The current administration should be “hung, and tried, shot,” so said the anti-war, anti-establishment Rage Against the Machine’s lead singer Zack de la Rocha. De la Rocha’s vile tirade against the Bush administration drew shouts from the anarchists at the Coachella Music Festival, in California.
A punk/rap group, Rage Against the Machine enjoyed some popularity in the late 80’s and 90’s. They have always been overtly anarchist. Their comments do not represent mainstream America, neither Democrats nor Republicans. The question their tirade raises is at what point do you take such words literally? A comment made in foolishness on a school yard can end in a suspension. Anarchy of heart led to a tragic shooting at Virginia Tech. Words have meaning. How do we determine who is serious, and poses a threat with comments such as these? Who is to say when comments are innocent hyperbole or real threats?
Situations such as these make it appear that in the interest of national and personal security our government strains at a gnat, while larger threats go unheeded. Young men are suspended from school for having a baseball bat in their car. Students are suspended for telling teachers how they feel, or writing artistic works which include threatening language. Yet, grown men walk on stage encouraging thousands of people to rebel against the status quo, and make life threatening statements. Who is the arbiter of linguistic judgment? If the same comment had been made against a school administration, the student would be expelled and referred for mental health treatment.
In a FOX News interview, rock icon Ted Nuggent praised freedom of speech, but lumped Rage Against the Machine in a group he labeled “dopey, hippy, rock ‘n roll numb nuts.” In a follow-up interview, controversial, conservative columnist Ann Coulter didn’t label them as liberals, whom she often attacks. She called them “losers” and commented that their speeches, songs, and antics weren’t even worthy of news. Liberal commentator Jane Flemming, agreed with Coulter, “Rage against the Machine is a band that used to be popular…they’re anarchists. They’re not Democrats. They’re not liberals. They’re not the voice of progressive America. So we shouldn’t even be talking about it.”
It is a story the mainstream media didn’t talk about. It should be noted, however, for a few reasons. One, it is a horrific reminder of the darkness that lurks in the hearts of some men. It is a reminder that our enemies are often within our own boarders. Secondly, it is a stark illustration of the double standard by which we live in the United States. The lines of constitutional interpretation and administration of justice have become blurred. Consequences of speech and action depend on who you are, and where you are. There is no clarity in our standards of legality and decency. Where does this leave the next generation? It appears they are afloat without moorings.
Rage Against the Machine has exerted their rights and returned to the spotlight. The Grammy winning band was to reunite for a one time performance at Coachella, but now they are booked for at least four shows at Rock the Bells Festivals in New York and California.