AsyntacticSeptember 6, 2022 Culture
My former colleague at Wheaton College, Alan Jacobs, now a professor at Baylor University in Waco, Texas, is without question the most widely-read and brilliant man I’ve ever known. There is virtually no intellectual discipline on which he cannot speak with remarkable insight. I’m sure he’d blush (and protest) to hear me say that. In any case, on November 30 of this year he wrote a blog article (http://blog.ayjay.org/) about our President. The title caught my eye: Asyntactic. Here is what he had to say.
Trump is not inarticulate, though people often say that. Rather, he is hyperarticulate in the mode that used to be called “garrulous.” Words constantly emerge from his mouth, and he clearly likes saying them and believes that his eloquence flows; but his words flow in the way that debris floats down a swollen stream, quickly or slowly spinning, drifting, knocking into one another, getting caught on overhanging branches, submerging and then popping again into view.
Trump is not inarticulate, he is asyntactic. “Syntax” means to arrange together, and Trump’s utterances have no discernible arrangement, and possess no unity. Consider the passage — but of course you could choose almost anything he says — this passage:
One of the problems that a lot of people like myself — we have very high levels of intelligence, but we’re not necessarily such believers. You look at our air and our water, and it’s right now at a record clean. But when you look at China and you look at parts of Asia and when you look at South America, and when you look at many other places in this world, including Russia, including — just many other places — the air is incredibly dirty … if you go back and if you look at articles, they talked about global freezing, they talked about at some point the planets could have freeze to death, then it’s going to die of heat exhaustion. There is movement in the atmosphere. There’s no question. As to whether or not it’s man-made and whether or not the effects that you’re talking about are there, I don’t see it.
He doesn’t see it — he doesn’t see the relations among events: cause and effect, ground and consequent, subject and object. To this asyntactic mind the world itself is asyntactic, just one damned thing after another, and the only means he has to distinguish among those things is to ask whether they please or displease him.