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Discovering disorder: young people and delinquency
Discovering disorder: young people and delinquency

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3.4.1 The ‘yob culture’

Many studies have borrowed the ideas of folk devils and moral panics from Cohen, exploring the tendency of societies to enter into this cycle of discovering dangers, projecting fears and anxieties onto them, and demanding harsh responses to ‘protect society’ (see the discussions by Critcher, 2003 and 2008; Garland, 2001; Jewkes, 2004). Young people seem to be particularly vulnerable to being portrayed as ‘folk devils’ in this way. For example, Coward (1994) has reflected on the way in which ‘yobs’ and ‘yob culture’ came to be powerful images of social crisis and disorder during the 1990s:

‘YOB’, once a slang insult, is now a descriptive category used by tabloid and quality newspapers alike. Incorporating other breeds, like the lager louts, football hooligans and joyriders, yob is a species of young, white, working-class male which, if the British media is to be believed, is more common than ever before. The yob is foul-mouthed, irresponsible, probably unemployed and violent. The yob hangs around council estates where he terrorises the local inhabitants, possibly in the company of his pit-bull terrier. He fathers children rather than cares for them. He is often drunk, probably uses drugs and is likely to be involved in crime, including domestic violence. He is the ultimate expression of macho values: mad, bad, and dangerous to know.

The yob is the bogey of the Nineties, hated and feared with a startling intensity by the British middle class … Individual men disappear in this language into a faceless mob, or appear only as thuggish stereotypes.

(Coward, 1994, p. 32)
  • Can you identify any current ‘folk devils’?