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July 09, 2008

Stephen King on "Ignorant Military Types"

DimWit of the Day: Stephen King, speaking to high school students at the Library of Congress:

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.

table2_large.gifNo, Mr. King, the fact is that military recruits as a group are more literate than their counterparts in the civilian population:

...in the most recent edition of Population Representation in the Military Services, the Department of Defense reported that the mean reading level of 2004 recruits is a full grade level higher than that of the comparable youth population.[8] Fewer than 2 percent of wartime recruits have no high school creden­tials. Table 2 shows the breakdown for the educational attainment of the war­time recruit cohorts. The national high school graduation rate taken from the Census 2004 ACS is 79.8 percent.

It is a sad thing when the level of political acrimony in this country becomes so pronounced that celebrities abuse their fame to discourage children from public service by lying and insulting those men and women who (unlike them) have been willing to step up to the plate.

If only King could control that pesky free press:

A new study shows women and minorities are more satisfied in general with their jobs than white men in the military and that military women are generally much more positive about their career and career prospects than their civilian counterparts:
Any list of the best places to work is sure to include cool favorites like Google. The U.S. military? The sacrifices and risks required of its members seem to make it an unlikely pick. But new research suggests that it may well belong on such a list, particularly for minorities and women. The members of those two demographics in the military consistently rate their jobs as more satisfying than white males do, according to new research in this month's American Sociological Review. Much like Manning's military experience, the study of over 30,000 active duty personnel suggests that the armed forces' social hierarchy-explicitly based on rank-overrides many of the racial or gender biases in civil society, which tend to act as barriers for women and minorities in career advancement.

"Whites are far and away the least satisfied [in the military]," says Jennifer Hickes Lundquist, a sociologist at the University of Massachusetts and the study author. "Black females tend to be the most satisfied. It's a direct opposite and complete reversal of what we know about civilian job satisfaction."

In civilian society African-Americans generally express higher dissatisfaction with their jobs than their white counterparts and are less committed. But Lundquist's study of 30,000 active-duty personnel found that those norms are largely flipped in the military. She looked at five measurements of career satisfaction, including overall quality of life and opportunities for advancement, and found African-American women to be the most positive and satisfied with their jobs, followed by African-American men, Latinas, Latinos and white women. White men are the least satisfied with their military careers, rating their satisfaction and overall happiness with their jobs much lower.

"It's not that the military environment treats white males less fairly; it's simply that, compared to their peers in civilian society, white males lose many of the advantages that they had," Lundquist says. "There's a relative deprivation when you compare to satisfaction of peers outside of the military."

The same leveling effect among ethnic minorities also occurred across genders, although that was a bit more challenging to explain. A third of the women in the military say they have been sexually harassed, according to a recent Pentagon survey, and women in male-dominated specialties consistently rank their job satisfaction lower than those largely occupied by women. But female job satisfaction ratings seemed largely unaffected by these factors. Among each ethnicity that Lundquist studied, the women consistently had higher levels of job satisfaction than the males.

So... not only can military recruits read better than their civilian counterparts, but if they happen to be black, Latino, or female, their job satisfaction is higher too.

Sometimes the truth just hurts.

Posted by Cassandra at July 9, 2008 08:01 AM

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King's just torqued out of shape because we mentally file his books under "Humor, Juvenile"...

Posted by: BillT at July 9, 2008 09:39 AM

White males are least satisfied in the military because they want the racist, sexist benefits they would get outside the military? Really? And her research shows this, I assume?

Posted by: lumpenscholar at July 9, 2008 10:25 AM

I can only assume that she's interpreting "higher pay" as a racist, sexist benefit that white males miss out on in the military. Because that was pretty much my only complaint about my time in service (well, that and the goofy rules on having to go CONUS to OCONUS and back every two years).

Posted by: MikeD at July 9, 2008 10:29 AM

Darn, he found me out ... I wish I were smart enough to read or have a professional career outside the Army ... oh wait I do ... King should stick to writing dime store trash novels.

