an overwrought public anxiety that evil things are afoot. The term seems to have been coined by Jock Young in 1971.* The most obvious example of an ancient moral panic is the blood libel.
Other famous examples of moral panics include the 1955 Boise scandal, in which three cases of lewd conduct between men and teenaged boys, plus a noxious editorial, triggered a general war against homosexual men. In the early 1930's, the Federal Bureau of Narcotics (FBN) launched a public relations effort to have federal laws passed banning the use of marijuana; it was driven by a jurisdictional struggle between Harry Anslinger (FBN) and J. Edgar Hoover (FBI). The campaign was a success; it not only achieved the desired legislation, but created a wave of mass hysteria about the "threat" of marijuana.
* Goode & Ben-Yehuda, *Moral Panics* (1994), p.12.
In the movie *Quadrophenia*, set in Brighton, UK in the late 1960's, a recurring theme was the contemporary moral panic over the clash between Mods and Rockers.