosion. If the
Beatles tuned in to the ethos in its most general way – and
changed as this changed – it was the Rolling Stones who were
the first major liberators. As Cohn puts it in two memorable
phrases: ‘they stirred up a whole new mood of teen arrogance’
and they were ‘turning into the voice of hooliganism’.19 The title
of one song, ‘Get Off My Cloud’ could have been the theme of
the early years of the separatist youth culture, but more specifically than the separation theme, they managed to convey so
many other dominant moods. Theirs was the voice of arrogance
and narcissism celebrated by the early Mods; of aggression and
frustration (captured especially in ‘I Can’t Get No Satisfaction’ – a

co n t ex t s a n d ba c kg r o un d s : y o uth i n t h e s ixt ies

song never referring to purely sexual frustration); of cynicism
(as in ‘Mother’s Little Helper’) and the occasional hysterical
scream at being able to thwart the adult world’s attempts at
manipulating them. Referring back to Downes’s argument, it can
be seen how ‘right’ these moods were for what the kids wanted
to use their culture for.
The Stones’s background was complicated (ex-art school,
Jagger an LSE dropout) and they were to move on to more
complicated things, giving up the purist rhythm and blues
strand. In contrast, The Who were pure and complete Mod. They
came straight out of Shepherds Bush, ‘one of the most major
Mod citadels’20 and they were unambiguously and uncomplicatedly representative of the new consumers. Although they were
eventually managed and staged by entrepreneurs of the swinging
London scene, who invariably were middle class, they explicitly
stood for, sang about and understood (a gift nearly nonexistent
in the pop world) their origins.
They shared anger and aggression with the Stones, but there
were no cynical attacks on the affluent society and there was
none of Jagger’s arrogance and certainty. Their dominant mood
was uncertainty, the jumpiness and edginess of the hard Mods,
and an almost ugly inarticulateness and tension. This started with
early songs such as ‘I Can’t Explain’ (their first record) and
moved through ‘Substitute’ (‘The simple things I say are all
complicated’) and reached its convulsive climax with ‘My
Generation’, Pete Townsend’s battle hymn of unresolved and
unresolvable tensions, which, more than any other song, was the
sound of Brighton, Margate and Clacton. Now, six years later, The
Who still include this song in most of their live performances
and the orgy of smashed instruments and deafening feedback
with which it ends, gives the message as much as the words do:
People try to put us down
Just because we get around.


216 folk d evils an d m o r a l pa n i c s
Things they do look awful cold
Hope I die before I get old.
This is my generation, baby
Why don’t you all f-f-f-fade away
Don’t try to dig what we all say
I’m not trying to cause a big sensation
I’m talking about my generation.
This is my generation, baby,
My generation.

Although The Who have also moved on to some other things,
this tone still remains and the stuttering anger has not become
much less pronounced. In his classic Rolling Stone 1968 interview,
quoted by Dave Laing and many others, Pete Townsend testifies
to the enduring influence of the Mod experience:
It really affected me in an incredible way because it teases me
all the time, because whenever I think ‘Oh you know youth
today is never going to make it’ I just think of that fucking
gesture that happened in England. It was the closest to
patriotism that I’ve ever felt.

This was the same gesture which my analysis of the instrumental problems of the working-class adolescent in the midsixties led to. So, by another route, we arrive on the beaches, the
scenes where this book started. By 1964 the Rockers, as
Nuttall puts it, ‘seemed almost endearingly butch’21: they were
dying out, but fought with the stubborn bitterness of a group
left out of the mainstream of social change. Without the
publicity that was given to the initial clashes with the Mods,
their weakness would have become more apparent and they
would have metamorphosed into another variant of the tougher
tradition. Their very nature and origins made their chances of

co n t ex t s a n d ba c kg r o un d s : y o uth i n t h e s ixt ies

gaining strength autonomously (for example, by attracting new
recruits) virtually out of the question. Such groups are essentially self-limiting.
In a different way, the reaction also kept the Mods going. Even
by 1963 the symbols had not crystallized: newspapers were still
using the term ‘Teddy Boy’ to describe both groups or terms such
as ‘ton-up kids’ to describe the Rockers; as in the early days of
the Edwardians, the term ‘Modernists’ appeared more than
anywhere else on the fashion pages. It needed a public drama to
give each group its identity as folk devils. My argument in this
chapter has been that although ‘endogenous’ factors – the youth
culture, the structural position of working-class adolescents –
are themselves difficult to separate from the societal reaction,
such factors receive their initial importance in the creation of
social types. The assignment of negative identities to these types
is then dependent on the moral panic.

Just as the Mods and Rockers did not appear from nowhere, so
too must the societal reaction, the moral panic, be explained.
Magistrates, leader writers and politicians do not react like
laboratory creatures being presented a series of random stimuli,
but in terms of positions, statuses, interests, ideologies and
values. Their responsiveness to rumours, for example, is not just
related to the internal dynamics of the rumour process as
described earlier, but whether the rumours support their particular interests.
The foundations of this particular moral panic should be
understood in terms of different levels of generality. At the lowest
level, there were those peculiar to the Mods and Rockers
phenomenon; at the highest, abstract principles which can be
applied to the sociology of moral panics as a whole or (even
more generally) to a theory of the societal reactions to deviance.


218 folk d evils an d m o r a l pa n i c s
I will not reconsider here some of the lowest order processes
already dealt with: how the ambiguity of the crowd situation
lent itself to panic rumours, how the media created the news and
images which lent the cognitive basis for the panic, how situational pressures conditioned the control culture. A higher level
starting-off point must be the same as that which structured our
consideration of the Mods and Rockers themselves, namely, the
ways in which the affluence and youth themes were used to
conceptualize the social changes of the decade.
The sixties began the confirmation of a new era in adult–youth
relations. The Teddy Boys (and their European equivalents – the
halbstarke, the blouson noir) were the first warnings on the horizon.
What everyone had grimly prophesied had come true: high
wages, the emergence of a commercial youth culture ‘pandering’
to young people’s needs, the elevation of scruffy pop heroes into
national idols (and even giving them MBEs), the ‘permissive
society’, the ‘coddling by the Welfare State’ – all this had produced
its inevitable results. As one magistrate expressed it to me in
1965, ‘Delinquency is trying to get at too many things too easily
. . . people have become more aware of the good things in life . . .
we’ve thrown back the curtain for them too soon.’
The Mods and Rockers symbolized something far more
important than what they actually did. They touched the delicate
and ambivalent nerves through which post-war social change in
Britain was experienced. No one wanted depressions or austerity,
but messages about ‘never having it so good’ were ambivalent in
that some people were having it too good and too quickly:
‘we’ve thrown back the curtain for them too soon.’ Resentment
and jealousy were easily directed at the young, if only because of
their increased spending power and sexual freedom. When this
was combined with a too-open flouting of the work and leisure
ethic, with violence and vandalism, and the (as yet) uncertain
threats associated with drug-taking, something more than the
image of a peaceful Bank Holiday at the sea was being shattered.

co n t ex t s a n d ba c kg r o un d s : y o uth i n t h e s ixt ies

One might suggest that ambiguity and strain was greatest at
the beginning of the sixties. The lines had not yet been clearly
drawn and, indeed, the reaction was part of this drawing of the
line. The period can be seen as constituting what Erikson terms a
‘boundary crisis’, a period in which a group’s uncertainty about
itself is resolved in ritualistic confrontations between the deviant
and the community’s official agents.22 One does not have to
make any conspiratorial assumptions about deviants being deliberately ‘picked out’ to clarify normative contours at times of
cultural strain and ambiguity, to detect in the response to the
Mods and Rockers declarations about moral boundaries, about
how much diversity can be tolerated. As Erikson notes about
so-called ‘crime waves’, they dramatize the issues at stake when
boundaries are blurred and provide a forum to articulate the
issues more explicitly. Two things might be happening here:
. . . the community begins to censure forms of behaviour which
have been present in the group for some time but have never
attracted any particular attention before, and . . . certain people
in the group who have already acquired a disposition to act
deviantly move into the breach and begin to test the boundary
in question.23

Again, the notion of ‘deviantly disposed’ people actually
‘moving in’ to test the boundary should not be taken too literally.
One only has to account for some autonomous potential for
defiance from young people to see how the spiral of conflict
develops. The real Devil, whose shapes the early Puritans were
trying to establish, was the same devil that the Mods and Rockers
It should be noted that scapegoating and other types of
hostility are more likely to occur in situations of maximum
ambiguity. The fact that it was not very clear what the Mods
and Rockers had actually done, might have increased rather


220 folk d evils an d m o r a l pa n i c s
than decreased the chances of an extreme reaction. Groups
such as the Northview sample had a very unclear image of the
behaviour, but supported fairly punitive sanctions. The message
that did percolate through confirmed suspicions that little
good would come from the new era. The threats posed by
the Teddy Boys might now be realized and the situation was
ripe for beliefs such as those expressed in the It’s Not Only
This theme.
As soon as the new phenomenon was named, the devil’s shape
could be easily identified. In this context, the ways in which the
deviance was associated with a fashion style is particularly significant. Fashion changes are not always perceived simply as something novel, a desire to be different or attract attention or as fads
which will ultimately die out. They might be seen as signifying
something much deeper and more permanent – for example,
‘the permissive society’ – and historically, stylistic changes have
often represented ideological commitments or movements. So,
for example, the Sans Culottes in the French Revolution wore
long pants instead of conventional breeches as a symbol of radicalism and the American beatnik style became identified with
certain signs of disaffiliation.
Mod fashions were seen to represent some more significant
departure than a mere clothing change. The glossiness of the
image, the bright colours and the associated artefacts such as
motor scooters, stood for everything resented about the affluent
teenager. There were also new anxieties, such as the sexual confusion in clothing and hair-styles: the Mod boy with pastel-shaded
trousers and the legendary make-up on his face, the girls with
their short-cropped hair and sexless, flat appearance. The sheer
uniformity in dress was a great factor in making the threat more
apparent: the cheap mass-produced anoraks with similar colours,
and the occasional small group riding their Vespas like a menacing
pincer patrol, gave the appearance of greater organization than
ever existed, and hence of a greater threat.

co n t ex t s a n d ba c kg r o un d s : y o uth i n t h e s ixt ies

The way in which a single dramatic incident – or, at least, the
reporting of this incident – served to confirm the actors’ deviant
identity is also important. To draw on the analogy already used,
the situation was similar to that in which a natural disaster brings
to the surface a condition or conflict that previously was latent.
The requirement of visibility – and hooliganism is by definition
public and visible – so essential for successful problem definition, was met right from the outset. Mass collective action which
before was played out on a more restricted screen, now was
paraded even to audiences previously insulated by geographical,
age and social class barriers.
This leads on to another major reason for the form of the
reaction. The behaviour was presented and perceived as something more than a delinquent brawl and the Mods and Rockers
could not be classified very plausibly as the ordinary slum louts
associated with such behaviour in the past. They appeared to
be affluent, well clothed and groomed and, above all, highly
mobile. They had moved out of the bomb-sites in the East End
and the streets of the Elephant and Castle. The various forms
which hooliganism had taken in the past were not of the same
order. Oxbridge-type ‘pranks’ or ‘high spirits’ could be tolerated
and not assigned social problem status not just because the
deviants were protected by their relative power, but because
such activities occurred on a relatively small scale, were selfcontained and invisible. The student only became a folk devil
when his actions became more political, more visible and
more threatening. Grosvenor Square, the Essex troubles, the
Cambridge Garden House affair, were his Clactons. Similarly,
the street gangs of the slums and housing estates could, if not
tolerated, simply be allocated the traditional delinquent position.
This was just how you expected kids from that sort of area/
home/school to behave. But now, things were literally and
metaphorically too close to home. These were not just the
slum louts whom one could disown, but faintly recognizable


222 folk d evils an d m o r a l pa n i c s
creatures who had crawled out from under some very familiar
Allied to threats posed by the new mobility (the groups’
motor-bikes and scooters were obsessively seen as important)
and the wider stage on which the behaviour was now being
played out, was the image of class barriers breaking down in the
emergence of the teenage culture. Traditionally, the deviant role
had been assigned to the lower class urban male, but the Mods
and Rockers appeared to be less class tied: here were a group of
impostors, reading the lines which everyone knew belonged to
some other group. Even their clothes were out of place: without
leather jackets they could hardly be distinguished from bank
clerks. The uneasiness felt about actors who are not quite in their
places can lead to greater hostility. Something done by an outgroup is simply condemned and fitted into the scheme of things,
but in-group deviance is embarrassing, it threatens the norms of
the group and tends to blur its boundaries with the out-group.
The Mod was unique in that his actual appearance was far
away from the stereotypical hooligan personified by the Teddy
Boy or the Rocker. He was also nowhere near as identifiable as
the beatnik or hippy. Dave Laing attributes the Mods’ subversive
potential to this very ordinariness. With few exceptions, their
dress was neat and not obviously extreme: ‘The office boys,
typists and shop assistants looked alright, but there was something
in the way they moved which adults couldn’t make out.’24 His
disdain for advancement in work, his air of distance, his manifest
display of ingratitude for what society had given him (this
appears strongly in the Boredom and Affluence themes): these
were found more unsettling than any simple conformity to the
folklore image of the yob. The detection of a new element in
deviance is found more disturbing than being presented with
forms which society has already successfully coped with.
Such feelings were even more understandable and pronounced
in places like Brighton. The town had not yet come to terms with

co n t ex t s a n d ba c kg r o un d s : y o uth i n t h e s ixt ies

the fact that the old type of summer visitors and day-trippers
from London were no longer coming to Brighton, but spending
their holidays on package trips to the Costa Brava. The respectable
working-class couples in their twenties and thirties were no
longer packing out the boarding-houses or spending money in
the traditional avenues of entertainment which had remained
basically unchanged for decades. The very old were still coming
down, but a coach-load of pensioners down for the day were
hardly big spenders.
It was the much younger group that was ‘flooding’ the place,
and to them the town turned a double face. These were not the
sort of people to attract to Brighton and the discouragement they
faced was all too obvious. Some were refused service in cafés and
pubs, chased away if they were congregating around a shop or
seafront stall, even refused accommodation by the landladies of
the guest-houses. On the other hand, these were the new ‘affluent
hordes’ and there were no compunctions about exploiting them
commercially, for example, by raising prices. It could be seen,
though, from the Seaview and Beachside action groups, that the
dominant local face was hostile and resentful: these scruffs and
hooligans should not be allowed to frighten away the decent
holidaymakers, the family groups (who, by this time, were
tailing off anyway). There were other new menaces besides the
Mods and Rockers: the long-haired Continental youths in the
language schools that had sprung up on the south coast and (in
Brighton) students from Sussex University who were not only
offensive in appearance but partly instrumental in getting
Brighton its first Labour MP for generations.
The Mods and Rockers just represented the epitome of these
changes; to many local residents, as a Brighton editor put
it ‘. . . they were something frightening and completely alien
. . . they were visitors from a foreign planet and they should be
banished to where they came from’. When in 1965 the new
Mayor of Brighton outlined his vision of the town’s future as ‘a