Posted by: Frodo at July 9, 2008 10:36 AM

That actually makes some sense to me, based on my limited anecdotal experience.
A former employee did ten years in the Army because she needed the job and stability to raise her kids; a single black woman raising two kids. And they both turned out ok, both went into the Army (her son was a West Point grad), and both have served in Iraq (and hated it, too).
But she was very proud of her Army service, and the ten years she did. Because the Army is pretty nearly color-blind in the way it treats people.
Oh yeah, and Stephen King is a right ass, and most of his books really suck. You read one, you've read them all. Someone ought to stick a hardback copy of "Dolores Claiborne" down his cheesepipe.

Posted by: Don Brouhaha at July 9, 2008 11:25 AM

Well, speaking as an iggerant Marine wife, the Army has ridden a lot of its people rather hard and put them away wet.

But then they are a very large organization and they don't have a lot of the luxuries a smaller, more nimble force does so it's easy for me to say that :p

re: King, I liked The Stand a lot. Didn't care for any of his other books - couldn't make it past the opening chapters.

Posted by: Cassandra at July 9, 2008 11:37 AM

"King should stick to writing dime store trash novels."
Drawing that parallel is pretty harsh on dime store trash novels, doncha think?

Unfortunately, there are people who listen to and put stock in what Stevie and his ilk have to say, AKA outliers on the bell curve of those having a tenacious grip on reality...

Posted by: bthun at July 9, 2008 11:40 AM

Now, bthun, "tenacious grip on reality" is so divisive. The approved way of expressing that is to say that they "cling bitterly" to reality.

Posted by: Grim at July 9, 2008 11:48 AM

Hey wait a minute!

I was hoping to register Bitter&Clingy for my new line of BtHun's EasyRiderRifleRacks with New & Improved Bitter&Clingy® to secure your Assault... no wait... er deer rifles while chasing progressives through corn field... ahh, nope, nope, nope, ahh off-roading. Yeah, off-roading.

Darn... I suppose I'm back to picking and grinning.

Posted by: bt_b&c_hun at July 9, 2008 12:05 PM

Ok, before any progressives draw up in a tight little ball, call their attorney or worse, the major media, =;^} let me preface my previous comment with, On a dark and stormy night I was hoping to register...

Tenacious grips not being what they once were. Nor bitter and clingy, apparently.

Posted by: bthun at July 9, 2008 12:18 PM

New! Improved! With extra cling, and a bitter tenacious aftertaste!

Posted by: Don Brouhaha at July 9, 2008 01:12 PM

The Thunder Run has linked to this post in the - Web Reconnaissance for 07/09/2008 A short recon of what’s out there that might draw your attention, updated throughout the day...so check back often.

Posted by: David M at July 9, 2008 02:14 PM

New! Improved! With extra cling, and a bitter tenacious aftertaste!

Sly! That's your cue!

Posted by: BillT at July 9, 2008 02:30 PM

...they don't have a lot of the luxuries a smaller, more nimble force does...

Nimble? As in, say, elfin?

Posted by: BillT at July 9, 2008 02:59 PM

I can't read Stephen King - although I have tried.;) Really, I have! Guess I don't have the skill levels in something or other to manage even the first page..:(

He is an ass. How's that for single syllable words? lol

Posted by: brat at July 9, 2008 04:43 PM

I like some of Stephen King's books well enough, but only if I'm in the mood for a quick-reading story. I don't find his writing particularly good, as opposed to a wordsmith like Toni Morrison. He just doesn't have much of a vocabulary. Most of the milblogs I read display a superior quality of writing--I wonder how he would square that fact with his attitude about the "not bright"-ness of the military type.

Having recently learned his true soul, though, I find that I'm a lot less inclined to read his books.

Posted by: April at July 9, 2008 05:00 PM

...they don't have a lot of the luxuries a smaller, more nimble force does...

Nimble? As in, say, elfin?

The Marines are getting elfin, these days. That Body Mass Index standard means that Marines are far smaller and thinner than they used to be even fifteen years ago. Some of the smallest guys you'll ever see these days are Officers of Marines. :)

Posted by: Grim at July 9, 2008 05:54 PM

Some of the smallest guys you'll ever see these days are Officers of Marines.

Small, but nimble.

Posted by: BillT at July 9, 2008 06:29 PM

And when they get out (if they decide to leave after their term is over), they'll be way ahead of the civilian same-age group in terms of leadership ability, and the ability to deal with people, places, and things.

And if they stay the course - 20 years - they'll be in exactly the same position, relative to their same-age peers.

