In his latest book, Not Cool: The Hipster Elite and Their War on You, Greg Gutfeld, host of Fox News Channel’s "Red Eye" and co-host of "The Five," posits that Americans are facing an onslaught of beliefs and attitudes that many people find offensive or laughable.
To set the tone of the book, Gutfeld calls the book’s directory the Table of Dis-Contents (emphasis his). The introduction tells the reader that life is like high school with its assorted cliques. The quest to be cool has not escaped many of our “classmates.”
Who are the cool? According to Gutfeld, they are the ones who want to control how others think. The cool are the ones who complain. The uncool are the ones who create businesses ad keep the economy going. He sums up his thesis this way: “The moral bankruptcy of the cool makes evil attractive and the decency boring.”
Like books by other right-leaning authors, all of the usual villains are present: aging hippy college professors, student protestors, vacuous celebrities and, of course, the mainstream media. Gutfeld gives each group its own chapter and gives the reader numerous example of the way they lord over the culture. Although Gutfeld leans to the right, he is more of a Libertarian with little, if any, belief in God.
One of the most interesting examples he provides is the way the ruling elite come out of the woodwork to eulogize dead tyrants. When Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez died in 2013, actor Sean Penn said: “Today the people of the United States lost a friend it never knew it had. And poor people around the country [Venezuela] lost a champion. Gutfeld argues that, under Chavez, the people of Venezuela became poorer. Even film director Michael Moore chimed in on Twitter to praise Chavez. His brilliant tweets used numerals to substitute for words such as 2 for “to” and 4 instead of “for.”
Not Cool compares the outpouring of accolades for Hugo Chavez with the contempt heaped on former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, who died a few weeks after Chavez. Gutfeld notes that many of those who were the most vocal in cheering Thatcher’s passing were college students who were too young to remember the Iron Lady’s tenure. A pro-Thatcher celebrity such as one of the Spice Girls (whose name was forgotten by Gutfeld) was subjected to vulgar attacks on social media.
While political differences will always elicit passionate responses on both sides of an issue, Gutfeld provides numerous examples of outrageous, and often illegal, behavior that is applauded. Mumia Abu-Jamal was convicted of killing Philadelphia police officer Daniel Faulkner in the early 1980s. Since then, he has been a liberal cause celebre with many in Hollywood proclaiming his innocence.
To show how things have worsened, Gutfeld brings up Christopher Dorner, a homicidal maniac who led police on a chase through the California mountains became a touchstone for the cool elite. Gutfeld observes that when it came to Abu-Jamal and others like him “it took some time for leftists to lionize these thugs. Now it happens in real time before the guy’s apprehended. ...Why wait until they get to death row, when you can be the first on your block to proclaim the innocence of a murderer. About these morons who cheerlead death and murderers: It’s really never about the killer. It’s about attaching themselves to a cause that separates them from others -- that elevates them above the plebes who don’t see the coolness of rooting for a thug.”
Gutfeld’s book is unlikely to win over any converts. His fans will find themselves simultaneously nodding in agreement and laughing aloud. He also pokes fun at his co-hosts on The Five as well as competitors at CNN and MSNBC. His humor ranges from self-deprecating to ribald. He overuses parenthetical asides to add to jokes that can stand on their own.
Public relations professionals should read this book to see what is dominating the so-called “national conversation.” It is a mosaic of what passes for knowledge, debate and a hierarchy of values. This book will not solve any major crises, but its exposition of how certain “cool” beliefs become dominant is valuable.
* * *
Kevin P. McVicker is account supervisor with Shirley & Banister Public Affairs in Alexandria, VA.