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OPINION: Don't Feed The Clowns

It’s strange to think that there’s a book published in 1841 that could help explain the current clown phenomenon, but the Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds may shed some light on what has oddly become an epidemic of fear.

Awhile back, when the first wave of clown terror rose up in a sleepy town in South Carolina, I predicted the problem would soon fade away, as it was most likely a publicity stunt gone too far, a joke that wasn’t as funny, or some people making stuff up. However, while I still haven’t heard anything, or read about any arrests in that original town, terrifying clowns are springing up all over the country. People being arrested for dressing up as clowns while others are going out to hunt them. It’s getting scary, but who is to blame for all this? We are.

Charles Mackay who wrote about economic bubbles, haunted houses, fortune telling, and the witch hunting craze, said this; "We find that whole communities suddenly fix their minds upon one object, and go mad in its pursuit; that millions of people become simultaneously impressed with one delusion, and run after it, till their attention is caught by some new folly more captivating than the first."

How easy is it, in our collective, to post on a social media site about how these people who put on some make-up (or mask), are scaring us? How often, lately, have we looked at the news and seen another story about clowns haunting street corners or threatening someone? There have been numerous sightings and arrests, and, in fact, just prior to writing this, I found an article about a teenager who tried to solicit a clown to kill a teacher.

I’m here to say, the problem is not with clowns it’s with us. We are giving people who like to scare and threaten an outlet; 'put on a smiling mask or make-up and you can scare the bejeezus out of us'. We, as a population, have created this simple social contract that most of us are unaware of.

So when someone shares a social media post on the clowns, don’t “like it” don’t “share it,” and for Pete’s sake, don’t go out with a gun to hunt clowns. Call the police If someone is doing something suspicious and go on with your life. Don’t give the people who are trying to scare you the attention and remember what Mackay wrote, "Men, it has been well said, think in herds; it will be seen that they go mad in herds, while they only recover their senses slowly, and one by one."

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