April 21, 2014

Are there really more juggalos than polar bears?

Here at Floatingsheep, we tend to be concerned with the most pressing issues currently facing humanity. We've been known to tackle issues ranging from racism and hate speech to the drug trade and the coming zombie apocalypse. But up until now, we've never addressed an issue seen by many to be the defining challenge of our time: the global climate crisis. While we would have loved to cover this kind of issue a long time ago, we were unsure of how we could use the wealth of geotagged social media data at our fingertips to address such big problems. That is, until we came across this (now somewhat dated) gif featuring David Cross:

In fact there are more juggalos on earth right now, than there are polar bears.
You're kidding me, right?
Nope.
Though this statistic is striking -- designed to play on society's penchant for valorizing facts, delivered by bearded men, about charismatic megafauna like the polar bear -- like any good geographers we immediately latched onto its lack of geographic context. As much as we have come to trust celebrity spokespeople (after all they are the most knowledgeable people on the planet) we feel that occasionally we should do some fact-checking.

While we should certainly be sympathetic to the plight of the polar bear, if not for its cuddliness (once you get past their ability to eat you), than at least as a proxy for global biodiversity, this is only a partial story. Like any other social phenomenon, both juggalos [1] and polar bears are distributed unevenly throughout space, which isn't accounted for by only relying on these global level statistics.

So we sought out to find answers to the following questions: do juggalos and polar bears tend to inhabit the same spaces? does the growth of juggalos coincide with the decline of polar bears? are juggalos as affected by the global climate crisis as polar bears? or do juggalos pose an existential threat to polar bears?  And perhaps the most interesting question, are juggalos actually polar bears in disguise?

Based on our preliminary research, we chose to limit our analysis to the continental US, as it is the center for juggalo activity around the world. Indeed, no other country in the world has anything approaching parity between tweets mentioning juggalos and those mentioning polar bears. If we are to make the (obviously safe, non-controversial, and totally scientifically accurate) assumption that geotagged tweeting is perfectly representative of the world-at-large, this is a potential hole in the argument advanced by the aforementioned meme. So we will simply ignore this fact and instead interpret it as the first promising sign for environmentalists concerned about the twin calamity faced by the extinction of a highly visible species and the mass of empty Faygo bottles that will have to be cleaned up when the juggalos are running the place?

Collecting all geotagged tweets from July 2012 to mid-April 2014 referencing "polar bear" and "juggalo" (or variations thereof), we produced the map below to get a firmer grasp on the geographies of the juggalo vs. polar bear antagonism. There are a total of 23,742 tweets referencing polar bear in this time frame, with just 15,781 mentioning juggalo, giving us reason to believe that the polar bears (and, well, humanity as a whole) might still have some hope left. That is, unless all of the polar bear-related tweets are simply commenting on the futility of saving these animals and the fact that they're all dying before our very eyes.

Geotagged Twitter References to Juggalos vs. Polar Bears

As our analysis shows, significant portions of the continental United States, shown in both white and grey, are home to no significant concentrations of either juggalos or polar bears. And while the spatial distribution of both terms is somewhat random [2], the highest concentrations of polar bears tend to be in large US cities known for their zoos. Sunny San Diego seems to be the most likely safe haven for polar bears, while Chicago, New York City and Atlanta are all characterized by their relative wealth of polar bears and lack of juggalos. And while San Diego and Atlanta are perhaps the most stark in this respect, it is interesting to note that polar bear tweeting doesn't seem to be concentrated in the country's colder climates. Perhaps the polar bears are themselves influenced by space-time compression and have decided to partake in seasonal migration to the south pole and are being spotted by Twitter users during brief pitstops in North America?

Juggalo-related tweeting has a significantly different, if still somewhat random, spatial signature. Rural Pennington County, Minnesota has both the highest absolute and relative number of juggalo tweets, due to what appears to be a lone, extraordinarily active member of the juggalo Twitterverse [3]. Based on the overall levels of tweeting, most juggalos still demonstrate a kind of agglomeration process, just not in the country's major urban areas. For instance, Salt Lake City, Utah has the second highest predominance of juggalo tweeting in the country, while the suburban counties around St. Louis, Birmingham and Boston are all relatively dominated by juggalos.

But the absence of a couple of key places from this list warrants further attention. First is the Detroit area, not to mention the rust belt more generally, which is known as the home of ICP and the juggalo subculture. While Wayne County has the sixth most juggalo tweets in the country in absolute terms, it also has a relatively sizable number of polar bear tweets, resulting in only a moderate advantage for juggalo-related tweets. So, were we to assume that juggalos and polar bears are not mutually exclusive or threatening to one another, perhaps we should look to Detroit as a potential site for a polar bear sanctuary when all of the ice melts?

Similarly, Worcester, Massachusetts, declared by ICP co-founder Violent J as perhaps the band's favorite city to perform in, actually displays a slightly greater concentration of polar bear tweeting than juggalo tweeting, which unfortunately might lead the clown posse to reconsider this favoritism. Luckily enough, this concentration of polar bear tweeting in Worcester seems to only be related to a key city landmark, the inflatable polar bear on top of the Polar Soda Factory that greets passerby on I-290, rather than a real concentration of polar bears. Nonetheless, the local prominence of Polar Soda has surely cut into the market of a key juggalo commodity: Faygo.

As our analysis has shown, there is more to the story of juggalos and polar bears than meets the eye. Clearly, there are more references to polar bears than to juggalos, both globally and in the United States. But the relationship between these two is considerably more complex and contradictory than is assumed by David Cross and his ilk. Obviously more research is required as ten-second gifs are not up to conveying the complexity of the juggalo-polar bear ecosystem.

While the parity in juggalo and polar bear-related tweeting in some places could indicate peaceful coexistence, so too could it mean the potential for bitter rivalry and resentment, as also indicated in the near complete lack of references to one or the other in some areas. Either way, it's probably best to just take refuge in one of the many places with no references to either juggalos or polar bears, as you should not wish to encounter either in the wild. Godspeed.

UPDATE (1:30pm): Be sure to check out this infographic, which we were previously unaware of, which explores some of these same issues surrounding the relationship between endangered species and Juggalos.
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[1] Juggalos are, of course, followers of the band Insane Clown Posse.
[2] As in, completely freakin' random.
[3] We're not sure if there is a scarier phrase in the English language than this one. All 13,929 or so other residents of Pennington County, Minnesota are advised to seek cover.

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