Lion of the Blogosphere

Maxim and the military

Front page NY Times article (at least on the website and iPad app) about how Maxim is the most popular magazine in the military.

“They’ve got hot chicks, guns, cars, trucks, a little bit of everything,” said Christopher May, a 38-year-old master sergeant in the Marines based at Camp Pendleton in California. …

On a recent December day in Crawfordsville, 20 miles west of Memphis, as he sat at a barracks table littered with Maxim magazines and cleaned his .45-caliber Remington pistol, he said that Maxim was “the most common magazine hanging around” during his eight deployments.

It should be pointed out that it would NOT be good for one’s professional white-collar career to have a Maxim magazine in your work area.

Once upon a time, enlisted men read higher class literature:

Robert Benton, the screenwriter who worked as Esquire’s art director until he was drafted in 1954, said that when he was stationed in El Paso, he read Esquire and The New Yorker. He also luxuriated in literature and didn’t face the need for escapism that soldiers who serve in combat seek out.

“I remember sitting in the first eight weeks of basic training, sitting in a badly dug foxhole and the mounds outside of El Paso, reading ‘Tender Is the Night.’ I remember thinking, ‘The Army is not so bad,’ ” Mr. Benton said. “My enemy was tedium.”

Yes, serving in the military has most surely dropped in class since the 1950s.

This is a very touchy subject. No member of the upper middle class, or perhaps you’d want to call it the bobo class, would ever want their own children serving in the military where they might pick up these career-killing reading habits (and that’s on top of the chance of being killed), but it’s considered to be in bad taste to publicly advocate that military service might be a bad idea.

Written by Lion of the Blogosphere

December 30, 2012 at 9:58 PM

Posted in Proles

38 Responses

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  1. Those guys read a lot of comic books too. So do prisoners.


    December 30, 2012 at 10:07 PM

    • Maxim is a monument to American bad taste; somehow it manages to feel as trashy as Hustler without having even tasteful Playboy-esque nudes. Maxim is a homeless man’s Penthouse.

      The Undiscovered Jew

      December 31, 2012 at 1:14 AM

      • The days of the “poet-warrior” are dead. Long dead.

        This picture is what ya got now:

        WW1 “french postcards” and WW2 naked-hula girl tats are replaced by ersatz nudes like Maxim.

        I’m sure the bikini-pics (which you can see on a beach) make Soulja Grrlz file OFFICIAL paperwork complaints…the same girls who, when stateside, will wear even less to THE MALL.


        December 31, 2012 at 12:27 PM

  2. I was in the Marine Corps for most of the 1980’s and was enlisted.

    If there was any decline in the quality of reading, it must have happened before I got there. As for magazines; they ranged from Playboy to Hustler, with the occasional Newsweek or Time thrown-in. Most of the books were westerns or pulp science fiction such as Conan The Barbarian. I read that stuff, like everybody else (who read at all) but I was kind of an odd ball in that I also read Shakespeare and Plato as well.

    In college, yes state universities, the pleasure reading wasn’t much different.


    December 30, 2012 at 10:10 PM

  3. The last time I read (yes, the words) a Maxim magazine I was in college and less right wing than I am now. I remember thinking that the editors were very obviously really liberal.


    December 30, 2012 at 10:52 PM

  4. Compare how soldiers were lauded during WWII with how soldiers were either pitied or loathed during the Vietnam War.

    During the 30s and 40s, being a “common man” was a good thing. Soldiers who either enlisted or were even just drafted were praised for being able to band together into a group and selflessly sacrifice themselves for the greater good. Portrayals of American soldiers in WWII have ever since been extremely positive in American culture. They’re seen as selfless, good-hearted, peace-loving men who were struggling for freedom.

    Conversely, American soldiers during the Vietnam War were usually portrayed in the media as either merciless killers (especially if they were white), or as pitiable victims who were drafted into a putrid affair (especially if they were black). In either case, a soldier in Vietnam was seen as a someone to look down on, for either being a criminal or a victim, whereas in WWII, soldiers were seen as heroes.

    A lot has been said about how there has been growing inequality in America since the 80s. Maybe so, but I think that class divisions were becoming starker in the 60s, and probably earlier.

    (As an addendum, American soldiers since 9/11 have either been seen as glorious heroes by the American right, or as imperialist murderers by the American left. The right sees them in the same light they were accorded in WWII, and the left usually sees them in the same manner as they were in the Vietnam War. The difference now is that the left needs to be tactful about how it loathes soldiers. It is happy to say “Support Our Troops!” while claiming that crimes like Abu Ghraib were what most soldiers were doing in secret, instead of being exceptions. The left, of course, claims that it exists to assist lower class people, but that’s only true if those people aren’t white men.)


