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, July 29-Aug. 5, 2017

conscience rights

rhetorical claim: rights activism now includes freedom of conscience and freedom of religion. Government wants to edge itself into all aspects of human life, but believers have expressive rights to put their religious beliefs into practice. The force of the state should not be used against conscience.

rhetorical effect: paves the way for discrimination based on religious preferences, and will soon be the rhetorical wedge to open the gates of denying birth control. “Rights”  are thus  defined as exclusive rather than inclusive: not as a way to honor the wishes of others but as a way to practice your own prejudices and impose your beliefs on others.



rhetorical  claim: When it comes to the gender-confused,  for nearly the whole history of the U.S. military, and for almost as long as the idea of a “transgendered” person has existed, and for reasons that sounded-minded people have long understood and accepted, individuals who imagined themselves “trapped in the wrong body” (or some version of such perversion) have been barred from serving in any branch of the U.S. armed forces.

The only thing that should be up for debate here is why this took so long. Perhaps it was just some measure of politics, but this decision should have been easy and quick. In other words, the decision whether to ban the mentally ill from serving in the U.S. military should have happened within the first couple of weeks of the Trump administration. The absurd claim that people can’t tell men from women is just further proof that liberalism corrupts and that sexual deviance seeks to dominate American culture.

rhetorical effect: calling liberalism vile and vulgar discounts claims about sexual identity, likening them at best to confusion. This so-called “objectivity” normalizes prejudice in the name of common sense, and reduces any LGBTQ claim to a form of “mental illness.”


political loyalty

rhetorical claim: according to The Mooch, disloyalty to the President is unpatriotic.

rhetorical effect: Scaramucci defines political loyalty to the president as a patriotic duty, not just for the White House staff but for journalists too. And in his mind, patriotism justifies smearing political rivals and making baseless accusations of criminality. There used to be a word for this sort of behavior: McCarthyism.

So here we have a man who thinks McCarthyite tactics are justified to support Donald Trump. Scaramucci says he’s doing this to advance the “president’s agenda” to make America great again. But it seems more obvious that his first priority is to curry favor with the boss and solidify his own power.



rhetorical claim: Dem claims that the TrumpCare bill cuts Medicaid are fake news–pure Swamptalk. In reality, the bill would have only slowed the growth of Medicaid expansion, not cut it. Swamptalk is often in the guise of clickbait fear-mongering, hyperbolic piling-on and Beltway binge-watching.

rhetorical effect: preemptive undercutting of every anti-Trump policy or position as fake news. Makes it impossible to debate any points using fact-based evidence because all so-called evidence is tainted as being straight from the swamp.


viewpoint diversity

rhetorical claim: progressives are the new fascists because they suppress dissenting voices. In the name of diversity, they exclude any viewpoint not their own; their sense of diversity only confirms their own rigid uniformity.

rhetorical effect: justifies the limiting of press freedoms, suppression of demonstrators and political speech, college curriculum choices, the teaching of science and Darwinism, etc. In the name of diversity, removes all possibility of objectivity.


the war on work

rhetorical claim: Fewer and fewer men of work age actually have jobs. Proposed solutions that focus solely on providing material benefits are a false path. Well-meaning social policies — from longer unemployment insurance to more generous disability diagnoses to higher minimum wages — have only worsened the problem; the futility of joblessness won’t be solved with a welfare check. The loss of work for so many also reflects the emergence of a modern labor market with little interest in less-skilled job seekers. American wages were high in the 1960s and 1970s because of steady demand for unionized labor in Detroit and Allentown. Automation and globalization have destroyed many of those jobs, and the process is likely to continue. Technology gurus like Elon Musk believe that future innovations will make the human contribution to other economic sectors, including services, increasingly obsolete as well. Every underemployed American represents a failure of entrepreneurial imagination

rhetorical effect: provides the argument to oppose $15-an-hour minimum wages, and blames the unemployed for their lack of work. This is akin to stigmatizing alcoholism as moral weakness rather than the result of multiple contributing factors. Also falsely labels progressives as being lazy, and belittles talk of wage inequality as an excuse for not working at all.


legitimate voters

rhetorical claim: Trump’s Election Integrity Commission is doing nothing more than making sure the right to vote is protected against fraud and cyber attack. No legitimate voter need fear the commission’s work.

rhetorical effect: “legitimate” is the wedge word here, since the commission is staffed with an all-star team of voter suppression champions. They will use the concepts of “integrity” and “legitimacy” to purge as many voters as possible, impose onerous registration barriers, limit voting times and places, etc. In the name of fictitious claims of voter fraud (such as people being registered in two states–who hasn’t been?), the will strip voting of all legitimacy and integrity.


demeaning to the Constitution

rhetorical claim: as President Trump put it in his Aug. 3 West Virginia speech, ““They can’t beat us at the voting booths, so they’re trying to cheat you out of the . . . future that you want. They’re trying to cheat you out of the leadership that you want with a fake story that is demeaning to all of us, and most importantly demeaning to our country and demeaning to our Constitution.” Progressive politics cannot win in a free country, so the country and its Constitution have to go.

rhetorical effect: as well explained by Ruth Marcus in The Washington Post,

Trademark Trump. He takes the very thing that he is doing — in this case, demeaning the Constitution — and flings that accusation back at his opponent. Trump’s campaign and now his presidency have been an unceasing effort to demean the Constitution. From “fake news” to “so-called” judges, from his ill-considered travel ban to encouraging police officers’ roughing up of suspects, Trump is a one-man assault on the rule of law.

Inciting supporters to equate a criminal investigation (and potential prosecution) with a usurpation of their democratic choice is the most chilling yet. What Trump decries as a witch hunt is an authorized investigation being conducted pursuant to Justice Department rules, by an experienced prosecutor, selected for this job by another experienced prosecutor, who was nominated by Trump himself. That Trump and his allies are scheming to undermine Mueller’s legitimacy underscores that their sole goal is retaining power, the law be damned.




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