Useful Idiots, Then and Now

As Greg Sheridan writes in The Australian, "It was an iron rule of the Cold War that the more grotesque and horrible the communist regime, the more dedicated and active would be its fan club, its friendship societies and fellow travellers in the West":

This has also been true of Arab and Third World dictatorships. The psychotic murderer Che Guevara is an icon of style chic, even today. Cuba's revolting dictator, Fidel Castro, with his Havana Stalinism, was often touted as a great and wise statesman. Even a year or two ago the intellectual and moral giant Michael Moore paid tribute to Castro's health service without mentioning his gulag of dissidents.

While the Cold War dealt with issues of freedom versus totalitarianism, the War on Terror introduced another element as well. As Mackubin Thomas Owens wrote in September of 2002, “9/11 revealed an emerging geopolitical reality: that the world’s most important fault line is not between the rich and the poor, but between those who accept modernity and those who reject it.”

QED: At Newsbusters, Tim Graham writes, "AP Notes Radical, Bush-Death-Wishing Guitarist Delights Union Crowd in Madison":

AP reporter Ryan Foley's update from Madison on Monday night included details about a rock musician causing the crowd to to roar: "At noon, guitarist Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine took to a stage on the Capitol steps to fire up the crowd. He said he flew in from California to lend his voice to the protest."

While reporters like Adam Nagourney "worry" out loud that the Wisconsin Republicans are going to look too extreme, AP somehow left out Morello's truly appalling and extremist stands, like speaking fondly of Philadelphia cop killer Mumia Abu-Jamal and the Maoist Shining Path terrorists in Peru. If that didn't seem pro-violence enough, then there's Morello praying for the drowning of President Bush in 2007, as reported in the Washington Post:

Onstage, when the Nightwatchman [Morello] sang, "I pray that God himself will come and drown the president if the levees break again," the Jammin' Java crowd's attitude was chilling. People were praying.

As Brian Doherty noted a decade ago in Reason, Rage Against the Machine is more adolescent shtick against the machine than anything else; particularly since, at least at the time, their arch anti-capitalism was putting millions into Sony's coffers:

"A good song should make you wanna tap your feet and get with your girl. A great song should destroy cops and set fire to the suburbs. I’m only interested in writing great songs."

So says Tom Morello, guitarist for the Los Angeles—based band Rage Against the Machine. He and his bandmates are not simply against cops and the suburbs, of course. They also stand for the Zapatistas and the Shining Path, for freeing Mumia Abu-Jamal and Leonard Peltier, for giving California back to Mexico, and for destroying stores where rich people like themselves shop.

That’s pretty strong stuff coming from work-for-hire employees of one of the great cogs in the global capitalist machine, the megaconglomerate Sony, which wholly owns and distributes Rage’s music and even is a co-owner of the group’s publishing. Since 1992, Rage has sold nearly 7 million records, and it’s safe to say that nobody has benefitted more from that commerce than the band’s unabashedly capitalist paymaster.

Much more after the page jump.