The Dialectics of Kid Rock

Before analyzing Kid Rock as a cultural phenomenon, we first have to spend some time with the Frankfurt School, a group of European academics who rose to prominence in the mid 20th century.  No, seriously.

The word "dialectic" gets thrown around enough to warrant some clarification.  Now used primarily as a pseudo-intellectual shibboleth to refer to social changes, the philosophical roots of the modern concept of dialectic are surprisingly important.  Dialectic describes Hegel's idea that as society moves toward its perfected state, it must resolve internal contradictions – issues that cause social unrest and then lead to social change.  According to Hegel, this process was inevitable and outside human control, and this idea, grounded in the economic sphere, would be adopted by Marx and serve as the foundation of Marxist thought.

The actual outcomes of the Marxist revolutions – despotic and impoverished regimes – were of course hardly the paradise predicted by Marxist dialectic.  (If you see Marxist described as "Marxian," by the way, you know you're dealing with a Marxist.)  Add to this the fact that even Marx himself was likely aware of the special economic conditions in America – a relatively large and fluid middle class – that made socialist revolution unlikely, and Marxist dialectic found itself in serious need of a revision.  The supposedly inevitable "scientific" unfolding of "scientific socialism" (Marx's own term for his philosophy) insisted on not unfolding properly.  What's a socialist revolutionary supposed to do in the face of a traditional society that stubbornly refuses to collapse?  Well, you change the rules.  Enter the Frankfurt School, and in particular Herbert Marcuse.  After all, why wait for the social tensions to appear?  Why not identify and magnify them?

It was Marcuse who dropped the Marxist notion (and perhaps it was always a pose, after all) of an inevitable dialectic grounded in economic movements.  What Marcuse and his New Left school of thought realized was that you could identify social tensions that could change – or tear apart – a society, and even if they were not inevitable, they could be introduced or exacerbated.  Like a mad scientist isolating a particularly virulent strain of smallpox, incubating it, and then releasing it into the population, the New Left takes prickly social issues, makes them into matters of life and death for which there is no middle ground, and watches as traditional society blows up.  Such conflicts often go by softer names, such as "wedge" or "hot-button" issues, but whatever term is used it is fair to say that Marcuse and his New Left were the Oppenheimers of "weaponizing" dialectic.  From racial divides to gender wars to every other form of identity politics, polarization into mutually exclusive sides provides the toxic conflict necessary to disrupt society, fostering resentment and eventually apathy and nihilism.  Only then will a formerly free people be complacent enough to be shaped by an intellectual elite.

This isn't to say that everyone on the left side of the political aisle is a self-aware participant in such cartoonish supervillainy – but it's important to know that such a mindset (in which traditional American society, guided by the actions and desires of individuals, has to be destroyed for a new society formulated and controlled by an intellectual elite), does in fact exist.  It dominates academia and elements of the administrative state, including the intelligence community – Marcuse and company were deeply influential in intelligence gathering and interpretation via the Research and Analysis Branch of the OSS, precursor of the CIA.

Who could possibly stand against such diabolical masterminds?  Enter Kid Rock.

Kid Rock's foray into the political sphere coincided with the release of his video "Po-Dunk."  One way to read this is that the political move is in service to selling the music, but that's a false dichotomy – "Po-Dunk" is suffused with political-social meaning.

Over the driving bass line that sounds like a threat, you can hear the menacing rattle of the Don't Tread on Me snake, and when you hear it, you know that Kid Rock is serious about music and politics.  The symbols could not be any clearer: tight shots of the Bible and firearms, a direct embrace of the "God and Guns" that America "clings" to.  But Kid Rock isn't even getting started.

Take the recent upheaval over Confederate symbols.  Is it too cynical to say, only because it's a great way to destabilize a nation?  It is certainly the modus operandi of the New Left.  But Kid Rock's not having any of it.  Even before "Po-Dunk," you see in Kid Rock videos the apparently contradictory blending of Southern and American symbols, the Confederate Battle Flag with the Stars and Stripes, the General Lee with biracial children.  It's jarring only to those under the spell of the New Left, where the American and Confederate flags are to be seen as opposites.  But they're not; one is part of the other, and Kid Rock claims them both.

