Rage Against

Adam Fleming Petty writes for The Bulwark about how differently Rage Against the Machine’s politics play out now versus when they began. I can attest to his belief that, back in the nineties, we just didn’t pay as close attention to the politics in music or entertainment. Rich frat boys were like, sure, free Mumia, why not?

It’s for this reason that I’ve come to think of the decade as the Narrow 90s: narrow in the sense that fewer albums, books, and movies were available—the internet was only just arriving in our homes then—and when something genuinely out of left field arrived, we may not have recognized it for what it really was because our ability to engage with it was so circumscribed.

Now, though, times have changed. My brother went to see Rage Against the Machine on their recent tour. They are still one of the most performatively political musical acts you could ever find. As someone once said, they are like a Che Guevara t-shirt that became a band. They hung a banner behind the stage that says, Abort The Supreme Court,” and people actually reacted. It’s one of the most predictable things the band could do, but the audience is saying, hey, what’s with the politics?

But this is 2022, and the political climate is far more volatile and, more to the point, far more legible. Even the most comfortable members of this country’s demographic majority—middle-class white men—can’t simply ignore politics with the same ease that they did in the Narrow 90s. It’s everywhere. It’s out there in your backyard, right now.

It’s probably better that we are now paying attention to politics, but our sensitivity has been heightened to such an extent that it’s no longer healthy, either. We should be able to pay attention and engage the ideas we might not like, and not act reflexively.