[Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are mine, and do not reflect that of Wired Wrong music as a whole, or those of ICP/Psychopathic Records and their fans. This is an opinion piece intended purely for entertainment purposes.]
Over the past few years I’ve taken to facetiously claiming at parties with other leftists that Juggalos are the largest and most effective active anarcho-communist group in North America, if not the world. This has been much to the chagrin of my friends, and ire of fellow party-goers. It’s a sentiment I find incredibly amusing, and stirs up a good bit of friendly debate, but there’s a lot of truth to it.
I could point to the vast amount of charity work, mutual aid, direct action, harm reduction, anti-fascism and anti-corporatism stances. However, it is unfortunately near impossible to find accurate stats and figures due to the loose organization of their movement.
Juggalos may consider themselves apolitical as a unit, though it is important to remember these are people radicalized mostly by experience rather than theory. You don’t need to read Kropotkin or Marx to know that shit is mad fucked right now, and academic gatekeeping has long been a problem for communities across the libertarian spectrum. While there is something to be said of experience being as, if not more valuable a tool of education than study – it is my belief that lack of theory and disparaging attitudes from those outside the movement are the only things holding back the Juggalo Family from organizing effectively and aligning with other activist groups to achieve our common goals.
Of course, many activists have brought up disagreement with Juggalos on the basis of some behavior commonplace within the movement, including cultural appropriation, depictions of gratuitous violence, and misogyny. (Though, in recent years, some groups such as the IWW have been open to showing solidarity while still acknowledging problematic elements.) However, it is important to note that these behaviors are not uncommon across bottom-left movements and hotly debated in leftist discourse. How many times have we heard that old adage “the only struggle is the class struggle,” when attempting to call in our comrades on such behavior? Many leftists and anarchists alike argue that oppression based in identity is a product of capitalism/corporatism, not a separate issue. Personally I would argue that identity and class oppression are separate but intrinsically linked and must be fought together, though noting this does not detract from the argument that Juggalos have consistently displayed markings of an anarcho-leftist group.
While I feel that bringing up problematic elements within the Juggalo family is important, I do not mean to imply that responsibility falls squarely on them to “clean up their act.” Where modern activist groups get caught up in identity politics, (which are important in their own right,) we tend to often scrap class analysis in equally divisive and counter-productive ways. Racial privilege does not negate class oppression, regardless of their intersections.
There is much to be learned from people who have experienced class oppression firsthand, and to expect them to automatically be socially and politically aware in every way is a foolhardy, privileged position. To censor the way any oppressed class of people chooses to express their anger and pain, and demand that they adhere strictly to what we find digestible and comfortable without offering alternatives or putting in the legwork to share knowledge with one another is, for lack of better wording, a dick move.
Sure, the music is shock-based and often offensive, it’s horrorcore. Looking into the genre as an outsider, one might initially perceive horror as a senseless mockery of human suffering, and while lyrics are often crude and yes… “edgy” I don’t believe it is without merit. There is a catharsis in horror, it serves as a positive outlet for negative experiences and emotions. Positive in that, through fantasy, we are able to explore ourselves and our traumas. There is also no evidence pointing to a correlation between observing violence in media leading to enacting it. In fact, new data shows that violent films may have the opposite effect and prevent crime by a small fraction.
Even aside from graphic content, for every song or video released by Psychopathic Records about gleefully chopping off heads and torturing people, you can find one that is uplifting, expressing lived experience, or demanding positive change.
In January of 2018, artist Blahzay Roze released a video for the song White Lights about her experience as a victim of domestic violence. (Trigger warning for graphic imagery and lyrics.) After recounting her experience with unflinching detail, Blahzay provides multiple helpful resources such as the domestic violence hotline and a link to the website for Love is Respect, an organization dedicated to helping people recognize the signs of abuse and escape.
Alternatively, black artist Big Hoodoo released his video for the song Boom Boom Piggy in August of 2016, expressing Juggalo solidarity with the #blacklivesmatter movement and speaking on racial violence at the hands of police. (Again, trigger warning: real footage of police brutality and murder.) His lyrics are angry, but the message is one of solidarity. “We murdered every day it don’t matter your color; they ain’t serving or protecting they just killing my brothers; Stand up and come together or we’ll never survive; Man up, this is a war, you better choose your side.” In the outro he expresses mourning and lists the names of several people of color who were murdered by police.
