Clown problem distracts from more important issues

Ethan Elkins

Twitter culture is prone to trends, but the current one is alarming and reminiscent of a classic horror series. Amid a frightening election, people are dressing up as killer clowns to frighten unexpecting citizens, often to entertain themselves or their social media followers. Sightings continue to contribute to the global counterculture movement’s malicious image and have led some Halloween shops to cease carrying clown costumes. The situation creeping into the country’s headlines is ridiculous — there are more substantial and relevant issues for discussion, such as campus carry.

Safety is the major concern behind the clown conversation. People are frightened that simpletons are bringing scary clowns to their towns, and they are not sure how to react. Most of the hype has only manifested in the form of online threats, which makes it difficult for police to know which cases warrant further investigation. John Miller, an NYPD deputy commissioner, issued a statement claiming the police force predicts no real harm arising from the situation. Though it is necessary to act on these threats, many officers are being diverted from their usual duties, which can affect the safety of the city as a whole.

While there have been no confirmed clown sightings in Austin, numerous online threats toward schools are not being taken lightly by the Austin Independent School District Police Department. The insidious threats are likely just that, but AISD Police Chief Eric Mendez explained they have to investigate each threat to ensure safety. In the meantime, he has stationed more officers on each campus to be cautious.

Several clowns have made their way to Austin’s southern neighbor, San Marcos. Still, the morale of Texas State University students seems to be unfazed. Biochemistry sophomore Ethan Hernandez, a Texas State student, explained he would not feel unsafe even if he personally saw a clown. Hernandez has several friends who live in close proximity to one of the incidents, and he noted that they were also unfrightened. “Doing away with campus carry would make me feel safer than increased security [personnel],” Hernandez said.

Campus carry potentially poses a greater threat to campus than clowns. Firearm discussions, such as the Cocks Not Glocks movement, are evident at UT’s campus. Media coverage regarding the law has decreased drastically, and over the past month, the conversation has shifted from campus carry to clowns. Unfortunately, headlines are often dominated by social media trends. This has led to the creation of some “pop-up” organizations on campus. The UT Clown Watch Facebook page was created on Oct. 4, and its membership is slowly growing. The organization is likely satirical, but it is reflective of the conversational shift.

As of now, clowns appear to pose no real threat. While it is necessary to stay cautious, it is important to not give the issue too much exposure. Those who participate are fueled by attention, so amplifying their creepiness on the national level only encourages them. The clown discussion is distracting from real problems, and we cannot afford that. We still have guns on our campus. We still have to elect a pivotal president in less than a month. We should ponder these more serious issues, not waste time on empty clown threats.

Elkins is a journalism sophomore from Tyler. Follow him on Twitter @ethanerikelkins.