Rage against the machine, vote for Newt!

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Sarah Palin talks Florida GOP battle“, Justice with Judge Jeanine, Fox News, 1/29/2012:

[audio: http://languagelog.ldc.upenn.edu/myl/JeaninePirroPalinX1.mp3]

You gotta rage against the machine at this point in order to defend our republic and save what is-
what is good and secure and prosperous about our nation – we need somebody
who’s engaged in sudden and relentless reform and isn’t afraid to shake it up, shake up that establishment. So
if for no other reason, rage against the machine, vote for Newt!
Annoy a liberal! Vote Newt!

My first thought was that Gov. Palin must not have been listening to that  rock group‘s lyrics, back around 1992 when she was first  elected to the Wasilla city council. But then I realized that it would make perfect sense for her to kick off a Gingrich campaign rally with the refrain from Take the Power Back:

[audio: http://languagelog.ldc.upenn.edu/myl/TakeThePowerBackX1.mp3]

That song even has an echo of Gov. Palin’s call for “sudden and relentless reform”:

Raise up your ear, I’ll drop the style and clear
It’s the beats and the lyrics they fear
The rage is relentless
We need a movement with a quickness
You are the witness of change
And to counteract
We gotta take the power back

She might have more trouble with some other passages:

So called facts are fraud
They want us to allege and pledge
And bow down to their God
Lost the culture, the culture lost
Spun our minds and through time
Ignorance has taken over
Yo, we gotta take the power back!
Bam! Here’s the plan
Motherfuck Uncle Sam

But she could also use the ending of Know Your Enemy, whose anti-elite message is similar to her own, and even similarly expressed — even if the “American dreams” reference needs to be ironically inverted:

[audio: http://languagelog.ldc.upenn.edu/myl/KnowYourEnemyX1.mp3]

Come on!
Yes I know my enemies
They’re the teachers who taught me to fight me
Compromise, conformity, assimilation, submission
Ignorance, hypocrisy, brutality, the elite
All of which are American dreams (8 times)

Just for complete fairness, the whole question and answer in context:

[audio: http://languagelog.ldc.upenn.edu/myl/JeaninePirroPalinX2.mp3]
Jeanine_Pirro: How can Newt Gingrich
distance himself and say that he’s not an you know an insider when it- there are those who would say
he’s the consummate Washington insider, I mean
he was speaker of the House and he was in Congress for twenty years
Sarah Palin: Yeah and how can he say that he’s not a part of the establishment?
Well look at the players in the establishment
who are fighting so hard against him – they want to crucify him because he’s tapped into that average everyday American tea party grassroots movement that has said
enough is enough of the establishment
that tries to run the show and
and um tweak rules and laws and regulations for their own good and not for our nation’s own g- own good
well when
both party machines and many in the media are trying to crucify Newt Gingrich for ha- for bucking the tide and bucking the establishment
that tells you something
And I say you know and-
you gotta rage against the machine at this point in order to defend our republic and save what is
what is good and secure and prosperous about our nation – we need somebody
who’s engaged in sudden and relentless reform and isn’t afraid to shake it up, shake up that establishment. So
if for no other reason, rage against the machine, vote for Newt!
Annoy a liberal! Vote Newt!

Keep this vetting process going, keep the debate going.
As more debate happens, judge, we’ll hear more from Newt and fr- from the other candidates who will oppose his
position as he claims that he’s not part of the establishment – let’s hear more about it.


  1. Keith M Ellis said,

    January 29, 2012 @ 5:42 pm

    RATM lost whatever radical counterculture political credibility they may have had when they licensed their music to a summer Hollywood blockbuster popcorn-film. That was thirteen years ago—to be echoed now by an opportunistic media entertainer disguised as a virulent populist reactionary was pretty much inevitable.

  2. Trimegistus said,

    January 29, 2012 @ 6:03 pm

    Is this blog going to be doing nothing but nitpicking Republican political speeches until November?

    [(myl) I’d call this more an appreciation than anything else. Anyhow, if you have Democratic speeches you’d like us to analyze, you’re welcome to suggest them. Or better yet, do your own linguistic analyses and point us to where you’ve posted them.

    Meanwhile, if any Obama surrogates start quoting Ted Nugent (“I still believe in the American dream”) or Skrewdriver (“Power from profit”), we’ll be right on it.]

  3. dw said,

    January 29, 2012 @ 7:05 pm

    “Sudden and relentless reform” sounds a bit like an oxymoron, but I like the phrase.

    It turns out that Palin is plagiarizing the phrase from her own speech to the 2008 Republican National Convention, which means that we should credit Matthew Schully for it.

