Moral Panic describes a public panic over an issue deemed to be a threat to, or shocking to, the sensibilities of "proper" society.
This reaction is often fanned by sensationalist selective reporting in the news media and exaggerated accounts offered by "moral entrepreneurs," a category that includes politicians on the make and activists in search of a cause. Moral panics can result in what is a real phenomenon being blown far of proportion, or in what is not a real phenomenon in the first place being widely believed to be real. Moral panics often feature a caricatured or stereotypical "folk devil" on which the anxieties of the community are focused.
Stanley Cohen. 1980. Folk Devils and Moral Panics: The Creation of the Mods and Rockets. 2nd. New York: St. Martin's Press.