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, Jan 14-18, 2018

an unwavering commitment to the rule of law

rhetorical claim: when it comes to DACA or any immigration policy, what we need above all is an unwavering commitment to the rule of law, which we haven’t had for decades.

rhetorical effect: their commitment to the rule of law wavers quite a bit when it comes to legal opinions they don’t like, freedom of speech and the press for their critics, federal laws protecting the natural environment, consumer protection and reproductive rights, etc.  The entire concept of ‘the rule of law” sounds a lot more fixed and foundational than it really is–sort of like Constitutional originalism. The course and nature of the “rule of law” is really up to its interpreters; and, especially under Trump, all rules can change.


chain migration

merit-based immigration

rhetorical claim: we need to end chain migration and move to a merit-based immigration policy. We need more highly-skilled immigrants from countries such as Norway, not a floodtide of losers from loser nations.

rhetorical effect: Trump makes off-hand racist comments, he promotes racist stereotypes and he incites racism as a political strategy, best explored by Eugene Robinson:

That is what the immigration battle is really about. When Trump and his allies say they want to end “chain migration” — in which family members sponsor other family members for entry — they mean they want to halt the influx of immigrants from Mexico and other Latin American countries. When Trump says he wants to bar Haitians and Africans, he aims to admit fewer black people. When he pines for more Norwegians, he wants to welcome more white people. (Not that Norwegians, at the moment, are very eager to move to Trump’s America.)

Republicans say they want a “merit-based” system of immigration. That has a nice, neutral sound. Who can argue against merit?

But Trump has made clear that what he means to do is halt or reverse the demographic trends that are making this nation increasingly diverse — trends that are wholly consistent with U.S. history.

A century ago, there were nativists who railed against Irish, Italian and Eastern European immigration, claiming that unwashed hordes from poor countries were “mongrelizing” the nation. We now have a president who rejects American ideals of diversity and inclusion in favor of racial purity.


middle class tax cut

rhetorical claim: Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said that the tax deal was designed to “put more money in more companies so they could compete competitively with international companies.”

rhetorical effect: So much for Republican claims that the Trump tax cuts would help working people or the middle class. It was all a pretty thin short-term con, which is a fair description of the business world today.


salty (or tough) language

letting Donald be Donald

rhetorical claim: Trump’s tweets and rough language are the purest expression of his disruptive political sensibility and his connections to Joe Sixpack. Letting Donald be Donald is the GOP’s best strategy for continuous political domination. His occasional tough or salty language is merely an honest reflection of views held by his followers.

rhetorical effect: best expressed by New Yorker editor David Remnick:

Future scholars will sift through Trump’s digital proclamations the way we now read the chroniclers of Nero’s Rome—to understand how an unhinged emperor can make a mockery of republican institutions, undo the collective nervous system of a country, and degrade the whole of public life.

Or, as Masha Gessen puts it, “The news is not that he’s a racist; it’s that he’s dragging us all down with him.”


fake outrage

rhetorical claim: the Dems’ gleeful embrace of moral outrage over Trump’s alleged “shitholes”  remark only shows how their political correctness inures them to the truth. As Roger Kimball argues on the website American Greatness:

Everyone, near enough, knows that he was telling a home truth. It was outrageous not because he said something crude that was untrue. Quite the contrary: it was outrageous precisely because it was true but intolerable to progressive sensitivities.

In other words, the potency of taboo is still strong in our superficially rational culture. There are some things—quite a few, actually, and the list keeps growing—about which one cannot speak the truth or, in many cases, even raise as a subject for discussion without violating the unspoken pact of liberal sanctimoniousness.

rhetorical effect: reduces all progressives’ moral principles and political policies to hypocritical posing, political correctness, smug self-serving and sanctimoniousness. Assumes tat liberals have no moral core; they only crave power as their means and end.

open borders

rhetorical claim: Open-border advocates in politics and the media vilify those who dare suggest that the laws be changed, and the status quo prevails. This tradition needs to end immediately. “Open borders” is the status quo American immigration policy, and that the diversity visa program is part of it.

rhetorical effect: This claim is completely ridiculous. In 2016, 11.4 million people entered the lottery for 50,000 diversity visas. An authentically “open borders” version of the diversity visa program would admit 100 percent of those applicants, not less than one-half of one percent. The mathematicians among us might note that 50,000 is 11.35 million closer to zero than 11.4 million. The restrictionist tradition of labeling those who favor the almost totally closed immigration policy status quo as “open-borders advocates” is grossly dishonest and “needs to end immediately.”

