Glossary: Key memes, counterfactuals, dog whistles, canards, euphemisms, innuendoes, insinuations, fake outrages, and obsessions in GOP language factories and fever swamps, June 12-20, 2018

America First–European edition

rhetorical claim: ideas basic to the European project that Mr. Trump categorically rejects include believing 1) that the future will be one of interdependent, postnationalist states engaged in win-win trade; 2) that military power will become less relevant as progress marches on., and, 3) that international law and international institutions can, should or will dominate international life. Individual nation-states will remain, in Mr. Trump’s view, the dominant geopolitical force.

Mr. Trump therefore thinks the EU’s political establishment is just as blind and misguided as they believe he is. He thinks Europe is making itself steadily weaker and less relevant in international life, and that Vladimir Putin’s view of the world is almost infinitely more clear-eyed and rational than Angela Merkel’s.

rhetorical effect: The distillation of the idea that foreign policy is driven only by self-interest. This argument about ideals vs. realism goes back at least to Thucydides, with the realists almost always coming out the worst.  A perfect storm is brewing in the Atlantic. In personality and in style, Mr. Trump represents almost everything Europeans dislike most about American life. He is even more abrasive when it comes to matters of substance. The Trumpian mix of zero-sum trade policy, hard-nosed foreign-policy realism, and skepticism about Europe’s future leads him to think of Europe as both a weak partner and an unreliable one. Small wonder, then, that virtually every encounter between Mr. Trump and his European counterparts leaves the relationship under greater strain.

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affirmative action bias

rhetorical claim: In the upside-down thinking of affirmative-action advocates, academically rigorous schools should be more focused on achieving racial balance and less focused on maintaining high standards. Asian displays of academic excellence therefore become problematic. Asians are somehow to blame for outperforming others, and they are to be punished for the historical injustices that blacks suffered at the hands of whites. This is what happens when you try to reconcile what is irreconcilable: group preferences on the one hand and equal treatment of individuals on the other.

rhetorical effect: justifies racially segregated schools, the privatization of public education, and the destruction of teachers’ unions.

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foreign policy “experts”

rhetorical claim: thank God Trump isn’t a foreign policy “expert.”. Our increasingly miseducated rulers sought abstract impossibilities, the quest for “everlasting peace” over the last century has increasingly given us “never-ending war.” As Matthew Peteron argues:

Does Donald Trump have enough experience and expert wisdom to give away as much to North Korea as the American foreign-policy establishment, with all its experience, top-shelf degrees, and stratospheric test scores, has given away in the past 30 years?

Does Donald Trump have enough experience and expert wisdom to keep the hostile stalemate the American foreign-policy establishment created and fostered with North Korea since America first waged the Korean War?

For that matter, does Trump even have the experience and caste of mind to start a war, say, in the Middle East, that costs trillions of dollars and disrupts and inflames the region as President Bush and his entourage did? Does he even know how?

Does Trump have the expertise to take over the wreckage of such a war and support jihadist rebels, help create ISIS and a global refugee crisis, and give Russia the most power it’s had in the region since the peak of the Cold War, like Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton did?

The truth may alarm you. Trump has never even started a war before—not even a little one.

Trump understands the other guy better, and read and dealt with him personally and politically, without the baggage of the silly and contradictory views of human nature absorbed by our elites at fancy schools and exposed in their hollow rhetoric.

rhetorical effect: belittles education and experience in foreign policy; makes Trump out to be an agent of peace whereas he is antagonizing almost every other country; lumps together apples, oranges and bananas (North Korea, ISIS, Russia)  in a crazy rhetorical salad

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a special place in hell

betrayal

rhetorical claim: Justin Trudeau’s betrayal of America on trade has earned him a special place in hell.

rhetorical effect: reinforces Trump’s “you’re either for me or against me”, winner-take- all siege mentality. Crisis is his brand, and he’s always under fire from “enemies” eager to “betray” him, any opposition no branded as a “betrayal” in this total war mentality. As Thomas Friedman argues, this idea that Canada is now an enemy

tells you all you need to know about how differently Trump looks at the world from any of his predecessors — Republican or Democrat. Everything is a transaction: What have you done for ME today? The notion of America as the upholder of last resort of global rules and human rights — which occasionally forgoes small economic advantages to strengthen democratic societies so we can enjoy the much larger benefits of a world of healthy, free-market democracies — is over.

“Trump’s America does not care,” historian Robert Kagan wrote in The Washington Post. “It is unencumbered by historical memory. It recognizes no moral, political or strategic commitments. It feels free to pursue objectives without regard to the effect on allies or, for that matter, the world. It has no sense of responsibility to anything beyond itself.”

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sitting up at attention

rhetorical claim: Trump on Kim Jong-un: “He speaks, and his people sit up at attention. I want my people to do the same.”

rhetorical effect: reveals Trump’s true aim: to become an autocractic dictator. He subsequently said this was a “joke,” which it is, in a Freudian way of giving away the game–revealing all in a thinly-veiled way. Americans do indeed need to “sit up at attention” when it comes to Trump’s further tyrannous maneuvers, lies and policies designed to criminalize debate and dissent.

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infest

rhetorical claim: America is being infested my immigrants who may well be murderers, gang members, rapists or whatever.

rhetorical effect: best explained by David Leonhardt of the New York Times:

continues his ugly pattern of describing illegal immigrants as subhuman. And “infest” is particularly stark, because it suggests that immigrants are akin to insects or rats — an analogy that Nazis frequently used to describe Jews, as Aviya Kushner notes in The Forward.
On the same subject, Slate’s Jamelle Bouie predicts that Trump’s dehumanizing language “will only get worse as November approaches.” Bouie adds: “To energize its voters, the White House plans a campaign of vicious demagoguery.”

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tender age facilities

rhetorical claim: the Trump administration has had to set up “tender age” facilities to house babies and infants who were being illegally smuggled into the US.

rhetorical effect: justifies what Jennifer Rubin calls:

moral madness, a betrayal of universal human values that marks the lowest point in the Trump presidency — or any presidency since the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II.

