Sociology in the News (8) – Killer Clowns and Donald Trump’s Misogyny

Last Updated on October 15, 2016 by Karl Thompson

The Killer Clown Craze 


The societal response to the so called ‘Killer Clown Craze‘ seems like a good example of a moral panic. Piers Morgan (moral entrepreneur supremo) has waded in against the craze, and as soon as he gets involved in anything, that’s a sure sign of moral panic). Twenty years ago, people dressed in scary clown costumes would have been regarded as ‘Halloween pranksters’, today they’re regarded as public menaces who are a threat to public order and child well-being.

Thames Valley Police reported that

‘In the last 24 hours we have been called to 14 incidents across the region where people have reported being intimidated or frightened by others dressed as clowns. This follows the report of other incidents across the country which have been widely reported in the national media. While we don’t want to be accused of stopping people enjoying themselves we would also ask those same people to think of the impact of their behaviour on others and themselves.’ 

The public have been warned that dressing up as a clown with the intent to scare people could result in a criminal record, and children have been advised to phone child line if they are distressed by such sightings. Staffordshire police have further advised that people don’t ‘like’ Killer Clown pages on Facebook.

Maybe the chainsaw wielding clowns are taking this a step-too far, but as far as I can see, most of the incidents are harmless pranks, meaning the panic over this is almost certainly disproportionate, possibly a response to living in a culture of fear in which paranoid parents construct children as delicate objects in need of protection. Surely 30 years ago clown pranks would have been laughed off as funny?

This is also a great example of a ‘hyperreal’ deviant phenomenon – some people are even dressing up as superheros and chasing the Killer Clowns…



Donald Trump’s Downfall


Donald Trump’s downfall is a useful example of how Synoptic Surveillance can bring down the powerful – It looks like his chances of winning the US election are now extremely slim after video footage came to light of him engaged in what he thought was a private conversation in which he described his failure to ‘fuck’ (his words) a married T.V. presenter even thought he’d ‘moved on her like a bitch’, shortly after he himself had just married. He also boasted of groping women in the same conversation.

Synoptic Surveillance is a concept developed by Thomas Mathiesson to describe how surveillance is now carried out by a diverse range of people, rather than just the state keeping citizens under surveillance – as a result power is now more widely dispersed and those with political power are subject to more control from below, through journalistic surveillance for example.

Maybe the next moral panic will consist of people dressing up in Donald Trump masks groping women?  (‘Honest love, it was just a joke’.)

Trump -almost certainly more terrifying than killer clowns



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