Ship of Fools

ship of fools

Ship of Fools: How a Selfish Ruling Class is Bringing America to the Brink of Revolution, by Tucker Carlson. Hardcover edition published in 2018, 256 pages.

There’s this feeling I get when someone writes what I am thinking. When they are able to say it and somehow hit all the nuances that I wish I could fill in, but am not quite sure how, and when they seem to just *get it*, even if imperfectly, such a writer is a kindred spirit. That describes Tucker Carlson’s Ship of Fools.

In a political climate that is so contentious and within which everyone seems to be stuck in a foolishly binary perspective, I find political conversations very frustrating. When I converse with sincere, well-meaning people who, in their zeal to help the poor, view the left as the least-best option, I cringe. I don’t cringe for the reasons you might assume. No, I cringe because I know that when you scratch the surface of things and watch what politicians do rather than what they say, you quickly realize that the left’s talking points are a mere window covering for a party as beholden to big business as the rabid, pro-corporate, so-called capitalists on the right.

In other words, there is no savior in Washington, D.C.  They are almost all -regardless of the party affiliation- looking out for their own interests. This is the case Tucker Carlson lays out beautifully in Ship of Fools. I should add here that he isn’t asserting, and neither am I, that there are no good people with good intentions in politics. However, among those who wield the most power, they are very few and far between, and even those soon get swallowed up in the zeitgeist, unable to affect the change they had hoped.

Before I offer a couple of quotes, a brief outline of what I liked and didn’t like about the book. I’m a big fan of the bad news first approach to these things, so I’ll start with the problematic aspects of the book, in my own opinion:

  • The tone often reminded me of Carlson’s televised monologues; so much so that I am convinced that several parts I vividly recall hearing from him before. Given that I don’t watch his show (or any news networks outside of youtube snippets) that’s problematic.
  • There wasn’t enough tilling of new ground. There was very little here that I wasn’t already aware of. To be fair, I’m more informed than your average American, but I would suspect that is the case with a fair number of Carlson’s readers.
  • No source notes. When you put forth as many claims on the work and positions of as many people as Carlson does here, you need to have tens of pages of footnotes and sources to back it up. Again, because of my familiarity with much of what is written here, I am comfortable with the veracity of his claims, but a book such as this one needs to provide sources for the sake of its own integrity.

What I liked about this book:

  • This isn’t a “progressives bad”, “conservatives good” type of book. Carlson rightly acknowledges that there is more than enough blame on both sides of the imaginary aisle for the current political and economic predicament this country finds herself in.
  • The dissecting of the sacred pillars of the political classes, both left and right.
  • The populism angle speaks to me. As much as I abhor the notion of socialism as a political and economic order, I’m not overly enamored with the fake crony capitalism of the right or the market-as-king, pie-in-the-sky notions of libertarians either. I do believe that there is a third way, but because it doesn’t serve the interests of our present oligarchy it is often dismissed.
  • Carlson’s witty, biting humor and gifted storytelling keep his book moving forward.

Enough about what I think. Here are a few salient quotes from Ship of Fools. On the unholy alliance between the left, who supposedly care about the downtrodden, and big businesses like Apple and Amazon, who routinely and grossly mistreat their poor, foreign workers (love those iPhones though!):

All pretty grim. Yet when was the last time you heard a politician decry Apple’s treatment of workers, let alone introduce legislation intended to address it? When was the last time a group of socially conscious hipsters from Brooklyn protested outside the home of Apple CEO Tim Cook?

Never, of course. That’s because Apple, like virtually other big employer in American life, has purchased indulgences from the church of cultural liberalism. Apple has a gay CEO with fashionable social views. The company issues statements about green energy and has generous domestic partner benefits. Apple publicly protested the Trump administration’s immigration policies. The company is progressive in ways that matter in Brooklyn. That’s enough to stop any conversation about working conditions in Foxconn factories.

On the foolishness of foreign wars began by Republican presidents and then perpetuated and often expanded by their liberal successors:

The first is that war is destructive. It kills people. War flattens cities, hobble economies, topple civilizations, and upend ancient ways of doing things; often forever. In war, children always die.

None of this is hidden knowledge- nobody would deny that war destroys- but it’s easy to forget it anyway. Look up any speech by a political leader rushing his country into conflict and you’ll notice how nonspecific the descriptions are. It’s always a battle for something abstract, like freedom of sovereignty. If politicians acknowledge that soldiers will be killed at all, it’s only to extol their bravery and highlight the sheer glory of the endeavor. In speeches, war is never a bloody slog where eighteen-year-old boys get castrated by landmines, blasted apart by grenades, or pointlessly massacred in friendly-fire accidents, though that’s exactly what it is. p.91

Tackling everything from the foolishness of modern feminism and identity politics with several detours highlighting the utter silliness of editorial and political personalities such as the hawkish Bill Kristol and the utterly banal Ta-Nehisi Coates, Carlson does a good job cutting through the bull. He invites the reader to look at the evidence rather than get swept up in talking points and media propaganda. One need only scratch the surface to see that there are no heroes to be found in our current political system.

The irony here is that like him or loathe him, the only genuine political actor in the current paradigm, the only person who is generally a “what you see is what you get” operator, is Donald Trump.

3 and 1/2 out of 5 stars



10 thoughts on “Ship of Fools

  1. smkoseki says:

    I often wonder about TC. I can’t decide if he is just a money-grubber, or actually honest and dumb, or just a careful anti-deep state guy, or some mix. With the advent of Ron Unz making most of the hidden stuff “in the open” it kinda makes Tucker late to the party. Heck even guys like O’Reilly even got in on the act with his book on the Patton assassination (of course, nobody but Unz will touch 911 or the Israel angle, for obvious reasons). So I tend to think TC is just a careful operator who knows a lot but picks his battles. But I’m open minded to the dumb angle.


