Rage Against the Ryan Machine

August 21st, 2012 by Perry

I enjoy Rage Against the Machine. Rage and I both love freedom. I see freedom in removing government barriers that prevent individual success and personal enjoyment of life. Rage sees freedom in calling for people to seize the means of production. I see America as the land of the free, which according to Rage lyrics make me their enemy. I enjoy the music and the passion, but we go down different ideological paths. I’m not alone. Rage has sold millions of records (what’s a record?) but not everyone buying “Rage Against the Machine” or “Evil Empire” or “The Battle of Los Angeles” or “Renegades” is actually a revolutionary liberation Marxist. A lot of their fans were middle class kids who bought the music in a shopping mall off the shelf next to R.E.M. and Roxette.

You can enjoy art without adhering to the philosophy of the artist. I can appreciate a painting by Claude Monet without denying the ability to know an object itself. I’ll buy a ticket to see Tom Cruise in Mission Impossible, marvel at his stunts, yet I don’t plan to convert to Scientology.

For Rage Against the Machine guitarist Tom Morello, apparently, if you don’t agree with an artist you don’t understand the artist. Apparently one of those non-Marxist kids like me who now has Rage on his I-Pod is Republican Vice Presidential pick Paul Ryan. Morello writes about his rage against Paul Ryan in Rolling Stone:

Paul Ryan’s love of Rage Against the Machine is amusing, because he is the embodiment of the machine that our music has been raging against for two decades. Charles Manson loved the Beatles but didn’t understand them. Governor Chris Christie loves Bruce Springsteen but doesn’t understand him. And Paul Ryan is clueless about his favorite band, Rage Against the Machine.

Ryan claims that he likes Rage’s sound, but not the lyrics. Well, I don’t care for Paul Ryan’s sound or his lyrics. He can like whatever bands he wants, but his guiding vision of shifting revenue more radically to the one percent is antithetical to the message of Rage.

But Rage’s music affects people in different ways. Some tune out what the band stands for and concentrate on the moshing and throwing elbows in the pit. For others, Rage has changed their minds and their lives. Many activists around the world, including organizers of the global occupy movement, were radicalized by Rage Against the Machine and work tirelessly for a more humane and just planet. Perhaps Paul Ryan was moshing when he should have been listening.

While reading Morello’s rant and lamenting it lacks the poetic passion of Rage lyrics, I was reminded of one of my favorite pieces from The Onion – “Where Are You Now, When We Need You Most, Rage Against The Machine?” from 2004. Morello’s harrangue is a case of life imitating art imitating art.

You lifted the nation’s youth up out of the mire and taught us to question, to act. Rage Against The Machine, come back. Bring us more slamming riffs and sonic wallop. Bring us more shredding and axing. Do that thing where you make your guitar sound like bagpipes.

Seriously, we need a healthy dose of your cuttin’, or Bush will win. It’s Vietnow, man, and just like you said before, America’s getting its news-trients from the likes of Benito Hannity and Adolf Limbaugh. We need a musical antidote to the poison. This nation needs another bomb track to ignite it! We are lost, Rage Against The Machine. Where have you gone? The voice of the voiceless is silent.

Surely Zack has ample material for new songs. This empire couldn’t be any more evil. What about Abu Ghraib? If ever anyone was sleeping in the fire, it was those prisoners. Zack, if you’re listening, if you’re reading this—we need you.

And where are you, Tom, Tim, and Brad? You bravely stood up for the dispossessed of the Third World, but in the current political climate, we are dispossessed in our own country. The erosion of our rights and liberties makes captives of us all. Do you no longer care? Did the machine defeat you?

I love the Onion. Maybe to Morello’s point, I don’t understand the Onion, but I do fully enjoy it. If you don’t like cuss words, don’t read the Onion, but if you don’t mind the occasional crude term, you might enjoy this letter “by” Paul Ryan to Democrats from the Onion last week: “Admit It, I Scare The Ever-Loving S*** Out of You, Don’t I?

It’s okay to admit it. You’re frightened to death of me. It might actually be healthy for you to face your fears now rather than later, when Mitt and I are leading by a few points in the polls and it looks like this thing might end badly for you. Face it: I’m not some catastrophe waiting to happen, like a Sarah Palin or a Dan Quayle. On the contrary, you have the exact opposite fear. I’m a solid, competent, some might say exceptional, politician.

Did you get nervous when you read that last sentence? Is it because you know in your heart of hearts that it’s 100 percent true? Is it because, even if you strongly disagree with my beliefs on Medicare, Social Security, women’s rights, and marriage equality, you know my talent as a speaker and my well-thought-out approach to these issues—no matter how radical and convoluted you find them—might just be enough to win over independent voters?

Do you get chills just thinking about how strong my appeal actually is?

I have another question for you: How scared are you that I can convince people I’m right? Because I’m good at it. No, I’m really good at it. You see, I know how to turn up the charm and charisma without putting people off. Then I back up what I’m saying with arguments that, when they come out of my mouth, sound completely accurate and well-reasoned. And I do it with such passion that people automatically recognize me as a man with deep convictions he will stand up for, no matter what.

In 2000, Rage Against the Machine supported Ralph Nader’s Green Party campaign for president against the “Republicrats” (George W. Bush and Al Gore). During the primary that year, Michael Moore took a traveling mosh pit through Iowa offering the endorsement of “The Awful Truth” to any candidate that jumped into the pit slamming to the sounds of Rage. Alan Keyes, the guy who six years later would be creamed in a U.S. Senate campaign by a state legislator named Barack Obama, did it. Moore went on to direct a video for Rage resulting in the lock down of the New York Stock Exchange. Those was all frivolous shenanigans, not exactly working “tirelessly for a more humane and just planet.” Perhaps Michael Moore was directing and moshing when he should have been listening.

In this presidential election, Republicans might paraphrase lyrics from Rage, “Paul Ryan is relentless. We need a movement with a quickness. You are the witness of change and to counteract, we gotta take the power back.”

Much of the country is ready for change from the Obama Administration.  That has folks like Morello raging against the Ryan machine.

Hat-tip to Red Alert Politics for “Tom Morello’s misguided rage” and hat-tip to @KarlRove for Tweeting that last bit from the Onion.

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