And he keeps on smashing New Left social divisions.  For the New Left, gun ownership should be associated with white males, tools for their continuing oppression against women and minorities.  But the first gun you see in "Po-Dunk" is being cleaned by a black man, and a good part of the video dwells on women (in bikinis, no less) blasting away at watermelons.  Trash another manufactured dialectical conflict.

Red state versus blue state?  It was stupid to start with.  Kid Rock is a walking reminder of that political maxim that Pennsylvania is Alabama in the middle.  He wasn't the first to realize it; Hank Williams, Jr.'s Southern anthem "A Country Boy Can Survive" called from "North California to south Alabam," just as Kid Rock summons (in the earlier "You Never Met a M----------- Quite Like Me"):

from the depths of Dixie to my northern spots

you know its time to rock when Old Glory drops

...while Bocephus himself passes the torch, playing "Freebird" in the background, that other Southern anthem from the group with wild Gaelic echoes written into their name.

The same goes for country versus city: Kid Rock's uniform of wife-beater tee-shirt accented with a thick gold chain and occasional fur coat signals exactly what he's claiming: white trash pimp gangster with a dash of hipster in the hat.

But there is an even more subtle level at work.  One of the most vital images in "Po-Dunk," the one that accompanies "Momma looking good in some jeans all ripped / Got a baby in her belly and a baby on her hip" is the young pregnant woman in a bikini, smoking a cigarette.  It simultaneously destroys the false division between sex and its consequence, procreation, as well as the manufactured sin of smoking as contrary to parenting.

How about rich versus poor?  Poverty for the left is a problem to be solved; poverty for Kid Rock is simply an economic situation for which no cure needs to be given, because nobody the hell asked.

These aren't even the most scandalous moments, and here we're getting close to the animus behind all the symbols.  One of the opening frames in the "Po-Dunk" video is a decidedly "male gaze" upon an attractive black woman: this is a declaration that white male sexuality is no longer forbidden from finding black women desirable, a rejection of the image of the white male as the sexual transgressor who has lost all rights to desire.

That is the narrative role the left attempts to bolster with stories of historical sexual exploitation (which run a little thin when applied to young males who only very recently came into the world); the media have had to shore this up with fabricated stories such as we have seen at UVA and, before that, Duke.

Kid Rock, rightly, refuses to feel guilty about any of this.  Indeed, Kid Rock represents a remarkable reversal from the left's cultural narrative, in which there is no individual, personal guilt, but only collective guilt – Kid Rock rejects all collective guilt and indeed the authority that enforces this new, collective morality.  "Po-Dunk" revels in poverty, opulence, obesity, fecundity, and the right of the individual to wield violent force to protect its way of life.  Kid Rock resolves in himself the contradictions of race, class, and gender without apology or remorse, a Hegelian synthesis of false dichotomies arranged by the Frankfurt School to destabilize a society disinterested in a Marxist revolution.

In other words, Kid Rock takes all the false dialectics, absorbs them, metabolizes them, and...well, if you've seen his videos, you know the rest, and it involves a roll of Radiohead toilet paper.  If Trump is the clenched fist of the American people, Kid Rock is the middle finger that comes after the punch is thrown, at the very moment when the New Left expects an apology from those who dared to even challenge it.

All of this isn't about one Senate seat from Michigan, and what that might mean in terms of political calculations.  It's about a movement in society.  At bottom, it is guilt that is the fuel that the New Left relies on for its weaponized dialectics.  And it is guilt that Kid Rock vehemently rejects, even the guilt of a straight white man.

To borrow Kid Rock's lyrics, "You never seen a m----------- quite like him."  But the political stage is about to, and a lot of people are coming with him.  Millions of them.

Currently a Ph.D. student in religion and politics at The Catholic University in Washington, D.C., the author has published academic articles on National Socialism as a religious movement in the Harvard University journal Cult/ure and on video games and existentialism in the book Past the Sky's Rim (Gray Matter Books).  He also publishes fiction under the pen name Gibson Monk.

