manicstreetpreacher takes a brief respite from all things theocratic and gives his take on how the cunning stunt of getting RATM to Christmas Number One has a less amusing side to it.
I just couldn’t believe it. Returning from the gym on Sunday evening checking out my RSS feeds, I saw the news that Rage Against The Machine’s “Killing in the Name” had beaten X Factor winner, Joe McElderry, to UK Christmas Number One. The shock chart result follows a widely publicised Facebook campaign to get the US-based rap punk group to the top of the charts in order to prevent Simon Cowell from ruining the best chart of the year with yet another insult-to-housewives-choice-idenikit-sugar-manufactured-pop-dreck-famous-for-five-seconds-forgotton-just-as-quickly-waste-of-plastic.
My initial reaction was joy. Although I never got round to downloading the track, I morally supported Rage in beating X Factor. It was joyful slap in the face to Cowell, regardless of the fact that he is a part owner of Sony, the record company of both McElderry and Rage and therefore a share of the profits will find their way into his high trouser pocket eventually. However, that is missing the point. As Charlie Brooker in The Guardian put it writing mid-week before the chart was announced:
But profit isn’t the point – or at least it’s not the reason I downloaded it. For one thing, I happen to think Killing in the Name is an excellent song, so I’ve already got something out of it. Most importantly, it contains genuine emotion. Even if the climactic repeated howls of “Fuck you, I won’t do what you tell me!” put you in mind of a teenager loudly refusing to tidy his bedroom – as opposed to a masked anarchist hurling petrol bombs at the riot squad – there is at least an authentic human sentiment being expressed. Zack de la Rocha is audibly pissed off.
Compare this to the pissweak vocal doodle that is Joe McElderry’s X Factor single. For a song whose lyrics ostensibly document an attempt to gather the spiritual strength to overcome adversity and thereby attain enlightenment, The Climb is about as inspiring as a Lion bar. It’s a listless announcement on a service station Tannoy; an advert for buttons; a fart in a clinic; a dot on a spreadsheet. Listening to it from beginning to end is like watching a bored cleaner methodically wiping a smudge from a Formica worksurface.
But then nobody’s buying The Climb in order to actually listen to it. They’re buying it out of sedated confusion, pushing a button they’ve been told will make them feel better. It’s the sound of the assisted suicide clinic, and it doesn’t deserve to be No 1 this Christmas.
However, the my joy had cold water thrown on it rather quickly with this post from prolific secular, pro-Israel and anti-fascist blogger Edmund Standing who pointed out that far from being mere rebels without a cause, RATM are:
[T]he musical equivalent of the Socialist Workers Party – i.e. they’re ‘revolutionary’ loons who hate the West and wish we were all living in some Soviet hellhole.
Let’s have a look at some of their views.
Starting with the band’s official website, we immediately find images of books including Che Guevara’s ‘Guerrilla Warfare’, ‘The Anarchist Cookbook’, ‘The Black Panthers Speak’, and ‘Malcolm X Speaks’. So, that’s a book on Communist revolution by a vile totalitarian, a terrorist manual, and race baiting material.
Che Guevara is of course the icon of choice for every rebellious teenager, lefty idiot, and pretentious pseudo-leftist celebrity going. The real Che was a walking nightmare…
The Che worship of people like RATM is particularly ironic, given he wanted to ban rock music.
Other influences on RATM include the far-left pseudo-scholar Noam Chomsky and the bloated fake left-winger and propagandist-for-profit Michael Moore.
In an interview with Chomsky, RATM member Tom Morello proudly stated: ‘I want you to know… Noam Chomsky books are the ones most prominently featured on the rage tour bus’.
Zack de la Rocha of RATM considers Chomsky a ‘good friend’ and cited him in an ‘anti-war’ rant at the 2007 Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival…
500,000 Britons have ‘rebelled’ against Simon Cowell’s chart dominance by buying the records of an extreme left-wing band of wannabe terrorists. The only thing that gives me hope in this situation is that the majority of those people probably haven’t got a clue about the politics of RATM, which, of course, really makes the whole ‘campaign’ all the more pathetic.
The words, “down”, “Earth” and “bump” spring to mind. Perhaps if Standing had blogged on RATM sooner he may have stopped the campaign and McElderry would have given us the ninth Simon Cowell/ Louis Walsh manufactured for a TV audience Christmas Number One in a row…
Many of the commenters on Standing’s post have concurred with him. However, many have begged to differ, calling him “po-faced” and that the stunt was “just a bit fun”. Who cares about Rage’s politics? They are a rock group who have some dodgy, hypocritical and inconsistent views. What punk rock group does not? Does Standing begrudge The Sex Pistols very nearly successful attempt to hijack the Jubilee Number One in 1977 for their ridiculous cut n paste ethos?
This reminds me of the occasion in 2001 when my favourite band of all time and whose moniker I have purloined for blogging purposes (so far without being slapped with a copyright action, touch wood!), Manic Street Preachers played a live gig in front of 5,000 fans at the Karl Marx theatre in Havana, Cuba in front of Fidel Castro himself. The album they were promoting was Know Your Enemy (overall rather tepid, still containing some of their best work, quite a few guilty pleasures!) was chocked full of references to Cuba, not least of which was “Baby Elian”, regarding the fiasco in the courts over custody of a little Cuban boy called Elian Gonzalez who was found washed up in Florida following a boat disaster his mother did not survive while she was attempting to escape to America.
