Who are the Juggalos? (RW78)

There is a rap-group called the Insane Clown Posse (ICP), consisting of two white dudes who dress in scary clown makeup. Founded in 1989, they are making music to this day. They came up in the era of Gangsta rap and no one in the music world took them very seriously. They seemed like a gimmicky band within the Kid Rock style of Midwestern-white-guy-making-Hiphop, using a confusing array of signals like big furry pimp-hat plus confederate flag plus strippers plus lyrics in a patois about killing people. This white rapping about chicks and guns is kind of the new Mötly Crüe, but coming from a different place and it really appealed to young dudes in the Midwest. The appeal of Kid Rock is almost a perfect overlap with the sons of people who love Ted Nugent, but with hiphop beats. It is not easy to explain at all.

While the ICP were completely dismissed by the people in the music business, they attracted a very vocal and active fan base. They had their own nomenclature and they had a logo of a hatchet-carrying, murdering clown that fans would get tattooed onto themselves. Fans of the band became known as Juggalos after the band addressed them like that during the song ”The Juggla” at a 1994 live performance (source: Wikipedia, John didn't know about the origin). As the band got more popular within their subgroup, they became more and more the target for mockery and derision by the "smart" music people. The more they were derided, the more it galvanized the community of people who loved the band and the Juggalo world started to become this self-governing, self-defining cultural entity. They even embraced other bands like Tech N9ne and a whole community of bands from the family of ICP became part of this larger world.

The band really appealed to a lower middle class, socioeconomic group drawn from all of the marginalized Appalachian and Midwestern sub-suburban communities of people who found Kid Rock too mainstream, a group of people who were derided, misunderstood and treated with contempt by the people on the coasts. They were not reviled by the fact that the music was bad or the lyrics were violent, misogynist and gross. They are not college-educated, but they are instead from the Basket of Deplorables. The more approbation was directed at those people, the more they felt that they were an island of misfit toys. It is very interesting to watch a social group form like this. Although ICP was later issuing their own take on things, they weren't dictating what the ideology of their community was. Instead, the group was self-confirming.

This Juggalos draw from the communities that you would naturally assume to be the strongest Trump-supporters. Juggalos consider themselves the freaks of the world and within their community there is a very strong sense of: ”If you are not accepted anywhere else because you are one of the freaky deaky people, you are welcome here!” They often come out of families that are virulently racist, like your brother is in the klan, but you are a Juggalo. They are coming from similar places in the country and the economic strata, but Juggaloes were from very early on stridently anti-racist. When looking at these young white dudes from Missouri, one can see a situation of a familial civil war where the older brother became a skinhead and the younger brother became a Juggalo. On one level they seem like communities coming from the same place. Then of course there is this element to the Nazis where all those whitebread college dudes from the University of Reno are espousing being the master race. They claim that they themselves are proof of it because they have an associate degree in HVAC-repair and they represent the new white America. This creates a very interesting situation where the alt-right Nazi crowd is pushing themselves as high-class whereas Juggalos would never ever put on airs. It is antithetical to Juggalo culture that anyone would be high-felutant about it.

Juggalos even have a way that justifies their sexist content in its own realm: They claim it is figurative language and they don't really mean it that way. It is just poetry, the language of the streets. They are very clear about being very woke in terms of their take on social justice issues. Within the Juggalo community they have a "we accept everyone" philosophy, which is a hard pill to swallow from the standpoint of an urban elite who wants to dismiss everyone from a low income, low education, low culture quotient. It is easy to say that this is where racism comes from and ignorance dwells. It is very hard to fit the Juggalo community and their pretty freewheeling and pretty progressive politics anywhere on the spectrum, because they express themselves in this way and it is hard to get past the signifiers that this is junk.

John hosting a Juggalo at a festival (RW78)

A few years ago John was hosting a show during the Bumbershoot festival where they had invited two people each day to a panel discussion to talk about their cultures. They had for example a dancer who had developed Twerking in New Orleans, together with some other similarly unusual cultural corner. On one of the panels, John had a Bronie and a Juggalo on stage. Although the television show My Little Pony is targeted at little girls, there is a community of adults who espouses it because it communicates positivity and great human values. It quickly felt like the Brony and the Juggalo were advocating for their culture. The Bronie was this guy who advertised himself as the world's manliest Brony: He was a Harley motorcycle mechanic from Detroit or somewhere like that. He was like "Friendship is magic!".

