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. 11-17, 2017


rhetorical claim: According to Trump, Buzzfeed will “suffer the consequences” of publishing the Russian dossier allegedly showing Trump to be “compromised” by Russian intelligence.  CNN, the other major media outlet to release the story, was equally accused of being only about “fake news.”

rhetorical effect: “fake news” and “consequences” are  both forms of media intimidation. This is true innuendo territory: consequences could simply be public opprobrium or real legal or economic repercussions. (CNN has already suffered some “consequences” : Trump refused to let them ask a question at his news conference). When negative news stories are axiomatically regarded as either “fake” or consequential for the publisher, there is a chilling effect on a free press. This is true innuendo territory: consequences could simply be public opprobrium or real legal or economic repercussions. (CNN has already suffered some “consequences” : Trump refused to let them ask a question at his news conference). To anticipate a bullying response to any negative story will certainly make the media think twice before going with that story.


conflict of interest

rhetorical claim: in Trump’s case, a perception only, since by definition the President cannot have a conflict of interest. But, by setting up a trust, he is going beyond what is required in order to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest. He himself says he “doesn’t like the look” of him directing his company while President, even though he could easily and ethically do both.

rhetorical effect: Uses the perception of a solution to stand in for an actual solution. Appears to solve the ethical issue but only papers it over, since Trump did not divest himself or set up a blind trust. Substitutes the look of a solution with a real solution. By not divesting his businesses, Trump invites corruption by signaling that corporations and foreign actors have many ways to curry favor with him and his administration through his family. Ethics is always a technicality to Trump, not a principle or norm.



rhetorical claim: “if Putin likes Donald Trump, guess what, folks? That’s called an asset, not a liability.”

rhetorical effect: as Charles Lane argues in the Washington Post:

close partnership with Putin would legitimize his brand of illiberal rule by making it seem effective against a greater evil, terrorism; conversely, it would delegitimize liberal-democratic politics.

This is precisely the sort of devil’s bargain people have in mind when they warn against “letting the terrorists win.”



rhetorical claim: anyone person or agency critical of President Trump is automatically part of the “Democratic obstructionist campaign” against Trump, including the head of the US Government Ethics Office. This kneejerk opposition is part of post-election bile and bombast.

rhetorical effect: Could the intelligence community and press be next? It’s a long and slippery slope from responding to criticism to suppressing it to demonizing or even criminalizing it, but those first steps ate being taken.


hyphenated Americans

rhetorical claim: identity politics are now a relic of the past since Trump’s election–we’re all just Americans now. The only question the government should ask you is if you are a citizen.  So why not do away with hyphenated designations all together. This would help put an end to the left’s false narrative of victim versus oppressor, white male versus everyone else, white privilege versus black “empowerment,” capitalist versus worker, and now enlightened sexual liberators versus the bigoted, hateful traditional Americans.

It is an effective strategy for obtaining and holding power, but the whole country suffers for it.  President Obama and his fellow liberals have unleashed racial hell on our country, moving us away from our vision of “one nation under God with liberty and justice for all.”

rhetorical effect: enshrines white male supremacy as the new normal–part of the return to the 1950s. There will be no more questions about race on any government forms, so all it will be impossible to prove inequality or racial disparity. This would also cripple the social sciences, demographers, and epidemiologists.


progressive carbon panic

rhetorical claim: Democratic CO2 obsessions have reached new heights as they panic about the looming major change in US environmental policies.

rhetorical effect: renders any  concerns about environmental degradation or poluution sound hysterical, overblown, uninformed, and frivolous.



rhetorical claim: Trump has at times lead an indecorous life, but his indiscretions don’t matter so long as he delivers economic growth and defeats  ISIS.

rhetorical effect: euphemism like “indecorous” and “indiscreet” work to normalize Trump’s moral, ethical, and political repugnancy. They absolve him of any responsibility for the consequences of his words or actions, and lead inevitably to “ends justify the means” arguments.



rhetorical claim: John Lewis is a man of all talk and no action, who, like all liberals and black leaders, has completely turned his back on the “burning”, “crime-infested” and “completely falling part” US inner cities.

rhetorical effect: characterizing black culture as a dystopian hellhole and blacks themselves as too stupid to realize they are wallowing in their own filth lays the groundwork for the elimination of all social safety net programs, the crushing criminalization of political dissent in the inner city, and the continued incarceration of most young black men. Equates blacks with insects, in much the same way the Nazi’s called Jews “vermin.”



rhetorical claim: Not only was the Obama administration marked by scandal of the most serious sort — perverting the machinery of the state for political ends — it was on that front, which is the most important one, the most scandal-scarred administration in modern presidential history. Using the machinery of the state to seek political power and to aggrandize the political power one holds is the most destructive form of political corruption there is. A sane society would prosecute it the way we prosecute murder or armed robbery. It is a scandal and more than that: It is an assault on the foundations of a free society.

rhetorical effect: demonizes and delegitimizes the entire Obama administration, making it impossible to defend any of its policies or actions. Equating all political strategies and initiatives with the word “scandal” implies the entire administration was a criminal enterprise.

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