Clowns. With their twisted smiles and distorted features, few people escape childhood without an irrational fear of the masked performers. This fall, however, the country has been confronted by these painted creatures who regrettably lack their stereotypical sense of humor.
Ever since the first reporting in Greenville, North Carolina, clown sightings have been increasing across the country, even making their way to the UK. Even the Bay Area has been targeted by the clowns though social media, causing police departments and schools to be on high alert. In response to the threat, PHS Superintendent Randall Booker sent out an email addressing the clown problem, which only succeeded in igniting chaos. The fast expansion of the clown movement made me wonder; How has one clown sighting escalated into an uncontrollable epidemic, no, pandemic? Personally, I blame the media.
First of all, the overflow of news surrounding the clown topic for the past month has been inescapable. Stories of encounters and threats cover every media outlet from CNN to Rolling Stone magazine, ensuring universal knowledge of the occurrences. This persistent reporting of the issue has sparked nationwide panic, causing the situation to escalate quickly and globally irrational fears stem from the constant reminders. In my opinion, the clown stories, starting out as suspicion, could never have spread without the aid of the news media.
Additionally, I do not agree with the media’s depiction of the clowns, for I am more entertained by the issue than informed of its reality. The news media has transformed what may have started out as a mere prank into a cult of clowns.
Sources such as The New Yorker, The New York Times, CNN, and The Los Angeles Times have labeled the threats as “Creepy Clowns”, taking full advantage of the Halloween irony. Also, articles on the clowns give the impression that the world is filled with evil, inhuman creatures who hunt in the daylight, brandish knives, stalk prey and target innocents. This news is filled with subjectivity and lacks professionalism, feeding into the Halloween spirit rather than informing the population.
My argument is not that the news should refrain from running stories on the topic entirely; I do understand that the people have the right to know what is going on around them and that it is the media’s job to inform them. As the threat of clown attacks become more prevalent, the need for awareness becomes more critical. Unfortunately, the news sources have not remained professional and have caused more panic than assurance.
Social media also has been a monumental force in the spread of the clown pandemic. The hashtag #ISeeAClown has been trending for weeks and YouTube is polluted with hundreds of fake ‘clown sightings’. Riots have been organized at college campuses through social media to combat the masked criminals, and cyberbullying by clown accounts has been a constant issue. This social popularity has created a clown empire, encouraging teens to join the spooky Halloween fun.
Ultimately, media outlets have sparked the growth of the clown problem by succumbing into the entertainment aspects of the story. If there is anything to be taken away from this issue, it is the detrimental impact and influence social media can have, and that subjective news only leads to fear, not solution.