Raging Against The Machine Essay, Research Paper
Raging Against the Machine
Imagine the world without music. Or imagine a world where we are told what to play, what to sing and even what we may listen to in the privacy of our own homes. That world already exists. A very politically charged band known as Rage Against Machine is one band out of thousands that has run into problems with the explicit nature of their music. To make a statement, Rage Against The Machine (RATM) had hung two upside-down American flags from their amps. Seconds before they took the stage to perform Bulls on Parade, Saturday Night Live (SNL) and NBC sent stagehands in to pull the flags down. The inverted flags, says Tom Morello (Rage s guitarist), represented our contention that American democracy is inverted when what passes for democracy is an electoral choice between two representatives of the privileged class. America s freedom of expression is inverted when you re free to say anything you want to say until it upsets a corporate sponsor. Finally, this was our way of expressing our opinion of the show s host, Steve Forbes. RATM first attempted to hang the flags during a pre-telecast rehearsal, SNL s producers demanded that we take the flags down, says Morello. They said the sponsors would be upset, and that because Steve Forbes was on, they had to run a tighter show . SNL also told the band it would mute objectionable lyrics in Bullet In The Head (Which was supposed to be RATM s second song). SNL even insisted that the song be bleeped in the studio because Forbes had friends and family there. On show s opening night, following the first performance, with the flags being torn down, RATM were approached by SNL and NBC officials and ordered to immediately leave the building (Hendrickson). Why did Saturday Night Live invite Rage Against The Machine to perform on their show when they disagree with what the band represents? What had happened was an act of music censorship.
What is music censorship exactly? Music censorship is the attempt or action taken by any agency to limit or curtail anything in music that a community may find offensive to its belief or values. Censorship of music has been around since the birth of music itself. Up until the last one hundred years, music in western culture had been created to appease royalty and the wealthy. If the music was not of their liking it was simply altered or curtailed. So where do we stand now? It s a hard question to answer, but when we begin discussing what is art and what is obscenity the lines begin to cross. Can a record be sold, where and who can it be sold to are all questions that are too difficult to answer. Our nation is one that allows freedom of speech, and to deny that without proper cause undeniably undermines that value of our constitutional democracy. I thereby propose the banning of music censorship being that it takes away from the artist s creativeness, it violates the our 1st Amendment rights and the proper guidelines for censorship to follow will never be fully established (Turman).
There have been several attempts at dealing with censorship. People have created web sites and petitions that are anti-censorship such as www.theroc.org and www.damnmusiccensorship.com (Turman). Artists have also tried to speak out against censorship. Can you believe that Rage Against The Machine stood on stage at Lollapalooza naked, just letting the guitars and bass feed back, with the letters P.M.R.C. written in big, black letters, one on each band member s chest. In addition they had black electrical tape over their mouths. The point of this strange and daring display was that if you don t confront censorship, then the music of confrontational artists is going to be silenced. We all have quite a bit to say of the subject of censorship, but no one has actually attempted to end this ongoing problem with censorship (Hendrikson).
I suggested that we end music censorship indefinitely. There are several things that need to be done in order to end censorship. One would be to inform the people of their 1st Amendment Rights. I know quite a few people are unsure about what they can and cannot do when it comes to the 1st Amendment. Informing the people of their rights is an important step that must be taken. Writing letters, signing petitions, and speaking with our government officials will also help. I also suggest that we create an organization that promotes anti-censorship. The organization should have information about our 1st Amendment rights and music censorship available for people everywhere. We should also continue with the attempts that are ongoing as of right now. This solution will be beneficial for the United States of America because it will give us the freedom that was taken away from us when the government began to censor. Most importantly, it will take away the restricted boundaries that keep artists from creating the art they chose to create.
Why would we want to have censorship? Censorship strips away our rights and freedom. We should take a minute and remember why we live in the United States in the first place. The answer is freedom. Imagine if censorship was to continue. Rage Against the Machine s next album would be called We ve Prepared To Fight and Die For Our Country Because We Love Our Elected Leaders. Featuring songs such as Gimme, Gimme, Gimme That Windows 2000, Proud To Be A Part of The Pepsi Generation, and Love Those Reality Shows, the album would also include coupons for a free cherry Slurpee at a local 7-11 and a guest pass to MTV s Total Request Live. As much as I would love a free cherry slurpee, I would have to pass. Rage Against The Machine is much more than a stomping ground for raw aggression, frustration and explicit lyrics. Instead they offer something much more precious a voice that fights against the powers that be. They are activists on the front line, exposers of hypocrisy, defenders of culture, realists who spit at the concept of the American Dream. They shed light on the darkness of greed through the confines of the studio that links Saturday Night Live with the world and on the stages of the world s largest arenas. Rage Against the Machine and other musical groups should not be silenced. Music has fueled the world into unity; it has broken the mold of straightforwardness and has entertained people for decades. There should never be a day when the music dies.
Hendrikson, Matt. Rage Against The Machine. Rolling Stone. Sept. 1997: 55-67.
Turman, Katherine. Revolution Rock. Spin. November 1993: 23-27.