Editorial: Creepy Clown Hype in Perspective
Oy vey! For weeks now, with increasing forward momentum, we've seen the proliferation of "creepy clowns" across the US. It started in North Carolina with some kids claiming clowns tried to get them to come in the woods, offering money. Apparently the kids didn't need the dough, and they passed, and the police were never able to apprehend anyone or corroborate the story. Did it even happen? Who knows. Those meddling kids! ;)
The news story and headline was an attention grabber, especially with the Halloween season around the corner. The report was so hyped, my theory is, copycats decided to join in the fun. I say the fun, yes, because I'm confident the chain of sightings, are almost 100% harmless pranksters looking to scare people. It's frustrating, because largely due to the media hype, it does have an affect on everyone enjoying good clean Halloween fun. I was saddened to see that the the Throop Haunted Trail even changed their theme this year because of the hysteria of clown-pranksters being taken so seriously. If you need to really ask yourself "what kind of weirdo would do that", Haunted Attractions are packed full of people every season who, although they collect a paycheck, find the screams are every bit as valuable. Is that crazy? Maybe you haven't seen my front porch on Halloween night. Scaring people is fun! And oh yeah, there's a national Holiday built around it!
I'd concede that, the case on Syracuse, NY's north-side where a kid was chased before school is a bit unnerving at face value... But we need to keep it in perspective. Do you really think a "gang" of clowns was out hunting children? This was in all probability, a bunch of teenagers getting their jollies scaring a younger kid. Oh the humanity! Let's not lose our common sense. It was brought to a head yesterday, when it came to my attention a local police department decided to weigh-in on the issue in a way that I'm not at all comfortable with.
Enter the Phoenix, NY Police Dept.
In a recent post on the official Facebook page of the Village of Phoenix Police , the department officially commented on the recent clown "sitings" [sic]. Their post helped to spread what they admit are rumors, pointed to anecdotal accounts with zero corroboration, and included a
veiled THREAT OF ARREST for anyone who wears a clown costume with the intent to cause fear.
Yes, you read that correctly. Apparently "Intent" to cause "Fear" is a crime in America now.
Never mind the fact that "fear" is a human emotion that every person has a different threshold for. Also ignore the fact that the veiled threat of arrest doesn't apply to folks wearing a clown costume with the intent to cause joy or laughter. I suppose your intent will be determined by the arresting officer, and who knows- whether or not you're on your way to a circus or a Halloween party? Maybe the angle of the clown's eyebrows will be measured? This spooky bugger with the black balloons didn't harm anyone. :-)
I think it's out of place and overreaching for anyone in a position of authority, government or law enforcement especially, to make such a veiled threat! To state the painfully obvious, Halloween is ABOUT dressing scary. The FUN of the holiday is centered around spooky, scary and creepy-fun activities. When a local police department implies one could actually be arrested for participating in that fun, I take it seriously.
To the folks I've seen state that "This is a great idea, the police are just trying to protect everyone!" I'd ask two questions:
(1) Protect everyone from WHAT? Has there been even ONE report of a clown harming anyone since this prank caught on? Nope.
(2) Where does it end? What about the people afraid of zombies? What shall the police do to "protect" those tender souls? Why stop at clown costumes? It's absurd.
To be clear, I sincerely appreciate the service of the police, and the often thankless job they do to keep us all safe. It's not easy, It's risky, and these days with all that's happening in our country, their job is more difficult than ever. That said, it keeps nobody safe, to ask that everybody forego a clown costume. The actual bad-guys out there don't follow the law already, removing clown make-up from their repertoire isn't saving anyone. Sorry. What this all boils down to for me, I will sum up in one sentence: Personal feelings do not trump personal liberties.
If you're afraid of clowns, that simply isn't the world's problem. It's yours. You have many options: Stay home, lock the door, don't go to the circus, avoid Halloween parties etc. The one option you do not have, is to decide what anyone else wears.
Happy Halloween everyone! If you feel so inclined to dress as a clown while you partake in your Halloween fun, more power to you!!!