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, Sept. 3-8, 2017

race ploy

rhetorical claim: the Dems still play the race card whenever they need to blame the dirty masses for racism, fascism, etc. Their constant moral bullying and stigmatizing is one of the main reasons Trump was elected. The Dems have gone from being the party of tax and spend to the party of hate and racism, and they somehow have managed to come out against an orderly, legal immigration system, against good jobs for all American citizens, against defending America first, and against allowing individuals to have the opportunity to build better lives for themselves without government telling them what to do and how to do it.

rhetorical effect: strengthens narratives of white victimology and treats historical racism as “fake news.”


the highest taxed nation in the world

rhetorical claim: the US is the highest taxed nation in the world, and these taxes are a major drag on economic expansion.

rhetorical effect: like all Big Lies, this one runs counter to known facts and yet creates its own momentum and veracity. As Paul Krugman argues,

The day after announcing that he would rescind DACA, Trump gave a speech on tax reform in which he claimed, as he has on multiple occasions, that America is the “highest-taxed nation in the world.” As fact-checkers have pointed out every time he says this, this isn’t just false, it’s almost the opposite of the truth — the U.S. collects less in taxes, as a share of national income, than almost any other advanced economy. But Trump just keeps repeating the lie.


Green Party ideology

rhetorical claim: according to The WSJ’s George Melloan,

Underlying the Green philosophy is a distrust of economic growth. That’s what distinguishes Greens from garden-variety environmentalists who simply want a safe and clean environment, as everyone does. Although the Greens operate under the flag of environmentalism, they have greater ambitions. They are a modern manifestation of a back-to-nature movement, feeding on the guilt and anxiety that accompany scientific advance.

Greens adopted the Democratic Party precisely because it is the party of government. They see government power as the way to suppress the animal spirits of private enterprise that produce innovation and new wealth.

rhetorical effect: reinforces the false dichotomy of no growth vs. no regulation; valorizes the “animal spirits,” which is conservative shorthand for corporate greed and social Darwinism.


the Reagan supply side boom

rhetorical claim: The Reagan tax cuts and deregulation created a boom in the US which extended through the Clinton Presidency. Supply-side economics are the only long-term way to create enough prosperity to end the immigration controversies because all boats float on a rising tide.

rhetorical effect: this fairy tale about the Reagan economic boom ignores the scandals, recession, tax increases and economic chaos that plagued his entire second term, and undercuts any credit due to the Clinton administration. As argued by Paul Krugman, Bill Clinton knew in 1991 that

“The Reagan-Bush years have exalted private gain over public obligation, special interests over the common good, wealth and fame over work and family. The 1980s ushered in a Gilded Age of greed and selfishness, of irresponsibility and excess, and of neglect.” The Reagan economy was a one-hit wonder. Yes, there was a boom in the mid-1980s, as the economy recovered from a severe recession. But while the rich got much richer, there was little sustained economic improvement for most Americans. By the late 1980s, middle-class incomes were barely higher than they had been a decade before — and the poverty rate had actually risen…I understand why conservatives want to rewrite history and pretend that these good things happened while a Republican was in office — or claim, implausibly, that the 1981 Reagan tax cut somehow deserves credit for positive economic developments that didn’t happen until 14 or more years had passed. (Does Richard Nixon get credit for “Morning in America”?)


due process

rhetorical claim: Betsy DeVos has restored due process to the way Obama allowed US colleges and universities to run roughshod over human rights in sexual assault investigations. Campus rape hysteria justified these academic star chambers allowed political correctness to trample on due process, and prejudged all of the accused of guilt.

rhetorical effect: a rolling back of civil rights for rape victims. the Trump “grab them by the pussy” administration is hardly in a position to weaken sexual assault misconduct cases. What’s worse, though, as The New Yorker described it, among DeVos’s supporters of watering down sexual assault cases are

advocates for accused students and a men’s-rights group that has been accused of harassing and intimidating sexual-assault victims. At a rally outside the Education Department, assault survivors urged DeVos not to abandon the commitment to Title IX enforcement seen during the Obama years. Deepening the provocation, her acting head of the Office for Civil Rights, Candice Jackson—a sexual-assault survivor who supported the alleged victims of Bill Clinton and called alleged victims of Donald Trump “fake victims”—had to apologize for telling the Times, on the eve of the event, that “90 percent” of campus accusations amount to drunk or regretted breakup sex. She was in the meetings with DeVos. At a news conference immediately after the closed-door meetings, DeVos said that it was “a really emotionally draining day.”

