I simply can't believe I need to devote time in this newspaper to talk about the one thing that shouldn't be on anyone's radar right now. However, it seems that once someone started talking about clowns mysteriously showing up in Mountain Home and surrounding areas last week, it seems that's the only thing anyone here really cares about.
So fine, let's talk about it.
Here's how I understand it. Apparently, someone in this country thought it would be a "good idea" to dress up in a clown suit, wear some makeup that makes them look like a psychopath and then posting a photo of themselves on social media. After all, Halloween is only a couple of weeks away, and there are people out there that take the holiday a little too seriously.
From there, however, the idea seemed to take on a life of its own with reports coming in of people showing up in different towns wearing this "scary clown" apparel wanting to jump out and scare others.
There have been reports that these perpetrators have also wanted to harm others as part of this phenomenon. I'm wondering, however, whether these incidents were just those wanting to fuel added paranoia or if they were simply copy cats wanting a "piece of the action," so to speak.
As we've seen in the past, there are way too many instances where people want to be a part of something they've seen on the nightly news or read from other sources. The advent of social media only seems to have made it worse.
Now granted, I have seen cases where these avenues have led to raising awareness of social causes in this country. Remember two years ago when people were dumping ice cold water on their heads as part of the "ice bucket challenge?"
Speaking of which, is anyone still doing that, or did it fade away faster than the last generation of cell phones and video games?
But when people's desire to be a part of a social media phenomenon starts affecting the lives of others in a negative way, this is where we have to draw the line. Consider what happened in the Glenns Ferry School District last Wednesday when a student received a post containing a photo of a scary clown standing in front of the school.
As a result, the school was placed on lockdown with students and faculty having to "shelter in place" until it was determined that the post didn't pose a threat to anyone at the school. But we still had to call in law enforcement to investigate the case, which tied up their time and resources that could've been spent more effectively by dealing with more serious crime out there.
What made it worse was that we ended up having to disrupt classes at the school over this one Facebook post. But in light of all the school shootings that we've had in the United States these past few years, I can understand why school officials took that action.
However, someone out there caused school officials to take those steps in the interest of protecting their students. There needs to be a moment of reckoning for those responsible.
Let's face it, the clown hysteria is getting out of hand. Last Tuesday, students in Mountain Home reported that they saw someone allegedly dressed up in a clown suit waving at them as they walked past Hacker Middle School. An investigation by city police indicated that those reports were unfounded with nothing to support the claims made by the students.
Right now, I have at least one child in my neighborhood that's deathly terrified about leaving their home after sunset because of what they're hearing. Even my children are keeping their guard up at an increased level, which isn't supposed to happen in towns like Mountain Home.
If things don't start calming down, I can see one of two things happening. The first is that someone in this community is attacked by a copy cat -- someone dressed up as a clown as part of some stupid desire to be part of the Internet sensation.
This could cause people to overreact by taking matters into their own hands.
This leads me to the second and bigger fear. Thanks to the state legislator's latest push to expand gun laws in Idaho earlier this year, we now have people out there that have full permission to carry a concealed weapon in Mountain Home without needing any type of certification process in place to ensure they are competent enough to handle these firearms.
Add in a very paranoid person carrying a concealed weapon that gets startled by someone jumping out of the shadows dressed in a clown suit shouting "boo," and we're going to end up with someone getting severely beaten or shot to death.
We need to knock off this nonsense immediately. This especially goes to those in this community who might think it's funny posting something to Facebook saying they saw a scary clown in this city when it didn't actually happen.
Consider this a warning. There are laws on the books in this country that prohibit people from causing undue public alarm or filing false police reports.
In Idaho, for example, calling in a false alarm using 911 can land you in jail for up to a year. You can also get slapped with a $1,000 fine.
Pardon the pun, but we need to stop clowning around. We having too many people out there taking this way too seriously or thinking this is supposed to be funny.
If that's true, then why am I not laughing?
-- Brian S. Orban