“Blues Cruise”

You may have heard of the recent trend of what might be called ‘intellectual cruises’ which are pretty much your standard cruises for those who like that sort of thing and can afford it except that instead of (or in addition to) the usual entertainments provided, one gets to hobnob with writers and political operatives, by having a different one at your table at mealtimes or attending seminars and panel discussions or just mingling with them at social events.

Those with left-wing politics can go on a cruise sponsored by The Nation magazine while those with right-wing politics have one sponsored by the National Review. Joe Hagan attended the latter and wrote about his experience for the magazine New York.

The Caribbean cruise began on November 11 and it had clearly been anticipated as a rollicking celebration of Mitt Romney’s victory over the Communist usurper, so the mood was somber and filled with bitter recriminations as to how things could have gone so badly wrong, who was to blame for what was seen as an electoral fiasco, and paranoid fantasies about the disaster they felt was imminent.

This was a phenomenon that was common on the cruise—the conservative pundits and columnists from the National Review attempting to gently disinter their followers from unhelpful conservative propaganda. For people who believe in the truth of works like Dreams From My Real Father, a conspiracy-­theory documentary that argues that Obama’s real father was a communist propagandist who turned Obama into a socialist Manchurian Candidate, this could be difficult work.

Hagan provides some nice vignettes about the people who joined the cruise.

The crowd was noticeably older, a retirement crowd in ­vacation-wardrobe colors, with flashes of the idiosyncratic: a one-eyed man in retro Yves Saint Laurent glasses and a sixtysomething blonde in gold-lamé pants. Ralph Reed, resplendent in a blazer and billowing pleated pants, held court among his fans. “I did my job!” I overheard him say.

A few took the opportunity to grouse to me about their liberal children, who seemed to bring them genuine disappointment and confusion.

I met a man near the railing who was there as a caregiver for a 70-year-old National Review cruiser from Palm Desert, California. He was gay and seemingly liberal and had come on the cruise only to push his boss around in a wheelchair. As he smoked a cigarette, he recounted a conversation the two had about the ship’s largely Indonesian and Filipino staff.

BOSS: You notice none of the workers are white.

CAREGIVER: Except the managers upstairs.

BOSS: Well, that’s the way it should be.

Indeed, that sense of fear was everywhere on the ship, fear of an impending debt crisis that would crush all fortunes, fear that the Anglo majority was now marginal for the first time in their adult lives, fear that the country the cruisers once knew had fully given way to something more … diverse, foreign, incomprehensible.

It is an amusing piece about the anxieties of the one-percenters, especially if you enjoy schadenfreude.