…..“due process” can be a code for rape denial or upholding rape culture. Concern for fairness for the accused is often mistakenly conflated with implying that many rape accusations are false. Fairness is important regardless of the truth or the falsehood of allegations. It is unclear whether DeVos is equipped to make nuance stick in this debate, and to make fair treatment of all parties compatible with the responsibility of schools and government to address sexual assault.


the Resistance

rhetorical claim: leftist “Resistance” malcontents are skulking around Washington like would-be usurpers, like Caesar’s assassins. They call it resistance, but it is really a putsch, abetted all the while by the mainstream media. The underpublicized fact is that Donald Trump ran against a complacent, biased, flabby, leftist media that had whitewashed the failures of the U.S. political class for decades. He won, they lost, they have been poor sports, and now the public is tired of their lies and their malice. Public approval of the media is under 20 per cent and polls now show Trump edging over 40 per cent. As argued by Victor David Hanson:

The Resistance has gone from melodramatic charges of Trump’s collusion with the Russians, to amateur diagnoses of his mental incapacity, to fear-mongering about his supposed wild desire for a Strangelovian nuclear war with North Korea, to castigating him for his apparently callous and uncaring reactions to Hurricane Harvey victims…

There is a populist and growing resistance to the Orwellian idea that free speech is hate speech, that equality of opportunity is defined only by equality of result, and that identity politics determines the degree of government-mandated penance and reparations.

rhetorical effect: makes resisting Trump seem like a treasonous act; transforms the press into an enemy of the people; brands all criticism of Trump as malicious, with no factual basis.


market-driven wages

rhetorical claim: liberals complain that right-to-work labor laws suppress wages and give the US an unfair foreign trade advantage.  Market-driven wages used to be called old fashioned competition.

rhetorical effect: this is the very claim that the US makes about China and Mexico–that low-wage workers are stealing jobs. “Competition” becomes an unassailable  virtue word justifying low wages, the end of workplace safety rules  and environmental degradation.



rhetorical claim: Trump’s America First foreign policy has led to tougher trade terms, more reciprocity in making allies pay for mutual defense, renewed respect for America’s military might, and a new realism not focused on “nation building.”

rhetorical effect: diplomacy via bombastic tweets; the end of multilateral trade agreements; increasing isolation and alienation from allies, China’s increasing influence, etc–these actual effects have been masked in a rhetoric of bluster, justification, victimhood, jingoism, and entirely unwarranted triumphalism. The overall, decidedly undiplomatic, rhetorical effect has been to make US foreign policy synonymous with US economic prosperity and worldwide domination.


virtue signalling

rhetorical claim: liberals, in their smug sense of moral superiority, are always virtue signalling. Their holier-than-thou attitude alienates voters, who care about jobs, security, family, retirement. Not bathrooms, gay marriage, climate and transgender. Those who purport to care about the latter set of issues — including, apparently, gay or transgender people — must be doing so for attention.

rhetorical effect: almost any public utterance of concern becomes easy to write off as false — as mere performance.  As argued in a recent New York Times Magazine “First Words” column:

Caring is not a crime; it is an argument, about what people should value in the first place. And accusations of ‘‘virtue signaling’’ are, more than anything, a way of walking out on that argument and dismissing it altogether — a quick and easy solution for those moments when engaging and listening, agreeing or disagreeing, seem too hard, too challenging, too personal, too dangerous.

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