    December 30, 2012 at 11:04 PM

  5. Before I became aware of Neil Strauss, I subscribed to Maxim under the assumption it would have some Game-type material but it was less than worthless – just nonstop meatheaded “hey bro buy THIS buy THAT and show it off to your bros, sa-WEET” marketing BS


    December 30, 2012 at 11:56 PM

  6. Yes, serving in the military has most surely dropped in class since the 1950s.

    I believe it is something of a myth that military service outside of the highest levels of command were embraced by American elites.

    There were more children of the rich in the military during WWII simply because we had manpower demands that were so enormous that we were forced to draft almost every healthy young man of every class background. America had 20 million men enlisted during the wars peak.

    Prior to WWII there was a tendancy for the American upper classes to avoid sending their sons to war as basic soldiers. For example, the Northern elite found ways to keep their sons out of service in the Civil War. Instead, the North’s infantry, and even the generalship, were largely composed of middle and lower class whites such as recent Irish immigrants.

    The South sent her elite children into battle, however that was mainly because they were at a numerical disadvantage compared to the North and they had to send just about every healthy man to have any hope of winning.

    The Undiscovered Jew

    December 31, 2012 at 1:12 AM

  7. @Sid – WW2 was a winnable, and popular, war. Vietnam and our current foreign adventures in the Middle East was not and are not. Now that I think on it for a moment, I cannot help but wonder if there is a correlation between a war being winnable and its being popular; I surmise there is such a connection. WW2 had a clear end game on the horizon – kill Hitler then go home. Vietnam, maybe less so. Iraq and Afghanistan, however, have no visible end game.


    December 31, 2012 at 1:40 AM

  8. I don’t think the average soldier has ever been anything but a prole. A young male prole at that. Modern soldiers are not, however, the absolute dregs of society, as has been the case in some previous times and places. They are at worst of slightly below average intelligence. The dumbest ones are non-technical support troops. Combat arms grunts can be dumb, but a lot of relatively smart prole men just want to do something manly and/or they just like being soldiers. Support troops in more technical occupations (the military openly uses psychometrics to set cutoffs for all these different jobs) IME are often smart kids who didn’t have the discipline/maturity or means to make it into or through college. These guys are often nerdy and heavily into anime, Warhammer, M:TG, etc. Of course these guys have “prole” tastes (whatever that means in a given time). Some guy who later pursued a literary career in the 50s is the exception, not the rule.

    There is no longer a draft of any kind, much less general conscription funneling other classes into the military. Further, it’s reasonable to think that during the Depression up to the 50s, a lot of intelligent men were basically underemployed for macroeconomic reasons. If the economic environment of the 50s magically returned this year, it might seem strange in a few decades that minimum-wage coffeehouse employees were once noted to have more highbrow tastes than bartenders.


    December 31, 2012 at 2:34 AM

  9. The end of the draft must have had an impact on who signed up. And also the fact that Vietnam was so divisive.


    December 31, 2012 at 4:12 AM

  10. I subscribed to Maxim when I was enlisted in the Army. I’m also a Stuyvesant HS and Columbia University alumnus.

    Ivy League veteran

    December 31, 2012 at 4:54 AM

  11. What a stupid post. How many Ivy League students are reading Esquire or the New Yorker in their free time? My guess is that it would be the same as the number of enlisted in the military.

    Also, look at how many elite college students have been hurt by posting pictures on social media of themselves doing stupid things. And yet, reading Maxim magazine is somehow more foolish than that?


    December 31, 2012 at 6:26 AM

  12. “Yes, serving in the military has most surely dropped in class since the 1950s.” I dunno – Prince Harry drives killer helicopters in Afghanistan and Prince William drives air-sea rescue helicopters in North Wales.


    December 31, 2012 at 7:56 AM

    • dearime:”I dunno – Prince Harry drives killer helicopters in Afghanistan and Prince William drives air-sea rescue helicopters in North Wales.”

      Call me crazy, but they seem a bit unrepresentative….


      January 2, 2013 at 11:36 PM

  13. > Once upon a time, enlisted men read higher class literature:

    but then you go on to use selection bias: you pick a WRITER who used to be enlisted and look at what he read.

    I guarantee you that today 98% of enlisted guys read Maxim and Playboy and 2% read The Atlantic, and all future writers who are now enlisted are in that latter 2%.

    tjic (@tjic)

    December 31, 2012 at 8:03 AM

  14. Note that the screenwriter guy was drafted. Guys like that probably wouldn’t join the military otherwise, and they haven’t since they stopped drafting upper-middle-class men in the 60s.


    December 31, 2012 at 8:38 AM

  15. You’re forgetting the draft. A guy like Benton would never join the military now. Even in his day most guys read girlie mags and pulp novels (remember, they wouldn’t have had TV or movies on base). Old war movies had ‘oddball in the barracks’ scenes where people made fun of a soldier reading a hard book.

