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KINSELLA: Hypocrisy reigns at Rage Against The Machine show

Toronto Sun logo Toronto Sun 2022-07-26 Warren Kinsella
Rage Against The Machine play Ottawa for the first time July 15, 2022. © Provided by Toronto Sun Rage Against The Machine play Ottawa for the first time July 15, 2022.
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Rage Against The Machine.

OK, fine. But where was the rage? In particular: Who is the machine?

So, Rage Against The Machine is playing across Canada this summer — Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Winnipeg, Hamilton, Montreal, Ottawa, Quebec City. And Toronto.

In the unlikely event that you’re not familiar with them, they’re a Los Angeles rock band, one of the biggest in the world. They’ve been around for a couple decades, and have sold millions and millions of records. And, notably, they style themselves as revolutionaries.

Their revolutionary politics are revealed in some of their hits. On ‘Killing In The Name,’ they sing: “You justify those that died by wearing the badge, they’re the chosen whites.” On ‘Take The Power Back,’ they sing: “The present curriculum, I put my fist in ’em. Eurocentric every last one of ’em.” On ‘Know Your Enemy,’ they sing: “I’ll rip the system. Mind of a revolutionary, so clear the lane.

“Put my fist in ’em.”

Anyway, whether you’re hoisting a revolutionary fist or not, it can’t be disputed that Rage Against The Machine are pretty clear about their politics. At their Canadian shows, the band displayed big all-caps messages behind them as they played. “SETTLER COLONIALISM IS MURDER” was one. Another: “LAND BACK.” Statistics about missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, as well.

During their Canadian tour, too, the band has arguably put their money where their mouths are. They’ve made some donations to Indigenous and environmental groups.

So, in their lyrics and whatnot, Rage Against The Machine is preoccupied with revolution. Fine. But then there’s the issue of their other actions, their other deeds. Because that stuff is a bit of a problem.

 Rage Against The Machine play Ottawa for the first time July 15, 2022. © Greg Kolz Rage Against The Machine play Ottawa for the first time July 15, 2022.

At their Toronto show, at an arena named after a multinational bank, there were a lot of things on display that didn’t seem very revolutionary. Their actions and deeds, there, didn’t seem very consistent, either.

Their merch tables, for instance. Long lines snaked around the arena, with hundreds of mainly guys — unshaven, portly guys, wearing Metallica shirts and flip-flops — cheerfully waiting to buy Rage Against The Machine stuff.

There were lots of T-shirts for sale, at $50 each. Ball caps for $40. Long-sleeved shirts were a bit more, at $65. You could get posters, too, listing the Rage Against The Machine tour dates and not much else, for $65, which seemed a bit steep for a piece of paper.

The big-ticket item, however, was the Rage Against The Machine hoodie. Those were going for $100. One hundred bucks! Given that mass-produced, one-colour hoodies cost less than ten bucks to manufacture … well, you can do the math. The revolutionaries are making a lot of dough on those hoodies.

The attendees, too. Some of them paid as much as $300 to be there, and nearly 20,000 were, over two nights. You can do the math on that one, as well. The band’s not saying, but that’s millions and millions of dollars, folks. (The aforementioned Indigenous and environmental groups, meanwhile, were donated $75,000. Total. Together.)

At one point, during a bit of a break, the band displayed footage of a police cruiser on fire. People in the crowd cheered. Not cheering were the dozens of uniformed Toronto Police that were present at the show. Someone insisted that the police be there; we don’t know who. We do know, however, that Rage Against The Machine didn’t bar them from attending.

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Rage Against The Machine can’t be blamed, one supposes, for playing in an arena where beer was $14, a slice of pizza was $9, and where a bit of “ultra premium” liquor will set you back $24. But perhaps someone had placated them by giving them some “collector” soft drink cups ($11).

Anyway, at one point, the hypocrisy was thicker than the dope smoke, and this writer couldn’t take it anymore. I made my way to the exits, passing a merch table as I did so.

I couldn’t make out the label on the T-shirts, so I bought one: Fifty bucks. No cash, only credit cards (natch).

Do you think that Rage Against The Machine T-shirt was union-made? Do you think it was a fair-wage T-shirt? Not on your life. It was from a sweatshop in Bangladesh.

Hit the doors, head shaking.

Rage Against The Machine?

They are the machine.

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