One little bit of xmas cheer this year is the facebook phenomenon “RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE FOR CHRISTMAS NO.1″. When I first saw this group a few days ago, it had 11,000 members. Today it has nearly 400,000 and hundreds more are now joining every few minutes! The idea is for everyone to buy an online copy of Rage Against The Machines ‘Killing in the Name of” after December the 13th, thus making this top the charts as the UK’s xmas no.1.
The group was founded with the question. “Fed up of Simon Cowell’s latest karaoke act being Christmas No.1? Me too… So who’s up for a mass-purchase of the track ‘KILLING IN THE NAME’ from December 13th (DON’T BUY IT YET!) as a protest to the X-Factor monotony?”
What are we to make of this phenomenon? Rage Against the Machine are an explicitly anti-capitalist rock act who target the hypocrisy of the system and associate themselves with left-wing activist causes and movements. Their angry, punky, heavy metal-rap mix is the perfect soundtrack for expressing anger and contempt for conventional bourgeois society. (It must be especially good if you are an alienated teenager, – they came after my time – we had to make do with likes of the Pistols or Sabbath). And of course, ‘killing in the Name of’ is the very quintessence of the genre, especially with its tremendous final chorus, which would make a most refreshing xmas no.1: “Fuck you, I won’t do what ya tell me…”
What kind of rebellion is this? It is a rebellion both against and also within the confines of popular culture and its commodified form. Lots of people are genuinely pissed off with the bland and anodyne slosh that TV and Music companies have elevated into a dominant and stifling hegemonic form. This music seems to reflects the increasing power of corporations over every aspect of life. RATM have been chosen by the denizens of facebook-land as a weapon against this.
Of course, this very rebellion is within the terms set out by the dominant culture. It reflects the cultural power the X-factor has, dominating the daily discussions of millions of working class people with its populist pseudo-democratisation of the entertainment industry. It should therefore come as no surprise that people should rebel within this same framework, targeting these dominant forms within the realm of popular culture. And the rebellion can happen within the structures of neo-liberal commodified society. Facebook and online music retail industry. Facebook has started to generate profit, with an anticipated revenue of 710 million USD for next year, as it encloses 350 million users, or some 5% of the global population. Then there is the commercial music download site. Finally, “killing in the name of’ is on the Sony corporations catalogue, who also own exclusive rights to Simon Cowell’s artists, so Sony wins either way. Is this what democracy now looks like? Voting in TV talent shows, or rebelling via buying a music download, to influence the xmas number one? I’m not sure if this is progress or regress!
Nevertheless, many people feel throwing a quid to the corporations is a small price to pay, if it gets you a small voice to express cultural discontent and engage in a bit of mildly subversive joy this midwinter. It kinda cheers me up, somehow.