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bias

insubordination

rhetorical claim: the DOJ’s Inspector General’s report clearly shows anti-Trump bias and insubordination by James Comey and various investigators. It shows beyond any doubt that the DOJ was out to clear Hilary and fame Trump. The entire Hilary e-mail investigation and the entire Mueller investigation must themselves be investigated by a Special Counsel

rhetorical effect: a hall-of-mirrors: let’s investigate the investigation of the investigation. Similarly to Benghazi, this Clinton derangement syndrome will never go away. Anyone opposed to Trump is by definition both biased and insubordinate (see “sitting up.” above.)

Glossary: Key memes, counterfactuals, dog whistles, canards, euphemisms, innuendoes, insinuations, fake outrages, and obsessions in GOP language factories and fever swamps, June 7-11, 2018

very dishonest

rhetorical claim: Justin Trudeau betrayed America at the G-7 summit, and is a very dishonest person.

rhetorical effect: as usual, Trump accuses others of committing his own sins.

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cost-benefit analysis

overregulation

rhetorical claim: Barack Obama’s Environmental Protection Agency jammed through an average of 565 new rules each year of his Presidency, imposing the highest regulatory costs of any agency. It pulled off this regulatory spree in part by gaming cost-benefit analysis to downplay the consequences of its major environmental rules. The Trump Administration has already rolled back some of this overregulation, and now Administrator Scott Pruitt wants to stop the EPA’s numerical shenanigans, too.

rhetorical effect: “overregulation” is the new definition of all Obama-era regulation. Costs and benefits have now reversed position: what used to be called long-term social cost is now seen as a benefit; any inconvenient outcome or side effect is no longer factored into “scientific” assessment, so that negative consequences are no longer recognized at all.

America First

rhetorical claim: America will no longer be taken advantage of in trade deals. ‘”America First” means a return to American greatness and economic dominance. In a commencement address at the Naval Academy last month, President Trump told the graduates: “Winning is such a great feeling, isn’t it? Winning is such a great feeling. Nothing like winning — you got to win.” He later repeated the idea: “Victory, winning, beautiful words, but that is what it is all about.”

rhetorical effect: a post-multilateral, Darwinian world in which trade is transactional and predatory and America uses its size advantage to bully the rest of the world. The US will no longer have friends, just temporary alliances. Effects include: disruption of the global supply chain, confusion, increasing Chinese influence in the world economy, possible inflation, and a view of international infrastructure projects as wasteful spending. As Ruth Marcus put it in the Washington Post:

To him, none of the benefits of the post-World War II international architecture matter. It’s about his pride, his demand for attention, his ability to create havoc — and if he needs to take a wrecking ball to the Western alliance to convince himself he’s smarter than all his predecessors, he’ll not think twice about it.

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letting Trump be Trump

draining the swamp

MAGA

rhetorical claim: Trump being Trump is upsetting a lot of people, and the more he drains the swamp and makes America Great Again, the angrier and more desperate liberals get.

rhetorical effect: chaos, demoralization, the breakdown of the rule of law and  rules-based foreign policies, the end of civil liberties, and the entire repeal of the New Deal. As argued by Chauncy DeVega:

This is a version of what philosopher Hans Sluga has described as Donald Trump’s “empire of disorientation.” It is one of the most powerful outputs of the malignant reality that Donald Trump and other authoritarians have cast upon the land like dark mages.

Many people have been left exhausted and sickened by Trump’s lies and chaos, and by the anti-democratic agenda that has been so quickly normalized. But for his supporters this conjuring is a type of glamour where the gullible and desperate, the self-interested and mercenary, are made to believe that there will be a restoration of a mythic, glorious American past in the present which will somehow last for all time. This offers Trump and his followers a type of immortality by proxy. But despite the promises these grand designs are usually not very durable; they crumble; Adolf Hitler’s “thousand-year Reich” only lasted 12 years….

Historian Nancy MacLean explained this in a conversation with me for Salon last year:

In this Koch-donor dream, we are all responsible for ourselves from the cradle to the grave, unless there is a charity that happens to take an interest in us. We do not have federal laws to outlaw pollution or to prevent discrimination. Instead we trust everything to the free market and private property. This cause has pitted itself against the whole American model of 20th-century government. Regulation of food and drugs, the New Deal’s federal support for workers to organize and hold corporations accountable, the civil rights movement, the women’s and the environmental movements, all of these things are illegitimate in the eyes of these people on the right…

In an interview during the 2016 presidential campaign Donald Trump said that his effort to “Make America Great Again” would return the country to the 1940s and 1950s. This is a “Leave it to Beaver” American Whiteopia, which was also a nightmare for anyone who was not a straight white man. In reality, this was an era of Jim Crow white supremacy when women were treated as second-class citizens and gays, lesbians and transgender people were stigmatized as being “mentally ill,” “deviants” or “predators.”

But Trump’s “empire of disorientation” and its co-conspirators in the American right would be happy to bring America back much farther than to a mythic version of the 1950s or 1940s. They yearn to re-create the 19th-century Gilded Age, when there were few if any limits on the ruinous behavior of big business and the rich.

If Trump and his allies were to fully get their way, America could perhaps even be returned to the 19th century. A second Confederate States of America would be inaugurated where in its updated 21st-century version nonwhites — especially blacks — would “know their place,” women would be “properly submissive,” there would be no unions or labor laws, gays and lesbians would disappear back into the closet, right-wing Christianity would supersede secular laws and white men would rule for all time because that was and is “the natural order of things.”

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post-identity politics

rhetorical claim: the Trump era means we have entered a phase of post-identity politics. People can no longer expect to have an unfair advantage because they are women,  minorities or refugees or whatever. Political correctness is dead, and white people won’t be discriminated against any more.

rhetorical effect: obscures the fact that considering yourself white is itself a form of identity politics, a certain privileging. Rhetorically transforming whites from being oppressors to victims it itself a form of oppression

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politicization

rhetorical claim: As explained by Daniel Henninger:

The people who voted for Hillary still claim to be shocked and stunned that an electorate beaten down by the politicization of everything in life voted for the guy who makes a mockery of all that.

Donald Trump is a showman, who has been playing the media like a Stradivarius his whole life. Now he’s got Twitter, his own loud calliope.

In 2016, his Republican primary opponents didn’t recognize that we are living in an age of bread and circuses, an age Donald Trump didn’t create but into which he inserted his own circus. Curiosity seekers filled the tent and loved the show.

