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Love to Hate

ICP vs. FBI

The link between hip-hop and violence is what allowed the FBI to make the leap between fandom and gang, love and hate. And yet no other sub-culture of music fans has been targeted by the FBI. So why target the ICP in the first place?

By Arts & Culture, Uncategorized 0

Despite this, there is still a huge difference between the fans of a hip-hop band and, for example, the white supremacist criminals of the Aryan Brotherhood. For anyone who personally knows a Juggalo or anything about the Insane Clown Posse, the comparison between the two seems utterly ridiculous. In the case of Freemore and Seagraves, it wasn’t the ICP that drove them to murder Michael Goucher, but a previous history of violence mixed with deeply internalized homophobia. So why would the ICP be blamed for the murder of Michael Goucher? And why, in the view of the FBI, would this put them in a league with some of the most violent and murderous street gangs in the country?

Despite their enormous niche success, the ICP has never been able to break into popular appeal. In spite of the profitable media franchise that Violent J and Shaggy 2 Dope have created, the mainstream media has relentlessly mocked them for years. Both Saturday Night Live and the Upright Citizens Brigade have satirized the two white, clown-faced, hip-hop artists and their fans, painting them as violent weirdos with bad taste. Having spent years on the outside, the ICP now tout themselves as the “most hated band in the world.”

What makes Juggalos an easy scapegoat is that, like gangs, they are easily recognizable. Juggalos proudly adorn themselves with their iconic face paint, baggy clothing, and specific symbols — all markers repurposed from hip-hop traditions. Factions of hip-hop itself are inextricably linked with gang culture and violence — most recognizable is the East Coast-West Coast feud that materialized in a rivalry between the labels Bad Boy Records and Death Row Records in the 1990s. The enmity resulted in the deaths of Tupac Shakur and The Notorious B.I.G. The link between hip-hop and violence is what allowed the FBI to make the leap between fandom and gang, love and hate. And yet no other sub-culture of music fans has been targeted by the FBI. So why target the ICP in the first place?

The truth of the matter is that almost every violent crime by Juggalos examined in the press over recent years has been an individual offense. The acts are usually due more in part to societal problems that plague underprivileged communities, the very same communities that, for similar reasons, have large populations of ICP fans. Gang researcher John Hagedorn, in his article “Gangs, Juggalos, and the FBI’s Crooked Frames,” points out that gangs provide a much-needed support system for communities where familial support is often lacking. Fandom, especially cult fandom, provides much of that same kind of support.

White kids who wear clown makeup, love violent, pseudo-religious hip-hop and drink Faygo — while this makes no sense to us — it makes all the sense in the world to them. Hazing-related deaths in the U.S. every year far outnumber the number of murders committed by self-proclaimed Juggalos, and yet fraternities and sororities would never make it onto the NGIC’s list of American gangs. This is because the ICP and Juggalos are gravely misunderstood. They form an unpopular culture.

Violent J and Shaggy 2 Dope have said on the ICP website that they will sue the FBI over the unjustified victimization of their fan base. The ICP’s annual Hallowicked concert, just last month, was almost cancelled when Detroit police officials urged the hosting venue to shut its doors — the concert then moved to the Fillmore Detroit.

Has social conservativism gone so far in this country that we are now unable to tell the difference between love and hate? The FBI criminalizing Juggalos and the ICP is the latest in a long line of authority oppressing misunderstood segments of society. It took until the Stonewall riots in the 1960s for homosexuality to begin the decriminalization process in the United States. There are, of course, many differences between the Juggalos and the fight for civil rights for queer peoples, but society’s reaction to them is similar. Except now, it is acceptable to frame Freemore’s atrocities as those of a Juggalo, and not for what they were — murderous acts by a disturbed person.

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