(By Tucker Carlson) (2018)
The brilliant TV pundit Carlson (one of the few Americans in the public square who understand irony) is perhaps better on screen than in print. Still, this is an amusing, engaging, stimulating and un-footnoted overview of America’s political and corporate elites, and how they, like the Emperor with no clothes, disport their naked ambition with a staggering immunity from introspection. Carlson is a rock-solid conservative, and has plenty to say about American liberal idiocy and childishness, but that doesn’t mean he can’t or won’t train a metaphorical AR-15 on the Republican Party as well. In fact, his thesis (a fortiori 3 years after the book came out) is that there is a rift in America, not along party or factional lines, but “between those who benefit from the status quo, and those who don’t.” In other words, a dangerous state of affairs, a class system (the very concept is uncomfortable to Yanks) as “institutionally torpid, economically immobile, culturally atrophied and socially stratified“* as the Ancien Régime in 1789 France.
Written in the breezy and familiar American style, the author gives us a fact and opinion overload (again, we say, sans footnotes), making clear that whilst he’s no Trump fan, the forces that produced him, did him down and now replace him, are far less palatable. In 2021, the U.S. is in crisis: entropic decline of its international stature, sagging under the weight of public debt so terrible that no-one mentions it, growing class divisions fomented by a insouciant and ignorant cabal of the nouveau riche, cities on fire, race-baiting, flourishing inflation, gashed and breached national borders (physical and digital), contempt for traditional values and authority, a vibrant cradle of lies in the public square, a pliable and narcoleptic Fourth Estate (and President), an Orwellian suppression of dangerous ideas via monopolistic social platforms and mob rule. Amid this catastrophic environment, President Biden‘s carers act like Emperor Nero. And the Republicans seem to sulk and wait for Joe and Kamala to self-immolate.
Plenty of people hate Carlson but everyone needs to hear what he has to say, because a lot of it makes sense and sense is valuable even when it bruises. In what Democrats celebrate as America’s ‘diversity,’ in cities throughout the country nervously marketed by real estate agents as ‘vibrant,’ Carlson asks why a country with no shared language, ethnicity, religion, culture, or history would remain a country. Here are some sample quotes from Ship of Fools on the various issues arising from that premise:
“Trump’s election wasn’t about Trump. It was a throbbing middle finger in the face of America’s ruling class…
“Free speech is the enemy of authoritarian rule…That’s also why our ruling class seeks to crush it.”
“The meritocracy, it turns out, creates its own kind of stratification, a kind more rigid than the aristocracy it replaced…In Chelsea Clinton’s world, nobody tells her she’s wrong…The best thing about old-fashioned liberals was how guilty they were. They felt bad about everything, and that kept them empathetic and humane. It also made them instinctively suspicious of power, which was useful. Somebody needs to be.”[For the elites, illegal immigration is] the perfect arrangement. You get to feel virtuous for having a housekeeper; she walks the dog while you’re at SoulCycle. You can see why affluent moms tended to hate Donald Trump and his talk of building a wall. For Americans in the top 20 percent of income distribution, mass immigration is one of the best things that ever happened – cheap help, obedient employees, more interesting restaurants, and all without guilt. There’s no downside, at least none that you personally experience. You don’t take the bus or use the emergency room for health care or send your kids to overpopulated public schools that have canceled gym and music to pay for ESL because half the kids can’t speak English.”
“Elites choose to live in cocoons white enough to burn your retinas…Meanwhile, the identity politics they espouse makes the country easier to govern, even as it makes it much harder to live in.”
“[When Edward] Kennedy…an absolutist on legal abortion…died in 2009, feminists celebrated his life. The Huffington Post ran a piece asking, ‘What would Mary Jo Kopechne have thought of Ted’s career?” Its conclusion: “Maybe she’d feel it was worth it.” Mary Jo Kopechne had become an abortion martyr.”
“It is possible to isolate the precise moment that Trump permanently alienated the Republican establishment in Washington: February 13, 2016. There was a GOP primary debate that night in Greenville, South Carolina, so every Republican in Washington was watching. Seemingly out of nowhere, Trump articulated something that no party leader had said out loud. “We should never have been in Iraq,” Trump announced, his voice rising. “We have destabilized the Middle East.” Many in the crowd booed, but Trump kept going: “They lied. They said there were weapons of mass destruction. There were none. And they knew there were none.”
“Politically, the decision to become a prowar party paid huge dividends for Democrats. From 1968 through 1988, Democrats decisively lost five presidential elections and narrowly won another. Since Clinton took the party back in a hawkish direction, the Democrats have lost the popular vote only once, in 2004…With both parties aligned on the wisdom of frequent military intervention abroad…America has remained in a state of almost permanent war…Less than a year into his first term, Obama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, apparently for the transcendent achievement of not being George W. Bush. But the prize had no lasting effect on Obama.”
“No matter how often they’re [the foreign policy establishment] wrong, no matter how many disasters they unintentionally create, they never seem to feel bad about it. They certainly never blame themselves.”
“The core belief in transgenderism is that biology isn’t real: sex is not determined at the DNA level; it’s determined by appearance…It’s a measure of how bovine our ruling class has become that educated people fall for nonsense like this especially hard. Employees of Facebook came up with more than seventy gender choices for their site. The choices include asexual, gender neutral, polygender, agender, bigender, gender fluid, gender variant, neutrois, pangender, transmasculine, as well as something called two-spirit…There’s not a person on earth who could define all of these categories. Some of them don’t really have definitions. It doesn’t matter. Their legitimacy is defended with determined ruthlessness by the arbiters of gender politics…the small group of unhappy people in charge…”
“With every passing year, the goals of the environmental movement became steadily more abstract…Environmentalism as a religion is more compelling than environmentalism as a means to save birds or clean up some river in Maine…Few preachers live up to the standards they set from the pulpit, and [Leonardo] Di Caprio is no exception. In the summer of 2016, Di Caprio was scheduled to receive an [environmental] award…He was in Cannes attending the film festival at the time, so he chartered a private jet to fly from France to New York and back…Billionaire investor Richard Branson tells audiences not to “be the generation responsible for irreversibly damaging the environment” with carbon. To spread that message, he travels on his own Dassault Falcon 50EX…Caring deeply is the only measure that matters. That’s why their consciences remain untroubled, no matter how many times they violate the standards they demand of others. Once you understand this, the Paris climate accord makes sense. An international agreement designed to curb carbon emissions, negotiated next to Europe’s busiest private airport. Nobody in attendance flew commercial. Nobody seemed to feel bad about it, either.”
“You can’t enforce enlightenment by fiat.”
[* Simon Schama, Citizens (1989), p. 184.]