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, March 1-7, 2017

military operation

rhetorical claim: that the deportation of undocumented immigrants will, according to President Trump, be carries out as a “military operation.” This definition of a mass-deportation military operation was later dialed back by General Kelly and Sean Spice as being selective only and not involving the military

rhetorical effect:  further undermines Trump’s rhetorical authority since his aides now say he actually meant “non-military” when he said “military.”  Also scares every immigrant and suppresses free speech.


no investigation is needed

rhetorical claim: Trump’s ties to Russia and Russian interference in the US election don’t need to be investigated because there is no proof that any crime was committed.

rhetorical effect: becomes the template for avoiding any independent investigations of the Trump administration. Establishes the absurd idea that evidence could possibly exist before an investigation.If you had proof, you wouldn’t need an investigation.


health care populism

rhetorical claim:  deregulated, competitive health insurance markets are the most fair and efficient way to the health care markets people really want. Key to fairly managed markets is the right of patients to cost consciousness. Innovative contracts offering limited and selective  kinds of coverage, and shifting more responsibility onto the patients, are the wave of the future. It would be a case of “moralistic overreach.” (see below)

rhetorical effect: turns health care from a human right into a consumer-driven obligation, thus paving the way to blame the victims for their own illnesses.  Will lead to vastly reduced coverage; exclusions for preexisting conditions; huge increases in both the uninsured and the under-insured, and record profits for unregulated insurance companies and providers.


political extortion

rhetorical claim: A special prosecutor is the worst possible way to inform Americans about the Russia episode. He’d operate in secret with a goal of criminal indictments when what the U.S. political system needs is information about what happened. Democrats have made many allegations but fear there may be nothing to find. A special prosecutor would let them continue to claim for months or years that the 2016 election was stolen even if no indictments were ever handed up.

rhetorical effect: makes any investigation of Trump’s Russian ties seem politically-motivated, inevitably biased, and nothing more than Dems’ revenge for a lost election. Saying that the American people “just want to know what happened ” without  a “secret” Special Prosecutor issuing indictments is to rule out findings of criminal conspiracy and even treason.



rhetorical claim: progressivism is the true believers’ conspiracy against government by the people. Progressives want to dispose rights through the administrative state, not allow these rights to be disposed by “The laws of  Nature and Nature’s God.”

rhetorical effect: normalizes and reifies  Trumpism as a “popular revolt” bubbling up from the people and not an administrative coup engineered by progressives. Demonizes progressivism as elitist, authoritarian, and unnatural–a pure, naked power grab justified by a bogus sense of historical inevitability.


moralistic overreach

rhetorical claim: appointing Special Prosecutors–or even creating the FISA Court in the first place– circumvents the natural process of letting the Justice Dept. gather the facts and instead constitute an act of moralistic overreach on the part of the Dems.  Judges should not be involved in the surveillance equation.

rhetorical effect: removes judiciary oversight of the Justice Dept., allowing it to bury or ignore evidence. “Moralistic” is of course a pejorative term in itself, suggesting prying scolds and hypocrites. This phrase delegitimizes any independent investigation of US intelligence, surveillance, or political connections with foreign powers. It also makes the concept of morality itself seem suspect.


tax competition

rhetorical claim: Obama had a taboo on lowering taxes through tax competition, which made efficient corporate tax planning very difficult. Relegitimizing tax competition will be a powerful economic stimulant.

rhetorical effect: tallows for a race to the bottom in terms of corporate taxation. In the name of efficiency, will lead to drastic cuts (always now called “trade-offs”) in social spending. Competition in this context always means efficiency, never collusion or monopoly power.


white guilt

rhetorical claim: according to Shelby Steele,

the Trump election suggests an exhaustion with the idea of white guilt, and with the drama of culpability, innocence and correctness in which it mires us. White guilt is an anachronistic  mock guilt, a pretense of real guilt, a shallow etiquette of empathy, pity and regret. It’s only aim is moral authoritarianism….When America became stigmatized in the ’60s as racist, sexist and militaristic, it wanted moral authority above all else. Subsequently the American left reconstituted itself as the keeper of America’s moral legitimacy. (Conservatism, focused on freedom and wealth, had little moral clout.) From that followed today’s markers of white guilt—political correctness, identity politics, environmental orthodoxy, the diversity cult and so on.

This liberalism evolved within a society shamed by its past. But that shame has weakened now. Our new conservative president rolls his eyes when he is called a racist, and we all—liberal and conservative alike—know that he isn’t one. The jig is up. Bigotry exists, but it is far down on the list of problems that minorities now face. I grew up black in segregated America, where it was hard to find an open door. It’s harder now for young blacks to find a closed one.

Let’s stipulate that, given our history, this liberalism is understandable. But American liberalism never acknowledged that it was about white esteem rather than minority accomplishment. Four thousand shootings in Chicago last year, and the mayor announces that his will be a sanctuary city. This is moral esteem over reality; the self-congratulation of idealism. Liberalism is exhausted because it has become a corruption.

rhetorical effect: the laughable claim that we now live in a “post-racist” era and that there is no longer any reason to believe in liberal causes makes it a “corruption” to even be a liberal. Mired in self-esteem issues and apologizing for America, liberals are now “the enemy of the people.”





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