Rage Against the Machine
| Time to put on some|
| How the sausage is made|
“”A band called 'The Machine Rages On' . . . er . . . 'Rage Against the Machine.’ That band is anti-family and it's pro-terrorist.
|—Gary Bauer in 2000, who Trump appointed to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom in 2018.|
|—Lyrics from Killing in the Name, one of their most well-known songs|
Rage Against the Machine is an American rock band known for a unique style of rap metal and themes of left-wing revolution. The rapping of Zack de la Rocha, the heavily effected guitar of Tom Morello, the groovy basslines of Tim Commferford, and the solid beats of Brad Wilk are responsible for this stylistic notability. They are one of the most popular anti-establishment bands in history, some people interpreting this as hypocrisy.
Politics and activism
“”A good friend of ours once said that if the same laws were applied to U.S. presidents as were applied to the Nazis after World War II . . . every single one of them, every last rich white one of them from Truman on, would have been hung to death and shot—and this current administration is no exception. They should be hung, and tried, and shot. As any war criminal should be.
|—Zack de la Rocha in 2007 in opposition to the Iraq War|
RATM could be considered far left for its support of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation:
“”But besides that it made me think about something. It made me think, ‘what are they so afraid of?’ It made me think about what scares them. Is it really four musicians from Los Angeles who've got a point of view? Is it really just this music and these rhythms and these words? Is that what they're scared of? I thought I'd think about it and you know what? My conclusion is this: nah, they ain't scared of us, they're scared of you! They're scared that you might come election time and throw Bush and Cheney and all them fascists out of power! That's what they're scared of!
And let me say this: the Democrats are scared of you too! Because they know that you see through their bullshit too. Because when Bush was wiretapping, spying on citizens, torturing innocent people – they were supposed to be the people to defend us from them, and they didn't do shit! So the Democrats are scared of you too. Why? Because they know they're coming to power and they're taking it all for granted, but they're scared because they know that if they don't start fucking pulling troops from Iraq that you're going to go and burn down every office of every Senator that doesn't do the job.Well I will say this, that the world is watching us now. The whole world is watching us. The brothers and sisters in South America who are dealing with this imperialist violence have got their eyes on us. Our brothers and sisters in Iraq got their eyes on us. Because we are the ones that are prepared to, and going to, put an end to this nonsense. So Wake Up. Come on, Wake Up! Wake Up!
|—In support of the Zapatistas and riotous direct action among Americans|
Wall Street protest
In 2000, RATM shot the music video for their song “Sleep Now in the Fire” outside the New York Stock Exchange with Michael Moore as the director. According to the band, Mayor Giuliani decreed they “shall not play on Wall Street.” Because they didn’t have a sound permit and had brought a few hundred attention-grabbing fans with them, cops approached the site and arrested Michael Moore. The band and the fans then charged the stock exchange and blew past the limited security, resulting in the exchange being shut down for a single day. The Occupy Wall Street protests probably would’ve been more effective if heavy metal and rap were involved more. The music video, including Michael Moore’s arrest:
Concert cancellations by the government
“”I don't care what fucking television stations said, [that] the violence was caused by the people at the concert; those motherfuckers unloaded on this crowd. And I think it's ridiculous considering, you know, none of us had rubber bullets, none of us had M16s, none of us had billy clubs, none of us had face shields.
|—Zack de la Rocha in 2000 after a concert near the DNC|
“”[We] showed up at exactly the time we were scheduled to perform, and as soon as we got out of our vehicle we were immediately surrounded by riot police who told us if we approached the stage we'd be arrested for playing music. They said that we were not on a permit for the day's show. We produced the permit and showed them that none of the artists that had already been playing for the previous four hours, including Anti-Flag and Michael Franti, none of the artists were listed on the permits. They just tried to use that as an excuse to stop us from playing. We were there right on time to play and they physically barred us from getting onto the stage because they were afraid of the music we were going to play. Imagine if in Beijing during the Olympics a Chinese band whose songs were critical of the government was told they'd be arrested if they attempted to sing those songs in a public forum — there would have been an international human rights outcry. But that's exactly what happened in Minnesota. But this is a band that has made a living singing a song that goes 'Fuck you, I won't do what you tell me,' so we weren't about to go back to the hotel with our tails between our legs. So we out-flanked the police line and went into the middle of the crowd, and played a couple of songs passing a bull horn back and forth, and it seemed to go over pretty well.
|—Tom Morello in 2008 after a concert near the RNC|
Bizarre right-wing response
Paul Ryan is a RATM fan, which the band took offense to. It’s similar to Trent Reznor kicking Ted Cruz out of a Nine Inch Nails concert or the members of Nirvana finding out their high school bullies are Nirvana fans. During the 2020 George Floyd Protests, Tom Morello’s online support of BLM led to replies from oblivious fans on Twitter, which can be seen here:
Some guy: I use to be a fan until your political opinions come out. Music is my sanctuary and the last thing I want to hear is political bullshit when i’m listening to music. As far as i’m concerned you and Pink are completely done. Keep running your mouth and ruining your fan base.
Morello Response: Scott!! What music of mine were you a fan of that DIDN’T contain ‘political BS’? I need to know so I can delete it from the catalog.
Some other guy: Another successful musician instantly becomes a political expert
Morello response: One does not have to be an honors grad in political science from Harvard University to recognize the unethical and inhumane nature of this administration but well, I happen to be an honors grad in political science from Harvard University so I can confirm that for you.
Not all right-wingers like them though, such as Ann Coulter saying "They're losers, their fans are losers, and there’s a lot of violence coming from the left wing.” Or Gary Bauer (yeah, that guy again) saying that's what the "kids at Columbine" listened to. Does that sound familiar?
Their music has been used as torture at Gitmo along with that of bands like Nine Inch Nails, which RATM has obviously opposed.
- Fun_People Archive 28 Jan How They Got Alan Keyes to Dive Into Their Mosh Pit http://www.langston.com/Fun_People/2000/2000ADE.html
- Trump appoints Gary Bauer of CUFI for US commission on religion freedom https://www.clevelandjewishnews.com/news/national_news/trump-appoints-gary-bauer-of-cufi-for-us-commission-on/article_0f405402-cf71-5c0a-b06c-dfe1b4250994.html
- Moss, Corey (April 30, 2007). "Rage Against the Machine's Ferocious Reunion Caps Coachella's Final Night". MTV News. MTV.com. Retrieved 2008-09-08.
- Know Your Enemy: The Story of Rage Against the Machine
- Live at the Grand Olympic Auditorium DVD, Grand Olympic Auditorium performance, part of De la Rocha's speech.
- Tom Morello interview on suicidegirls.com.
- Briquelet, Kate. "Paul Ryan worked his way up the political ladder following tough childhood (August 12, 2012). New York Post. Retrieved August 12, 2012.
- Right-wing fans mocked for boycotting Rage Against the Machine after realising band’s political stance https://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/music/news/rage-against-the-machine-right-wing-conservatives-politics-boycott-tom-morello-a9558241.html
- Right-Wing Fans Of Rage Against The Machine Have Only Just Realised What The Band Sing About
- "Rage Against Bush". Spin. 2007-05-04. Retrieved 2007-05-15.
- Becker, Bernie (October 22, 2009). "Musicians Protest Tunes Used in Interrogations". The Caucus. The New York Times. Retrieved December 5, 2009.