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, Aug 17-23, 2017

In this edition, Trump’s opponents are either grandstanders (the corporate community), anarchists (protestors), Mao-like revolutionaries out to destroy even the memory of American culture, or lying purveyors and protectors of hate speech (the media). These last few days have made it clearer than ever that Trump is only representing his base and considers the other 65-70% of Americans as the enemy. No President has ever had such an enormous enemies list.



rhetorical claim: Trump’s business council weasel advisers bailed on him when they encountered political headwinds. Their cowardice is only topped by their grandstanding hunger for accolades.

rhetorical effect: deters other business leaders from criticizing Trump out of fear of retaliation. This bullying projection dampens dissent and turns the moral calculus inside-out: Trump is, after all, the greatest grandstander of them all.


moral plane

rhetorical claim: Trump claims that he isn’t making false equivalencies because he “isn’t putting anyone on a moral plane.”

rhetorical effect: Exactly. Since Trump has no “moral plane,” he expects the rest of the country to also abandon morality in favor of social Darwinism, power, white  grievance-mongering and ethnonationalism.


nation building

rhetorical claim: America is no longer going to engage in nation building in Afghanistan or anywhere else. Our job is to kill the enemy and then get out.

rhetorical effect: removes the moral dimension from war and foreign entanglements, thus allowing for loosened rules of engagement. (see below). Allows Trump to engage in several contradictions: 1) that we will remain in Afghanistan indefinitely until we are we are  “attacking our enemies, obliterating ISIS, crushing Al Qaeda, preventing the Taliban from taking over Afghanistan, and stopping mass terror attacks against America before they emerge,”  yet we also have limited patience for a long engagement; 2) that in the end we will “win,” though it’s not clear what “winning” would look like; 3) that we will not tell other nations how to live–unless of course we don’t agree with how they want to live, as in the case of the Taliban and Sharia law; and, 4) that we don’t want to enable other nations to build stable democracies, yet we continue to euphemistically  engage in “capacity building,” “enabling” and “working by, through and with.” But the intent is the same: to create Afghan government institutions that can overcome the threats from the Taliban, the Haqqani network, the Islamic State, Al Qaeda and other Islamist terrorist groups active in that country. So we can neither afford to leave Afghanistan nor to stay there indefinitely. As a New York Times editorial put it,

“Having spent years criticizing America’s involvement in Afghanistan, he now appears inclined toward an open-ended commitment, but with no real ways to measure success and no hint of a timetable for withdrawal.argued in an


civil debate

rhetorical claim: The Dems’ scorched earth policy amounts to do or say anything to get Trump our of power. This isn’t self-government through civil debate. This is not the workings of a healthy society. This is will-to-power politics.

rhetorical effect: accuses the Dems of engaging in the uncompromising behavior that characterizes the Trump administration. “Civil debate” to the Trumpinistas means capitulating to their positions. The are the ones to engage in sheer power to get their way.



rhetorical claim: anti-Trump resistors are in essence anarchists, seeking to erase American culture, capitulate to terrorism and political correctness, and challenge any moral authority.

rhetorical effect: another rhetorical step in criminalizing dissent. Protestors are not just dissidents, they are enemies, “bad people” and now anarchists–opposed to any and all government or moral authority. This disparagement of dissidents is reminiscent of the 1960’s when anti-war protestors were likened to “hippies,” “bums,” “degenerates” and “outside agitators.” The opposition always has to be “other”–outside the fold. Support of Trump is thus inquestioningly absolute, shutting off all skepticism and investigation.


rules of engagement

rhetorical claim: we must loosen the rules of engagement in Afghanistan so our military does not have one hand tied behind their backs.

rhetorical effect: justifies the indiscriminate killing of civilians.


cultural cleansing

rhetorical claim: The ultimate goal is to disable rational thinking and to ensure the destruction of our history and our heritage.  Progressives’ ultimate aim is a Mao-like cultural cleansing, and the erasure of all historical memories. They want to cntrol the language, the narrative, and the past. As argued in The American Thinker:

There are, in short, ways to silence voices other than to not allow the opposition to speak. There is a way to make speech meaningless by rendering language meaningless; to annihilate the ability to think altogether — a sort of mental nihilism; a Sherman’s march through the brain.

America will not be cleansed of “original sin” and become purer if her collective memory is erased and she is made unable to speak intelligibly. She will not achieve salvation by targeting a race as inherently evil, be that race black, white, red or yellow skinned. She will not become good by erasing her history. Her purity will not be achieved until opposing voices are silenced and the opposition degraded to a social status of untouchables.  She will not attain utopia by ensuring every institution and every person is saying and doing the same things. She will not become righteous by memorizing the new leftist commandments while seeing to it the Ten Commandments are destroyed. She will not be made better by making her people mute.

rhetorical effect: this hysterical conspiracy-mongering makes any opposition to Trump sound subversive and totalitarian–in other words, pure projection on the part of the Trumpinistas. Part of their cultural war is to declare the Left of fomenting a cultural revolution. Note also that the emphasis is on “our” heritage and “our history,” as if Trump supporters are the only real Americans–and the only “heritage” worth preserving is the Confederacy.


hate speech

rhetorical claim: the lying media are actually engaging in hate speech everyday that they relentlessly attack the President. As President Trump put it in Phoenix Tuesday night, according to Breitbart

The only people giving a platform to these hate groups is the media itself and the fake news,” Trump said during his campaign rally in Phoenix on Tuesday.

The president challenged the patriotism of many of the mainstream correspondents, news anchors, reporters, and producers in the mainstream media, but clarified that there were a few “very good reporters” and “very fair journalists.”

“They’re bad people and I really think they don’t like our country,” he said. “I really believe that.”

The crowd booed the press at the rally and chanted “CNN sucks!” after Trump re-litigated his response to the protester violence in Charlottesville and spent 30 minutes trashing the media’s attempt to paint himself and his supporters as racist, white supremacists.

He criticized the media for failing to focus on issues important to the country, choosing to inflame racial tensions instead.

“If you wanted to discover the source of the division in our country, look no further than the fake news and the crooked media which would rather get ratings and clicks than tell the truth,” Trump said.

Trump said the media turned a “blind eye” to issues like gang violence, the failure of public schools, and the effect trade deals were having in middle America.

He also pointedly criticized the media for “unaccountable hostility against our incredible police, who work so hard and such a dangerous job.”

rhetorical effect: justifies suppression of free speech and the abrogation of the First Amendment.


principled realism

rhetorical claim: In foreign policy, especially in the case of Afghanistan, America must practiced principled realism, a clear-eyed, heard-headed, commitment to killing terrorists

rhetorical effect: makes the unprincipled Trump sound as if he has stumbled upon a set of principes, whereas, in reality, as asserted New York Times opinion writer Roger Cohen,

His presidency has been about unprincipled recklessness: allies shunned, dalliances with dictators, environmental sabotage. The man who earlier this month could not distinguish between neo-Nazi white supremacists with blood on their hands and leftist protesters calls for America’s soldiers to come home to a country that rejects bigotry and “has renewed the sacred bonds of love and loyalty.”



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