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Stephen King’s boomer propaganda The former anti-authoritarian was captured by Covid

Stephen King's Clown World (Daniel Knighton/Getty Images)

Stephen King's Clown World (Daniel Knighton/Getty Images)


September 29, 2023   6 mins

Of all the plagues on contemporary literary culture, the absolute worst is the notion that depiction equals endorsement: that every protagonist in every book is just a thinly-veiled authorial insert; that evil characters doing evil things reflect the morals of an evil creator. This inability to separate truth from fiction, is the bane of many a writer’s existence. In fact, if taken to its logical conclusion, it would preclude most stories from existing at all.

For this reason — and also because my own books feature murder, mayhem, and severed body parts in kitchen sinks — I make it a rule never to assume that the views expressed by a fictional character also belong to that character’s creator. But I have made an exception for Stephen King’s latest novel, Holly, because it includes a note from King himself, at the end of the book, stating that the novel’s politics are also his own.

The novel is set in 2021, in the thick of the Covid pandemic and addresses the country’s pandemic policies directly. King writes: “A considerable portion of the American population — not a majority, I’m relieved to say — are anti-vaccination” — but those people, he says, will probably find his heroine’s Covid takes “preachy”. After her own unvaccinated, Trump-supporting mother dies of the virus, the eponymous protagonist, Holly Gibney, spends a good portion of 450 pages obsessively masking, inquiring after other people’s vaccination status, and bemoaning the selfishness of the unwashed, unvaxxed Right-wingers without whom the virus would surely have been tamed by now.

King admits: “It’s true that my opinions match hers on the subject.”

Other critics have lamented King’s lack of subtlety, but to me, what’s more striking is the lack of craft. I’ve read — and in many cases, re-read — virtually everything the man has ever written; this is the first book of his I’ve ever struggled to finish. A hallmark of King’s oeuvre is how human the horror is, how rooted in a world that is familiar and recognisable. Holly, on the other hand, feels like it was written by someone who’d been locked down for so long that he no longer remembers the basic rhythms of normal in-person conversation. Insofar as the world it depicts is recognisable, it’s only because it’s the world as it appeared online during the pandemic, filtered through the lenses of social media and cable news. Holly is nominally a detective novel, but the mystery is like a whisper-thin web that strings together one trendy Covid narrative after another, the kind of stories that went viral on Twitter because they confirmed the biases of its highly educated, politically progressive user base.

The irony is that a number of these viral narratives were themselves fiction, fed to us by a media that had gone all in on the pandemic as a politicised spectator sport and didn’t particularly care if the stories they aired were true. It’s a bit grotesque, to see how fake news becomes repurposed, and legitimised, in fiction: when Holly’s mother catches Covid at an anti-mask rally and dies gasping to her last that the virus is a hoax, one assumes that King must have caught the relevant segment on CNN — but not the later reporting that revealed it to be a fabrication.

And while Stephen King has never shied away from addressing political topics in his work, the pro-lockdown, pro-mask, pro-vax messaging of Holly is different — not in degree, but in kind. If there’s such a thing as a unifying political principle in King’s books, it’s anti-authoritarianism. Look at who his heroes are: bullied teens, rogue gunslingers, plucky outsiders who follow their principles instead of just doing what they’re told. And his villains? They’re the corrupt bureaucrats, the officious rule followers, the control freaks-in-chief who must insist you take your medicine — for your own good, and for the greater good.

Consider The Institute, his 2019 novel in which children with supernatural abilities are kidnapped, tortured, and weaponised by a shadowy government organisation that believes itself to be the keeper of a precarious world peace. Consider Firestarter, featuring a young family on the run from the state agents who want to imprison and experiment on them. Consider Carrie, whose protagonist is failed by every authority figure in her life until the story ends in a literal bloodbath — or The Running Man and The Long Walk, both set in dystopian futures where human suffering doubles as state-sponsored entertainment. Even Annie Wilkes, the iconic villain of Misery, is terrifying not because she’s an agent of chaos but because she’s a stickler for the rules, and as such, capable of perpetuating astonishing cruelty under the guise of giving care. If Wilkes had been around during Covid, she would have loved kicking people out of their dying loved one’s hospital room in the name of social distancing protocols.