  4. Carl said,

    January 29, 2012 @ 7:23 pm

    Perhaps she meant rage against the dying of the light?

  5. Ralph Hickok said,

    January 29, 2012 @ 8:35 pm

    Wow! I thought Pink Floyd was responsible for the most pretentious lyrics in musical history until I saw these.

  6. Jon Weinberg said,

    January 29, 2012 @ 8:47 pm

    Presumably she’s referencing not the musical group, but Jacques Barzun’s decades-old description of the German Expressionist “rage against the machine,” that is, their rejection of “the scientific culture of the western world in the twentieth century.” It all fits.

  7. Joshua said,

    January 29, 2012 @ 9:19 pm

    Repeating phrases from one’s own past speeches is usually not described as “plagiarizing.”

    [(myl) I certainly agree. In fact, the whole concept of “stump speech” implies that the same stuff is recycled with slight modifications over time.

    But the question of what constitutes “plagiarism” is a very strange one, anyhow, in a context where most speeches are not written by the people who deliver them. In this situation, to accuse someone of plagiarizing someone else’s speech is basically to accuse the speechwriters of being careless or malicious.]

  8. J.W. Brewer said,

    January 29, 2012 @ 10:04 pm

    “Machine” is of course a pejorative word in AmEng political discourse (implying not only establishment insiders, but corrupt establishment insiders manipulating elections etc.), and is so used by people who aren’t agrarian/expressionist/Frankfurt-school/what-have-you opponents of machinery and modern technology in general. I wonder if she started with wanting to characterize the supposed anti-Newt establishment as the machine to evoke that set of associations and was then faced with the issue of what verb or verb/preposition combo expresses opposition to a political machine, and then stumbled into rage-against-the-machine because it was a fixed phrase she had floating around from a different context.

    [(myl) I think this is exactly right — but I’d add that there’s more common ground here than just the band name. Gov. Palin and RATM share a lot of the same “anger points”.]

  9. Jon Weinberg said,

    January 29, 2012 @ 11:43 pm

    @JW Brewer: I was joking, myself.

  10. wm tanksley said,

    January 30, 2012 @ 1:05 am

    Has anyone autotuned that? Yet?

  11. Pflaumbaum said,

    January 30, 2012 @ 1:59 am

    “…that average everyday American tea party grassroots movement.”

    I guess we can chalk another one up to MYL’s familiarising, rather than John McWhorter’s distal, demonstratives.

  12. Michael W said,

    January 30, 2012 @ 2:39 am

    Maybe she’d prefer to take from Harvey Danger’s 2007 “Flagpole Sitta”:

    “It’s a sin to live so well…
    I wanna publish ‘zines
    and rage against machines
    I wanna pierce my tongue
    it doesn’t hurt it feels just fine”

    Though the next verse starts off with
    “Paranoia, paranoia, everybody’s coming to get me…”

  13. Adam said,

    January 30, 2012 @ 4:23 am

    Repeating phrases from one’s own past speeches is usually not described as “plagiarizing.”

    It’s plagiarism if you don’t cite them in the references.

  14. Kylopod said,

    January 30, 2012 @ 7:49 am

    If she is a fan of RATM, she’s in good company among right-wing Republicans.

    [(myl) But it’s hard to beat the glory days, when the chair of the RNC cut a terrific album with B.B. King, Isaac Hayes, Sam Moore, and Carla Thomas… Just before RATM was formed, come to think of it.]

  15. Not My Leg said,

    January 30, 2012 @ 12:52 pm

    It took real effort to rage against the boom years of the 1990s. Kids today have it too easy.

  16. Jonathan said,

    January 30, 2012 @ 12:57 pm

    OK… what about a school which, if not right wing, is famous for its right wing economists? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gqG4oSfQYIY

  17. J. W. Brewer said,

    January 30, 2012 @ 1:18 pm

    Skrewdriver might be rather a bridge too far for an administration spokesperson, but whenever I see the President tasked by his speechwriters to call for people to “rise above” various things (cynicism, skepticism, gridlock, and “immediate election-year politics,” just from the first page of results searching whitehouse.gov) it will evoke for me this song and its inspiring message http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fsbvo5GVK10. (Btw, I think Michael W. has misdated the song he quoted by about a decade; I wouldn’t be picky except for the fact that ‘zines had become pretty anachronistic by 2007 – new blog is old ‘zine writ large, as Milton might have put it – which would make the lyric odder than I think it actually was when written.)

  18. Circe said,

    January 31, 2012 @ 2:54 am

    Or maybe, just maybe, she is referring to the Berkeley Free Speech Movement, in particular this famous speech?

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