Moral panic is now a quite common term, even used by the upmarket press. Its most famous formulation is the opening paragraph of Stan Cohen’s study of Mods and Rockers, Folk Devils and Moral Panics, first published in 1973:
Societies appear to be subject, every now and then, to periods of moral panic.  A condition, episode, person or group of persons emerges to become defined as a threat to societal values and interests;  its nature is presented in a stylized and stereotypical fashion by the mass media;  the moral barricades are manned by editors, bishops, politicians and other right-thinking people;  socially accredited experts pronounce their diagnoses and solutions;  ways of coping are evolved or (more often) resorted to;  the condition then disappears, submerges or deteriorates and becomes more visible. Sometimes the object of the panic is quite novel and at other times it is something which has been in existence long enough, but suddenly appears in the limelight. Sometimes the panic passes over and is forgotten, except in folk-lore and collective memory; at other times it has more serious and longlasting repercussions and might produce such changes as those in legal and social policy or even in the way the society conceives itself.