One of the things that make our country so great is the freedoms that we as citizens enjoy. We have the right to free speech, religion, press, and the ability to assemble outside of government interference. But, what happens when the government oversteps its bounds and begins demonizing and criminalizing fans of a music group? That is exactly what happened to the Insane Clown Posse (ICP) and their fans, known as Juggalos.
In the new documentary, The United States of Insanity from Strike Back Studios, directors Tom Putnam and Brenna Sanchez explore the controversial and much-maligned rise of ICP and their fans. Insane Clown Posse’s story can be traced to the violent streets of metro Detroit going back 30 plus years. In the film, members Violent J and Shaggy 2 Dope, give an unfiltered view of their lives and career.
Whether one loves or hates the Insane Clown Posse, you cannot deny their influence, rabid fan base, and the over 7 million albums they have sold. The new documentary The United States of Insanity, from Strike Back Studios and directors Tom Putnam and Brenna Sanchez, follows the band and fans as they take on the FBI in court.
In 2011, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) classified fans of the band, known as Juggalos, as members of a street gang. Juggalos were listed alongside the likes of the Bloods, Crips, and MS-13. Several public documents on the FBI’s website very clearly label the fans as gang members. Read the FBI Juggalo files here.
ICP fans now had to deal with possible police interactions all because of a tattoo, t-shirt, or something as harmless as a decal on their car. Law enforcement now counted ICP’s logo of a running man with a hatchet as a gang symbol.
For the first time in history, fans of a particular music group were spoken about in the same breath as those committing drive-by shootings and moving major quantities of illegal narcotics. What were a pair of wicked clowns from Detroit supposed to do?
Enter the Michigan chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU.) In January 2014, the ALCU filed suit on behalf of ICP and Juggalos everywhere. The suit claimed that fans constitutional rights to expression and association were violated by the U.S. government, wrongly and arbitrarily, when they classified the entire fan base as a “hybrid” criminal gang. Read the original court complaint here
The United States of Insanity takes the viewer on a trip through the often misunderstood and underground world of Juggalos as they fought the FBI. The film has interviews with the band, fans, family members, and even the ACLU of Michigan Legal Director Michael Steinberg. Listening to Steinberg tell a story about performing with ICP at a show, is in itself, worth the price of admission.
The United States of Insanity covers a big chunk of the still-unfolding story. Beginning in 2014 we follow the lawsuit as it slowly creeps its way through the legal system. We are also treated to very heartwarming interviews with fans, sometimes painted up to match their favorite rappers, as they discuss how this gang label has affected them and dispel any rumors that they are violent gangsters. We even get to meet a Juggalo who is also a lawyer along the way.
This film was a fantastic look at what happens when the government thinks it knows best and starts infringing in innocent fans’ lives. Bad taste is not a crime and The United States of Insanity makes that very clear. It also drives home the point that nobody was up in arms when Juggalos were targeted because the general consensus has a tendency to look down upon Juggalos.
But what happens when it happens to you? What happens when you are suddenly targeted by the federal government for something as innocent as the music you listen to and the friends you hang with? Where does it end? This film does an amazing job of putting a human face and emotions to the sometimes ridiculous world of the Insane Clown Posse.
The United States of Insanity is a cautionary tale of unchecked government aggression. Filled with countless interviews and stories from ICP themselves, this hilarious and oftentimes infuriating documentary is a must for fans of the band, fans, and supporters of free speech, or those looking to just see what the Juggalo world is all about. Even if you’re not a fan of the band, this film shows the lighter and human side to the underground hip hop scene and those who proudly call themselves Juggalos.