224 folk d evils an d m o r a l pa n i c s
popular holiday resort where the whelk stalls and the Mods and
Rockers will be a thing of the past’, a local newspaper’s editorial
comment was ‘Mods and Rockers we would gladly be without
– they are a pricey pest. But whelk stalls? . . .’ (Brighton and Hove
Gazette, 4 June 1965).
It was not surprising then, that at the local level, any ‘solution’
not based on the policy of total exclusion met with hostility.
The early voices of the Seaview and Beachside groups were
echoed in the sustained campaign against schemes such as
the Brighton Archways Ventures25 and later presences such as
those of beatniks and hippies in resorts like St Ives. As a Brighton
Alderman said about the beatniks, ‘These are people who ought
not to be in Brighton and if they are unfortunately here, they
ought not to be catered for in any way’ (Evening Argus, 24 November
1967). The rhetoric of moral panics – ‘We won’t allow our
seafront/area/town/country to be taken over by hooligans/
hippies/blacks/Pakistanis’ is a firmly established one.
If the Mods and Rockers had done nearly all they were
supposed to have done in the way of violence, damage to
property, inconveniencing and annoying others (and clearly
they did a lot of these things), it does not need a very sophisticated analysis to explain why such rule-breaking was responded
to punitively. But threats need not be as direct as this and one
must understand that the response was as much to what they
stood for as what they did. In one of the few analyses of
the relationships between moral indignation and the social
structure, Gusfield – looking at Prohibition and the post-Repeal
periods – explains the responses of the temperance movement as
symbolic solutions to conflict and the indignant reaction to loss
of status.26
He suggests – directly following Ranulf’s classic analysis27 that
moral indignation might have a disinterested quality when the
transgression is solely moral and doesn’t impinge upon the life
and behaviour of the judge; it is a ‘hostile response of the norm

co n t ex t s a n d ba c kg r o un d s : y o uth i n t h e s ixt ies

upholder to the norm violator where no direct personal
advantage to the norm upholder is at stake’.28 This disinterested
quality might thus apply to the Bohemian, the homosexual, the
drug addict, where questions of style and ways of life are at
stake, but not to the political radical, whose action might threaten
the structure of society nor to the delinquent who poses direct
threats to property and person.
I doubt whether this distinction between ‘interested’ and
‘disinterested’ is a viable one, as it seems to imply much too
narrow a conception of interest and threat. With groups such as
drug-takers and hippies29 even though little apparent physical or
‘political’ threat is involved, there is a direct conflict of interests.
There is certainly a great deal at stake for the norm-upholder if
he allows such action to go unpunished and his indignation has
only a slight element of the disinterested about it. In the case of
the Mods and Rockers, the moral panic was sustained both by
the direct threats (in the narrow sense) to persons, property,
commercial interests and the gross interests threatened by the
violation of certain approved styles of life. Such a combination of
interests can be seen clearly in the individuals like Blake. He saw
physical dangers, personal disadvantages and the physical threat
represented by all the youth culture was supposed to be: prematurely affluent, aggressive, permissive and challenging the ethics
of sobriety and hard work. In his case (but perhaps not in all the
forms of moral indignation Ranulf tries to explain this way) one
might also detect the psychological element of the envy and
resentment felt by the lower middle classes, supposedly the most
frustrated and repressed of groups. They condemn, that is, behaviour which is secretly craved.
More fundamentally, a theory of moral panics, moral enterprise, moral crusades or moral indignation needs to relate
such reactions to conflicts of interests – at community and societal levels – and the presence of power differentials which leave
some groups vulnerable to such attacks. The manipulation of


226 folk d evils an d m o r a l pa n i c s
appropriate symbols – the process which sustains moral
campaigns, panics and crusades – is made much easier when the
object of attack is both highly visible and structurally weak.

The one more or less explicit way in which the emergence of the
Mods and Rockers as folk devils and the generation of the moral
panic around this have been related to each other, is via the
model of deviancy amplification. A very truncated form of how
one such sequence may have run is illustrated below.
Initial Problem

(stemming from structural and
cultural position of working-class

Initial Solution

(deviant action and style)

Societal Reaction

(involving elements of misperception, e.g. in inventory and subsequent
distortion in terms of long-term values
and interests)

Operation of Control
Culture, Exploitation and
Creation of Stereotypes

(sensitization, dramatization,

Increased deviance,
Confirmation of

(theory proved)

co n t ex t s a n d ba c kg r o un d s : y o uth i n t h e s ixt ies

Although it is not implausible to suggest that something like
this sequence may have operated, one problem immediately
apparent in any attempt to generalize too rigidly from it, is that
no readily available explanation exists as to how and why the
sequence ever ends. Putting the stages in some context – even as
cursorily as this chapter has done – raises one defect of the
amplification type of model, namely, that it is a-historical. This is
paradoxical, because such processual models were put forward
specifically to counteract static, canonical theories of deviance.
Clearly, the use of cybernetic language such as feedback and
stimuli is too automatic and mechanistic and does not allow for
the range of meanings given to human action and the way in
which the actor can move to shape his own passage. Both these
elements can be examined if – taking the sequence merely as one
typical movement in time – we try to answer the question of
why it ever ended. What stopped the moral panic? Why do we
still not have Mods and Rockers with us?
Looking firstly at the reaction from the public and the mass
media, the answer is that there was simply a lack of interest. At
no stage was there a simple one-to-one relationship between
action and reaction: the Mod phenomenon developed before
public attention branded it as evil, the attention continued ritualistically for a while even when the evil was subdued and finally
the attention waned when other phenomena that were both new
and newsworthy forced themselves into the public areas. While
drugs, student militancy and hippies became the headline social
problems of the later half of the sixties, ‘traditional’ fringe delinquency of the expressive type continued – even at seaside resorts
– without much attention being paid to it. In northern resorts,
less accessible places like the Isle of Sheppey or near certain cafés
and roundabouts on inland roads, the same behaviour that took
place in Clacton, Brighton or Margate was repeated. But the
behaviour was too regular and familiar to be of note, it was not
as visible as the original incidents and some of the original


228 folk d evils an d m o r a l pa n i c s
actors, particularly the Rockers, were leaving the stage. There
were also the sorts of processes which occur in cases of mass
delusion: a counter-suggestibility produced by the absurdity of
some of the initial beliefs and a tailing off of interest when it was
felt that ‘something is being done about it’.
Like the last spurts of a craze or fashion style, the behaviour
was often manifested with an exaggerated formalism. There was
a conscious attempt to repeat what had been done two or three
years before by actors who almost belonged to another generation. The media and the control agents sometimes seized on to
this behaviour, gave it new names and attempted to elevate it to
the Mods and Rockers position. In places like Skegness, Blackpool
and Great Yarmouth, the new hooligans were called by the press
or control agents, ‘Greasers’, ‘Trogs’ or ‘Thunderbirds’. But such
casting was not successful, even when there was an attempt to
make the actors look even worse than the Mods and Rockers (as
they, in turn had been made to look worse than the Teddy Boys).
At the end of 1966, for example, a Police Inspector told the Great
Yarmouth court that the offenders were from ‘. . . the roughneck
types who have come hell bent on causing trouble to everybody,
including the police, but also the innocent youths who are trying
to enjoy themselves . . . They are not the usual Mods and Rockers.’
So already, the devils of three short years before were recast into
relatively benign roles in the gallery of social types exhibited in
the name of social control. It took another few years before the
drug-taker and the student radical – destined, one thinks, for
fairly permanent occupancy – were joined in the folk devil role
by a more traditional working-class representative, the Skinhead.
Internal changes within the Mod phenomenon must also be
appreciated. There was a straightforward generational change in
which the original actors simply matured out. In 1966 one spoke
to 19-year-olds who said that they used to be Mods but now it
was ‘dead’ and anyway cost too much. Already by 1967, the
major proportion of kids in towns like Brighton did not identify

co n t ex t s a n d ba c kg r o un d s : y o uth i n t h e s ixt ies

with, or even mention, either of the two groups. This sort of
change is familiar to students of fads, crazes and fashions: an
initial period of latency where the style or action is only followed
by a few, is succeeded by a period of rapid growth and diffusion.
There is, then, a phase of commercialization and exploitation,
slackening off, resistance or lack of enthusiasm, followed by
stagnation and the eventual preservation of the style in nostalgic
memories. In his perceptive history of the pop explosion George
Melly deduces the same basic pattern: ‘What starts as revolt
finishes as style – as mannerism.’30 Thus – to use Melly’s
examples – the Monkees were plastic Beatles, Barry McGuire a
plastic Bob Dylan. The cycle mirrors the stage of the adolescent
breaking from his family; once this is through, the impetus is
lost. The state is one of instant obsolescence.
The years of the Mod decline were actually more complicated
than Melly’s ‘cycle of obsolescence’ explanation suggests. By
1965 there were several strands within the Mod scene and the
more extravagant Mods – who were too involved in the whole
rhythm and blues, camp, Carnaby Street scene to really ‘need’ the
weekend clashes – began merging into the fashion-conscious
hippies and their music began to grow closer to underground
sounds.31 The others were never distinctive enough to maintain
any generational continuity. Yet another curious and unpredictable twist was to take place:
It was not until the sixties had almost drawn to a close that
the cool classic English tradition reasserted itself with the
skinheads, whose formalisation of labouring clothes, braces,
jeans, vests, heavy boots and orphanage haircuts was the most
dourly anti-romantic style yet arrived at. It was a return to the
position of the ted, but in reverse. The ted was striving to
surmount his working-class family. The skinheads were and are
striving to form a dissident group which enjoys all the security
of a working-class identity. Thus they despise the strong


230 folk d evils an d m o r a l pa n i c s
bourgeois element in the underground and throw their lot in
with their local football team and Enoch Powell. Armed, stoic,
harrying the Pakistanis exactly as the Teds harried the West
Indians in the Notting Hill riots in 1958. The simple clanging
of reggae, ska and rock-steady swept away all the fancy
arabesques of acid rock.32

Using parallels from the world of art and fashion though, is
not enough. When more than a sheer aesthetic revolt is at stake,
when the gesture is one that speaks of disgust, apathy, boredom
and a sense of one’s own obsolescence and lack of power, then the
instrumental and expressive solutions are brought together. The
power of the symbols to differentiate their users from those who
accept defeat, becomes deflated. The sheer increases in what was
familiar, standardized and routine, instead of – as the Mod’s era
often was – exciting and alive, accounts for much of this deflation. There is a striking parallel in Becker’s account of the decline
of the Alliance Youth (the Wandervogel) in the Germany of the
. . . the ways in which social objects, expected responses and
reflected selves were defined had become relatively standard
. . . it is a little hard to feel elation at its fullest intensity when
thousands of others have undergone the same experience and
have told all about it to everyone willing to lend an ear.33

It would, of course, be romantic in the extreme to talk of
elation being the dominant mood of the Mods and Rockers. For
much of the time any elation that a sense of action could bring,
was submerged by the discomfort, unpleasantness and resentment caused by the treatment they received from nearly all the
adults whom they encountered. This factor forces attention to
another reason for the whole phenomenon coming to an end:
the fact that social control might have its intended consequences.

co n t ex t s a n d ba c kg r o un d s : y o uth i n t h e s ixt ies

In the somewhat romantic eagerness of transactional theorists to
point to the evil effects of social control in leading to yet more
deviance, they have conveniently suppressed the possibility that
potential deviants might, in fact, be frightened off or deterred by
actual or threatened control measures. After being put off the
train by the police before even arriving at your destination, and
then being continually pushed around and harassed by the police
on the streets and beaches, searched in the clubs, refused service
in cafés, you might just give up in disgust. The game was simply
not worth it. In a mass phenomenon such as the Mods and
Rockers a form of de-amplification sets in: the amplification
stops because the social distance from the deviants is made so
great, that new recruits are put off from joining. The only joiners
are the very young or the lumpen who have access to few other
alternatives. These are the ones who might fight with the ferocity
of a group who knows it is being left behind. In the meantime,
the original hard-core might mature and grow out of deviance.
Mentioning the possibilities of de-amplification leads on to
the few final comments that one is obliged – rightly, in my
opinion – to make about the policy implications of the sort of
sociological account so far presented. Many such implications
have been implicit in my account and there is no need to spell
them out again in detail. The difficulty with such sociology,
though, is that different readers can draw different implications,
not all of them necessarily compatible with each other. One
might argue, for example, that if the initial manifestation of
such phenomena as the Mods and Rockers (other examples
might be various forms of vandalism, subcultural drug-taking,
soccer hooliganism) is difficult or even impossible to prevent,
one should attempt secondary prevention: for example,
restraining the mass media in order to stop the first stages of
amplification. Given a basic consensus – which the sociologist
might not share – about the need for control or prevention, such
an argument is not implausible. Nor is a common-sense view,


232 folk d evils an d m o r a l pa n i c s
that certain forms of deviant behaviour are best left alone on
pure utilitarian grounds. That is, the cost of mounting any social
control operation is just not worth it. Or else, a humanitarian
liberal view could be argued: many of the punishments were
harsh and unjust and should be wholeheartedly condemned.
All these – and many more – implications could be deduced
from this study and ones like it. Sociologists do not have the
power to stop such implications being made or acted upon,
although they might offer their own perspectives on the theories
which inform them. Manifestly, a view of deviance which
assumes that it will disappear if one makes some minor adjustments in the way it is reacted to, does not do much justice to the
nature of the phenomenon. Despite using terms such as ‘panic’
and analogies from the study of mass hysteria and delusion, I
have not implied that the Mods and Rockers were psychogenic
apparitions who would have gone away if we had simply ignored
them or ingeniously invented some means of de-amplification
(although this might, perhaps, have avoided much unhappiness,
cost and inconvenience).
We are dealing on a large scale – and therefore the problem
is infinitely more complex – with what Laing and the antipsychiatry school are concerned with on a small scale. The
argument is not that there is ‘nothing there’ when somebody is
labelled mentally ill or that this person has no problems, but that
the reaction to what is observed or inferred is fundamentally
inappropriate. The initial step is one of unmasking and
debunking: an intrinsic quality of the sceptical and transactional
perspective on deviance. Once the real as opposed to the surface
legitimations of the societal reaction are exposed, there is a
possibility of undermining them and devising policies that are
both more effective and more humane. The intellectual poverty
and total lack of imagination in our society’s response to its
adolescent trouble-makers during the last twenty years, is manifest in the way this response compulsively repeats itself and fails

co n t ex t s a n d ba c kg r o un d s : y o uth i n t h e s ixt ies

each time to come to terms with the ‘problem’ that confronts it.
Much is required from the sociologist of deviance who points
such things out. It is not enough to say that witches should not
have been burnt or that in some other society or in another
century they might not have been called witches; one has to
explain why and how certain people get to the stake now.
Ultimately, I am pessimistic about the chances of changing
social policy in regard to such phenomena as the Mods and
Rockers. More moral panics will be generated and other, as yet
nameless, folk devils will be created. This is not because such
developments have an inexorable inner logic, but because
our society as presently structured will continue to generate
problems for some of its members – like working-class
adolescents – and then condemn whatever solution these groups





The bulk of the fieldwork on the project was carried out between
1964 and 1967. The time between Easter 1964 (the date of the
first Mods and Rockers event at Clacton) and September 1966
(the end of a three-year cycle of Bank Holiday weekends) is
referred to as the research period. The following were the main
sources of data used:
1. Documentary
(i) Press references to the Mods and Rockers during the whole
research period. This includes all national papers (dailies and weeklies) as well as local press from the main areas involved: Brighton,
Clacton, Great Yarmouth, Southend, Hastings and Margate.
Tape recordings of most national radio and television (BBC)
news broadcasts over the Bank Holiday weekends during the
research period.
(ii) A special collection of press cuttings covering the incidents
at Margate over Whitsun 1964. These cuttings were compiled for
the Margate Corporation by an agency, items being selected


purely on the basis of the word ‘Margate’ being present. There
were 724 separate items from papers dated 15 May–12 June.
These include 223 editorials or columnist comments; 110 reports
of speeches, interviews with public figures, etc.; 121 letters; 270
reports or features covering the incidents themselves.
(iii) Local publications of a more restricted circulation –
parish newsletters, council minutes, annual reports of statutory
or voluntary associations, etc.
(iv) Miscellaneous national documents such as the Hansard
reports of the relevant parliamentary debates in the Commons
and the Lords.
(v) Letters and reports received by the National Council of
Civil Liberties alleging malpractices by police or courts during
the various incidents.
(vi) Reanalysis of interview schedules used in a survey of
forty-four youths convicted in the Margate magistrates court,
Whitsun 1964.*
2. Original
(i) Two pilot questionnaires administered to a group of nineteen
trainee probation officers in the preliminary stages of the study
(December 1964). The first was in open-ended form and dealt
with attitudes to various aspects of the Mods and Rockers – images,
causes, solutions and initial reactions. The second was in the form
of a ninety item Likert-scale covering responses to a hypothetical
incident of hooliganism of the Mods and Rockers type. This scale
was also completed by groups of teachers and WEA students.
(ii) Interviews and informal discussions in Brighton, Margate
and Hastings at the end of 1964, after the first wave of incidents.
* Some findings from the survey were reported in Paul Barker and Alan Little,
‘The Margate Offenders: A Survey’, New Society, 30 July 1964, pp. 6–10. I am
grateful to Paul Barker for giving me access to the completed interview schedules.




