Glossary: Key memes, dog-whistles, canards, euphemisms, fake outrages and obsessions in the Wall Street Journal and other GOP language factories, April 5-12, 2016

Clinton Foundation: the Brazilianization of US politics.

humiliation: A bedrock Trumpian narrative, invoking outrage, victimhood,  and revenge . This narrative of retaliation frames our refusal to exert force abroad as a pathological weakness,   and is fueled by the myth of American Exceptionalism to generate and inform a seething  emotional and philosophical seedbed of violence and retaliation. Singling out “the bad guys” (Mexicans, Muslims, etc.)  assigns blame for feelings of humiliation, vulnerability, and powerlessness. Trump Nation serves as both an audience and a humiliated protagonist who will do anything to reclaim agency and sovereignty. After all, the word humiliation’s Greek root has to do with dirt, subordination, a putting down, hierarchies–the very opposite rhetorical schema  as that of American Exceptionalism. 

This argument that humiliation lies at the roots of fascism was summed up nicely in 1995 by Umberto Eco, who argued that  fascists are a cult of “action for action’s sake,” where “thinking is a form of emasculation”; an intolerance of “analytical criticism,” where disagreement is condemned; a profound “fear of difference,” where leaders appeal against “intruders”; appeals to individual and social frustration and specifically a “frustrated middle class” suffering from “feelings of political humiliation and frightened by the pressure of lower social groups”; a nationalist identity set against internal and external enemies (an “obsession with a plot”); a feeling of humiliation by the “ostentatious wealth and force of their enemies”; a “popular elitism” where “every citizen belongs to the best people of the world” and underscored by contempt for the weak; and a celebration of aggressive (and often violent) masculinity.

legal thieves: government officials. Almost all taxation is over-taxation.

living Constitution: the Lib Dem rationale for limiting the rights of citizens and Congress through judges legislating from the bench.

moral relativism: the seeds of Al Qaeda and ISIS. Rooted in the moral nihilism of the Lib Dems.

“of course”, “no one is saying,” etc: The standard qualifier, designed to counter liberal charges of racism, sexism, etc.  This rhetorical ploy is a smokescreen designed to shift the conversation and reassure the faithful, as Fred Clark argues in his Slactivism blog:

The substance of the Standard Answer comes last because the substantial aspect — punish doctors, not women — isn’t coherent enough to bear the weight of a satisfactory answer. The load-bearing work is done prior to that insubstantial substance. The key component is the dismissive tone — all that “of course” and “no one is saying …” business that denies the legitimacy of the question and thus denies that any response needs to be substantial or logical or coherent. The boldness of this evasion is softened and diffused by the move from singular to plural and from the particular to a vague, undifferentiated “we.”

The Standard Answer, in other words, avoids engaging the question as “What do I think” by shifting the response to “What we say/think/believe is …” This may seem unimportant to the questioner, but it is vitally important to the answerer because, again, this is the primary function of the Standard Answer: reassuring oneself that an answer exists and that “we” have one, and that therefore I do not need to worry about it any further.

religious freedom:  The freedom to exercise your faith-based conscience, even if it means curtailing the freedom of others. The logic of this claim of “freedom” invariably leads to protecting bigots.

supple economy: one with low taxes and little or no regulation. A supple economy works best with a supine government. A well-functioning capitalist system relies on prices for guidance, not rules.

urban school children: victims of the pathology of black culture: absent fathers, drug addiction, hip-hop, etc. Notice how this meme pathologizes all black youth, who already face the high likelihood of prison, police stops, etc.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s