The critical consensus in certain corners is that this is the result of King having gone woke — perhaps in an attempt to stave off cancellation for work that hasn’t aged well. There may be something to this — King’s pre-Y2K oeuvre makes heavy use of the Magical Negro trope, not to mention the n-word, which white authors are no longer allowed to put in the mouths of their characters. And some of his more recent books do carry a whiff of attempted atonement for past political incorrectness. Sleeping Beauties, co-written with son Owen, is an enjoyable thriller that nevertheless also reads like a 700-page plea for membership in the Good Male Feminist club (as do many of King’s tweets). Billy Summers, published in 2021, features a protagonist whose inner monologue is deeply disdainful of Donald Trump, and King himself has said that The Institute is intended as an allegory for the Trump administration’s border policies.

Pandemic aside, Holly definitely has the fingerprints of 2020 political Twitter all over it. The book’s female villain, one half of a pair of cannibal murderers who think they’ve found the proverbial fountain of youth in the form of human brain parfaits, is basically Karen incarnate, written to embody the stereotype of the older white woman who became a national object of fear and loathing during the pandemic. She’s not only anti-vax and anti-mask, but also anti-black and anti-gay. In one particularly on-the-nose scene from the book’s denouement, the female villain’s diaries are discovered: they contain a detailed record of her crimes interspersed with page upon page of all-caps racial slurs, in keeping with the contemporary belief that people do not contain multitudes, that any person who is one kind of bad thing must be every kind of bad thing.

But there’s something different, and tragic, about how this plays out for Holly — not the book, but the character. Holly Gibney had all the makings of a classic Stephen King heroine, an eccentric and iconoclastic outsider who has become an increasingly complex and confident character over the course of several books. Yet here, in this novel with her name on it, she’s practically unrecognisable: a model of pandemic paranoia, the personification of dull and dutiful compliance. King’s author’s note suggests that Holly just happens to share his views on the topic of Covid, but reading the book, she seems more like a mouthpiece for them, a character being used by her creator to send a message rather than tell a story. If you had any fondness for Holly Gibney, this hollowed-out version of her is dismaying to see.

Still more dismaying is to see an author who has written so poignantly about the triumph of the human spirit, of heroic free will, tweeting his earnest belief that unvaccinated people should be fired from their jobs and unpersoned by their government: “We are in a war here. Thousands of Americans die each week.” This sudden enthusiasm for empowering the state to strong-arm people into compliance is quite a change, coming from a guy who used to have nothing but contempt for such meddlesome overreach into ordinary people’s lives. As the narrator of Firestarter observes, “No one likes to see a government folder with his name on it.”

There’s something decidedly Boomer about King’s political and creative evolution. His was a generation that fancied themselves revolutionaries, that fetishised youthful irreverence and made “Never trust anyone over 30” into a catechism; imagine their horror at waking up one day to discover that they had become the ones with all the wealth, all the power, all the butts in all the seats of our nation’s elected offices. For some, this identity crisis expresses itself in the form of frantic current thing-ism, as aging members of the protest generation glom onto LGBT pride, or the war in Ukraine, or anti-racist book clubs, all for the sake of aligning themselves with whatever passes for a movement these days; for others, it’s all about white-knuckling those last few years pre-retirement, praying to make it through without being cancelled by their 23-year-old assistants.

But if the boomers were set off balance by culture’s great awokening, the pandemic awakened something else: the terrifying and unavoidable awareness of their own mortality. The virus, as it turns out, does not care how young you feel.

Which brings us back to Holly, and more particularly to its villains. This couple, these cannibals, are terrified of aging, deteriorating, dying; consuming the flesh of younger, fitter people is how they buy themselves more time. It’s a perverse inversion, to sacrifice those at the beginning of their lives for the sake of those who’ve already lived full ones. But it’s one that we might recognise: what did so many of our pandemic policies accomplish, if not to prioritise the safety of vulnerable octogenarians over the health and happiness of kids?

