How the Creepy Clown Epidemic Might Just Save America
Or, using one moral panic to squash another.
Of all the very many ways 2016 has been a bizarre nightmare universe, the explosion of “Creepy Clown” sightings has certainly been one of them. That probably could have been a more powerful sentence to lead this article with.
Since August 29th, when the first of what would become a chain of clown sightings was reported in Greenville County, South Carolina — America has been overrun with Clown-mania, or as I like to call it Clownia. Over a dozen states have had reports of “clown activity” and alleged* vigilante groups have formed to “hunt” down these invading buffoons.
A lot has already been written on why this epidemic seems to have taken root. A combination of virility, social media, and the human need to face the weird are all to blame for this Insane Clown Paroxysm. It’s catchy, we’re told, so more people are spreading the story. It’s weird, we’re advised, so people are morbidly engaged with it.
And like a bunch of coulrophobic Fox Mulders, we want to believe. Where things get complicated is that it’s not just the handsome yet disheveled conspiracy theorist among us that want this to be real. If there are reports of clowns in our streets and in our forests and in our playgrounds, then it must be real, and if it must be real, some of us will decide that it’s time to go out and buy a creepy clown costume for ourselves and join the fun terror, or as I like to call it, ferror.
See, like any good moral panic, what started as harmless fear-mongering has quickly devolved into inspiration. Take this hypothetical; imagine a group of parents concerned that teenagers are starting to do this new thing where they snort Pumpkin Spice Lattes off of their Snapchat filters while engaging in group sex — and that local news channels hungry for “anything that isn’t this election cycle” gets a hold of that stupid story, and runs with it. At least some of the teenagers out there hearing about this new fad for the first time might get curious enough to try it for themselves, and lo, we have teenagers in Hot Topic Harley Quinn outfits hanging out outside daycare centers. It’s science.
Why America Needs Saving
To get dark for a moment, there are two other areas where this depressing species of virility can also infect; teenage suicides and school shootings.
Now, I’m not saying that suicide spreads through word-of-mouth. It’s far too complicated a scenario for any single answer, and it’s all too easy to look for some satisfying excuse to justify the jump in suicide rates that doesn’t require us to think long and hard about how we treat mental illness and how we treat those members of our society that are most vulnerable. Still, “even in matters of utmost gravity, adolescents are infinitely suggestible” (Edward Shorter Ph.D., Psychology Today). Educators often report an uptick of suicide threats and cases of self-harm after an initial incident gets widespread attention.
Similarly, the rise of mass shootings absolutely can not be laid at the feet of the media coverage of those incidents, but it is clear that deranged individuals become emboldened when they see how “acceptable” it has become to commit horrific acts of random violence. In some cases, the killers seem further motivated by the media attention they might acquire.
Are the media complicit in mass shootings?
Among the most chilling details to emerge in the Orlando massacre is that the killer paused during his three-hour…
In short, it’s the copycat effect.
And it is in this new world, with every report of horror and tragedy highlighting a grim new perceived reality that feeds on what we fear might be coming, that the impressionable masses rule. Schools are places to be feared. Terror and darkness are forces that can never be overcome.
Send in the Clowns
But you know what’s more catchy than shootings and self-harm? Creepy clowns!
What if Creepy Clowns change the narrative in America? What if we were more afraid of our kids being lured away by Bozo than being shot by a classmate? What if instead of joining gangs or allowing their inner adolescent turmoil to define them in tragic ways — kids formed harlequinades of clowns? What if all that psychic-fear-energy we’re building up manifests not as an increase in crime and violence, but instead as the blossoming of a new age of cartoonish super-weirdness that frankly would be far more gratifying to deal with? Can this sound more condescending?
America, I implore you, repeal your bans of Clown Costumes this Halloween, and allow us all to embrace a horror our minds can actually wrap themselves around!
Or, you know, we could put more support into suicide preventing programs and sane gun laws. But now who’s being the clown?