It’s easy to laugh at Insane Clown Posse.
They’re goofy, dated, mostly nonsensical, and they seem baffled by things like rainbows and magnets. Their fan base is a legion of unwashed dipshits in clown makeup and if the two movies written and produced by Joseph Utsler and Joseph Bruce – better known as Violent Jay and Shaggy 2 Dope – are any kind of measure, their approach to comedy and satire is less like comedy and satire and more like stepping on a Lego over and over again for two and a half hours. It’s painful, repetitious, and never actually funny.
It’s easy to make fun of ICP and their fan base of Juggalos and Juggalettes because they seem to embrace and abet all of their own worst stereotypes as Faygo-drenched idiots and proudly proclaim themselves to be “America’s most hated group.”
Sorry, Juggalos, but America’s most hated group is actually Congress.
It’s difficult to think of Juggalos as organized, let alone as organized crime. This may be partially to do with the greasepaint clown makeup and crippling addiction to dollar store soda. Or, it may be because Juggalos have never committed an organized crime.
Organized, of course, meaning that while people who identify as Juggalos have been convicted of committing crimes, no organized crime has been committed by Juggalos under the banner of being Juggalos. A fact which didn’t deter the FBI from labelling the whole fanbase as a “disorganized, hybrid gang” in 2011 for even a single second.
What is a “disorganized, hybrid gang?” you might ask. According to the 2011 National Gang Threat Assessment;
“The expansion of hybrid gangs—non-traditional gangs with multiple affiliations—is a continued phenomenon in many jurisdictions nationwide. Because of their multiple affiliations, ethnicities, migratory nature, and nebulous structure, hybrid gangs are difficult to track, identify, and target as they are transient and continuously evolving. Furthermore, these multi-ethnic, mixed-gender gangs pose a unique challenge to law enforcement because they are adopting national symbols and gang members often crossover from gang to gang.”
This incredibly vague definition basically comes down to lumping together any people who are convicted of crimes -by definition often petty ones – and are linked by one or more commonality.
Which doesn’t seem sinister until you realize that the FBI went out of its way to not specify whether that commonality had to be in any way related to the crimes of which the individuals were convicted, and the disastrous potential implications to people linked to criminals by that arbitrary commonality who have committed no crimes.
Which sounds like complete nonsense, but that’s only because it largely is.
It allowed the FBI to take unrelated crimes committed by people who identify as Juggalos – which, it can not be overstated, is the fandom of a rap duo from Michigan – and use them to vilify innocent people.
A decision as absolutely balls-out insane as it is flagrantly unconstitutional.
In 2014, Bruce and Utsler filed a lawsuit against the Justice Department citing several instances where people who identify as their fans have been unfairly detained or profiled by police, or have been denied jobs or housing because of a gang classification that does not apply to them as individual citizens based on the band tee shirts they wear or the tattoos they have.
According to the Washington Post,
“Juggalos not associated with gangs have reported being repeatedly stopped by police, added to gang databases, blocked from the military, placed on stricter forms of probation, suspended from school and fired from jobs.”
The duo even alleged that the police of Royal Oak, Michigan pressured the Royal Oak Music Hall into cancelling ICP’s Hallowicked concert in October of 2012, referencing the gang classification as justification.
For cancelling a concert.
Now, that might seem laughably fucking stupid, but that’s only because it is.
The lawsuit was thrown out of court because “the report did not directly order police and other officials to any particular action against the Juggalos.”
Which is true, the report didn’t call authorities to action against the group. It did, however, make it clear the Juggalos were to be classified along the likes of the Gangster Disciples and the Aryan Brotherhood, and there are very clear protocols in place for dealing with those (actual) gangs.
So no, Feds, ignorance is not an excuse. You can’t classify a group as a criminal element and then act surprised when authorities treat them like criminals.
Which is not to say that there haven’t been people who identify as Juggalos who have committed horrible crimes. It’s not even to say that people haven’t committed horrible crimes specifically linked to being Juggalos.
However, even a supplementary Juggalo gang assessment from 2011 admitted “…The majority of fans exercise their lifestyles in a peaceful manner[.]”
Which, you’d think, in and of itself would be enough justification to have the classification lifted. A perfectly reasonable and democratic notion to which the FBI and DoJ give a hearty ‘fuck you.’
