Adan Salazar
August 17, 2012

After the NY Times revealed Republican vice-presidential candidate Paul Ryan’s favorite music act as Rage Against the Machine, guitarist Tom Morello, in turn, revealed he wasn’t too enthusiastic about the endorsement.

photoRage Against the Machine’s first album cover featured a 1963 photograph of a monk setting himself ablaze in protest of the treatment Buddhist monks were receiving from the US-backed Catholic regime of Ngo Dinh Diem.

In a piece penned in yesterday’s Rolling Stone, Morello, 48, who is never one to shy away from controversy, stated that politicians like Ryan were “the embodiment of the machine that our music has been raging against for decades.”

“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,” Morello wrote.

Indeed, the anger and frustration embedded in Rage’s lyrics and music has catapulted them to legendary fame earning them multi-platinum status and sell-out crowds around the world. Their lyrics confront truths and injustices few artists venture to point out, and engage millions who would otherwise be withdrawn or indifferent.

Morello’s background in politics is strong. Having attending Harvard University in June of 1982 as a political science student and graduating in 1986, he later worked for the office of California Democratic Senator Alan Cranston, however, the experience negatively shaped his view of politics: “…80 per cent of the time I spent with the Senator, he was on the phone asking rich people for money. It just made me understand that the whole business was dirty. He had to compromise his entire being every day.”

The band’s political views translate perfectly through their words and compositions.

With full knowledge of Rage’s subject matter and incendiary lyrics, Morello asks, “I wonder what Ryan’s favorite Rage song is? Is it the one where we condemn the genocide of Native Americans? The one lambasting American imperialism? Our cover of “Fuck the Police”? Or is it the one where we call on the people to seize the means of production? So many excellent choices to jam out to at Young Republican meetings!”

To be fair, Morello does give Ryan credit for having at least some ‘rage’ in him, however, he notes, it’s unfortunately misdirected: “A rage against women, a rage against immigrants, a rage against workers, a rage against gays, a rage against the poor, a rage against the environment.
Basically the only thing he’s not raging against is the privileged elite he’s groveling in front of for campaign contributions.”

Morello also questions the façade necessary to appeal to everyday hardworking Americans while simultaneously maintaining an undisclosed fortune: “You see, the super rich must rationalize having more than they could ever spend while millions of children in the U.S. go to bed hungry every night. So, when they look themselves in the mirror, they convince themselves that “Those people are undeserving. They’re . . . lesser.”

Still, Morello holds out hope for the possibility that Rage’s music has in some way changed the “extreme fringe right wing nut job.” He states, “Maybe if elected…he’ll fill Guantanamo Bay with the corporate criminals that are funding his campaign – and then torture them with Rage music 24/7. That’s one possibility. But I’m not betting on it.”

Since its inception, RATM has stood up for unrepresented masses against censorship, senseless wars, corporate fat-cats, sweatshop abuses, hunger, and racism, to name a few. In effect, Rage does exactly what Pussy Riot has been jailed for doing in Russia: protest and speak out against a corrupt government. Can we expect Paul Ryan to seek leniency for those three members? In Morello’s words, “I’m not betting on it.”

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