Posted May 15, 2020 by Chris in Features

Why People Get Rage Against the Machine Wrong

Rage Against the Machine made headlines in 2012, when it came out that US politician Paul Ryan was a fan of the band. Ryan was publicly lambasted for this, including by Rages own guitarist Tom Morello. This is of course because Ryan’s entire political career has seen him support the very machines that Morello and company are raging against. But despite the fact that Rage’s far left politics are written clearly all over their music, Ryan isn’t the only case of someone with disparate views supporting the band. Nigel Farage another right-wing politician used Rage Against The Machines name as inspiration for his podcast and there’s countless more people, who listen to Rage daily without fully appreciating their politics. 

So why does this happen? We’ll try to figure it out and also investigate how to deposit $5 to online casino in New Zealand.

It’s a phenomenon that can be explained by one of the most pervasive thoughts in all of communications theory.  Let’s take a closer look. In 1964 Canadian theorist Marshall McLuhan released his seminal work ‘Understanding Media. The Extensions Of Man’. That book put forth one of his most radical ideas – the medium is the message, which is to say – the way a message is delivered is more important than the message itself. When McLuhan talked about the medium, he was talking about the technologies through which culture was dispersed: newspapers television radio and nowadays things like YouTube. But if we broaden our definition of it, we can start to appreciate why this applies to Rage Against The Machine. The media through which Rage dispersed their message isn’t just music – it’s a very particular brand of music. That sound comes from Rage Against the Machines diverse influences. 

Before Rage, Tom Morello was playing in lockup a funk metal band, while Zack de la Rocha was fronting a hardcore band called ‘Inside Out’. The pair had different opinions when it came to music: De la Rocha preferred punk, hip-hop (and even jazz) to metal and Morello wasn’t well versed in rap at all. But what they did share, was their radical political ideologies. Both of them sat far on the left wing, both were very politically active. So they decided to form a band together and brought in the last two pieces of the puzzle. On the suggestion of a former bandmate, Morello brought in Tim Commerford to play bass, as a bassist Comerford was influenced by both the radical energy of Sid Vicious and the cerebral music of Geddy Lee. Meanwhile drummer Brad Wilk was influenced by the thunderous rock gods of old, like Keith Moon or John Bonham. All these different influences came together to three one iconic incendiary sam.

Musically Rage was built from the rhythm section out: loud powerful drums jammed with a funk groove, that’s stuck in the audience’s heads and got them moving, on top Morello screeching guitar paired with the dissonant sounds of the rebellion, that De la Rocha wrapped. This rap metal sound is the personification of angry resistance. Just listen to ‘Bomb’ track – the opening to Rage Against The Machines debut. A dramatic build-up explodes into a punchy lick, perfect at getting the audience angry and in this sense the medium of rages music does match part of the message. Rages lyrics tell a message of getting up being loud and being defiant. And this is part of the beauty of Rage Against The Machine’s approach. There’s a universality to their lyrics, everyone has some machine they want to rage against, whether it’s their job, their government or the broader systems around them. Who among us hasn’t wanted to stand up and shout you:”I won’t do what you tell me!”. But that universality is also where Rages medium fails their message. 

Everyone has their own personal causes, and Rage Against The Machine’s music can be the soundtrack to everyone’s own struggle. Rage aid this with the use of vague and themming phrases. When de la Rocha sings to testify, people will testify to whatever they want. Tom Morello’s unique guitar style is part of rage against the machines package of delivery to. Whenever people think of Rage they think of his guitar techniques, playing with feedback and distortion, and thinking of new ways to create unique sounds out of the guitar. In the case of bulls on parade, people often lose the messages of cutting military, spending to fund social services in favor of a cool guitar soul.

After all Rage Against The Machine have sold millions of copies worldwide, but we don’t see millions of people rising up in a socialist revolution. Of course this doesn’t necessarily mean that anyone not rising up is listening to Rage Against the Machine wrong, part of rages message is encoded deep in their music, and everyone understands that much. The very tone of the music encourages you to be active, to get angry, to rage.

But next time you crank up your speakers and pull out the rage, it might be worth taking a minute to look at the systems around you and ask yourself: what machine am i raging against? 


I listen to and write about music!