August 24, 2012

Paul Ryan vs. Rage Against The Machine


tom_morello_paul_ryan.jpg
i got you babe

Here's a prediction:  This will be the least attended Presidential election in history.  Over 50% of the voting age population will not even bother to find out who won, let alone vote.  Unless you have money on it when you wake up the next morning at 6am the first sound you hear will be a clock radio playing the counterculture anthem "...then put your little hand in mine..." and you will want to kill yourself.  Or marry Andie McDowell, which is only slightly worse.  "She was great in Sex, Lies, And Videotape."  No she wasn't.  Ativan is not method acting.

Paul Ryan says he likes Rage Against The Machine, which everyone thinks is ironic since  Ryan is "the very machine they are raging against."  Get it?    You're going to read that statement a lot.

I'm not political at all, not only am I not going to vote in the coming election I'm going to hide in the bushes outside my local polling station in a full Raiders uniform and clothesline the highly dangerous people who are only there to vote for Jesus.   But while I don't know much about Paul Ryan and even less about Rage Against The Machine, I do know a media set up when I see one.

Ok, so we know Ryan is an idiot for not knowing he's not supposed to like Rage Against The Machine, but did it occur to anyone to ask how we know Ryan likes them, why we know this utterly useless and meaningless and distractionary and prejudicial piece of miscellany?  "It was on Ryan's facebook page."  Come on, pants on fire, don't act like you even knew he had a  facebook page, next your going to tell me you've read the Constitution "several times."  You learned it the same way we all did: someone told you it was in a profile about him in The New York Times, and that someone was the only group to have read that profile: other media.

The structure of political reporting is 100% identical to the structure of celebrity reporting: the double act.  Straight man delivers the softball pitch:

Yet even if he is viewed as politically pure by the modern-day standards of his party's base, he is not without contradictions. The nation's first Generation X vice-presidential candidate, he is an avowed proponent of free markets whose family has interests in oil leases. But he counts Rage Against the Machine, which sings about the greed of oil companies and whose Web site praises the anti-corporate Occupy Wall Street movement, among his favorite bands.

and the rest of the media hit the punchline. Over and over and over, five nights a week.  "He's the very machine they're raging against!"  We get it, Rockbrain.  Was funny once.

II.

The real irony of this story is that the clueless one is Rage Against The Machine, not Paul Ryan.  This isn't a partisan statement, it is simply a fact.

Ryan's main sin is not paying attention to the lyrics, believing he can listen to music without caring about the band's message.

The thing is, Ryan and the rest of the Gen-X coven were taught not to pay attention to lyrics, not just by the mumblings of Nirvana and the distracting Cleveland accent of Rammstein, but by our chief connection to all pop culture in America: commercials.





The title says "Songs Ruined By Commercials" but imagine those ads playing in a different country: their only connection to the songs is those ads. (1)

You may counter that these songs were already meaningless pop songs, but this happens all the time:





This is an ad of nearly genius creativity if your metric is brand identification, brand enhancement.  It almost convinces you that "Dude, the media has conditioned us to think the world is a bad place, but most of the time, humans beings are awesome" and the only thing that will stop you from falling into that spiral of propaganda is if you say out loud that the person trying to convince you of that fact is Coca Cola.   Did you feel a little bit of global community?   Well, I've been pretty much everywhere, and no.  Play the video with the sound off and don't look at the words-- a kind of voiceover, right?-- and what you see is a world with crumbling infrastructure, appallingly terrible safety standards, what I assume are drunk drivers, and lots and lots of people not working.  There's a guy defacing public property at 0:59, but it's all good.

You know what else I see that deserves mention, by which I mean is completely obfuscated by the ad?  There are cameras everywhere

Ryan listened to the Rage Against The Machine in the precise way it was produced to be heard: as soundtrack to your own movie, stripped of its intended meaning.  It is not an accident that it found it's way as an actual soundtrack to an actual movie.

I'm sure Rage is earnest in their core belief system, I do not dispute this, I do not claim they are sell outs at all, but you can't argue that you're part of the counterculture if you've been #8 on TRL in between Destiny's Child and Lou Vega's Mambo No. 5.  You aren't the counterculture, you are the culture. 




check out the militant poetry, yo.  Brought to you by MTV


In this respect Paul Ryan didn't misunderstand Rage's message, he simply heard the music exactly as he and everyone else were directed to hear it.  If the song that changed your life is played on a radio station that begins with a K or whose symbol is a bee, you are a bah bah black sheep.  "This is good," FM program directors said to you in 1999.  "Eat it."

I don't begrudge anyone making a fortune from their art, but if you allow the system to make you rich from your art, well, there's a trade off.

Tom Morello may want to do a bit of soul searching: did his art really bring awareness to the public, or did it serve the system's function of keeping everyone in line, i.e. a safe way to let off steam so that the kind of changes he was earnestly demanding were negated?  This is the exact same question one must ask about the now safely defuncted OccupyWallSt, and even Obama himself.  You know why you don't hear about Ron Paul anymore?  Because you heard about him back when it was safe.  Now that you have two candidates who couldn't possibly be more similar-- not in "ideology", but in action-- you are given no third option.  Strike that, no second option.