There was a time, not long ago, when Stephen King might have objected. “Sane people don’t sacrifice children on the altar of probability. That’s not science, it’s superstition,” he wrote in The Institute. But of course, that was before the Science, and its self-appointed interpreters, decided that children were nasty little vectors for disease, and that maybe a little sacrifice on the altar of probability — just the education of an entire generation or so — was in order.

When you’re old, and scared, and vulnerable, maybe a government folder with your name on it suddenly doesn’t seem so bad. Someone has to protect you, after all, from all those irresponsible youths who don’t understand that it’s more important to be safe than free.


Kat Rosenfield is an UnHerd columnist and co-host of the Feminine Chaos podcast. Her latest novel is You Must Remember This.

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Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
8 months ago

I met so many Annie Wilkes characters during the pandemic. They were so righteous and rigid in their beliefs. They had nothing but contempt for those who thought differently and were giddy when these people suffered. I don’t blame them though. The propaganda was overwhelming. I’ve always considered myself well informed and I really struggled with the competing narratives. The world changed for me when public health officials issued a statement approving BLM protests and no one spoke up to oppose it. That’s when I knew we were being lied to.

Last edited 8 months ago by Jim Veenbaas
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
8 months ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

It was clear we were being lied to form day one. The virus had bee our in the wild since November. Wuhan is an international airport with 14m passengers a year. Had the virus been anywhere near as virulent as they would have had us believe it would have ben round the world and back again 20 times by Christmas and the dead would hve been piling up in the street long before lockdown.
Then there was the issues around masks
I do agree with you about the BLM episode, a real How Many Hats episode https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=veUT2Dvo-Pw.
Also the author makes the insightful observation “When you’re old, and scared, and vulnerable, maybe a government folder with your name on it suddenly doesn’t seem so bad. Someone has to protect you, after all, from all those irresponsible youths who don’t understand that it’s more important to be safe than free” and I think age has a lot to do with it.
My mother used to be a person of very sound judgement, but as she has aged this has become very much less so. Twenty years ago I feel sure that she would have told them to stuff their vaccine and masks, but in 2020/21 she was fully onboard

Hugh Bryant
Hugh Bryant
8 months ago

Also the author makes the insightful observation “When you’re old, and scared, and vulnerable, maybe a government folder with your name on it suddenly doesn’t seem so bad.

I’ve noticed my own friends and contemporaries becoming more authoritarian and less inclined to think for themselves as we get older. Most depressing is how rarely any are able to support with evidence the bald assertions they make on topics such as climate change and, particularly, Brexit. I bet had someone asked Stephen Fry why Brexit is ‘an absolute catastrophe’ he would have struggled to answer with anything more profound than ‘queues at the airport’..

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
8 months ago
Reply to  Hugh Bryant

I wonder whether we all ultimately go the same way

Jerry Carroll
Jerry Carroll
8 months ago

I dunno. I’m in my 80s and more skeptical of authority than ever.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
8 months ago

In the U.S. over a million people died from Covid. Seems to me like the virus was pretty deadly. Then you have the people who survived and are dealing with long Covid, which includes brain damage and organ damage. I’m glad I masked up even if it was not guaranteed protection.

laurence scaduto
laurence scaduto
8 months ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

But we’re not concerned with voluntary masking, only compulsory masking. You’re welcome to wear whatever you want.

Last edited 8 months ago by laurence scaduto
Cathy Carron
Cathy Carron
8 months ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

A doctor friend of ours working at Mt. Sinai in NYC who was on the frontline from day one, described Covid as a ‘vascular disease’ – so if you were overweight or had vascular (heart) issues to begin with, you were vulnerable. Hence, the reason why many elderly died and if younger, the obese. It was as if Covid ‘culled the herd’. Yet, never once, even now, does one hear the government warn people against obesity.

