Paul Ryan and the one kid I knew in high school

In the late 1990s I  could slot Rage Against the Machine next to Korn in terms of bands a certain variety of student might like — good “Nu Metal” listening, I suppose.  The politics are, I suppose, scuttled off to the side, and what is left is yelling related to your generalized comfortably ensconced adolescent angst.  There was this kid, one year younger than I and who I had one class together with during my four years of high school, who always wore a selection of band t-shirts.  I don’t remember any except for a Rage Against the Machine one and a Korn one.  There was also this jerk of a history teacher, liked by nobody — kind of primarily the football coach which is an odd situation considering the football team would lose each week by 50 points — who either good-naturedly or mean spiritedly (hard to say) kept calling him “Rocker Dude”.  I guess it wore on him, and he apparently went off once at the teacher, and stunned the class, leaving the teacher red-faced and speechless.

And Paul Ryan is a fan.

So you can imagine Tom Morello’s response when the New York Times reported that newly minted Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan “lists Rage Against the Machine, which sings about the greed of oil companies and whose website praises the anti-corporate Occupy Wall Street movement, among his favorite bands.”
Ryan’s a bit of a metalhead, with a taste for Led Zeppelin, Metallica and — as he told CNN — “a lot of grunge” bands that are not frequently identified with the extreme social conservatism and the free-market economic theories of Austrian economists. As a kid growing up in Janesville, he listened to radio rockers like John “Sly” Sylvester, who has since become a Wisconsin talk-radio legend and one of Ryan’s edgiest critics.
Rage has for years ranked high on Ryan’s playlist. The congressman says he really likes the music — which he plays loud while working through his daily 90-minute exercise regime — if not necessarily the seminal band’s “fight the power” lyrics.
Morello, for his part, does not really like Ryan.
“Paul Ryan,” Morello explained in a blistering statement he wrote for Rolling Stone, “is the embodiment of the machine our music rages against.”

Mitt Romney already identified his favorite books as  coming out of the L Ron Hubbard school of science fiction, or to paraphrase Ken Jennings “Message: If you think Mormonism is weird.”  I don’t know what he pegs as his favorite music.  Rage Against the Machine was a minor point of contention in the 2000 Republican Nomination fight with some minor candidates — Michael Moore did a bit imploring every candidate to run into a mosh pit, and Alan Keyes did so, prompting Gary Bauer to rail against this show of support for an “Anti Family, anti-Capitalist” band “The Machine Rages On”.  So we’ve come a ways in 12 years, so that now the Republican vice presidential candidate lays out his hipness credentials by suggesting he likes Rage Against the Machine — and maybe he does.  I dare say the lad back in high school is likely not a left wing activist either, taking in the message of the music full frotal.

Well, I dare the Republican Convention to play “Bulls on Parade” as Paul Ryan walks to the podium.  It’ll be like Sarah Palin with Barricuda.


The guitarist, who has a long history of radical activism and radical songwriting, asks: “I wonder what Ryan’s favorite Rage song is? Is it the one where we condemn the genocide of Native Americans? The one lambasting American imperialism? Our cover of ‘Fuck the Police’? Or is it the one where we call on the people to seize the means of production? So many excellent choices to jam out to at Young Republican meetings!”

The one that you can shout out without nary a concern for what you’re yelling.

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