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  1. Long reads
17 December 2009updated 27 Sep 2015 2:59am

Machine rage

By Becky Hogge

And so, the decade ends with a clash of ideologies. In the blue corner, we have the individual, coiffed, tanned and flossed, battling against what life
throws at him, relishing each challenge without questioning the system that created the obstacles he must overcome. In the red corner huddle the united masses, dreadlocked and disaffected, aware of the complex elites that govern their lives and ready to overthrow them through the simple act of violent rebellion. The fight for Christmas number one has never been so exciting.

Before Joe McElderry had even been declared the winner of The X Factor, members of the (at time of writing) 770,000-strong Facebook group “Rage Against the Machine for Christmas No 1!” were already purchasing downloads of the US alt-metal outfit’s 1993 single “Killing in the Name”. Their aim? To keep McElderry’s disinfected country ballad “The Climb” off its almost guaranteed number one spot, in favour of a track whose lyrics use the word “fuck” 17 times. If each of the Facebook group members downloads the track in the coming week, victory is almost assured.

The battle between old and new media is compelling. Simon Cowell has branded the RATM campaign “cynical”. In reality it is anything but. “Killing in the Name” was released back when the recording industry seemed authentic – at least to the middle-class kids who made up most of RATM’s fans then, and probably most of the Facebook group now.

Yes, RATM are signed to Sony. But in 1993, major labels hadn’t yet commenced their war against a nascent internet – and, by extension, against all young people. That war is culminating now in Westminster, as legislators debate a bill with shady provisions for punitive action against illicit file-sharers that gives the First Secretary carte blanche to devise enforcement measures that favour the record labels. What the RATM Facebook action recognises is that the music is ours, as well as theirs – that years after a track has been produced, hundreds of thousands of people can still be moved by it to take action, however trivial that action might seem.

So if you fancy some hope that’s a little subversive this Christmas, join the Facebook group and get downloading. And as you pogo to some of the best guitar riffs of the Nineties, remember: the devil doesn’t have to have all the best tunes.

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