In contrast to the image of drug users as deviant, unemployed members of the underclass. Miss Bates was a member of a ‘loving’, ‘caring’, middle class family. With a police officer as a father and a nurse for a step mother. She knew the dangers of the drug and fell victim to only one ecstasy pill, another stark contrast to the belief of the overdose as being the means of death via drug use. The decisions of Mr and Mrs Betts following there daughter’s incident, greatly increased the notoriety of the drug within one day.
The publishing of the infamous photo of her death bed was an image that newspapers ‘couldn’t refuse’, this shocking image made news, and as more information of the cause of Leah’s demise from what was believed to be a impure ‘dodgy’ pill was revealed to contain only MDMA (The chemical name and primary used substance in street ecstasy) as its active ingredient. as yet again the youth of society as in the 50’s and 60’s was in great peril as ecstasy an unknown presence with little scientific research and due to legal restrictions almost impossible to study, as with L.S. D. and Rock ‘n’ Roll was being undermined and corrupted from within.
This again shows another of what seems to be the ‘codes and conventions’ of a moral panic, the dangers on society’s youth. What Paul Betts continued to do in the days and weeks after her death did little to calm anxieties and cool the moral panic. Pushing the dangers (both true and false speculation) of ecstasy at any available opportunity T. V. interviews, press conferences, and even today often quoted in articles relating to ecstasy.
Although the acts of a bereaving parent in an especially awkward position (i. e. a member of the police force) his actions to possibly redeem himself. The ignorance and arrogance of government and media towards the subject from past anti-drug campaigns ‘Just say no’ and its successor ‘drugs education’ gave Paul Betts an equally bias un-educated and stubborn stance. Of which a good example is his criticism of a 1986 Glasgow social services study in which Director, Mary Hartnoll, calculated that “ecstasy is a relatively safe drug.
The risk of death is calculated at one in six point eight million (The risk of dying from an ordinary dose of aspirin is greater)”. He stated that she should ‘get her facts right’ and that she was ‘totally irresponsible’, despite what he believes/d those statistics were correct. However even with remarks like those in the last sentence he is still respected as a good authority on the matter of drugs education often touring schools (the futility of this exercise should be discussed in a other paper) why?
Because of respect given to him by tabloid media as he lived through a drug related death, the irony of this whole argument is that it was later discovered that Leah Bates died from water intoxication (drinking to much water) taking advice from inaccurate drugs education information. Another event similar to the Leah Betts incident, in which it maybe not sparked a moral panic but increased its relevance, was that of Sarah Payne. A young girl abducted whilst playing at her grandparent’s home. In an effort to find there daughter, the Payne’s made a national campaign for information leading to her whereabouts.
The appeal continued up until the discovery of her body. The media ‘outrage’ over this matter developed into demands for changes in the law, stirring of often violent anti-paedophile vigilantism in estates all over the country. This also brought about one of the most ludicrous newspaper campaigns ever, where Sunday tabloid ‘News of the World’ began its ‘for Sarah’ campaign and its ‘name and shame’ tactic, a tactic that consisted of providing the public with the full name, town and most significantly photographs of convicted paedophiles.
This surprisingly caused the brutal death of an innocent man through mistaken identity. As more and more cases of paedophiliac activities were being brought to the attention of the public, again as in Paul Bates case the parents of Sarah Payne were increasingly used as ‘spokespersons’ towards the cause. But however there opinions were not expressed and were in effect ‘Bitches’ to the newspapers, television and police with only faces to story.
Faces yet again when they attended a personal invitation to Downing Street to meet Prime Minister Tony Blair to discuss revision of government policy. Although only a public relations exercise the fact that the leader of the one of the most powerful nation economically, militarily and politically would meet two uneducated people for there opinions on law is astounding. These last two examples show how moral panics can put people in positions of respect and influence they do not deserve.
You could take the view however harsh, that these events were due to bad parenting, however this is an equally harsh view that Paul Betts took on the dealer who sold his daughter ecstasy branding him a ‘murder’ (later revelled to be her friend). This is not an attack on him or Mr and Mrs Payne. But the certain factions of the media exploiting situations and producing moral panics for the purpose of making news. Taking a post modern look at situation, we the audience are only being told there is a moral panic. When have you personally been bothered by the majority of moral panics?