    I’m not sure this is a bad thing. Soldiers don’t have to be able to ponder and contemplate, they have to be able to shoot the other guy before he shoots them.


    December 31, 2012 at 8:59 AM

  16. I was enlisted in the Army in the early 1990s. Stephen King and Dean Koontz novels were very popular with the guys of roughly 95-110 IQ

    Higher ASVAB score MOSs (military occupations) had a large number of surprisingly high IQ young guys, by the way. I’ve been friends with a couple who were very likely well over 130. Many of them were from solid middle class families, and signed up for college money and intangibles that go along with military service.


    December 31, 2012 at 11:42 AM

  17. The draft is a *big* change – back in the 1950s, young men of all social classes ended up in the military. While the elite of society might get their kids either deferments, or, more likely, into the officer track, it wasn’t that common, as our social elites weren’t nearly as lefty then as now.

    There also weren’t as many mass circulation magazines like Maxim back then, either. Esquire was the closest, and it deliberately aimed at a higher class, not only because there was more money in advertising to the wealthy, but because they wanted to seem respectable, so having articles and essays by well-known writers made it possible for newsstands in conservative areas to carry the magazine, and the large circulation from having pictures of nearly-naked women allowed them to pay first-rate writers.


    December 31, 2012 at 12:31 PM

  18. The relevant word is “drafted”. In 1954 there were plenty of highly literate enlisted people in the military due to conscription. When that ended in 1973, the enlisted ranks became filled with less literate people.

    I’m not sure what your point is except, the military is filled with low-class (goy?) morons.

    Officers can be different, depending on the person and the service (and the specialty within each service, to an extent). But, unsurprisingly, the enlisted ranks are filled with readers of MAXIM and watchers of the Blue Collar Comedy Tour (if white).

    As one of the few readers here who is career military (Navy officer, if you’re wondering), I caution you to tread carefully in areas where your knowledge is entirely third-hand at best.

    You are no more capable of speaking meaningfully about U.S. enlisted personnel than the average E-4 would be pontificating about law schools.

    It should also be noted that those MAXIM-reading morons guard you while you sleep.

    J R

    December 31, 2012 at 1:38 PM

    • This former enlisted Maxim-reading soldier-slash-moron has a JD, too.

      Ivy League veteran

      January 1, 2013 at 5:57 AM

    • J R has the issue nailed. When my brother served as a Division Officer in the Navy in the Tonkin Gulf, he commented that any of his sailors would have had the capability to do his job as an officer because the Navy enlisted were mostly volunteers avoiding service in the Army and Marine Corps. The draft kept the standards of enlisted personnel high, even in (especially in) services that rarely needed to draft personnel.

      I rose to Major Command in the Navy. I was politically unpopular for claiming that the quality of enlisted personnel had declined during my entire term of service, primarily because the cadre of senior enlisted acquired during the years before the draft was abolished kept becoming thinner and thinner.

      As an aside, one of my best junior officers read Maxim. Many of my best did not, but I don’t see the magazine as the bellwether of service quality or intelligence you perceive it to be.


      January 1, 2013 at 7:45 PM

    • Good point to JR. Former enlisted Marine infantry here,(now an engineer). This blogger has no military experience to post on the intelligence of typical members (enlisted primarily).

      A lot of us went in for the intangibles, as someone else called it. Adventure, the opportunity to do a lot of interesting things, going to war being one of those. We didn’t want to suck of the parent’s teat in college directly out of high school. We didnt want to go from college to a middle class job without that experience. I suspect this blogger and others that trash the military regret their decision to take the easy route. I have met scores of people over the years with that same regret.

      Having said all of that, DOD needs to be slashed. Our insane foreign wars, while exciting for some, are stupid, wasteful and pointless.


      January 2, 2013 at 1:44 PM

      • This blogger has no military experience

        That is incorrect, I worked for the U.S. Army as a civilian contractor.

        The Lion

        January 2, 2013 at 1:52 PM

      • Hopefully before others with active-duty time weigh in, let me comment: being a civilian contractor, particularly in a forward-deployed area or at sea on a Navy ship, can give one some idea of the rigors of military life as well as the values of those who serve.

        Most contractors, however, working at or near DoD installations in the United States, don’t see the full spectrum of military life. That doesn’t mean that they can’t learn or don’t know anything…it just means that it makes listening, reading, and learning more challenging.

        Lion, did you serve as a contractor in a forward-deployed area with the Army? That would offer greater credibility to your position, if true.


        January 2, 2013 at 3:03 PM

      • You are changing the question because you didn’t like the first answer.