The sophisticates in the media thought they could beat Donald Trump at this game by burying him under waves of negative publicity. But he feeds off of it, just as he turned the Philadelphia Eagles’ White House no-show into a display of patriotic music, with the maestro at the center.

Now, fantastically, some Democrats are complaining that they can’t get their message out (the tax cut didn’t work, Medicare for all) because Donald Trump has blotted out the media sun. Gee whiz, whose fault is that?

The eclipse won’t end. The media has turned the Trump presidency into a phenomenon of constant self-absorption — their self-absorption in this one person. Donald Trump has become the biggest balloon in a political Macy’s parade of modern media’s own creation. They could let go of the ropes. But they won’t.

rhetorical effect: sarcastically blaming the media “sophisticates” for Trump’s bombast and constant dishonesty is classic turn-the-tables reframing or reversal of fact and truth, or transformation of presumption. . There is a difference between politicizing to make a moral point or an ethical argument and politicizing just to “win” at any cost, without any moral or ethical basis. Trump lacks an ethos.

Blame shifting would likely be the best term that covers this rhetorical sleight-of-hand. It is a rhetorical technique as old as leadership. Although often used to shift blame to scapegoats it could be used against your opponent as well. Such types of rhetoric are not new they were well practiced in ancient Rome. The four fundamental elements of all classical rhetoric were.

  • Addition (adiectio), also called repetition/expansion/superabundance
  • Omission (detractio), also called subtraction/abridgement/lack
  • Transposition (transmutatio), also called transferring
  • Permutation (immutatio), also called switching / interchange / substitution / transmutation

Language in the Age of Trump is a constant act of reversing known and observable reality, a kind of verbal conjuring in which all compass points are obliterated and everyone is thus perpetually disoriented and cut off from dependable, representational language.

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supplication

rhetorical claim: Mr. Trump has understood better than his predecessors that the U.S. can be in the strong position if it wants to be. His predecessors made themselves supplicants to the Kim family, much as the Obama administration made itself a supplicant to Iran. They put themselves in the position of begging an adversary not to take steps that would require the U.S. to carry out its threats.

rhetorical effect: Turns any attempt to compromise with North Korea or offer them incentives to an act of surrender, appeasement, supplication. Curiously enough, this is exactly what Trump ended up doing anyway: offering them everything and getting nothing in return.

Glossary: Key memes, counterfactuals, dog whistles, canards, euphemisms, innuendoes, insinuations, fake outrages, and obsessions in GOP language factories and fever swamps, May 27-June 6, 2018

the art of the deal

rhetorical claim: Trump was elected because he understands the art of the deal, and he is practicing it at the highest level now with North Korea and Iran.

rhetorical effect: Trump only understands the art of the con, as best explicated by Maureen Dowd:

Trump voters allowed themselves to believe they had a successful billionaire who knew the art of the deal when he only knew the art of the con. They bought his seductive campaign narrative, that the system was rigged and corrupt and only he could fix it. After winning by warning voters they were being suckered, he’s made them all suckers.

More depressingly, consider this further warning from Dowd, citing John Lanier, the father of virtual reality:

“We don’t believe in government,” he says. “A lot of people are pissed at media. They don’t like education. People who used to think the F.B.I. was good now think it’s terrible. With all of these institutions the subject of ridicule, there’s nothing — except Skinner boxes and con artists.”

Trump’s aggression has no strategy–it’s all just pure psychology–playing to his base. The art of the deal is a Darwinian, winner-take-all method, and needs an enemy to rhetorically prevail by stoking resentment. Never mind that the President’s “base” should be the entire American populace, but non-supporters aren’t part of “the deal”.

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meddling

rhetorical claim: As Donald Trump tweets,

The 13 Angry Democrats (plus people who worked 8 years for Obama) working on the rigged Russia Witch Hunt, will be MEDDLING with the mid-term elections, especially now that Republicans (stay tough!) are taking the lead in Polls,” Trump wrote on Twitter. “There was no Collusion, except by the Democrats!”

rhetorical effect: any attacks on Trump or charges of collusion or obstruction of justice are reduced to being cynical political meddling with elections: opposition is thus equated with subversion.

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the media is working overtime

rhetorical claim: the lyin’, dishonest media is working overtime to spread anti-Trump lies, conspiracy theories and witch hunts

rhetorical effect: simply doing their job gets transformed into working overtime to concoct and maintain conspiracy theories. Any negative story is thus tarred as part of this all-encompassing conspiracy in which everyone works tirelessly to overthrow the government. This conspiracy theory is in reality nothing more than a self-fulfilling prophecy, and cannot be proven false. Also, Fox News is never accused of “working overtime” (meaning propagandizing) to malign the Dems.

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the carnivores of civil liberties

rhetorical claim: The Democratic Party, the investigative media, and liberalism itself are now weirdly on the side of the reactionary administrative state. They have either downplayed or excused Watergate-like abuses of power by the former Barack Obama Administration. They have become the carnivores, rather than the protectors, of civil liberties.

rhetorical effect: legitimizes the false Deep State Spygate narratives–totally manufactured out of one part paranoia and two parts Orwellian inversions of words and concepts such as civil liberties. The very liberty to challenge Trump is at stake, and the right to free speech is at stake. Note the dependable rhetorical tactic of table-turning: it’s purportedly the Dems, not Trump’s protectors, who are abusing power and being “reactionary.”

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left-liberal moral triumphalism

rhetorical claim: as explained by the WSJ’s Daniel Heninger:

The late 1960s saw the beginning of left-liberal moral triumphalism. The opposition was no longer just wrong. It was morally suspect. For a new generation of Democrats, which increasingly included the theretofore politically neutral press, the Vietnam War was opposed as, simply, “a bright shining lie.”

A kind of political religiosity infused matters of sex, race and even foreign policy, and pushed the parties apart. The 1968 Kerner Commission Report on the urban riots in 1965-67 announced that America was “moving toward two societies.”

Some 10 years later, inevitably, the religious right emerged. And here we are today, fractured by politics and technology into myriad cultural subsets of separations that began in 1968. The Trump divide was a long time coming.

rhetorical effect: a morally triumphalist denunciation of liberal moral triumphalism. While purporting to be neutral and bi-partisan by hearkening back to a supposed national consensus on civil rights, it actually blames the left for our current political dysfunction. Reducing equal rights, sexual autonomy, equal justice, and peace abroad into matters of “political religiosity,” belittles them as lockstep groupthink, as if liberals are a zombie cult of robotic true believers.

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we’re all racially-prejudiced

post-racial society

I’m not a racist

rhetorical claim: We are living in a post-racial society where everyone has an equal opportunity to succeed. Minorities have no one but themselves to blame for their lack of success. I’m personally not a racist, and feel that I’ve been discriminated against by affirmative action “rules.”

rhetorical effect:  denies the existence of systemic racism; creates false equivalencies between oppression of blacks and affirmative action denying whites their rights, allowing whites to claim they are the real victims of racism.  As Ted Thornhill, a Sociology Professor,  explains,

I think it’s predicated on their way of producing these false equivalencies. Many people, especially those who are harassing professors like myself, believe that racism, first of all, is not a structural phenomenon. It’s something that is limited to the level of thoughts and beliefs and attitudes. By me titling the course “White Racism,” I’m being very blunt in making a claim that you white folks and your ancestors and your white-controlled institutions are responsible for the gross differences and social outcomes between whites and folks of color. That’s just too direct for them to stomach.

One of the most salient things that I’ve learned so far from this experience is that we’ve had these courses called “Systemic Racism” and “Race and Class in American Culture” and “Race and Ethnic Relations” in sociology and other disciplines for a long time. It must be the case that these people who are protesting my class must be thinking that those courses were not focused on systemic racism and that they were simply focusing on this idea that we are all racially prejudiced. “You’re bad, I’m bad. We should all just be kind to one another and the world would be a better place.”

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ordered liberty

rhetorical claim: Republicans believe that America is a great nation, and wants to preserve and continue its experiment in ordered liberty, limited government, and free market capitalism.  Democrats think America is a racist and sexist country that can only be “fixed” by socialism.

rhetorical effect: uses euphemisms to obscure the effects of what it is claiming: that liberty must be “ordered” (by whom? under what criteria?); that government must be “limited” (again, bu whom?), and that the free market trumps everything. This sounds like a recipe for American ideals, but is really the game plan for American corporate fascism.

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social justice identity politics

rhetorical claim: climate change is no longer a pre-eminent policy issue. All that remains is boilerplate rhetoric from the political class, frivolous nuisance lawsuits, and bureaucratic mandates on behalf of special-interest renewable-energy rent seekers. Judged by deeds rather than words, most national governments are backing away from forced-marched decarbonization. You can date the arc of climate change as a policy priority from 1988, when highly publicized congressional hearings first elevated the issue, to 2018. President Trump’s ostentatious withdrawal from the Paris Agreement merely ratified a trend long becoming evident. The descent of climate change into the abyss of social-justice identity politics represents the last gasp of a cause that has lost its vitality. Climate alarm is like a car alarm—a blaring noise people are tuning out.

rhetorical effect: a rhetorical coup, posing as a triumphalist victory. Turns the tables by claiming that environmentalists are the ones who removed the science in climate change theory and politicized it. Also undercuts any hope of international agreements on climate change or any consensus on whether it exists or can or should be mitigated.

 

Glossary: Key memes, counterfactuals, dog whistles, canards, euphemisms, innuendoes, insinuations, fake outrages, and obsessions in The Wall Street Journal and other GOP language factories and fever swamps, May 20-26, 2018

civilizational struggle

rhetorical claim: Trump is conducting a civilizational struggle against the Deep State, waves of foreign invaders, elitist environmental activists, activists judges, trial lawyers, and redistributionists who would rob real Americans of their income. They criticize the validity and relevance of everything Trump does and says.

rhetorical effect: with no less than civilization at stake, every Trump policy and action becomes a blow for good against evil, and opposition becomes both subversive and futile. There is no room for individual freedom or civil society in an apocalyptic world. It is a Hobbesian universe of winner-take all. Everyone must take sides. This is where Trump’s betrayal narrative–always needing fresh scapegoats– merges with his messianic narrative–“only I can fix it”.

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witch hunt

rhetorical claim: the entire Mueller probe is a witch hunt because there is no collusion and the only “obstruction” Trump has committed is fighting back against false charges.

rhetorical effect: the tweet is father to the deed: just calling it a witch hunt creates the perception that it is a witch hunt.  As explained by Virginia Heffernan:

When word and deed become one — when speaking is acting — we are often in the presence of what philosophers of language call “performative speech acts ,” as opposed to “constatives.” Part of what’s so disorienting about Trump is that he uses speech in a relentlessly performative way.

Constatives are utterances that describe the world, and are responsive to fact-checking. Performatives, by contrast, are a show, and when you utter them, you enact — rather than describe — something in the world. Performatives are a subset of speech acts such as orders, threats, promises, and warnings.

It’s pointless to fact-check an order. “Shut up,” for example, is neither true nor false

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economic patriotism

rhetorical claim: MAGA translates into economic patriotism: putting American business interests first to check the unrestrained virus of globalist elites turning the world a single neo-liberal market.

rhetorical effect: sanctions and routinizes kleptocracy, nepotism, consumer fraud, and labor busting. The channeling of state resources to favorable businesses becomes routine, and the watering-down, non-enforcement or outright elimination of all regulatory laws somehow comes to be branded as “patriotic.” More idiotic than patriotic.

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tax cut stimulus

rhetorical claim: the 2017 tax cuts have  created unprecedented economic prosperity for the American people, with an average of $3,200 going right into the pockets of the taxpayers.

rhetorical effect: this is a vast statistical lie, designed to cover over some inconvenient facts:

1. one-time bonuses–the political stunt many companies have pulled– are not nearly as long-lasting as permanent pay increases.

2. wage growth has been anemic since the tax cuts.

3. since the cuts, companies have spent record amounts of money buying back their own stock, and thus rewarding shareholders. They are not sharing the wealth with employees.

4. the tax cuts are creating larger deficits than expected, and these deficits are now being used as a pretext for cutting spending on the poor.

5.the tax cuts remain unpopular, and many Republicans have ceased campaigning on them.

