Moral Panics and the Young: The James Bulger Murder, 1993

Authored by: Máire Messenger Davies

The Ashgate Research Companion to Moral Panics

Print publication date:  January  2013
Online publication date:  March  2016

Print ISBN: 9781409408116
eBook ISBN: 9781315613307
Adobe ISBN: 9781317042433

10.4324/9781315613307.ch12

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Abstract

The 1993 murder of James Bulger in Liverpool in the United Kingdom involved three children: the two-year-old victim and the two ten-year-old perpetrators, Robert Thompson and Jon Venables. At the time of the murder, it was alleged (inaccurately, it appears) that the perpetrators were influenced by seeing the movie Child’s Play 3. The suggestion that media influences were somehow implicated in the crime generated a large number of books, articles, and academic commentaries—and continues to do so. Many of these publications discuss not so much the horrific nature of the crime itself, but the possible threat to free speech posed by attempts to censor media violence driven by moral panic over this murder of a child by other children. Relating scholarship on moral panics to media reports of this case can help shed light on such issues as competing constructions of childhood and the contentious concept of childhood innocence. It also raises the question of academic authority, of who is deemed legitimately qualified, or not, to comment on the issues presented by the case.

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