For reasons I would need a large academic grant and three or four years to fully explain, my homeland of Britain is absolutely obsessed with the question of who is going to have the No. 1 single at Christmas. In recent times, however, this has become something of a one-horse race, with the lucrative honor going to whoever wins the hugely popular, Simon Cowell-adjudged X Factor reality show. Then, earlier this year, some impish, Cowell-hating types began a Facebook campaign to get Rage Against the Machine’s awesome, and awesomely foul-mouthed, 1992 single “Killing in the Name” topping the charts instead.

Last week, Simon Cowell described the campaign as “stupid.” But over the past few days the battle has gotten a lot hotter. On Sunday, an 18-year-old named Joe McElderry won this year’s X Factor and yesterday he released his Christmas single, a version of the Miley Cyrus single “The Climb.” Then, this morning, RATM appeared on BBC Radio Five Live. Guitarist Tom Morello described the effort to get them to number one as, “a real, completely grassroots campaign, started by real fans of music.” Meanwhile, another band member (frontman Zack de la Rocha, I’m 99.9 percent certain) described Simon Cowell as someone who “seems to have profited greatly off humiliating people on live television.”

The band then proceeded to play a version of “Killing in the Name” that included a flurry of F-bombs, to the obvious horror of the BBC presenters who yanked the performance and made clear they had told the band to keep matters radio-friendly (though, as the main offending lyric is, of course, “F— you, I won’t do what you tell me,” you would have thought the DJs might have seen this turn of events coming). You can hear the whole shebang below. Meanwhile, it seems the chart race itself remains extremely close.

What do you think about all this? Would you consider buying “Killing in the Name” or even buying it again, just to tick off Simon Cowell (and to help the homeless charity Shelter, which is benefiting from sales of the track)? Feel free to compare and contrast the respective singles by RATM and “>McElderry and send me your report. Maybe I’ll get that academic grant yet!

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Photo credit: Rage: Lucia Graca/Camera Press/Retna; Cowell: Steve Finn/Capital Pictures/Retna