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Spygate

rhetorical claim: Just a few days after a weekend Twitter meltdown that featured a call for the Department of Justice to investigate whether the FBI “infiltrated” his campaign for political purposes, President Trump on Tuesday night and Wednesday morning fired off another torrent of tweets about the same subject. He even decided on a nickname–Spygate–which he says could be one of the biggest political scandals of all time. He tweeted that it could be “bigger than Watergate!” , and blamed on the Deep State. Then it was the “all time biggest political scandal!” While fielding questions from reporters Tuesday afternoon, he said “it would make probably every political event ever look like small potatoes.”

rhetorical effect: More fake Trumpian situational outrage. Covers over the fact that there is no spying and that the use of an informant is standard DOJ operating policy. Not to mention the fact that the Deep State is a unicorn–it doesn’t actually exist, as explained by Gideon Rachman:

The Trump world’s accusations about a “deep state” plot to destroy the president are now increasing in volume, with the revelation that the FBI used an informant to probe connections between the Trump campaign and Russia. Mr Trump himself has greeted this news as further confirmation of an establishment plot to undermine him. But the fact that a theory is popular does not make it true. There is no evidence that the FBI, nor the “deep state”, was intent on destroying the Trump campaign. On the contrary, the FBI director, James Comey, did Mr Trump a favour by publicly re-opening an inquiry into Hillary Clinton’s mishandling of official emails — while keeping quiet about FBI suspicions of links between the Russian state and the Trump campaign. The fact that an FBI informant was probing evidence of these links is not, as Mr Trump would have it, the “all time biggest political scandal”. It is exactly what an intelligence service should be doing.

The “deep state” controversy may be phony. But it is still significant. For it reveals the extent to which paranoid fantasy has now entered the mainstream of American political discourse — fanned by the president himself. The theory that there is a “deep state” behind the scenes manipulating politicians and controlling the course of events is traditionally most prevalent in countries that are poorer than the US, with lower levels of education and weaker democratic traditions.

In places like Turkey, Pakistan, Egypt, Thailand and Indonesia, the notion of a deep state is far from fanciful. All these countries have experienced military coups (sometimes repeatedly) when the armed forces moved against elected politicians. Those scarring experiences leave a legacy of fear about the connections between business, the military and the intelligence services. That kernel of justified suspicion often then creates a political culture, in countries such as Turkey, in which conspiracy theories are rife — something that is corrosive of the trust in institutions that is crucial to a functioning democracy. It should not need saying, but American political traditions are very different from those of Turkey or Pakistan. The US has no history of military coups. And America has an entrenched tradition of an independent civil service that obeys the law and the constitution.

The Trump administration’s problems come not from an insidious, undemocratic ‘Deep State’ but simply from the state — the large, complex hive of people and procedures that constitute the US federal government.

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great-power competition

rhetorical claim: There is a crisis of European weakness. In a world increasingly defined by great-power competition, Europe is finding it increasingly hard to defend its preferred model of multilateral decision-making and soft-power diplomacy. As Mr. Trump decided to make his U-turn on Iran, he looked to other American allies: Israel, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates.

rhetorical effect: justifies American bullying; weakens multi-lateral decision-making and soft-power diplomacy. Rather than “leading from behind,” America no longer cares about moral leadership, just about brute domination. The ‘Shining city on a hill” has become a fortress empire, something to be feared, not admired.

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constitutional crisis

rhetorical claim: Democrats and their media allies are again shouting “constitutional crisis,” this time claiming President Trump has waded too far into the Russia investigation. The howls are a diversion from the actual crisis: the Justice Department’s unprecedented contempt for duly elected representatives, and the lasting harm it is doing to law enforcement and to the department’s relationship with Congress.

rhetorical effect: part of the pre-emptive strike against the Mueller probe; creating something out of nothing, and then calling this nothing a threat to the Constitution when the only threat to the Constitution is this mythic deep state conspiracy and attempt to undermine the criminal justice system.

Glossary: Key memes, counterfactuals, dog whistles, canards, euphemisms, innuendoes, insinuations, fake outrages, and obsessions in The Wall Street Journal and other GOP language factories and fever swamps, May 12-17, 2018

loyalty

rhetorical claim: President Trump above all prizes loyalty because leaks are part of the Washington Swamp culture.

rhetorical effect: best expressed by The Economist:

Mr Trump’s takeover has its roots in the take-no-prisoners tribalism that gripped American politics long before he became president. And in the past the Oval Office has occasionally belonged to narcissists some of whom lied, seduced, bullied or undermined presidential norms. But none has behaved quite as blatantly as Mr Trump.

At the heart of his system of power is his contempt for the truth….James Comey, whom Mr Trump fired as director of the FBI, laments “the lying about all things, large and small, in service to some code of loyalty that put the organization above morality and above the truth”. Mr Trump does not—perhaps cannot—distinguish between facts and falsehoods. As a businessman and on the campaign he behaved as if the truth was whatever he could get away with. And, as president, Mr Trump surely believes that his power means he can get away with a great deal.

When power dominates truth, criticism becomes betrayal. Critics cannot appeal to neutral facts and remain loyal, because facts are not neutral. As Hannah Arendt wrote of the 1920s and 1930s, any statement of fact becomes a question of motive. Thus, when H.R. McMaster, a former national security adviser, said (uncontroversially) that Russia had interfered in the election campaign, Mr Trump heard his words as unforgivably hostile. Soon after, he was sacked.

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merit-based immigration

rhetorical claim: As asserted by Tomi Lahren on Fox News,  would-be immigrants “need to understand that it’s a privilege to be an American — and that’s a privilege that you work toward. It’s not a right, You don’t just come into this country with low skills, low education, not understanding the language — and come into our country, because someone says it makes them feel nice. That’s not what this country is based on. The fact that we care more about feelings and kinship over actually improving the United States of America is the problem.” As White House Chief of Staff John Kelly put it,

The vast majority of the people that move illegally into the United States are not bad people. They’re not criminals. They’re not MS-13 … but they’re also not people that would easily assimilate into the United States, into our modern society. They’re overwhelmingly rural people. In the countries they come from, fourth-, fifth-, sixth-grade educations are kind of the norm. They don’t speak English; obviously that’s a big thing. …

They don’t integrate well; they don’t have skills. They’re not bad people. They’re coming here for a reason. And I sympathize with the reason. But the laws are the laws. … The big point is they elected to come illegally into the United States, and this is a technique that no one hopes will be used extensively or for very long.

rhetorical effect: increases xenophobia, racism,  and mindless nationalism; demonizes immigrants as freeloaders; breaks up families; decimates the American rags-to-riches dream by turning immigration into a meritocracy.

