Bland WashPost Headline Whitewashes Radical Rocker's Death Wish for Bush

Even when the Washington Post is covering a Marxist, they have trouble putting an ideological label in the headline. On the front page of Monday’s Style section is a profile of Marxist rock guitarist Tom Morello, but the headline was bland: "Tom Morello, on Tour and on Message: Folk-Rock’s Nightwatchman Plays True to His Roots." Inside, the headline was simply "Tom Morello, Refocusing His Political Rage." Neither headline reflected that he prayed for President Bush’s death:

Onstage, when the Nightwatchman 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.

So why isn’t that death-wish directly reflected in the headline, instead of simply being vaguely "On Message" with "Rage"?"The Nightwatchman" is what Morello calls his solo act, when he's not with Rage or his newer band, Audioslave. To the Post’s credit, Zumbrun does place Morello’s ideology on the radical fringe, but largely because Morello’s radicalism is so obvious. But they studiously avoid Marxism or communism in the mix of labels:

Morello rejects labels, largely because he's so far left on the political spectrum that labels cease to apply. A term like "revolutionary socialism" or "radical anti-establishment" gives a general idea for those unfamiliar with Rage Against the Machine...Aside from [Rep. Dennis] Kucinich, and he's still several shades to the right of me, I don't think anybody has courageously stepped up and said what needs to be said. We have a war criminal sitting in the White House. That's not hyperbole."

That’s where the "please-God-drown-Bush" moment arrived. Back when Rage Against the Machine was still a touring band, Brent Bozell reported on their radical vibe:

"We are unapologetically revolutionary in our music and in our intent," as guitarist Tom Morello tells George magazine. How revolutionary? Morello has spoken favorably of Peru's murderous Shining Path guerrillas; at Woodstock '99, bassist Tim Commerford set ablaze an American flag, later stating in Rolling Stone, "My burning the flag is as much glorifying as desecrating it".... Amazingly, it seems that Rage would be even more militant if they thought it would be effective. The George story notes that "the Marxist vocabulary of elites and cabals, which the band members use freely in conversation, rarely appears in their songs"; in the same article, Morello complains that "words like 'socialism' and 'Marxism' have been so demonized that it's difficult to have intelligent discussion about what they mean."

And praying to God for Bush's drowning may be a pose, since Brent noted that Rage mocked priests in their lyrics. "Ashes in the Fall" goes, in part, "It's the priests that f--- you/As they whisper holy things." Zumbrun captured a little of Morello's Marxist elites-and-cabals patter in the Post:

Morello's not just angry about Iraq. Before each song he explained his inspiration for it, ranging from the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina to economic injustice to the Sago Mine Sago Mine Disaster, which made Morello realize that "energy is literally mixed with the blood of the working class."He tells the crowd a story from two weeks ago, when police in Rostock, Germany, confronted thousands of demonstrators at the G8 economic summit with tear gas and water cannons. But it was worth it, he explains: "Somebody needs to represent the millions of Americans who are opposed to the eight wealthy leaders of the eight wealthiest countries getting together behind a three-story-tall barbed-wire fence to decide our fate."

As we noted from Post stories at the time, President Bush and European leaders are elected. No one elected radical leftist protesters who urged violent disturbances against the G-8 summit. So which group reflects democracy? And which group reflects an ideology of barbed wire? Guess who? The one supported by the musician whose song "Guerrilla Radio" dreams of a Marxist revolution in Washington DC. The Post reported that Morello still sings that Rage tune in his acoustic Nightwatchman set.

Tim Graham
Tim Graham
Tim Graham is Executive Editor of NewsBusters and is the Media Research Center’s Director of Media Analysis