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During the course of the series, New York was struck by a number of events of a decidedly "unusual" variety, and ones which obviously weren't completely covered up (even if the true cause of them wasn't known to its citizens). Gargoyle sightings were the obvious part, but also so were the "missing nights" in "City of Stone" and Oberon putting everyone to sleep in "The Gathering", for example. By the time that the gargoyles were revealed to the public in "Hunter's Moon", therefore, New York had experienced two years' worth of Fortean activity.
While the obvious main reason for the public panic over the gargoyles in "Hunter's Moon" and "The Journey" was simple fear over them, do you suppose that the cumulative aftereffects of the two years' worth of weirdness (especially from "City of Stone" and "The Gathering") could have been a factor as well? After all, in real life, unexplained ongoing problems can often lead to people looking for scapegoats, and persecuting minority groups thereby (as in the case of persecutions of the Jews getting more severe in 14th century Europe during the Black Death). Do you think that some of that could have been at work here?
Weirdness can in fact have a cumulative -- not simply a momentary -- effect.