The Killer Clown Problem is exactly as stupid as it sounds


Flickr/Bart Heird

A pretty creepy clown, but thankfully this one is just a display.

Craig Watkins, Crier Staff

If you’ve been wondering about that German pop song that started playing in Davison the other week, that’s “99 Luftballons” by Nena, a song about an apocalyptic war that began when the USSR deployed their air force to shoot down a UFO, which turned out to be a harmless group of balloons. The song is generally thought of not as anti-war, but rather anti-hysteria.

I bring this up because America is currently in a panic over the next rung below balloons on the innocence ladder: clowns. So far clown sightings have resulted in arrests, lock-downs, and violent encounters in the name of… a prank? Promotion for the It remake? An eye-opening metaphor for the public’s response to the things they don’t understand?

The story so far is that in late summer in South Carolina, people dressed in clown costumes would emerge from wooded areas to scare passers-by. In the age of internet, the phenomenon made its way to every US citizen and inspired countless others across the country to either carry out the clown prank themselves or falsely claim to have witnessed a “killer clown” to farm for likes on social media.

Because both groups contribute to the craze, it is hard to confirm reports, including some that claim the clowns were armed with pitchforks or guns. In the wake of this, a new group that builds the paranoia emerged: mobs of people that go clown-hunting in sighting locations.

The whole situation is, let’s face it, stupid beyond belief. Not just on the side of the people dressing up as clowns (who frankly are not that scary to be pulling a prank that lost its originality sometime in the 1700’s,) but also the people that form gangs to go out and fight any clowns they come across.

The clowns should know better than to do something that has already gotten several people arrested and the mobs should not be so quick to pulverize someone just for wearing a costume.

Of course, either side can be as easily defended. Creeping people out by hiding in the woods is not illegal and has never really gotten anyone hurt. But if reports of armed clowns are true, then the mobs are justified in hunting them in the name of public safety, aren’t they?

This all sounds awfully familiar to me, just not usually with clowns as the subject. The situation is a perfect example of how Americans tend to have extreme responses to the tiniest hint that they might be in a bit of danger.

Let’s replace clowns with black people in cities with high crime rates. The media reports incessantly on unarmed black men shot and sometimes killed by police. While these encounters vary widely, in many situations the officer defends himself by claiming to have been frightened by the slight possibility of the victim being armed. You know, like the chance of someone in a clown suit being armed. Yet we haven’t heard lately of many police-on-clown shootings.

Now let’s replace clowns with immigrants. One of the fears many people have of foreigners entering the country is that they could be terrorists or drug dealers. Again, like the chances of an armed clown, this is not the case with the huge majority of people entering the country. Yet there are still masses of people ready to put a ban on all immigration to prevent the dangerous few from slipping through the cracks.

The difference between the clown panic and the other things Americans are afraid of is that while we treat them all the same, we really shouldn’t. While we haven’t found a definite solution for the clowns, we do have ways to deal with the others. Tasers are carried by hundreds of thousands of law enforcement officers to deal with suspects when their threat is not clear, and extensive background checks are conducted on legal immigrants ensure they are safe to allow into the nation.

If you think the clown situation sounds ridiculous, then so should most other nationwide panics. Caution should always be taken in any situation where danger could be present, but caution is just that: an alert mindset to approach a problem with.

Hysteria, on the other hand only makes situations worse. The frenzied fear and media attention do nothing but get the public to lash out, often violently, to their opposition and provoke the curious to keep the chaos coming.

By approaching a situation level-headedly, not only is the best solution more likely to be found, but it also calms the other side and makes agreement easier to reach. Think about how much destruction in riots could have been prevented if everyone in America understood each other.

Until we learn as a nation to not let our fears control us, maybe we need some lessons from our fellow nations. After all, Britain has freaking Batman taking care of their clowns over there.