A few days ago my teenage daughter refused to go out because of rumours of armed clowns terrorizing people on the streets. At first I thought it was only a joke, a bad joke or even a prank supported by social media. I was very sad to find out that the rumours were true and France had really been "attacked" by clowns since the start of the month. As I started reading more about the subject trying to reassure my daughter, I found that:
- Fourteen teenagers dressed as clowns and carrying pistols, knives and baseball bats were arrested outside a school in Agde, southern France, on Saturday.
- In Montpellier, a 35-year-old man was beaten with a metal rod on Saturday night by a man dressed as a clown who tried to rob him.
- A 19-year-old who had dressed as a clown to terrorise children in Douvrin, northern France, was given a six-month suspended prison sentence at a court in Bethune last week.
- Other arrests have been made - not of clowns, but of "clown-hunters". In Mulhouse, five young people were arrested for "clown-chasing" through the town's streets, armed with baseball bats, hammers, knuckle-dusters and tear gas.
I don't know you, but I am really concerned with these facts. Not the fact that people dressed up as clowns are frightening others, but the fact that a few isolated cases are causing such a stir-up. A quick look of Twitter shows scores of tweets from youngsters in France on the subject of armed clowns. While there are plenty who point out the whole thing is pretty ridiculous, others are doing the contrary. It seems that there are even organized clown hunts and French police have launched a campaign to stop vigilante groups from chasing "evil clowns" from their towns and villages. In a way, the social media that we are so keen to use is causing panic spreading false information or exaggerating the facts to frighten young people, what it started as a prank is having now an uncontrollable snowball effect.