Stephen King’s Third Explanation Still Unapologetic to Military

It appears three times isn't a charm for horror author Stephen King, who in his third attempt at explaining his peculiar remarks about people who can't read ending up in the Army still couldn't muster the strength to apologize to those he's offended.

I guess in his world, literacy means never having to say you're sorry.

On the upside, at least this time he didn't tell anybody to shut up, or blame the outrage on "Guys like [Noel Sheppard who] take their cues from [conservative commentators Rush] Limbaugh and [Bill] O'Reilly."

So, we've got that going for us...which is nice.

But before we get there, let's look at King's strike three as posted at his website Wednesday (emphasis added):

While serving as an ambassador for reading, I made a statement that was construed by certain right-wing bloggers and commentators as a knock on the US military. That wasn't my intention. I like the troops just fine, and respect the hell out of their brainpower. I know that most of them read, because I send them books when they ask, and a lot do. I will continue to provide this service. It's the war our politicians--many of whom have never heard a shot fired in anger--have sent them to fight that I have a problem with. But that is neither here nor there. What concerns me is how many high school students either read poorly or choose not to read at all, unless forced to do it. Part of the reason is cutbacks in educational money that the national government used to provide. Part of the reason has to do with mistaken initiatives like No Child Left Behind, which teaches kids to pass tests but not to think or to rejoice in the language arts. Most teachers loathe the No Child program, and I don't blame them. Kids who read poorly do poorly on their SATs and have bad or barely acceptable grade-point averages. Many will be faced with entry-level jobs like clerking and handing out burgers from the drive-thru window. The best option for many is the armed services, because they see a chance to continue their educations and/or learn a marketable skill. Many will wind up in Iraq and Afghanistan. Some will die, because this is an entry-level position where kids wind up getting shot at. I love their courage, I wish they were there for a better reason, and most of all I hope that my remarks won't detract from the real problem: too many kids in America read for pleasure on the text-screens of their phones and hardly anywhere else." [sic]

Notice something conspicuously absent other than an apology to those he offended?

Well, how about an acknowledgement that members of the military and their families felt dishonored by his remark? Find anything in this explanation indicating such?

No. Instead, King framed the outrage as only coming from "certain right-wing bloggers and commentators." I guess he missed this from the Associated Press last Thursday (emphasis added):

The ensuing flap drew a response Wednesday from U.S. Army spokesman Paul Boyce, who said most soldiers are avid readers. Military recruits test above the national average in reading and vocabulary skills, he added.

"America's soldiers are proudly serving and fighting for us all. We can be proud of our soldiers' selfless service, their skill and their ingenuity. They certainly are role models for every high-school student in America considering a noble career ... and many book authors," Boyce said.

As such, it wasn't just right-wing bloggers and commentators that "construed" his remark as being anti-military; it was folks involved with the armed forces. That said, wasn't King's use of the word "construed" rather than "misconstrued" somewhat telling? Consider that construe means:

1. to give the meaning or intention of; explain; interpret.
2. to deduce by inference or interpretation; infer: He construed her intentions from her gestures.

If right-wing bloggers and commentators got it wrong, shouldn't King have used "misconstrued":

to misunderstand the meaning of; take in a wrong sense; misinterpret.

Hmmm. Maybe that means we got it right, and King knows it. Or is this just another unfortunate slip of his keyboard?

Regardless, after King presented readers his poor opinion of education in America, he seemed to dig his hole with the military a tad deeper:

Kids who read poorly do poorly on their SATs and have bad or barely acceptable grade-point averages. Many will be faced with entry-level jobs like clerking and handing out burgers from the drive-thru window. The best option for many is the armed services, because they see a chance to continue their educations and/or learn a marketable skill.

It's going to be very interesting to see whether folks that were displeased with King's original remarks will be placated by this explanation. Of course, this one was certainly far better than his first attempt which mysteriously divined from the sentence "Nice sentiment when the nation is at war" the following (emphasis added):

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.

I've been dying for someone -- including those sending me e-mail messages in support of King -- to explain how "Nice sentiment when the nation is at war" is an impugnment of the author's patriotism as well as an affirmation that ignorance and illiteracy are okay and the war in Iraq has nationwide approval.

Anyone? Anyone? Bueller? Bueller?

Fortunately, there was none of that nonsense in King's third explanation, nor was there a call to arms for his fans to send me e-mail messages saying, "Hi, Noel—Stephen King says to shut up and I agree."

Also missing in attempt number three was King's suggestion that conservative talk show hosts were to blame for the outrage concerning his remarks -- instead of himself, of course. As reported by the Bangor Daily News Thursday (explanation #2, emphasis added throughout):

The best-selling author was not issuing any apologies, however, when the BDN reached him by phone at his Sarasota, Fla., winter home on Wednesday.

Referring to right-wing blogger Noel Sheppard, who helped fan the flames of criticism this week, King said, "Guys like him take their cues from [conservative commentators Rush] Limbaugh and [Bill] O’Reilly, who are adept at shifting discussion from what they don’t want to talk about, such as the failures of the war in Iraq, to what they want to talk about — supporting the troops. Of course, we all support the troops."

Guys like me take their cues from conservative commentators? Really? You mean like the way King not only instructed his readers to send me e-mail messages, but also with specific content?

Those kind of cues?

Makes one wonder where King got this idea from? After all, O'Reilly covered this story on May 8 -- three days after my original piece was published. As for Rush, I'm not sure if he ever got around to this, although I know Mark Levin did, as did Glenn Beck, both after it was reported by NewsBusters.

So much for guys like me taking their cues from conservative commentators. By contrast, King's minions are still soiling my inbox nine days after he first requested they do so.

Maybe when he finally grows the spine necessary to apologize to folks associated with the military he'll take a moment to place something at his website asking his readers to stop trying to take away my first amendment privileges.

Or didn't King consider the amazing hypocrisy inherent in an American writer asking his readers to send e-mail messages instructing another American writer to "Shut up?" Nor did any of the mindless automatons that followed his absurd request explain why King was entitled to make the statements he did in April, but I didn't possess the right to suggest his remark was inappropriate when the nation was at war.

The irony of attempting to deny my freedom of speech never crossed the minds of those who rushed to defend King's.

Alas, this is not a new concept for conservatives, as in the minds of liberals, the first amendment only applies to them.

In the end, this is a far greater lesson to be learned from this incident than the realization that liberals in the media hate the military, as they're a dime a dozen.

Noel Sheppard
Noel Sheppard
Noel Sheppard, Associate Editor of NewsBusters, passed away in March of 2014.