Here's the rule, may as well learn it before it's your head in the scope: when you give yourself to the media to do with what they will, they will.  You can't go crying about it later, because by then you will have ceased to exist.

Instead of condemning Paul Ryan for not being cool enough to get it, Tom Morello might want to ask how it is possible that "the embodiment of the machine we are raging against" ended up liking him.  What was the precise mechanism that caused that to happen?  Do you think-- everyone take a moment-- that Paul Ryan liked it on his own free will?  That if we dropped those beats on some 10th century viking marauders, they'd be all in?

And why, when Tom Morello wants to rage against Paul Ryan, he does it through the subversive, iconoclastic, angry medium of.... Rolling Stone?  That'll get him.  Let me be clear: I don't blame Morello for writing in Rolling Stone, I blame him for not asking himself what kind of a man is he that attracts Rolling Stone. (2)

Paul Ryan and Tom Morello are 100% the exact same person.  I realize they and you may  think they are different, but they are more closely a product of their immediate environment and generation than any of their incidental differences.  If Morello and Ryan went back in time and sideways in geography to the November after the October Revolution, they would totally lock the door to their shared apartment.  "I don't know what the hell is going on outside," it doesn't matter which one would say to the other, "but I'm pretty sure I don't want any part of it."  The partisanship that everyone desperately clings to is a media construction serving the necessary function of letting you self-identify, in the absence of anything in your life more substantive.   In other words, Fox & Friends are doing you a favor.

Both Ryan and Morello have some influence on society, please observe what has become of them as individuals, it is quintessentially what defines post WWII America: if there is something legitimately dangerous to the system-- and Morello and Ryan both fit this description-- rather than send in the secret police, it absorbs them by hyperpopularity, edits them into TV soundbites, buries them in plain sight. Problem solved. Put on your special sunglasses:


obama_CONSUME.jpg





http://twitter.com/thelastpsych


---

1.






The straightforward deconstruction: the ad presents not representational images but aspirational images, in this case it's not targeting the demo that likes Oberhofer, but shows you that you can be like the five people with the phones who, by virtue of their phones, stand apart from the masses.  Anyone can listen to a concert, these people are, in some way, part of that concert experience.  NB: they are the only people you remember from the ad, other than the band itself.  Those people let other people in on the big secret, e.g. Oberhofer is great.

But observe that when they decide to share the video of the concert, they share it with other people who are also at that very concert-- who then divert their attention away from the live performance so that they can gaze in wonder at the broadcast of the concert.  You may think this is an accident but it is one of the best representations of consumerist capitalism, i.e. branding, so pay attention: there is no expectation that people can enjoy, engage, or value something directly, especially art, religion, politics-- the expectation is that we need an intermediary, an "expert", someone who really understands these things.  T-Mobile is offering you the chance not to experience art more directly-- which they know is impossible and anyway not that important to anyone--  but to become that intermediary, to derive identity from that role.




2.  An interesting take on this is the British series Black Mirror, three separate stories of "our unease with the modern world."  Spoilers coming: In the second story, the youth are put on stationary bikes to create energy for the world, and are paid in, essentially, Facebook credits that serve also as money.  The only way out of this enslavement is to get on Hot Spot-- i.e. to become famous.  One young black man rises up against the system with the only violence he has available: he goes on Hot Spot and threatens to stab himself in the neck with a shard of glass unless he's allowed to rage against the machine.  But rather than gas the theatre or send in the snipers-- they give him his own weekly talk show where he is safely allowed to rage against the system, in between commercials.

However, the true import of that episode is only revealed when considered with the first episode, in which the Princess (e.g. of Wales) is kidnapped, with a single ransom demand: the Prime Minister must have sex with a pig, on live TV.  Is the Princess's life wirth it?  Should they negotiate with terrorists?  But all of this is cover for the real conflict: if he does it, he'll be disgraced, most certainly not re-elected.

He does it: it takes over an hour, some tranquilizers and some Viagra.  It is moving, because as he cries through the sex act, all of England is watching from pubs, cheering and jeering.  However, the final post-credits scene reveals the secondary consequence of the always-on, broadcast world: after a year, the Prime Minister is happily re-elected.  No one even remembers the pig incident.

Together, the two episodes suggest that not only does appearing on TV trivialize events, but it temporizes them.   When everything is recorded, nothing is remembered.

---














Comments

Fess up. What's your favor... (Below threshold)

August 24, 2012 12:14 PM | Posted by Sam: | Reply

Fess up. What's your favorite ethnogen for writing. Don't lame out with Laphroaig on us here. We all love that.

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Just make sure you hide in ... (Below threshold)

August 24, 2012 12:26 PM | Posted by Aaron: | Reply

Just make sure you hide in the bushes at least a hundred feet away from the door. Nobody wants to get arrested for illegal electioneering.

