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 27-31, 2017

Orwellian language change alert:

According to The Washington Post, the Trump administration is rapidly transforming (or “rebranding”) official government language on websites and policy documents:

“Climate change” is out. “Resilience” is in. “Victims of domestic violence” are now “victims of crime.” Foreign aid for refu­gee rights has become aid to protect “national security.” “Clean energy investment” has been transformed into just plain “energy” investment….The Environmental Protection Agency has shifted from enacting climate change regulations to reversing them, while the Energy Department has moved from boosting prospects for renewable energy to promoting President Trump’s fossil fuel-focused agenda. The Trump State Department is aiming to cut spending on diplomacy and foreign aid, and the Agriculture Department has backed away from Obama-era rules to ensure healthy school lunches. Domestic violence is now called “crime.”


soft power

rhetorical claim: “America First” means leading from a position of strength, not Obama’s soft power approach of “leading from behind.” Military strength is more important than diplomatic niceties or multilateral trade deals that are bad for America.

rhetorical effect: As explained by Martin Wolf:

Mr Trump seems to prefer autocrats to today’s western Europeans. He is warm towards Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines, not to mention Russia’s Vladimir Putin. He appears to care not at all about democracy or human rights. Neither does he seem committed to the mutual defence principles of Nato.

Mr Trump’s “alt- right” supporters see not a divide between the democracies and the despotisms; but rather between social progressives and globalists, whom they despise, and social traditionalists and nationalists, whom they support. For them, western Europeans are on the wrong side: they are enemies, not friends.
Now consider the west and, above all, the US in the world. The rise of China has reduced its economic and political weight. A recent history of failed wars and financial crises has savaged its leaders’ credibility. The choice of Mr Trump, a man so signally lacking in the virtues, abilities, knowledge and experience to be expected of a president, has further damaged the attractions of the democratic system. Now the west seems deeply divided internally too.

Across the world, people question the future role of the US. Would it not be wiser, they wonder, to move closer to China? Mr Trump would not appear to mind if this did happen. He voluntarily withdrew the US from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, aimed at being an alternative to Chinese leadership. Under him, the US seems to be abandoning the notion of soft power. Indeed, the proposed budget tells us that the administration sees the idea as largely empty: guns matter, diplomacy does not.


Medicaid enhancements

rhetorical claim Medicaid for all Americans will be bigger and more beautiful than ever before.  States and insurance companies will have the flexibility to offer a variety of plans and coverages, and the market will finally be allowed to sort itself out.

rhetorical effect: Serves as a counter-factual claim to cover over the $800 billion and $1.4 trillion in future Medicaid spending over 10 years. Ideal use of a smokescreen: our cuts are not really cuts, but increased discretionary power for the states to make health care better in their local context and for insurance companies to offer bare-bones policies.


single payer fantasies

rhetorical claim: California is leading the new crusade to mandate universal, single-payer heath care reform. This proves two things: that liberals’ only response to government failure is more government, and that their Platonic ideal of health care is everything for everyone all the time. This approach will bankrupt the state.

rhetorical effect: makes any single-payer argument sound unreasonable and utopian, even though Medicare is successful; justifies limited coverage plans.


we are not here to lecture

rhetorical claim: in Saudi Arabia recently, Trump said:

“America is a sovereign nation, and our first priority is always the safety and security of our citizens. We are not here to lecture. We are not here to tell other people how to live, what to do, who to be, or how to worship.”

rhetorical effect: De-emphasizes human rights as a mainstay of US foreign policy; allows autocratic states such as Russia, Turkey, China and Hungary to trample human rights with near impunity; makes any moral standard of defending human rights out to be a prissy or hypocritical “lecture” instead of a statement of principle.


rights-of-man mantra

rhetorical claim: We have a big problem with Islam, and it’s impossible to solve it through globalist, individualist, rights-of-man mantras. Islam is a rigid, authoritative religion demanding unquestioning submission. By rejecting both the nation state and Judeo-Christianity, Liberals have destroyed the main forms of communion, opening the way to radical Islam to fill the void.

rhetorical effect: privileges nationalism over globalism and human rights; makes universal human rights values sound fatuous and dangerous; paints islam as a religion of hate and intolerance, thus justifying Muslim travel bans, workplace discrimination against Muslims, and violation of Muslims’ civil rights. Calling human rights a mantra makes it sound like a cult.


anti-Trump leakers

rhetorical claim: the real (and only)  Russian-Trump scandal is going to prove to be that the anti-Trump leakers of false stories of collusion were either consciously or unwittingly working for the Russians. Mueller’s main investigation should be into leaks, not a phantom chase for non-existent Trump campaign “collusion.” The media who pass along these fake leaks are profoundly stupid and naive about how they are being manipulated by the Russians.

rhetorical effect: turns any press criticism of Trump or any aggressive news coverage into treason because it is all supposedly being directed by the Russians; plays into the “the press is the enemy of the people” meme; changes the subject from the Trump campaign’s collusion with Russia into the media’s collusion with Russia.


moral and just

rhetorical claim: mandatory minimum prison sentences and three strikes rules are moral and just, according to Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

rhetorical effect: paves the way for the return of the failed War on Drugs. Ensures that the African-American male population will continue to face mass incarceration, with its attendant stripping of all human rights and voting rights. Falsely equates morality with justice, justice with punishment, and cruelly long prison sentences for effective crime reduction.

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