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, Feb 13-19, 2017

back to basics

rhetorical claim: when it comes to climate change, getting away from so-called “climate change” science to simply reducing pollution, on a voluntary basis.

rhetorical effect: removes objective data from the “discussion” about environmental regulation–in other words, turns evidence-based policy debates into matters of opinion. In such a case, the “basics” are always subordinated to economic growth


cooperative federal-state relationships

rhetorical claim: turning environmental regulation, education, labor laws, Medicare and other programs over to the states will put the states and federal government into an equal partnership, rather than the feds’ command and control stranglehold.

rhetorical effect: removes federal oversight, allowing states to starve programs and policies they don’t like. At best, this will constitute  benign neglect of the letter and spirit of federal laws.


racial civil rights

rhetorical claim:  pc identity politics that turns race into divisiveness and hatred.

rhetorical effect: by characterizing any civil rights argument as prejudiced, stigmatizes the very act of making racial distinctions.



rhetorical claim: a hypothesis to be explored, not a fact beyond dispute.

rhetorical effect: see “racial civil rights”, above


predictable insurance markets

rhetorical claim: health insurance will be unaffordable until the market is deregulated so insurers can operate it in stable, predictable markets and not be subject to the whims of federal bureaucrats.

rhetorical effect: the only things predictable in this scenario are ever-higher higher rates for ever-skimpier and restrictive coverage.


Alinski tactics

rhetorical claim: the media’s barrage of fake news and anti-Trump hysteria is wearing out its welcome with the American people. The media is turning into a 24/7 pile up accident.This technique of personalizing, polarizing and vilifying your opponent into submission is borrowed directly from socialist “community organizer” Saul Alinski.

rhetorical effect: turns dissent and political activism into smears, which by definition are dishonest and calculating. Part of Trump’s strategy is to turn everything into a zero-sum game, with winners and losers. Thus there is no problem with breaking every norm and tradition and govern by any means necessary. Turns lying into a rhetorical strategy, as explained by John Podesta:

We now see a toxic overlap between sensationalist politics and media manipulation. Each presidential stroke of bombast plunges the media, the administration and the public into a frenzied scramble for the truth, with the phrase “fake news” nonchalantly thrown around, adding a heaping spoonful of cynicism to the whole mess. These episodes distort our understanding of reality and put us in danger of experiencing an information void like Russia.

If Trump succeeds, something fundamental will be lost. Russians hear something on TV and assume it’s a lie. That attitude of reflexive cynicism makes it impossible to know the death toll from an industrial accident or a terrorist incident, or the risk to their kids of drinking the water, or even the results of the last election. It ruins everything.


sleeper cells

rhetorical claim: according to Breitbart,

Many other potential Yateses—holdovers from the Obama administration who have found their way into spots throughout the Trump administration—await throughout government.

“They’re hiding like sleeper cells everywhere,” one source said.

White House and other government sources say there are as many as 50 of them throughout government, and Priebus has full knowledge of their whereabouts, who they are, and what potential for damage they may cause. He is not doing anything about it, these sources add.

rhetorical effect: career federal workers’ civil service protection could be endangered if they are likened to terrorists.


restoring science to its rightful place

rhetorical claim: EPA diktats are based on junk science that cherry-picks the “facts”, relies on biased, subjective “modeling,” and has many detractors.  The EPA is less a government bureau than a secular church enforcing the dogmas of climate change. Science’s rightful place  is not to politicize and distort the facts, but just  to report them objectively.

rhetorical effect: makes all scientific research seem arbitrary and relative; creates cynicism toward all refereed publications; makes the “facts” opinion-based rather than evidence, in which case the only opinion that matters is that of the energy industry.


street-based progressives

rhetorical claim: hysterical demonstrators, calling themselves the resistance, react to any Trump initiative as fascist or racist.

rhetorical effect: equates progressivism with violence and reaction, and makes anti-Trump demonstrators sound like hooligan armies of anarchy let loose in the streets.


the dignity of the Office of President

rhetorical claim: according to Kellyanne Conway, media coverage of Trump lacks “respect for and recognition of the dignity for the Office of the President.”

rhetorical effect:  likens any dissent to a personal attack on Trump’s character. “Respect” and “dignity” are master rhetorical tropes encompassing society’s deepest values, so any attack on Trump is framed as an attempt to undermine the country. It’s hard to equate master-tweeter Trump with any notion of dignity as he disgraces the Presidency daily.


financial independence

rhetorical claim: in June, the House Financial Services Committee released a proposed bill to dismantle the DFA and reform the CFPB. Titled the Financial CHOICE Act and introduced by Republican Congressman Jeb Hensarling, the bill aims to replace the DFA and restructure the CFPB. In his statement at the release of the Bill, Hensarling asserted his opinion that the DFA was “a grave mistake” that “has failed.” The proposed Financial “Creating Hope and Opportunity for Investors, Consumers and Entrepreneurs” (CHOICE) Act is intended to empower Americans to achieve greater financial growth “with real reforms that work.” Most significantly, the Bill changes many of the provisions that now enable the CFPB:

  • The new organization would get a new name, the Consumer Financial Opportunity Commission, or the CFOC.
  • The fundamental mission of the Bureau would change, with the addition of facilitating competitive markets along with assuring consumer protections.
  • The Office of Economic Analysis would perform a cost-benefit analysis of proposed agency rules before their adoption and implementation.

rhetorical effect: by substituting “opportunity” for “protection,” this becomes a right-to-be-fleeced agency, and would make it impossible to even gather consumer fraud information, according to The Washington Post.


moving on

rhetorical claim: now that General Flynn has resigned, the nation needs to “move on” to more pressing matters.

rhetorical effect: exactly what didn’t happen in Watergate, despite Nixon’s best efforts to demote it to a “two-bit break-in.” Not denying the facts, but twisting and trivializing them has the effect of confusing the public, changing the subject, and making critics sound hectoring and vindictive.

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 )

Facebook photo

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

Connecting to %s