Also: "ethnogen"? My God. If I still wore a tinfoil toque, I'm pretty sure I'd be certain that, in order to ensure that the point is driven home and the shaft broken off behind it, all the comments on here are actually posted by TLP himself.

Except this one, of course.

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Actually, this is the first... (Below threshold)

August 24, 2012 12:35 PM | Posted by Jimmy Ha: | Reply

Actually, this is the first time I'm hearing about Paul Ryan liking Rage Against the Machine. What does this say about you, TLP?

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Tom Morello was born on May... (Below threshold)

August 24, 2012 12:39 PM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

Tom Morello was born on May 30, 1964, in Harlem, New York to Ngethe Njoroge and Mary Morello. Njoroge was Kikuyu Kenyan and a Mau Mau guerrilla. Jomo Kenyatta, the revolutionary leader of the Mau Mau, was his uncle. Njoroge served as liberated Kenya’s first ambassador to the U.N. In August 1963, Njoroge and Mary met at a pro democracy protest in Nairobi, Kenya. In November 1963 after discovering her pregnancy, Mary returned to the United States with Njoroge in toll, and married in New York City. [53]

Undoubtedly, Mary Morello similarly to Ann Dunham worked for either the U.S. State Department under Dean Rusk through the USAID student operations ran by Helms to infiltrate leftist Black African Liberation Movements to disrupt, recruit and inform. Ann Dunham was three months pregnant when she married Barack Obama Sr. on February 2, 1961. While Obama Jr. was being conceived in 1960, Mary Morello was circulating in Nairobi, Kenya. Mary Morello had travelled to Kenya as well as Germany, Spain, Japan under a clandestine veil as an English language teacher between 1957 and 1963.

After graduating from Libertyville High School, Tom Morello was the first student in Libertyville’s history to be admitted to Harvard University. Yet when he graduated with a degree in political science, Tom Morello asserts that he was “unemployable.” He then turned up in Hollywood as an exotic male stripper.

Ordinarily that’s the way the story is suppose to end, two small town boys from Middle America makes good. It was just faith that two young white independent American females just happened to be in the right place and right time [one in the middle of the East Africa] by chance meet two centrally placed Black African Liberation figures key to the interests of British and U.S. Foreign Policy.

One entangles the nephew of one of the most important and powerful Black Nationalist political figures of the 20th Century, Jomo Kenyatta, and the other entangles a key tribal rival to Kenyatta in love child triangles just at the moment of the critical end to a long bloody struggle for Kenyan independence from white colonial rule.

The luck of Irish continues. It so happened that the two small boys from the African love child triangles from small town America make it to Harvard University, one of the most prominent and powerful multinational universities on the planet.

It is indeed a story stranger than fiction that Tom Morello as he told Tavis Smiley that a Harvard educated male stripper, with no job experience could just find the name in a phone book and call up one of the most powerful men on Capital Hill, Alan Cranston, the U.S. Senate Majority Whip ask if there are any openings and be hired to one of his most important and critical congressional staff positions, scheduling secretary.[61] While the other African love child becomes one of the greatest illusions of modern history, he becomes a U.S. Senator and then President of the United States, the most powerful man on the planet. That happens only in America. So one is led to believe.

http://mindcontrolblackassassins.com/2010/10/09/down-the-rabbit-hole-barack-obama-tom-morello-satanism-space-kids-and-the-cyborg-project/

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Aaron, it was a joke (with ... (Below threshold)

August 24, 2012 12:43 PM | Posted, in reply to Aaron's comment, by Anonymous: | Reply

Aaron, it was a joke (with an unintentional misspelling, please find it in your heart to forgive) - sorta of a joke, anyway - most of Rogan's fans enjoy a little mind expansion.

I bet you are riot.

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This essay reminds me of Pe... (Below threshold)

August 24, 2012 1:07 PM | Posted by thecobrasnose: | Reply

This essay reminds me of Peter Watkin's media critique "Privilege." In it, a pop star is used as a safety valve for teen discontent and is captive to the "privilege" of his fame and position, and becomes like the child described in "Is the Cult of Self-Esteem Ruining Our Kids?":

"You know what choice she'll never offer him? The choice to fight back on the playground or disagree with her. Being given the illusion of free choice when all of the choices are meaningless or terrible has a name, and they used to think it caused schizophrenia, so grant me that it probably drives some kids to therapy."

http://thelastpsychiatrist.com/2011/06/is_the_cult_of_self-esteem_rui.html

Thank you for another thoughtful post.

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You're dead wrong about Gen... (Below threshold)

August 24, 2012 2:08 PM | Posted by (R)Evoluzione: | Reply

You're dead wrong about Gen X not caring about song lyrics or listening to them. Gen X'ers I know quote song lyrics like poetry in appropos moments. Lyrics matter, words have meaning.

Paul Ryan is simply one of the more oblivious members of Gen X. You have to be that oblivious to go as far as he has in politics, or to even get into politics in the first place. For that, he earns a Class A Douchetruck rating.

I like most of your posts, but this one is on par with Paul Ryan's level of self-awareness.

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This story is manufactured ... (Below threshold)

August 24, 2012 2:43 PM | Posted, in reply to (R)Evoluzione's comment, by Anonymous: | Reply

This story is manufactured for your entertainment and outrage. All you need to know to see that is the fact that Morello's net worth is ten times of Ryan's, which in turn is (i am speculating) ten times your net worth.

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Ah, finally a TLP I can com... (Below threshold)

August 24, 2012 3:49 PM | Posted by PoliticalOmnivore: | Reply

Ah, finally a TLP I can comment on!

1. TLP hits the key pieces here but there's a stronger connection between Ryan and Rage and Dee Snider calls it out explicitly***:

In a statement relayed through his manager, Snider said, “I emphatically denounce Paul Ryan’s use of my band Twisted Sister’s song, ‘We’re Not Gonna Take It,’ in any capacity,” adding that, “there is almost nothing he stands for that I agree with except the use of the P90X.”

Rage against the machine is what you listen to when you are working out to P90X. It is what you listen to when you want some anger-fueled, rock-fueled adrenaline and it's the corporately packaged product that brings it to you.

2. The idea that we have stopped hearing about Ron Paul because he would be dangerous is interesting but it isn't true. Virgil Goode (who, by the power invested in me by posting on a message board, you have NOT heard of*) is substantially MORE dangerous than Ron Paul NOW--but you never heard of him when he wasn't.

Jill Stein is NOT dangerous and you haven't heard of her either. Trust me.

The candidates dangerousness is not the key factor here.

The reason "we" have stopped hearing about Ron Paul is because "we" get our news from major news outlets and the story--the narrative--around Ron Paul is too complex for most media to encapsulate and tell.

The story of Virgil Goode and Stein is simple but not interesting (unless Goode looks like he's going to tilt VA which ... is not likely). Ron Paul's story is more interesting but it is WAY too complex.

That is also why he only gets X-amount of penetration: most people will not navigate his narrative deeply enough to throw in with him. Unless you really like weed.

Well done!

* Constitution Party candidate who MIGHT make the 1% vote to cost Romney VA. Stein is the Green Party candidate who isn't going to cost anyone but her contributors anything.

** I, and likely many readers here, have never stopped hearing about Ron Paul

*** http://www.geeksofdoom.com/2012/08/24/paul-ryan-uses-twisted-sister-song-dee-snider-is-not-gonna-take-it/

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I quite appreciate the thes... (Below threshold)

August 24, 2012 4:02 PM | Posted by Mark: | Reply

I quite appreciate the thesis, but I seem to be having difficulty relating to the viewpoint to which it's directed. Maybe it's just that I don't know who Rage Against The Machine is. Are you addressing an audience that hypothetically does still assume that they're not memeoids, or is this one of those "If you're reading it, it's for you" things?

If my comment on the article can be boiled down to an attempt to make it about me, doesn't that mean they're still playing me? If knowing that it's a con is part of the con, does that mean knowing that knowing it's a con is part of the con is also part of the con? Is it possible to be fully aware that They Live but not have a problem with that fact?

Thanks for continuing to write. It's always interesting.

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Nonny, that link is awesome... (Below threshold)

August 24, 2012 4:11 PM | Posted, in reply to Anonymous's comment, by Gabe Ruth: | Reply

Nonny, that link is awesome.

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Reminds me of some of the c... (Below threshold)

August 24, 2012 4:30 PM | Posted by Rufus: | Reply

Reminds me of some of the central themes from The Baffler 20 years ago. E.g. "Why Johnny Can't Dissent" (in here)

A similar theme: the concept of generations (or defining any "demographic") is simply a tool to sell stuff to you. Is, say, "Gen-X" a meaningful term? Or are we buying into the terms set by the sales & marketing departments just by using it.

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<a href="http://books.googl... (Below threshold)

August 24, 2012 4:32 PM | Posted by Rufus: | Reply

link corrected

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I can understand why Paul R... (Below threshold)

August 24, 2012 4:48 PM | Posted by dejour: | Reply

I can understand why Paul Ryan likes a video like this.

RATM clearly is saying that Gore and Bush were two sides of the same coin in 2000.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1JSBhI_0at0

Ryan's takeaway would be that Bush was not staying true to conservative principles.

But in this one, is pure Occupy Wall Street. Not sure how Ryan missed the message.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w211KOQ5BMI&feature=related

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The Coca Cola ad is genius ... (Below threshold)

August 24, 2012 4:49 PM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

The Coca Cola ad is genius because we move away so we can move close, and then the infinite cycle of attachment and detachment blurs into duality.

You're so cynical TLP, come here.

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Alone has redeemed himself ... (Below threshold)

August 24, 2012 7:14 PM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

Alone has redeemed himself with this piece. I lol'ed right on through. Nirvana? RAMMSTEIN? It's like you are thought deleting and took all my brain contents. I knew there was a camera in my head feeding data to the FBI, this is proof. I'll also inform you Till Lindemann of Rammstein sings songs regarding heartbreak and loss, as well as randomly screaming easily pronounced german words/counting for non-german speaking audiences.

PS LAWL OMG carson daly. Remember teh 90s?

I like to think Paul Ryan likes RATM for the irony value. If I was the offspring of an oil tycoon I would probably tell people all kinds of crazy crap like that just for shits and giggles. I would put lefty collectivist stickers on my lexus.

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For your listening pleasure... (Below threshold)

August 24, 2012 8:00 PM | Posted by jbrydle: | Reply

For your listening pleasure, Werner Herzog reads The Last Psychiatrist:

http://soundcloud.com/jbrydle/werner-herzog-reads-the-last

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Excellent piece.To... (Below threshold)

August 24, 2012 10:02 PM | Posted by Vince: | Reply

Excellent piece.

Tom Morello doesn't seem cognizant of the fact that as an artist, after he's recorded his 'art' and burned in on the CD that's now in the 10-for-$5 bin at Walmart -- what he puts inside that jewel case to be sold is like Schrödinger's cat to the buyer.

He might have had an intention on meaning, but that's scrambled up in a complex wave-function now only to be decohered by the listener and their subjective perspective.

For him, it might have been railing against the same capitalist-'machine' that has, ironically, made him wealth; but for Ryan, the meaning could have been taking down the oppressive 'machine' that is state.

And Morello has no fucking right to say otherwise, his coherent influence has been lost into the dimensional abyss as soon as he sold the CD. Sorry chap, 'tis the rules of the universe.

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I like TONS of music of ban... (Below threshold)

August 25, 2012 12:46 AM | Posted by Navy Shrink: | Reply

I like TONS of music of bands with whom I share virtually no political agreement with. So, this just in from the Department of So What.

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the lyrics are explicitly l... (Below threshold)

August 25, 2012 5:44 AM | Posted, in reply to Vince's comment, by tim: | Reply

the lyrics are explicitly leftist...so i don't think that reinterpretation really works.

Ryan was being a bonehead...it's kind of simple. Even if he likes the band, he doesn't have to tell everyone that a band that advocates left-anarchism is one of his favs.

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Wow, and I don't mean that ... (Below threshold)

August 25, 2012 8:54 AM | Posted, in reply to Vince's comment, by Anonymous: | Reply

Wow, and I don't mean that in a good way

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... now if he liked country... (Below threshold)

August 25, 2012 9:51 AM | Posted by spin: | Reply

... now if he liked country and western, then i'd worry.

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Meanwhile, books are rottin... (Below threshold)

August 25, 2012 1:02 PM | Posted by Gabriel: | Reply

Meanwhile, books are rotting...

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TLP is starting to read lik... (Below threshold)

August 25, 2012 1:41 PM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

TLP is starting to read like a DIY punk-rock zine. This article taught me more about TLP than anything; TLP is a message that is part of the machine.

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"This article taught me mor... (Below threshold)

August 25, 2012 2:26 PM | Posted, in reply to Anonymous's comment, by (R)Evoluzione: | Reply

"This article taught me more about TLP than anything; TLP is a message that is part of the machine."

*BEST COMMENT ON THREAD*

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Haw Haw "lyrics are explici... (Below threshold)

August 25, 2012 4:22 PM | Posted by Rageagainstthedummies: | Reply

Haw Haw "lyrics are explicitly leftist", and yes the M in MTEEVEE stands for Marx.

"lyics" in rock are secondary to the beat. Even the "music" is secondary to the beat - hence the emphasis on rhythm instruments. The beat is the whole point - to turn off your powers of reason and turn on your hips/lizard brain. This is why "artists" who attempt to stretch the medium ("art rock" dial-turners, or our chums Rage Against the hardee-har-har here) always look like buffoons, or tedious bores.

Ryan understands this music far better than the rockers do. Why do you think there are people out there who think Born In The USA is a patriotic anthem? Bet you can't think of that song without thinking of Reagan.

The genius of rock - the capitalist cultural form par excellence - is that it allows seductive bullshit to be packaged as a physical product that is owned by a company and can be sold, and in selling a physical product the owner can sell an utterly insubstantial image (I'm a leftist rebel! You can tell from the fact that I've got my feet up on the table!) along with it.

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Ok, I’ll chip in since it s... (Below threshold)

August 25, 2012 5:59 PM | Posted by PowerSexKitten: | Reply

Ok, I’ll chip in since it seems I'm one of the rare dude here who actually owns some RATM music. When that story came out there were 4 or 5 Rage songs on my cell playlist (all from their sophomore Evil Empire album, if anyone care) and I even one or two CD.

As for fitting the Leftie profile, a degree in economics, work experience in business consulting, real estate and even pharmafuckingceutical might be problematic, as is a fondness for Mexx suits. While I discovered the 2 first albums through friends in high school and college, I know their later singles through the internet radio that I listen at work while crunching data spreadsheets.

So yeah, Paul Ryan went from being a dude I don't know anything about to someone who's somewhat cool because I can relate to him, even if on the very most superficial level (fear not for I'm Canadian, so there's no risk I can vote for him and Mitt or anything).

RATM music is good, the members are talented musicians and Zac de la Rocha knows how to write lyrics - yes, the lyrics are leftie stuff, who cares? As far as I've observed since a friend put their eponymous album on while we were playing Magic: the Gathering, people who listen to RATM are geeks, jocks, normal white guys from the suburbs who enjoy 90s alternative music, modern rock and metal. If two guys who've just met end-up discovering they both like RATM, they’ll never take for granted that the other one is in the Black Block or anything like that. When you’re a white dude born in the 80s and you like rock music, liking RATM is the most normal thing ever.

So the guitarist is half black, the singer is brown, and the manager knows white dudes born in the 80s will think it's absolutely reasonable to put a three-figure number on the credit card bill - Dude, fucking Rage live, man!

My first encounter with that story was on Facebook, LeftieFriend posted it on her wall. “Oh, what’s your favourite Rage album, Leftiefriend ;)” was my witty reply to her post. “haha I don’t know them :), but it’s surprising that...” – Of course she doesn’t know them. They never do.

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Where you err with this art... (Below threshold)

August 26, 2012 10:40 AM | Posted by Davegeek: | Reply

Where you err with this article is in your assumption that Tom Morello doesn't ask himself these questions. These questions are ones that RATM have asked themselves at length. As have most every political artist. They have chosen to involve themselves in the music business as a means to reach the largest possible audience with their message. In so doing they are also aware that they have become a part of the machine and that most of those exposed to their music will simply hum along and forget what was said when the song changes. What they focus on though is the ones who don't do this and who might not have otherwise heard their message. It's a trade-off but one the artists are all too aware of.

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I've long thought that the ... (Below threshold)

August 26, 2012 11:06 AM | Posted by Jay: | Reply

I've long thought that the main feature of our culture is infinite choice between indistinguishable alternatives. Coke v. Pepsi, McDonalds v. Burger King, Republican v. Democrat, etc.

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Tom Morrello did the soundt... (Below threshold)

August 26, 2012 6:43 PM | Posted by Crumbskull: | Reply

Tom Morrello did the soundtrack to the spawn movie hahaha

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I'm reminded of P.J. O'Rour... (Below threshold)

August 26, 2012 11:51 PM | Posted by DensityDuck: | Reply

I'm reminded of P.J. O'Rourke, writing in "Parliament of Whores" about Jesse Jackson. It went something like...

"Here was this angry firebrand, this outspoken and vocal leader of a marginalized minority. And was he being suppressed, beaten, thrown in jail? No. He was being turned into just another part of the system. And, in a way, this was heartwarming."

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This is priceless: Th... (Below threshold)

August 27, 2012 3:35 AM | Posted by Narcissus Thespiae: | Reply

This is priceless: The partisanship that everyone desperately clings to is a media construction serving the necessary function of letting you self-identify, in the absence of anything in your life more substantive.

Tom Morello responds to the TLP clones here. http://www.progressive.org/mag_intvlizdmorello

Action NOT endless speculative reflection on media wins the day clones. A TLP lesson 101.

Seems TLP and RATM have a lot in common. TLP could just write pamphlets and avoid the medium is the message charge OR reach a ton of people via the internets and awaken a few. What? Oh, you thought posting here was so different. So pure. So unlike Morello...Right. So if RATM sold 14 albums the clones here would say there is NO legit action taking place and dismiss RATM. If they sell 14 million, well, they are no longer counter-culture. But just like TLP, Morello seems content with the few who the message does penetrate to. Provocation.

As usual, it's the clones of each who then duke it out in the comment section which reflects a subtle lingering denial of the quote in bold at the beginning of this comment. Let that sink in.

Notice that TLP and Morello are not commenting here. They are out doing what they love regardless of what you think. When you leave here, act and the subject and ensuing comments become about you...TLP gets a feather in his angel wings.

N.
____

Morello: "It's important to me to have both great rock and roll and to be able to fight the power on a daily basis. That's where that divergence happened, to do my politics via Axis of Justice and my music via Audioslave."

Q: What is Axis of Justice?

Morello: "Axis of Justice is a nonprofit political organization formed by me and Serj Tankian, singer of System of a Down. We formed the organization a little over two years ago to build a bridge between progressive-minded musicians, fans of rock and rap music, and local grassroots organizations.

For ten years in Rage Against the Machine, kids were asking me, "I love your band. I feel motivated. How do I get involved?" We formed this organization to answer that question for the kids who were basically like I was. I grew up in a small, conservative Midwestern town. I had these ideas in my head but there was nothing to connect to. I wouldn't have known if there was an anti-nukes rally happening in the next town over.

So we send an Axis of Justice tent on anybody's tour that asks, free of charge. We organize the booths at the shows. We invite local grassroots groups and speakers. We play videos. And kids come. At Ozzfest two years ago and Lollapalooza last year we had the most educationally intense twenty-by-twenty space ever in a rock and roll show.

Q: How do you reconcile being anti-corporate and being on a major label?

Morello: Rage Against the Machine sold fourteen million records of totally subversive revolutionary propaganda. The reason why is that the albums were released on Sony and got that sort of distribution.

You have two choices. I admire bands like Fugazi that take the other route. They are completely self-contained and independent. But if you do that, then you have to be a businessman. Then I have to sit there and worry about the orders to Belgium and make sure they get there. That is not what I'm going to do.

We've had, in Rage Against the Machine and Audioslave, complete artistic control, 100 percent over everything. Every second of every video, every second of every album, every bit of advertisement comes directly from us. I don't even look at it as a tradeoff. You live in a friggin' capitalist world. If you want to sell 45s out of the back of your microbus, God bless you. And maybe that works better, I don't know. I'll see you at the finish line.

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And why, when Tom Morello T... (Below threshold)

August 27, 2012 4:02 AM | Posted by mirror: | Reply

And why, when Tom Morello TLP wants to rage against Paul Ryan RATM, he does it through the subversive, iconoclastic, angry medium of.... Rolling Stone A blog? That'll get him. Let me be clear: I don't blame Morello TLP for writing in Rolling Stone a blog, I blame him for not asking himself what kind of a man is he that attracts Rolling Stone blog comments.

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Very entertaining post! Tha... (Below threshold)

August 27, 2012 11:31 AM | Posted by JohnK: | Reply

Very entertaining post! Thanks!

I do have a basic question and a comment.

When you write these kind of articles, you seem to give much more power to mass media than you often do when expanding your argument that it is ultimately large numbers of individuals who are responsible for the ways of the world. How do you reconcile these two views you seem to be a master at?

My comment is a simple one. RATM hits are popular in Latin America. Young Spanish speaking audiences would make up lyrics they would understand collectively to be able to chant "Y que te saco la chucha!" or "Eres un hijo de puta!" Instead of "And then you do what they told ya!

I offer this comment for dissection if anyone is interested.

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I'd love to see this articl... (Below threshold)

August 27, 2012 3:50 PM | Posted by Andrew: | Reply

I'd love to see this article after TLP listened to Rage a few times. Note anything missing from any of the posts on this story? Zach. Zach isn't on the MTV link. Zach didn't quote anything. Zach doesn't make appearances on TV shows. Zach wrote all the lyrics to Rage songs and the real argument here is Paul Ryan vs. Zach...not Rage...certainly not Tom Morello.

I remember in 2000 when it was announced Rage Against the Machine would be doing a song for the Godzilla remake soundtrack and people BLEW UP: "SELL OUTS!!!!!" Then the song was released and the whole song is about how hollywood movies, specifically godzilla, are stupid, mindless distractions from real issues. Hilarious.

Rage always struck me as someone burning the tree from the inside. Taking their money and doing all the things with it that would infuriate people like Paul Ryan.

"Hi kids of MTV, we are Rage Against the Machine. Here's a song about how MTV is the worst thing that's ever going to happen to you."

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pretty sure that Alone is a... (Below threshold)

August 27, 2012 8:40 PM | Posted, in reply to Narcissus Thespiae's comment, by tim: | Reply

pretty sure that Alone is aware of the irony of this post...i think that's part of the point.

and I'm also pretty sure Rage/Tom Morello/Zack (it's spelt with a 'K', kthx) are also aware of the ironies that TLP is pointing out here.

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this comment is pretty wide... (Below threshold)

August 27, 2012 8:57 PM | Posted, in reply to Rageagainstthedummies's comment, by tim: | Reply

this comment is pretty wide of the mark.

say what you want about RATM, but i don't think anyone ever criticised them for being "tedious bores".

pro-terrorist, hypocritical, shrill, etc. -- maybe -- but boring? come on, get a clue.

and yeah, the lyrics are explicitly leftist...not sure what is funny about this. yes, there's irony in their being on a major label, so what? we live in the age of the postmodern. irony, hypocrisy, inadequation, are almost inescapable. does this completely strip away the artistic value of their work? no.

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In the spirit of Occam's ra... (Below threshold)

August 27, 2012 11:21 PM | Posted by drunicusrex: | Reply

In the spirit of Occam's razor, I'd just say that 1) someone named Paul Ryan, who is now a Senator & VP candidate, likes rock n's roll, like many who grew up in the 80's & 90's, and 2) he can tolerate other political points of view well enough to listen to a leftist "message."

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next your you'... (Below threshold)

August 28, 2012 12:27 PM | Posted by TheDavid: | Reply


next your you're going to tell me you've read the Constitution "several times."

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You know, I don't think Alo... (Below threshold)

August 28, 2012 7:37 PM | Posted, in reply to Anonymous's comment, by Anonymous: | Reply

You know, I don't think Alone would necessarily disagree with you.

