Finn McRedmond: Is Facebook a scapegoat for all society’s ills?

Whistleblower news provides a target for anxiety about the world’s fragile state

‘If the early 1970s in the US created ideal circumstances for moral panic, the past few years ought to be a boon for that industry.’ Photograph: iStock

‘If the early 1970s in the US created ideal circumstances for moral panic, the past few years ought to be a boon for that industry.’ Photograph: iStock

As Halloween approaches I am reminded of its most influential cultural mark. Not the morphing of an ancient Celtic festival into its twee and plasticky modern incarnation. Nor any of its accoutrements: fancy dress, overindulgence, pumpkin (the worst the gourd family has to offer).

Rather, Halloween is a perfect time to honour one of our favourite pastimes: moral panics. In the 1970s an op-ed appeared in the New York Times suggesting that malign strangers might use trick-or-treating as a vehicle to poison children. It posed the question: what if an apple “from the kindly old lady down the block” in fact contained a hidden razor blade?

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