Not everybody, but more than enough.

Posted by: ZZMike at July 9, 2008 07:47 PM

I haven't read a lot of King, I like his non-horror stuff better than the Nameless Ancient Evil bits. But I do notice a hell of a lot of his books in the Navy Exchanges, so somebody in the military must buy, and maybe even read, his books... but he was talking about the Army, so maybe that's it.

I remember when I was in Army basic, I picked up a Stephen King book (or so I assume it was, it had all this writing on it and stuff so I couldn't tell). I took it to my drill sergeant and asked if he could read it to me. He just stared at me for a couple seconds, then said,

"Hey, dumbshit, I'm in the freakin' Army too! Now drop and give me twenty."

Posted by: Steve Skubinna at July 10, 2008 01:09 AM

Now drop and give me twenty.

Would've been easier if you'd been a Marine -- they have trouble with the concept of double-digits.

*skittering for the bunker*

I may not be nimble, but at least I'm slow...

Posted by: BillT at July 10, 2008 02:49 AM

Amazing how you right wing whackos can twist and distort anything and everything. To wit - regarding the 'intelligent' troops. If they're so brilliant why is it that as late as 2006, 90% of the morons STILL believed Hussein had something to do with 9/11? Even after the war criminal bush said he DIDN'T, the morons still believe he did.

Any spin on that fact? Didn't think so..

Posted by: raoul at July 10, 2008 08:20 AM

...why is it that as late as 2006, 90% of the morons STILL believed Hussein had something to do with 9/11?

Is it a fact because you actually saw it somewhere or did you just channel Stephen King?

Posted by: BillT at July 10, 2008 10:12 AM

Raoul, Hussein stole my son's toys, so him and some buddies went and killed him. Any spin on that, sucker?

Posted by: twolaneflash at July 10, 2008 10:12 AM

Or maybe you just scanned the Center for Peace and Global Studies poll.


In which 85% of the 994 troops queried -- about 755 of 'em -- thought *part* of the reason we invaded was to retaliate for "Saddam's role in 9/11." Which means about four-tenths of one percent of the troops actually *in* Iraq at the time held that opinion, as opposed to *46%* of American adults *not* in the military who held that same opinion that same year.

Thanks for helping make Cassie's case. Do stop in again and don't catch your motley in the door as you exit.

Posted by: BillT at July 10, 2008 10:31 AM

Oooops. Hit the 7 'stead of the 8. Make that "855 of 'em."

My thumb has bin stuk in Irak two lawn...

Posted by: BillT at July 10, 2008 10:37 AM

King has actually said he wished he could write better--that he tries to write better, but just can't seem to muster the ability.

Perhaps a stint in the Army would have given him the necessary discipline. As it stands, he just compulsively publishes anything that he spews out. It's rather sad, actually, that one can be so prolific and so pathetic all at once...

Posted by: E.D. Kain at July 10, 2008 12:34 PM


I liked your post so much, it inspired my own. I've linked back to you here.

Posted by: XBradTC at July 10, 2008 12:56 PM

E.D. Kain,
Perhaps he should read the regulation on The Army Effective Writing Program. Yes, there really is one.

Posted by: XBradTC at July 10, 2008 12:57 PM

XBrad -- I took the Effective Writing Program via correspondence back in the early 80s. When I mailed in my answer sheet, I included three pages of grammatical errata and typos I found in both the programmed text and the test.

Bassets wrote back that subject/predicate disagreement, use of split infinitives and dangling participles was perfectly in line with *effective* writing because it was "colloquial" -- hence, more comprehensible to the reader.

They informed me that, while my answers were grammatically correct, they were not in keeping with the instructions in the text.


They flunked me for using proper English...

Posted by: BillT at July 10, 2008 01:14 PM

"They flunked me for using proper English..."

Show-off. They were just jealous -- and it wasn't just because you were showing your....um,....*thong*.....or maybe it was.

Posted by: DL Sly at July 10, 2008 01:52 PM

Look, Raoul, you hate the US military, and have nothing but contempt for those who serve. We get that.

My question is, why do you bother to come by here and fling poo? What's in it for you?


Oh, nothing but a drive by, huh? Thought so.

Posted by: Steve Skubinna at July 10, 2008 01:54 PM

He really needs to learn to cross his legs when he's wearing the red mini...

