Clown rumors create sense of danger

Tyler Mead, Senior Staff Writer

This is an opinion article and does not necessarily reflect the views of The Tulane Hullabaloo.

In the wake of a clown-induced panic that swept campus Monday night, it is clear that fear spreads quickly via social media. This chain provides a high risk for fear-mongering and sensationalism, which we must avoid for the safety of the community.

The clown, which Tulane University Police Department dismissed as a hoax, incited anxiety, unease and violence in the Tulane community. Students living on and off campus took steps to ensure their safety. Some went so far as to form a mob to attack the nonexistent clown.

Looking back, the clown sounds like the punchline of a ridiculous joke, but ignoring how easily students were affected by it is dangerous. Rumors started coming in, along with photos from the internet and claims that a clown who may have a firearm was somewhere on campus at the Lavin-Bernick Center for University Life.

Whether this was some prank or miscommunication remains unclear, but regardless, a panic formed. This type of “joke” has real world consequences and interferes with students’ right to a safe learning environment. This behavior is both wrong and borderline illegal.

In the Supreme Court Case of Schneck v. United States of 1919, the court ruled that the First Amendment does not protect dangerous speech. The example given in the case was the now famous “yelling ‘fire’ in a crowded theater” argument. The court’s decision makes it clear that the United States Constitution does not protect speech that causes a clear and present danger.

While this incident may appear mild in hindsight, genuine fear spread throughout the Tulane community.

Students gathered with weapons looking for a clown to attack.

The response to this hoax led to a violent outbreak on campus. More importantly, had there actually been a threat on campus, especially an armed one, students would have been in danger.

School shootings are a very real threat and, regardless of discussions on gun rights, to even suggest one may happen is extremely dangerous and reckless.

In the past, students have received punishment for posting threats on social media like Yik Yak due people feeling unsafe, and this is the same situation, yet Tulane has not responded. This situation was a case of clear and present danger, and the university must take steps to prevent it from happening again.

Tyler is a senior at Newcomb-Tulane College. He can be reached at [email protected]