Daniel Henninger’s Wonderland column in the Wall Street Journal is aptly named. A scan of his recent columns shows that he’s so far down the rabbit hole he may never reemerge. Or maybe he’ll emerge as a high priest or grand dragon or whatever QAnon decides to call its clergy when it get around to regularizing a hierarchy.
His latest column surveys the first (and I hope last) Trump-Biden debate with feigned superiority to it all, slowly driveling its way to the conclusion that an undecided voter witnessing that show might well decide to vote for Trump out of shock—shock!—that Biden would have told the president of United States to “shut up.”
Here we have the definitive demonstration of something we have all known for a long time—something the stellar financial and general news reporters and analysts at the Wall Street Journal have known and passionately but ineffectually protested: the editorializing and opinionating side of that venerable newspaper is nothing more than Fox News for the wealthy and would-be wealthy, the brilliantly successful Manhattan cell of the more broadly failed Trumpist infiltration of the Fifth Estate. Like Mark Studdock, the lost-soul hired NICE propagandist in C.S. Lewis’s That Hideous Strength, the Trumpist bloviating and obfuscating corps knows how to thrill the masses with Libaughean belches and underarm farts, but it also knows how to tickle the more refined fancies of the educated mammonists with superficially erudite jabbing, innoculating, insinuating, and misdirecting of the sort so virtuosically performed in Henninger’s vile little essay.
“Will you shut up, man?” was the most honest and justified, truthful yet remarkably restrained sentence in that whole disgraceful farce. Biden responded to Trump’s Westonian nattering (for that adjective you’ll need to have read Lewis’s Perelandra) with anger, but without being engulfed in the rage that the demon energizing Trump hoped to provoke. Being plainspoken, he eschewed (I hope you appreciate my juxtaposition of “plainspoken” and “eschewed”) the alternative option of we-go-high virtue signaling and straightforwardly named the elephant turd on the stage: having spent four years demonstrating, for the edification or condemnation (their choice) of his Christian followers, his preternaturally comprehensive emptiness of ἀγάπη, χαρὰ, εἰρήνη, μακροθυμία, χρηστότης, ἀγαθωσύνη, πίστις, and πραΰτης, Trump now, for his (please God) grand finale, in his own version of a concluding fireworks display (to unveiled senses a dumpster explosion), was now performing the ultimate absence of the final pneumatic fruit, a virtue as admired by wise pagans of St. Paul’s day as by God-fearing Jews and Christians to this day: ἐγκράτεια.
For the interpretation of this one you don’t need CS Lewis, just the Letter to the Galatians. Yes, the same letter in which the founder of inspired Christian literature exclaims: “You Galatian fools, who has bewitched you?!” This is the elephant deposit that was stinking up the stage: Trump has no self-control. And Biden, God bless him, does: the quiet triumph of the evening was his omission of two words a normal 2020 English-speaking mortal would have used between “shut” and “up.”
The WSJ bloviators and obfuscators probably know all that as well as you and I but for reasons best known (? or perhaps not) to themselves prefer to dissemble. Hey, Daniel Henninger: I don’t suppose you would consider shutting . . . oh, never mind.