A scourge is ravaging the American Midwest. It isn’t methamphetamines or obesity; the plague is clowns. Followers of the Insane Clown Posse, a group of fat white men from Detroit who rap about the glories of misogyny, homophobia, and violence have small and large towns across the Midwest mired in terror. Several towns have added acolytes of the Insane Clown Posse to a list of currently operating violent gangs. What follows is a discussion of the bizarre and violent subculture of the followers of the Insane Clown Posse, known as Juggalos.
First, here is a brief lexicon containing terms pertinent to discussion of the Juggalo culture.
Juggalo (n.) – A male adherent to the Insane Clown Posse (ICP) credo of beating women and gays, ingesting large amounts of psychotropic drugs, and causing general disorder.
Jugalette (n.) – Inherently weaker than her male counterpart because of her vagina, a Jugalette is a female adherent to the culture of the Insane Clown Posse.
Juffalo (n.) – The ICP counterpart to Catholic excommunication, a Juffalo is a Juggalo who has committed some sort of grievous offense against the ICP establishment. Juffalos are subject to frequent beatings and are the pariahs of the ICP culture.
Juggaho (n.) – A former Jugalette who has drawn the ire of her clown-loving brethren, a Juggaho is the low rung on a totem pole of deviance. She is subject to beatings by Juffalos, Jugalettes, and Juggalos.
The Hatchet Man (n.) – The Hatchet Man is to Juggalo culture what the crucifix is to Catholicism; an all-abiding symbol of the tenets of Juggalo culture. ICP frequently raps about committing acts of violence using a hatchet; as such, their logo is the silhouette of a man running with a hatchet. This logo adorns the clothes and automobiles of Juggalos. (Also, polo shirts sold at Target sport a logo very similar to the Hatchet Man. Juggalo conspiracy? I think so.)
The Dawn of the Juggalo
My first encounter with the Juggalos was two summers ago in Englewood, a poor suburb of Denver, Colorado. My friend had stopped to fill up his gas tank, and pulling away from the parking lot, he spotted a group of Juggalos loitering outside the gas station. With their makeup, they looked like what Gene Simmons from Kiss would have looked like if a giraffe had licked his face.
My friend commented that he would like to see a Juggalo react to a random act of kindness. Waving at the clowny congregation, he said, “Hi! Have a good night.” The greeting was returned with a peppering of obscenities that would have made George Carlin blush.
As he pulled out of the parking lot, we heard a loud thump. I looked out my window, and there was a Juggalo, clinging tenaciously onto the bike rack on top of the car, screaming expletives, and kicking the windows. Looking up at that painted, pained face silhouetted against the full Denver moon, my fascination with the Juggalos began.
Juggalos recently entered the national spotlight after a group of men armed with hatchets shouting “Woo, Juggalo!” robbed and injured nearly two-dozen people visiting Fort Steliacoom Park in Tacoma, Washington. Since then, they have been placed on various police watch lists because of their regular involvement with violence and methamphetamines. In Denver this winter, Juggalos made headlines when an 18-year-old boy conspired with his Jugalette to kill the mother of the Jugalette. The murder was perpetrated using a hatchet.
While the sensationalistic aspect of the Juggalo subculture is exciting, the more pertinent and interesting question to ask when looking at the phenomenon is “Why?”.
Why does a group of violent imbeciles dressed as clowns create such a furor among poor white kids? There are other artists out there with plenty of shock value, but none with the allegiant following of ICP. There are no roving gangs of Marilyn Manson fans wandering around the streets of Midwestern towns.
An episode of Frontline called “The Merchants of Cool” presented the most reasonable explanation that I’ve heard.
The Insane Clown Posse caters primarily to people who are ignored by society. They are generally (though not across the board) poor and white, living in suburbs or rural areas with few subculture groups with which to align. Because of this, they become alienated and harbor feelings of resentment.
Insane Clown Posse appeals to them not in spite of their unappealing and unsavory message, but because of it. Juggalo culture refutes in almost every way the values of middle-class America. Through the Juggalo culture, the poor, marginalized white kid finds a suspension of the rules from the culture that has ignored him.
This theory is a difficult one, because it causes one to align so much sympathy with the Juggalos. But I would be pissed too, if I was ignored and ostracized by my peers based mostly on the fact that I was poor. I would want a refuge.
The problem is that the refuge that the sick bastards behind ICP provide to the alienated kids is one of violence, misogyny, drug use, and homophobia that only perpetuates and worsens their rejection. They dress outlandishly, antagonize people, and sometimes commit acts of violence and hate. Society is only going to be less accommodating to them after they become Juggalos.
Maybe the best way to realize how damaging the ICP subculture is to neglected kids is to contrast it with another subculture.
In the 1960’s, kids across America felt stifled and removed from the prevailing values of their culture. Thus arose hippie culture. Kids moved to San Francisco, smoked lots of pot, flew their freak flag in the faces of their fathers, and rebelled against the hegemonic norms of middle-class American culture, but it was all in the name of love. Eventually, the ones who hadn’t fried themselves returned to society, having completed their rebellion.
Contrast that with ICP; Juggalos fly their freak flags as well, but they do meth, beat gays and women, and get themselves caught in a swirling cauldron of hate and self-destruction.
Down with the Clown
When I started writing this article, it was with bad feelings towards Juggalos. But as I thought about why Juggalos align themselves with this subculture, I realized that some of the responsibility falls on the artist.
I don’t want to sound like one of those idiot parents who say things like “Marilyn Manson caused the Columbine shootings.” Censorship is wrong, and ultimately, it’s the Juggalos themselves who are responsible for their actions. But it just seems exploitative and negligent as a musical artist to sow the seeds of the alienation to cultivate moneymaking from listeners.
The men behind ICP maintain that their lyrics are a fantasy, like Harry Potter (only if Harry Potter were to take near-lethal combinations of cough syrup and methamphetamines and frequently beat the shit of out Hermione).
However, they know that their followers blindly align themselves with the fervor of someone who has experienced a lifetime of isolation.
Yeah, the violent Juggalos who wreak havoc are terrible people. But for the rich fat white men behind ICP to sit on their unstained ivory tower and claim that they have no moral qualms about what they do is just as bad.