Violent J has also made public service announcements of sorts, namely in the new series, Snake Busters, with his daughter Ruby Bruce Lee. Ruby happens to be a member of the furry community, and doesn’t shy away from suiting up while repping the Juggalos, a form of expression her father supports wholeheartedly. In a video posted November of last year, J and Ruby speak against cosmetics brands that test on animals, offering instead that they test on “pedophiles, rapists, child abusers, and arsonists.”
The examples listed above took me only a few minutes to find when researching the Psychopathic Records YouTube page. Still, one can easily toss aside Juggalo media as being mindless shock material without knowledge of their more substantial work, thanks in part to the swath of negative (and often inaccurate) press they have received throughout the years.
During Woodstock ’99, for example, organizers were quick to point towards the performances of bands like Limp Bizkit and ICP as causation for the riots, despite the fact that the event was horrifically understaffed and mismanaged. Ironically, the anti-gun group Center To Prevent Youth Violence were passing out candles leading to irate festival goers setting large fires during Red Hot Chili Peppers performance on the final day, which RHCP then instigated by playing their cover of “Fire” by Jimi Hendrix when the first were lit. Insane Clown Posse, in actuality, had already played on the second day of the festival, prior to the dates where instances of arson and sexual assault were reported to have occurred.
To say that wild shit wasn’t going down at Woodstock 99 from the get go would be dishonest, however blaming the heavier bands over poor planning and disorganization on behalf of MTV and showrunners of the festival is -frankly- some bullshit.
A more noteworthy example of defamation towards the Juggalos is that of government bodies and law enforcement agencies labeling them a criminal gang, a decision finalized in 2017 which has led to discrimination against them. Many people, myself included, believe this to be patently false, as what constitutes a gang is very much open to debate – but more on that later. I disagree with this decision for a number of reasons, one of them being quite a few of the details in the National Gang Intelligence Center’s report simply do not add up. This report would have you believe that Juggalos are not only a gang, but aligned with almost every possible gang that exists, including both Crips and Bloods, Vice lords, the KKK and the Aryan Brotherhood to name a few.
This should strike you as incredibly suspicious, not only because it’s difficult for one to imagine a gang being in alliance with every other gang and no rivals, but specifically in the instance of claiming alliance with white power groups despite ICP’s lengthy history of anti racist stances and songs, the most noteworthy of which advocates action against those who display the rebel flag.
“Gang activity” Has long been a scapegoat of the American government, used to point the blame away from the systemic violence of the state, and onto those who suffer under its boot. In history, gangs served as protectors of vulnerable communities, specifically those of black and brown people, and later devolved into dangerous organizations largely in thanks to media fear mongering and problems caused by generational poverty like lack of access to education, trauma recovery, resources, and necessities. State terrorism such as police militarization, violence, and profiling are also contributing factors. All of these variables lead to high rates of violence and community unrest, severely impacting communities’ physical and mental health along the way.
Even today, the criteria for defining a group of people as a gang is intentionally vague, allowing the state to decide who is a threat to their power and who is not, all under the guise of being for your protection. If we were to entertain the argument of whether or not Juggalos are a gang, both parties would first have to agree upon the definition, which officially does not exist, rendering the entire argument fallacious.
Imagine for a moment if Misfits fans were suddenly deemed a gang, this is not implausible as many fans proudly display the crimson ghost logo on both clothing and as a tattoo, we see the image pop up in graffiti, as car decals, in art or merchandise, and many people have likely been incarcerated or arrested while displaying that logo. So why is no one pointing to that correlation as being a threat to public safety? Probably because Misfits fans aren’t a threat to power. Misfits is corporate and sanitized by comparison. They don’t make songs with a message, we aren’t unified in our struggle as misfits fans, and we aren’t really doing anything to challenge the way things are as a unit.
You could draw similar, if not better parallels to any major sports team who’s fans often riot, causing thousands of dollars in property damage and physical harm, (a point that has been brought up by the ACLU lawyer representing the Juggalos before,) but sports fans -like misfits fans- are not primarily made up of lower class peoples both aware that they are marginalized, and angry about it.