Formal interviews were held with editors of all the local
newspapers and various publicity department officials. Informal
discussions, of the type used in the first stages of a community
study, were held with informants such as hotel keepers, shop
assistants, bus conductors, taxi-drivers and newspaper sellers.
(iii) Letters, some of them followed up with a personal
interview and others with a postal questionnaire, were written
to the MPs of the areas involved, local councillors and a range of
other public figures who made statements about the Mods and
Rockers and proposed plans to deal with them. In certain cases,
individual plans crystallized into the more institutionalized
forms, which are referred to as ‘action groups’. Three such action
groups were studied in detail, through prolonged contact
with their main initiators – the ‘Beachside’ Safeguard Committee,
the ‘Seatown’ Council Work Camp Scheme and the Brighton
Archways Ventures.
(iv) In the case of the Brighton Archways Ventures, I participated as a volunteer worker over three Bank Holiday weekends.
This was a Brighton based youth project, eventually financed by
the Department of Education and Science and staffed by fulltime social workers. It was designed to provide cheap sleeping
accommodation and other help for young people coming down
to Brighton and catered for all the diverse groups drifting down
to the beaches: initially, more the Mods and Scooter Boys and
later, the beatniks.*
(v) Sixty-five interviews, thirty of which were tape-recorded,
were carried out in Brighton over the Whitsun Bank Holiday,
1965. Members of the public standing on the promenade or
pier watching the Mods and Rockers were interviewed on a
quota sample basis by myself and another graduate criminology

* The history of the project has now been written up in three volumes – Brighton Archways Ventures Report (mimeo. 650 pages).


student. There were five refusals out of the original seventy
approached in two days.
The following are the questions asked and the background
characteristics of the sample (referred to in the book as the
‘Brighton sample’).

I. Preamble
I’m from the University of London, doing a study of what people
think about this sort of thing. Do you mind giving me ten
minutes to answer a few questions? There are no right or wrong
answers – I just want your personal opinion. If you don’t mind
talking into this tape-recorder, it’ll save time because I won’t
have to write everything down. I’m not going to ask you for
your name, so don’t worry about what you say.
II. Question Guide

How do you feel about this sort of thing?
What do you think is the main cause of all this?
Do you think that this sort of thing is something new?
Do you think that we’re going to have this sort of thing with
us for a long time?
5. Do you agree with the way the police are handling this?
6. How would you like to see the ones who cause trouble
(a) on the spot
(b) by the police
7. What would you do if your own child/brother/friend got
involved in this?




8. What sort of youngsters do you think these are:
Probe for: Local or out of town?
Type of school?
Social class?
‘Ordinary kids’ or ‘Delinquent types’?
III. Personal Information
Would you mind giving me some information about yourself,
so that we can check, like Gallup Poll do, that we’ve got a cross
section of opinion? Don’t answer any of these questions if you
don’t want to.
Male . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1

Local resident . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5

Female . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2

Out of town. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .6

16–20 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3

Occupation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

21–24 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4


25–29. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5


30–34. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6


35–44 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7

Labour . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1

45–49 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8

Conservative . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2

50–64 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9

Liberal . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3

65+. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10

Other . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .4

Married . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1
Single . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2
Widowed . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3
Divorced/Separated . . . . . . . 4


Social Characteristics of Brighton Sample
(N = 65)

Male: 34
Female: 31


16–20: 9
21–24: 9
25–29: 1
30–34: 2
35–44: 6
45–49: 6
50–64: 24
65: 8
Local: 32

Place of

Out of Town: 33

Marital status


Social class

Married: 31
Single: 23
Divorced: 11

Labour: 31
Conservative: 28
know: 6
class: 40
class 22
Upper class 3

(vi) On the spot observations were made at every Bank Holiday
in 1965 and 1966 in either Brighton or Great Yarmouth. The
happenings themselves were observed as well as police activity
and the reactions of visitors and local residents, such as shopkeepers with whom informal discussions were held. The court
proceedings at Brighton were observed and recorded on three
occasions. During one Bank Holiday (Brighton, Easter, 1966) the
method used came closer to what sociologists unhumorously
refer to as ‘participant observation’ in that I wore what could
roughly be called Mod clothes and enjoyed the days with various
groups on the beaches and the nights in the clubs.




(vii) Between summer 1965 and summer 1966, I carried
out a survey of attitudes to delinquency in a London borough I
called ‘Northview’. The sample contained 133 ‘social control
agents’, people with key formal or informal positions in the
delinquency control system or in some senses, opinion leaders
in the local community. It was made up of roughly equal
numbers of businessmen, councillors, doctors, headmasters,
lawyers, magistrates, religious leaders, social workers and youth
workers. Each member was interviewed personally, and the long
list of questions (on delinquency in general, the courts, methods
of prevention, etc.) contained four questions covering attitudes
to the Mods and Rockers.*
(viii) Twenty-five essays written by third- and fourthform pupils from a school in the East End of London. The essays
entitled simply ‘The Mods and Rockers’ were set by the English
teacher as part of normal course work.

* Full details of the sample and interview schedule can be found in S. Cohen,
‘Hooligans, Vandals and the Community: Studies of Social Reaction to Juvenile
Delinquency’ (unpublished Ph.D. thesis, University of London, 1969).


Nachman Ben-Yehuda, The Politics and Morality of Deviance: moral
panics, drug abuse, deviant science, and reversed stigmatization, SUNY
Press, Albany, 1990.
Joel Best, ‘But Seriously Folks: the limitations of the strict
constructionist interpretation of social problems’, in Miller
and Holstein (q.v.).
Joel Best, ‘Debates about Constructionism’, in E. Rubington and
M. Weinberg, eds, The Study of Social Problems, Oxford University
Press, New York, 1995.
Joel Best, Random Violence: how we talk about new crimes and new victims,
University of California Press, Berkeley, 1999.
Joel Best, ed., Images of Issues: typifying contemporary social problems,
Aldine de Gruyter, New York, 1999.
Joel Best, Damned Lies and Statistics: untangling numbers from the media,
politicians and activists, University of California Press, Berkeley,



Erich Goode and Nachman Ben-Yehuda, Moral Panics: the social
construction of deviance, Blackwell, Cambridge, Massachusetts,
P. R. Ibarra and John Kitsuse, ‘Vernacular Constituents of Moral
Discourse: an interactionist proposal for the study of social
problems’, in Miller and Holstein (q.v.).
Philip Jenkins, Intimate Enemies: moral panics in contemporary Great Britain,
Social Problems and Social Issues, Aldine de Gruyter, New York,
Angela McRobbie and Sarah L. Thornton, ‘Rethinking “Moral
Panic” for Multi-Mediated Social Worlds’, British Journal of
Sociology 46/4 (1995).
Kate Marshall, Moral Panics and Victorian Values, 2nd ed., Junius
Publications, London, 1986.
Gale Miller and John A. Holstein, eds, Constructionist Controversies:
issues in social problems theory, Aldine de Gruyter, New York,
Geoffrey Pearson, ‘Scare in the Community: Britain in a moral
panic’, Community Care (1995).
Gary Potter and Victor Kappeler, eds, Constructing Crime: perspectives on
making news and social problems, Waveland Press, Prospect Heights
III, 1996.
Theodore Sasson, Crime Talk: how citizens construct a social problem,
Aldine de Gruyter, New York, 1995.
Elaine Showalter, Hystories: hysterical epidemics and modern culture,
Columbia University Press, New York, 1997.
Malcolm Spector and John Kitsuse, Constructing Social Problems,
Aldine de Gruyter, New York, 1987.
Kenneth Thompson, Moral Panics, Routledge, London/New York,
Sheldon Ungar, ‘Moral Panic versus the Risk Society: the implications of the changing sites of social anxiety’, British Journal of
Sociology 52/2 (2001).


Andrew Ward, Talking Dirty: moral panic and political rhetoric, Institute
for Public Policy Research, London, 1996.

Gregg Barak, ed., Media, Process and the Social Construction of Crime:
studies in newsmaking criminology, Garland Publishing, New York/
London, 1994.
Kirsten Drotner, ‘Dangerous Media? Panic Discourses and
Dilemmas of Modernity’, Pedagogica Historica 35/3 (1999).
John Eldrige, The Mass Media and Power in Modern Britain, Oxford
University Press, Oxford, 1997.
B. Franklin and J. Petley, ‘Killing the Age of Innocence: newspaper
reporting of the death of James Bulger’, in Jane Pilcher and
Stephen Wagg, eds, Thatcher’s Children? Politics, Childhood and Society
in the 1980s and 1990s, Falmer Press, London, 1996.
Arnold Hunt, ‘ “Moral Panic” and Moral Language in the Media’,
British Journal of Sociology 48/4 (1997).
Sarah Kember, ‘Surveillance, Technology and Crime: the James
Bulger case’, in Martin Lister, ed., The Photographic Image in
Digital Culture, Routledge, London, 1995.
David Kidd-Hewitt and Richard Osborne, eds, Crime and the Media:
the post-modern spectacle, Pluto Press, London, 1995.
Angela McRobbie, ‘The Moral Panic in the Age of the Postmodern
Massmedia’, in A. McRobbie, ed., Postmodernism and Popular
Culture, Routledge, London, 1994.
Philip Schlesinger and Howard Tumber, Reporting Crime: the
media politics of juvenile justice, Oxford University Press, Oxford,
Michael Welch, Melissa Fenwick and Meredith Roberts, ‘Primary
Definitions of Crime and Moral Panic: a content analysis of
experts’ quotes in feature newspaper articles on crime’,
Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency 34/4 (1997).




1. Juvenile Delinquency and Youth Subcultures
Ulf Boethius, ‘Youth, the Media and Moral Panics’, in J. Fornas
and G. Bolin, eds, Youth Culture in Late Modernity, Sage, London,
Sheila Brown, ‘Representing Problem Youth: the repackaging of
reality’, in S. Brown, ed., Understanding Youth and Crime: listening to
youth?, Open University Press, Buckingham, 1998.
Colin Hay, ‘Mobilization through Interpellation: James Bulger,
juvenile crime and the construction of a moral panic’, Social
and Legal Studies 4 (June 1995).
Bernard Schissel, Blaming Children: youth crime, moral panic and the politics
of hate, Fernwood, Halifax, NS, 1997.
John Springhall, Youth, Popular Culture and Moral Panics: penny gaffs to
gangsta-rap, 1830–1996, St Martin’s Press, New York, 1998.
Sarah Thornton, ‘Moral Panic, the Media and British Rave Culture’
in A. Ross and T. Rose, eds, Microphone Friends: youth music and
youth culture, Routledge, London, 1994.
P. A. J. Waddington, ‘Mugging as a Moral Panic: a question of
proportion’, British Journal of Sociology 37/2 (1986).
Marjorie Zatz, ‘Chicano Youth Gangs and Crime: the creation of
a moral panic’, Contemporary Crises 11 (1987).
2. School Violence
R. Burns and C. Crawford, ‘School Shootings: the media and
public fear: ingredients for a moral panic’, Crime, Law and Social
Change 32/2 (1999).
Elizabeth Donohue, et al., School House Hype: school shooting and the real
risks kids face in America, Justice Policy Institution, Washington
DC, 1998.
Mike Kennedy, ‘The Changing Face of School Violence’, in Under
Siege: Schools as the New Battleground, publisher unknown, 1999.


Donna Killingbeck, ‘The Role of Television News in the
Construction of School Violence as a “Moral Panic” ’, Journal
of Criminal Justice and Popular Culture 8/3 (2001).
John Springhall, ‘Violent Media, Guns and Moral Panics: the
Columbine High School massacre’, Pedagogica Historica 35/3
3. Panics about the Media
Martin Barker, The Haunt of Fears: the strange history of the British horror
comics campaign, Pluto Press, London, 1984.
Martin Barker, The Video Nasties: freedom and censorship in the arts, Pluto
Press, London, 1984.
Martin Barker, ‘Frederic Wertham: the sad case of the unhappy
humanist’, in J. A. Lent, ed., Pulp Demons: international dimensions
of the postwar anti-comics campaign, Associated University Presses,
Cranbury, 1999.
Martin Barker and Julian Petley, eds, Ill Effects: the media/violence
debate, 2nd ed., Routledge, London, 2001.
Shearon A. Lowery, ‘Seduction of the Innocent: the great comic book
scare’, in S. A. Lowery and M. L. DeFleur, eds, Milestones in Mass
Communication Research: media effects, Longman, New York, 1983.
Shearon A. Lowery and Melvin L. DeFleur, ‘The Invasion from
Mars: radio panics America’, in S. A. Lowery and M. L.
DeFleur, eds, Milestones in Mass Communication Research: media effects,
Longman, New York, 1983.
John Martin, The Seduction of the Gullible: the curious history of the British
‘video nasties’ phenomenon, Procrustes Press, Nottingham, 1997.
4. Bad Drugs
Chris Baerveldt, et al., ‘Assessing a Moral Panic Relating to Crime
and Drugs Policy in the Netherlands: towards a testable
theory’, Crime, Law and Social Change 29/1 (1998).




Theodore Chiricos, ‘Moral Panic as Ideology: drugs, violence,
race and punishment in America’, in M. J. Lynch and
E. B. Patterson, eds, Justice with Prejudice: race and criminal justice in
America, Harrow and Heston, Guilderland NY, 1997.
M. Collin, Altered State: the story of ecstasy culture and acid house, Serpent’s
Tail, London, 1997.
A. Cottino and M. Quirico, ‘Easy Target and Moral Panic: the law
on drug addiction No. 162 of 1990’, The Scandinavian Journal of
Social Welfare 4/2 (1995).
Eric Goode, ‘The American Drug Panic of the 1980s: social
construction or objective threat?’, International Journal of
Addiction 45/5 (September 1990).
Andrew Hill, ‘Acid House and Thatcherism: noise, the mob and
the English countryside’, British Journal of Sociology 53/1
5. Pornography
Varda Burstyn, ‘Political Precedents and Moral Crusades: women,
sex and the state’, in V. Burstyn, ed., Women against Censorship,
Douglas and MacIntyre, Vancouver, 1985.
Gary Kinsman, ‘Danger Signals: moral conservatism, the media
and the sex police’, in G. Kinsman, ed., The Regulation of Desire:
sexuality in Canada, Black Rose Books, Montreal, 1987.
Theresa Murray and Michael McClure, Moral Panic: exposing the
religious right’s agenda on sexuality, Listen up!, Cassell, London, 1995.
Simon Watney, Policing Desire: pornography,AIDS and the media, University
of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis, 1987.
6. Threatened Children: Child Abuse – Sexual and Satanic
Joel Best, Threatened Children: rhetoric and concern about child-victims,
University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 1990.


Joel Best, Troubling Children: studies of children and social problems, Aldine
de Gruyter, New York, 1994.
Mary deYoung, ‘Speak of the Devil: rhetoric in claims-making
about the satanic ritual abuse problem’, Journal of Sociology and
Social Welfare 23 (1996).
Mary deYoung, ‘Another Look at Moral Panics: the case of satanic
day care centers’, Deviant Behavior 19/3 (1998).
Philip Jenkins, Moral Panic: changing concepts of the child molester in modern
America, Yale University Press, New Haven, CT, 1998.
Philip Jenkins and Daniel Maier-Katkin, ‘Satanism – Myth and
Reality in a Contemporary Moral Panic’, Crime, Law and Social
Change 17/1 (1992).
Jean S. LaFontaine, Speak of the Devil: tales of satanic abuse in contemporary
England, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1998.
James T. Richardson, et al., eds, The Satanism Scare, Aldine de Gruyter,
Hawthorn, 1991.
Jeffrey S. Victor, Satanic Panic: the creation of a contemporary legend, Open
Court, Chicago, 1993.
Jeffrey S. Victor, ‘Fundamentalist Religions and the Moral Crusade
against Satanism: the social construction of deviant behavior’,
Deviant Behavior 15 (1994).
Jeffrey S. Victor, ‘Moral Panics and the Social Construction of
Deviant Behavior: a theory and application to the case of
ritual child abuse’, Sociological Perspectives 41/3 (Fall 1998).
7. Welfare Issues and Single Mothers
Lisa D. Brush, ‘Worthy Widows, Welfare Cheats: proper womanhood in expert needs talk about single mothers in the US
1900–1988’, Gender and Society 11/6 (1997).
Kate Cregan, ‘(S)he was Convicted and Condemned’, Social
Semiotics 11/2 (2001).
Dean Hartley and Peter Taylor-Gooby, Dependency Culture: the explosion
of a myth, Harvester Wheatsheaf, London, 1992.




