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, May 11-13, 2017


rhetorical claim: Trump had every right to fire Comey, though the optics and timing of the firing were bad. In draining the swamp, Trump inadvertently created the appearance of a conflict of interest. There is no conflict of course because the entire Trump-Russia narrative is fake news.

rhetorical effect: as Timothy Egan argues in the NYT:,

Donald Trump is the first president in history whose campaign has come under federal investigation for collusion with a hostile foreign power. And now the person heading that investigation, the F.B.I. director, has been fired.

We’re looking for a few good men and women in Congress to understand the gravity of this debasement. We don’t need more parsing about the bad “optics” or “timing” of Trump firing the man who could have ended his presidency. We need a Republican in power to call it what it is: a bungled attempt to obstruct justice.

And the tragic part is that Trump is likely to succeed, at least in the short term. The person he chooses for F.B.I. director will never assemble a prosecutable case of treason that leads to the doorstep of this White House.

calm down

rhetorical claim: when people calm down about the Comey firing, Americans will see that trump was right.

rhetorical effect: authoritarian talk that makes any criticism of Trump seem like hysteria; makes the Comey firing seem logical and inevitable; positions Trump as being ahead of the country in terms of political insights and judgement.


constitutional crisis

rhetorical claim: In another instance of fake news, the Comey firing is being likened to Watergate and called a constitutional crisis. However, a real constitutional crisis is a trust and subservience to an entrenched, seemingly permanent, bureaucratic government that distances its citizens from ownership of their republic by elevating employees to a status higher than that of elected officials.

rhetorical effect: this “deep state” paranoia gives the right a permanent boogie man, much like The Trilateral Commission in days of yore.


strands and crumbs

rhetorical claim: the Trump-Russia false narrative is being help together by disparate and unproven strands and crumbs. Every chance meeting, offhand remark, and six-degree connection is exploited and treated as a smoking gun, whereas in actuality there was no conspiracy and there is no cover-up because there hasn’t been proven that there was anything to conspire for and so nothing to cover up.

rhetorical effect: trivializes the investigation by dismissing (though not disputing) every detail and denies its very existence by calling it a false narrative. Thus this is a false narrative about an alleged false narrative.


slow-growth welfarist malaise

rhetorical claim: the Obama years can be characterized as a slow-growth, welfarist malaise that redistributed money from the makers to the takers and discouraged American innovation and productivity.

rhetorical effect: reinforces class warfare; covers over the record profits of US corporations at the same time wage growth has stagnated. Blames the slow-growth economy on Obama, when it really is a reaction to the crash that happened under Bushie.


lost in the process

rhetorical claim: Critics of Trump’s firing of Comey get lost in the process when the main story is actually that Trump lost confidence in Comey.

rhetorical effect: justifies lying about how and why Comey got fired; deflects attention away from Trump’s obvious obstruction of justice by normalizing it as just another executive act.



rhetorical claim: Trump-Russia conspiracy theorists are peddling a false narrative.

rhetorical effect: likens Trump’s critics into traveling rag dealers or otherwise shady merchants whose goods are defective. GOP claims are never said to be peddled, but instead, are said to be revealed or uncovered.



rhetorical claim: used as an intensifier when making a claim or statement, especially at a crucial juncture of that statement. Here, for example, is an excerpt from Sarah Sanders’ recent Daily Presidential Briefing:

MS. SANDERS:  I think it’s been an erosion of confidence.  I think that Director Comey has shown over the last several months and, frankly, the last year, a lot of missteps and mistakes.  And certainly I think that, as you’ve seen from many of the comments from Democrat members, including Senator Schumer, they didn’t think he should be there, they thought he should be gone.  Frankly, I think it’s startling that Democrats aren’t celebrating this since they’ve been calling for it for so long.

rhetorical effect: whenever the GOP is about to lie, they try to soften the blow by saying “frankly” as an aside to the listener or reader, as if they are really being truthful and confiding in the listener or reader.



rhetorical claim: sure the GOP health care bill may affect the insurance coverage of millions, but what about Obamacare?

rhetorical effect: by always countering any criticisms of Trump with negatives about liberals, makes everything an ad hominem argument against the Dems. This constant attack mode forms a protective rhetorical ring around Trump.


 corporate taxes

rhetorical claim: the burden of corporate taxes actually falls on the workers, not the corporation, in the form of lower wages and benefits, fewer jobs, etc. Thus a corporate tax cut is really populist.

rhetorical effect: turns language on its head by transforming corporations into populist enterprises whose main aim is purportedly employee welfare, not profits.

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