Whenever there is a new, controversial "issue" facing society, the news and popular media will describe the reaction of society as "Public Hysteria." Whether or not the public at large is actually "hysterical" in the literal sense doesn't matter. Normally the public hysteria will actually be some disaffected pressure group seeking publicity (and funding) for their chosen cause. Some examples:

"What is clear to some of us, is that the public hysteria was a factor in the publication of the piece." from: http://www.iea.org.uk/env/gmo.htm

"Public hysteria in response to the AIDS epidemic has been in part fueled by the mass media" from: http://www.tourolaw.edu/Publications/jewishlaw/apr95/part1.html

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