O. Linne and M. Jones, ‘The Coverage of Lone-Parents in
British Newspapers: a construction based on moral panic?’,
Communication Abstracts 24/1 (2001).
Bronwyn Naylor, ‘The “Bad Mother” in Media and Legal Texts’,
Social Semiotics 11/2 (2001).
Anne Phoenix, ‘Social Constructions of Lone Motherhood’, in
E. Bortoloaia Silva, ed., Good Enough Mothering?: Feminist Perspectives
on Lone Mothering, Routledge, London, 1996.
8. Refugees and Asylum Seekers
Colin Campbell and Elaine Clark, ‘ “Gypsy Invasion”: a critical
analysis of newspaper reaction to Czech and Slovak Romani
asylum-seekers in Britain’, Romani Studies 10/1 (1997).
Lorna Chessum, ‘Race and Immigration in the Leicester Local
Press 1945–62’, Immigrants and Minorities 17/2 (1998).
Ron Kaye, ‘Redefining the Refugee: the UK media portrayal of
asylum seekers’, in K. Koser and H Lutz, eds, The New Migration
in Europe: social constructions and social realities, Macmillan,
Basingstoke, 1998.
9. Miscellaneous
Thomas Acton, ‘Modernisation, Moral Panics and the Gypsies’,
Sociology Review 4/1 (1994).
G. Fordham, ‘Moral Panic and the Construction of a National
Order: HIV/AIDS risk groups and the moral boundaries in
the creation of a modern Thailand’, Critique of Anthropology
21/3 (2001).
Sheldon Ungar, ‘Hot Crises and Media Reassurance: a comparison of emerging diseases and Ebola Zaire’, British Journal of
Sociology 49/1 (1998).
B. Williams, ‘Bail Bandits: the construction of a moral panic’,
Critical Social Policy 13/1 (1993).





The term ‘moral panic’ was first used by Jock Young in ‘The Role of the
Police as Amplifiers of Deviancy, Negotiators of Reality and Translators
of Fantasy’, in S. Cohen (Ed.), Images of Deviance (Harmondsworth:
Penguin, 1971), p. 37. We both probably picked it up from Marshall
McLuhan’s Understanding Media, published in 1964.
2 Between 1984 and 1991 (inclusive) there were about 8 citations of
‘moral panic’ in UK newspapers; then 25 in 1992, then a sudden leap
to 145 in 1993. From 1994 to 2001, the average was at 109 per year.
3 Kenneth Thompson’s Moral Panics (London: Routledge, 1998),
appeared in the Routledge ‘Key Ideas’ series. For definitions, see Allan
G. Johnson, Blackwell Dictionary of Sociology (Oxford: Blackwell, 2000)
and Karim Murji, ‘Moral Panic’ in Dictionary of Criminology, London,
Sage, 2001.
4 Blake Morrison, As If (Cambridge: Granta, 1997).
5 Sir William Macpherson, The Stephen Lawrence Inquiry (London:
HMSO, 1999).
6 Two useful examples: Eugene McLaughlin and Karim Murji, ‘After the
Stephen Lawrence Report’, Critical Social Policy 19 (August 1999),
pp. 371–85; Alan Marlow and Barry Loveday (Eds), After Macpherson:
Policing After the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry (Lyme Regis: Russell House
Publishing, 2000).




McLaughlin and Murji, op. cit. p. 372.
As The Sun’s front page proclaimed: ‘Britain Backs Our Bobbies: Sun
Poll Boosts Under-Fire Cops’ (1 March 1999).
9 Karim Murji, ‘The Agony and the Ecstasy: Drugs, Media and Morality’,
in Ross Coomber (Ed.), The Control of Drugs and Drug Users: Reason or
Reaction? (London: Harwood Publishers, 1998).
10 Phillip Jenkins, Moral Panic: Changing Concepts of the Child Molester in
Modern America (New Haven, Yale University Press, 1998).
11 See Phillip Jenkins, Pedophiles and Priests: Anatomy of a Contemporary
Crisis (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996).
12 For two different, but complimentary, views see Beatrix Campbell,
Unofficial Secrets: Child Sexual Abuse – The Cleveland Case (London:
Virago, 1989) and Nigel Parton, Governing the Family: Child Care, Child
Protection and the State (London: Macmillan, 1991), especially Chapter
4 ‘Sexual Abuse, the Cleveland Affair and the Private Family’.
13 For an analysis of newspaper coverage of the series of ‘anti-paedophile
crowd actions’ in Britain over summer 2000, see John Drury, ‘ “When
the mobs are looking for witches to burn, nobody’s safe” talking about
the reactionary crowd’, Discourse and Society 13, 1 pp. 41–73.
14 On the history of media panics about the appearance of new forms
of media, see Kirsten Drotner, ‘Modernity and Media Panics’, in
M. Skovmand and K.C. Schroder (Eds), Media Cultures: Reappraising
Traditional Media (London: Routledge, 1992) and ‘Dangerous Media?
Panic Discourses and Dilemmas of Modernity’, Pedagogica Historica
35, 3 (1999), pp. 593–619.
15 Drotner, op. cit. p. 52.
16 For a recent review (concentrating on highly publicized violent crimes)
see Martin Barker and Julian Petley (Eds), Ill Effects: The Media-Violence
Debate (London: Routledge, 2001).
17 Grainne McKeever, ‘Detecting, Prosecuting and Punishing Benefit
Fraud: The Social Security Administration (Fraud) Act 1997’, Modern
Law Review 62 (March 1999), p. 269.
18 Angela McRobbie, ‘Motherhood, A Teenage Job’, Guardian (5 September
19 A. Ward, Talking Dirty: Moral Panic and Political Rhetoric (London:
Institute for Public Policy Research, 1996).
20 P.M. Evans and K.J. Swift, ‘Single Mothers and the Press: Rising Tides,
Moral Panic and Restructuring Discourses’, in S.M. Neysmith (Ed.),
Restructuring Caring Labour: Discourse, State Practice and Everyday Life
(Oxford, OUP, 2000).








J. Doly et al., Refugees in Europe: The Hostile New Agenda (London:
Minorities Rights Group, 1997).
Robin Cohen, Frontiers of Identity: The British and the Others (London:
Longman, 1994).
Ron Kaye, ‘Redefining the Refugee: The UK Media Portrayal of Asylum
Seekers’, in Khalid Koser and Helma Lutz (Eds), The New Migration in
Europe: Social Constructions and Social Realities (London: Macmillan
Press, 1998), pp. 163–82.
See the report by Oxfam’s UK poverty programme in Scotland, Asylum:
the Truth Behind the Headlines (Oxfam, February 2001). This project
monitored six Scottish papers over a two-month period (March–April
2000): a total of 263 articles on asylum and refugee issues.
E. El Refaie, ‘Metaphors we Discriminate by: Naturalized Themes
in Austrian Newspaper Articles about Asylum Seekers’, Journal of
Sociolinguistics 5, 3 (August 2001), pp. 352–71.
Stanley Cohen, States of Denial: Knowing About Atrocities and Suffering
(Cambridge: Polity, 2001).
For example, Erich Goode and Nachman Ben-Yehuda, Moral Panics:
The Social Construction of Deviance (Oxford: Blackwell, 1994).
See Selected Reading List for references on constructionism.
Robert Reiner, ‘The Rise of Virtual Vigilantism: Crime Reporting Since
World War II’, Criminal Justice Matters 43 (Spring 2001).
Richard L. Fox and Robert Van Sichel, Tabloid Justice: Criminal Justice
in an Age of Media Frenzy (Boulder: L. Rienner Publishers, 2001).
David Garland, The Culture of Control (Oxford: Oxford University
Press, 2001).
Sheldon Unger, ‘Moral Panic versus the Risk Society: Implications
of the Changing Sites of Social Anxiety’, British Journal of Sociology 52,
pp. 271–92.
Mary Douglas’s main publications on the subject (Risk and Culture
and Risk and Blame) are presented in Richard Farndon, Mary Douglas:
An Intellectual Biography (London: Routledge, 1999), pp. 144–67.
Kai T. Erikson, Everything in Its Path: Destruction of Community in the
Buffalo Creek Flood (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1976).
See Phil Scraton, Hillsborough: The Truth (Edinburgh: Mainstream, 2001).
Thompson, op. cit. pp. 8–11.
See William J. Chambliss, ‘Crime Control and Ethnic Minorities:
Legitimizing Racial Oppression by Creating Moral Panics’, in Darnell
Hawkins (Ed.), Ethnicity, Race and Crime (Albany: State University of
New York Press, 1995).





Goode and Ben-Yehuda, op. cit. p. 104.
Angela McRobbie and Sarah L. Thornton, ‘Rethinking “moral panic”
for multi-mediated social worlds’, British Journal of Sociology 46
(December 1995), pp. 559–74.
40 ibid. p. 560.
41 Susan D. Moeller, Compassion Fatigue: How the Media Sell Disease,
Famine, War and Death (New York: Routledge, 1999).
42 ibid. p. 306.

For example, Christopher Booker, The Neophiliacs: A Study of the
Revolution in English Life in the Fifties and Sixties (London: Collins,
1969); David Bailey and Francis Wyndham, A Box of Pin-Ups (London:
Weidenfeld & Nicholson, 1965); Bernard Levin, The Pendulum Years
(London: Jonathan Cape, 1970); and (in a different way) Jeff Nuttall,
Bomb Culture (London: Paladin, 1970).
2 Howard S. Becker, Outsiders: Studies in the Sociology of Deviance (New
York: Free Press, 1963), Chaps 7 and 8.
3 Joseph Gusfield, Symbolic Crusade: Status Politics and the American
Temperance Movement (Urbana: University of Illinois, 1963).
4 Becker, op. cit. p. 145.
5 Howard S. Becker (Ed.), Social Problems: A Modern Approach (New
York: John Wiley, 1966).
6 See Herbert Blumer, ‘Collective Behaviour’, in J. B. Gittler (Ed.), Review
of Sociology (New York: Wiley, 1957); Ralph H. Turner, ‘Collective
Behaviour’, in R. E. L. Farris (Ed.), Handbook of Modern Sociology
(Chicago: Rand McNally, 1964), and Ralph H. Turner and Lewis M.
Killian, Collective Behaviour (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1957).
7 Orrin E. Klapp, Heroes, Villains and Fools: The Changing American
Character (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1962).
8 The sceptical revolution can only be understood as part of a broader
reaction in the social sciences as a whole against the dominant
models, images and methodology of positivism. It is obviously beyond
my scope to deal here with this connection. For an account of the
peculiar shape positivism took in the study of crime and deviance and
of the possibilities of transcending its paradoxes, the work of David
Matza is invaluable: Delinquency and Drift (New York: Wiley, 1964)
and Becoming Deviant (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1969).
9 Becker, Outsiders: Studies in the Sociology of Deviance, op. cit. p. 9.


R. D. Laing, The Divided Self (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1965), p. 34.
A fuller account of these and other implications of the sceptical
position is given in my Introduction and Postscript to Stanley Cohen
(Ed.), Images of Deviance (Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1971).
Some examples of work influenced by this tradition can be found in
that volume but more directly in Rubington and Weinberg’s excellent
collection of interactionist writings: Earl Rubington and Martin S.
Weinberg (Eds), Deviance: The Interactionist Perspective (New York:
Collier-Macmillan, 1968).
12 Edwin M. Lemert, Social Pathology: A Systematic Approach to the Study
of Sociopathic Behaviour (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1951) and Human
Deviance, Social Problems and Social Control (Englewood Cliffs, NJ:
Prentice-Hall, 1967).
13 Lemert, Social Pathology, op. cit.
14 ibid. p. 55.
15 See John I. Kitsuse, ‘Societal Reaction to Deviant Behaviour: Problems
of Theory and Method’, Social Problems 9 (Winter 1962), pp. 247–56.
16 Kai T. Erikson, Wayward Puritans: A Study in the Sociology of Deviance
(New York: John Wiley, 1966).
17 Becker, Outsiders: Studies in the Sociology of Deviance, op. cit. Chaps
7 and 8.
18 Paul Rock and Stanley Cohen, ‘The Teddy Boy’, in V. Bogdanor and
R. Skidelsky (Eds), The Age of Affluence: 1951–1964 (London: Macmillan,
19 Jock Young, ‘The Role of the Police as Amplifiers of Deviancy, Negotiators
of Reality and Translators of Fantasy: Some Aspects of our Present
System of Drug Control as seen in Notting Hill’, in Cohen, op. cit.
20 Joseph Gusfield, ‘Moral Passage: The Symbolic Process in Public
Designations of Deviance’, Social Problems 15 (Fall 1967), pp. 175–88.
21 Young, op. cit. and The Drug Takers: The Social Meaning of Drug-Taking
(London: Paladin, 1971).
22 Erikson, op. cit. p. 12.
23 Leslie T. Wilkins, Social Deviance: Social Policy, Action and Research
(London: Tavistock, 1964), Chap. 4. I have made a preliminary attempt
to apply this model to the Mods and Rockers in ‘Mods, Rockers and
the Rest: Community Reaction to Juvenile Delinquency’, Howard
Journal of Penology and Crime Prevention XII (1967), pp. 121–30.
24 Young (1971) The Drug Takers, op. cit.
25 David H. Downes, The Delinquent Solution: A Study in Subcultural
Theory (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1966), p. ix.




26 Neil J. Smelser, Theory of Collective Behaviour (London: Routledge &
Kegan Paul, 1962).
27 ibid. p. 17.
28 ibid. p. 284.
29 Early journalistic accounts of disasters have given way to more
sophisticated methods of data collection and theorization. The body
in the USA most responsible for this development is the Disaster
Research Group of the National Academy of Science, National
Research Council. The most comprehensive accounts of their findings
and other research are to be found in: G. W. Baker and D. W. Chapman,
Man and Society in Disaster (New York: Basic Books, 1962) and
A. H. Barton, Social Organisation Under Stress: A Sociological Review of
Disaster Studies (Washington, DC: National Academy of Sciences,
1963). See also A. H. Barton, Communities in Disaster (London: Ward
Lock, 1970).
30 Robert K. Merton, Introduction to Barton, Social Organisation Under
Stress, op. cit. pp. xix–xx.
31 C. F. Fritz, ‘Disaster’, in R. K. Merton and R. A. Nisbet (Eds), Contemporary
Social Problems (London: Rupert Hart-Davis, 1963), p. 654.
32 I. H. Cissin and W. B. Clark, ‘The Methodological Challenge of Disaster
Research’, in Baker and Chapman, op. cit. p. 30.
33 From: Barton, Social Organization Under Stress op. cit. pp. 14–15;
D. W. Chapman, ‘A Brief Introduction to Contemporary Disaster
Research’, in Baker and Chapman, op. cit. pp. 7–22; J. G. Miller, ‘A
Theoretical Review of Individual and Group Psychological Reaction to
Stress’, in G. H. Grosser et al. (Eds), The Threat of Impending Disaster:
Contributions to the Psychology of Stress (Cambridge, Massachusetts:
MIT Press, 1964), pp. 24–32.


