Tuesday, December 28, 2010

American Juggalo: The Painted Face of Postmodern Fascism

     For the inaugural post to this blog, I will share with you my New Years resolution:  identify all Juggalos.  This resolution has come about because we need to isolate, identify and take very seriously an emerging culture of postmodern fascism.  Now, I'm not talking exactly about the U.S. led global police force which is of course imperial military arm of American fascism.  What I'm talking about here is a culture of fascism which, in a sense, is nothing new but which has morphed into what I'm calling Juggaloism. 

     Indeed, the Reagan 80s spawned its own version of postmodern fascism perhaps best encapsulated by Bret Easton Ellis's American Psycho.  This was cynicism with the slick smile of Ronald Reagan or Alex P. Keaton -a Baccchanalian liberalism which could revel in "We Are the World" humanitarian gestures while at the same promoting the most authoritarian and callus socioeconomic policies.  The contradictions of this 80s brand fascism are epitomized by Band Aid's disastrous "Do They Know It's Christmas":

Want a definition of narcissism?  Volià!  We see Western rock stars, isolated safely within a recording studio, singing to "you" the Western subject also nestled safely behind your "window," guarded from a "world of dreaded fear."  And what is your prayer, dear listener, as you sit in your bubble, gazing at cathode ray projections of starvation porn brought to you by the  Christian Charity Fund?  Why, you're thanking god that it's the Africans suffering and not you!  Smug, self-righteous and superficial -this was 80s fascism.  A postmodern fascism to go along with a properly neoliberal culture. 

     But as David Harvey has suggested, we're not neoliberals anymore; we are now neoconservatives.  No more Sally Struthers encouraging us to to purchase our liberal sense of do-goodery along with a can of soda and a cup of coffee:

No more Phil Collins pontificating about homelessness.  No more Hands Across America.  Perhaps the final gasp of 80s fascism, which certainly extended well beyond 1989,  was Woodstock 99, an empty corporate simulacra which yielded nothing but a sexual assualt in the mosh pit during a Limp Bizkit performance (Fred Durst being something of a proto-Juggalo).

We all know what happened next:  9/11:

So much for "our finer instincts."  On that day of "de plane" we opted for the mercenary greed.  I don't want to set up the whole "9/11 Changed Everything" argument because in a sense it has been business as usual on fantasy island ever since.  But 9/11 did shift the narcissism of the 80s/90s into hyperdrive or, in other words, accelerated an ongoing cultural transformation from neoliberalism to neoconservatism.   From Bono to the Juggalo.

     Now, the pop culturally impaired might be asking, "What is a Juggalo?"  The term actually refers to the followers of the horror-rap group Insane Clown Posse (ICP).  At one time known for their ultra-violent lyrics and deranged circus aesthetic, ICP have more recently promoted Creationism and Evangelical Christianity.  ICP's shift from gangsta clowns to born again Christians was solidified by the track "Miracles," a video that was laughed at and dismissed by most of the world (non-Juggalos) but which is. . . wait for it. . . one of the most important songs of the decade:

Resist the impulse to laugh at and dismiss this douchebuggery, and forget about every song released in the last ten years.  With "Miracles," ICP has defined the aughties.  As horrific as it is to admit to ourselves, "Miracles" is this decade's version of Johnny Rotten sitting down on stage and asking the audience if they "ever get the feeling they've been cheated."  And indeed, this is a complete and apocalyptically successful inversion of punk.  Doubly catastrophic because ICP's earlier nihilistic and rebellious image flows seamlessly into this pastel and hyper-filtered brand of Christian mysticism and because the many fans of ICP, the Juggalos, have integrated this rigid "ask no questions" conformity into an image of rebellion.

     The brilliant vlogger who you should all watch, Zinnia Jones, gives us a razor sharp critique of the video, and many of Jones's observations hold just as well for the larger culture of postmodern fascism I'm delineating:

"The essence of ICP's philosophy seems to be 'I don't know, I don't want to know and don't you dare try to enlighten me, motherfucker'."  Is this not also the maxim which assured a second term for George W. Bush?  Is this not what Kid Rock is ultimately bellowing every time he opens his well-paid cake hole to deliver more military propaganda?  Is this not the mantra of the Tea Party?  Is this not the underlying message of every "new country" song playing on CMT?  This tautology has crashed into American discourse like a meteor, bringing with it a green fungus called Sarah Palin.

     To be clear here, my point is not that Juggalos are stupid.  I must stress this.  I am not dismissing Juggalos, ICP, Kid Rock, Sarah Palin, CMT, Creationism, Birthers, The Tea Party etc. on the grounds that these phenomena are dumb.   To the contrary, these Juggalos are the zeitgeist.

As Jones rightly points out, Juggalo culture is not stupid but rather something much more dangerous: the willful "endorsement of a ferocious breed of ignorance." That is to say, the postmodern American fascist - the Juggalo - wields his/her ignorance like a weapon.  Often this ignorance is merely a performance of privilege and domination:  "it's not that I don't know; it's that, as a Western subject, I needn't be bothered to know because nothing will ever effect me, and thus I am utterly disaffected:"

Now, you may be wondering why I'm using this as my first blogpost since this all seems rather obvious.  We all know that there is a "lunatic fringe" of "right wing nutters" out there.  This territory is well-tread, and I'm sure this sounds like preaching to the choir.

    SO HERE'S THE POINT:  As marginal as it might be, Juggalo culture which is the cultural extension and capstone of postmodern fascism, marks a militant resistance to "education."  The Tea Party, for example, does not "need to be educated."  Contra John Stewart, their "sanity" does not need to be "restored," and any time we dismiss these Juggalos on the grounds that they are simpletons, we ourselves become Juggalos because they already view themselves as a proudly ignorant minority.  More to the point, they claim a "right to their ignorance."  Thus, the Tea Party needs John Stewart's "Rally to Restore Sanity."  They need to be called "idiots" and "buffoons" because idiocy and buffoonery comprise their very identity.  They have affirmed these labels, and this affirmation is a a declaration of war, not an appeal for "education."  For the Juggalos, the debate is finished, and what's left is the brute force of the tautology.  And I mean brute force.  Juggaloism is absolutely central to our current military occupations.  Note, for example, the presence of nu metal both within military culture and representations of this culture epitomized by the band Drowning Pool who were "honored" that their music was being used to torture prisoners at Gitmo:  http://www.buzzgrinder.com/2008/drowning-pool-music-used-to-torture-prisoners/:

"Nothing wrong with me."  A self-righteous sense of persecution used to justify a seemingly senseless violence.  This is the new militant narcissism -a narcissus who will defend his precious echo with concentration camps and drone air strikes.  This Juggalo declaration of war is a very real threat regardless of the numbers of actual practicing Juggalos because, although they might sometimes champion "democracy," the Juggalos operate by coercive force.  They are authoritarian and fascist.  They are the enemy.

    My New Years resolution then is to identify Juggalos which is not as easy as one might imagine.  As should be apparent by now, Juggalos do not always paint their faces nor are they always ICP fans.  Instead, they are defined by this willful and violent affirmation of ignorance, an affirmation which may seem harmless now but, on this increasingly authoritarian planet, might soon come to be the dominant subjectivity.  Sporadically on this blog, I will identify certain instances of Juggaloism, and I encourage you to do the same.

Duty now for the future, spuds!      

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