Sporting events are also big business. People rent cars and hotel rooms, they purchase food, drink, and merchandise at these events, pumping money into the communities and corporate sponsors that host them. Because of the independent and underground nature of Psychopathic Records, The Gathering of the Juggalos being held in small towns, mostly on personal or public property, a laissez faire attitude towards illegal sales and vendors, and a fanbase of lower class people less likely to spend money outside the event – local governments and corporations have little to gain from them. It is not a far reach of the imagination to think that those in power would be enraged at the thought that not only have a group of people despised for their unapologetic existence united successfully without them, but that they are also unable to profit off of said group.
The gang label is an egregious attack on the Juggalo people, but only further points to my hypothesis that they are an effective political activist group. It is proof positive that they are seen as a valid threat to the status quo.
Though not defensive, organized, or advanced enough to equate to, say, the Zapatistas or revolutionary Catalonia, some parallels can still be drawn between the Juggalo Family and activist groups of all successful anarchistic factions in their resistance, spirit, and the backlash perpetrated against them – and it’s important to note that they are pacifists by comparison.
As America falls deeper into the second great depression and people face stagnant, unlivable wages, we are likely to see the lower class only grow in size, and with it people embracing their own brand of activism and joining groups like the Juggalo Family. Anarchism has always been by and for the people, if we seek to actualize this vision we must unite with all peoples sharing in our struggle for liberation. It is my belief that we have nothing to lose but our chains in combining forces with those who also espouse views of equality, harm reduction, anti statism, and anti corporatism. We should give to, educate, and defend one another as allies – as family.
Sure, Juggalos may not look like revolutionaries, but what is a revolutionary supposed to look like?
Sources (in order as linked)
- Alexander Berkman, What is Communist Anarchism
- Sugar Slam’s Super Live Toy Drive 2010 Infomercial
- Kitty Stryker, Juggalo Weekend in Las Vegas Demonstrates a Continual Commitment to Mutual Aid
- Juggalo March 2017 official website
- Vice Canada, We Embedded with Vigilante Drug Testers at the Gathering of the Juggalos
- Jack Smith IV, Juggalos have become the darlings of the left and the new face of anti-racist activism
- YouTube, Joseph Bruce (Violent J) interview compilation
- What is the Political Compass
- Industrial Workers of the World, GDC-IWOC Joint Statement on Repression of Juggalos
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- Marie Moran, Identity and Capitalism
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- Devon Maylie, Violent Media and Real-World Behavior: Historical Data and Recent Trends (study)
- Gordon Dahl and Stefano DellaVigna, Does Movie Violence Increase Violent Crime? (study)
- Phoenix New Times, Andy O’Connor, Here’s Why Insane Clown Posse’s Music Is Better Than You Think
- YouTube, Blahzay Roze, White Lights MV
- Love is Respect official website
- YouTube, Big Hoodoo, Boom Boom Piggy MV
- AV Club, Dan Neilan, Violent J went to a furry convention in an ICP fursuit
- YouTube, Psychopathic Records, Snakebusters Episode 2
- YouTube, Psychopathic Records, Home Page
- FaygoLuvers, Chad T Carstein, Juggalos Are Now To Blame For The Events Of Woodstock 1999?!
- Wayback Machine, Woodstock ’99: What the Hell Happened?
- YouTube, Red Hot Chili Peppers – Fire Woodstock ’99
- WaPo, Alona Wartofski, Police Investigate Reports of Rapes at Woodstock
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- YouTube, ICP at St. Andrews Hall Detroit in 1993 (Linked to start during the performance of Fuck Your Rebel Flag in which ICP burns a confederate flag)
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- CNBC, Sarah O’Brien, Americans spend $56 billion on sporting events
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- ROAR mag, Raúl Romero, A brief history of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation
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- Chi Tribune, Matt O’Brien, The 2008 financial crisis really did start off worse than the Great Depression
- Pew Research Center, Drew Desilver, For most U.S. workers, real wages have barely budged in decades
- NY Times, Gina Bellafante, The $15 Minimum Wage Is Here. Why We Need $33 an Hour.