January 8 2014
– We are all aware that the Juggalos, the paint-smeared fans of terrible rappers Insane Clown Posse, count among their ranks some criminally stupid individuals. This is not news, particularly when the leaders of your pack are people who do not understand how magnets work.
But though you are super dumb, Juggalos, you’re not a gang.
Horrorcore-rap duo Insane Clown Posse, along with four fans, are suing the Department of Justice and the FBI, demanding that the agencies purge the fan name “Juggalos” from their list of gang members. “Organized crime is by no means part of the Juggalo culture,” reads the complaint, filed this morning in federal court in Detroit.
The suit stems from the FBI’s National Gang Intelligence Center classification of Juggalos as “a loosely-organized hybrid gang,” one with multiple affiliations. Lawyers for ICP and the ACLU claim that the profiling of Juggalos — based on their distinctive clown makeup and Hatchetman tattoos — lacks reasonable suspicion of gang affiliation.
Seriously, do you know how much we hate having to agree with ICP or the Juggalos — fucking JUGGALOS — about a thing? It’s like feeling you need to agree with a doorstop or a piece of driftwood.
“At first I thought, wow, that’s a compliment that our fans are that heard-of and that renowned,” [ICP rapper] Violent J says. “Then when I realized what’s happening to the fans because of it, then everything turned around.”
So at first you thought it was cool people thought you were a gang until uncool things started happening thanks to people thinking your fans were gang? Sure, whatever. Derp as it may be, though, Violent J has a point. Random fans of the band who like to rock the grease paint and ugly tattoos are enjoying such fun activities as random searches and being denied the right to enlist in the army.
Yet last July, according to the complaint, a plaintiff who drives a semi-truck sporting a Hatchetman logo was stopped, searched and detained by a Tennessee state trooper. In 2012, an Army recruiter refused to enlist a different plaintiff unless he covered or removed his Hatchetman tattoo. And plaintiff Robert Hellin, an Army corporal who has served in Iraq, Afghanistan and Korea, is “in imminent danger of suffering discipline or an involuntary discharge” because of the tattoos he got years before Juggalos were deemed a gang.
Permit us to wonk for a moment. Federal and state gang statutes are based on the idea that if a group of people affiliates in a specific location with some distinctive characteristics (like a bandana or something similar) to commit crimes, they are a gang and can be charged as members of an ongoing criminal enterprise AKA a gang. The problems with laws like these are they are usually, to put it in very sophisticated legal terms, some bullshit. Do your friends dress like you? Do you hang out together when you are dressed like each other? Did someone in your group of friends get crime-y? Sorry, sucka, you’re in a gang. Years ago, Chicago passed a loitering statute that prohibited gang members from loitering in public places. Except there was a bit of a problem: no one could figure out from the ordinance if they were going to be pegged as a gang member that day and get scooped up off the street.
That’s pretty much the problem with how the gang affiliation is being applied to the Juggalos. Is a Juggalo looking all gang-like if they just have the tattoo? How about if they have the facepaint, but no tattoo? How about if you are not a Juggalo but just really really dig on painting your face in that sweet Juggalo way? What if your very lifeblood is Faygo, the soda of choice for Juggalos — and only Juggalos — everywhere. Basically, just wearing some makeup and getting some of the same tattoos doesn’t mean you are a gang, even if some people that have that makeup and those tattoos are all full of crime, and you therefore shouldn’t fall under the whole gang affiliation thing where the cops get to give you a little bit of that good old heightened scrutiny and your sentence can be what we euphemistically call “enhanced.”
So, let’s recap. Insane Clown Posse is terrible, and you should probably not listen to them if you like your ears. Juggalos are terrible and covered in soda and sometimes violent, but not in a “we’ve banded together to commit our crimes in the name of Juggalos” sort of way. Ipso facto QED res ipsa loquitur these folks, represented by the ACLU, should probably win this lawsuit and be able to stop random cops and army recruiters from assuming the worst about Juggalos, criminal-wise. You are still, however, free to assume the worst of them musically and stylistically and about their brains.
– Lisa Needham