Editorial: This clowning around is no laughing matter

Videtteonline.com – Oct. 3, 2016

The following story ranked #2 on The Vidette website for overall most views (17,764) from August 2016 – May 2017 in all categories.

Halloween is still weeks away, yet multiple states have reported clown sightings since August. Monday night, reports of sightings around the Illinois State University campus flooded social media accounts. Unfortunately, these clowns are not on their way to a birthday party. Instead, they are luring kids into forests and chasing observers with weapons in the typical “It” style. The question is, are these killer clowns real, or is this just another disappointing attempt at social media fame?

Local Twitter, Facebook and Yik Yak accounts reported sightings of a clown, or multiple clowns, around the ISU area late Monday. First reports were of one walking near Turner Hall. Next came a slew of buzz about clowns in a car driving on the sidewalk in front of Alamo II. Other reports included sightings near the railroad crossing on Fell Avenue and an alleged arrest in front of Insomnia Cookies in Uptown Normal. None of these reports have been confirmed by local authorities.

Questions surround whether these sightings are actual clowns with intended malice or simply students heading back home after tryouts at Gamma Phi Circus’ practice.

Twitter accounts like @ClownWatchUSA and @ReportClowns have been created for the sole purpose of reporting alleged sightings of clowns across the country. With these mediums, no one can ensure which sources, if any, are valid and which are crafted solely for the attention.

The first reported clown sightings took place late August in Greenville County, S.C. In a media release Sept. 1, the Greenville Police Department (GPD) detailed the first four reports of sightings. All four were in residential areas, but one was reported near a playground. None of the four indicated attempts of luring children, however, the GPD stressed the importance of not allowing children to play alone or in isolated areas.

In Greenville, harassment of individuals is prohibited, so the clown acts were all listed as illegal.

Reports in other areas across the United States were similar and included clowns lurking in shadows, attempting to lure women and children and chasing individuals, many times with weapons.

The Boston Globe reported that there have been clown sightings reported in 26 states, and The New York Times has accounted for 12 people facing charges in relation with the clown crimes. The Times notes that other cases appear to be caused by teenage pranks and the overactive imaginations of children, though pranks seem the primary reasoning.

Pranks are all in good fun until someone gets hurt. These acts, dressing up as clowns to scare others, may appear harmless, but when one feels personally targeted and threatened, it is an entirely different situation.

With increasing use of social media comes the desire to become an internet sensation. As people become “Instagram famous” or highly followed on social media accounts, others take notice and thoughts fester for how to achieve such a status.

Unfortunately, ideas like dressing up as a clown, grabbing your pumpkin carving knife and taking a stroll around town are nowhere near appropriate or funny to post on social media. Though, with recent need to be the funniest or most interesting person on everyone’s Facebook timeline, these obscene pranks often pass as funny.

When something first considered as a small prank to gain likes turns into school closures and calls to local authorities across the country, it is no longer a small prank. It is a nationwide epidemic of the need to feel popular and widely liked.

This is not your average “Miley Cyrus is dead” hoax. These hoaxes have an effect on everyday life.

Seeing something as absurd as these reports on the news creates a buzz that cannot be stopped by anything other than basic reasoning: how would you feel if you were out for a run in the woods and out of the blue pops a figure dressed as a clown, chasing you down with a knife? That is harassment.

Halloween may be right around the corner, but scaring innocent bystanders to fulfill a selfish need to gain attention is in no way appropriate simply due to the impending holiday.

Keep the costumes and masks for Halloween. Your Halloween Instagram post may not get as many likes as this sick joke, but your social media fame status is never worth as much as the trauma caused to others.

See my related news article here.


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