Before analyzing Kid Rock as a cultural phenomenon, we first have to spend some time with the Frankfurt School, a group of European academics who rose to prominence in the mid 20th century.  No, seriously.

The word "dialectic" gets thrown around enough to warrant some clarification.  Now used primarily as a pseudo-intellectual shibboleth to refer to social changes, the philosophical roots of the modern concept of dialectic are surprisingly important.  Dialectic describes Hegel's idea that as society moves toward its perfected state, it must resolve internal contradictions – issues that cause social unrest and then lead to social change.  According to Hegel, this process was inevitable and outside human control, and this idea, grounded in the economic sphere, would be adopted by Marx and serve as the foundation of Marxist thought.

The actual outcomes of the Marxist revolutions – despotic and impoverished regimes – were of course hardly the paradise predicted by Marxist dialectic.  (If you see Marxist described as "Marxian," by the way, you know you're dealing with a Marxist.)  Add to this the fact that even Marx himself was likely aware of the special economic conditions in America – a relatively large and fluid middle class – that made socialist revolution unlikely, and Marxist dialectic found itself in serious need of a revision.  The supposedly inevitable "scientific" unfolding of "scientific socialism" (Marx's own term for his philosophy) insisted on not unfolding properly.  What's a socialist revolutionary supposed to do in the face of a traditional society that stubbornly refuses to collapse?  Well, you change the rules.  Enter the Frankfurt School, and in particular Herbert Marcuse.  After all, why wait for the social tensions to appear?  Why not identify and magnify them?

It was Marcuse who dropped the Marxist notion (and perhaps it was always a pose, after all) of an inevitable dialectic grounded in economic movements.  What Marcuse and his New Left school of thought realized was that you could identify social tensions that could change – or tear apart – a society, and even if they were not inevitable, they could be introduced or exacerbated.  Like a mad scientist isolating a particularly virulent strain of smallpox, incubating it, and then releasing it into the population, the New Left takes prickly social issues, makes them into matters of life and death for which there is no middle ground, and watches as traditional society blows up.  Such conflicts often go by softer names, such as "wedge" or "hot-button" issues, but whatever term is used it is fair to say that Marcuse and his New Left were the Oppenheimers of "weaponizing" dialectic.  From racial divides to gender wars to every other form of identity politics, polarization into mutually exclusive sides provides the toxic conflict necessary to disrupt society, fostering resentment and eventually apathy and nihilism.  Only then will a formerly free people be complacent enough to be shaped by an intellectual elite.

This isn't to say that everyone on the left side of the political aisle is a self-aware participant in such cartoonish supervillainy – but it's important to know that such a mindset (in which traditional American society, guided by the actions and desires of individuals, has to be destroyed for a new society formulated and controlled by an intellectual elite), does in fact exist.  It dominates academia and elements of the administrative state, including the intelligence community – Marcuse and company were deeply influential in intelligence gathering and interpretation via the Research and Analysis Branch of the OSS, precursor of the CIA.

Who could possibly stand against such diabolical masterminds?  Enter Kid Rock.

Kid Rock's foray into the political sphere coincided with the release of his video "Po-Dunk."  One way to read this is that the political move is in service to selling the music, but that's a false dichotomy – "Po-Dunk" is suffused with political-social meaning.

Over the driving bass line that sounds like a threat, you can hear the menacing rattle of the Don't Tread on Me snake, and when you hear it, you know that Kid Rock is serious about music and politics.  The symbols could not be any clearer: tight shots of the Bible and firearms, a direct embrace of the "God and Guns" that America "clings" to.  But Kid Rock isn't even getting started.

Take the recent upheaval over Confederate symbols.  Is it too cynical to say, only because it's a great way to destabilize a nation?  It is certainly the modus operandi of the New Left.  But Kid Rock's not having any of it.  Even before "Po-Dunk," you see in Kid Rock videos the apparently contradictory blending of Southern and American symbols, the Confederate Battle Flag with the Stars and Stripes, the General Lee with biracial children.  It's jarring only to those under the spell of the New Left, where the American and Confederate flags are to be seen as opposites.  But they're not; one is part of the other, and Kid Rock claims them both.

