Haven’t we had enough of Kid Rock?
He’s the performer who once told protesters to “kiss my ass” over his use of the Confederate flag.
He’s the devil without a cause, with the exception of soaking America in good values like cheap beer and racism.
He’s the Detroit rapper turned country music star who released his own line of pro-Trump merchandise and was rewarded with the opportunity to mock a portrait of Hillary Clinton in the White House alongside Sarah Palin and Ted Nugent, completing the Holy Trinity of “right-winging, bitter-clinging, proud clingers of our guns, our God and our religions.” (Only, you know, one of them starred in a porno with that guy from Creed and screams lyrics like, “Now if you wanna be fucked then step up, bitch / I’m gonna pack my dick all up in your shit / Now I don’t like rubbers, they hold me back / Instead I roll like Tonto and ride bareback.”
He’s the publicity monger who pulled off the world’s least interesting sham by teasing a potential Senate run when really, he was using the attention to promote a new album and tour.
That guy. He’s the worst.
Kid Rock was on The Howard Stern Show earlier this week bragging about his Senate-candidate stunt and railing against the “left-wing” media, calling papers like The New York Times “a little bit gay” because “they have a narrative of a left-wing agenda.”
Yes, The New York Times, because it points out factual inaccuracies, informs, and calls out political petulance has a left-wing agenda—not, you know, journalistic integrity. A left-wing agenda, apparently, is “a little bit gay,” and being “a little bit gay,” should you be confused, is an insult.
After detailing all of the nonsense above, perhaps we shouldn’t get riled up about horseshit like this. Except here’s the problem: Kid Rock isn’t an extremist sideshow trotted out to rouse the rabble, to amuse us with his proud championing of unapologetic bigotry, misinformation about the media, and his middle finger toward P.C. culture.
He’s the barely-articulate megaphone for what are otherwise real values held by a large swath of citizens, who are giddy to be given, through instances like this, permission to reclaim the usage of words like “gay” to demean a community, hiding behind their exasperation over liberal P.C. culture as a wall against attacks for doing it.
It’s unclear if in this context Kid Rock is using gay as a schoolyard insult or if he’s saying that the Times has a literal gay agenda, one that apparently would annoy him.
The latter would be in line with the insults lobbied at writers and journalists, including this one, any time they bring up a politician’s track record with the LGBTQ community, or even write about the level of responsibility with which something in pop culture portrays that community. We’re apparently on a mission to make everything about being gay.
(That, of course, is the general point these people seem to make, after filtering out the crasser epithets and language they actually use.)
Our estimation? Astoundingly, he might mean both.
Take for example, a speech he gave earlier this fall during his faux Senate campaign, in which he blasted critics who call him bigoted for his opinions on race and sexuality when, in his eyes, he was just decrying society’s aggressive political correctness.
“If you wanna take a knee and sit there during our ‘Star-Spangled Banner,’ call me a racist because I’m not P.C. and think you have to remind me that black lives matter,” he said. “Nazis. Fucking bigots. And now again the KKK? I say fuck all you racists. Stay the hell away.”
“Why these days is everything so gay?” he continued. “Gay rights, transgender this and that. I say let gay folks get married if they want to and I’m not even close to a Democrat. But things shouldn’t be this complicated, and no you don’t get to choose because whatever you have between your legs should determine the bathroom that you use.”
It’s a demented interpretation of the “not that there’s anything wrong with that” justification for feeling weirdness towards the LGBTQ community. He doesn’t just feel weirdness; he thinks there is “something wrong with that.” The paranoia is right there in his comments, hinting that something bad is going to happen if gay and transgender people are allowed to crusade for and maybe one day live with fully equal rights.
Hey, we co-sign the idea the P.C. police can actually be detrimental to cultural discourse and advancement. But his insistence that thwarting the over-saturation of political correctness means getting to say “gay” as an insult is a confusing one, and one that goes back years.
In a 2015 “This Much I Know” column for The Guardian, he bemoaned the evolution of the musical genre in which he made his name.
"Rap-rock was what people wanted at the time, and they still love those songs at shows," he said. "But it turned into a lot of bullshit and it turned out to be pretty gay… If someone says you can't say 'gay' like that you tell them to go fuck themselves. You're not going to get anything politically correct out of me."
He previously complained to Howard Stern about his son’s Malibu high school hanging a sign forbidding students from using “gay” an insult, arguing that it left his son feeling miserable and oppressed.
But Kid Rock’s war has never properly been about political correctness, though perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised that a scholar such as he was too obtuse to know the difference.
As gay writer and TV personality Dave Holmes wrote for Esquire back when Kid Rock was last flaunting his right to use “gay” as pejorative two years ago, “If you define ‘political correctness’ as ‘watching your mouth so as not to offend the sensibilities of the people around you,’ we actually get a megadose of political correctness from you every time one of your singles gets a radio edit. You can't say ‘fuck’ on television or on the radio, so you don't, and I've never heard you complain about anyone coming for your fucks. You give that right up willingly when it benefits you, and you know that you do.”
Whether it’s a school or a Dave Holmes or a Daily Beast writer encouraging the end of the practice of using gay as insult, it’s not an attempt to wield political correctness as a weapon against freedom of speech. It’s a plea for the safety of young people in whom seeds of shame and self-loathing are planted every time the word is used in a pejorative way. They subconsciously begin to feel unworthy, silly, abnormal, and then fearful, angry, and ashamed. Repercussions range from self-esteem to entire lives.
Swear words are banned all the time. Gay isn’t a swear word. But demanding that others stop conflating it with an insult creates a safe space for people who identify that way. It also, by the way, helps train people who love and support the gay community to refrain from using the word as a playground slur, something which we were all once conditioned to.
Kid Rock clearly doesn’t see the value in that. What an attitude for him to have, someone who peacock-struts with his tattered flannel shirt wide open, beer gut bared to the world, bragging about his predilection for blondes with big tits—and is actually cheered for that authenticity, garish as it is, instead of derided for it or stifled.
Gay is a useful adjective. It can be used to categorize cultural output that is inclusive of the identity, humanity, and the aesthetic of the community. Yes, it can describe an agenda, one that supports LGBTQ rights. Oh, and duh: it is a pretty handy way to describe a person who is sexually attracted to the same sex.
But of all the ways to discredit the media, and lord knows there have been countless, dismissing it as “gay” is at once the most ludicrous and the most upsetting.
The gay community, unsurprisingly, is a common chip wagered in recent political races, whether it’s Rick Perry in 2012 complaining that gays can openly serve in the military while “our kids” can’t “openly celebrate Christmas or pray in school,” or Donald Trump unfurling a rainbow flag at a rally with “LGBTs for Trump” scribbled on it in penmanship befitting a serial killer. And when political extremism is decried, the Antifa movement, which includes gay rights as one of its political passions, is right there along with the alt-right.
And so, as most things in politics are, the word gay and its more severe pejorative brethren have been weaponized and fired to bully, silence, demean, and discredit—a practice that will only be buoyed by Kid Rock’s latest stunt.
Kid Rock is saying, in the insult context, that the Times is “a little bit gay.” In the literal context, he’s saying that reporting on the LGBTQ movement is an unworthy and even disqualifying cause for a legitimate journalism entity. It’s hard to justify either strain of logic.
Once upon a time, Kid Rock was the self-heralded American Badass. Now, he’s the American Jackass. Sadly, it’s a great time to be one of those.