"And what is a good citizen? Simply one who never says, does or thinks anything that is unusual. Schools are maintained in order to bring this uniformity up to the highest possible point. A school is a hopper into which children are heaved while they are still young and tender; therein they are pressed into certain standard shapes and covered from head to heels with official rubber-stamps." ~ H.L. Mencken
An Axe to Grind With Stephen King
Column by Alex R. Knight III
Exclusive to STR
As the man himself has stated the importance of, I can and definitely do separate the art from the artist. The fiction of Stephen King has inspired, entertained, and excited me ever since I first read The Dead Zone while sick as death-warmed-over myself on my mother’s living-room couch in 1981. This first exposure to the master of modern horror was followed by the short story collection Night Shift (misappropriated, admittedly, from the public high school I was a freshman in at the time), and then so many others. There can be no question that King is a hard-working and talented author worthy of both respect and admiration.
But fiction and artistry are one thing, and facts (objective ones, not just the timeless elements of human nature which are so essential and germane to all good literature) are another set of considerations altogether. This is where I take out my axe – and start sharpening . . . if not swinging it.
Let’s set aside the fact that King, in his more recent work – such as Under the Dome and 11/22/63 – has begun to increasingly infuse his political philosophy into what (in my humble view) should be both entertainment, and statements about the human condition in general. I personally find such preaching in that context distasteful. This said, who am I to argue with his success? (Though as a further footnote, I rather suspect his success stems not from his politics, but his ability to spin a damned good tale.)
More relevant to my criticism, however, is the exact nature of that political philosophy which King espouses ever more vociferously (not that being vociferous in and of itself is a bad thing, lest I be branded one giant hypocrite). From a 2013 essay King published, simply titled “Guns,” here are a couple of excerpts:
“Autos and semi-autos are weapons of mass destruction . . . . When lunatics want to make war on the unarmed and unprepared, these are the weapons they use."
And: “Semi-automatics have only two purposes. One is so that owners can take them to the shooting range once in a while, yell ‘yeehaw,’ and get all horny at the rapid fire and the burning fire spurting from the end of the barrel. Their other use – their only other use – is to kill people.”
Well, other than the fact that King left out game hunting (still--for poor folks living in remote areas--an essential means of obtaining food, even in this era of supermarkets and microwave ovens), I’d like to pose a question to King, if he’s reading this:
Just why do you think that soldiers, police, and tax collectors carry guns?
Not trying to be flip here, but I’ll give you a hint: It’s not to yell “yeehaw” at the range, or to hunt deer.
It is perfectly possible that King is fully cognizant of this dichotomy, and sees nothing contradictory – much less hazardous – in its advocacy. In a video interview produced by that bastion of leftist government-apologism, the Huffington Post, King unabashedly professes his belief that we each of us “owe” something to the government – be it in the form of taxes, or “public service.” Watch it for yourself here at about 28:35.
It is further immeasurably sad to see King, at various points in this same interview, still decry the lack of consistency between the deeds of politicians and their ultimate policy decisions, proclaim support for “change” through the same tired and stultified governmental means to an ever-elusive socioeconomic end, and his worship of left-wing statist values in general. It’s clear that King has never advanced philosophically beyond his hippie-trippy days as a young undergrad on the University of Maine campus in the late 1960s, when Marxist “revolution” was all the rage among the young. It’s a shame because he seems to have become so much more worldly in other ways – first and foremost as a literary artist. He might benefit by reading some Lysander Spooner, or Ludwig von Mises, or Morris and Linda Tannehill’s classic. Since he seems to be such a news hound as well, King might infuse some variety into the trough of statist-slanted mass-media drivel by taking note of alternatives like these and others. His intelligence is obviously worthy of it – in light of which his naivete becomes all the more baffling.
Of course, King would likely level the same charge at myself for proselytizing as a market anarchist. But he would do so from the position of attempting to defend the indefensible -- some 80 centuries of statist aggression: war, theft, tyranny, murder. I’d love to be able to have that discussion with him. It’s just possible he’s never been exposed to these ideas. I did manage to get a book I wrote into his hands once . . . but that’s another story for another time.
Meantime, I’m keeping my semi-autos since I don’t think that those calling themselves Government are giving theirs up anytime soon. And so long as the vast majority of human beings – like Stephen King – continue to live by the erroneous belief that rulers and ruled, governors and governed, is a legitimate societal structure, it will be more than simply necessary to maintain at least some balance of power. Not that weapons become obsolescent whatsoever in a free society, either.
Not even axes. What’s that? Oh, all right. I’ll put mine away. I’m done grinding. For now. If Stephen King is out there, I hope he learns something from what I’ve written here – just as I’ve learned a great deal about craft and style from his work over the years. We can create a better world, Steve, but in order to do that, we have to look beyond the false paradigm of the State. And that, I’m sure, will be the topic when next I take up my axe here.
Pleasant dreams, everyone.