“Vietnow” by Rage Against the Machine

It has been ascertained that the song “Vietnow” serves as a tirade against radio shows that are geared towards right-wing agendas. In the political arena of countries like the United States, terms such as right-wing and left-wing are thrown around quite freely. These terms are so lavishly used to the point where it’s difficult for many to understand what one or the other is supposed to mean exactly. 

But the host of one of such right-wing shows who is actually referred to in the song is none other than Oliver North. Oliver is a figure more generally known for his involvement in the Iran-Contra scandal of the 1980s. But what is less commonly known is that he hosted a radio talk show back around the turn of the century.

We’re not going to act like we’re experts on what North stands for. But beside him, other analysts also mention the likes of Michael Reagan (son of Ronald) and the late Rush Limbaugh in relation to this song. They also were radio hosts who, as right-wingers are supposed to be, are known to represent the conservative, or let’s say old-fashioned values, upon which America was built.

Lyrics of “Vietnow”

And no, you’re not going to be able to ascertain all of the above from these, may we say at times confusing or overly-symbolic, lyrics. Rather, what it reads like the homeys are spazzing about this time is, most simply put, fearmongering. 

So the implication is that radio hosts like Ollie North were promoting the societal ideologies they espoused not through sound reasoning or the concern for the common good but rather by swaying peoples’ thoughts and actions through the usage of fear.

And going back to the notion of the wording of this track being painfully metaphorical, it is more or less up to the listener to figure out what RATM is referring to by “the program of Vietnow”. 

This is the type of band which, via works such as this one, tend to rely heavily on emotion and accordingly the audience being able to grasp what’s being put forth by reading in between the lines.

After all, as liberal as America may be, it still isn’t necessarily wise to go about raging against the machine overtly.

A Logical Theory

The above said, one logical theory would be that the vocalist is likening the present to the days of the Vietnam War. To note, the latter part of the 1990s, i.e. when this song was dropped, was one of the few eras in American history in which the country was not at war. But apparently, the RATM boys noticed similarities to wartime nonetheless.

And all things considered, what they apparently mean by indirectly making such an assertion is that the listening audience should not lose guard all because bullets may not currently be flying. To the contrary there is an active assault going on, with the listening masses being the intended targets. 

However, this is a psychological, not physical battle. And accordingly those who are waging the assault are not using conventional weapons but propaganda buttressed by fear. Or, something like that.

Lyrics for "Vietnow"

When was “Vietnow” released?

On 16 April 1996, with the backing of Epic Records, Rage Against the Machine (RATM) released “Evil Empire”. “Vietnow” came out in October of 1997 as the album’s third and last single.

It should be noted that “Evil Empire” remains the band’s only album to not only have topped the Billboard 200 but also place within the top 10 of the UK Albums Chart.  

Song’s Cover art

The cover art to this single was shot by a famous Mexican photographer named Graciela Iturbide.

Cover art for “Vietnow”


The entire Rage Against the Machine crew are collectively credited for the writing and production of “Vietnow”. Since time immemorial the crew has consisted of these five men:

  • Zack de la Rocha (vocalist)
  • Brad Wilk (drummer)  
  • Tim Commerford (bassist)
  • Tom Morello (guitarist)

 And the other producer of “Vietnow” is Brendan O’Brien.

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