Everyone at the time knew that Cuba has an appalling record on human rights (although they have a cracking healthcare system if Michael Moore is to be believed, erm…), but it was the principle of the band speaking out against the relentless Americanisation of the planet in spite of the fact that everyone would much prefer to live in a McUSA rather than a Red Cuba! The Manics have always been the biggest load of self-contradictory, ill-thought-out, slogan-ripping-off-without-actually-reading-any-deeper-into-their-heroes tools, but that’s partly why I love them so much.
I have a biography of the band R.E.M. called Fiction, first published in 2002. Guitarist Peter Buck replied rather well to the apparent contradiction of cash-raking, corporate-cock-sucking rock stars speaking out against globalisation and capitalism. I didn’t have my copy to hand at the time of writing, but he said something along the lines of all of us being guilty of it to an extent. Most music magazines have adverts in their back pages that are essentially selling prostitution. What are the chances that the clothes we are wearing now were stitched together in some Taiwanese sweat-shop by an eight-year child being paid $1 a day? (Although on a balance of probabilities Mr Standing is exempt from this piece of rhetoric…) Al Gore obviously hasn’t given up his 4X4 and jet travel as he is shown using them in An Inconvenient Truth!
The realities rendering us all hypocrites shouldn’t prevent people from rebelling against the system on the odd occasion. If Rage Against The Machine’s politics were more influential, I think the joke would turn sour and people would know where to draw the line.
But this episode graphically demonstrates the inexplicable paradox at the heart of the public’s perception of the left-right divide. As Boris Johnson pointed out in a piece first published in The Daily Telegraph in 2005:
Cycling through London, I check out the words on people’s T-shirts, and I was amused the other day to see the letters CCCP on someone’s chest. Yup, folks, that’s what the fashion-conscious British youth is wearing, a celebration of the great doomed Soviet experiment of 1917 – 90.
Remind me: who was the greater mass murderer, Stalin or Hitler? Well, Stalin is thought to have been responsible for about 50 million deaths, and Hitler for a mere 25 million. What Hitler did in his concentration camps was equalled if not exceeded in foulness by the Soviet gulags, forced starvation and pogroms. What makes the achievements of communist Russia so special and different, that you can simper around in a CCCP T-shirt, while anyone demented enough to wear anything commemorating the Third Reich would be speedily banged away under the 1986 Public Order Act?
On that occasion, Johnson was commenting on the death of Melita Norwood, a former Soviet spy whose crimes against the British state were only discovered in 1999 when she was aged 87. As a result of her advanced years, the Labour government decided she was too old to prosecute. Compare that to the way that former Auschwitz guards are (quite rightly) hunted down and thrown in the dock when they have to feed through a tube.
I disagree with my father on many political, philosophical, scientific and above all religious matters. However, the one gem of political insight he imparted to me in my teenage years which I have retained ever since is that that you can quite literally get away with mass murder as long as you are left wing.
Why is it that the figures of the far left are deified while those at the opposite end of the political spectrum like Hitler are remembered as history’s monsters? Instead of all those students wearing t-shirts emblazoned with “CCCP” a few years back, why didn’t they try wearing a garment displaying a swastika? Instead of the monochrome profile of Che Guevara hanging from a million student dorm windows, what about the corpulent features of Herman Goering or his rather more gaunt counterpart in the Wehrmacht Joseph Goebbels?
It’s disgusting how Stalin is being made into a hero now. Earlier this year, a renegade Orthodox priest displayed icons of him alongside Russian saints outside his church in St Petersburg (or Leningrad as it seems to be called again), which the Communist Party rushed to imitate en masse and distribute. The Communist Party in Russia are petitioning the Russian Orthodox Church to have him made a saint. The man was voted third greatest Russian of all time in a poll at the end of 2008. At this year’s worldwide May Protests, Communists were out in force displaying icons of Stalin.
What on Earth were these people protesting against; too much freedom and democracy and a shortage of gulags and slave labour?
I read an article in The Times a few weeks ago that a school history text book has been produced under the loathsome shadow of the Putin administration which airbrushes (literally) Stalin’s crimes against humanity. In some European countries it is a crime to deny or trivialise the Holocaust. Why aren’t there laws against doing the same in respect of all the millions communism has killed?
But then again, aren’t we in the West slaves to commercialisation? Isn’t that the point of Rage Against The Machine and their ilk? Hasn’t our consumer culture left as emotional emaciated as a gulag prisoner? For all the paradoxes, the latent contradictions, the childish political posturing, the ghastly nightmare that would ensue if they had their way, I can’t help feeling some affection for people who want to prevent society degenerating into this:
But I still know which I would prefer. We need hypocrites like Rage Against The Machine and Manic Street Preachers to remind us how lucky we are and how much worse things could be if we had to live under the heel of Stalin, Castro or Mao.