Sense of Wonder: Chicken Hawks Blast Stephen King

Stephen King

That a right-wing-blog would impugn my patriotism because I said children should learn to read, and could get better jobs by doing so, is beneath contempt. Noel Sheppard says, “Nice sentiment when the nation is at war, Stephen.” I guess he feels ignorance and illiteracy are OK when the country needs cannon-fodder. I guess he also feels that the war in Iraq has nationwide approval. Well, it doesn’t have mine. It is a waste of national resources. . . and that includes the youth and blood of the 4,000 American troops who have lost their lives there and for the tens of thousands who have been wounded. I live in a national guard town, and I support our troops, but I don’t support either the war or educational policies that limit the options of young men and women to any one career—military or otherwise. If you agree, find Sheppard on the internet, and send him an email: “Hi, Noel—Stephen King says to shut up and I agree.”

The above message from Stephen King (posted on the news section of StephenKing.Com) comes in response to a right-wing attempt to fan a non-existant spark into a fiery controversy. If you have not been following the story at home, here is a rundown:

1. While speaking to some high school students at the Library of Congress, King answered a question by giving a passionate argument in favor of literacy:

I don’t want to sound like an ad, a public service ad on TV, but the fact is if you can read, you can walk into a job later on. If you don’t, then you’ve got, the Army, Iraq, I don’t know, something like that. It’s, it’s not as bright. So, that’s my little commercial for that.

2. Right-wing blogger Noel Shepperd wrote a post calling King’s patriotism into question.

Remember shortly before Election Day 2006 when Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) suggested that if you don’t get a good education, “you get stuck in Iraq” [...] ?

Well, last month, famed horror author Stephen King was speaking in front of a group of high school students at the Library of Congress, and he virtually made the exact same statement.

For those that can bear it, what follows is another in a long line of liberal media members bashing the military. [...]

Nice sentiment when the nation is at war, Stephen

3. Fox News did a sarcastic segment title ”Brain Dead Zone” (a reference to a King novel) in which a panel of experts disparaged King as an example of the liberal elite who hate the military. (You can find the video at the Screamstress Horror Blog, where the poster expresses sympathy with the Fox team’s attack on King.)

I’m a little intimidated about wading into this pile of smoldering embers for fear of fanning them into flames (which would play into the plans of the wing-nuts), but the whole thing is so ridiculous that I feel compelled to offer my take on the “controversy.”

It is clear from the context of King’s original remarks at the Library of Congress that the author is promoting literacy – hardly surprising given the location and the audience. He was not specifically disparaging military service or U.S. soldiers; he was saying that illiteracy limits ones choices to options that may not be preferable.

King’s reference to the Army and Iraq was not artfully worded (it could be construed that he was saying military service is “not as bright” when what I think he meant was that illiteracy is “not as bright”). Nevertheless, it is not the least bit controversial to state that, currently, military service is an option few choose unless they have no other options.

Enlistment is way down. It is no secret that the Army targets poor and uneducated youth with fewer options (despite their pro-war rhetoric few rich college Republicans enlist – they start pro-war blogs). It is also no secret that the Army is lowering its standards (including the acceptance of applicants with criminal records) in order to boost recruitment numbers. The military men in harm’s way are being forced to serve multiple tours of duty because there are not enough soldiers to replace them. And opinion polls show that the American public has overwhelming turned against the Iraq War and would like to see those soldiers return home.

The reactions of Sheppard and the gang of self-satisfied jokers at Fox News are of the lowest sort. Right-wing “support for the war” consists almost entirely of saying “we support the war.” Actually doing something – like enlisting or encouraging others to enlist – is pretty much out of the question.

One assumes that by this point Sheppard must know that John Kerry’s statement aboug getting “stuck in Iraq” if you don’t have a good education was not in reference to the soldiers fighting the war but to the Commander in Chief who put them there. That Sheppard continues to whip this horse shows how desperate he is to whip up some controversy regarding King’s similarly innocuous statement.

The Fox segment is particularly funny, though not for the reason its participants intended. It consists of well-paid, educated, elite opinion-mongers accusing King of being well-paid, educated, and elite. They deliberately mis-interpret King’s pro-literacy statement as liberal slam against the mlitary, while remaining blissfully (willfully?) ignorant of how well their mere presence on the television illustrates his point: thanks to their literacy, they have high-profile, well-paying jobs that offer them a cushy alternative to risking their lives in Iraq.

The hypocrisy is absolutely stunning – but all too typical of chicken hawk behavior. They attack King because they know that basically he is right, and the views the ascribe to him are really a dark mirror of their own – which is why they must be verbally rejected even while their behavior continues to reveal their tacit approval. People like Sheppard and the Fox “News” crew are the real elites. They don’t fight the wars, but they know somebody has to, and they’re fine with that – as long as that somebody is somebody else.

My interpretation of King’s remarks about illiteracy is that you should not allow yourself to be that “somebody else” while the ones pretending to support the war do so only from behind the safety of the anchor desk. If they truly wanted to prove King wrong, they would march themselves down to their local enlistment office immediately. But they won’t.

About the Author

Steve Biodrowski

Cinefantastique's Los Angeles Correspondent from 1987 to 1993 and West Coast Editor from 1993 to 1999. Currently the webmaster of Cinefantastique Online, I also run a website called Hollywood Gothique that covers Halloween Horror and Sci-Fi Cinema Events in the Los Angeles area.

One Response to “ Sense of Wonder: Chicken Hawks Blast Stephen King ”

  1. [...] piece on the controversy is at Cinefantastique and is worth a [...]

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