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
8 months ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

Did a million people really die from Covid or did a million people die with Covid. Were you doing what they did in the UK and including anyone who died within 28 day of a positive Covid test in the statics. Also more than 3m people die each year in the US so how many of those that died were going to do so anyway within a matter of weeks and it was merely a question of what got them first.
As to long Covid, we all knew who was going to get that. Also, is it not now accepted that this was something of a myth. Of course any virus (including cold and flu viruses) can have long term health consequences for a small number of people (as can vaccines) it just rarely gets reported.
As to masks, I do not think anyone still seriously argues that they provided any protection. They were just a comfort blanket for the herd.
You must be one of those scardy boomers

Filipa Antonia Barata de Araujo
Filipa Antonia Barata de Araujo
8 months ago

No, they didn’t provide any protection. That’s why doctors use them doing surgeries and why they were already used in contagious contexts. Because they don’t provide any protection. I wore them and didn’t catch Covid (no, I never stopped going out). Maybe I’m the Messiah.

John Galt Was Correct
John Galt Was Correct
8 months ago

Doctors wear them to prevent spittle falling into open incisions during operations. A somewhat different scenario to people wandering about the shops. I never caught covid either, and I never work a mask. That is purely anecdotal just as is your assertion wearing one stopped you getting it. I don’t think I am the Messiah though..

Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
8 months ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

The virus was deadly no question, but the threat was so spectacularly age and health specific. I got double vaxxed and I would probably do it again, but I’m 58. My healthy son was 22 and lost his job because he refused to get vaxxed. I also wore a mask when I had to, but it was an N95 that I would change maybe every three months. My masking was purely performative.

Alan Gore
Alan Gore
8 months ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

Am I the only vaccinated Republican out there? Getting vaxed allowed me to get back to traveling the world again in 2021, a year when so many other people still feared going outside.
Rejecting known good science purely as a marker of political identity is no more a good look for us than it was for the No Nukers on the left.

Daniel P
Daniel P
8 months ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

The numbers are misleading. Were they substantial? Yes, but I think they the top line number is misleading.

They combine people who died OF Covid with people who died WITH Covid. Important distinction.

There were, particularly early on, a lot of deaths that were reported as being Covid deaths that were presumed and not validated.

I think the thing that should give you the most pause is that doctors, just a short time after the shutdowns etc, are now treating Covid like a flu. My GP even told me that it is not a big deal, they are not even requiring masks in the office or people who show up with Covid like symptoms to mask up.

The virus did not go from a rampaging killer to just another cold overnight. The probability is that a lot of older people and people with underlying sever health conditions were exposed to virus that their bodies had never seen and we had a massive onslaught of deaths. But, younger people were largely not impacted terribly. The rest of us got it and got over it in a week or two and were back at work. I did. My fiance did. My son and daughter and my stepdaughter all did.

As for Long Covid, I imagine that there are some people who have long term effects as with any disease, particularly a novel one. But the vast majority of people just get Covid, get sick for a few days and then get better and get back to life.

Sheryl Rhodes
Sheryl Rhodes
8 months ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

How can you “not blame” those who were “giddy” at the suffering of those who thought differently about the complex questions surrounding Covid and Covid policies?
I sure as heck blame them! To be happy at other’s suffering may be the most telling marker of a person’s moral character. In the panoply of nasty surprises I experienced when seeing the events of the past three years, I was most shocked by just how MANY people were happy to lock their fellow humans into the cage of The Other. How they then justified being uncaring, if not downright giddy, over the fate and the misfortunes of those they had othered. Lost your job because you were pregnant and didn’t want to vax? Too bad, you cow. Died an agonizing death, alone? Too bad, take one for the team. Oh, wait…you were unvaccinated? Well, in that case, I’ll be dancing on your grave. Fully masked, of course.

Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
8 months ago
Reply to  Sheryl Rhodes

I was careful not to say I agreed with people who were giddy at the suffering of others. It’s never okay to cheer on the misery of other people. I do understand why it happened though – they were scared witless by an unprecedented propaganda effort and they truly thought unvaxxed people were killing grandma.

Carmel Shortall
Carmel Shortall
8 months ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

“they were scared witless by an unprecedented propaganda effort and they truly thought unvaxxed people were killing grandma.”

To be fair, some people started off from a very low ‘wit’ threshold in the first place and some got to reveal their inner authoritarian…

Sheryl Rhodes
Sheryl Rhodes
8 months ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

Fair enough, and I knew you didn’t agree or approve of their conduct. If I read you correctly, when you say that you don’t blame them, it’s because it’s understandable that they were driven in that direction by the Terror Porn we were force-fed like geese being readied for a good foie gras harvest?
My reply stands in that I think that, even given the strongest possible application of propaganda, we still reveal our character by choosing to affirmatively celebrate human misery. And in the case of the Covidians, they were often happy to inflict extra misery.

Caty Gonzales
Caty Gonzales
8 months ago

Deep down I think King and his likeminded sort know what they have become and cannot face the truth. Their reaction is to double down and entrench themsevles further. I mean, they’re the good ones, right? The rebels, the ones on the right side of history, the hero of the story…

Huw Parker
Huw Parker
8 months ago
Reply to  Caty Gonzales

Their reaction is to double down and entrench themselves further.

This, absolutely. The man who wrote “Sane people don’t sacrifice children on the altar of probability. That’s not science, it’s superstition.” is the same man who believes that men can be women if they only believe it strongly enough.

Aidan O
Aidan O
8 months ago
Reply to  Caty Gonzales

Yes, I believe it’s an elaborate form of cowardice.

It’s one which celebrities with large followings are particularly susceptible to, by virtue of the fact that they receive plenty of encouragement when expressing these positions, making it easier to continue to go down that road.

Seb Dakin
Seb Dakin
8 months ago

What a brilliant book review, and commentary on our times. Thank you Ms Rosenfield.

Steve Murray
Steve Murray
8 months ago
Reply to  Seb Dakin

Indeed. KR hits a huge number of nails on the head, and it made for a rivetting read.

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
8 months ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

Agreed

Daniel P
Daniel P
8 months ago

I used to love his books but something changed in them years ago. I just stopped looking for his next book.

He has always been an odd bird. But being from MA I tend to find that a lot of people who live in Maine are odd birds. Its a great state for them for some reason. Maybe the isolation? I dunno.

Either way, he stopped being as story teller and became an opinion writer.

Maybe he just thinks that he has become so important that his opinion on things outside of scary stories matters.

That seems to happen to a lot of rich people and famous people.

Cathy Carron
Cathy Carron
8 months ago
Reply to  Daniel P

King has bordered on lunatic in recent years.

MARK TEAGUE
MARK TEAGUE
8 months ago
Reply to  Daniel P

Well we call you massholes so there! From a Mainer with Masshole roots.

Daniel P
Daniel P
8 months ago
Reply to  MARK TEAGUE

And you are NOT wrong to call us that either!

There is a certain mentality that spans NJ to Boston that seems to pride itself on just how much of an ahole it can be.

Fortunatley for me? I moved out of New England 30 yrs ago and have lived in the south from Naples, FL to Atlanta to living in central Virginia for the last 15 yrs.