Then there was the Juggalo, his name was Matt the Dragan, a skinny kid from the South who was kind of frenetic in a way that seems to go with drinking a lot of energy drinks. He was in the process of making a documentary about the Juggalos and he was decidedly full on into the community. He said that Juggalos really don't have spokespeople, but he was happy to describe them. The audience at the festival was very hostile to him and asked him to defend some of the ICP-lyrics. They read those disgusting, violent, anti-woman things to him, and Matt the Dragan replied that these lyrics reflect the world that a lot of his people are coming from. You might not like it and be disgusted by it, but it is actually the world that these young guys and gals are coming out of and they are attracted to ICP because the lyrics feel real to them and they are drawn in by the grittiness and the way the lyrics actually describe reality as they understand it. Once they are a member of the Juggalo family, the Juggalos teach them to respect other people and they domesticate them. The Juggalos give them a place where they feel belonging for the first time. Juggalos do not practice violence against members of their community. They are peace-loving, they are about equality and they are about justice. The audience didn't know what to do with that, because they hadn’t expected Matt the Dragan be so articulate. He definitely felt on the hot seat, but he also believed what he said. Matt the Dragan made John at least no longer comfortably being straight up contemptuous of Juggalos. He now looks upon them with curiosity!

March on Washington (RW78)

We are living in interesting times where the Juggalos are planning to march on Washington DC on the same day as the Nazis on September 16th of 2017. The Nazis are trying to have a Million Man March or something like the great klan-rallies from the 1920:s. John doesn't have his finger on the pulse of how popular the klan is right now (it doesn’t seem to be very popular), but people are afraid because our president is a klansman. The Nazis, the Alt-right, the MRAs, and all the rest of the disenfranchised American white men who feel put upon have now announced that they will march on Washington on September 16th. This plan happens to coincide with the date that had been chosen a long time ago by the Juggalo nation to march on Washington and protest the fact that the FBI had declared them a violent criminal gang. Admittedly, the Juggalos are very confusing to the people, but it was hugely offensive to them to be classified as a gang because they consider themselves as a family. Maybe they are just modern Deadheads and the FBI probably had the Deadheads classified as a gang.

From the perspective of an independent observer, both groups seem violent, blue-collar and Southern/Midwestern. Both of them converging on Washington DC at the same time sounds like an awful confluence, but the fact is: The Juggalos hate Nazis more than anything and they would not be afraid to punch Nazis, which has become a very popular meme. In the lead up to this day people are afraid of open war, but then nothing will happen except that two guys get in a fight in a bar. Sometimes however, you get situations like at WTO summits where people in the run-up expect a lot of protesters and cops are getting ready, but nobody is ready for the fact that the town will come unglued. That might happen when the Juggalos meet the Nazis in DC because people are not aware that these are two cultures that are on a collision course with each other. They are on the hearts and minds of the same recruits and neither one of them is what we would choose for them.

In our leftist cultural communities, we all just hope that everybody goes to community college and gets a good job in IT. That is our only vision for out-of-work Midwestern teenage boys and girls. We have no idea what is going on there and we are scared of it. If we don't act with contempt, then we just shun. But here are those two marginalized versions of what can happen if a young poor Midwestern person just feels bummed out of the world, taking a different course. They can either be a white supremacist or they can follow this crazy facepainted hatched-wielding clown-rap group. John is excited for the day they will meet and he is excited for the Juggaloes. He expects them to play a much larger role in the future of America than anyone could have guessed.

Dare and tattoos, being hardcore (RW78)

John was watching a video of a guy at a Juggalo event who said "Dare me to do something!" And somebody said "Cut off your ear!" and he did it. He sees it as a badge of honor, like "He dared me to cut off my ear, so I did! Haha!", which is really dumb. You won't get a job in IT with a missing ear unless you have a really good story. But within his world this means he is hardcore! There was a time when a tattoo of any kind on your face was about where ”hardcore” got really serious, like a teardrop under your eye. That was a real symbol! It also meant that you didn't give a fuck so much that you put a tattoo on your face or even your neck. There was a time when this was pretty rad. Dan knows a tattoo artist who is covering her arm inch by inch with black and she said it is difficult to explain, but for a long time, getting a half-sleeve or full-sleeve was pushing the envelope. After that, getting a neck-tattoo was pushing the envelope and now those things are essentially mainstream. Covering your whole arm in black is the next thing, it is a step beyond and only extreme people will go full black. The bass player of Rage Against The Machine has a peck, a shoulder and an arm entirely in black or dark blue ink.

