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. 31-Feb. 6, 2017

enlightened nationalism

rhetorical claim: According to the National Review,

Domestically, since the 1960s and 1970s, what the late social scientist Samuel Huntington called a “denationalized” elite in this country has waged war on the nation and its common culture. Conservatives have fought back on issues such as bilingual education, the downgrading of traditional U.S. history in curricula, racial preferences, the elevation of subnational groups, and mass immigration — anything that has been part of the multiculturalist onslaught on national solidarity.

Instead of this denationalization:

Nationalism should be tempered by a modesty about the power of government, lest an aggrandizing state wedded to a swollen nationalism run out of control; by religion, which keeps the nation from becoming the first allegiance; and by a respect for other nations that undergirds a cooperative international order. Nationalism is a lot like self-interest. A political philosophy that denies its claims is utopian at best and tyrannical at worst, but it has to be enlightened. The first step to conservatives’ advancing such an enlightened nationalism is to acknowledge how important it is to our worldview to begin with.

rhetorical effect: conflates patriotism with nationalism; leads to “America First” rhetoric, but frames jingoism as high-minded idealism, as “enlightened.”


limiting choices

rhetorical claim: the rollback of the fiduciary rule for retirement investors will open up more investment choices for retirees. This is one way to expand the economy.

rhetorical effect: reinforces many lies and mendacities: the market is always right in the long run and should not be limited;  regulation always hurts the economy; retirement advisors’ vested interests in commission-making never get in the way of sound financial advice, etc. It’s like a doctor who orders losts of unnecessary tests because he has a financial interest in the lab. As explained by New York Magazine‘s Jonathan Chait,

“Americans are going to have better choices and Americans are going to have better products because we’re not going to burden the banks with literally hundreds of billions of dollars of regulatory costs every year,” National Economic Council Director and Goldman Sachs veteran Gary Cohn tells The Wall Street Journal.

Cohn is planning to weaken the fiduciary rule, which he believes robs Americans of their freedom to hire financial advisers who might want to rip them off. “This is like putting only healthy food on the menu,” he tells the Journal, “because unhealthy food tastes good but you still shouldn’t eat it because you might die younger.”

Cohn’s metaphor is worth exploring. Healthy food, in Cohn’s example, is equivalent of investment advice that’s good for the client. Unhealthy food is like investment advice that’s bad for the client (but good for the adviser he has hired). Why shouldn’t people choose how much healthy versus unhealthy financial advice to hire? Well, the reason financial advisers are required to follow their clients’ fiduciary interests, rather than assuming that the logic of the free market will naturally produce optimal scrupulousness, is that investing is extremely complex. There is a huge asymmetry of information between professionals who work at investment firms and their customers. A customer at a restaurant might be able to eyeball the menu and guess that the spinach salad is healthier than the pizza, but a customer shopping for financial advisers is not going to know which ones will give them the best financial advice versus the ones who might might be trying to enrich themselves at the customer’s expense.



rhetorical claim: the mainstream media outlets, as represented by the NY Times,  are failing financially so they should be discounted as legitimate news sources. The public has rejected them.

rhetorical effect: Everyone opposed to Trump is a failure, a loser or, as in the case of the Seattle federal judge, a fake. as Frank Bruni explains in the NY Times:

Trump’s analysis of people and situations hinges on whether they exalt him. A news organization that challenges him is inevitably “failing.” A politician who pushes back at him is invariably a loser. Middle-school cliques have more moral discernment.

He railed against executive orders until they were his. He denounced the coziness between politicians and Wall Street until he was doing the snuggling. He cried foul at presidential getaways that cost the taxpayers millions until Mar-a-Lago beckoned.

During the campaign he demonstrated no special concern for free speech, advocating looser libel laws and barring certain news organizations from events. But he took to Twitter on Thursday to register fury over the University of California at Berkeley’s cancellation of an appearance by the far-right provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos.


that’s not who we are

rhetorical claim: in defending multiculturalism and globalism, liberals consider themselves to be the moral arbiters of what constitutes the “real” America and the “real” American historical narrative.

rhetorical effect: Islamophobia, chauvinism,  and white resentment become the norm. Manifest Destiny, American exceptionalism, and America First become ubiquitous and unchallenged. The “we” in “who we are” is identified as white, European/Anglo-Saxon, and Judeo-Christian.


fake news

rhetorical claim: the NY Times and other “failing” mainstream media are the main opposition party to Trump, and every story they run about Trump is biased, distorted, annoying and negative. This “fake news” is nothing but a propaganda machine.

rhetorical effect: renders the term “fake news” meaningless because it has been totally politicized and made it impossible to even agree on facts. Trump is free to concoct his own narrative, metrics, and “alternative facts.” To Trump supporters, lying becomes impossible for Trump, just as the truth becomes impossible for the press to represent.  When the truth can no longer be agreed upon or is subject to change, “lies disappear into the past,” as Orwell explained.



rhetorical claim: Trumpism is a return to identity politics for white people. America has always been a homeland for white Europeans, and Trump is merely restoring that heritage to its rightful place as the lodestone of Americanism.

rhetorical effect: For the first time in a long time, people feel they can express themselves openly on questions of race, nationality, ethnicity and patriotism. This is not necessarily a good thing. Even as the so-called “dominant European culture” of America is being eclipsed by immigration and racial blending, Trump and Bannon are doubling down on white ethnoracialism. This destabilized language of citizenship is much more exclusive than inclusive, and uses national pride as a euphemism for the whitewashing, or obliteration, of racial and ethnic identity. It’s like a nightmare of a melting pot where what really melts down is America’s brain.


