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Punk and emo: a study in moral panics

August 15, 2009

From Wikipedia:

A moral panic is the intensity of feeling expressed in a population about a specific group of people who appear to be a threat to the social order at a given time… The media have long operated as agents of moral indignation, even if they are not self-consciously engaged in crusading or muckraking. Simply reporting the facts can be enough to generate concern, anxiety or panic.

This 1983 video from Minneapolis’s WCCO news was posted on The Daily Swarm this week. In it, local news reporters attempt to wrap their brains around this new-fangled “punk” business.

This video is from 2007. Again, the news team at WDAZ in Grand Forks, North Dakota (located in the heart of the “no irony” zone, apparently) try to explain “emo” to concerned parents.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. DotDash permalink
    August 15, 2009 9:41 pm

    A few weekends ago, I spent an afternoon perusing YouTube for old news reports like these, and found this short television documentary from 1982:

    • passerine songs permalink*
      August 16, 2009 4:23 am

      There was a lot of this kind of alarmist coverage going on in the hardcore years. No surprise, of course. It’s so easy to create these moral panics when there’s no real understanding going on, whatever the happening may be. In this particular show, there’s so much time spent on crying parents and dopey kids, but no clearance is given to the music itself, which, despite being a central issue, seems beyond everyone involved in the production. Like, Lee Ving is on there at the start and they have all his lyrics printed on the screen and a short interview that makes him look like a harmful, moronic degenerate (hey, just recite some of your lyrics for us totally uncontextualised…that’s all we need), but they don’t talk about the actual art at all. As is often the case, it’s just presented as the cause. If it weren’t for this punk thing, our kids wouldn’t be like this.

      Anyway, in part three of this, around 3:20, the speaker says something to the effect that “maybe this is something that will pass in the nineties, but right now… .” In this instance, I can’t help but think about two TV reports much like this one that were done on the straightedge hardcore scene of the nineties, showing how dangerous it was and how it led to extremism and could turn your kids, etc.

      7:47 in part three: “…and punk too will fade away.”

      And to address what Mary was saying above: wherever there are clueless, grasping parents and cable news reporters, you’ve got a no-irony zone. That emo report she posted is completely hilarious in that respect.

      • DotDash permalink
        August 16, 2009 1:41 pm

        I agree. The focus was centered too much on nervous parents and “bad” kids, and not enough on the heart of the matter, which was the art itself. Like you said, the lyrics were recited out of context, which came across as being thuggish and violent. I was disappointed (but not surprised) that the report did nothing to understand why the musicians’ message was aggressive and critical, and why the kids were so attracted to it. Art may be functional and communicative. Perhaps they should have analyzed the lyrics just a bit more.

        It was also pretty ironic that, as part of the soundtrack, the production team included a few seconds from “Kids” from Bye Bye Birdie, a song which concludes that “Nothing’s the matter with kids today.”

  2. passerine songs permalink*
    August 16, 2009 2:24 pm

    For sure. Fear was always an easy band to use for that purpose, too, because their whole schtick was to be crude and awful.


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