Bizarro World

Juggalo Holocaust Denial

November 08, 2011

Multiple Pages
Juggalo Holocaust Denial

What was it Orwell allegedly said?

“People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because men in suits are ready to put teenagers in clown makeup on the government’s list of dangerous gangs”?

Doesn’t quite have the same clarion ring as the original.

Millions no doubt sighed with relief last week when the FBI informed an anxious nation that they’d added “Juggalos” to their National Gang Threat Assessment, “Juggalos” being the surprisingly sizable hardcore fanbase devoted to the band Insane Clown Posse (ICP).

The typical Juggalo is a “white trash”/“wigger” male in his teens or twenties who likes horrorcore, wrestling, and Faygo, who wears Bozo greasepaint and sometimes travels with a similarly adorned “Juggalette” girlfriend. Among Juggalos, physical attractiveness is not prioritized and may even be a liability; being a “good person” and embracing the ersatz ICP “family” are said to be more important. “Making the scene” means attending the annual Gathering of the Juggalos (warning: official infomercial—contains nudity and grammatical errors), an outdoor music festival with the same sloppy trappings and instant pseudo-intimacy of all such anticlimactic happenings, but also particularly high levels of comic ineptitude. Oh, and roller-skating gladiator fights.

“Are Juggalos really a sign of the apocalypse?”

Symbiotic grassroots rock ’n’ roll subcultures devoted to one particular band aren’t new or novel: The KISS Army is almost 40 years old and the Deadheads are even older. Lady Gaga cultivates her “Little Monsters,” and Justin’s “Beliebers” are as rabidly menacing as only teenaged girls projecting free-floating horniness upon famous “Non-Threatening Boys” can be.

(These “fandoms” even compete for their own awards now, just like the artists themselves.)

Also not new are the “moral panics” such subcultures sometimes inspire. (I still have my marked-up Stanley Cohen around here somewhere, purchased in a used bookstore when I was a high-school punk.)

True, a small number of self-described Juggalos have committed especially depraved crimes, and Gatherings aren’t the pristine oases of peace, love, and understanding that fans insist they are.

Yet the growing hysteria about Juggalos—who probably number in the low tens of thousands—is disproportionate. One website promotes “Punch a Juggalo Day,” while describes its mission as “NUKING JUGGA-SCUM OFF THE FACE OF THE EARTH.”

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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