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Green Day’s ‘American Idiot’ predicted America's future

Emily Brennan

Online Media Manager

Photo via NY Times

In 2004, Green Day released their seventh studio album with a political spin that is still relevant today. It has an important message for all of us.

The story of ‘American Idiot’ starts with Billie Joe Armstrong's response to the Bush administration and the 9/11 terrorist attacks, releasing the album in the beginning of the Iraq war. The album, which was later turned into a Broadway musical, follows the story of a young middle-lower class man who Armstrong names the “Jesus of Suburbia.” He is seen as the American “anti-hero.” The album has strong anti-war and anti-establishment themes, representing those who never feel represented.

Two of the most politically charged songs on the album, “American Idiot” and “Holiday” describe the state of the country 17 years ago, as well as the state of the U.S. today. “American Idiot” was written in the wake of media hysteria and propaganda as the war started. Armstrong uses the song to point out that mass media creates hysteria and fear mongering among all of us, regardless of which party you choose to identify with.

“Don't want to be an American idiot

One nation controlled by the media

Information age of hysteria

It's going out to idiot America.”

17 years later, it has only gotten worse. With the rise of groups like Q Anon and Antfia, the takeover of social media has only further exposed young people to negative propaganda. While Armstrong was talking about cable news networks, it has gone too far.

Themes of anti-war and anti-establishment stemmed from the track “Holiday.” Armstrong strongly opposed the Iraq war, pointing out that using violence is “our lives on holiday.”

“Sieg Heil to the president gasman

Bombs away is your punishment

Pulverize the Eiffel towers

Who criticize your government

Bang bang goes the broken glass and

Kill all the f**s that don't agree

Trials by fire setting fire

Is not a way that's meant for me.”

“President gasman” is a dig at the 43rd president George Bush because Armstrong felt that leaving thousands of Americans and Iraqis dead was unacceptable. There were a number of reasons that the US invaded Iraq - one of these in particular is having the world's 5th largest oil reserve. The song also expresses Armstrong’s disagreement with the greed from corporations in the effort to “rebuild” the country after 9/11.

Green Day arguably released one of the most well-written, accurate political albums of all time. The messages of hysteria and suspicion of one another are an all too familiar feeling today. Armstrong was bold to point out the fear and anger that the mass media instills in people and he would probably have a hard time doing so 17 years later.

We can take a message from Green Day - don’t be an American Idiot.


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