        If it makes you feel happier, I worked at a military base in the DC area and also at a military office building complex in Arlington, and not on a ship at sea or in Iraq. I only worked with officers (Major or higher) and not enlisted people (because no enlisted people work in military procurement, as far as I know).

        The Lion

        January 2, 2013 at 3:11 PM

      • I have no trouble with your first answer, Lion, because I know you to be a very intelligent individual who can gain more from written material than almost anybody else in the blogosphere. I do know, however, that the knee-jerk reaction of most career military is that contractors, particularly those around Crystal City, Fort Belvoir, the Pentagon, and other sites around the Beltway, are parasites who drain resources from DoD at frightening rates for little or no value added. I’m sure that you weren’t doing that…but I was trying to give you a chance to clarify when you wrote that being a civilian contractor was a form of military experience. For some (those who read Maxim in the barracks, perhaps), those are fighting words.

        As an aside, I knew Air Force and Army enlisted personnel assigned to procurement commands at Fort Belvoir. The Air Force personnel were college-educated; the Army personnel served in support roles. Thanks to DAWIA, DoD procurement certainly has become an officer’s game…and even more so, a Civil Service game.


        January 2, 2013 at 3:35 PM

      • I do know, however, that the knee-jerk reaction of most career military is that contractors, particularly those around Crystal City, Fort Belvoir, the Pentagon, and other sites around the Beltway, are parasites who drain resources from DoD at frightening rates for little or no value added. I’m sure that you weren’t doing that.

        Wrong again, that’s exactly what I was doing. Although as an employee of a greedy corporation; I didn’t personally negotiate the contract. Also, I hated the job and quit as soon as I was able to. But the Major I worked with in the army was a nice-enough guy.

        The Lion

        January 2, 2013 at 4:26 PM

  19. I always find it incredibly ironic that that Santorum-types who praise the military up and down for being the most upstanding, moral, heroic exemplar of American society have actually defined much of their political philosophy in direct opposition to the sort of “immoral” culture, attitudes, interests, and behaviour embraced by rank-and-file soliders.

    • I used to get certain people very angry with me when I observed that the last man you want to leave your wife with was a military guy, then of course l’affaire Petraeus shut a lot of people up.

      It will be interesting as jobs become more scarce and taxes increase, people will start to question why we are giving these soldiers, $20k (?) a year for college, free health care for life, unbelievable pensions to retire at 40 something and then take another job, probably a government set aside not open to their kid, all the intangibles and start to realize the character of a good many of these people is somewhat a low one. They might start wondering why we’re spending so much money to defend Germany from a Soviet invasion.

      I’m biased of course not being naive enought to believe that Americas wars have anything to do with my freedom. All said, it’s just a waste for these kids who get mangled and a decent person should be enraged at the politicians who jack off to the drones.

      Of course military spending is the Republicans version of welfare spending.


      December 31, 2012 at 9:03 PM

  20. Maxim is like Comedy Central: mildly vulgar but not actually dirty.


    December 31, 2012 at 11:28 PM

  21. I’ve sent books and magazines to the troops through various soldier support groups, and my experience is that a lot of guys want sci-fi, Stephen King, Dean Koontz, Michael Crichton, John Grisham and other best seller authors, but quite a few want non-fiction, mostly history and biography and non-technical science. From the responses I’ve gotten, magazines like Discover, Astronomy. Scientific American Mind, National Geographic go over pretty well.


    January 1, 2013 at 1:00 AM

  22. In the 1950s there was conscription. Although some got deferrals, etc, you probably ended up with an overall smarter bunch than you get today.


    January 1, 2013 at 1:11 AM

  23. Romanticizing earlier military personel is yet another way you betray your youth and naivete. In the 50s, here’s what they used to say on AFN: “It’s 15:00 hours. For you civilians, that’s 3PM; for you Marines, the big hand is on the 12 and the small hand is on the three.”


    January 1, 2013 at 3:49 PM

  24. Draftees in the 1940s-1950s, before the college exemption, included all classes, including lots of future writers and professors. The volunteer army doesn’t get many intellectuals, but the overall level is pretty good with an average IQ well above 100.

    Steve Sailer

    January 2, 2013 at 7:30 PM

  25. Alfred Appel, Northwestern U. prof. of literature, wrote in The Annotated Lolita, how, when he was a draftee in West Germany in 1955, he went to Paris and bought the first edition of Nabokov’s Lolita. One of his platoon mates, seeing its green Grove Press cover, notorious for publishing pornography that couldn’t be published in the U.S., grabbed the book out of his hands, and read the famous opening lines out loud to the whole platoon, then threw Lolita down with disgust: “This isn’t porn, this is lit-tra-choor! You’ve been cheated!”

    Steve Sailer

    January 2, 2013 at 7:36 PM

  26. Ivy League veteran

    January 3, 2013 at 5:18 PM

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