My brother likes posting links to my Facebook timeline that he knows I’ll appreciate. Today’s posting is no exception. It’s a clip from one of my favorite childhood cartoons, The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy. It just so happened to be the episode depicting Billy’s intense fear of clowns, and the many tangelos he uses to defend himself. If you haven’t seen it, you are missing out. 10/10 recommend.
But that’s beside the point. He posted it in response to the current “epidemic” we are facing across the country. All of the apparent clown sightings, people walking around neighborhoods dressed up as clowns. Why? Great question.
I’ve never necessarily been scared of clowns, but we’re not best friends, either. I never understood why they were appealing. I find them a tad creepy. Which is probably why it’s the attire for all of these people. Does anybody know why and when this first started? Does anybody even care at this point? So many questions.
With this new “issue” to be aware of, I see it just continuing the fan the flame that is paranoia. The world has admittedly become a dark place. We instinctively want to protect ourselves from outside threats. But with the amount of coverage we give these different “threats,” we take these instincts to the next level. We feel like we have to be constantly glancing over our shoulders in case, for example, a clown is following us.
Widespread paranoia is not a new concept by any means. Hello, McCarthyism. Stereotypes surrounding Muslims after 9/11. Heck, the Salem witch trials. Once everyone begins to hear news of evil delving into our secure livelihoods, we act quickly. We protect ourselves in every measure possible. We question everything that crosses our path. Even completely innocent things. We work ourselves up so much, we see nothing short of bad.
Social media just heightens these feelings even more. Rather than the privacy of our own homes and spaces, we constantly have access to the latest information, leaving us on high alert with the tap on a smart phone screen. We can follow accounts solely dedicated to seeking out and pointing out threats. We can read the news whenever we choose, and most likely the top stories will have a negative, threatening tone, because the media is a business that knows how people will respond to these messages. It’s just our habits. We take action and ask questions later.
These clowns are no exception. To me, it’s basically turned into everyone “crying wolf,” tweeting out about a clown on the street in basically every town. But is this even realistic? Are there seriously that many clowns roaming around at night? Especially in less populated areas. But at first glance, our paranoia takes over and throws logic out the window. Paranoia toys with our emotions. It makes us create mountains out of molehills. Of course we need to be informed citizens and have the common sense to know how to respond to a threat, but we also have to use that common sense to analyze these messages and their implications.
Some initiatives make sense, but they can easily slip over the edge. My first thought is airport security. I’m okay with taking off my shoes and stepping through a big scanner. Especially for those who fly often, it probably becomes second nature. It’s just another fixture in daily life. But how effective are these searches? How often does terrorist action happen on airplanes? Knock on wood. And even if someone took an explosive or weapon on a plane, how well do these procedures detect threats? If people are continuing improving their methods of terrorism, does that mean we have to pat down every single person and perform every action known to man just for that potential one person with a bomb?
I would much prefer if we devoted our attention to problems that are confirmed to be happening, rather than “being proactive” and speculating about the severity of various threats. We have the time and resources. We have the research and knowledge. Except our focus is in the wrong area. News reports about clown sightings trend more heavily than another story about poverty or hunger. The clowns are just that, a passing trend. Chances are the clowns will be fading memory in a month. But we have problems affecting expansive groups of people across the globe. Pretty sure the people living on the streets aren’t too concerned about seeing a clown walking by; they’re just trying to make it another day.
So no, I’m not too concerned about clowns. I’ve met my fair share of very friendly Muslims. And no, I’m not naive. I expose myself to any news and information I can find, but I take those flashing headlines with a grain of salt. Especially when I’m studying the media, I realize how business-oriented the industry is, and how influential mass and social media affect our perceptions of life. This is where critical thinking comes in, where we can ask ourselves what is important or not, what to prioritize and what to disregard. Just because clown sightings are depicted in every format of media, that’s not stopping me from living life as I usually do. If a perceived threat like this is hindering your life, it’s time to really step back and put those emotions aside. There’s a way to be too informed, too prepared.
I’m not a huge risk-taker. But I also don’t see as walking a block back to my dorm at night alone as a very big risk. I know what to do is something does happen, but I’m not going to work myself up every evening when the actual probability of something occurring is quite low.
Ultimately, just be smart, use logic, and stay safe. And when in doubt, stock up on tangelos.
Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie