“F**k you, I won’t do what you tell me!”
These lyrics, passionately exclaimed in the song, “Killing in the Name” by the music group Rage Against the Machine, have somehow morphed into, “F**k you, you better do what they tell you!” in reality. From supporting rights-violating vaccine mandates at their shows, to promoting the use of big government to legalize rights-violating abortions while opposing proper jurisdictions having the ability to enact legal protections for the Pre-born, Rage Against the Machine’s recent actions have drummed up renewed criticism of their long-standing hypocrisy and moral confusion.
In the 1990s, many young people just discovering the extent of injustice in the world were inevitably attracted to the politically-charged, status quo dissent found in the songs of the rap/rock band Rage Against the Machine (RATM). I was one of them. Their work was (and is) unique; it is hard-hitting rock/metal mixed with the explosive, often politically left-oriented, poetic rap lyrics and emotion of front man Zack de la Rocha.
If you are unfamiliar with their music, nobody will blame you if this sounds awful to you. Many bands that try this style fail, but RATM somehow makes it work. The band members have been mostly busy with other projects in recent years, but they have come back together once again to “rage” about current events.
RATM undeniably “rocks,” but what about the merits of the political content found in their four studio albums and beyond? After many years of studying the worldview and principles of both the political and ideological Left and Right in America, I would say their content can be summarized as being really good at identifying injustice, really bad at placing them in context and identifying real solutions.
In a famous scene from the movie Network, the character Howard Beale proclaimed, regarding the problems in society, “I don’t know what to do… (but) first you’ve got to get mad!” This fits Rage Against the Machine perfectly given their name. The “Machine,” of course, is The Man, the system, the establishment, the authority, the status quo. To fight an unjust “Machine” is certainly a duty, but to do it properly one must be appropriately morally oriented so that the manner in which “the Machine” is fought does not result in the emergence of a worse “Machine.”
Like most Leftist proposals, RATM often falls into the fallacy of supporting or suggesting the implementation of injustice in an attempt to solve problems of injustice, both real and perceived. They also rely heavily on (or fall into) the generalization fallacies, which can cause misplaced rage in the minds of the listeners. Insofar as promoting activism, as RATM certainly intends, this comes at the cost of discounting moral principles and failing to use valid political systems to institute positive change. What a motivated listener often gets is a critique of one kind of problematic “Machine” while unwillingly helping build and becoming part of even more monstrous ones.
Whether it is perpetuating the race and class war while discounting the prospect for positive change in “Down Rodeo,” or a general misunderstanding of American ideals and demonization in “Know Your Enemy,” RATM played their part in warping the minds of many a young Leftist revolutionaries in the 1990’s, early 2000’s, and beyond. This is not to say everything they espouse is wrong. As I indicated, there is some truth inherent in most of their songs, which I suspect is why they are so effective in attracting the attention and admiration of so many disoriented malcontents that need an enemy to target.
COVID Vaccine Requirements
There are often contradictions between RATM’s ideals and acts. They have a song called “No Shelter” that ironically appeared on the Godzilla Movie soundtrack back in the 90s. It was ironic because it was a song that was heavily critical of mass commercialization and the problem of propaganda being spewed out in the form of entertainment that is ultimately used to distract people from government abuses. So by having a song like that on a big Hollywood movie soundtrack, they used the system to critique the system, which is brilliant. During COVID however, when the threat of overly-powered government became a reality, the band received criticism for supporting (and not raging against) the use of vaccine requirements for the audience to see their shows. Some reports indicate the band even went further than other bands, requiring the shot when not being pressured by the venue. They were very un-ironically complying with the system in a much worse way; one that promoted the enlargement of every abuse against rights they are supposedly raging against.
Even more recently, RATM has become vocal about abortion. In RATM’s mind, a government has no right protecting the fundamental rights of pre-born humans. The “Machine” to rage against in this case is somehow government properly using legitimate authority to protect rights from infringement. It is somehow the Supreme Court of the United States that appropriately overturned the unconstitutional Roe v. Wade precedent preventing States from determining their own abortion laws. RATM had a song called “Voice of the Voiceless” and claimed such voices would never be silenced. Now they back the massive government/industrial/media Machine that wants to continue to manipulate people into believing it is ok to squash out the voiceless voice of millions of innocent pre-born humans trying to live and develop as is their natural fundamental right. This hypocrisy shows that “Machines” come in many forms and it is possible to be raging against the wrong ones.
Should We Decommission This Machine?
I would not tell anyone not to listen to RATM, but I would suggest one does so with caution. If you are interested in creating a just world and want to oppose “Machines” that violate the fundamental rights of Man, make sure you are not lured into working on behalf of the Machine through misplaced rage.