What's up with millionare rock stars who rail against capitalism? It's always perplexed me. I mean, don't they realize that they are part of (not to mention benefiting from) the system that they hate? Brian Doherty of Reason magazine asked the same question back in 2000. Specifically, Doherty targets Rage Against the Machine (somehow I always end up forgiving them for their Che-loving politics because I like their music so much) and Chumbawamba (aka the Weebles of one-hit wonders--they get knocked down, but they get up again!):
It's easy, of course, simply to accuse stinking rich entertainment celebs who talk about overthrowing the system that pays them so well of being hypocrites. Easy, perhaps, and necessary, since of course they are. It's a pose that, however stylish, is just that. But there's something more interesting going on than either conscious or naive hypocrisy.
What rockin' leftists have the hardest time facing up to is rock's reality as a product of capitalism. Chumbawamba claims it is playing the game of "exist[ing] within [the capitalist system] and at the same time trying to find ways to bring the bastard down." The members also admit that, thanks to their deal with a major label, they have "a decent standard of living for the first time in their lives." (These quotes all from the FAQ on their official Web site, www.chumba.com. On the site, they also fend off accusations from young fans who complain that Chumba should never suggest that it's all right to get drunk if you enjoy it–that beer money, after all, could have been spent helping the downtrodden.)
To justify its compromised position, Rage Against the Machine drags Noam Chomsky into the debate, making the twisted analogy that Chomsky wouldn't object to Barnes & Noble–a big, bad company–selling his books, because that's where people buy books. That analogy might explain why Rage would allow its records to be sold at Tower megastores, but not why its members would become employees of and sell ownership of their music to Sony, which makes far more money selling Rage records than Rage itself does.
Leftists desperately want to avoid real discussion of such contradictions. That's because such contradictions suggest that if it's impossible to escape acting like capitalists, maybe there isn't anything wrong with openly being one.