EDITORIAL: Might not just be clownin’ around
Clown threats circulating online should be taken seriously
White painted faces, wild hair and red lipstick drawn into permanent grins — needless to say clowns are creepy. No one should be that pale, have hair that artificially colored and dramatic or use lipstick outside the lip line (sorry Kylie Jenner, that lipstick fad is tacky). Long gone were the days, if you ever had those days, when clowns were part of the delightful entertainment at your classmate’s sixth birthday party. Instead of running up to them, asking to make you a toy giraffe out of an elongated balloon or wanting try on their long clown shoes or begging for their clown family to step out of a tiny car, you run away from them because you think they’re going to kill you.
After decades of movies about clowns, like Stephen King’s famous tale of a lunatic clown terrorizing children, the masses are socialized to fear this comic entertainer wearing a traditional circus costume and exaggerated make up. Whether you always thought they were frightening or you didn’t realize their potential capacity for gruesome murder until watching one of the top-40 clown movies, you are likely to find clowns more horrifying now after increased clown sightings across the country and here in New Jersey.
Clown sightings and their more malicious threats, have been reported on social media, and the most notorious post was from a Facebook account called Ain't Clownin' Around that said, “We will be at all High Schools this Friday to either kidnap students or kill teachers going to they cars.” The anonymous post was eventually taken down, but not after it was widely circulated on social media. The threat did not specify a school, but many police departments were responding to unfounded threats and fears across the country and also in New Jersey schools, including in Elizabeth and Hamilton.
New Jersey police departments are handling the problem well by stepping up and increasing patrol around schools and making communities aware of the threat while also acknowledging that the threats are unfounded. During this day and age, all threats must be taken seriously, because it is almost impossible to sparse out what’s a legitimate threat and what is not. Similar to the case of a suspicious package found on Douglass campus, and how the Rutgers University Police Department (RUPD) acted appropriately by closing down the parking deck after a weekend of bombings in Seaside Park and New York City. It is unclear whether a real clown attack will occur, but if it involves children and local schools, then there’s no other choice but take significant security measures.
People afraid of the clown threats think they’re doing the community service by sharing these threats and making people aware, but they’re only perpetuating its appeal to trolls by adding to the issue’s popularity. Teenagers who want to get a laugh out of the situation participate in creating clown threats. Charges are underway for two juveniles in Washington Township, a 13-year-old female and a 14-year-old male, who were involved in separate but similar situations of producing clown threats on social media. Kids don’t realize that this is illegal and are likely to poke fun of the situation by taking part in it. The boy and the girl were ultimately charged with one count of cyber harassment, a fourth-degree crime.
Videos have already been circulating of clowns being hunted and shot. Regardless of the veracity of these videos, the community should take the advice from New Jersey police to refrain from “hunting” clowns if they’re seen around. Wearing a clown mask isn’t illegal, but attacking them might just be a criminal charge on your part. These clowns would be getting more attention than they deserve.
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