In Defense of the Juggalos

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Nate "Igor" Smith

Maybe you don't like rap. But that's OK, because some people do. People's opinions differ.

Maybe you don't like it when white people rap. This is extra, extra dumb. It is strange how people who don't like rap as a whole like to go the extra mile to doubly hate on rap made by white folks. It's 2014, you guys.

Maybe you don't like clowns? I can't really come up with a good argument against that, I guess. You can win that one, but all you have thereby proven is that juggalos are scary in the same way that clowns are, which is less than compelling to much of the population (unless we're talking about the movie It).

The ridicule from the public at large doesn't help these situations at all; it exacerbates them. Consider these passages from Michael Azerrad's acclaimed Our Band Could Be Your Life: Scenes from the American Indie Underground, 1981-1991:

In early August '80 the Teen Idles, along with roadies Mark Sullivan and Henry Garfield, took a bus out to California to play some shows... When they arrived at the LA bus station, a cop, wary of violence-prone punks, hassled the Teen Idles, calling them "faggot" and "clown."

Ian MacKaye and the Teen Idles, who were based in D.C. but traveled to LA to play a show with the Dead Kennedys and the Circle Jerks, then met some of the more violent local punks, who had adopted more hands-on methods of dealing with the daily ridicule of the public. The D.C. punks were inspired:

"I don't know if you've ever experienced a carload of hillbillies going by and yelling, 'Faggot!' at you or getting beat up by Marines in Georgetown," says MacKaye, "but there's something so satisfying about someone yelling something at you as they go by and then racing after the car and dragging them out of the car at a red light. And seeing those guys do that stuff made us feel like we need to defend, we need to circle the wagons. We need to fight back."

So, Teen Idles, Dead Kennedys, Circle Jerks: gang members? Ian MacKaye: gang leader? Of course that is ridiculous, but here he is, openly advocating violence, a member of a misunderstood pseudo-gang of misfit kids. These bands are seen as legends and are near-universally revered in music circles.

When I was at the Gathering last year, there was a group of people from ReasonTV running around with a professional video camera throughout the week, collecting interviews with festival attendees. The video they put together was just put online yesterday:

Camille Dodero, formerly of the Village Voice and Gawker, presently a freelance writer, was also interviewed in the eight-minute clip. "They became juggalos because they were persecuted," she explains, "and now they are being persecuted for bonding together because they were being persecuted." This is as succinct an explanation for the cycle of ridicule juggalos are trapped in as one could find. The rest of the video is pretty good, too.

Then there is, of course, the other obvious parallel: Juggalos, like the punks of yesteryear, listen to music that most people don't listen to and dress in an ostentatious manner. Is the situation really that different? Punk music is widely accepted now; punk fashion is a part of mainstream culture. It seems unlikely that juggalo fashion will experience a similar crossover, but you should still be aware that you are essentially acting like your prude grandparents when you mindlessly hate on these kids for their clothes and music.

Next time you are about to make a hackneyed joke about how they should "drop a bomb on the Gathering" (the number of times I've seen that one on social media is uncountable), don't. You are displaying your ignorance, and your hyperbole makes you look like a fool. (And your joke sucks.)

Better to be a clown than a fool, I say. Whoop whoop.

Check out our complete coverage of the 2013 Gathering of the Juggalos below:


- "Where Did My Dick Go? The Gathering of the Juggalos' Best Overheard Quotations
- This Incredible Make-A-Wish Teenager Went to the Gathering of the Juggalos, Got a Lap Dance (NSFW)
- Here Are the Things That Happen After 5 a.m. at the Gathering of the Juggalos
- Ten Must-Have Items When Camping with Juggalos
- Gathering of the Juggalos: Misconceptions and First Impressions
- Death Reported at Gathering of the Juggalos; Drug Bridge Closed
- Ten Things You Do Not Need When Camping With Juggalos
- Behold the Waking Nightmare of Juggalo Port-a-Potties
- Death at the Gathering of the Juggalos: "Four Dudes That Had Been Sleeping With a Corpse."
- Juggalo Eats and the Quest for the Mystical Burrito Man

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The 15 Most Ridiculous Band Promo Photos Ever
"Where Did My Dick Go?" The Gathering of the Juggalos' Best Overheard Quotations
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