For a more extended development of this point, see my ‘Directions for
Research on Adolescent Violence and Vandalism’, British Journal of
Criminology, 11 (October 1971).
2 Peter Laurie, The Teenage Revolution (London: Anthony Blond, 1965),
p. 131.
3 Graham Greene, Brighton Rock (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1965), p. 6.
4 Laurie, op. cit. p. 130.
5 Terry Ann Knopf, ‘Media Myths on Violence’, Columbia Journalism
Review (Spring 1970), pp. 17–18.


6 ibid. p. 20.
7 See, for example, Norman Jacobs, ‘The Phantom Slasher of Taipei:
Mass Hysteria in a Non-Western Society’, Social Problems 12 (Winter
1965), p. 322.
8 Knopf, op. cit. p. 18.
9 Edwin M. Lemert, Social Pathology (New York: McGraw Hill, 1951),
p. 55.
10 Paul Barker and Alan Little, ‘The Margate Offenders: A Survey’, New
Society, 30 July 1964. See Appendix.
11 Interview (23 November 1964).
12 Estimate by Hastings Stationmaster, quoted in Hastings and St Leonards
Observer (8 August 1964).
13 James D. Halloran et al., Demonstrations and Communications: A Case
Study (Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1970), p. 112.
14 Ralph H. Turner and Samuel J. Surace, ‘Zoot Suiters and Mexicans:
Symbols in Crowd Behaviour’, American Journal of Sociology 62 (1956),
pp. 14–20.
15 Paul Rock and Stanley Cohen, ‘The Teddy Boy’, in V. Bogdanor and
R. Skidelsky (Eds), The Age of Affluence: 1951–1964 (London: Macmillan,
16 Yablonsky has provided numerous examples of how outside observers
accept at face value the fantasies of gang leaders and members. See
Lewis Yablonsky, The Violent Gang (New York: Free Press, 1962).
17 Kurt and Gladys Lang, ‘The Unique Perspective of Television and its
Effect: A Pilot Study’, American Sociological Review 18 (February 1953),
pp. 3–12. Halloran and his colleagues (op. cit.) report an identical
process in their analysis of the TV coverage of the 1968 anti-Vietnam
war demonstrations.
18 Lang, op. cit. p. 10.
19 Daniel J. Boorstin, The Image (Harmondsworth: Penguin Books,
1963), p. 25.
20 Kenneth B. Clark and James Barker, ‘The Zoot Effect in Personality: A
Race Riot Participant’, Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology 40
(1965), pp. 143–8.
21 I. H. Cissin and W. B. Clark, ‘The Methodological Challenge of Disaster
Research’, in G. W. Baker and D. W. Chapman, Man and Society in
Disaster (New York: Basic Books, 1962), p. 28.
22 The notion of a ‘hierarchy of credibility’ in regard to deviance is
suggested by Howard S. Becker in his paper ‘Whose Side Are We
On?’, Social Problems 14 (Winter 1967), pp. 239–67.





Halloran et al., op. cit. pp. 215–16.
ibid. p. 26.
Michael Frayn, The Tin Men (London: Fontana Books, 1966), pp. 31–5.
Terry Ann Knopf, ‘Sniping: A New Pattern of Violence?’, Transaction
(July/August 1969), p. 29.

Neil J. Smelser, Theory of Collective Behaviour (London: Routledge &
Kegan Paul, 1962), Chap. 3.
2 See the various papers in Bradley S. Greenberg and Edwin B. Parker
(Eds), The Kennedy Assassination and the American Public: Social
Communication in Crisis (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1965)
particularly Parker and Greenberg, ‘Newspaper Content on the
Assassination Weekend’, pp. 46–7, and J. D. Barker, ‘Peer Group
Discussion and Recovery from the Kennedy Assassination’, p. 119.
3 Nahum Z. Medalia and Otto N. Larsen, ‘Diffusion and Belief in a
Collective Delusion: The Seattle Windshield Pitting Epidemic’,
American Sociological Review 23 (1958), p. 183.
4 Barker, op. cit. p. 112.
5 Hansard (House of Commons), 23 June 1964, Col. 274.
6 Hansard, 27 April 1964, Col. 65.
7 ibid. Col. 71.
8 Frank Elmes, ‘Mods and Rockers’, Police Review XXII (June 1964).
9 Howard S. Becker, Outsiders: Studies in the Sociology of Deviance (New
York: Free Press, 1963), pp. 152–7.
10 Canon Evans, Chancellor of Southwark Cathedral, at a Christian Action
Conference, 7 June 1964.
11 See Tony Palmer, The Trials of Oz (London: Blond & Briggs, 1971).
12 See, for example, Gordon W. Allport, The Nature of Prejudice (New
York: Doubleday Anchor, 1958), pp. 190–3.
13 Lewis Yablonsky, The Violent Gang (New York: Macmillan, 1962),
p. 210.
14 Edgar Z. Friedenberg, ‘The Image of the Adolescent Minority’, Dissent
10 (Spring 1963), p. 151. Friedenberg suggests a number of other interesting parallels between racial stereotyping and the assignment to the
adolescent of minority group status.
15 Hansard, 23 June 1964, Col. 252 and Col. 294–5.
16 Harold Garfinkel, ‘Conditions of Successful Degradation Ceremonies’,
American Journal of Sociology LXI (March 1956), pp. 422–3.








In the only published research on the Mods and Rockers, Barker and
Little write, ‘We must shoot down the broken home cliché as well.’
This is an example of the tendency to make unjustified assumptions
about public attitudes to delinquency. There is no need to shoot down
a cliché which is seldom used.
In criminology, Sheldon and Eleanor Glueck’s popular work is most
responsible for perpetuating this analogy. Note David Matza’s account
of the use of the contagion concept in explaining deviance – Becoming
Deviant (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1969), pp. 101–4.
Hansard, 27 April 1964, Col. 52 and Col. 59.
Interview, 27 November 1964.
P. B. Sheatsley and J. S. Feldman, ‘A National Survey of Public
Reactions and Behaviour’, in Greenberg and Parker, op. cit. p. 174.
In one analysis of this subject (Terry Ann Knopf, ‘Sniping: A New
Pattern of Violence?’, Transaction, July/August 1969, pp. 22–9), attention is drawn to the receptiveness of American audiences to conspiratorial theories. The classic analysis is Richard Hofstadter, The Paranoid
Style in American Politics (New York: Knopf, 1966).
Robert Shellow and Derek V. Roemer, ‘The Riot that Didn’t Happen’,
Social Problems 14 (Fall 1966), p. 223.
David Downes, ‘Clacton and the Dead End’, Observer (6 April 1964),
and ‘What to do about Mods and Rockers?’, Family Doctor (August
1965), pp. 469–71.
D. James, MP in Brighton and Hove Herald (23 May 1964).
L. Seymour, MP, Hansard, 4 April 1964, Col. 42.
Jum C. Nunnally, ‘The Communication of Mental Health Information:
A Comparison of the Opinions of Experts and Public with Mass Media
Presentation’, Behavioral Science 2 (1957), pp. 220–30. While the (very
few) studies that exist of public attitudes to deviance do show extreme
and misleading stereotyping, such responses have not been compared
to those in the mass media, which, perhaps, are even more extreme.
See, for example, J. L. Simmons, ‘Public Stereotypes of Deviants’,
Social Problems 13 (Fall 1965), pp. 223–32.
Edwin M. Lemert, Social Pathology (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1952), p. 55.
Peter L. Berger and Thomas Luckman, The Social Construction of
Reality (London: Allen Lane, 1968), p. 131.
An identical point about the media response to political demonstrations is made in James D. Halloran et al., Demonstrations and
Communications: A Case Study (Harmondsworth: Penguin Books,









Neil J. Smelser, Theory of Collective Behaviour (London: Routledge &
Kegan Paul, 1962), p. 83.
Ralph H. Turner and Samuel J. Surace, ‘Zoot Suiters and Mexicans:
Symbols in Crowd Behaviour’, American Journal of Sociology 62
D. Johnson, ‘The Phantom Anaesthetist of Mattoon’, Journal of
Abnormal and Social Psychology 40 (1945), pp. 175–86.
Nahum Z. Medalia and Otto N. Larsen, ‘Diffusion and Belief in a
Collective Delusion: The Seattle Windshield Pitting Epidemic’,
American Sociological Review 23 (1953), pp. 180–6.
Norman Jacobs, ‘The Phantom Slasher of Taipei: Mass Hysteria in a
Non-Western Society’, Social Problems 12 (Winter 1965), pp. 318–28.
See, for example, J. P. Spiegel, ‘The English Flood of 1953’, Human
Organization 16 (Summer 1957), pp. 3–5.
Turner and Surace, op. cit. p. 20.
Johnson, op. cit. p. 186.
Jacobs, op. cit. p. 326.
Johnson, op. cit. p. 180.
Edwin H. Sutherland, ‘The Diffusion of the Sexual Psychopath Laws’,
American Journal of Sociology 56 (September 1950), p. 143.
See, ‘Beachniks – Brighton is Tolerant, But With Reservations’,
Municipal Journal (14 February 1964).
Edwin M. Lemert, Social Pathology (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1951),
p. 447.
Turner and Surace, op. cit. p. 20.
Isidor Chein et al., The Road to H: Narcotics, Delinquency and Social
Policy (London: Tavistock, 1964), p. 8.
Albert K. Cohen, ‘The Study of Social Disorganization and Deviant
Behaviour’, in R. K. Merton et al. (Eds), Sociology Today: Problems and
Prospects (New York: Basic Books, 1959), p. 465.
These solutions derive respectively from: D. Pulson, Liverpool Daily
Post (23 May 1964); J. Lucas, Daily Herald (19 May 1964); J. B. White,
JP in Daily Telegraph (22 May 1964). (It is implied rather than explicitly
stated that remand in custody before conviction is intended); Comment
in Justice of the Peace and Local Government Review LXXVII (13 June
1964), pp. 401–2.
J. E. Lumbard, ‘The Citizen’s Role in Law Enforcement’, Journal
of Criminal Law, Criminology and Police Science 56 (March 1965),
p. 69.








The phrase used by Tannenbaum to describe the ritualistic confrontation between the young delinquent and the community: Frank
Tannenbaum, Crime and the Community (New York: Columbia
University Press, 1938), pp. 17–20.
James D. Halloran et al., Demonstrations and Communications: A Case
Study (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1970).
Keith Bottomley, Prison Before Trial (London: G. Bell and Sons, 1970).
Tony Parker, The Plough Boy (London: Hutchinson, 1965), p. 235. For
further examples from the Teddy Boy phenomenon, see Paul Rock and
Stanley Cohen, ‘The Teddy Boy’, in V. Bogdanor and R. Skidelsky
(Eds), The Age of Affluence: 1951–1964 (London: Macmillan, 1970).
Main source: Hastings and St Leonard’s Observer (15 August 1964).
Kai T. Erikson, Wayward Puritans: A Study in the Sociology of Deviance
(New York: John Wiley, 1966), p. 103.
Thirty-six out of forty-four youths pleaded guilty. It has been noted that
many did so on police ‘advice’. Others believed that those who
pleaded not guilty were given heavier sentences. Barker and Little note
that ‘the strained atmosphere of the courthouse seems to have been
responsible for this misconception’, op. cit. p. 6.
See particularly, Richard R. Fuller and Richard R. Myers, ‘Some
Aspects of a Theory of Social Problems’, American Sociological Review
6 (February 1941), pp. 24–32 and ‘The Natural History of a Social
Problem’, American Sociological Review 6 (June 1941), pp. 320–9. For a
critique of the natural history approach, see Edwin M. Lemert, ‘Is
There a Natural History of Social Problems?’, American Sociological
Review 16 (1951), pp. 217–23.
Howard S. Becker, Outsiders: Studies in the Sociology of Deviance (New
York: Free Press, 1963), Chaps 7 and 8.
Sutherland, op. cit.
The classic account is to be found in Alfred R. Lindesmith, ‘Dope Fiend
Mythology’, Journal of Criminal Law, Criminology & Police Science 31
(1940), pp. 199–208. See also Edwin M. Schur, Crimes Without Victims:
Deviant Behaviour and Public Policy (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: PrenticeHall, 1965), pp. 120–68; Jerry Mandel, ‘Hashish, Assassins and the
Love of God’, Issues in Criminology 2 (Fall 1966), pp. 149–56 and Roger
Smith, ‘Status Politics and the Image of the Addict’, ibid. pp. 157–75.
H. R. Veltfort and G. E. Lee, ‘The Coconut Grove Fire: A Study in
Scapegoating’, Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology 38 (April
1943), p. 141, and R. Bucher, ‘Blame and Hostility in Disaster’,
American Journal of Sociology 6 (March 1957), p. 471.









Sven Ranulf, Moral Indignation and Middle Class Psychology (New York:
Schocken Books, 1964).
Between 1965 and 1966, the Morning Advertiser (the trade paper)
showed a marked increase in references to hooliganism in public
Forty-fifth Annual General Report of the Magistrates Association,
pp. 64–5. See also B. Buchanan, ‘Punishment for Disorderly Gangs’,
Magistrate, 20, 12 (1964), pp. 170–1.
See, for example, Ralph H. Turner and Lewis M. Killian, Collective
Behaviour (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1957), Part 4; Hans
Toch, The Social Psychology of Social Movements (Indianapolis: Bobbs
Merrill Co., 1965) and Joseph R. Gusfield (Ed.), Protest, Reform and
Revolt: A Reader in Social Movements (New York: John Wiley, 1970).
Smelser, op. cit. pp. 270–312 and 109–20.
See Turner and Killian, op. cit. pp. 501–2, and for a particularly clear
example, Sutherland, op. cit.
Unless stated otherwise, the arguments quoted are from my verbatim
recording of the debate in the Seatown Council on 23 May 1966.
Alderman K. (Questionnaire).
The use of atrocity stories to legitimate forms of control is, of course,
a technique well known to moral entrepreneurs. Becker quotes a story
of an entire family being murdered by an addict which was used by the
Federal Narcotics Bureau in campaigning for the Marijuana Tax Act
(op. cit. p. 142). Advocates of LSD control similarly use stories of ‘trippers’ walking in front of cars or stepping out of twenty-storey windows.
See Mandel, op. cit., for a well-documented account of the mythical
nature of one such story.
Interview, 20 May 1966.
Smelser, op. cit. p. 113.
Letter from MP for ‘Rockbay’ (18 November 1964).
Mr H. Gurden, Hansard, 27 April 1964, Col. 31.
P. D. Scott and D. R. C. Willcox, ‘Delinquency and the Amphetamines’,
British Journal of Psychiatry, 111 (September 1965), pp. 865–76.
Mr H. Brooke, ibid., Cols. 89–90.
Mr H. Brooke, Hansard, 4 June 1964, Cols. 1249–52.
The effect of the Malicious Damage Act 1964 was to extend the jurisdiction of the magistrates’ courts and to increase the maximum fine
from £20 to £100. It was also made clear that powers to order
compensation were not confined to cases where a fine had already
been imposed.



Mr C. Curran, Hansard, 23 June 1964, Col. 1219.
Sir W. Teeling, ibid., Col. 261.
Mr H. Brooke, ibid, Col. 242.
A. K. Cohen, op. cit. p. 465.
Sir W. Teeling, Hansard, 23 June 1964, Cols. 259–60.
Mr W. Rees-Davies, ibid., Col. 284.
For further elaboration about vandalism, see Stanley Cohen, ‘Who are
the Vandals?’, New Society, 12 December 1968, pp. 872–8.
55 Lemert, Social Pathology, pp. 65–8. See also Goffman’s discussion of
the stigmatized person’s vulnerability to what he calls ‘victimization’;
Erving Goffman, Stigma: Notes on the Management of Spoiled Identity
(Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1963), p. 9.
56 Lemert, ibid. p. 310.
57 Erikson, op. cit.
58 Peter Laurie, The Teenage Revolution (London: Anthony Blond Ltd,
1965), p. 57.
59 Lewis Yablonsky, ‘Experience with the Criminal Community’, in
A. W. Gouldner and S. M. Miller (Eds), Applied Sociology (New York:
Free Press, 1965), p. 71. For a somewhat different notion of the voyeur
role, see Laud Humphreys’s sensitive chapter, ‘Methods: The
Sociologist As Voyeur’, in Tearoom Trade: Impersonal Sex in Public
Places (London: Duckworth, 1970).
60 These quotes are, respectively, from: Resolution passed at Moral
Re-armament Easter Conference, 30 March 1964; Speech by Mr
F. Willey, Labour Chief Front Bench Spokesman on Education, addressing
a meeting of the National Association of Youth Service Officers, 3 April
1964; Telegram sent by Women of Britain Clean Up TV Campaign to
Director General of BBC, June 1964; Letter to Tribune, 10 April 1964.
61 The Times, 23 June 1966. See also M. Wardron, ‘Class, Anarchism and
the Capitalist Mentality’, Anarchy 68 (October 1966), pp. 301–4, who
includes the Mods and Rockers in a list of strugglers against authority
such as the pacifist movement, Oxfam, the campaign against the
destruction of wild life, the Welsh Nationalists and the IRA.