Think it has done my personality a lot of good. LOL

Matt Hindman
Matt Hindman
8 months ago

I think Kat is really getting to something here. Has anyone else noticed that some of the most horrible and destructive people in today’s world are also people who want to be seen as “good people” by others? For a good example look at those who are obsessed with “fighting fascism”. They seem to have no trouble with the merger of state and corporate power or suppressing civil liberties and they show little concern over the use of military force. The thing is if you read any of these people, they really believe they are fighting the rise of the Fourth Reich despite all evidence to the contrary. Unless we are talking about The Bulwark in which case they really are that cold blooded. Anti-racism? When you get down to it there is little difference in philosophy between Ibram X. Kendi and David Duke but guilty white liberals shell out money for nothing more than to be told “you are horrible people but you are not as bad as those terrible poor conservative white people”. Funny enough, paying your entry level workers decent wages and benefits would go a lot farther to helping minorities than a BLM hashtag on your Twitter handle. (I refuse to call it X) I probably don’t even need to go into the cognitive dissonance over Covid-19 here. I think this is why we see principled old left journalists like Glenn Greenwald and Matt Taibbi, get so much vitriol as well as the sheer hatred for groups like anti war protesters, anti globalists, and blue collar workers. They are what this thing calling the Left used to be and the modern version of it cannot change course whatsoever because that would mean they might have got something wrong and then would not be “good people”.

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
8 months ago
Reply to  Matt Hindman

And they would have to give up the money to which they have become so attached

Daniel P
Daniel P
8 months ago
Reply to  Matt Hindman

The road to hell?

I think that there are a lot of fearful people or disgusted and sad people who are just frustrated and angry at the world for not complying with their views and think it is justified to use any means, fair or foul, to achieve their ends.

Greg Morrison
Greg Morrison
8 months ago

OK, someone’s got to be that guy.
* Sigh*. In fairness it’s probably my turn.

So I’ll just say it: the over reaction to COVID, and the vilification and hatred directed towards ‘anti vaxxers’, ‘anti lockdowners’, ‘anti maskers’ et al, was not about a generational difference, or ‘the science’, or what media you consumed, or the values you claim, or the politics you hold. These are all just accidentals.

It was about moral cowardice: people who allowed their fear of death to crush the angels of their better nature, and mostly without a fight.
What a surprise! Turns out they’re not really tin-pot totalitarians (you need more than a timorous mob mentality for that). They’re just p*ssies.

Personally, I don’t think the rest of us need to be wary of them, other than as the slippery class of people somewhat vaguely present in the driving seat as our civilisation crashes in slow motion. I think we need to be wary of the people who would wrest power from these cowards through violence: because visible weakness has put an enormous target on our backs. BRICS? China? Or just the IRA? Or Al Qaieda? Who knows? What is clear is that the people who hold the reins of power in the West are little more than scared little boys and girls acting tough in gangs. I wouldn’t follow these useless wimps out of a rugby changing room, let alone out of a trench towards the machine guns. I don’t think I’m the only one. And this, I suggest, does not bode well.

We used to be a shining city on a hill. Turns out, as dawn rises in the (Far) East, we’re just a few floors up in a badly built and very undermined tower of Babel.

J Bryant
J Bryant
8 months ago

Apart from an uncanny ability to write compelling prose, King has always been an acute student of his generation. His instincts are infallible when it comes to the Boomers.
His generation is old; they were among the most vulnerable at the height of the pandemic. So now he’s playing to his audience’s fears about the virus and their health in general. If he’s trying also to atone for past literary sins, he will be disappointed. The woke religion permits no forgiveness or redemption.

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
8 months ago
Reply to  J Bryant

Or as he has got old he has like the other boomers become more fearful

Daniel P
Daniel P
8 months ago

Kinda sucks to watch people who were once bold and edgy get old and fearful.

God, I hope that does not happen to me.

Every now and again I catch myself. Then I get on my motorcycle and drive fast through the countryside or I go to a Greta Van Fleet concert. LOL

Brendan O'Leary
Brendan O'Leary
8 months ago

I have no problem with COVID and flu vaccinations. I don’t expect miracles from them. But if anything would have put me off taking them, it was the ostentatious sanctimony of those posting their mask and vaccination status all over social media.

Did they really think that was going to convince anybody? Or was divisiveness their aim all along?