Perhaps more importantly, practical advocates of a more inclusive and permissive immigration system need to be much clearer about the fact that the real-world political debate takes place within an overwhelming international consensus favoring almost completely closed borders. The liberalizing side of the politically relevant immigration debate is, in fact, plumping for reforms that are slightly less restrictive than the draconian closed-borders status quo.


dubious allegations

broken and unfair

rhetorical claim: the Dems continue to make dubious allegations about President Trump: so-called collusion with the Russians, racism, mental instability, unfitness for office, etc. Along the same lines, the mainstream media is producing fake news, the FBI is corrupt and biased against Trump, and the court system is broken and unfair. Presidential reporting is not a medieval morality play in which an irate CNN chooses sinners to be damned to hell and the virtuous to be deified.

rhetorical effect: anything that goes against Trump is demonized; anyone who opposed or thwarts him is subject to vilification of some kind: they are either liars, hypocrites or corrupt., and all allegations against Trump are “dubious” and so automatically dismissed. He uses false conspiratorial narrative framing (including derogatory nicknames) to condemn all critics.


victim-focused identity

rhetorical claim: As Shelby Steele argues in the WSJ, the oppression of black people is over with. Black Americans must come to terms with the accountability freedom demands, and not hide behind their victim-focused identity, or the excuse of oppression.  No more elaborate narrative excuses for black poverty or underdevelopment: no more talks of “systemic” or “structural” racism, of racist “microaggressions”, “white privilege”, etc.

rhetorical effect: This label tries to make it so that talking about racism–not actual racism– is over with, thus serving as its own taboo. Tries toi make racism into “the r-word,” never to be uttered aloud. This phrase also of course blames the victims for the crime.


scare pollution

rhetorical claim: liberals engage in scare pollution with their fake news and fake science about so-called “climate change” or “global warming.”  They are like Chicken Little–the sky is always falling.

rhetorical effect: transforms environmental protection concerns into a form of pollution. Ridicules any consequences of man-made climate change as either illusory or scare-mongering. Ridicules any notion of sincere desire to protect the air and water.


excellent health

rhetorical claim: Trump is in excellent physical and mental health, dashing the Dems’ hopes of 25th-amendment remedies.

rhetorical effect: excuses Trump’s unhealthy lifestyle and  legitimizes authoritarianism as normal, unless of course you count a terrible attention deficit disorder and rampaging narcissism as mental issues.



rhetorical claim: from PJ Media:

The U.S. is not a charity, forced to take anyone who wants to come here because their need is great. We are a great country, and thriving like none other in the history of this sorry world, but even we can’t give shelter and opportunity to everyone who wants to come here to escape the mess their countries have become.

We get to pick and choose, and while we have traditionally given refuge to those in dire need, economic hardship is not, by itself, dire need. Nor are we, for that matter, forced to give refuge if we think you’ll bring the mess back in your country of origin with you.

Do you want to come to the U.S.? Great. Splendid. Come because you want to be an American, not because you want to defend tooth and nail the sh*thole you left behind. We are not your mommy. We are not your daddy. We want you to leave your parents’ basement and make your own way to American freedom and prosperity.  If you can’t do that, go back to the sh*thole.

Fit in or f*ck off.

We don’t care what sh*thole you came from, we just care that you want to be an American.

And if you’re not here, don’t want to come here, and don’t want to be an American but are offended because your country was called names, don’t waste spit defending your pride. Prove us wrong by making your country one that people don’t want to leave in droves. And shut up about it.

rhetorical effect: racism, xenophobia, nativism, manifest destiny, “the white man’s burden.”

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