See, for example, I. L. Janis, ‘Psychological Effects on Warning’, in
G. W. Baker and D. W. Chapman (Eds), Man and Society in Disaster
(New York: Basic Books, 1962); S. B. Withey, ‘Reactions to Uncertain
Threat’, ibid. pp. 93–102, and ‘Sequential Accommodations to Threat’,







in G. H. Grosser et al. (Eds), The Threat of Impending Disaster:
Contributions to the Psychology of Stress (Cambridge, Massachusetts:
MIT Press, 1964).
Withey, in Baker and Chapman, op. cit. p. 114.
Withey, in Grosser et al., op. cit. p. 112.
Hunter S. Thompson, Hells Angels: A Strange and Terrible Saga (New
York: Random House, 1966), p. 122.
See report in Daily Mirror (31 March 1966): ‘Spies Warn The Yard of
Mods On The Warpath.’
For example, L. Yablonsky, ‘The Delinquent Gang as a Near-Group’,
Social Problems 7 (Fall 1959), pp. 108–17.
The reports of the Brighton Archways Ventures, particularly Volume 3,
contain much incidental material describing this atmosphere.
A highly sensitive portrayal of Brighton some twenty years after
Brighton Rock – a portrayal which conveys the balance between
desperation and release – may be found in the first two volumes of
Generation, Colin Spencer’s projected Quartet: Anarchists in Love
(London: Eyre & Spottiswoode, 1963) and The Tyranny of Love
(London: Anthony Blond Ltd, 1967).
Erving Goffman, Where the Action Is (London: Allen Lane The Penguin
Press, 1969), p. 147.
Quoted in Brighton Archways Ventures Report, Vol. III, p. 64.
Paul Barker, ‘Brighton Battleground’, New Society, 21 May 1964, p. 10.
Robert Shellow and Derek V. Roemer, ‘The Riot That Didn’t Happen’,
Social Problems 14 (Fall 1966), pp. 221–33.
This type of formulation owes much to the writings of R. D. Laing: see
especially R. D. Laing et al., Interpersonal Perception (London:
Tavistock, 1966), Chap. 3. The possibility of such multiple misinterpretations in regard to gang delinquency is also suggested by Matza.
The idea of a commitment to delinquency, he notes, is a misconception both of delinquents and the sociologists who study them.
‘Instead, there is a system of shared misunderstandings, based on
miscues, which leads delinquents to believe that all others situated in
their company are committed to their misdeeds.’ David Matza,
Delinquency and Drift (New York: John Wiley, 1964), p. 59.
Extract from youth worker’s notes quoted in B.A.V. Report, Vol. III,
p. 64.
The term originally used by Park and Burgess. For an analysis of other
forms of milling and social contagion, see R. Turner and L. Killian,
Collective Behaviour (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1957).



The discussion on rumour in the rest of the chapter leans on the
standard account in G. Allport and L. Postman, The Psychology of
Rumour (New York: Henry Holt, 1947) and more heavily, the interactionist approach in T. Shibutani, Improvised News. A Sociological Study
of Rumour (Indianopolis, Bobbs-Merrill Co., 1966).
17 Shibutani, op. cit. Chapter 4.
18 ibid. p. 113.
19 John Harrington, ‘A Preliminary Report on Soccer Hooliganism’
(Birmingham Research Group, Mimeograph, 1968), p. 37.
20 Turner and Killian, op. cit. p. 118.
21 William Westley, ‘The Escalation of Violence through Legitimation’,
Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 364
(March 1966), pp. 120–6.
22 I am indebted to Arthur Chisnell for drawing my attention to this
example. One study, however, that shows the need for caution in
interpreting such effects is Jerome A. Motto, ‘Suicide and Suggestibility
– The Role of the Press’, American Journal of Psychiatry 124 (August
1967), pp. 156–60.
23 See David Caplowitz and Candace Rogers, Swastika 1960: The Epidemic
of Anti-Semitic Vandalism in America (New York: Anti-Defamation
League of B’nai Brith, 1961). A noteworthy feature of this epidemic was
that initial reporting indicated other avenues for expressing grievances:
at the peak, targets for hostility other than anti-Semitic ones were chosen
and, in fact, these general incidents outnumbered the specifically antiSemitic. This is similar to the widening of the net control of the Mods
and Rockers and the ways in which the target changed during the
impact. All such processes are heavily dependent on the mass media.
24 See, for example, T. R. Fyvel, The Insecure Offenders (London: Chatto &
Windus, 1961), and C. Bondy et al., Jugendliche Storen die Ordnung
(Munich: Juventa Verlag, 1957).
25 See Britt-Marie Blegvad, ‘Newspapers and Rock and Roll Riots in
Copenhagen’, Acta Sociologica 7 (1963), pp. 151–78, and Paul Rock and
Stanley Cohen, ‘The Teddy Boy’, in V. Bogdanor and R. Skidelsky
(Eds), The Age of Affluence: 1951–1964 (London: Macmillan, 1970).
26 It is, of course, far fetched to think that such techniques as a total
news embargo will ‘solve’ many problems. Other suggestions which
do put the media in a more general political context are more plausible. For a review and references in regard to recent American disturbances, see William L. Rivers and Wilbur Schramm, Responsibility and
Mass Communication (New York: Harper & Row, 1969), Chap. 6.




Peter Laurie, The Teenage Revolution (London: Anthony Blond Ltd,
1965), p. 105.
28 Shellow and Roemer, op. cit. p. 223 and Thompson, op. cit. p. 9.
29 See Erving Goffman, Behaviour in Public Places: Notes on the Social
Organization of Gatherings (New York: Free Press, 1963).
30 Howard S. Becker, Outsiders (New York: Free Press, 1963), p. 158.
31 Lewis Yablonsky, The Violent Gang (New York: Free Press, 1962), p. 67.
32 Shellow and Roemer, op. cit. p. 226.
33 ibid. pp. 221–31.

See Stuart Hall, Introduction to The Popular Press and Social Change
1935–1965. Unpublished MS. Centre for Contemporary Cultural
Studies, University of Birmingham, 1971.
2 One of the few serious attempts in this country to deal with both the
creative and commercially responsive aspects of pop music is Dave
Laing’s The Sound of Our Time (London: Sheed & Ward, 1969). His
Chapters 9 – ‘Notes for a Study of the Beatles’ – and 10 – ‘My
Generation’ (which deals with the Rolling Stones and The Who) – are
important aids to understanding the Mod phenomenon.
3 This account is based on the somewhat fuller analysis I have provided
in ‘Breaking Out, Smashing Up and the Social Context of Aspiration’,
in Working Papers in Cultural Studies, Spring 1974, pp. 37–64.
My orientation to the problem is basically the same as those of Paul
Goodman in his classic Growing Up Absurd (New York: Random
House, 1956) and – with particular reference to delinquency in Britain
– David Downes in The Delinquent Solution (London: Routledge &
Kegan Paul, 1966).
4 This is the perspective on adolescence used in Frank Musgrove, Youth
and the Social Order (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1964). See
also the various writings of Edgar Friedenberg.
5 Some further comments on the ‘Dream Boys’ and ‘Ordinary Kids’ of
the fifties can be found in Nicholas Walter, ‘The Young One’, New
Society, 28 February 1963. Just about the only commentary on this
period, as it drew to a close, is the work of Ray Gosling. See ‘Lady
Albermarle’s Boys’, Young Fabian Pamphlet, January 1961, and ‘Dream
Boys’, New Left Review 3, May–June 1960, pp. 30–5.
6 This account derives mainly from the work of Downes, and its elaborations by Peter Willmott, Adolescent Boys of East London (London:


Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1966), and David H. Hargreaves, Social
Relations in a Secondary School (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1967).
7 The notion of a mood of desperation preceding the drift to delinquency is used by David Matza in Delinquency and Drift (New York:
John Wiley, 1964).
8 For this whole section I am heavily indebted to the writings of Jeff
Nuttall; see particularly Bomb Culture (London: Paladin, 1970), and
‘Techniques of Separation’ in Tony Cash (Ed.), Anatomy of Pop (London:
BBC Publications, 1970). On the earlier period, Ray Gosling is again
invaluable; see his autobiography Sum Total (London: Faber & Faber).
9 For details, see Paul Rock and Stanley Cohen, ‘The Teddy Boy’, in
V. Bogdanor and R. Skidelsky (Eds), The Age of Affluence: 1951–1964
(London: Macmillan, 1970).
10 Colin MacInnes, Absolute Beginners (London: MacGibbon & Kee,
1959). See also the essays, particularly ‘Sharp Schmutter’ (on the
clothing style, at the end of the fifties) in MacInnes’s England, Half
English (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1966). These are among the more
noteworthy comments on youth in England during the indefinite
transitional stage between Ted and Mod.
11 Nuttall, Bomb Culture, op. cit. p. 333.
12 Tom Wolfe, ‘The Noonday Underground’ in The Mid Atlantic Man and
Other New Breeds in England and America (London: Weidenfeld &
Nicholson, 1968).
13 ibid. p. 101.
14 ibid. pp. 111–12.
15 For details on all these types, see Brighton Archways Ventures Report,
Vol. 3, Chap. 4.
16 Laing, op. cit. pp. 150–1.
17 ibid. p. 151.
18 See, for example, Roger Williams and David Guest, ‘Are The Middle
Classes Becoming Work Shy?’, New Society, Vol. 18, No. 457 (1 July
1971), pp. 9–11. Questions about the supposed allegiance of particular
groups to the work ethos need, of course, to be put in a theoretical
context which recognizes the inconsistencies and contradictions in
value systems about leisure. The classic analysis is David Matza and
Gresham Sykes, ‘Juvenile Delinquency and Subterranean Values’,
American Sociological Review 26 (October 1961), pp. 712–19.
19 Nik Cohn, Awopbopaloobop Aloopbamboom (London: Paladin, 1970),
p. 141 and p. 145. For a fuller analysis of The Who see Gary Herman,
The Who (London: Studio Vista, 1971).




20 ibid. p. 164.
21 Nuttall, Bomb Culture, op. cit. p. 35.
22 Kai T. Erikson, Wayward Puritans: A Study in the Sociology of Deviance
(New York: John Wiley, 1966).
23 ibid. p. 69.
24 Laing, op. cit. p. 150.
25 The Brighton Archways Ventures Reports give a detailed chronicle of
the opposition to the project by the local tradesmen and council.
See particularly Volume I, pp. 15–25, and pp. 49–106, and Volume 3,
pp. 167–70.
26 Joseph Gusfield, Symbolic Crusade: Status Politics and the American
Temperance Movement (Urbana: University of Illinois, 1963). See especially Chapter 5, ‘Moral Indignation and Status Conflict’.
27 Svend Ranulf, Moral Indignation and Middle Class Psychology (New
York: Schocken Books Inc., 1964).
28 Gusfield, op. cit. p. 112.
29 For a convincing argument about the bases for the societal condemnation of drug-taking, see Jock Young, The Drugtakers: The Social
Meaning of Drug Use (London: Paladin, 1971).
30 George Melly, Revolt Into Style (London: Allen Lane The Penguin
Press, 1970).
31 For one account of this transition, see Nuttall, ‘Techniques of
Separation’, op. cit.
32 ibid. pp. 127–8.
33 Howard Becker, German Youth: Bond or Free? (London: Kegan Paul,
1946), p. 147.


AA 91
Aberfan 24, 36
Ace Café 210
action groups 90, 129, 132, 137, 141,
adolescence 2, 12, 38; backgrounds
203, 205–7, 210–11, 213, 216–17;
end 229, 232–3; exploitation 159;
inventory 43, 45; reaction 53–4,
58, 68, 86, 88, 102
affluence 28–9, 31, 55–8, 69;
backgrounds 202–4, 215, 222–3;
reaction 92, 135, 147, 154;
sociology 220
agents of social control 89–92
Aldermaston marches 70
alienation 11, 72
Allport, F. H. 13, 182
America 4, 9, 25, 28, 45, 58, 81, 142,
158, 185, 197, 209–10, 220
amphetamines 152
amplification 17–18, 89, 122;
backgrounds 201–2; control

agents 191, 196; impact 196,
199; media 184–5; model 226–7,
231; process 232; reaction 156,
anarchists 160
anti-psychiatry school 232
anxiety 81, 132, 163
appeal 101, 104, 106, 112–13, 115,
archetypes 59
Argyle, M. 118
Arran, Earl of 150
Association of Municipal
Corporations 134
attitudes 47–79
audience 172, 179–82, 199
Australia 25
backgrounds 201–33
banishment 127
Bank Holidays 22–3, 30–1, 33–5;
backgrounds 212; crowd scenes
168, 173; exclusive control 137,

268 gen eral in d ex
143, 150; reaction 53, 70, 84–5,
94, 97–8, 116, 134; sociology 218;
warning phase 164, 166
bankers 156
Barker, J. 42
Barker, P. 31, 103, 107, 172, 183, 195,
Batman 120
BBC 159, 183
be-ins 169
Beachside Safeguard Committee
133, 137–40, 147, 223–4
the Beatles 3, 210, 229
beatniks 55, 88–9, 130, 169, 177,
220, 222, 224
Becker, H. S. 3, 5, 10, 52, 123, 140,
189, 191, 230
behavioural questions 6
Belgium 25
belief systems 91, 114, 123, 133, 141,
149, 154, 179, 190
belts 101–2
Berger, P. 77
Bevin Boys 150
birching 93, 139, 144
Birmingham 39
bishops 1, 3, 65
Black, C. 148
Blackburn 83
Blackpool 43, 48, 81, 87, 135, 228
Blake, G. 137–41, 145, 148–9, 201,
blame 81, 185
Blumer, H. 4
bombings 15
Boorstin, D. J. 44
boredom 55, 58, 64–6, 73, 128, 147,
153, 169, 171, 204, 222, 230
Borneo 60
bouncers 173–4
boundary crisis 219
bourgeoisie 202–3, 214, 230
Bournemouth Private Hotels and
Guest Houses Association 88

