For false stories of atrocities, see Atrocity propaganda.

The term atrocity story (also referred to as atrocity tale) as defined by the Americansociologists David G. Bromley and Anson D. Shupe refers to the symbolic presentation of action or events (real or imaginary) in such a context that they are made flagrantly to violate the (presumably) shared premises upon which a given set of social relationships should be conducted. The recounting of such tales is intended as a means of reaffirming normative boundaries. By sharing the reporter's disapproval or horror, an audience reasserts normative prescription and clearly locates the violator beyond the limits of public morality. The term was coined in 1979 by Bromley, Shupe, and Joseph Ventimiglia.[1]

Bromley and others define an atrocity as an event that is perceived as a flagrant violation of a fundamental value. It contains the following three elements:

  • moral outrage or indignation;
  • authorization of punitive measures;
  • mobilization of control efforts against the apparent perpetrators.

The veracity of the story is considered irrelevant.[2]

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