And he keeps on smashing New Left social divisions.  For the New Left, gun ownership should be associated with white males, tools for their continuing oppression against women and minorities.  But the first gun you see in "Po-Dunk" is being cleaned by a black man, and a good part of the video dwells on women (in bikinis, no less) blasting away at watermelons.  Trash another manufactured dialectical conflict.

Red state versus blue state?  It was stupid to start with.  Kid Rock is a walking reminder of that political maxim that Pennsylvania is Alabama in the middle.  He wasn't the first to realize it; Hank Williams, Jr.'s Southern anthem "A Country Boy Can Survive" called from "North California to south Alabam," just as Kid Rock summons (in the earlier "You Never Met a M----------- Quite Like Me"):

from the depths of Dixie to my northern spots

you know its time to rock when Old Glory drops

...while Bocephus himself passes the torch, playing "Freebird" in the background, that other Southern anthem from the group with wild Gaelic echoes written into their name.

The same goes for country versus city: Kid Rock's uniform of wife-beater tee-shirt accented with a thick gold chain and occasional fur coat signals exactly what he's claiming: white trash pimp gangster with a dash of hipster in the hat.

But there is an even more subtle level at work.  One of the most vital images in "Po-Dunk," the one that accompanies "Momma looking good in some jeans all ripped / Got a baby in her belly and a baby on her hip" is the young pregnant woman in a bikini, smoking a cigarette.  It simultaneously destroys the false division between sex and its consequence, procreation, as well as the manufactured sin of smoking as contrary to parenting.

How about rich versus poor?  Poverty for the left is a problem to be solved; poverty for Kid Rock is simply an economic situation for which no cure needs to be given, because nobody the hell asked.

These aren't even the most scandalous moments, and here we're getting close to the animus behind all the symbols.  One of the opening frames in the "Po-Dunk" video is a decidedly "male gaze" upon an attractive black woman: this is a declaration that white male sexuality is no longer forbidden from finding black women desirable, a rejection of the image of the white male as the sexual transgressor who has lost all rights to desire.

That is the narrative role the left attempts to bolster with stories of historical sexual exploitation (which run a little thin when applied to young males who only very recently came into the world); the media have had to shore this up with fabricated stories such as we have seen at UVA and, before that, Duke.

Kid Rock, rightly, refuses to feel guilty about any of this.  Indeed, Kid Rock represents a remarkable reversal from the left's cultural narrative, in which there is no individual, personal guilt, but only collective guilt – Kid Rock rejects all collective guilt and indeed the authority that enforces this new, collective morality.  "Po-Dunk" revels in poverty, opulence, obesity, fecundity, and the right of the individual to wield violent force to protect its way of life.  Kid Rock resolves in himself the contradictions of race, class, and gender without apology or remorse, a Hegelian synthesis of false dichotomies arranged by the Frankfurt School to destabilize a society disinterested in a Marxist revolution.

In other words, Kid Rock takes all the false dialectics, absorbs them, metabolizes them, and...well, if you've seen his videos, you know the rest, and it involves a roll of Radiohead toilet paper.  If Trump is the clenched fist of the American people, Kid Rock is the middle finger that comes after the punch is thrown, at the very moment when the New Left expects an apology from those who dared to even challenge it.

All of this isn't about one Senate seat from Michigan, and what that might mean in terms of political calculations.  It's about a movement in society.  At bottom, it is guilt that is the fuel that the New Left relies on for its weaponized dialectics.  And it is guilt that Kid Rock vehemently rejects, even the guilt of a straight white man.

To borrow Kid Rock's lyrics, "You never seen a m----------- quite like him."  But the political stage is about to, and a lot of people are coming with him.  Millions of them.

Currently a Ph.D. student in religion and politics at The Catholic University in Washington, D.C., the author has published academic articles on National Socialism as a religious movement in the Harvard University journal Cult/ure and on video games and existentialism in the book Past the Sky's Rim (Gray Matter Books).  He also publishes fiction under the pen name Gibson Monk.

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