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I think the story is how mu... (Below threshold)

August 30, 2012 4:17 PM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

I think the story is how much this is a story. We seem to think that this person's personal media consumption is relevent to the discussion of whether he can lead the nation. Be fair, Ryan essentially has two jobs -- vote if there's a tie in the Senate (which to my knowledge has never happened) and take over if something happens to Romney. We're worried about his choice of music when it's not really relevent to his ability to be a mostly symbolic figure with no power beyond being substitute persident and banging a gavel in the senate.

On the other hand, think of the stuff we aren't discussing. What does he think of any number of political issues? Does he think that Iran is working on nukes, and if he does, does he think Iran will use nukes? What does he think is the root cause of American unemployment rates, and more importantly what would he personally suggest as a solution to said problems. For that matter, we don't hear much of that from anyone else running.

But forget substance. Focus on RATM and Ryan. Maybe it will come out that Obama wears Calvin Klein and thus promotes child porn. We've already had the "scandal" of Romney's Olympic Horse, which once again tells us less than nothing about how Romney would run the country. It's all distraction, because the people who run the media don't want us to think. They don't want you do be thinking serious thoughts about abortion and economics and Keynesian vs Austrain ideas. You might not pay attention to the commercials.

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Very true. The reason why c... (Below threshold)

September 6, 2012 8:54 PM | Posted, in reply to Anonymous's comment, by Anonymous: | Reply

Very true. The reason why capitalism is so indestructible is that anyone who is smart enough to understand how and why they are getting screwed over is also smart enough to become the one doing the screwing. Said "smart" person is then left with two choices: spend a thankless eternity fighting what will probably be a useless fight in the end, or become rich or/and famous.

I can't deny; I'd choose the second option. We're all fucked, forever.

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speaking of cognitive kill ... (Below threshold)

September 6, 2012 9:26 PM | Posted, in reply to Anonymous's comment, by Anonymous: | Reply

speaking of cognitive kill switches...

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OMG I was LOL when I read t... (Below threshold)

September 10, 2012 9:27 AM | Posted by Vincent: | Reply

OMG I was LOL when I read this.

I'm not voting either, it's all a joke.

Rage against the machine did fail though, me and most of the 90's kids don't really know what they are raging about... but some vague thing about rebelling against the government.

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That's why RATM isn't as re... (Below threshold)

October 12, 2012 10:31 AM | Posted by Simon: | Reply

That's why RATM isn't as relevant as Cop Shoot Cop or Foetus or Suicide.. etc. etc. Let's get a bit philosophical here: in the end everything is included in the big chaos that is present [past&future] existence. All the judgements you make are as trivial as can be. And only matter in a sort of re-harmonizing the [everchanging (panta rhei]] status quo, and the value you [which is what?] attach to the perceived effects this has. So, I like you. I like everything that begs to differ. I'm not trying to be very clear here. I also wear most of clothes inside-out and noone seems to notice anymore.

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the author is lawrence less... (Below threshold)

October 27, 2012 12:05 AM | Posted by onceagain: | Reply

the author is lawrence lessig and this website is some kind of carefully studied federal grant funded social experiment. I find the whole thing creepy, but fascinating.

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"This is good," FM program... (Below threshold)

October 27, 2012 12:26 AM | Posted by onceagain: | Reply

"This is good," FM program directors said to you in 1999. "Eat it."

Total Laughable Wrong. FM program directors had no power over play in 1999.

RATHER Major label said to Clear Channel Communications in 1999: "This is what we are selling. We'll pay you to play it and nothing else."


Major labels 1998–2004 (Big Five)

Warner Music Group
EMI
Sony Music
BMG Music
Universal Music Group

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"When everything is recorde... (Below threshold)

December 21, 2012 12:37 AM | Posted by Tim: | Reply

"When everything is recorded, nothing is remembered." Thank you. This is something that has been on my mind for so long, yet until no, I have been unable to articulate into words. Thank you so very much.

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Read Repressive Tolerance b... (Below threshold)

December 23, 2012 10:01 PM | Posted by Ben: | Reply

Read Repressive Tolerance by Herbert Marcuse.

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"That if we dropped those b... (Below threshold)

January 26, 2013 5:01 PM | Posted by Steve: | Reply

"That if we dropped those beats on some 10th century viking marauders, they'd be all in?"

I'm going to say yes. People don't always like music just because "the system told them to" ya crazy nut.

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One of the few times you're... (Below threshold)

March 13, 2014 3:27 PM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

One of the few times you're actually off base TLP. Paul Ryan doesn't like Rage Against the Machine because he doesn't care about the words. Nobody likes Rage Against the Machine because of their wonderful use of harmony and deep understanding of music theory.

Paul Ryan likes RAtM because they are symbols of counterculture and he believes that he represents a new type of counterculture. That's assuming he likes them at all and isn't using them as a way to connect to that youth market that republicans are going to start picking up on any day now.

You generally think to ask the important questions, so it's baffling that this one slipped by you: "What is Paul Ryan trying to say about himself by liking RAtM?" This ain't a movie. Villains (if that's what he is) are characters too, same as you or me. They see themselves in a certain way, and it's likely to be different from the way you or I or RAtM sees them.

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