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militant Normals

rhetorical claim: Trump’s election stopped the liberals’ war on normalcy. Regular Americans rebelled against the elite to reclaim their democracy.

rhetorical effect: divides the country against itself; casts liberals as abnormal and un-American; accuses liberals of directly assaulting American democracy. supports Trump’s pony embrace of coal miners, auto workers, construction workers, etc., and thus camouflages the fact that the tax cut only is helping the very wealthy.

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so-called allies

rhetorical claim: the moment of truth is coming for our so-called European allies when it comes to Iran: will they enforce sanctions or appease a murderous regime and oppose US interest. In a Donald Trump presidency, the US must be respected or there will be a heavy price to pay.

rhetorical effect: undermines our key alliances with England, France, and Germany; prefers bullying and brute force to diplomacy; concedes America’s moral leadership in foreign policy; reduces foreign policy to a zero-sum, “with us or against us” discourse.

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let us reason together

safe spaces

rhetorical claim: college speech codes unduly protect campus “snowflakes” from true political debate. They should respect the age-old academic tradition of “let us reason together.” Argument should never be a safe space.

rhetorical effect: by ignoring the disproportionate inequalities created by power and privilege, simply reinforces power and privilege. Uses a false call to “reason” because it will not accept any claims of power or privilege. Premises the call for reason on the false premise of a level playing field.

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cost-benefit analysis

green button-pushing

rhetorical claim: New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has been squandering his chances to make New Yorkers energy-sufficient, all in the name of virtue-signaling his green credentials. His energy policies–and those of “greens” cannot sand up to cost-benefit analysis because there is no benefit–they only affect a vanishingly-small percentage of total greenhouse gases. As explained by Holman Jenkins:

Careers like Mr. Cuomo’s are built on running down what might be called “good policy” political capital. Mr. Cuomo is using up the state’s margin of energy survival to burnish his green potentials. He is sacrificing upstate’s economy to burnish his green credentials.

President Trump may lack decorum, but his corporate tax reform addressed a universally recognized problem, and now future politicians have a fresh cushion for antibusiness tax gestures without unduly risking the economy.

Ditto his trimming back of President Obama’s expensive but ineffectual climate policies: Now future politicians can dip their buckets in this well to advance their careers without overtaxing the citizenry’s ability to sustain costly climate gestures that produce no benefit.

This is the good-policy capital buffer at work. Mr. Cuomo is doing statewide what Mayor David Dinkins did for New York City in the early 1990s, using up the buffer.

rhetorical effect: dismisses alternative energy proposals as hypocritical, short-sighted and even dangerous to national security. Uses personal attack to undercut green policies, and repeats the old lie that responsible energy policies are, by definition, “anti-business.”

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looking forward, not backward

rhetorical claim: Gina Haspel should be confirmed to head the CIA because we need to look forward, not backward, when it comes to protecting national security. Her past support of torture should not be used against her because it is no longer relevant and she has also pledged to defy President Trump if he orders torture.

rhetorical effect: once again postpones the day or reckoning for past US uses of torture; uses the “rule of law” argument to support her when Trump violates the “rule of law” every day in every way and she has no track record of saying no to power. Whitewashes the past.

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animals

rhetorical claim: many immigrants into the US are animals, not people, and should be treated as such. We are under siege by a group of determined criminals and rapists and terrorists, and should even think about closing our border down altogether until we figure out what is going on.

rhetorical effect: dehumanizes all immigrants; condones abusing immigrants; furthers Trumps racist, xenophobic, hate-filled policies.

 

Glossary: Key memes, counterfactuals, dog whistles, canards, euphemisms, innuendoes, insinuations, fake outrages, and obsessions in The Wall Street Journal and other GOP language factories and fever swamps, April 6-11, 2018

energy dominance

rhetorical claim: America is once again pursuing a policy of energy dominance rather than being beholden to foreign oil. This means unleashing America’s great energy potential through more mining, fracking, oil drilling, and offshore oil production.

rhetorical effect: this dominance comes at the expense of environmental safeguards and replaces the Obama-era policy of mixed use, and to put an end to all collaborative, locally-grounded land management. Reinforces the whole nationalist agenda of America First–the need to “dominate” a world much better suited to collaboration.

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American Greatness

rhetorical claim: throwing out the Iranian deal, cracking down on the Chinese trade cheaters and ending NAFTA , reigning in the North Koreans, and walls and Muslim travel bans are some of the moving parts of MAGA.

rhetorical effect: the nationalist narrative of American greatness: the highest profits and the biggest bombs. This populist narrative is grounded in 1) a core conspiracy theory of history: Obama is a secret Kenyan Muslim; foreigners like him and immigrants are trying to steal “our” elections, 2) the Koch brothers’ experiments in crushing labor unions, denying women reproductive rights, dismantling public schools, poisoning the water and the air, and disfranchising minority voters, and, 3) defending  the “real people” against their enemies by manipulating and pressuring the courts, the civil service, the Constitutions, and the media. The violence of Donald Trump’s verbal assaults on the media, the courts, and other institutions suggests a similar mindset, and he leads a political party that has repeatedly demonstrated its willingness to trample on institutional norms and bend the mechanisms of government toward undemocratic ends. That is the meaning of the GOP’s voter-suppression campaigns, aggressive gerrymandering, and theft of a Supreme Court seat in the name of letting “the people have a say.” With Trump leading the way, America’s ruling party is lurching down the road of  “damaged” or “illiberal” or “defective” democracy.

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left-wing NGOs

rhetorical claim: George Soros and his fellow travelers make up the left-wing NGO cabal, with its so-called human rights campaign masking greed, corruption, hypocrisy and lawlessness. They have become an extra-judicial paramilitary of their own.

rhetorical effect: spreads vast cynicism about any human rights campaign, labeling them “so-called” “extrajudiciary” and destabilizing of the rule of law. In most countries where Soros operates, human rights are endangered daily, and this smearing of the very concept of human rights turns them into their opposite. Any NGO championing basic human rights is now automatically tagged, Nancy Pelosi style, as “left wing.” Apparently human rights have become a solely liberal concept.

