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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:
Insane Clown Posse is a rap group known for its violent lyrics. Two years ago, the U.S. government designated its fans, known as Juggalos, as gang members. This past week, the band and several fans sued the FBI, demanding they be removed from the list. The band says the designation unfairly subjects Juggalos to police harassment. We spoke to Patrick Flanary, a freelance journalist who's written about the case for Rolling Stone magazine. And we asked him to explain how fans became targets of the FBI.
PATRICK FLANARY: The Juggalos has always been a term of endearment among the fans of the group ICP, Insane Clown Posse. In fact, it was a rallying call from the stage by the front man, Violent J, several years ago. And since 2011 since this threat assessment came out by the FBI, there's been this whole stigma associated with fans of the group. As the ACLU lawyers pointed out to me, you wouldn't pull over a Beatles fan just because a Beatles fan last night somewhere in America committed a violent crime.
MARTIN: What's the nature of these crimes and do they have anything to do with the band?
FLANARY: Nothing to do with the band whatsoever. According to the lawyers now for the group and with the ACLU of Michigan, what happened was there were only two crimes that were cited by the FBI study back in 2011. One had to do with a violent home invasion, where a Juggalo was suspected and later convicted; and there was another violent crime associated in 2012. But as lawyers pointed out, this doesn't apply to every person who claims he or she is a Juggalo. It isn't fair just because this group depicts violent images, talks about very crude murder scenarios.
MARTIN: We should say, the lyrics are downright offensive in many cases, incredibly misogynist, violent.
FLANARY: They are. And the band admits as much, and so do the attorneys. But that isn't reason enough to pull over a fan of the music, just because he might have an ICP bumper sticker on his car. As Violent J, the front man of the group told me, hey, we're trying to be the Stephen King of music. We're just telling horror stories. It's no different from what Rob Zombie has done in the film and music world. We are entertainment.
MARTIN: Is this unusual, do you know, Patrick, for the FBI to designate a band's fans, followers, as gang members? Has it happened before?
FLANARY: It's never happened before. Now, outside of Madison Square Garden, just a couple of weeks ago, for New Year's Eve, where the band Phish plays its annual four-day residency, people were targeted outside for selling or using psychedelic drugs. However, these people are not labeled as gang members. So, yeah, this is the first case of its kind.
MARTIN: Patrick Flanary. He's a freelance music journalist. He joined us from New York. Patrick, thanks so much for talking with us.
FLANARY: My pleasure. Thanks.
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MARTIN: This is NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.