Article by Elyse Thomas | esPResso Committee Member
In a time where America seems more divided than ever, the country can certainly come together in its collective fear of clowns. While the specific fear of clowns, or coulrophobia, is neither new nor unique, a frenzied hysteria has swept the nation. What started as a local issue in Greenville County, South Carolina has spread into national news coverage. Law enforcement has dismissed most sightings as pranks or hoaxes, blaming social media for this hyped panic that is not a real threat.
This harassment has primarily been caused by social media and the intentions the clowns hold are simply to cause panic to the public; a goal in which they are accomplishing. According to psychiatrist Dr. Gail Satlz in a CBS News article, “Hoaxes and attempts to frighten people and people buying into it have happened throughout history, but we’re ripe for this right now because social media, which allows a fear to propagate globally very quickly. And because right now, we are a country very anxious about otherness.” This demonstrates exactly why people are buying right into the panic. For example, Students at Penn State University have gone as far as initiating late-night manhunts for a clown that may or may not have been seen on campus.
Pranksters have taken advantage of an entire cultures fear of clowns under the current condition of viral hysteria. The New York Times spoke with Dr. Steven Schlozman, a professor of psychological horrors in order to prove that the clown panic is simply panic. Schlozman explains this phenomenon was made possible because it was able to go viral. It made people emotionally engaged before they were intellectually engaged. “In his years researching the things that scare us, Dr. Schlozman has also uncovered another truism: Horror is almost never about the thing that’s scary. The horror unravels once terrified people respond.”