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failed socialist experiment

rhetorical claim: desegregation efforts are a failed socialist experiment, and that’s why HUD is now allowing local and state governments to continue receiving grants even if they don’t comply with the full requirements of the 1968 Fair Housing Act.

rhetorical effect: justifies and encourages residential segregation; makes the federal government itself an agent of discriminatory housing policies; allows states to look the other way when it comes to housing discrimination complaints. Equality is reduced to being a theory or “experiment”, human rights are made into a pejorative when branded as “socialist,” and the claim of failure is undefined and treated as a fact rather than an assertion.

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pulling out of the Iran deal

rhetorical claim: the US is pulling out of the Iran deal because it is so one-sided and does not guarantee that Iran won’t develop nuclear capability. It is the worst deal ever drawn up by anybody.

rhetorical effect: masks the fact that, since the agreement had no escape clause, the US is simply violating the agreement, not just pulling out of it. Even so, we continue to claim that the Iranians are the ones doing the violating, despite no supporting evidence. Trump claims that Iran is cheating on the deal, but his own intelligence directors have said there is no evidence of this claim whatsoever. The International Atomic Energy Agency has certified Iran’s compliance 10 times since the deal was signed. Secretary of Defense James Mattis testified to a Senate committee last month that, after reading the 140-page agreement three times, he was struck by how “robust” the deal’s verification provisions were.

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ornamental political correctness

rhetorical claim: liberals excel at promoting phony, ornamental, politically correct issues they know nothing about, such as the uncertainties of climate change theory

rhetorical effect: undercuts any liberal position as being unthinking, automatic and knee jerk. Delegitimizes liberalism by equating it with fake news, posturing, and ignorance.

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civil terrorists

rhetorical claim: gun control advocates are civil terrorists, The NRA has become the target of a cyber war, death threats and intimidation from the mainstream media. Gun owners’ civil rights have been trampled at least as much as blacks were under slavery and Jim Crow.

rhetorical effect: criminalizes any call for gun control as a civil rights violation. Uses the logic of social justice to justify violence and turn gun owners into victims. Part of the rhetorical attempt to equate dissent (aka, terrorism) with treason  and turn non-violence an act of violent aggression.

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the excellent Kim Jong -un

rhetorical claim: Kim Jong-un is, according to Donald Trump,  “honorable” and “excellent.”

rhetorical effect: If a mass murderer such as Kim is deemed “honorable” and “excellent”, what heinousness does it take for Trump to condemn human rights violations? Ignores Kim’s bloody, dictatorial rule, in which he rules a police state with no human rights whatsoever. As with strongmen ruling Russia, China, Turkey, Poland, Hungary, the Philipines, etc., Trump is willing to look the other way if he can somehow get a diplomatic “win”–even a symbolic one. Notice also that Trump’s very limited vocabulary seems to be rooted in meaningless superlatives such as excellent, great, incredible, etc., as if he has a 10-year-old publicist.

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disparate outcomes

anti-racism pc

rhetorical claim: Liberals maintain the unfounded assumption that “there would be no disparate outcomes unless there were disparate treatment,”  despite abundant evidence to the contrary. The knee jerk liberal charge of racism used to explain disparate outcomes is itself racist, and part of the grievance mentality that is holding blacks back from economic prosperity. Anti-racism has become a new civic religion, a kind of über pc. The relatively new legal standard of “disparate impact” disregards the American legal principle of “burden of proof.” Economic outcomes vary greatly across individuals and groups and concepts like “disparate impact” fail to take into account these variations.

rhetorical effect: strips the moral dimension from claims of racism and inequality, reducing them to mere opinions at best and kniving forms of cynical “grievance-mongering” at worst. Defies common sense by arguing that unequal effects have nothing to do with causes rooted in inequality and prejudice.

 

 

 

Glossary: Key memes, counterfactuals, dog whistles, canards, euphemisms, innuendoes, insinuations, fake outrages, and obsessions in The Wall Street Journal and other GOP language factories and fever swamps, April 30-May 4, 2018

Trump is genuine

rhetorical claim: we can believe Trump because he is genuine–he tells it like it is and doesn’t filter or lie, like the Fake News Media. Americans want action, and he’s giving it to them–draining the swamp.

rhetorical effect: as asserted by Michael Hayden, in the so-called “post truth era”:

Political partisanship in America has become what David Brooks calls “totalistic.” Partisan identity, as he writes, fills “the void left when their other attachments wither away — religious, ethnic, communal and familial.” Beliefs are now so tied to these identities that data is not particularly useful to argue a point.

Intelligence work — at least as practiced in the Western liberal tradition — reflects these threatened Enlightenment values: gathering, evaluating and analyzing information, and then disseminating conclusions for use, study or refutation.

How the erosion of Enlightenment values threatens good intelligence was obvious in the Trump administration’s ill-conceived and poorly carried out executive order that looked to the world like a Muslim ban….

These are truly uncharted waters for the country. We have in the past argued over the values to be applied to objective reality, or occasionally over what constituted objective reality, but never the existence or relevance of objective reality itself.

In this post-truth world, intelligence agencies are in the bunker with some unlikely mates: journalism, academia, the courts, law enforcement and science — all of which, like intelligence gathering, are evidence-based. Intelligence shares a broader duty with these other truth-tellers to preserve the commitment and ability of our society to base important decisions on our best judgment of what constitutes objective reality.

The historian Timothy Snyder stresses the importance of reality and truth in his cautionary pamphlet, “On Tyranny.” “To abandon facts,” he writes, “is to abandon freedom. If nothing is true, then no one can criticize power because there is no basis upon which to do so.” He then chillingly observes, “Post-truth is pre-fascism.”

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we’ll see what happens

rhetorical claim: Trump’s fluid, transactional rhetoric keeps possibilities open while also making veiled threats–“we’ll see what happens.”

rhetorical effect: Leaves everything as open-ended and vague as possible for as long as possible to avoid accountability. As explained by Kathleen Hall Jamieson:

The occasions in which he’s made specific promises, like ‘we’ll build a wall and Mexico would pay for it,’ he has had trouble delivering. Instead of forecasting and being accountable for the forecast, he’s opening the possibility that there are a range of possibilities not anticipated for which he does not want to be held accountable.”

…In Trumpese, many people are saying” means “I wish many people were saying this because I want you to believe they are.” “People don’t know” likely means “I just found out,” and “believe me,” on some level, may signal “I have real doubts.”

