The FBI’s announcement comes during an informal anti-Juggalo crusade led by middle-to-upper class white hipsters of the “Stuff White People Like” variety. The Gathering has been around for eleven years—an eon in pop-culture terms—and ICP for twenty, but only recently have the self-appointed College of Cardinals of Coolness and Contempt—Saturday Night Live, Gothamist, Spin magazine, Funny or Die, the Upright Citizens Brigade—bothered to notice and mock the Juggalos accordingly.
These are the same cultural curators who’d never make fun of the nudity, drug-taking, and all-around freakishness of Burning Man, because, after all, it attracts a better, more “Blue State” class of “alternative” weirdos. (Amusingly, that “anarchist” festival could never come off each year without the concentrated dedication of the local Department of Public Works.)
Just as predictably, still other hipsters have countered by embracing Insane Clown Posse as misunderstood folk-art geniuses they’ve helpfully “discovered,” à la Johnny Cash. Jack White—arguably the Bob Dylan of his generation—recorded a Mozart mashup with ICP. Among rich white liberals, “slumming” never loses its appeal.
Even folks on the “alt-right” are debating the Juggalos’ “meaning.” Are they an apolitical underclass Tea Party expressing (albeit incoherently) their disenfranchisement? Or are they the sign of a “decadence so advanced that one can only conclude and hope that we are living in a terminal stage of Western civilization”?
In his “In Defense of Juggalos,” Ferdinand Bardamu scolds his compatriots:
One of the recurring motifs of the alt-right is that whiteness and white people are shamed and shunned by the government and by society at large. And no subset of whites has gotten the level of hatred and disdain from society that the working class and underclass get every day.
Bardamu says that others on the alt-right are nurturing a snobbish, class-based hate-on for ICP fans, who tend to be as white as they are:
Yes, I’m defending the Juggalos…because beneath the creepy makeup, the cussing and the buckets of blood, Insane Clown Posse preach a message of morality and hope that poor whites desperately need. The alt-right, like all conservatives, are seemingly incapable of digging past the surface to see this message.
I have no clown in this fight. My familiarity with ICP stems mostly from this long interview with their fellow white-trash “loser”-made-good, Adam Carolla; his show is a master class in “brand evangelization” and bootstrapping a loyal (and lucrative) fanbase. Like Bardamu, I found myself reluctantly impressed by this deeply flawed pair’s work ethic, goofy resilience, and upbeat, deeply uncool sense of wonder. If it’s all an act, then “Violent J” (Joseph Bruce) and “Shaggy 2 Dope” (Joseph Utsler) deserve an as-yet-uninvented award for pulling that off, at least.
Are Juggalos really a sign of the apocalypse? As omens of civilization’s imminent demise, they lack the slick Village of the Damned menace of the Hitler Youth and are too dim and slovenly to compete with sexy Weimar-style decadence.
One fairly typical story illustrates why the FBI’s memo belongs in the trash. Finally arriving one night at a gig at a Michigan university after being delayed by a blizzard, Bruce recalled:
[W]e came out with no microphones or nothing; we were just right up in the people’s faces. Shaggy and I were just fuckin’ yelling over our own cassette. The people were staring at us in amazement and bewilderment. They must have been in shock and awe. We finished our two-song set, and the crowd…didn’t cheer or boo. They just stood there, stunned.
The pair subsequently found out that their concert had been scheduled for earlier that night and that they had performed in the wrong venue.
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