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In Risk and Blame Anthropologist Mary Douglas describes the cultural basis for witch hunts in traditional societies Whether the witch is able to do harm or not the attribution of a hidden power to hurt is a weapon of attack against themA successful accusation is one that has enough credibility for a public outcry to remove the opportunity of repeating the damage A moral panic starts with an unspeakable tragedy which sparks an attempt to ascribe blame and responsibility Initially accusations flow freely but focus on those targets who are already the subject of anxiety Once one accusation sticks it becomes easier to pile on charges Our rush to judgement overwhelms our ability to rationally assess the evidence Our need to take action supersedes our ability to anticipate consequences Moral panic shuts down self-examination at the very moment when real problems demand careful consideration Several weeks after the shootings at Columbine High School in Littleton Colorado the United States Senate Commerce Committee launched a series of hearings chaired by Sen Sam Brownback on the marketing of violent entertainment to children Introducing the investigation Brownback explained We are not here to point fingers but to identify the causes of cultural pollution and seek solutions The phrase cultural pollution of course already presumed a consensus that popular culture was a worthless iritant which was to blame for various social harms Brownback was prepared to sweep aside constitutional protections We are having endless debates about First and Second Amendment rights while our children are being killed and traumatized Brownback focused his ire on forms of popular culture that met youth rather than adult tastes I am willing to bet that there arent many adults who are huge fans of teen slasher movies or the music of Cannibal Corpse and Marilyn Manson Sen Orin Hatch declared Mansons music tremendously offensive to everyone in America who thinks a category that seemingly does not include a significant number of high school
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