The Gaslighting of Dave Mustaine

When I was younger, I was told a very silly story about a very ignorant man who thought he was being “cool” and “edgy” but was really just naive (or worse, moronic). It was a morality tale about not believing everything you hear, but a little bit of digging reveals a much more dangerous truth hiding just below the surface.


The man in the story was Dave Mustaine, singer and guitarist for the OG thrash metal band /Megadeth/. Their songs, when they’re not standard metal/sci-fi crossovers or “ew lets make a song about death and rotting corpses, I bet that will sound really metal,” tend to rail against corruption, hypocrisy, and violence in government with a snarl and a sneer.

From “Peace Sells… but who’s buying?”

What do you mean, “I don’t believe in God”?
I talk to him everyday
What do you mean, “I don’t support your system”?
I go to court when I have to
What do you mean, “I can’t get to work on time”?
Got nothing better to do
And, what do you mean, “I don’t pay my bills”?
Why do you think I’m broke? Huh?

The Incident In Question

Probably in part because of their reputation and their politics, Megadeth was invited to Northern Ireland during The Troubles, an explosion of violence between the historically-colonized Irish and their colonial masters in Great Britain. At this concert, Dave took a moment to address the audience, saying “Give Ireland back to the Irish. This one is for the Cause.” He then launched into the song “Anarchy in the U.K.”, by which point he had launched a full-on riot and had to be escorted out in a bulletproof van.

The Violence is the Source

Dave Mustaine used this incident as fuel for Megadeth’s next album (their best album), Rust in Peace. From the lead track, Holy Wars:

“Brother will kill brother
Spilling blood across the land
Killing for religion
Something I don’t understand

Fools like me, who cross the sea
And come to foreign lands
Ask the sheep, for their beliefs
Do you kill on God’s command?”

Once you know the context, the song is clearly an attack on wars of religion and colonialism. Whether you agree with Dave’s beliefs and conclusions or not, this is far more engaged with the real world than the generic “scary-sounding words set to heavy music” lyrics of Metallica’s Enter Sandman, released in the same era. It’s not just aesthetic – it’s got something to say. And the music industry has spent the last 30 years taking that away from him.

Gaslighting Dave Mustaine (And you. And me)

These days, Dave tells the story as if he had no idea what the politics were there or what was going on. I call bullshit on that, personally. He might not have had the full inside scoop, but I don’t think that a political radical, doing a special show in a country torn apart by a radical political uprising, saying something as radical as “Give Ireland back to the Irish,” sounds like an accident. But that’s just me. I wasn’t even born yet, so what the fuck do I know?

Either way, he lost control of his own narrative immediately. From the moment it happened, the story was told as “out of touch musician thinks he understands politics lol”, not “activist musician supports independence movement”. Because if he REALLY understood what was going on, he wouldn’t actually support the Irish, right? That’s what they’re saying. And that’s what they always say to justify colonial violence.

When a colonizer commits violence against the locals, that’s unfortunate, sad, or maybe even a tragedy. But the vast majority of their violence is invisible to us, because it is dressed up as “law and order” – never mind that they wrote the laws to justify their brutal definition of order. And when the colonized locals have had enough of this shit and fight back, well that only justifies more violence from the colonizer. The press kicks into high gear, decrying the violence of the victims of colonialism, while shaking their head mournfully at the necessary violence of the colonizers. Israel had to bomb Palestine’s COVID response team, you see, because somebody threw rocks at them. Israel had to explode an entire apartment building, you see, because one of the people whose water they shut off and whose home they stole didn’t appreciate that. And if you, or I, or Dave Mustaine ever question that brutal violence, that just shows that we don’t understand geopolitics.