A scandal can be broadly defined as the strong social reactions of outrage, anger, or surprise, when accusations or rumours circulate or appear for some reason, regarding a person or persons who are perceived to have transgressed in some way. These reactions are usually noisy and may be conflicting, and they often have negative effects on the status and credibility of the person(s) or organisation involved. Society is scandalised when it becomes aware of breaches of moral norms or legal requirements, often when these have remained undiscovered or been concealed for some time. Such breaches have typically erupted from greed, lust or the abuse of power. Scandals may be regarded as political, sexual, moral, literary or artistic but often spread from one realm into another. The basis of a scandal may be factual or false, or a combination of both. In contemporary times, exposure of a scandalous situation is often made by mass media.
Contemporary media has the capacity to spread knowledge of a scandal further than in previous centuries and public interest has encouraged many cases of confected scandals relating to well-known people as well as genuine scandals relating to politics and business. Some scandals are revealed by whistleblowers who discover wrongdoing within organizations or groups, such as Deep Throat (William Mark Felt) during the Watergate scandal in the 1970s in the United States. Whistleblowers may be protected by laws which are used to obtain information of misdeeds and acts detrimental to their establishments. However, the possibility of scandal has always created a tension between society's efforts to reveal wrong doing and its desire to cover them up ... and the act of covering up (or indeed of revealing) a contentious situation may become a scandal in itself.
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