Juggalos from an Outsiders Perspective
Most people would describe a Juggalo maybe as “white trash” or “losers”, but we know better. Juggalos come in all shapes and sizes, all colors and economic backgrounds. About a week ago Sean Murphy wrote an article for the New York Post. It was a book written by Steve Miller, author of “Juggalo: Insane Clown Posse and the World They Made.”. While I have not read the book myself, this review from Sean gave me chills. Our Juggalo world is way too deep to ever fully describe to anyone who isn’t involved with the magic of the Dark Carnival, but these excerpts come pretty damn close to a simple description of what we are about.
“There are a million people who are able to identify as a “Juggalo” in the United States — and, no, this term doesn’t describe enthusiasts who love to juggle or collect jugs for fun.
Juggalos are ardent, if not obsessed, followers of a band called the Insane Clown Posse, a group of two white rappers who perform in clown face. Though seen as a fringe subculture, the group has sold over 6.5 million records since 2007.
Violent J (Joseph Bruce), 44, and Shaggy 2 Dope (Joseph Utsler), 41, were childhood friends from a Detroit suburb who shared similarly rough upbringings (absentee parents, violence at home). They emulated popular hip-hop acts of the 1980s and 1990s — later hitching their wagons to the emerging gangsta-rap scene.
Juggalos take their name from the Insane Clown Posse song “The Juggla” which boasts lyrics like, “The doctor told me I’m a psycho/So I ate his face like I don’t know.” Every year Juggalos make headlines at their annual “Gathering of the Juggalos” a festival where thousands of people descend for a weekend of partying that has been described as “Woodstock meets Sodom and Gomorrah.”
But there’s more to the story.
Case in point: In the wake of the Columbine high-school massacre, Insane Clown Posse was name-checked as a potential influence on the shooters. Violent J responded that had the shooters been Juggalos “they would have gotten the whole damn school.”
The FBI has labeled the Juggalos a gang in the same category as the Bloods, Crips, and MS-13.
Enter Steve Miller, whose book “Juggalo: Insane Clown Posse and the World They Made” seeks to explain, rationalize and celebrate all things Juggalo.
Juggalos are to the Insane Clown Posse what Deadheads were to the Grateful Dead, albeit with radically different styles and drugs of choice. Instead of wearing dancing bear T-shirts and swapping bootlegs, Juggalos wear clown makeup like the rappers, flash “signs,” speak in invented slang and wear ghoulish jewelry.
Miller spends time with the Juggalos, detailing the voracious intake of fast food, cheap beer and sodas and their fascination with wrestling and tattoos. He defends the type of loyalty that inspires 500-mile road trips and shows how the community thrives in both big cities and no-name towns. The Juggalos even boast police officers as members.
“These outsiders,” Miller writes, “often with nothing in common other than their collective dysfunction, share one thing for certain: a spiritual connection to a couple of white-trash dudes who themselves come with the baggage of molestation, addiction, and crippling neurosis.”
But this dysfunction can lead to some dark places.
Before the FBI labeled Juggalos a gang in 2011, the federal National Gang Intelligence Center issued a classified report connecting Juggalos to everything from drive-by shootings to the Ku Klux Klan. Incidents like the pelting of singer Tila Tequila with rocks and beer bottles at the 2010 Gathering bolstered the FBI’s case in the eyes of the public.
The band, intent on defending themselves and the Juggalos, sued the FBI on First Amendment grounds and attracted the attention of the ACLU. The case was dismissed, then refiled, and finally, in September 2015, the Sixth US Circuit Court of Appeals ordered their argument be considered. The outcome is still uncertain, but the Insane Clown Posse will have their day in court.
Miller explores what could be easily dismissed as . . . well, a clown show. He argues that in a world of sports fanatics, bikers and fraternities, not much that Juggalos say or do is particularly bad. Point a camera at any college football tailgate and you’ll see drunkenness, extravagance and, on occasion, violence that rivals the raunchiest concert parking lot.
Miller also argues that the Insane Clown Posse embodies the American Dream. With no major label interest or promotional budget to speak of, the band mastered a DIY ethos with guerilla marketing, attracting a certain type of fan — one that could be male or female, a teenager or a 40-something, mostly white but not exclusively so, and invariably an individual who feels ignored by mainstream society.
Finding solidarity with other outcasts is not only a welcome alternative, it’s an essentially democratic enterprise, Miller argues.
“We’re easy targets. We’re clowns. We didn’t use the corporate mainstream machines. They all look at us as outsiders. They want to f–k with us because we didn’t use their power structure to get where we are . We’re not supposed to be here”. ~ Violent J
In other words, Violent J says, “while it is easy to fear what one does not understand, discrimination and bigotry against any group of people is just plain wrong and un-American”. –Sean Murphy
Photo Props to DaniWicked