It's a good thing music doesn't affect anyone

By Thomas L. Jipping
web posted August 28, 2000

I sure am glad that music doesn't affect anybody. What? Don't laugh. That's what Al Gore's buddies in the music industry say. They want you to buy products that have no effect on anyone at all. At least that's what they say.

Democratic protestOn Monday night, August 14, the first night of the Democratic National Convention, police clashed with more than 2000 protesters outside the Staples Center. Many of them had been at a concert by the rock band Rage Against the Machine. They threw rocks, asphalt, bottles, and concrete; they lit fires and burned flags; they tore metal poles out of the ground and used them for more destruction. There were injuries and arrests.

The media reports made it seem like the concert just happened to be going on at the same time nearby, that it was unrelated to the Democratic convention. You'd think it was just one of those bureaucratic snafus, as Bill Clinton called many of those problems and scandals and embarrassing events during his administration.

But it was no coincidence, just ask Rage Against the Machine. On their website, the band says they played the concert "for all the people who feel left and excluded by the two major political parties….We've had enough. On the streets of Los Angeles today there will be a people's convention." They say "F" the two-party system. The band's name, according to one Rage Website, fits their ideas. Guitarist Tom Morello says that "the machine" is lots of things, depending on the protest du jour. It might be the police or what he calls the "overall international state capitalist machinery that tries to make you just a mindless cog." In an odd twist for someone who does not want to be a mindless cog, Morello has a degree in social studies from Harvard. The Rage says they want to use their music to spread awareness, support leftist political causes, question unjust authority, arouse social justice, yadda, yadda, blah, blah, blah.

The Rage goes after police brutality and protests the imprisonment of cop killer Mumia Abu-Jimal. They protest the sweatshops that make the clothes worn by so many of their fans, and protest in support of cop killer Mumia Abu-Jimal. They have played benefits for the United Farm Workers, the Leonard Peltier Defense Fund (he's the convicted murderer and former leader of the American Indian Movement), and the Rock for Choice movement. Oh, and they strongly support cop killer Mumia Abu-Jimal.

At the Lollapalooza rock festival in 1993, the Rage stood on stage completely naked with duct tape over their mouths and the letters "PMRC" written on the chests of four band members. The Parents Music Resource Center is that goofy group that says music affects people. I'm sure glad it doesn't.

On their Website, the Rage celebrates what they call the "Freedom Fighter of the Month." These include Christine Munson who is fighting against schools in Wisconsin using Indian logos and mascots; Alex Zwerdling, part of United Students Against Sweatshops, the places that make the clothes that many of the Rage's fans wear; and Matt Doeringer and Sam Ellison, who are – yes – working to free cop killer Mumia Abu-Jimal. Their April 2000 Freedom Fighter, Mae Verta Bowks de la Rosa, wants to free both Tibet and cop killer Mumia Abu Jimal. She says the main reason she got into political activism was Rage Against the Machine.

I sure am glad that music doesn't affect anyone.

Tom Jipping is the director of the Center for Law and Democracy at the Free Congress Foundation.

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