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 18-31, 2017

Fifth Column

rhetorical claim: Every day brings new evidence that today’s media are engaged in clandestine fifth column activities involving journalistic acts of sabotage, media malfeasance, blatant disinformation or media espionage conducted by secret sympathizers. President Trump is engaged in a vicious counter-terrorism war with the media and the Democratic Party.  Yes, terrorism, for what is terrorism but violence or intimidation to achieve some political mean?  The Democrat Party, aided and abetted by their army of fifth column “journalists,” are waging a clandestine war against the heart and soul of America. They are fake Americans producing fake news.

rhetorical effect: discredits any mainstream media reporting; turns them into “the enemy of the people,” and Obama collaborators, and could eventually lead to relaxed libel laws that will muzzle the press and consolidate government power. Turns the Trump Administration into the true resistance movement.

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virtue signalling

rhetorical claim: feel-good policies such as allowing men to use girls’ bathrooms and ruinous $15/hr. minimum wages are progressives’ way of signalling their virtue and political correctness.

rhetorical effect: reduces idealism, social justice, and equality to self-serving attempts at cynically holding power. Renders any claim of morality sound sanctimonious and hypocritical.

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the Obama-Clinton pushover axis

rhetorical claim: why would the Russians hack our election when they had the feckless, incompetent Clinton/Obama apparatchiks doing their very bidding. Obama was recorded on a hot mic telling “Vladimir” he would have more flexibility after the 2012 election (and boy did he).   Obama/Clinton let them take Crimea and Georgia without a peep.  Obama/Clinton apparently (allegedly) signed over 20% of America’s uranium for some huge donations (said to be over 100 million dollars) to the Clinton Foundation plus mega dollars for Clinton speeches that were of no value.  The botched Russian reset button, the drawdown of our military, the total feckless weakened foreign policy of Obama/Clinton, and more; the list of reasons for Vladimir to love Clinton are legion.

Given all those facts, why in the world would Putin want to change from the easy marks he had to a bulldog, a fighter, a man of accomplishment who ran on toughness, a man who wanted to reassert America’s greatness, a man who promised to build the strongest military in the world, a man who wanted to vie, compete and beat Russia as a player in the energy markets?

rhetorical effect: this incredible string of lies and half-truths shifts the narrative away from Trump and back onto the Clintons and Obama.

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reverse monitoring

rhetorical claim: In its final stages, the Obama administration ordered wiretaps on targets they knew that the Trump transition team would be speaking with. This subterfuge and deception was a backdoor way of mining the incoming administration for dirt

rhetorical effect: deflects attention away from the Russian election hack story; distorts events into a hurricane-strength dose of fake news; makes Obama sound like a traitor and a felon for authorizing these taps. Their claim that anyone who reveals names and details of this surveillance should go to prison also has a chilling effect on public disclosure and journalism.

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hard power

rhetorical claim: the strong-power administration needs a strong military to overcome Obama’s perpetual “apology tour”and make America respected and feared again. Makes sure that no one “messes with us” (see below) ever again.

rhetorical effect: justifies enormous defense budget increase at the expense of domestic programs; makes our allies less likely to build up their military spending;  purity and patriotism carry the day over compassion and alliance-building; an increased likelihood of  state-based aggression in the form of American bellicosity , coercion, and military intervention, and, as Nina Burleigh explained in Newsweek,:

What Trump’s budget ensures is that the nation continues down the road that got him elected in the first place—poorly informed and sickly people, ill-served by unfunded public education, lacking decent health care, poisoned by pollution, eating food and using machinery whose safety is not ensured by public agencies, and slipping behind other countries in science and innovation

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originalism and textualism

rhetorical claim: When interpreting the Constitution, judges should confine themselves to the words of the Constitution. Originalism says that if the words are at all unclear, then judges need to consult historical sources to determine their meaning at the time of ratification, and the correct application of these words to new cases should clearly  limit judicial discretion. As Justice Scalia argued, if judges are not bound by words and history, they will inevitably exceed the limits of their judicial authority and, like “activists” or “super-legislators,” make the Constitution say whatever they want.

rhetorical effect: guarantees conservative SCOTUS decisions because it does not take into account the modern meaning of terms such as “right,” “unreasonable,” “probable cause,” “due process,” “excessive,” “cruel and unusual” and “equal protection.”  Does not allow justices to consider context, the intent of the Constitution, contemporary circumstances, and the political and social effect of opinions. Also naively assumes that 250-year-old language is transparent, when clearly anyone attempting to channel the minds of the framers is herself interpreting. Interpretation is a speech act, and anyone reading anything is thus an “activist.”

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governance

rhetorical claim: Congress should do everything it can to dismantle government and eliminate regulation.Its mandate is not to use government to solve problems, but instead to treat government as the problem.

rhetorical effect: lets the private sector do whatever it wants, in effect making profit the sole government principle. Replaces a socially-oriented government–a public sphere– with a military-police operation.

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fashionable political statements

rhetorical claim: federal appeals judges blocking the travel ban are using fashionable political statements to undermine national security.and weaken America They should have no jurisdiction over national security judgement calls.

rhetorical effect: turns two of America’s greatest strengths–judicial review and the separation of powers–into a traitorous-sounding weakness.The GOP calls favorable judicial rulings “Constitutional originalism,” while unfavorable ones are demoted to being “political statements.” In what ways is the theory of original construction not a political statement in itself, since it is based on speculation, ideology and interpretation?

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messing with us

rhetorical claim: Trump has promised to make the U.S. armed forces “so big, so powerful, so strong, that nobody — absolutely nobody — is gonna mess with us.” Purity and patriotism carry the day.

rhetorical effect: Purity and patriotism carry the day. As Katrina vanden Huevel put it in the Washington Post:

The question is whether we will continue to mess with them. A military that can go anywhere and do anything is called on constantly to go somewhere and do something. The problem with endless wars without victory is that they must be ended without victory. The challenge for a true America First policy is to reduce the lives and resources squandered across the globe in order to rebuild at home. Trump’s budget submission omitted plans for his promised rebuilding of U.S. infrastructure. Clearly the military buildup took priority. And that buildup — along with the doubling down on current policies in Europe, the Middle East, Korea and the South China Sea — suggests that once more the bipartisan consensus of the United States as the “indispensable nation” on duty across the world will betray the promise to rebuild our country.

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