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fighting and winning for the hardworking taxpayer

rhetorical claim: Donald Trump continues to fight and win for the hardworking American taxpayer against government overreach, fake news, trial lawyers, unions, and so-called “green” environmentalists.

rhetorical effect: fighting and winning for corporate interests; eroding wage standards, benefits, and workplace rights of workers, especially in the private sector; eliminating public services and the social safety net programs; eliminating workplace safety regulation; eliminating the regulation of clean air and clean water, and making sure the tax cuts go mostly to the wealthy. The “hard-working taxpayer” is generally not “winning”. For example, so far:

    • 9: Percent of the 500 major companies that make up the S&P 500 index that have paid employees cash bonuses since the passage of the Republican tax plan.
    • 109Billions of dollars in dividends paid to shareholders following the passage of the Republican tax plan, setting a new record for dividend payments.
    • 84: Percent of all stocks owned by the wealthiest 10% of households.

 

As argued by Gordon Lafer in The One Percent Solution:

The vast majority of American employees go to work every day for a private company, with no union protections. For these workers, it is not a union contract but state and local laws that shape working conditions and frame the balance of power between employers and employees. Corporate rhetoric around these laws sounds different from that aimed at public servants—rather than attacking overpaid employees, they stress the need for flexibility, the danger of government mandates, and the power of unrestrained entrepreneurialism to lift all boats. But the aim of these arguments is ultimately the same: to restrict, weaken, or abolish laws governing wages, benefits, or working conditions; to preempt, defund, or dismantle every legal or organizational mechanism through which workers may challenge employer prerogatives; and to block, wherever possible, citizens’ ability to exercise democratic control over corporate behavior.

 

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paycheck protection

rhetorical claim: tyrannous labor unions can no longer force workers to support politically correct causes they oppose. Their paychecks will be protected from forced payment of union dues.

rhetorical effect: paralyzes union political campaigns, thus severely limiting workers’ rights and freedom of speech.

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decoys

rhetorical claim: Starbuck’s protestors are decoys and dupes of the racial grievance industry.

rhetorical effect: charges of racism are themselves suspected of being inherently racist; concepts of racial equality are reduced to being hypocritical con games, played by suckers only. Racism is said to not only not exist, but to be an excuse for laziness and fraud. Grievances are commodified and reduced to being an “industry.”

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shareholder value maximization

rhetorical claim: government is a parasite on economic growth, and the only measure of value should be shareholder value maximization.

rhetorical effect: As explained by Martin Wolf:

That it is hard to see much wider economic benefit from the massive increase in the relative size and influence of finance over the past half century seems self-evident. Today, many western economies are, after all, burdened by high levels of private debt, high inequality and low rate of productivity growth. If this is success, what might failure look like?

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the Employment Protection Agency

the Employment Prevention Agency

environmental originalism

environmental stewardship

self-implementing regulation

stakeholders who care about outcomes

fuel diversity

cooperative federalism

rhetorical claim: the EPA’s confiscatory war on industry is over–no more regulatory overreach.We need a return to environmental originalism, in which the government practices environmental stewardship. not prohibition.  Regulations will be self-implementing and immune to wasteful lawsuits. The EPA is no longer what Trump called the Employment Prevention Agency; instead, it’s now the Employment Protection Industry. Power plants will now be allowed to implement their own compliance programs without the intervention of a permitting authority.

rhetorical effect: protecting jobs, not the environment; allowing unlimited mining and development on public lands; ending regulation of polluters.

Translations:

stakeholders who care about outcomes: often portrayed as “farmers and ranchers,” this label always applies to fossil fuel companies.

fuel diversity: cuts in alternative and green energy, thus the opposite of energy diversity policies

cooperative federalism: leaving environmental and workplace safety, policy and monitoring entirely up to the states, which are typically either reluctant to act due to political connections or lack the funds to act.

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collusion

rhetorical claim: federal workers who are members of the Democrat Deep State engage in a form of collusion they sometimes call ethics or the rule of law.

rhetorical effect: codes of ethics get reduced to being “collusion,” a sort of conspiracy based not on a moral bedrock but on partisanship.

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Deep State attempted coup

rhetorical claim: the Deep State’s attempted coup is being played out by Robert Mueller, and should be resisted.  According to the website American Greatness,

If you look at the categories of questions Mueller allegedly wishes to pose to Trump, you will notice they focus on exactly those areas of inquiry made possible by Obama and his henchmen through the NSA rule change. Among them are Michael Flynn and his contacts with Russia’s ambassador to the United States. A second group of questions has to do with the firing of Comey, the man who orchestrated the entire “special counsel” by writing memos and then leaking them to the New York Times through his friend, Columbia law professor Dan Richman—who just so happens to be on Comey’s legal team now. If you want to see real collusion in action, look no farther than the sanctimonious Comey and his rum crew.

By now, it’s clear that Mueller never had any intention of investigating Russian “collusion,” aside from issuing some meaningless indictments of persons over whom he has no legal authority. Rather—as the enemedia breathlessly hopes!—the inquiry has morphed into an “obstruction of justice” investigation into the firing of Mueller’s pal, Comey. And now we arrive at the heart of the matter.

The title of Comey’s book, A Higher Loyalty, gives the game away: higher than what? The Left is always nattering on about an “arc of history” that bends toward “justice,” but an educated populace should be able to see right through this classic example of Marxist cant. The purpose of such a meaningless phrase is to get you to believe that there is some authority—not God, God forbid!—“higher” than the laws of the United States, and that a true patriot’s allegiance belongs not to the Constitution but to some “higher” power.

Since the 1960s, that power has been the abstract (which is to say, unconstitutional) authority of the federal courts, principally the Supreme Court. To make this case—that the Court is the final judge of the constitutionality of just about everything—they’ve leveraged Marbury v. Madison and convinced the American public through a dazzling exercise in circular reasoning, that because the Court itself has said it is the arbiter of all things constitutional, it is therefore, under the Constitution, the arbiter of all things constitutional.

rhetorical effect: paranoid conspiracy theory run amuck–and even the Supreme Court is in on it. Defends the notion that the President is not subject to obstruction of justice charges because he represents and dispenses justice, and is only responsible to his interpretation of the Constitution. Turns the President into a dictator.