postmaterialist values

rhetorical claim: the liberals’ mantra of personal fulfillment, openness to new ideas, and support for previously marginalized populations has lead to their crushing defeat and marginalization. Their key concepts of globalization, internationalism, multiculturalism, self-expression,affirmative action and redistribution have been repudiated by history.

rhetorical effect: marginalization of the so-called “self expression” values has made it nearly impossible to define national success as anything other than  the predominance of white culture, nationalism, and material well-being. Success is now defined as a zero-sum Darwinian struggle with clear winners and losers, and patriotism defined as adherence to white supremacist, divisive, exclusionary, and populism.


non-stop hyperpanic

rhetorical claim: Dems’ hyperventilating over every Trump policy initiative and executive order will shortly lead to resistance fatigue. Dem tantrums only help Trump because they either lack common sense or run counter to what Trump’s supporters want–stopping terrorists from entering the country, for example.

rhetorical effect: makes dissent always seem extreme and hysterical. Favorite verbs and nouns used to describe any opposition to Trump include: hysterical, barrage, hyperventilating, hysterical, unhinged, doom-mongerers,  rancor, dopey, reflexive,  snarling, undifferentiated. Downplays the cumulative effect of Trump’s executive orders by isolating them and belittling any opposition to them. By claiming opposition to each particular Trump policy is foolish and self-defeating, the overall effect is to render any opposition fatuous and juvenile.


essential benefits

rhetorical claim: the fastest way to ACA reform is through eliminating mandated “essential benefits” so insurers can design economic policies that the public would actually find worth buying.

rhetorical effect: you have to wonder what will be left to cover if the  ACA’S 10 “essential benefits” (see below) are made optional. Let the race to the bottom in terms of reliable coverage begin:

    1. Ambulatory patient services (Outpatient care). Care you receive without being admitted to a hospital, such as at a doctor’s office, clinic or same-day (“outpatient”) surgery center. Also included in this category are home health services and hospice care (note: some plans may limit coverage to no more than 45 days).
    2. Emergency Services (Trips to the emergency room). Care you receive for conditions that could lead to serious disability or death if not immediately treated, such as accidents or sudden illness. Typically, this is a trip to the emergency room, and includes transport by ambulance. You cannot be penalized for going out-of-network or for not having prior authorization.
    3. Hospitalization (Treatment in the hospital for inpatient care). Care you receive as a hospital patient, including care from doctors, nurses and other hospital staff, laboratory and other tests, medications you receive during your hospital stay, and room and board. Hospitalization coverage also includes surgeries, transplants and care received in a skilled nursing facility, such as a nursing home that specializes in the care of the elderly (note: some plans may limit skilled nursing facility coverage to no more than 45 days).
    4. Maternity and newborn care. Care that women receive during pregnancy (prenatal care), throughout labor, delivery and post-delivery, and care for newborn babies.
    5. Mental health services and addiction treatment. Inpatient and outpatient care provided to evaluate, diagnose and treat a mental health condition or substance abuse disorder . This includes behavioral health treatment, counseling, and psychotherapy. (note: some plans may limit coverage to 20 days each year. Limits must comply with state or federal parity laws. Read this document for more information on mental health benefits and the Affordable Care Act).
    6. Prescription drugs. Medications that are prescribed by a doctor to treat an illness or condition. Examples include prescription antibiotics to treat an infection or medication used to treat an ongoing condition, such as high cholesterol. At least one prescription drug must be covered for each category and classification of federally approved drugs, however limitations do apply. Some prescription drugs can be excluded. “Over the counter” drugs are usually not covered even if a doctor writes you a prescription for them. Insurers may limit drugs they will cover, covering only generic versions of drugs where generics are available. Some medicines are excluded where a cheaper equally effective medicine is available, or the insurer may impose “Step” requirements (expensive drugs can only be prescribed if doctor has tried a cheaper alternative and found that it was not effective). Some expensive drugs will need special approval.
    7. Rehabilitative services and devices – Rehabilitative services (help recovering skills, like speech therapy after a stroke) and habilitative services (help developing skills, like speech therapy for children) and devices to help you gain or recover mental and physical skills lost to injury, disability or a chronic condition (this also includes devices needed for “habilitative reasons”). Plans have to provide 30 visits each year for either physical or occupational therapy, or visits to the chiropractor. Plans must also cover 30 visits for speech therapy as well as 30 visits for cardiac or pulmonary rehab.
    8. Laboratory services. Testing provided to help a doctor diagnose an injury, illness or condition, or to monitor the effectiveness of a particular treatment. Some preventive screenings, such as breast cancer screenings and prostrate exams, are provided free of charge.
    9. Preventive services, wellness services, and chronic disease treatment. This includes counseling, preventive care, such as physicals, immunizations and screenings, like cancer screenings, designed to prevent or detect certain medical conditions. Also, care for chronic conditions, such as asthma and diabetes. (note: please see our full list of Preventive services for details on which services are covered.)
    10. Pediatric services. Care provided to infants and children, including well-child visits and recommended vaccines and immunizations. Dental and vision care must be offered to children younger than 19. This includes two routine dental exams, an eye exam and corrective lenses each year.

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