Posted by: Carrie at July 10, 2008 01:54 PM

Or at least learn to walk more *upright* -- it'll keep his knuckles off the ground, too.

Posted by: DL Sly at July 10, 2008 02:13 PM

I think Stephen King aptly represents what you're capable of when you do drugs. I suspect his fan base is tolerant of substance abuse and that makes them all the more willing to pay to read his stuff.

Raoul honey re: whackos ... look in the mirror, your verbage and demeanor indicates that you're projecting. And frankly Raoul, you're a real scumbag of a person for slamming the men and women would gladly defend your life.

Posted by: Samantha West at July 10, 2008 02:16 PM

Rauol? Rauol Castro? Read Raoul's new book "Band of Losers".

Posted by: Mark at July 10, 2008 05:25 PM

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.

The Brightness of Life protected and nurtured is always dimmer to those that indulge simply in fantasies and fictions. It's not always true, but it is true for King.

I've played around with WWII submarine simulations like Silent Hunter 3/4, in addition to various other tid bits concerning maintenance, logistics (calculus level equations), and also know about just how short a time combat leaders tend to have when making a life and death decision, so it is rather hard for me to be under the delusion that the military doesn't require the brilliance that the civilian sector does.

A student or an author may have a specific time line they have to meet, like say time limits on tests or production dates for their novels, but a combat leader has split seconds, literally, to make a decision about who is going to die, and whether it is going to be them due to a mistake they might make in the future or have already made.

How many individuals, no matter how brilliant they are, will not be twisted into knots by the knowledge that if they mark an answer incorrectly, that they or someone they care about is going to die or be grievously injured?

To King, if he mispells a word, his editors will correct it for him. To the military ,if you mis-word something in an order, you might just have sent an entire unit on a suicide mission or missed a critical logistical message for a vital piece of military hardware, with its absence causing a great many additional casualties for your side.

To King, he doesn't need to worry about that kind of stuff. So it doesn't pay for him to be too brilliant in such matters, cause there's no need. He's already successful and he has found a formula that works.

Yet Iraq is one of many testaments to the truth that in military affairs, there is never ever one "truth". Not to mention the fog of war and the deception layers both sides put on top for creaminess, the ability to adapt, improve, and self-correct your mistakes is far more important than any one "equation" for success.

So why does King see a more intellectually adaptable and more physically challenging task in Iraq as being somehow inferior to his success in the civilian sector? Perhaps he believes failure equates to "not getting a book published", whereas in the real world for much of the world's population, failure means death and pain. Maybe the latter first and the former second, or both at once.

In my view, it takes much more brilliance to succede at a task that does not give you many chances at failure, than it is to succeed as a published author which requires numerous chains of failure in getting one's book finally published and one's name finally recognized.

The latter requires persistence, not necessarily any brilliance. The former requires that you get things right, the first time cause it's the only time.

Why is the former more brilliant a life to have?

Posted by: Ymarsakar at July 10, 2008 07:22 PM

That should be "less brilliant a life to have".

Posted by: Ymarsakar at July 10, 2008 07:24 PM

Maybe King has lost touch with engineering firms and various other high tech businesses that employ people from technical colleges or trains their own people in such institutions. Or maybe he never had touch with those things in the first place.

THe primary thing employers want is to know that you have good work habits, that you can obey orders, and that you can give orders and have them obeyed. Many employers prefer military experience because it's an experience you can't get in college or off site training.

They have very high filters and involved interviews to get rid of people that may be brilliant, but doesn't seem to have learned anything with their time in school. And what use is brilliance to a company when the employee in question slacks off and can never get projects on time? Brilliance that flickers on and off is far less reliable than steady persistence and good work ethics.

When King says that a military career is less good for your civilian job prospects, King is showing his ignorance in addition to his bias. Obviously Stephen King is no David Weber.

Posted by: Ymarsakar at July 10, 2008 07:28 PM

Or at least learn to walk more *upright* -- it'll keep his knuckles off the ground, too.

I need the extra points of contact to counterbalance the 27" zipper.

Posted by: BillT at July 11, 2008 05:37 AM

Fail to see the problem here. He's 100% correct.

Posted by: Cody at August 30, 2008 12:53 AM