Andrew Dalton
Andrew Dalton
8 months ago

The belief in them as the silver bullet, magic panacea irritated me. I had the first two shots but never supported vaccination mandates, which apparently reaches the threshold to be classed as an anti-vaxxer. Obviously they never attended how to win friends and influence people 101.
Being the secular, irreligious type that I am, I was actually fairly aghast at how a near religious cult had formed up around the vaccination program. It looked as though people needed to believe in them as some form of salvation – at the time I looked upon them as something that was helpful but ultimately unnecessary for ending lockdowns, which were an ill-thought hyperbolic overreaction – anyone not sharing this view was an infidel.

Last edited 8 months ago by Andrew Dalton
Allison Barrows
Allison Barrows
8 months ago

I’m an unvaxxed Trump supporter in my 60s and, to the likely horror of King, never got Covid, nor did my husband, who is ditto. On the other hand, everyone I know who did get the shot(s) has had the virus, many more than once. Several young people in my orbit who submitted to the jabs have developed strange health problems: one is sick with something every other month.

Perhaps, as we discover more and more about the true origins of Covid, the lies government told about it, and the billions the pharmaceutical companies and their paid-for politicians made off the serum forced on whole populations, King will write about that horror story, and it won’t be fictional.

R Wright
R Wright
8 months ago

These boomers are the moronic hypocrites that tolerated thousands of street protests and riots as well as the secession of the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone in Seattle, an unprecedent event in U.S history which was completely memory holed. The only thing worse than a neutered revolutionary is a hypocritical neutered revolutionary.

Benedict Waterson
Benedict Waterson
8 months ago

I thought that the vaccines’ effect on transmission was negligible and that they didn’t even fully prevent catching the disease, but just minimized its effects? So, I don’t really understand the belief that people who refused vaccinations were failing in some moral obligation to other citizens?
Herd immunity could also be achieved by the virus taking its natural course, and not only via vaccinations.
Am I missing something? Or are people like King just making basic objective errors?

Emily Riedel
Emily Riedel
8 months ago

Right on the nose, as usual. Always excited to see a Kat article!

Stephen Kristan
Stephen Kristan
8 months ago

Billy Summers, published in 2021, features a protagonist whose inner monologue is deeply disdainful of Donald Trump, and King himself has said that The Institute is intended as an allegory for the Trump administration’s border policies.”
I can’t wait for King’s next novel,The Border, which will be an allegory of the Biden administration’s utter neglect of the rampant — and highly profitable — trafficking, rape, and extortion, of migrant families as they desperately flee their failed states, perhaps in response to Biden’s explicit invitation to invade the US: “I would in fact make sure that there is
 We immediately surge to the border, all those people who are seeking asylum.” “Surge”… not apply for legal entry, but surge to the border.
And think of the cast of supporting characters! Chinese nationals, terror-listed individuals, known felons, puling Congressional bleeding hearts weeping at the border for the CNN cameras, a Homeland Security Secretary and giggling Vice President avowing that the border is “secure”, a doddering President who scoffs and shakes his head at the Fox News correspondents’ shouted questions, and the mayors of some northern cities denouncing some southern governors’ “stunt” of busing illegals into their northern cities… before begging the federal goverment to save their cities from the unsupportable influx.
Come on, Steve, start tapping that laptop!

Last edited 8 months ago by Stephen Kristan
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
8 months ago

“Which brings us back to Holly, and more particularly to its villains. This couple, these cannibals, are terrified of aging, deteriorating, dying; consuming the flesh of younger, fitter people is how they buy themselves more time. It’s a perverse inversion, to sacrifice those at the begin”
So it is actually a Covid allegory

Jackson Ramseur
Jackson Ramseur
8 months ago

The casual annihilation of King’s hypocrisy with his own words in the concluding paragraphs is just fantastic. UnHerd has a few writers who consistently justify the subscription.

Nathan Sapio
Nathan Sapio
8 months ago

“[King’s characters] would have loved kicking people out of their dying loved one’s hospital room in the name of social distancing protocols” and are an avatar of himself and the rest of his hive-minded group. Brilliant KR.

Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
8 months ago

Superb essay. The author did a masterful job dissecting King and poking holes in his Covid beliefs. I’ve always had mixed feelings about King. He’s clearly a gifted writer, but his books tend to drag on in the middle, with hit and miss endings.

