American idiots: charting protest and activism in the alternative music scene during George W Bush's presidency

Ben Quail

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In 2002, System of a Down frontman Serj Tankian joined an increasingly vocal movement within the American alternative music scene by denouncing the presidency of George W. Bush. Tom Morello, of platinum selling bands Rage Against the Machine and Audioslave, agreed that Bush should be tried as a war criminal if the United States invaded Iraq.
When the Iraq war did begin the following year, both men used their platform to create anti-war, anti-Bush music intended to galvanise the American public against what they felt was an unjust conflict. These are two examples of a larger anti-war sentiment during the Bush presidency within the subgenres of rock, punk and metal music.
The social impact of these anti-Bush musical protests formed an integral part in the overarching anti-Bush movement across the United States. This provided a focal point for the young and disaffected to channel their resentment, leading to increased engagement, particularly in 2004 as part of the well-supported Punk Voter movement, led by NOFX singer "Fat" Mike Burkett and future Obama administration advisor Scott Goodstein, and through Tankian and Morello's Axis of Justice organisation, which worked to promote awareness of government policy through activism and information broadcasts over the internet

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)302-321
Number of pages20
JournalComparative American Studies An International Journal
Issue number3
Early online date16 Dec 2021
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 16 Dec 2021


  • pop
  • punk
  • metal
  • rock
  • George W. Bush's presidency
  • music
  • protest
  • politics
  • Iraq war
  • war on terror

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