Kids Today

An Epidemic of Clowns

October 05, 2016

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An Epidemic of Clowns

Don’t you love a farce? My fault, I fear
I thought that you’d want what I want, sorry my dear
But where are the clowns? Send in the clowns
Don’t bother they’re here

—Frank Sinatra, “Send in the Clowns”

An epidemic of clowns has struck the nation.

A report from NPR outlines how a bunch of big-shoed, red-nosed, erratic-haired bozos are terrifying towns across America. Residents of Kentucky, Alabama, Maryland, North Carolina, Georgia, and Pennsylvania have all reported sightings of the circus critters. And these aren’t your Krusty-type clowns, dejected entertainers who bring children joy—they are more like Pennywise, crazed and disturbing.

Police have made several arrests so far in the spate of jocular jesters. Some have been charged with felonies for making terroristic threats, including juveniles. Others have been voyeurs, some kidnappers, but most have been self-identified pranksters.

The caper makes sense: What better way to scare the bejesus out of the bourgeoisie than standing menacingly on a dark street corner with a creepy clown costume you bought at the mall? Coulrophobia affects nearly 12 percent of Americans. It’s a cinch to get some cheap scares out of hapless suburbanites using polka-dot pajamas and drugstore makeup.

“If we think creepy clowns are bad, then, as BTO sang, we ain’t seen nothing yet.”

But what’s the real reason behind the clown-costume coterie? Is it a social-media-driven phenomenon? Are copycat clowns springing up to take advantage of a terrifying trope? Is it just bored kids looking for a novel way to freak the norms?

All explanations have truth to them. The scary-clown trend is just another means young men—I highly doubt women would waste their time on such a stunt—are using to act out, challenging a stilted status quo. Such behavior is as old as adolescence.

Perhaps it’s all an insignificant rash of youthful rebellion hyped up by the media. Or maybe it’s indicative of something else, something more portentous. It’s easy to chalk up clown scaring to “kids will be kids.” But I imagine similar behavior will keep emerging in our heavily politicized society. If we think creepy clowns are bad, then, as BTO sang, we ain’t seen nothing yet.

Just consider the environment kids are coming of age in.

Our language is policed worse than a Jewish ghetto in Nazi Germany. Say something out of line with liberal orthodoxy? You might as well file for unemployment, because your livelihood is gone. Traditionalists are being purged from respectable company, while dissidents are shouted down in the public square. The media is on 24/7 patrol for thoughtcrime. When offenders are spotted, a rabid online hate-mob descends upon them like maggots on an animal carcass.

High school students are not immune from PC pogroms, especially white males. Last year, when a bunch of crybabies masquerading as Yale students cried so loud as to force a lecturer to quit over her insensitive comments about Halloween costumes, social psychologist Jonathan Haidt visited an unspecified private high school in California to give a talk on intellectual freedom. Haidt is one of the country’s foremost defenders of free inquiry. His relentless advocacy for tolerance of discomforting speech has earned him many detractors.

At first, Haidt’s oration didn’t go well. His remarks were met with jeers and confrontational questions at the end. But afterward, he took sixty students to another, more open classroom and had a discussion with them. The answers he received about the nature of free speech in high school were startling.


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