FBI Considers Insane Clown Posse's 'Juggalos' A Gangby: Posted:
Liking certain non-mainstream music thankfully isn't yet a crime. Just don't start thinking that The Man will necessarily believe it's not a sign you're fixing to commit one.
The FBI's 2011 National Gang Threat Assessment recently officially deemed horrorcore rap duo the Insane Clown Posse's "Juggalo" followers a "loosely-organized hybrid gang" with emerging ties to violence, criminal activity and "gang-like behavior."
So put aside a moment the redundant "gang is behaving gang-like" statement. From whence do the other reports stem? The FBI claims that the two-decades-old fan following for the Detroit-area rappers have been allegedly tied to a January shooting and a homeless man's 2010 assault.
"Open source reporting suggests that a small number of Juggalos are forming more organised subsets and engaging in more gang-like criminal activity," the report alleges.
"Transient, criminal Juggalo groups pose a threat to communities due to the potential for violence, drug use/sales, and their general destructive and violent nature."
In defense of Violent J and Shaggy 2 Dope themselves, the report seemingly only references the ICP's music as the obvious unifier among Juggalos, who name themselves after the ICP track "The Juggla." The annual Gathering Of The Juggalos draws about 20,000 people whose lives seemingly revolved around ICP's music and their Psychopathic Records label and its own stable of artists. What's more, they take negative distinctions immensely personally -- and they do get defensive.
When self-proclaimed Juggalo Jacob D. Robida went on a shooting rampage in a New Bedford, Mass. gay bar and injured three people, kidnapped a female companion and shot and killed Gassville, Ark. police officer James W. Sell in 2006, an ICP spokesperson released a statement saying "Anyone that knows anything at all about Juggalos knows that in no way, shape, or form would we ever approve of this type of bullshit behavior."
Hmm. First of all, a little hint: media don't typically take released statements to multiple outlets containing the word "bullshit" seriously as having been written by someone who wants to be taken seriously.
Second, that's when it comes down to being honest on both sides about this. As clear a conclusion as is possible could be drawn from when I wrote about Charlie Sheen appearing at the 2011 Gathering Of The Juggalos: I don't think especially highly of ICP or their fanbase.
And despite what the comment section's refrain seems to assume, that does come from experience. I remember when their album The Great Milenko got dropped by a Disney-owned record label after outcry over its lyrics. That was what got ICP some of their earliest mainstream attention. I knew plenty of Juggalos in high school, and I've met plenty since. My mother, a former assistant GM for a Columbia, MO hotel, actually said that Shaggy and Violent J were very quiet, reserved guests when they checked in many years ago before a local gig.
So while I don't care for their music and never will, I believe the ICP should be held separate from their fans.
And remember, at 28 years old, I've lived through the rise of gangsta rap and seen the difference between perception and reality when it comes to misunderstood musicians. What those two experience is absolutely nothing new.
That being said . . . an act's fanbase being considered a full-fledged gang? That is a new one. And a little research turns up multiple incidents that at first glance paint Juggalos a lot less flatteringly than any writer like me ever could. Also, when common gang indicators are taken into consideration, it lends the FBI's designation more than a little creedence.
Articles like this one at Ranker.com point out incidents that involved a person or multiple persons who were unabashed ICP fans and decorated themselves and their belongings in the usual Juggalo fashion, typically with the Psycopathic Records hatchet-man logo. In several incidents that this article lists, crimes were specifically committed with a hatchet, knife or in one case, a medieval battle axe, and the author was able to reach the curious conclusion that there's a strong Juggalo tie between the perpetrators and their respective identifications (or, in some cases, assumed identifications) as Juggalos.
But looking at most of the sources cited, I couldn't find many that suggested a particularly strong tie between being a Juggalo and being involved with a "loosely-organized hybrid gang." In fact, many gangs keep their identifiers pretty distinct to be able to identify members.
Considering how many Juggalos really aren't avowed law-breakers by nature, I would think the hatchet man wouldn't be the best choice for an identifier. And by this individual's logic, if murder via hatchet or knife equals "Juggalo," then some cases need re-opening, stat.
This is either jumping to conclusions to the embarrassing extent that law enforcement, school administrators and parents did after the 1999 Columbine High School massacre, or if there's actually something documented that does establish such a link between Juggalos and some of these crimes, this person is such a horrendous "journalist" (as many hack bloggers are content to incorrectly call themselves) that I feel real journalists are owed an apology for the poor attribution and sourcing.
And even then, despite that extremely questionable "reporting" on that one individual's part, consider also the FBI's perspective. You have reports of crimes that share the pattern of involving individuals with similar backgrounds, characteristics, a preference for certain music (kind of like Raiders or Bulls Starter jackets once being gang indicators in the 1990s) and most damningly, sharing one distinctive visual indicator. None of those things fall outside the general characteristics that gangs and gang sub-sets almost always share.
And in many cases long before this one, that's unfairly resulted in music fans being treated like criminals.
Many a younger Juggalo probably only hears stories about what it was like to be a high school student post-Columbine. If you wore black and loved heavy metal, punk, violent video games, "The Matrix" and/or -- surprise! -- the ICP, the more clean-cut crowd looked on you as a threat.
On the massacre's one-year anniversary, I carried my saxophone case with me onto a school bus, and some smart-ass asked completely seriously if it was full of guns. So even though I can understand how law enforcement sees the situation -- and being the son of a 20-plus-year state and local law enforcement veteran, I can probably better than some outside the profession -- that doesn't mean I don't think it's a bad idea making some claims publicly without showing more clear, compelling evidence.
And now, that being said . . . there's still one incident that absolutely cannot be untied from the Juggalo sub-culture, and that at least one Juggalo in the Charlie Sheen story's comment section practically bragged about.
When a group en masse flings rocks, urine, feces and even a lit firecracker at someone - horrendous musician or not - classifying them as anything more than animals is pretty hard to defend.
So, Juggalos, I admit that deeming Juggalos in general a "gang" is a major, major stretch. Nor is it the first time law enforcement has exaggerated an entire sub-culture's inherent element of danger. I think there's a genuine disconnect between law enforcement and reality here.
But for all who scream about how misunderstood Juggalos as a whole are, watch that above clip again and remember an old saying: What you do speaks so loudly, I cannot hear what you say.