I love Rage Against the Machine’s music. The raw energy and youthful angst made them one of the best bands of the 1990s. But knowing they were hugely financially successful, some of the things guitarist Tom Morello has said over the years seem hypocritical. So is Tom Morello a Communist or Socialist?
Here’s what I know from seeing him play and looking into it:
Tom Morello describes himself as a socialist. He has also expressed support of anarchy and general left-leaning philosophies but has stopped short of calling himself a communist, although he has encouraged his fans to read the works of noted communists Karl Marx and Che Guevera.
But that’s not all there is to know.
While Morello loves the play the downtrodden minority raging against white privilege and systemic racism, he’s actually half-white, graduated from Harvard University, and lives in a $5 million dollar house in a gated LA community.
So not all is exactly as he wants it to seem, and there’s some definite hypocrisy at work. Let’s look a little deeper at this talented guitarist with a chip on his shoulder.
Tom Morello 💫
A tribute guitar replica to one of my heroes!
— Dean Holmes (@DeanH2014) April 17, 2021
Is Rage Against the Machine political?
Rage Against the Machine is a left-leaning political band known almost as much for its activism as its music. But most of the outspoken political views come from singer Zach De La Rocha and guitarist Tom Morello and not as much from bassist Tim Commerford or drummer Brad Wilk.
Ironically though, when the band morphed into Audioslave after the departure of De La Rocha, they really ceased to be politically oriented.
He is a self-described nonsectarian socialist and activist. Tom also has a very far-left politically-minded solo project called The Nightwatchman.
Like Morello, vocalist Zach De La Rocha, the lyricist behind Rage’s songs, is very politically active and far-left leaning.
One of his biggest causes is that of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation, a libertarian socialist militant group that has been waging war against the Mexican government since 1994.
Zach has spoken at the UN and is a big proponent of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers which is essentially a labor union focused on farms and fast-food restaurants.
But it’s worth pointing out the CIW is a non-profit so its business model is a little different from more traditional labor unions.
Rage Against The Machine performing at Woodstock 99’ pic.twitter.com/sQNzybky8c
— Classic Rock In Pics (@crockpics) April 5, 2018
Why did Rage Against the Machine burn the flag?
Rage Against the Machine burned the United States flag at Woodstock in 1999 during the song Killing in the Name both to express disdain for the government and police brutality, but also to amp up the crowd.
However, the flag-burning event was planned solely by bassist Tim Commerford without the knowledge or consent of his bandmates.
But, his band-mates did approve of the flag burning afterward.
The event took place at the Woodstock festival’s 30th anniversary. And unfortunately, that whole event is generally regarded very poorly.
Sexual assaults were rampant and both Fred Durst of Limp Biscuit and RATM’s flag-burning helped fuel the crowd’s bad behavior. The result was essentially a riot that resulted in the destruction of much of the festival.
But it wasn’t the first time they had used the flag improperly.
In 1996 the band was performing on Saturday Night Live and hung 2 American flags upside down on their amps. Right before the start of their performance, at the order of NBC, SNL sent a crew to remove the flags.
The band were asked to immediately leave the building and have been banned for life from SNL.
But the reason behind that is that they had already been told during rehearsals earlier in the week to not hang the flags.
So by hanging them right before the start of the performance, SNL and NBC saw it as an obvious F-you and took swift action against the band.
And it’s not like SNL isn’t pretty liberal!
But they also banned The Ramones for life from playing Saturday Night Live also, and of course, at least Johnny and Dee Dee Ramone were known for being conservative punk rockers.
— VirtualGlobetrotting (@VirtualGlobe) July 18, 2017
What is Tom Morello’s net worth?
Tom Morello from Rage Against the Machine has a reported net worth of $30 million dollars. He lives in a home in a gated community in the Los Angeles hills area that is valued at over $5,000,000.
So he’s doing all right, despite his proclaimed hated of capitalism.
Most of his worth, of course, is attributed to the work he did in Rage Against the Machine between 1992-2000 (when they broke up for the 1st time).
2 of their albums hit #1 on the charts, Evil Empire and The Battle of Los Angeles.
Of course, when Zach left the band in 2000, Tom and the rest of the band just carried on as Audioslave with the late Chris Cornell taking over on vocals.
So no doubt Tom made money with this band too.
However, Audioslave didn’t do anywhere near as well on the charts. And they also happened at a time where Napster and other services were encouraging people to download music and movies for free (and illegally).
For many artists, Morello likely included, that was the beginning of the end of making money primarily from record sales.
Granted on Spotify, Rage does have well over 7 million monthly listeners.
So assuming Tom gets 1/4 share from both bands, he’s only earning a little over $10,000 a month from Spotify.
Of course, there are other streaming services, but I’m guessing Spotify is what pays him the most, and they continue to be the #1 streaming service.
I learned two things today about @tmorello
1). I never knew he was a Harvard grad in political science
— Dale E. Thompson (@daleethompson) June 6, 2020
Did Tom Morello go to Harvard?
Tom Morello did attend and graduate from Harvard University in 1986 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in social studies.
Ironically, in interviews, Morello has claimed he only paid $1,500 per year to attend Harvard by using scholarships and getting grants. (source)
The current face value of attending Harvard is almost $80,000 per year. (source)
If we adjust that down to account for the cost of living in the mid-1980s when Tom attended, that drops to $46,935. And currently, students getting scholarships are reported to be paying an average of only $12,000 per year.
And again, adjusted back for inflation to the 1980s, that would be about $7,000 per year.
So while it’s possible Morello only paid $1,500 per year, it’s unlikely it was really quite that low. And he’s probably had a lot of funny looks over the years for railing against the system while having a degree from Harvard.
So he probably likes to make it seem like it really wasn’t that costly.
After graduating, he moved to Los Angeles but seemingly never had any aspirations to become a teacher or educator despite that being the primary thing people do with a social studies degree.
If you can’t tell, I’m open to all points of view, but I don’t have a lot of tolerance for hypocrites.
Tom Morello loves to bite the hand that feeds him. He has a net worth of $30 million, lives in a gated community in the LA hills valued at $5 million dollars, and graduated from Harvard University. Capitalism has literally benefitted him his entire privileged life.
And yet he makes his living railing against it.
Tom may think he’s fooling everyone, but eventually, the truth comes out. It’s a pity, as while his inane statements don’t stop me from listening to his music, it does cause me to not respect him as a person. But he’s undeniably talented.
And it’s totally OK to rail against corruption or racism and to try and make the world a better place.
But when your whole mission is to stir people up against the very system that you’ve made millions from, there’s just no other way to call it than to say he’s a hypocrite and self-serving.
Photo which requires attribution: