Anxiety Release as a Gratification by the Consumption of Moral Panic Narratives

By: Zsolt Szabolcsi  

Political communication in Hungary has a tendency of articulating moral panic narratives imbedded into a broader perspective on the decaying Western civilization. The temporality, caused by the ideology of the upcoming transformation of the cultural and political scene of the Western world, leads to permanent ambiguity, stress and dependency for individual citizens. The permanent crises generate strong emotions of anxiety on multiply levels of life and, therefore, those narratives that may be rejected in a non-stimulated, calm emotional state, are eventually accepted. The increased level of tension and anxiety is released and directed toward groups, people, or institutions by the state-run media narratives. These narratives are consumed as gratifications and, as the expectancy value cycle of communication points out, results in to the further need of these media products. This phenomenon is certainly related to the social environment of the individual who has the need to consume these narratives. The research examines if any correlation can be found in the social environment of the individual and their habits of media use, focusing on the level of anxiety of individuals and their habits with the use of political media products. For this pilot survey research, the existence of attributes, leading to heightened anxiety, are examined on three levels; personal tendency, economical dependency, status/identity/cultural anxiety. Media use and anxiety-level possibly show correlation and supports that gratifications of media products are results of the social environment, especially societal deficits. This theory is tested in the context of Hungarian political communication.

U&G, Uses and gratifications, Political communication, Anxiety, Moral panic narratives
Media Cultures
Paper Presentation in a Themed Session

Zsolt Szabolcsi

PhD student, Doctoral School of Sociology, ELTE-TÁTK, Hungary