So it’s happened. Rage Against The Machine, ironically enough, have proven the power of social networking to the remaining anti-techs out there, and it has real power. Last year we saw Barack Obama successfully highlight that the internet generally, and social networking specifically can be used to enhance a political campaign, he used it to: build a support network, raise money and target where his volunteers should canvass. This momentous achievement of new technology, helping in such a fundamental way to put the first black president in the White House was largely missed by most of the mainstream media; however Simon Cowell’s X-Factor act missing out on the Christmas number one - this is an achievement that cannot be ignored by our celebrity obsessed ‘news’ outlets.
It is a truly surprising outcome and a parable for our brave new world that husband and wife, Jon and Tracy Morter, could from the comfort of their own home, using the social networking site Facebook, topple the four year monopoly that the X-Factor has enjoyed over the Christmas number one slot. The LA rockers', Killing in the name of, has set two records: the most downloads registered in a single week, and the first song to peak the charts solely on download sales alone.
There has been a lot of nonsense talked about the demise of the Christmas number one over recent years, let’s be realistic, I can count the number of festive hits that had any artistic merit during my lifetime on one hand.
As a Rage Against The Machine fan, I’m ecstatic about their signature tune being so prominent once more, however the number of people who have commented that it is just a foul tirade of expletives have annoyed me. I would like to highlight the songs meaning for those who have dismissed it as profanity and empty angst.
The song is about powerful leaders and police officers being institutionally racist, many of them being members of the insidious Klu Klux Klan, it goes on to tell us that those in power manipulate and control what we think about them, i.e. ‘all police officers are heroes’, that in our society it seems justifiable for the police to kill, or to brutalise people from minorities in the name of the law, and that we moronically honour slain racist police officers. The line “Killing in the name of” therefore has two meanings: it is the murder of a black person by a racist cop, and that cop getting his just desserts in retaliation. “Fuck you, I won’t do what you tell me” is a rallying call to black minorities to stand up to racist police and to fight back, rebel against and to defy corrupt oppressive authority.
Killing in the name of may not be a jolly festive tune, but for the first time in a great many years a song has topped the chart which has a powerful message, great guitar riffs, and soul. We have caught a glimpse of the future power of social networking and happily we have learnt that Simon Cowell can’t always polish a turd, giving us a superbly surprising end to the otherwise dull and culturally vacuous year that was 2009. Happy Christmas!