Psychopathic Records organized a protest march on September 16, 2017 at the Mall of America in Washington DC with over 1500 Juggalos in attendance according to the Chicago Tribune; just one day after news broke about ICP winning an appeal to their previously dismissed lawsuit. The event dwarfed the adjacent Pro-Trump rally, so-called the Mother Of All Rallies (MOAR) – which sought to rouse one million Trump Supporters to attendance with a turnout of only a few hundred.
As one ICP fan aptly said in a video put up on ICP’s official website about the march, “we are exercising our first amendment right [to] listen to whatever kind of music we want without being labelled a gang.”
The Juggalos march got some prominent printed coverage but the vast majority of mainstream media were more interested in showing the (regrettably) future president standing in front of a Bon Ton looking like a ditched prom date. But the long-standing American module for diverting attention from injustice is to drown it in theatrical corruption, so don’t act surprised.
So, why does it matter if the FBI has a seething gang-on for the relatively unimpressive fans of a pair of barely-coherent assclowns who look like the were resurrected by the Crow to avenge the burning of their local Seven-Eleven and whom – according to the song Hokus Pokus, from which the word Juggalo originated – think a good rhyme for the word ‘ride’ is the word ‘ride’*?
Putting aside the fact that those two barely-coherent assclowns built one of the most successful independent rap labels in the country on little more than a ninth grade education and a do-or-fucking-die kind of determination that lifted them from the slums of Detroit to stages across the world.
Putting aside that Juggalos often identify as outcasts and social misfits for whom ICP gave a sense of family and community to people who might not otherwise have had one, and have measurably improved the quality of the lives of people who love and resonate with their music.
The gang classification of Juggalos sets a dangerous precedent; if it can be done to them, it can be done to anyone.
James Holmes dressed up like DC’s Joker and opened fire in a movie theater, murdering 12 people. He wasn’t the only cosplayer to commit crimes, or even murder. That, according to the 2011 Gang Threat Assessment, puts them squarely within the criteria for that same classification.
JD Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye was implicated in the attempted assassination of Ronald Reagan by John Hinkley Jr. and the murder of John Lennon by Mark David Chapman.
Charles Manson said the Beatles song Helter Skelter inspired him to commit the Tate-LaBianca murders.
The fact is, the only crime that links all Juggalos is shit taste in music and if that were a crime for which people could actually be punished, Taylor Swift fans would be executed in droves.
And it’s next to impossible to cosign on the idea that a few bad apples spoil this bunch, when our own politicians and elected officials have been telling us for years that a few of their bad apples are no big deal.
You don’t have to like ICP or even particularly respect Juggalos; no more than you have to respect the people who think Ariana Grande’s nasally bird-noises constitute singing. No matter who you are, no matter what you like, no matter what group or fandom or club you belong to, somebody out there hates your taste.
Imagine if that somebody were a powerful government organization, capable of ruining your life over it.
The gang classification of Juggalos flies in the face of all our constitutional rights; the inalienable right to say, or scream, or sing whatever we think without fear of censure or persecution. That is the tightrope that we walk as a democracy; upholding the ideals that we espouse by standing up for the people we find it easiest to laugh at or disregard.
In December of 2017, ICP lost their appeal to have the gang classification – and its associated stigma – removed. The NYPost quoted the courts saying;
“The government officials who harmed appellants were not bound by the Juggalo gang designation nor were they required to consider the 2011 NGIC report […]Thus, the government officials’ actions are not the direct consequences of the Juggalo gang designation in the 2011 NGIC report, but are the product of their own independent decision making.”
That’s… not better.
In fact, that’s much worse. The DoJ attempted to deny culpability by foisting responsibility off on local authorities. In doing so, they tacitly admitted that the police are using it to independently – and unlawfully, given that there was ‘no direct order to police against Juggalos’ – profile people as criminals.
And that they refuse to take any kind of responsibility for their ruling negatively impacting the lives of American citizens, resulting in a clear violation of their First and Fifth Amendment rights.
They don’t just refuse to acknowledge their hand in this injustice, they refuse to acknowledge the injustice of the injustice.
And if that sounds frustratingly, insanely, unconscionably unfair that’s only because it is.
Juggalos are not a gang and in this instance – if in no other – they deserve a whoop-whoop of solidarity from every faction of the music industry and beyond until their rights as both fans and private citizens are no longer infringed upon.
*To give credit where it’s due the line, “I’m Violent J and I’m back like a vertebrae” almost makes the whole song worth hearing. That’s a good line.