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The Blue & Gray Press | September 22, 2017

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Media sensationalism worsens clown epidemic

Media sensationalism worsens clown epidemic

By JESSE JONES

A recent emergence of creepy clowns has taken the United States by storm. What started out as a minute issue has turned into an epidemic as the phenomena continues to spread, gaining a cult-like following.

The matter has grown from clowns reportedly chasing children to threats being issued to local schools via social media. It is even reported that a pseudo Instagram account has been created called UMW Clowns, with captions like “Hope you guys aren’t afraid of clowns” and “See Y’all Soon.”

On Tuesday, the wide-spreading issue made its way to Fredericksburg. A man draped in a black long-sleeve shirt, hiding his identity behind a mask with long green hair ostensibly touched and growled at a woman sitting in her vehicle parked on Stafford Avenue. As harmless and nonsensical as this may seem, the threat of something occurring has locals agitated.

“I am afraid to walk around off-campus now due to the threat of seeing a clown and not knowing what to do. I’ve always been weirded out by them but now they’re a genuine threat,” sophomore Lindsey Kowaki said.

In contrast, graduate student Kevin Duong said, “ I would love to run into one of these jabronis so I could give them a piece of my mind.” Like Duong, many people are agitated by the premise and just want it to cease. Others feel that it is merely a gimmick and serves no real purpose.

“With the proximity of Halloween less than a month away, I feel that the media is ‘hyping’ up this issue and people are hopping on the bandwagon to get attention at the expense of someone else. Unless the masked individuals are causing any harm, I don’t see the logic behind reporting such stories,” said sophomore Nancy Pham.

Regardless of the basis of the occurrences, overall the scenarios are creating a platform for individuals with ill intent to do so without revealing their identity. The act of wearing a mask alone over the age of 16 in order to conceal your face is against the law.

According to Virginia Code, “It shall be unlawful for any person over 16 years of age to, with the intent to conceal his identity, wear any mask, hood or other device whereby a substantial portion of the face is hidden or covered so as to conceal the identity of the wearer…is a Class 6 felony.”

What are the lesser effects being caused by this dilemma? Due to the sudden trend, real clowns are paying the price for it all. Clowns who are often common entertainers at birthday parties are having their silly and lovable image tarnished by these individuals partaking in the movement. In addition to individuals whose reputation is deteriorating, larger organizations like Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus, who have been in existence for 146 years could be disadvantaged by this.

Although it may be a strange profession to partake in, according to CBS News, clowns in the Ringling Bros. circus can make between $85,000 and $92,000. Not only are these individuals dressing up as clowns scaring people, they could potentially be costing people their jobs.

The sooner the media lets go of the situation, the better. If the issue is still present three weeks from now, it could make for a dangerous Halloween as clown costumes are a rather common occurrence.

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