Rage Against the Radio

If you're looking for a little Rage Against the Machine to thrash out your frustrations with the current global situation, don't look to KIIS-FM or Star 98.7. Clear Channel Communications, the stations' corporate parent (which also owns KBIG, Mega 92.3 and KOST), announced last week that every song ever recorded by Rage is among many tunes "inappropriate" in this New World Disorder. In addition to Rage's manifestoes, the Clear Channel list includes dozens of tunes from such wide-ranging artists as Metallica ("Enter Sandman"), Alanis Morissette ("Ironic"), and—get this—Frank Sinatra ("New York, New York"). When critics charged the company with censorship, Clear Channel backpedaled, claiming the list was only a suggestion and that it was up to each station to determine whether its playlist should be altered. But that's beside the point. Clear Channel is the largest radio-broadcast provider in the country, reaching in excess of 110 million listeners. It also recently purchased SFX Entertainment, which promotes such major bands as U2 and the Backstreet Boys. Music website ChartAttack.com calls the corporation "a big deal. . . . Anything they say is sure to have further repercussions in the music industry." Big deal or weird deal, the Clear Channel list seemed arbitrary at best. You can see where the Clash's "Rock the Casbah" might be in questionable taste at the moment, but how did the Cure's "Killing an Arab" survive the cut? Other choices were stranger still,like the Surfaris' "Wipe Out"—an instrumental. The Bangles' "Walk Like an Egyptian" made the list of dangerous ditties, as did the Beatles' "Obla Di, Obla Da." Others were included because they might—might—be reminiscent of the attacks in New York; Washington, D.C.; and Pennsylvania, like the Red Hot Chili Peppers' "Aeroplane," Van Halen's "Jump," Sugar Ray's "Fly" and Talking Heads' "Burning Down the House." Bob Dylan's "Blowin' in the Wind" was on there, as were John Lennon's "Imagine" and U2's "Sunday Bloody Sunday." Add these to the ban on Rage, and suddenly, in the interest of "decorum," there might have been a major absence of voices against violence—if not for Clear Channel's last-minute declaration on decentralization. But even this is only symptomatic of a larger issue. The fact that Clear Channel saw fit to compile a list adds to a creeping national paranoia about impending repeals of civil rights in the name of "security" paired with a growing consensus that no one should be critical of government officials in a time of crisis. Which is, of course, horse shit. For decades, progressive voices ranging from Rage's Zack de la Rocha to MIT professor Noam Chomsky have cautioned that tragedy and violence are the inevitable end products of American foreign policy, that we could tolerate a world rife with poverty and political strife for only so long before it came crashing down on our heads. For decades, such perspectives were dismissed as the products of "fuzzy-headed liberals," "anarchists" or "fatalists." Now those same voices are being silenced, not merely out of a fear that they threaten national security, but because some people's feelings might be hurt. Those with contrary opinions are quickly finding themselves declared un-American. The naysayers are correct on one point: this is a time for unity. To them, we offer a few lines from a song not yet banned from every one of Clear Channel's 2,000 radio stations—not yet, but perhaps soon: "You may say I'm a dreamer/But I'm not the only one/I hope some day you'll join us/And the world will be as one."

 
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