Filipa Antonia Barata de Araujo
Filipa Antonia Barata de Araujo
8 months ago

I don’t entirely agree nor disagree with you on Covid (I was against lockdowns, but not against mask mandates nor social distancing), I do get what you’re saying about King. He became woke and cowardish, like when he condemned Rowling. As you say, he probably fears becoming irrelevant more than he fears becoming cancelled.

Cho Jinn
Cho Jinn
8 months ago

We need to stop conflating being educated with being merely credentialed.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
8 months ago

There was a time when I would purchase every new King novel purely as a matter of routine. Oftentimes I wouldn’t even know what the book was about beforehand. Even as the quality dipped, I stuck with him, whether out of blind loyalty or sheer force of habit, I couldn’t say.

But about 5-6 years ago, around the time of Sleeping Beauties, I noticed he was writing less as an author than a polemics, and a creatively impotent one at that.

I’m sure I’ll check out his recent novels at some point but his work no longer holds the allure it once did.

Tyler Durden
Tyler Durden
8 months ago

American liberals are obsessed with vaccinations, face-masks and denying that such an odd disesase could have been created synthetically as a chimera virus.
Conversely, their life’s work is indeed to expose the Evildoers who question all of the above, just like the brave teenagers in S King’s “It” take on an ancient if not eternal Evil.
Naomi Klein appeared on British TV doing much the same thing, then promoting the Democratic Party.

Andrew Boughton
Andrew Boughton
8 months ago

Fiction tends to suffer grievously when politicised. Just as real people do when political fiction is introduced into their lives like the deadly virus that it is. Oddly enough, exceptions in literature exist on the classic left, like Arthur Miller’s The Crucible, the irony being it has now long applied to the behaviour of the left, whereas when it was written it attacked McCarthyist right. But that’s the hallmark of good art.

Politics is a fiction all of its own.

McExpat M
McExpat M
8 months ago

Super interesting read. King morphing into the current political monster of the day has utterly perplexed me. Your analysis is astute and could be extrapolated to include many other famous Boomers who disappoint now.

Catherine Conroy
Catherine Conroy
8 months ago

When authors use their writing as a platform to lecture the rest of us, it’s time to give up on them.

Cynthia W.
Cynthia W.
8 months ago

Good article.

MARK TEAGUE
MARK TEAGUE
8 months ago

Wonderful! The Stand was the first adult book I read as a twelve year old. The World According to Garp was the second. I could never put King or Irving’s books down. I wondered if I would read Holly, but I just read Irving’s The Last Chairlift and it was awful. He instructed instead of showed the gender woo! It’s so sad. His In One person came out not too long ago with similar themes, and had none of the preachiness. Although it might be problematic now Roberta in Garp and Dayna in the Stands were standouts and were believable people. It’s so sad.

Maximilian
Maximilian
8 months ago

To me, one of the most interesting points made in this article was how much the actual story of the book seemed to suffer by the stance the author applied to his writing process. It appears that the creative process collapses immediately if a message is forced onto it.

And once more, Iain McGilchrist comes to mind 🙂

Last edited 8 months ago by Maximilian
Michael McElwee
Michael McElwee
8 months ago

Kat Rosenfield is now my hero.

Jerry Carroll
Jerry Carroll
8 months ago

King is old and rich. Does anything more need to be said?

Frank McCusker
Frank McCusker
8 months ago

Pre covid, I met the occasional anti-vaccer. Usually, they were poorly-educated religious nutters.  
Nowadays, these half-wits have been joined
by secular conspiracy theorists.
We should all go out and protest, about … vaccines. Down with Jenner, Pasteur et al.  
Do you have nothing worse going in your lives to get excited about?
Do you realise how spoilt and pampered you seem?
Take up a hobby, for heaven’s sake.  Do a poverty safari and see some real oppression.  You’ve all obviously had to much time to brood.  You need to get out more.