Brando, M. 56, 209
Brighton 16, 22–3, 26–7;
backgrounds 201, 213, 215;
control agents 189–90, 195;
crowd scenes 168, 170–1, 177,
179; exclusive control 126–7,
129–30, 150, 155; exploitation
157, 159; Hotels Association 125;
inventory 24, 26, 28, 31–2, 34,
36, 38; process 227–8; Quarter
Sessions 106; reaction 50,
66–72, 75–6, 84, 88, 93, 95,
98–104, 106–7, 110, 112–14;
sample 237–40; societal control
108, 117; sociology 222–4;
warning phase 164–5
Bristol 81
British Resorts Association 134
Bromley 81
Brooke, H. 153–4
Buikhuisen, W. 197
business organizations 127
Busy Bee Café 210
cabalism 63–6, 188
Calais 43
Canada 25
canon 5, 22, 227
Carnaby Street 3, 211, 229
causation 49–50, 62–6, 76
cells 107
ceremony 180–1
Chambers of Commerce 127, 130,
139, 159
cheque story 28, 57
Chicago 40, 101, 191
Chinese 147
Churchill, W. 51
civil disobedience 52
civil liberties 144
Clacton 16, 23, 26; backgrounds
208, 215; control agents 193;
crowd scenes 168, 170, 176–7;
exclusive control 125–6, 128,

g e neral index
149–53; exploitation 158–9;
impact 198; inventory 30–2,
36–7, 39, 43; media 187; process
227; reaction 50–2, 54, 62, 70,
83–4, 88–9, 97–9, 102; sociology
221; warning phase 163–6
Clark, K. B. 42
class 2, 12, 29; backgrounds 203,
205–7, 209, 211–13, 215–17;
crowd scenes 171; exploitation
159; impact phase 162; inventory
31, 43; media 188; process
228–9, 233; reaction 57, 66, 69,
73–5, 141; sociology 221–3, 225
Clean Up TV Campaign 132
CND 52
coding 43, 49, 66–7, 71
coercion 107
cognitive dissonance theory 60
Cohen, A. K. 92–3, 155
Cohn, N. 214
collaboration 90
collective behaviour 3–4, 13–15
collective memory 1, 3
commercial exploitation 58, 199,
211, 223, 229
commercial interests 127–8, 142,
149, 157, 168, 188, 212, 225
common elements 90–7
computers 45, 54
conceptual machinery 77, 79
conscription 139
consensus model 78
conspiracy theory 63–4
contagion effect 13–14, 185, 199
contexts 201–33
Continent 25, 51, 223
control agents 8–9, 15, 44;
backgrounds 201; crowd scenes
175, 177; culture 97–121, 124,
140; impact 162, 189–96, 200;
media 184, 188; process 228,
231; reaction 72, 79, 81; sociology

Coote, A. G. 113, 115
coping mechanisms 163
corporal punishment 75, 129, 150,
courts 8, 25, 31–3; audience 180–1;
control agents 189–90, 195;
crowd scenes 178; exclusive
control 121, 124–5, 128, 135,
144–5, 152, 154; exploitation 156;
impact 198; reaction 61, 82, 93;
societal control 90, 103, 106,
Coventry 81
credibility gaps 71
crime 2, 4, 9–10; inventory 21,
26–7; media 188; reaction 48,
64, 69, 87, 114, 131, 142–4,
146, 152, 156, 158–9; sociology
criminology 5, 53
crowd control 99–100, 102, 106,
181, 186, 190, 192–3, 197
crowd scenes 168–79
crusades 3, 10, 62, 89, 123, 132,
140–1, 148, 225–6
cudgels 129
cultural historians 3
culture 2, 12, 45; backgrounds 201,
203–6, 208–9, 214–15, 217;
control 77, 121–56, 196; crowd
scenes 169, 177; exclusive
121–56; exploitation 156; impact
199; inventory 48, 50, 58; media
184; reaction 78, 80, 89–156;
societal control 89–156, 166;
sociology 218, 222, 225
cybernetic theory 11
Cyprus 60
Dallas 36
Davies, M. 114
Dean, J. 56, 209
death penalty 48
definitional questions 6


270 gen eral in d ex
delinquency 4, 21–2, 37; crowd
scenes 171; reaction 53, 58, 62–3,
66, 68; subcultural theory 205
delusion 47–8, 86, 167, 184, 228,
demographics 203
demonology 41
demonstrations 2, 13, 27, 41
Destruction in Art movement
detention centres 73, 76, 95, 112,
114–15, 119, 135, 144
determinism 62, 66
differential reaction 66–79
diffusion 90–1, 97, 125, 160, 178,
212–13, 229
disaster research 15–19, 24, 35;
audience 180; exclusive control
124–5, 129; impact phase 162;
inventory 42; reaction 50–2, 68,
80; societal control 90–1, 120;
sociology 221; warning phase
distortion 25–36, 38, 40–2; control
agents 190; crowd scenes 178;
reaction 71–2, 74, 153; warning
phase 163, 175
divide and rule 57–8, 188, 192
documentary sources 234–5
dominant models 78
Downes, D. H. 13, 171, 206, 215
dramatization 102–3, 116, 118, 160,
194–5, 200
dramaturgy 21, 162
drivers 53
drug-taking 2–4, 7, 9–11; addiction
91–2; backgrounds 204, 207,
214, 227–8, 231; crowd scenes
176; inventory 38, 42, 45;
reaction 53, 56, 101, 111, 122–3,
132, 151–2; sociology 218, 225;
warning phase 186
Drugs (Prevention of Misuse) Bill

due process 91
Dylan, B. 229
early warning phase systems 18
East Anglia 30, 35
Eastbourne 75, 127, 165, 189
Easter 23, 32, 104; backgrounds
212; crowd scenes 176–7; impact
198; reaction 110, 112–13, 126,
137, 142, 144, 150, 153; warning
phase 165, 195
economics 203, 212
editorials 25, 49–50, 54, 59, 129,
165, 183
editors 1, 3, 12, 40
educationalists 58
Edwardians 37–8, 114, 217
elections 149, 160, 167
embourgeoisement 202–3
England 43, 101, 162, 166, 185, 201,
206, 211, 216, 229
enterprise 123
Erikson, K. T. 10–11, 116, 156, 219
escalation 90–3, 97, 109, 160, 182,
Essex 30, 84
ethnography 8
Europe 43, 50, 185, 218
exaggeration 25–34, 38, 40–1;
audience 182; backgrounds 208;
control agents 196; crowd
scenes 178; end 228; exclusive
control 148, 153, 155; inventory
45; media 184; reaction 52, 71–2,
91, 126–7
exclusive control culture 121–56
experts 1
explanation modes/models
exploitation 58, 80, 156–61, 184,
188, 199–200, 203, 211, 223,
expressive fringe delinquency

g e neral index
fair play 91, 93
false alarms 16
fantasy 52
feedback systems 18
Feldman, J. S. 63
female reactions 75
Festival of Light 132
festivals 45, 51
fines 28, 57, 73; reaction 82, 93, 112,
117, 119–20, 133, 135, 139, 144–5,
152, 154
Finland 146
First World War 148
folk devils 2–3, 20, 37–8; backgrounds 202, 217, 221, 226, 228,
233; inventory 41; reaction 56, 58,
61, 69–70, 72, 74, 76, 80, 102,
149, 156–7; warning phase 166,
170, 178, 186
folklore 1, 56, 66, 85, 187–8, 222
football 2–3, 43, 45, 51, 124, 167,
181, 195, 230
formalism 228–9
Frayn, M. 45
free will 62
French Revolution 220
Freud, S. 13
Friedenberg, E. Z. 58
fringe delinquency theory 171
Frost, D. 3
gangs 30, 40, 43; control agents
191–2; crowd scenes 168; media
186, 188; reaction 48, 57–8, 64,
68–9, 86, 95, 121, 126, 140, 153;
warning phase 166
Garfinkel, H. 61
generalized beliefs 14–15, 47
geographical position 73
Germany 230
Ghana 147
girls 212, 220
Goffman, E. 156, 169, 189
good stories 42

Goodman, P. 206
Gotham City 120
Government 24
Graham, B. 157
Greasers 3, 228
Great Train Robbery 3, 146
Great Yarmouth 23, 30, 50, 195,
Great Yarmouth Hotels and Guest
Houses Association 88, 130
Greene, G. 22–3, 169
guilt by association 55
Gurden, H. 52, 151–2
Gusfield, J. 3, 10, 224
hagiology 41
Halloran, J. D. 36, 42, 44
hanging 146
hard labour 133
hard Mods 213, 215
Harwich 149
Hastings 26, 30, 32; control agents
190; exclusive control 127, 129;
inventory 34–6; reaction 75, 84,
88, 98–9, 109, 113, 115–16;
warning phase 167
Hells Angels 2, 45, 68, 164, 188,
194, 196
heroes 4, 11, 120
Hicks, T. 205
hippies 2–3, 45, 169, 222, 224–5,
227, 229
Hiroshima 36
history 8
hoaxes 16
Holdcroft, T. 54
Home Office 64, 91, 99, 128, 166
homosexuality 8, 132, 225
hooliganism 2–3, 32–3, 40;
backgrounds 205, 214; exclusive
control 125, 127, 129–30, 143,
149–52, 154; football 2–3;
inventory 43, 45; media 186–7;
process 228, 231; reaction 52–3,


272 gen eral in d ex
55, 59–60, 62–3, 65, 69, 71, 81–6,
88, 95, 101; societal control 97,
119–20; sociology 221–4;
warning phase 165
horseplay 82
hoses 93
hot-blooded youth 58–61, 78, 204
Hove 103
Humperdinck, E. 205
hysteria 4, 14, 28; backgrounds 211,
215; media 184; process 232;
reaction 48, 63, 69–70, 81–2,
86–7, 125, 146; societal control
Ibrox Park 124
ideological exploitation 157–60,
188, 200
images 49–50, 53–61, 72, 76–7, 80,
immigrants 56
impact phase 17–19, 162–200
Indians 56
inferential structure 44, 46
infiltration 167
innovation 90, 92–3, 95–7; control
agents 193; exclusive control 121,
145; reaction 99, 101–3, 106, 112,
intent 31–2
internalization 206
interpretation 6, 19, 44, 48–9, 78,
inventory 17, 19–47, 52–5; crowd
scenes 168, 171, 178; exclusive
control 123, 125, 130, 132, 151–2,
154–5; explanation models 78;
exploitation 158, 160; impact
199; media 187–8; reaction 57,
64, 66–7, 76, 82, 84, 91, 97, 107,
114; warning phase 163
Ireland 34
Isle of Man 144
Isle of Wight 51

Italy 51
‘it’s like a disease’ 62–3, 91
‘it’s not only this’ 52, 58, 61–2, 87,
120, 124, 134, 204, 220
‘it’s not so much what happened’
52, 61, 91
Jacobs, N. 86
Jagger, M. 187, 215
James, D. 50
Jews 56
Johnson, D. 81
Jones, P. 114–15
Jones, T. 205
journalists 21–2, 25–7, 109, 134,
158, 170, 178, 183
Kennedy, J. F. 48, 63
Kent 30
Killian, L. 181
Kingston 81
the Kinks 210
Klapp, O. E. 4
knocking up 101
Knopf, T. A. 27
Krays 3
kulturgeist 2
labelling 4–6, 8, 12; backgrounds
205; control agents 191;
exclusive control 125; explanation models 76–7; inventory 41,
43; media 187–8; process 232;
reaction 54, 61, 87, 102; role 18;
societal control 97, 109, 116
labour camps 93, 134–5, 150
Laing, R. D. 6, 213–14, 216, 222,
lawyers 156
Le Bon 13, 51
legislation 1, 92, 130–1, 135–7, 148,
152, 154
legislature 91, 124
legitimating values 123, 128

g e neral index
Leicester University 167
Lemert, E. M. 7–8, 29, 77, 90, 156
Lewes Prison 107, 113, 181
Lima 51
Little, A. 31, 103, 107, 172, 183, 195,
local people’s reactions 74–5
London 9, 23, 29–30; backgrounds
209–11, 215, 223; reaction 48,
73–4, 81, 119, 142, 150, 157, 160;
warning phase 170
Longford Committee 132
Longford, Lord 148
Luckman, T. 77
Lulu 205
lumpen 210, 231
lunatic fringe 58–61, 72, 78
MacArthur Day 40
McCarthyism 92
McDougall 13
McGowan, C. 211
McGuire, B. 229
MacInnes, C. 209
Macmillan, I. 202
magistrates 28, 54, 61; backgrounds 201; control agents
195–6; exploitation 160; reaction
75, 82–4, 97, 107, 109; societal
control 112–15, 117; sociology 217
Magistrates Association 131
male reactions 75
Malicious Damage Bill 50, 59, 151,
Malthouse, J. 125
manufactured excitement 174
manufactured news 41–6
Margate 16, 27–8, 31–4; backgrounds 201, 215; crowd scenes
168, 170, 172, 177–8; exclusive
control 126–30; exploitation 159;
impact 198; inventory 39; media
183; process 227; reaction 51, 53,
56, 63, 65, 75, 81–3, 87–8, 93, 95,

108, 116, 118–19, 121; warning
phase 165
marijuana 9
Marijuana Tax Act 3, 122–3
martyrdom 196
mass convergence 180
Massachusetts 9
Mattoon incident 86–7
Matza, D. 53, 172, 174
Maudling, R. 60
media 1, 9–12, 24; audience 179,
181; backgrounds 202–3; control
agents 196; crowd scenes 175–6;
exclusive control 123, 131, 136,
151; explanation models 76,
78–9; exploitation 157–8, 160;
impact phase 162, 199; inventory
27–9, 40–4; process 228, 231;
reaction 47–8, 66–9, 71–4, 76,
85–6; societal control 93, 118;
sociology 218; warning phase
Melly, G. 229
mental illness 4, 186, 232
Merton, R. K. 15, 92
metaphors 26–7, 64
Metropolitan Police 98–9, 193
Mexican Americans 37–8, 81, 91
middle class 2, 75, 162, 171, 207,
211, 215, 225
Middlesex 30
militancy 2–3, 12
milling process 174–5, 199
mobilization 14
Mod Ball 187, 212
Modernists 3
Mods 2–3, 8–9, 12–20; audience
180–1; backgrounds 201; control
agents 192–5; crowd scenes 169,
173, 176–9; emergence 202–17;
end 227–33; exclusive control
122, 124, 127, 129–33, 137–8, 141,
145–7, 149–54; explanation
models 76–7; exploitation


274 gen eral in d ex
157–60; impact 196, 198–9;
inventory 21–45; media 183,
185–7; reaction 49–52, 54,
56–60, 62–4, 66–75, 80–6,
88–9; societal control 90, 99,
101–3, 106, 108–9, 114–16, 118;
sociology 217–25; warning phase
163–5, 167
Monkees 229
Moors murders 3
moral entrepreneurs 3, 10, 52, 67,
75, 89, 140
motor-bikes 23, 28–9, 31; backgrounds 188, 196–7, 222;
reaction 68, 88, 91, 96, 120,
mythology 8, 41, 49; backgrounds
203; control agents 194; reaction
54, 56–7, 64, 77, 131–2, 156;
societal control 91; warning
phase 187–8

