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 11/22/63has 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.

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Alex R. Knight III's picture
Columns on STR: 153

Alex R. Knight III is the author of numerous horror, science-fiction, and fantasy tales.  He has also written and published poetry, non-fiction articles, reviews, and essays for a variety of venues.  He currently lives and writes in rural southern Vermont where he holds a B.A. in Literature & Writing from Union Institute & University.  Alex's Amazon page can be found here, and his work may also be found at both Smashwords and Barnes & Noble.  His MeWe group can be found here.


ReverendDraco's picture

Axes are great - my favorite weapon by far is the 2 handed, double-bitted axe. Only dual-wielding hand-and-a-half swords is as much fun.

Smaller axes make nice short-range artillery as well. . .

Paul's picture

If the denizens of Hollywood (including authors whose works are favored there) had any sense, they would shut up and do their jobs. The idea that they, living as they do in this hothouse of narcissism, have anything to say about the world that would interest ordinary people, is ridiculous.

Alex R. Knight III's picture

Agreed Paul -- at least until there is a first Voluntaryist celeb, who I think we can rest assured will be stifled and stymied at every opportunity.  We will likely have to build our own Hollywood, as good folks like Sky Conway are attempting to do.  The lamestream of Glitterville are by and large, like King, stuck in the Marxian amber of the 1960s.  Even those few who are not are either afraid to speak out for fear of damaging their careers, or otherwise fear attracting undue attention from Big Brother (a la Wesley Snipes).  Only the already marginalized ones -- e.g., Charlie Sheen, Gary Busey, Nick Nolte -- seem willing to go down the path of left-wing Hollywood culture apostasy, but they're then quite predictably relegated to the status of irrelevant drugged-out laughingstocks.  Eez de vay sings are in Soviet Russia, no, comrade?

Samarami's picture

Obviously what I write is influenced by what I believe. That's my "free choice".

Two words I've eliminated from my vocabulary: "rights" and "morals". It seems to me that one must be granted, the other imposed. Therefore I like to substitute "choices" and "principles" -- for better or for worse. Decent arguments can be made in both cases.

That interjection done I'll go back to your essay and King's choice to express his views openly. I trust the individual more who is straight-forward than I will s/he who tries to surreptitiously enter my back door. Propaganda leans toward the latter. King is the classic statist (with a dose of statolatry intermingled). He exhorts the necessity for you and me to support state. Today he might blame Obama for the woes of the world. A few years back it would have been Bush.

King understands that it is lunatics who "make war on the unarmed and unprepared" -- I wonder if he will ever come to understand that war is the health of the state?

That's our job. Without equivocation.

In retirement, and with little going on here and at other anarchist forums, I've come to spend time watching some of the old cowboy movies (John Wayne, Burt Lancaster, etc) produced when I was but a lad. Sentimental, but today I see them through a completely refined looking glass. I perceive the indoctrination of support for authority, state and war I received from those old 30's and 40's flicks as a child, and smile at my naivety. Sam