  2. Elspeth says:

    My problem with Unz, and why he’ll never reach the number of people as Carlson, is that his ilk can’t reach people like me.
    As “conservative” as I am for lack of a better word (and I can shock my most conservative friends) I’ll never be open minded to anyone who has decided my ethnicity makes me inferior to him. Doesn’t matter if I agree with a few of his points. I know that’s emotion talking but human beings ARE emotional.
    Tucker is a much better bet to be able to spread the message of sanity and truth in politics than a niche player like Unz.


  3. smkoseki says:

    ’ll never be open minded to anyone who has decided my ethnicity makes me inferior to him.

    Are you talking about the same Unz here? Sure, he’s an ethic Jew, with that bias, but he’s about the fairest-minded person I’ve read. What ethnic bias do you think he has against you or anyone? The only ethnic issue I’ve seen him push is against the obvious Ivy-clannish prejudice of Jews against Asians, but even that was against his own people and very fair and balanced (and righting an injustice).

    I had a thought on TC: he’s done so much TV I wonder if he can ever write a book without his TV stuff tainting it? One of the problems with fame, I guess. I haven’t even read the book and I’m already biased :-).


  4. Elspeth says:

    I’ve poked around Unz once or twice and either really felt like he was making great arguments or was really turned off.

    Then again it could just be the combox that I was reacting to. Or maybe even pieces written by other writers.


  5. nellperkins says:

    Unz is an interesting case. I read his website most every day and he offers a good selection of alternative viewpoints on a wide range of things but he also definitely includes people I would consider old time racist racist-type racists. (As opposed to the professional antiracists who see klansmen lurking under every bed.) So, no, Elspeth, you are not imagining or misremembering it. I wish he would get rid of those jerks.

    As for Tucker Carlson, I shouldn’t say this on the basis of one book because I’ve never even seen his show apart from a view clips on YouTube, but I’m pretty sure that if he ran for president, I’d be delighted to vote for him, just on the basis of Ship of Fools.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. smkoseki says:

    Nell: I read [Unz] website most every day and he offers a good selection of alternative viewpoints on a wide range of things

    Let me be clear my praise refers only to Unz. I have no idea whom all he publishes.

    he also definitely includes people I would consider old time racist racist-type racists.

    Regarding “racists”, however defined, y’all sound like boomers living in an 80% white nation (I think whites are the only race that actively persecutes those with “white pride” while everyone else celebrates their own racial pride). But as whites fade into the minority, Hispanics, American Blacks, Asians, African Blacks, Indians, Jews, etc. take the gloves off, each demanding victim status against the others. Hell, we already have a Hispanic party bluntly called “The Race”. No, we better get used to people being open about their distaste for people other than themselves. My guess is Unz is just ahead of his time, as usual.


  7. Elspeth says:

    @ smk:

    You seem to be assuming that I am defining the word “racism” the way that liberal so-called anti-racists use the word. I thought I had perhaps earned more credit, but okay.

    Nevertheless, when I say “racism”, I was extremely clear in my definition, but I’ll say it again. The idea that a person’s ethnicity makes them inferior to me as a human being is a racist sentiment. Period, End of.

    I can and do acknowledge various differences between ethnic groups. Even in those differences, I think we sometimes place far too much emphasis on those differences and I don’t think they are so different as to imply there are differing species of humans (talk about an anti-Christian view!), but I won’t deny those realities.

    I don’t believe in “white pride” or “black pride” because I don’t subscribe to the notion of “white people” and “black people”. Until very recently that was a uniquely American phenomena, but we’re doing a bang up job of exporting that bastard child.

    But when I meet people from Jamaica or Nigeria or Cuba or Dominican Republic, they don’t identify themselves as “Hispanic”. They say, “I’m Cuban”or “I’m Dominican”. Non-American people of African descent don’t identify as “black”. For them, it’s or “I’m Nigerian”, “I’m Jamaican”, etc.

    And you better not mistakenly call a Cuban a Mexican. Those are damn near fighting words, LOL. Cubans don’t think very highly of Mexicans. But the media is heavily invested in the notion of huge, easily controlled and manipulated groups.

    I feel extremely blessed that my family is a part of a Christian community where the notion of dividing and becoming enemies based on race is anathema to us, and we are a multi-ethnic group.

    As far as “racial pride”, I never cease to amaze at people taking immense pride in something they had absolutely nothing to do with. It’s one thing to keep your heritage alive, to want to keep your progeny connected to where they came from, but as Christians, we feel a strong need to appropriately temper that and subordinate it to the family of Christ.

    And yeah, I know that makes us stupid or whatever, but we’ll take our chances with what we believe is right.

    I wasn’t intending to go there, but the reality is that there are a lot of unpalatble voices over at Unz, and it has nothing to do with me having liberal or naive views about ethnic differences or wanting to deny people the right to discuss or continue their heritages.


  8. Maea says:

    But as whites fade into the minority, Hispanics, American Blacks, Asians, African Blacks, Indians, Jews, etc. take the gloves off, each demanding victim status against the others.

    I had to laugh reading this. Even within racial groups, there are ethnic differences to the point where the “demanding victim status” is worse within the group than it is directed toward whites, because of purity litmus tests.

    Liked by 1 person

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