Nuremberg rallies 52
Nuttall, J. 209–10, 214, 216

National Association of Chief
Educational Welfare Officers 159
National Coal Board 24
National Council of Civil Liberties
(NCCL) 104, 106, 113
National Viewers’ and Listeners’
Association 132
Nazis 52
Negroes 56
neuroses 53, 55
New Zealand 142
news 10, 26, 34, 41–6, 125, 184–5,
202, 218, 227
newspapers 3, 9, 12; backgrounds
201, 217; inventory 24–6, 32, 34,
37, 39, 45; reaction 81, 86, 112,
119, 121, 126, 134, 138; warning
phase 164–5, 183–4
non-stories 84
Northview 66–7, 69–72, 74, 95–6,
220, 240
Nottingham 81

pacifists 160
Pakistanis 230
Palestine 147
paranoia 63
Paris 52
Parker, T. 114
Parliament 91, 129, 150, 154–5
Pascoe 113
pathology 175
Payne, E. 125
Pearl Harbor 36
penalties 109, 116, 119–20, 132,
149, 151, 154
pep pills 151
perception 16, 47, 59, 142–3, 146–7,
178, 193
persecution 193, 197
Peru 51
Phantom Anaesthetist 81–2, 86–7
Phantom Slasher 86
phobias 37
pillories 145

obscenity 12, 132, 184
old people’s reactions 72–4
Old Testament 52
one percenters 188
opinion 47–79
opportunity theory 65
oral tradition 11
orientation 49–53
original sources 235–7
Osborne, J. 38
Ostend 43
Oswald, L. H. 63
outsiders 5, 55, 74–5, 172, 204
over-reporting 26–7
overcrowding 197
overemphasis 57
overreacting 93, 164
Oz trial 45, 54, 118

g e neral index
polarization 74
police 8, 24–5, 30; audience 180–2;
backgrounds 208; control agents
189–96; crowd scenes 171,
173–4, 176–9; exclusive control
121, 124–5, 128, 133, 135–6,
139–40, 143–5, 150, 153;
exploitation 156; impact 197–8;
inventory 32, 35–6, 39, 42–4, 46;
media 187; process 228, 231;
reaction 48, 56–7, 61, 64, 73,
82–4, 87–9; societal control
89–91, 93–5, 97–109, 112,
116–19, 121; warning phase
Police Benevolent Fund 109
political affiliations 76
pollution 122
pornography 10, 122, 132
Powell, E. 230
Powellism 3
power 123, 125
precautionary measures 91
precipitating factors 14
prediction 25, 35–6, 42, 44, 52, 68,
Presley, E. 209
the Pretty Things 210
primary deviation 7, 12, 17
prison 36, 73, 107, 112–13, 116, 119,
149, 152, 185
Private Eye 3
probation 93
profit 156
Profumo, J. 3
Prohibition 3, 122, 224
projection 148
promiscuity 53, 56
propaganda 63
prophecy of doom 52, 91
prostitution 132
Protestant ethic 123
Provos 160
psychiatry 232

psychoanalysis 180–1
psychology 11, 14–15, 46, 50, 62,
65–6, 80, 163, 167–8, 225
psychopathy 9, 87, 122–3
public opinion 8, 49, 66–7, 108,
122, 136, 148, 165
punishment 10, 12, 61; exclusive
control 127, 129, 131–2, 145–6,
148, 150–1, 153–4; impact 198;
process 232; reaction 70, 72, 75,
77, 79; societal control 90, 92,
95, 97, 102, 112–14, 116;
sociology 220, 224–5
Puritans 116, 148, 156, 219
purple hearts 211
RAC 91
race 56, 148
race riots 14, 22, 27, 42, 45, 64, 176,
radio 9, 59, 212
Radio Caroline 212
RAF 91, 99, 166
railways 91, 99, 129, 183
Ramsgate 35, 53
Ranulf, S. 127, 224
razor gangs 23
reaction 18–20, 47–65, 92;
differential 66–79; rescue/
remedy 80–161
Reading 85
recovery 17
Rees-Davis, W. R. 63
reggae 230
reinforcement 48, 52, 172; control
agents 193, 195; impact 199;
media 182–3, 188; warning phase
175–6, 187
remand 95, 105, 107, 109, 111–13,
remedy 17, 20, 80–161
rescue 17, 20, 80–161
research 6, 15, 48, 66, 76, 123, 143,
158, 163


276 gen eral in d ex
resistance 48, 74
revenge battles 85
Rhodesian affair 3
rhythm and blues 229
Richard, C. 205
ridicule 102, 145, 157, 191, 194
riots 14, 22, 27; backgrounds 230;
impact 196; inventory 37–8, 42;
reaction 51, 64, 81, 85–6, 91, 103,
125–6, 153; warning phase 165–7,
176, 185
ritual 98, 116–17, 154–5;
audience 181; backgrounds 204,
208; control agents 196;
end 227; media 187; sociology
219; warning phase 164,
168, 172
road blocks 94, 129
Rock, P. 37
rock-steady 230
Rockers 2–3, 8–9, 12–38; audience
180–1; backgrounds 201; control
agents 190, 192–4; crowd scenes
169, 173, 176–9; emergence
202–17; end 227–8, 230–3;
exclusive control 122, 124, 127,
129–33, 137–8, 141, 145–6,
149–54; explanation models
76–7; exploitation 157–60;
impact 196, 199; inventory 40–5;
media 183, 185–6; reaction
49–52, 54, 57–60, 62–4, 66–75,
80–6, 88–9; societal control 90,
99, 101–2, 105, 109, 114–16, 118;
sociology 217–19, 221–5; warning
phase 163–5, 167
Roemer, D. V. 194, 196–7
role play 7, 186–7, 199
Rolling Stones 3, 208, 210,
rules 5–6, 10, 43; control agents
189, 191; reaction 81, 89, 121–6,
128, 132, 140; sociology 224
rumours 14, 23, 42; impact 199;

media 182–4; reaction 48, 51, 64,
83; sociology 217–18; warning
phase 174–7
St Ives 135, 224
saints 11
Salinger, J. D. 209
sanctions 5, 12, 79, 91, 127, 220
Saudi Arabia 146
Sawdust Caesars speech 54, 68,
scandals 10
scapegoats 124, 128, 164, 219
sceptics 5–6
schizophrenia 6, 187
scooter boys 213
scooters 13, 23–4, 29; backgrounds
220, 222; crowd scenes 173;
impact 198; inventory 31, 38, 45;
media 188; reaction 72, 88, 91,
93, 99–100, 120, 129
Scotland Yard 48, 91, 98, 167
screening 43
Seatown Council Group 133–4, 137
Seattle 82
Seaview 223–4
secondary deviation 7, 12, 17
secondary status 100
segregation 8, 11, 74, 188
self-fulfilling prophecy 35, 52, 127
self-immolation 184
sensitization 80–9, 97, 108; control
agents 189; crowd scenes 173,
175, 178; exploitation 160;
ideological exploitation 159;
media 185–6; reaction 126, 129;
warning phase 163–4
sentences 73, 104, 109–13, 115, 117,
146, 149, 153
Sewell 87
sexual deviance 11
Sheatsley, P.B. 63
Shellow, R. 194, 196–7
Shibutani, T. 175

g e neral index
shoot-outs 46
shotgun approach 27
show of force 98, 193–4
‘Sign of the Times’ 62, 78
Simpson, G. 54, 63, 118, 120
situational logic 114–15, 190
sixties youth 201–33
ska 230
Skegness 83, 228
skinheads 2–3, 45, 172, 213, 228–9
Sky Squad 99
slavery 122
Smelser, N. J. 14–15, 47, 81, 132, 141
smooth Mods 213
snowballing effect 11, 86, 191, 202
soccer see football
social control 50, 76–80, 87;
inventory 43–4; reaction 89–156;
role 8–9, 12, 14–15, 18, 20
social movements 132
social scientists 158
social status 7, 37–8, 54, 58
social types 2, 4
societal control culture 77–8, 80,
89–156, 166
societal reaction theory 217–18
sociology 3–6, 8, 13–15; backgrounds 202; contexts 217–26;
crowd scenes 175; inventory
21–2; media 188; process 231–3;
reaction 65–6, 78, 127, 132–3;
warning phase 168, 180, 191
South Africa 25
South Downs 150
Southend 35, 43, 101, 168, 176
Southern Commission on the
Study of Lynchings 182
Southwell, Bishop of 65
special constables 140
spivs 69
spurious attribution 53–6
stage setting 163–7
state institutions 122
states of emergency 90

Steele, T. 205
stereotypes 1, 8, 11; backgrounds
202; control agents 192; crowd
scenes 168, 172, 175; exclusive
control 131; explanation models
78; exploitation 157; impact 199;
inventory 25, 36, 41; media 66,
68, 186–7; reaction 56–8, 61, 70,
73, 156; sociology 222
stigma 8, 54, 70
strikes 64
structural strain 14
students 2–3, 12, 64, 227–8
style 203–4, 208–17, 220, 228–9
subcultural theory 13, 205
suicide 184–5
sullen army 102
suprasystem 90, 125, 128, 154
Surace, S. J. 37, 85
Surrey 30
Sussex 30
Sussex University 223
Sutherland, E. H. 87, 123
Sykes, G. 174
symbolic interactionists 4
symbolization 2–3, 7–8, 10;
backgrounds 203–4, 217;
control agents 189, 192; crowd
scenes 172, 177–8; exclusive
control 121, 153; exploitation
158–9; impact 199; inventory 25,
36–42, 44; media 185, 188;
process 230; reaction 53, 78,
84–6, 88, 91, 100, 103, 155;
role 13; societal control 114, 118;
sociology 226; warning phase
Taipei 82, 86
Tannenbaum, F. 191, 194
Tapsall, W. 112
Tarde 13
Taylor, F. 150
teachers 7, 45, 70, 74


278 gen eral in d ex
Teddy Boys 2–3, 9, 37–8;
backgrounds 203, 208–11,
214, 217–18, 220, 222, 228–30;
reaction 56, 69, 114; warning
phase 185
television 9, 35, 40–1, 59, 71, 183,
186–7, 212, 214
temperance movement 224
test cases 113, 148
theatres 162
Thompson, H. S. 164
Thrasher, F. M. 191–2
Townsend, P. 215–16
training 97
transactionalists 4–9, 18, 186, 202,
travel restrictions 93, 95, 120, 129,
troops 3
trouble spots 189
troublemakers 91, 94, 99, 122, 136,
172, 197, 232
truncheons 99
Turner, R. H. 4, 37, 85, 181
Twiggy 212
type casting 4, 186–7
underground newspapers 12
undermanning 97
United States Court of Appeal 101
Unlawful Assembly Law 145
Vagrancy Act 94
values 1, 10, 16; backgrounds
204–6, 213; inventory 44, 46;
reaction 47, 49, 51, 66, 77–8, 91,
123, 128, 132; role 20; warning
phase 186
vandalism 2–3, 28, 32–3;
backgrounds 205; crowd scenes
172; impact 198; inventory 43, 45;
process 231; reaction 48, 53, 73,
77, 152, 154; sociology 218
vicarious satisfaction 180–1

Victorians 62
Vietnam 36, 184
vigilantes 126, 129, 165
villains 4, 11
violence 2, 11, 22; audience 182;
backgrounds 208, 213–14;
control agents 191, 193–4; crowd
scenes 172, 176; exclusive
control 143, 150; explanation
models 78; exploitation 159;
impact 198–9; inventory 26–8,
32–3, 36, 42–3, 45; media 185–6,
188; reaction 48, 51, 53, 55, 57, 62,
68–70, 84, 86–7; societal control
106, 116; sociology 218
Vries, B. de 160
war correspondents 27
warning phase 16–19, 162–7, 183,
Washington 52
Webb, A. 125
Webb, H. 205
Welfare State 62, 218
West 185
West Indians 230
West Side Story 188
Westley, W. 182
Whitehall 143
Whitehouse, M. 132, 148
Whitley Bay 43
Whitsun 22–3, 25–6, 32–6;
audience 179; control agents
190; crowd scenes 177; inventory
38; reaction 50, 52, 55, 81, 84,
98–9, 102, 109, 115, 118, 121, 129,
140, 149, 153–5; warning phase
the Who 208, 214–16
widening of the net 87, 101
Wilkins, L. T. 11–12
Wilson, C. 55
Windsor 81
witches 233

g e neral index
Woking 83
Wolfe, T. 211–12
Woolwich, bishop of 3
work ethic 213
work scheme 96
working class 2, 12, 43;
backgrounds 203, 206–7, 209,
212–13, 216–17; crowd scenes
171; exploitation 159; impact
phase 162; media 188; process
228–9, 233; reaction 69, 74–5,
141; sociology 223

wrongful arrests 103–5, 110
Yablonsky, L. 192
Yemen 60
yobs 7, 93–4, 222
Young, J. 10, 12
young people’s reactions
youth backgrounds 201–33
youth clubs 159–60



Allport, F. H. 13, 182
Allport, G. W. 256, 263
Baker, G. W. 254, 261, 262
Barker, J. D. 42, 255, 256
Barker, P. 103, 107, 172, 183, 195,
198, 255, 257, 259, 262
Becker, H. 3, 5, 123, 140–1, 189–91,
230, 252, 253, 255, 256, 259, 264,
Berger, P. L. 77, 257
Blegvad, B. 263
Bogdanor, V. 253, 255, 259, 263, 265
Bondy, C. 263
Booker, C. 252
Boorstin, D. J. 40–1, 44, 255
Bottomley, K. 259
Bucher, R. 259
Caplowitz, D. 263
Cash, T. 265
Chapman, D. W. 254, 255, 261, 262
Chein I. 258

Chisnell, A. 263
Cissin, I. H. 254, 255
Clark, K. B. 255
Clark, W. B. 254, 255
Cohen, A. K. 92–3, 106, 155, 258,
Cohen, S. 249, 253, 255, 259, 261,
263, 265
Cohn, N. 214, 265
Downes, D. 13, 171, 206, 215, 253,
257, 264–5
Elmes, F. 256
Erikson, K. T. 10, 11, 116, 156, 219,
253, 259, 261, 266
Feldman, J. S. 257
Frayn, M. 45, 256
Friedenberg, E. Z. 58, 256
Fritz, C. F. 254
Fuller, R. R. 259
Fyvel, T. R. 263

aut h o r index
Garfinkel, H. 61, 256
Glueck, E. 257
Glueck, S. 257
Goffman, E. 261, 262, 264
Goodman, P. 206, 264
Gosling, R. 264, 265
Gouldner, A. W. 261
Greenberg, B. S. 256, 257
Greene, G. 22, 23, 169, 254
Grosser, G. H. 254, 262
Guest, D. 265
Gusfield, J. 3, 10, 224, 252, 253,
260, 266
Hall, S. 264
Halloran, J. D. 36, 42, 44, 255, 256,
257, 259
Hargreaves, D. H. 265
Harrington, J. 263
Herman, G. 265
Hofstadter, R. 257
Humphreys, L. 261
Jacobs, N. 86, 255, 258
Janis, I. L. 261
Johnson, D. 258
Killian, L. M. 181–2, 252, 260, 262,
Kitsuse, J. 253
Klapp, O. E. 4, 252
Knopf, T. A. 27, 254, 255, 256, 257
Laing, R. D. 6, 213, 214, 216, 222,
232, 253, 262, 264, 265, 266
Lang, K. and G. 255
Larsen, O. N. 256, 258
Laurie, P. 254, 261, 264
Lee, G. E. 259
Lemert, E. M. 7–8, 29, 77, 90, 156,
253, 255, 257, 258, 259, 261
Lindesmith, A. R. 259
Little, A. 103, 107, 172, 183, 195,
198, 255, 257, 259

Lucas, J. 258
Luckman, T. 77, 257
Lumbard, J. E. 258
MacInnes, C. 265
Mandel, J. 259, 260
Matza, D. 53, 172, 174, 252, 257,
262, 265, 265
Medalia, N. Z. 256, 258
Melly, G. 229, 266
Merton, R. K. 15, 92, 254, 258
Miller, J. G. 254
Miller, S. M. 261
Motto, J. A. 263
Musgrove, F. 264
Myers, R. R. 259
Nunnally, J. C. 257
Nuttall, J. 209–10, 214, 216, 265,
Palmer, T. 256
Parker, E. B. 256, 257
Parker, T. 114, 259
Postman, L. 263
Pulson, D. 258
Ranulf, S. 127, 224–5, 260, 266
Rivers, W. L. 263
Rock, P. 37, 253, 255, 259, 263,
Roemer, D. V. 194, 196, 257, 262,
Rogers, C. 263
Rubington, E. 253
Schramm, W. 263
Schur, E. M. 259
Scott, P. D. 260
Seymour, L. 257
Sheatsley, P. B. 63, 257
Shellow, R. 194–6, 257, 262, 264
Shibutani, T. 175, 263
Simmons, J. L. 257


282 auth o r in d ex
Skidelsky, R. 253, 255, 259, 263,
Smelser, N. J. 14–15, 47, 81, 132,
141, 254, 256, 258, 260
Smith, R. 259
Spencer, C. 262
Spiegel, J. P. 258
Surace, S. J. 37, 85, 255, 258
Sutherland, E. H. 87, 123, 258, 259,
Sykes, G. 174, 265
Tannenbaum, F. 191, 194, 259
Thompson, H. S. 164, 262
Toch, H. 260
Turner, R. H. 4, 37, 85, 181–2, 252,
255, 258, 260, 262, 263

Veltfort, H. R. 259
Walter, N. 264
Wardron, M. 261
Weinberg, M. S. 253
Westley, W. 263
White, J. B. 258
Wilkins, L. 11–12, 253
Willey, F. 261
Williams, R. 265
Willmott, P. 264–5
Withey, S. B. 261–2
Wolfe, T. 265
Yablonsky, L. 192, 255, 256, 261,
262, 264
Young, J. 10–12, 249, 253, 266