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EDITORIAL: Eric Holder says Insane Clown Posse group’s ‘Juggalos’ fans are gang members

With two platinum albums and five gold albums, the hard-core hip-hop duo known as Insane Clown Posse has a legion of loyal fans. But none, apparently, at the FBI headquarters in Washington, where anyone who listens to the posse's harsh music is regarded as a gangbanger who should be under constant watch.

But there's no law against indulging bad taste, in music, art or food, and a good thing, too. We couldn't afford to build enough prisons to hold the guilty.

Since the late-1980s, the Detroit rappers have sung horror-themed lyrics under the persona of "wicked clowns." Fans of the Violent J and Shaggy 2 Dope and their own heavy clown makeup affectionately call themselves "Juggalos." They perform at the intersection of rap music and professional wrestling.

Their music is an acquired taste, but the Department of Justice, in its National Gang Threat Assessment, calls the Juggalos a "loosely organized hybrid gang." Casting a wide net, the report describes them as people who have committed assaults and vandalism, with a "small number" engaged in more serious crimes.

This recalls the plight of the fans of the band Grateful Dead of a generation ago. For 30 years, "Dead Heads," as they called themselves, dropped everything to follow the band from city to city. The charge against "bad apples" is so vague that it could apply to the most wholesome of performers.

When the crooners Donny and Marie Osmond went on tour a few years ago, the tabloid sleuths at The National Enquirer learned that someone in the duo's families had been arrested on gun charges. Another was accused of passing bad checks. A Donny and Marie gang. Who knew?

At a news conference in Detroit, the "insane clowns" — Joseph Bruce (Violent J) and Joseph Utsler (Shaggy 2 Dope) — said attention from the G-men has been bad for business.

"Discrimination based on the type of music a person listens to is flat out ridiculous and un-American," says Mr. Bruce. "Our merchandise sales are just about cut in half."

The Juggalos are afraid to wear Insane Clown Posse T-shirts or put a bumper sticker on their cars for fear of being singled out and harassed by police.

Authorities have cited the federal attention as reason to cancel their concerts. "That, my friends, is punishing our fans for representing us," says Mr. Bruce. "That's, like, insane, if you think about it."

Michael Steinberg, the legal director of the ACLU of Michigan, has sued, demanding the government remove from gang databases the names of any of the band's fans that were added solely based on their musical preferences.

"Individual Juggalos are suffering improper investigations, detentions and other denials of their personal rights at the hands of government officials," Mr. Steinberg said in his complaint.

Perhaps Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. can find new tasks for the FBI if agents have too much time on their hands. He could assign them to investigate the Internal Revenue Service for abusing political opponents of President Obama, or to get to the bottom of what really happened at Benghazi.

When they clear all that up, there will be time enough to go after the "small number" of people who wear clown makeup to pursue dreadful noise disguised as music.

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