Sunday, March 12, 2006

WSJ opinion pieces this weekend

It's tempting to connect two dots here really not meant to be connected. But with two opinion pieces coming up back to back in one of America's preeminent joournals it is hard not to couple them in an artificial construct, looking for some ulterior motive.

Yesterday's piece is a suave look at Tom Wolfe, a well-crafted look at a well-crafted subject, with both writers remaining inscrutable. I liked reading it because of how well it resisted a hundred opportunities for cheap shots. And because he used the word atavistic. Twice.

Today's piece is an equally suave recapitualation (and betrayal of) of a T.E. Lawrence theme intended to underscore in a most civil and oblique manner a current political theme, the dangers of sleeping with Arabs.

For years the Wall Street Journal stuck to the knitting, banging out the world's most important paper about business, seasoning it with just enough contemporary awareness of art, culture, pop enterainment and science to give well-connected leaders in high places enough to talk about at social events, but knowing all the while that the real business of the country is business. In recent years, though, there is a keen interest in themes that seem to have no easy connection with business. The paradigm seems to have shifted. In the old day the markets closed for the weekend, nuclear families convened for various bonding activities and other newspapers took over, heavy with coupons, reviews, ads for clothes, cars and real estate, and all the stuff that make consumers salivate.

Imagine a Wall Street Journal the Friday after Thanksgiving, fat with color ads kicking off the holiday retail season and too heavy to tote. The image doesn't work. That's not what they do, is it? Not really.

But the Journal does aim to shape public opinion in a manner keeping American business -- and yes, politics -- on the rails. Here is the part that set me to thinking. This is where the dots are not supposed to come together. A requisite glance at our own situation, seen through the smart, observant, ultimately forgiving eyes of Tom Wolf, is followed by a tart assessment of those sneaky magnates over there in the Middle East, awash with petro-dollars, keeping them all the themselves in a hedonistic and speculative economic bubble that will ultimately burst. Bang! Tulip bulbs all over the place!

The piece opens and ends with the same dark omen, stated twice lest the reader miss the point...

Are today's Arab day-traders tomorrow's al Qaeda terrorists? [The sub-title...]


It's not hard to imagine Islamists capitalizing on a future bust with denunciations of stock-market gambling. Some of today's young Arab day-traders could well turn into tomorrow's al Qaeda recruits. [The last two lines.]

What we have here is spin. Political and social spin. To coin a phrase, some of us know who T.E.Lawrence was, sir, and what he stood for. And you are no T.E.Lawrence.

Any questions?

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