Rage Against the Machine Rags on Ryan

Photo credit: Tim Mosenfelder/Getty Images; Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call


According to Rolling Stone , Mitt Romney’s arch-conservative running-mate Paul Ryan has cited Rage Against the Machine as one of his favorite bands. Yet the discrepancy between the band’s messages and Ryan’s political ideals is glaringly obvious to anyone with more than a passing knowledge of their music. More specifically, the group has a history of vocal opposition to the Republican party — they staged a protest concert on the lawn of the Minnesota State Capitol during the Republican National Convention in 2008. The sheer irony of Ryan’s fandom hasn’t escaped the band’s notice: In an exclusive op-ed in Rolling Stone, guitarist Tom Morello expresses his amusement at Ryan’s musical choices as well as his own, well, rage at virtually everything the Wisconsin Rep. stands for.

“Paul Ryan’s love of Rage Against the Machine is amusing, because he is the embodiment of the machine that our music has been raging against for two decades. Charles Manson loved the Beatles but didn’t understand them. Governor Chris Christie loves Bruce Springsteen but doesn’t understand him. And Paul Ryan is clueless about his favorite band, Rage Against the Machine.

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.

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 ‘F*** 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!

Don’t mistake me, I clearly see that Ryan has a whole lotta ‘rage’ in him: 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.”

As Morello points out, Ryan is not the first political figure to get serious flack for approving of music with a contradictory message (although we’re pretty sure that Charles Manson’s negative PR had more to do with the unspeakable crimes he committed than his flagrant misuse of Beatles lyrics).

Take, for example, the Reagan campaign’s lambasted use of Springsteen’s “Born in the USA”: We’ve all heard of the incident even if we’re too young to actually remember it. That’s evidence of the PR impact that music can have on a political campaign.

We can’t be sure whether Morello’s outburst will have any sort of lasting impact on the election, but we do think it’s safe to say that Ryan probably wishes he had just stuck with other artists on his playlist (from which Rage Against the Machine is suddenly absent): Better examples include Hank Williams Jr. (who is extremely conservative) and Beethoven (who is too foreign and too long dead to bother himself with modern American politics).