‘You Did What They Told Ya’: Three Lessons From RATM’s Christmas No. 1

Suddenly, Jon Morter is a rebel culture hero. After Morter started a Facebook and Twitter campaign to block X Factor winner Joe McElderry from the Christmas number one, sure enough, Rage Against The Machine’s 17-year-old Killing In The Name Of sold 500,000 copies, 50,000 more than McElderry, to take the title.

Here’s what the victory tells us…

  1. unlimited digital shelf space for archives can be restorative to long-ago out-of-print cultural artefacts – providing there is significant enough impetus (this we already knew)
  2. virality only requires a single seed to spread, as long as enough people share its sentiment
  3. there is a large enough constituent in the UK frustrated at the lock on culture exerted by national talent contests

So, a counter-cultural moment just happened, thanks – again – to the social internet. But, one final thought, courtesy of tweeter Adam Hay: “500,000 people got Killing In The Name Of because they were told to. I didn’t buy it. Who’s closer to the message in the lyrics there?”