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Rage Against The Machine - SNL Flags Incident

On that day, one of the big protest bands was boycotted from appearing on a successful TV show.


On April 13, 1996, Rage Against The Machine was banned from ever appearing on the iconic program "Saturday Night Live", due to what was later dubbed as the "Flag Incident."


Rage is probably one of the greatest protest bands of our generation, so what you will read next won't be surprising. Yet!


When Rage was invited to appear on the famous show "SNL", the band's fans raised an eyebrow, even two, but were greatly flattered by the gesture itself.


The popular show, which has been broadcast since 1975 on the NBC channel, has been the tribal bonfire of the American public for decades and, among other things, has produced dozens of stars who have been hosts or performers in the show.


It is unclear what was going on in the mind of the show producers when they decided that the person to host the show that evening would be mega-tycoon Steve Forbes, who had recently retired from the Republican presidential race. Forbes was a "red sheet" for Rage members, and they belonged to the kind of people towards whom their angry protest was directed.


It was clear to Rage's bandmates that they could not go through with this silently and they had some protest plans. One of them was to note during one of the songs that NBC is controlled by General Electric, a company that makes weapons that were used in war crimes. The band finally gave up on this plan in favor of hanging two U.S. flags upside down on the amplifiers that were on stage.


For those for whom this does not sound like a "protest" enough, note that the issue of flag honor is enshrined in U.S. legislation under U.S. law. Code Section 8 - "Respect for the flag", which in subsection (a) provides that the flag shall never be hung upside down except in extreme cases of critical distress or extreme danger to life or property. As follows:


U.S. Code Title 4. Chapter 1. THE FLAG § 8. Respect for flag

"(a) The flag should never be displayed with the union down, except as a signal of dire distress in instances of extreme danger to life or property."


Apparently, Rage members felt "critical distress", and so it happened that just before the band's first song - "Bulls On Parade" two upside-down US flags were hung on the amplifiers that were placed on stage, in protest against NBC and the fact that Forbes hosted the show the same day they performed. These flags were torn off by the production just seconds before the band began performing the song, and the furious show directors prevented the band from performing the second song that was scheduled for that evening.


Not only that, but the angry NBC executives boycotted the band from ever performing on the "Saturday Night Live" show ever again.


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