Rob King is a dreaded Juggalo. And a terribly nice guy.
Since my hastily slapped together cover story on the FBI’s branding of Juggalos as a gang came out last week, I’ve enjoyed some eclectic feedback.
Insane Clown Posse shared the story on Twitter, calling it “dope” and nearly crashing SN&R’s website with huge Juggalo traffic in the process.
Check out this dope cover story in the Sacramento News & Review about ICP’s lawsuit against the FBI! http://t.co/3Pw5rPq4sr
— Violent J & 2 Dope (@icp) January 22, 2014
A record label rep of theirs exclaimed, “Holy Faygo!” and wished me “mad clown love,” which I gratefully accepted.
A Juggalo offered to buy me a drink during karaoke night at Badlands.
Representatives of the FBI and Sacramento Police Department complimented me for an “essentially fair” and “really long” examination of the issues surrounding gang validation policies.
One caller wanted me to investigate why the FBI could draw so much paper on hip-hop fans and still miss something like last year’s bombing attack on the Boston Marathon. He also pronounced the fan group as, “Jug-AH-los.”
And several of my colleagues wondered whether I am now an honorary Juggalo.
— Dave Kempa (@kempadimes) January 23, 2014
I haven’t received a hatchet man merit badge, so…no?
One reader also took the time to email me some thoughtful, critical feedback. His position is that I glossed over how problematic some Juggalos really are and presented a straw-man argument to make my case that gang validation policies are out of whack.
It’s certainly worth a debate, so I’m posting his email and my response. (I’ve removed his name since he didn’t give me express permission to use it, or ask me not to.)
Mr. Hosseini –
I just finished read you’re article in the recent issue of SN&R. Although I would agree the ICP is not you’re typical “street gang.” I take umbrage with you’re notion they are just a group of misguided or misunderstood music fans. I have been involved with juvenile delinquent offenders in a professional capacity for over 12 years and I believe I have the knowledge experience and expertise to tell you you’re incorrect in some of you’re portrayals.
I would agree that in several cases most are innocent, law abiding citizens who at the worst just want to bring attention to themselves with face paint, jewelry and artful shirts. However, there is also an element that I have seen first hand which prays on victims, vandalizes property and is most certainly violent. You “skirted” around this population when you mentioned the notion at the end of the article when detailing older “fans” expressing a desire to guide younger ones.
This is the element which law enforcement have had issue with and why the FBI has termed them a “street gang.” Which by the way you never explored at all in the article. I would think it imperative if you were to show the issue in an unbiased manner, you would put some focus on why the FBI came to that conclusion! Like most groups related to crimes, they are not twenty somethings, DJ’ing weddings or running coffee shops. They are found in continuations schools, juvenile halls and on the streets. Where you ask? In a local county you even mentioned in the beginning of the article, but apparently did not take the time to contact anyone in a law enforcement capacity from that county.
This group refers to each other as “family.” Usually coming from broken, abusive homes. I liken them to “lord of the flies” characters. They abide by nothing pertaining to society, laws or otherwise. All though it is a sad state of affairs as to whence they came. Non the less, in my experience, they assault people in groups, steal and vandalize property. I closing, I would hope you take this message to heart. I applaud you bringing light to the issue and portraying the innocent fans. But like skinheads in my day of adolescence, there is most certainly a prejudice, hateful, criminal aspect to this population which I see regularly.
Thanks for your feedback.
No one’s saying there aren’t Juggalos who do terrible, illegal things. Just like no one’s saying there aren’t Raiders fans, Dodgers fans or, heck, even Martha Stewart fans who break the law. The question is whether those individuals meet the definition of a gang. I don’t know if you read the 2011 National Gang Intelligence Center report as well, but it stretches the definition of criminal gang pretty wide. The report points to a handful of anecdotal crimes, some of them performed by FORMER Juggalos, and uses that as the basis to define a new subset.
As I wrote in the article, I actually did ask the FBI to justify the definition, given that their own NGIC report acknowledged that the Juggalo “gangs” don’t do anything that normal gangs do. (They don’t commit crimes for money or to further the goals of their gang, they don’t have a structure and the Juggalo gangbangers who exist mostly belong to actual gangs, like the Bloods, Crips, white power groups, etc.)
The FBI declined to comment because of the ongoing nature of the case.
I asked the FBI to explain to me, generally, how criteria is set and measured for defining a gang.
They never got back to me.
I contacted sheriff’s departments in Sacramento and El Dorado counties, police departments in Sacramento, Citrus Heights, Elk Grove and Galt, the Sacramento County Probation Department and local jail officials. I asked them all if they could cite me or even recall one instance of gang-related Juggalo activity. Except for Galt PD, which didn’t get back to me, all said no.
As Sacramento police Officer Doug Morse said of his gang detectives in the article, “They’re not seeing that trend, that violent-crime trend, to really satisfy that [definition].”
So that’s not me saying Juggalos aren’t a gang. I’m just reflecting the absence of any proof to the contrary. If you have compelling information that says otherwise, and not just some anecdotal stories about some bad Juggalos you once knew, I’d love to see it.
I’ll keep an open mind until then.
So what say you, blog readers (all two of you)? Are Juggalos a hybrid criminal gang or just a fandom, as Rob King says?