|Juggalo: Insane Clown Posse and the World They Made by Steve Miller. The cover art may be the best part.|
New Book Review:
Juggalo: Insane Clown Posse and the World They Made
by Steve Miller
Publication date is July 12th, 2016
Da Capo Press
(PURCHASE ON AMAZON)
The Insane Clown Posse and their fans, called Juggalos, make occasional entrances into the general popular culture. They are know for their yearly festival, The Gathering, for being designated as a gang by the FBI (and fighting back) and for their horror-clown aesthetic. They also make music, and run their own record label, :Psychopathic Records, which has spawned it's own universe of Inane Clown Posse fellow-travelers. Even a neutral observer would have to say that the Juggalo sub-culture spawned by the Insane Clown Posse rates low on any scale of cultural sophistication, and high on the actual constituent elements of what makes a cohesive subculture: shared values, physical proximity to one another and, most importantly, alienation from the dominant popular culture.
It's impossible to over-state the importance of that last strand: alienation from the dominant popular culture. Being a Juggalo, as revealed by the many interviews with the Artists themselves, employees and journalists who have covered the Juggalos in the national print/online media world, is very much an us vs. them mentality. In this way, Juggalo: Insane Clown Posse and the World They Made made me think of the rise of Donald Trump and his appeal to supporters. One astonishing difference, or perhaps, not at all astonishing difference, is the utter lack of any political element to the Juggalos and Insane Clown Posse. You would think from the level of intense scrutiny paid by law enforcement and the demeaning stereotypes foisted upon Juggalos by the mainstream media that they were terrorists, or at least fascists, or at least racists, but the Juggalos seem to be none of these things.
Miller takes care portraying the many Juggalos who are just plain folks, often with skilled tech service/industry type jobs, and families. Unfortunately, more time is spent detailing the various travails and conflicts between Insane Clown Posse and the world at large, most memorably their tussle, ongoing, with the FBI over their designation as a criminal street game. A decision that, on it's face, seem incomprehensible to anyone with even a loose knowledge of Juggalo culture and music, seems even more bizarre after reading the source material for the underlying decision. Surely, law enforcement in versed in street gang culture would recognize the difference between Juggalos and a criminal street gang? Sadly, no.
There are many aspects of the Insane Clown Posse and Juggalo culture that are easy to deem as admirable, regardless of how you feel about the music. The worth ethic, for one. The ability to build a DIY label operation, for a second. And, at some level, the ingenuity that it took for a couple of nowhere nobodies to create an entire eschatology and what is essentially an ideology, or at least a "way of life" for adherents.
In a tantalizing chapter, Miller, talks to a Juggalo who has actually started a church. One would think, considering the tax implications, that this is something Violent J and Shaggy Too Dope would at least be contemplating at this point. I think probably the hang up is that they are both actually practicing Christians, something I gleaned not from this book, which skirts the awkward reality that both Violent J and Shaggy Too Dope are Middle Aged dads, with sons serving in the United States military.
The downside to this book is the writing style, which is sub-New Yorker prose. Perhaps the style is calculated to appeal to Juggalos themselves, though, and I say this with all due respect, it's hard to imagine many of the people profiled in this book picking up one themselves to read.