The people who run this country, “fools that they are,” live in accordance with their own ideas and serve their own interests. We’re talking politicians, investors, business leaders, academics, social activists, reporters, pundits, etc. Traditional differences of opinion within the establishment have narrowed over time, leading to substantial consensus about many important questions. The big gap in thinking now is between members of the elite (let’s call them “elitists”) and the white collar and blue collar workers who keep the economy humming (“plebes”).
There was a time when elitists were in synch with working class values, but this connection has grown tenuous. Elitists are often indifferent to what working class Americans think or feel, and they may not appreciate it when their own ideas are challenged (despite being taught in schools and parroted by the media).
What kind of ideas are we talking about? Here are some examples (from the book): Unwavering faith in big government to run the economy, especially healthcare and education (but elitists send their own kids to private school) – necessity of combatting manmade global warming by hiking taxes and restrictions on the use of fossil fuels (but private jets are fine) - support for a steady influx of immigrants (whether legal or illegal) to keep wage costs low (including for household servants) and yield voters who will reliably support the elitist agenda – non-traditional thinking about sexual roles and practices – declining respect for patriotism and religious beliefs – need to “slap down” people who think otherwise.
Plebes disagree with some of these ideas, and they resent being expected to meekly accept them. They sense that elitists don’t understand or care about their view of the world, and they aren’t sure how to break through the shell of indifference. If the resulting frustration continues to build up, aggressive responses may be triggered.
All of which helps to explain why Donald Trump – a New York entrepreneur with no political experience, who Carlson describes as “in many ways an unappealing figure” – won the presidency in 2016. And if that doesn’t work, there could be far worse leaders – or real violence - in this nation’s future.
Trump listened to the plebes, promised to deliver what they wanted, and has been trying to make good on his promises. He was and remains willing – in fact eager – to derisively challenge the cherished ideas of the elite. Small wonder, therefore, that so many elitists have been pushing back since he won the White House in hopes of shutting him up or getting rid of him so they can get back to running things to suit themselves.
We agree with much of Carlson’s critique of elitist views and his prose is logical and entertaining. Judging from the reviews that have been posted to date – 1,156 (87% with “five star” ratings) - many readers agree.
Nevertheless, “Ship of Fools” has several off-putting flaws:
•Carlson seems to place all the onus on elitists who run the country and have aligned themselves in opposition to Trump, e.g., the eight figures (apparently caricatures of Maxine Waters, Bill Kristol, Nancy Pelosi, Mitch McConnell, Lindsey Graham , Mark Zuckerberg, Hillary Clinton and Jeff Bezos) shown in a picture on the front jacket, crowded into a tiny craft that is on the brink of going over the falls. But it might be worth recalling that in a novel of the same title, written by Katherine Ann Porter and published circa 1984, the “fools” were not the crew but rather the passengers on the ship.
•Some of the material seems to repeat content previously aired on Carlson’s TV show. (Regrettably, his show is currently being boycotted by several advertisers over controversial comments that he made about immigrants.)
•The absence of footnotes and an index suggests that Ship of Fools wasn’t intended as a serious book.