Rage Against the Sponsors

For a few microseconds earlier this week, I was incredibly excited to hear that one of my all time favourite bands, if not my absolute favourite, were to return Ireland for the first time in ten years. I had only once had the pleasure of seeing Rage Against the Machine, and it ranks as one of the greatest gigs I’ve ever been to. The hairs on my neck still stand to attention when I remember them hitting the stage in The Point, with an air-raid siren blaring as massive black flag with a red star was hoisted slowly into the backdrop, before Zack bellowed an introduction and they launched into Testify. It was awe-inspiring.

Unfortunately, the band are not playing their own gig here, but are joining the over-priced and over-hyped Electric Picnic – a festival that was once known as a haven for those with more eclectic tastes, but has in recent years become that music festival full of people who know nothing about music. No doubt there are a few genuine music fans there, but there are also many irresponsible fuckwits that only go there to act the idiot and destroy the place.

All of that not withstanding, the festival is long sold out, so even if I were to bite the bullet and decide I wanted to go, I would have to scramble for a ticket. But I won’t. In any case, I have a prior commitment in Kerry that weekend.

What caught my eye, however, when I was checking the line-up, was the sponsorship of the event. Now, I am not naïve enough to be surprised by corporate involvement. Of course we all know that the vast majority of big events are festooned with corporate logos; these are our modern day overlords of course. We can’t have an event without it being associated with a slew of multinationals. There is an irony of course that a band called Rage Against the Machine are playing a festival so replete with icons of capitalism. But that’s a tired argument that goes back the band’s first releases on Epic records, a subsidiary of the megaconglomerate Sony. They argued then that by being on a major label, more people would hear their voice. I for one did, so can’t really argue with that. I’m not sure how many attendees at the Electric Picnic will become radically politicised by watching Rage’s set, but that remains to be seen.

So this is in no way a dig at the band. Their management in association with local promoters booked the gig. They are going to do a short tour, and play. That’s all. But looking at the Electric Picnic site prompted me to have a deeper look at who is sponsoring it. Here follows a run-though a few of them.

  • Bacardi – Cuban rum dynasty, allied with the repressive regime led by military dictator Fulgenico Batista. The Bacardi family, like other wealthy landowners, benefited from the special treatment granted to them by Batista through exploitation of the working class, and the family fled to the USA after the revolution, no longer being able to milk Cuba dry at the expense of the population.
  • Just Eat – a food delivery company operating the ‘gig economy’ model, where those actually delivering the food are paid no fixed wage, have no guaranteed work nor stability, have no contribution to PRSI (Public Insurance) or pensions, and are paid a pittance for the deliveries they make.
  • AIB – A bank that was rescued from total collapse in the wake of 2008’s economic crash. The funds used to ‘bail out’ the bank come from the exchequer, so the taxpayers’ money is being used to prop up a financial institution which continues to pay out share dividends and massive bonuses. Those who were most responsible for the crash, in league with the incompetent government themselves, continue to be rewarded for bringing the country to its knees, while poverty and homelessness levels continue to rise.
  • Tesco – a supermarket multinational that pays its staff poorly, even at one point being caught ‘hiring’ staff on the now thankfully defunct Job Bridge scheme – an state-sanctioned internship programme. Tesco took advantage of this scheme to use unpaid labour to stack their shelves. This is but the tip of the iceberg for Tesco, as they, like the other big supermarket chains, continue to drive smaller local businesses out, and insidiously insert themselves into communities to the detriment of the people living there. Tesco, for example, are currently holding up the redevelopment of the stadium for Bohemians Football Club – a fan-owned, community-based, Dublin institution. All actual residents and local businesses want to see the stadium developed, but the permission to go ahead with this has not been granted by the city council due to objections from the exploitative mega-corporation sitting in the middle of it all like a fucking tumour.

These are but four of the ‘proud sponsors’ of the Electric Picnic. Shady and disgusting, every one of them. We should all be raging against them.

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