The thing about hardcore is: There is always somebody who is more hardcore than you are. You can't ever win! John’s friend Chris Fences is completely covered with tattoos from head to toe and all over his face. He continues to get more tattoos on his face. John had even seen a guy at the AA meeting who had a jigsaw puzzle all over his body. Kids will definitely look at you at the bus stop! Withing Juggalandia however, having a jigsaw puzzle on your face is not going to get you very far when the other dudes cut off their ears. There is always some form of self modification that someone else is willing to do and you can't get in an arm's race about it, which in that world it is much more fatalist.

Part of John's own motivation to not got tattooed is based on a kind of fantasy that we are all going to live forever. Out of the fog of monotheism you believe that when you stand in front of Saint Peter and he will ask you about your tattoo, what are you going to say? John has never gotten a tattoo because he has that weird feeling about the future. Part of the thrill and the liberation of getting tattoos when his peers were in their 20:s was a little bit of reclaiming themselves and saying: "We are not going to live forever, I don't give a shit!" It is not just that they can't get an IT job now, but it is much more "This is my body, I don't have to justify this to anybody!" and John was impressed by that justification. He just couldn't get over his own thing! Within the Juggaloo world it is like "Well, I might die tomorrow, so why not cut my tongue in half down the middle?" If you are aware that life is transitory and you are living in the moment, it is actually pretty rad! Dan has a tattoo, of course! It is not a Jake & Elwood, but Molly Ringwald's face from Breakfast Club. It is at the small of his back and if Dan bends left and right, it is her putting the lipstick on in that scene.

Juggalos in every day life (RW78)

People surely have pretty regular encounters with Juggaloes, but they just don't recognize them. The clown-makeup is for special events and they are not wearing it around town. On the other hand there are certainly a lot of people who have tattooed clown-makeup on their face and that is how they are rollin’ now. If you see someone with a tattoo of a clown, they either know that people hate clowns, or they aspire to one day be a clown or they are presently a clown and want to honor clowning and the clowns that came before. If you see a scary clown tattoo, then you just have to look for a couple of other factors: Do they appear to have Hiphop styling, like a flat-brim sportscap tilted at an angle, a baggy jeans that lets you see 80% of their underwear? Those things used to be popular, but Dan hasn't seen anybody wearing them for a long time. Within Juggalandia, they still exist. Just look up "Juggalo" online and follow the thread.

There was a time when "Cat in the Hat"-hats were popular, when ravers wore pacifiers, when Layne Staley of Alice N’ Chains braided his beard into a little weird rattail beard, when white dudes would braid all of their hair into little rattail braids so it looked like raddy dreads, when baggy jeans were so short they went down past the knee, when chain wallets were a thing… Imagine you would take all fashion crimes from the last three decades, compressed them onto one person and then allowed that person to pick their own 30 items of flair including like a Bowie Knife or roller blades. It is very eclectic and all derived from the footlocker of things John doesn't have, except the chain wallet. Dan connects the chain wallet more with biker culture, but many of those kids surely have parents in biker culture. The biker culture cooptation by Hipster Downtown people was much more alien than it would be to the Juggalo community. For a long time, Hipster culture has imagined itself as having access to what it would call white trash affectation. Stuff that came out of Punk Rock and the idea that blue-collar was honest, that college high-talkers were fake and what we really needed was a world that was down in the true margins where the bikers lived and the stevedors and the lumberjacks, all those iconic masculine figures what don't exist anymore. There are still lumberjacks, but they don't put oil in their beard.

The cooptation of this blue-collar stuff by rich Downtown people is charming, but it only rarely overlaps with poor whites who are actually the children of lumberjacks and stevedors and bikers. They didn't move to San Francisco and they didn't open a coffee shop and they don't drive a fixie bike. Instead they are still in Missouri and they have that chain wallet that belonged to their dad who was a member of the Hombres until he was killed and the wallet is all they have to remember him by. It could get very confusing! At a Kid Rock show there are Confederate flags everywhere! It is a signifier that those people are rebels and Kid Rock calls himself a rebel and he isn't afraid to rap and drive a monster truck. Is he a hick? Is he a rapper? What is he? It's crazy! There are no confederate flags at Juggalo events, because they are not down with it.

John can't but be excited! This whole thing is so wonderful, largely because this is not what he ever would have predicted would be what is interesting about the present. It is not what he wanted at all! John is one of the poor saps who believes that the more education you make available to the world, the more you will develop philosophers and kings & queens who make rational decisions based on science and education. We have a lot of education available in this country. More people are going to college than ever before, college degrees are papering the ground, but still we don't even seem to agree if there are 100 or 1000 people in a picture. There is not even anything to argue! There is a photograph, we could zoom in and count everybody, but we are that far removed! Maybe the future of the country is when the Juggalos kill the Nazis. When the Jugglos and Nazis go to war, for the heart and soul of the annual Juggalo festival at Cave-in-Rock. This might be one of the last great undiscovered Burning Man type of things. If you went to the gathering since 2003, you will know it is not the same, but is still pretty rooted in itself and has not been taken over by mainstream culture yet. Juggalos are generally very respectful of newcomers and have a strong hospitality culture. Looking at pictures of Juggalos, John can see the appeal to people, because you can just do whatever you want! There is zero body shaming and zero resistance to body transformation. If mainstream culture is not willing to accept your identity, or is resistant to allow you to transform into a new self, there is no place safer than Juggolandia!

Violence (RW78)

Juggalos are not a violent group, but their relationship with violence is born out of a familiarity with violence. Violence isn't abstract for them, while a lot of us are living in cultures where violence has become abstract. If you are a white middle-class person raised in a family where no-one ever got spanked and the police never have confronted you violently and you never had a violent relationship, then the only thing you have ever experienced is either emotional violence or violence by association or violence from watching violence. You have this abstract sense what violence is, what it feels like, who the culprits are or what the solutions are. A lot of the people who make social prescriptions, like social workers and theorists and people who are on the Internet yelling about the world are just by virtue of their class and status less familiar with violence.

It is a lot easier for men to be abstract about violence than it is for women who feel the size differential more profoundly. Men are the ones that are both committing and receiving 99% of violence. John knows a lot of people who have never hit anyone and who have never been hit, which is wonderful, but you should then be careful about talking about what hitting represents and what it is like to be hit and what people should do or think. This is part of today’s weird world where you are discouraged from speaking about things that you don't have first hand experience about. It doesn’t mean we should talk about violence all the time, but you shouldn't be handing down prescriptions. There is a lot of lecturing happening in our world by people who feel secure enough in their own knowledge that they can start lecturing people they don't know. John's guess is that within Juggalo culture there is a lot more first-hand experience of violence in respect to people’s childhoods and daily life. They are just a little bit closer to it and are therefore not as shocked or scandalized by it. All the corpses, the violent imagery, the guns, the flipping-off and the blood-splatter (which is a huge part of Juggalo-adornment) are not just clown makeup, but it comes with an overlay of splatter. The clown with the hatchet is splatter serial-killery kind of stuff, which probably comes from being closer to violence than John is, and he has been hit a lot.

Listener mail about Juggalos and other interesting groups of listeners (RW79)

One listener wrote in to say that he is not a Juggalo, but he does listen to Insane Clown Posse. They are not good all of the time, but they have good raps. He sent a link proving that they are violent and misogynist and he provided a deep-dive into the Juggalo culture. This shows that the world of podcasting brings people together from all walks of life which is impossible to know or appreciate until you talk about something obscure. There were certainly people who had never heard of Juggalos, and when they were made aware of them, they didn't want to know any more about them. And there is at least one person (certainly representing many more people) who knows all about Juggalos, either as a friendly witness or a sometimes-fan or a super-fan. 15 years ago, John met a girl with Juggalo-tattoos (The screaming hatchet clown murderer). As he saw her again in 2017 she claimed that she had them ironically and laughed about them, but already in 2002 she must have been feeling comfortable with the widespread understanding of the Juggalo culture in order for her to make that commitment to the joke. Alternatively she had already been through a stage of her life where she was Juggalette enough to get tattoos and then transition out of that life and into a life where she could claim that her tattoos were ironic.

Follow-up: Bronies (RW79)

When John had talked about Bronies in the past, he had gotten a lot of email from Bronies. John is not sure that all those Bronies still identify as strongly now as they did back then when they were in the news. John also heard from quite a few Furries and they will hence forth always be Furries although they become less active over time. Just imagine 85-year olds who have been Furries for 50 years, sitting there in their rocking chairs and talking about all those times in the convention centers and hotel lobbies when all the Furries had gathered. That really appeals to John! It feels like a scene that is fictionalized in advance. There are so many scenes that John wants to film and the hard part of making a movie is connecting all those scenes into some kind of cogent narrative, because he really wants that old-folks-home-Furry conversation to be part of a film, but he is not sure it is enough to sustain an entire film. It could be a short film, which could be a backdoor for winning an Oscar, because those short films seem really easy to make if you just did it well. You wouldn't need $1 million, but it could just be a little set piece: 3 Bronies and a Furry sitting around talking about the good old days of 2017 would make a nice mockumentary!

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