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Rage against mediocrity

December 22, 2009
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I am very pleased that Rage Against the Machine’s song “Killing in the Name” is going to be the Christmas number one on the British pop charts. The alternative – second rate karaoke from an identikit crooner whose name I don’t recall – would have just added to the nausea induced by the airwaves at this time of year. For a lot of people, it’s not going to be a very happy Christmas, and it’s good to hear a song expressing anger.

Plenty of people who hate the mediocrity bred by reality TV like the X Factor nonetheless had reservations about the RATM campaign: both acts are signed to Sony, so in the end its the record company that gets rich. Shouldn’t we champion an underground artist on an independent label? More to the point, why a song from almost 20 years ago?

These are valid points, but for me it’s a question of political tactics. In any campaign, you need to go for the best position you can possibly win, even if it is not your ideal result. Personally, I would have been very pleased if A Las Barricadas or The Internationale made it to number one, with the whole country singing it from the smouldering ruins of the banks. However, we are were we are.

This is a mistake the Left makes too often – expending energy on unwinable campaigns because a refusal to compromise is ‘selling out’. Half a victory is better than total defeat, and people learn and are encouraged by victory.

For me, the victory is a cultural and aesthetic one, a mass refusal to allow media giants to force feed us mediocrity for profit. It’s not a rage against the machine so much as a cry for authenticity in a cultural landscape that is cannibalising itself. It’s a victory for a song sung with passion, anger and truth against cynically manufactured mediocrity.

Also, it’s recycling – taking a perfectly good old song and reusing it!

A Las Barricadas is, unfortunately, highly unlikely to win Christmas No. 1. However, RATM did, because enough people were mobilised to buy it. It’s a small victory, and it’s encouraging and hopefully symbolic of a bit of resistance from people.

The world is in crisis and there is no solution within capitalism. I hope this song is prescient.

I hope the new year ushers in a decade of “Fuck you, I won’t do what you tell me”.

It’s time for a fight back.

One Comment leave one →
  1. January 14, 2010 12:03 pm

    I love this.

    Mediocrity is not something to strive for, and I agree that we should all be hailing an unsigned artist who is living in the “Fuck all!” real world. The commercial crap that is being pounded in our heads from the radio is really quite a puzzle to me. Who the hell said that I wanted to hear a band that completely sucks the life out of rock?

    What’s up with the new emo/pop/sugar-coated, bubblegum shitfuck atrocities that these record companies are trying to pass off as rock? I say we all break down these big corporations and help out the struggling musicians (who actually have talent, and aren’t looking for fortunes, but rather just wanting to be heard) by going to a show every now and then? How hard is that? It’s actually alot more fun than sitting in the nose bleed section of a My Chemical Romance concert.

    Break the chain, break the norm, break the mediocrity. Support your local rock bands! And for those who are in bands…Talk is cheap, ROCK out loud! Remember that!


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