You might not take the Juggalos seriously, but the FBI does. Spencer Ackerman has been spelunking in the bureau's 2011 National Gang Threat Assessment, and he found an unexpected detour into the world of Insane Clown Posse fans:
Listed in the same breath as street gangs with ties to murderous Mexican drug cartels is the Juggalo threat.
"Although recognized as a gang in only four states," reports the FBI's National Gang Intelligence Center, "many Juggalos subsets exhibit gang-like behavior and engage in criminal activity and violence."…
Other gangs cited in the report, like the Haitian Boys Posse or the Custer Street Gang, are linked to homicides, gun running, and drug trafficking. Juggalo gang activity cited by the FBI cites is a notably lower caliber: thefts, hand-to-hand drug sales and felony assaults. The FBI has recently had difficulty distinguishing ordinary American Muslims from terrorists; now it appears it has a similar problem distinguishing teenage fads from criminal conspiracies.
"Social networking websites are a popular conveyance for Juggalo sub-culture to communicate and expand," the FBI warns.
Worse, "Juggalos' disorganization and lack of structure within their groups, coupled with their transient nature, makes it difficult to classify them and identify their members and migration patterns."…The FBI even cautions that the Juggalos are among 53 gangs "whose members have served in or are affiliated with the U.S. military."
Ackerman doesn't mention my favorite line in the report, in which we are informed that "Juggalos are traditionally fans of the musical group the Insane Clown Posse." I'd love to learn more about those non-traditional Juggalos who are not fans of Insane Clown Posse.
This is a familiar form of paranoia. Stanley Cohen's 1972 book Folk Devils and Moral Panics studied the British uproar over two teen subcultures of the early 1960s, the rockers and the mods, and their sometimes violent clashes. The folk devil, as Cohen and subsequent sociologists have shown, often takes the form of a conspiracy: a Satanic cult, a powerful gang, a backwoods militia, a white-slavery ring. In Cohen's words, "behaviour which was to a large degree unorganized, spontaneous and situational, is seen as having been well planned in advance as part of some sort of conspiratorial plot." In the case of the rockers and mods, Cohen writes, the press sometimes claimed that their battles "were masterminded, perhaps by a super gang with headquarters in some café on the M1" motorway.
The FBI writer wavers between acknowledging that the Juggalos aren't actually an organization (as with the reference to their "disorganization and lack of structure") and declaring them a "gang." Don't be surprised if other cops aren't even that careful. I look forward to the day an investigator reads this report, hears that there's an annual Gathering of the Juggalos, and decides it's time to inflitrate the heart of the conspiracy.