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, Jan. 7-10, 2017


rhetorical claim: the lamestream news media and the lib-Dems are increasingly irrelevant in Donald Trump’s America. The people have spoken in a crushing landslide, so the libs just need to go along with the Trump agenda.

rhetorical effect: normalizes shouting down and bullying anyone critic as unAmerican, and contemptuous. It’s a short step from being judged irrelevant to being judged superfluous, dangerous, and, ultimately,  expendable. Relevance is of course a relative, relational, contextual term, and to claim it is to claim that only your version of reality is operative.


hate crimes

rhetorical claim: The whole category of “hate crimes” should be eliminated. The hate-crime label diminishes actual crimes and promotes different standards of justice for different victims. It politicizes crime. Charges should be based on criminal law, not politics. Calling something a “hate crime” only leads to more hate because everyone distrusts the politicization of criminality and blames the other side.

rhetorical effect: makes it sound as if hate crime doesn’t actually exist, but is only a made-up  form of political coercion. Lays the groundwork for repealing any hate-crime laws, thus leading to more racist and homophobic speech.


rhetorical claim: Lamestream media criticism of Trump or his followers on Inauguration Day would be undignified. The people should be allowed to express their support without being belittled or mocked by the media.

rhetorical effect: any political dissent or mockery of Trump is branded as morally-unworthy behavior. Dignity itself comes to be defined as supporting the true American values of Trump supporters. Everything else is, at best, a cheap shot, and, at worst, seditious.


health care plan

rhetorical claim: to Dems, an expensive, constricting federal regulatory scheme that forces Americans to participate through a series of mandates; to the GOP,  a proposal for doing or achieving something. Dems believe that coverage can only exist either through phony state-run exchanges or welfare.

rhetorical effect: Opens the door to repealing but not replacing, or replacing with a so-called “free market” approach that will amount to no insurance policy whatsoever.  The GOP plan no regulation whatsoever, and the ultimate aim is to strip nearly 30 million people of health care insurance.


Trump Derangement Syndrome

rhetorical claim: According to Los Angeles Times guest columnist Justin Raimondo.

The country is in the throes of a major epidemic, with no known cure and some pretty scary symptoms. It’s called Trump Derangement Syndrome, or TDS, and it’s rapidly spreading from the point of origin – the political class – to the population at large. In the first stage of the disease, victims lose all sense of proportion. The president-elect’s every tweet provokes a firestorm, as if 140 characters were all it took to change the world…

In the advanced stages of the disease, the afflicted lose touch with reality. Opinion is unmoored from fact.

rhetorical effect: well beyond calling any criticism of Trump “undignified”. Pathologizes or psychologizes Trump critics. This is a classic totalitarian rhetorical move, in line with threatening more draconian libel laws, encouraging violence against political opponents, and aligning himself with the most virulent white power forces both domestically and internationally. As Chauncey DeVega argues in Salon,:

“Trump Derangement Syndrome” is a preview of the narrative framework that will likely be used by conservatives and their allies in a compliant corporate news media to silence Trump’s critics. To that end, those who oppose Trump and his administration will be described as “crazy” or “unhinged.” The mainstream news media — because of its slavish adherence to false equivalency and a “both sides do it” narrative — will insist that Trump’s critics should “give him a chance” and are somehow “hypocrites” if they complained about Republican obstructionism against Obama.


driving the news

rhetorical claim: Trump’s tweets are said to be driving the news because any pronouncement of a President is inherently newsworthy.

rhetorical effect: legitimizes government by threat, innuendo and edict. As Robert Reich argues, this defense of trump tweets normalizes Trump’s bullying, and  rests on a tautology–they’re newsworthy only because they drive the news. And they drive the news only because they’re considered by the media to be newsworthy–that could lead to tyranny. As Reich argues, the media needs to pay attention to what Rump does, not what he says. But also keep in mind that what he says is itself a speech act, with real political consequences. Since most of his tweets are filled with lies or distortions, their overall effect is to make language and reality polar opposites if the media repeat the tweets in their misguided attempt at “balance”.


workers of the world

rhetorical claim: Trump represents the workers of the world, in opposition to global elites.

rhetorical effect: the so-called “populist billionaire” performs egalitarianism even as his policies and cabinet picks ensure monopoly power for the wealthy and for corporations. Even as his administration erodes wage support, workplace safety, workers’ rights, guaranteed health insurance, environmental protections, etc, and even though its top priority is tax cuts for the wealthy and for business, it will insist that it is defending the “little guy”. The government is now at the disposal of business interests.


civic engagement

rhetorical claim: the lib-Dem mantra for taking over college campuses with a New Civics agenda of  indoctrination for community activism, radical politics, and America-hating. College has become the center of left-wing brainwashing, not critical thought.

rhetorical effect: makes it un-American to question the status quo and argue for justice and equity. “Civics” in this case becomes less about dissent and questioning and more about conformity and silence with the federal government’s programs and policies. GOP civics takes power away from the people and transfers it to the federal government. Engagement comes to mean agreement, not questioning.


pajama-boy Ivy League culture

rhetorical claim: Obama-era elitism is over, and the smug Ivy League elites and their political correctness are forever marginalized. Making something with your hands is infinitely superior to the abstract world of Ivy League culture.

rhetorical effect: no academics in any power positions in Washington; increased pressure on colleges and universities to allow right-wing speakers; threats to cut off federal funds to sanctuary universities. Emasculates ideals of learning, questioning, and advocating for social change.



rhetorical claim:
whatever Trump  claims never happened or else anything claims he never did or said.

rhetorical effect: outright lies and denials. Makes it impossible to take anything he says seriously, so he can get away with anything once he has decoupled language from reality.  As Kellyanne Conway put it, “Why is everything taken at face value? You can’t give him the benefit of the doubt on this and he’s telling you what was in his heart? You always want to go by what’s come out of his mouth rather than look at what’s in his heart.” Of course, this is a circular, self-fulfilling argument: whatever is in Trump’s heart is known only to Trump’s heart and thus is unverifiable. The only solution is to ignore both what he says and what he feels, but look only at what he does.


Judeo-Christian nation-states

rhetorical claim: according to Stephen Bannon, once there was a collection of Judeo-Christian nation-states that practiced a humane form of biblical capitalism and fostered culturally coherent communities. But in the past few decades, the party of Davos — with its globalism, relativism, pluralism and diversity — has sapped away the moral foundations of this Judeo-Christian way of life.

Humane capitalism has been replaced by the savage capitalism that brought us the financial crisis. National democracy has been replaced by a crony-capitalist network of global elites. Traditional virtue has been replaced by abortion and gay marriage. Sovereign nation-states are being replaced by hapless multilateral organizations like the E.U.

Decadent and enervated, the West lies vulnerable in the face of a confident and convicted Islamofascism, which is the cosmic threat of our time.

rhetorical effect: Bannon’s ethno-nationalistic populism leads the way to undo human rights and shift away from the postwar global consensus and toward an alliance with various right-wing populist movements simmering around the globe.

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