Dead Kennedys’ “Government Flu” Lyrics Meaning

Dead Kennedys were well known for being a countercultural act during their heyday, i.e. a band that would use their artistry to overtly criticize the powers that be and the system of things. And back in those days, putting forth an idea like the government intentionally and even forcefully making the populace sick through injections or what have you would very much be akin to conspiracy theory. 

But of course a lot of stuff has happened since the 1980s which now has trust in entities like the American, British and Australian governments at an all-time low amongst their own citizens. And as it currently stands, said lack of trust is largely related to govvie strongly encouraging mass vaccinations and lockdowns, etc. amongst the people.

And yes, there may be some social similarities between “Government Flu” and what’s going on in the real world as we speak. For instance, lining up to get the jab in the here and now is, realistically speaking, just as much about conformity – or force even – as it is averting a health crisis. 

For instance, if someone as universally fearsome as Iron Mike Tyson goes as far as to publicly state that he was “pretty much beating into” submitting to vaccine mandates, then you know said pressure is real. 

“Government Flu”

And along a similar vein, the intro to this song presents the “government flu” more or less as some type of disease which the people are socialized to willingly accept from their societal leaders. In other words, based on mainstream socialization, our focus should not be on the seriousness of the sheisty things the government may be doing. But rather, we should be more concerned with going along with the flow, striving for the American dream, and let’s not forget “having fun all the time”.

But to go as far as to say this track is prophetic would be a stretch. Indeed to some degree, the narrative is quite open-ended. And as it has been interpreted by a number of analysts, it may be just as much science fiction as it is government lambasting, being based on the notion of the US drugging citizens to make them super soldiers against Russia, or something like that. 

Remember that this song came out during one of the eras in which the Cold War was at its peak. So Jello and the gang use the opportunity to allude to that harrowing beef also.

The Narrative

But all lyrics considered, the best way to make sense of this narrative is as so. It centers on the idea of the government experimenting, apparently trying out a new disease, on the populace. Such instances, have in fact occurred in American history and that of other countries as well. 

But these experiments, as generally relayed by historians and reporters, are usually relegated on a specific group. However, as implied in the second verse of this song, Dead Kennedys are rather referring to a more widespread occurrence.

Interesting to note is that one member of the band operates under the stage name Klaus Fluoride. Fluoride is a natural substance which is perhaps most famously utilized in the production of toothpaste. It is also a mineral which governments tend to add additional amounts of to public water supplies due to its purported health properties. 

But in conspiracy-theory circles, the more common belief is that they do so in the name of dumbing down the public. So on top of the issue of vaccinations, even as we speak, there are debates going on in some places as to whether fluoride should be added to public water or not.

Thesis Sentiment

Well conspiracy theories, as you probably know, tend to be somewhat convoluted at times. And so it is with this song. There seems to be a bunch of different ideas that Dead Kennedys are trying to get across, but there is limited cohesion between these notions. That is what happens sometimes when you make such grandiose innuendos without any hard evidence to back them up.

But it doesn’t read like the crew was really trying to be factual per se. Rather the thesis sentiment, if you will, would most simply be a distrust of the powers that be.

Dead Kennedys, "Government Flu" Lyrics


All in all, this song is partly based on conspiracy theory as well as science fiction. However, at the end of the day, it centers on a distrust of the government. Hence the title “Government Flu”.

Dead Kennedys and “Government Flu”

Dead Kennedys are a name that perhaps only true punk aficionados would really be familiar with. The crew comes from California but has been more profitable across the pond. 

And this song is from the second of four studio albums they got around to dropping between 1980 and 1986. The album is entitled “Plastic Surgery Disasters” and is a product of Alternative Tentacles Records.

Three of the Dead Kennedys who participated on “Plastic Surgery Disasters” are still associated with the band at the writing of this post. And it should be noted that the album was made public during November of 1982.

Those individuals would be:

  • guitarist East Bay Ray
  • bassist Klaus Fluoride
  • drummer D.H. Peligro

The fourth, the group’s former lead vocalist Jello Biafra, left after they dropped their fourth and final studio album to date, 1986’s “Bedtime for Democracy”. However, he has remained on the music scene via subsequent projects.

Biafra is also the writer of this track. And the aforementioned Bay Ray co-produced. He produced it alongside Thom Wilson. Wilson passed away in 2015.

Government Flu

“Plastic Surgery Disasters”

The image above is the official cover art of “Plastic Surgery Disasters”. It shows two hands. One is of an African child who is severely malnourished. The other is of a White missionary. The band chose this image to draw the world’s attention to famine in certain African countries.

The image was taken by a British photojournalist named Mike Wells. It is entitled “Hands”.

The album has approximately 14 songs on it. The following singles emerged from it:

  • “Halloween”
  • “Bleed for Me”

Biafra has referred to this album as his favorite from his band.

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