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, Mar 17-23, 2018

business harassment

trial-lawyer enrichment

rhetorical claim: Dodd-Frank and every Elizabeth Warren idea and agency are parodies of true consumer protection, amounting instead to business harassment and trial-lawyer enrichment.

rhetorical effect: backwards logic: the best way to protect consumers is to end all protective regulation and let Mr. Market look after consumers’ best interests. Overall effect: letting the wolf guard he chicken coop. Also of course note the telltale slur “trial lawyer,” denoting hypocritical liberal lawyers using altruism and “the public interest” to line their own pockets.


law and order

rhetorical claim: Donald Trump has restored law and order in America. Drug dealers now face execution; violent immigrants face certain deportation; Black Lives Matter protestors no longer can break the law with impunity, and the police no longer have their hands tied behind their backs.

rhetorical effect: A “Law and Order” rhetorical regime has replaced the rule of law, making justice subservient to power. “Law and order” has nothing to do with law and everything to do with order. The evocation of law is no longer rooted in fact or evidence, but is instead a weapon to be used. Public discourse is no longer rooted in objective truth. The only “order” is the arbitrary imposition of political will. Being “strong on crime” now means being loyal to white people, and immigration is conflated with criminality.  As Chris Hayes argues:

In this view, crime is not defined by a specific offense. Crime is defined by who commits it. If a young black man grabs a white woman by the crotch, he’s a thug and deserves to be roughed up by police officers. But if Donald Trump grabs a white woman by the crotch in a nightclub (as he’s accused of doing, and denies), it’s locker-room high jinks….

If all that matters when it comes to “law and order” is who is a friend and who is an enemy, and if friends are white and enemies are black or Latino or in the wrong party, then the rhetoric around crime and punishment stops being about justice and is merely about power and corruption.

And this is what “law and order” means: the preservation of a certain social order, not the rule of law. It shouldn’t have taken this long to see what has always been staring us in the face. After all, the last president to focus so intensely on law and order, Richard Nixon, the man who helped usher in mass incarceration, was also the most infamous criminal to occupy the Oval Office. The history of the United States is the story of a struggle between the desire to establish certain universal rights and the countervailing desire to preserve a particular social order.

We are now witnessing a president who wholly embraces the latter. America can have that kind of social order, or it can have justice for all. But it can’t have both.


wait for all the facts to come out

rhetorical claim: we need to wait for all the facts to come out–including FBI and Justice anti-Trump vendettas–before we rush to judgement about collusion with the Russians.

rhetorical effect: will be played as a hole card when and if Mueller indicts or even subpoenas Trump: “Mueller’s WITCH HUNT based on FAKE EVIDENCE.” This notion of a Mueller investigation coverup as part of an anti-Trump conspiracy will linger as a permanent stain on the rule of law, reducing a nation based on laws and evidence to a nation based on suspicion, paranoia, and cynicism. To the extent that the noose tightens around Trump, these claims will only increase, so the more actual facts that come out, the more fake, bye-and-bye conspiratorial fake facts will emerge.


cultural relevance vs. personal responsibility

rhetorical claim: As argued on the National Review website, recent Aspen Institute calls for education reform in the form of more social and emotional learning:

are strewn with the buzzwords of education-school progressivism. While there’s little more than a solitary late-report nod toward personal responsibility, self-discipline, or delayed gratification, the report is rife with references to “cultural identities,” “culturally relevant materials,” “affirming diverse cultures,” “inclusive classrooms engender[ing] respect for diverse cultural identities,” and so on. While there’s nothing wrong with “cultural relevance” in the abstract, what’s offered here is a familiar shorthand for identity-driven, ideological agendas.

Meanwhile, behind the boilerplate talk of caring classrooms and safe school climates, Aspen calls for schools to reject traditional school discipline in favor of Obama-era enthusiasms such as “restorative practices” and “developmental discipline.” Anyone who raises concerns about the unintended consequences of “restorative justice” is presumably opposed to “caring classrooms” — and on the wrong side of the new “consensus.”

rhetorical effect: makes a mockery of any attempts to make education culturally relevant, collective, and developmental, rather than asocial, individualistic, Darwinian,  and instrumental. Tries to demonize notions of justice, empathy and diversity.


denial as political speech

rhetorical claim: Trump’s denial of extra-marital affairs or anything doing with the Russians is a form of political speech, protected by the First Amendment.

rhetorical effect: turns a denial from being both an act itself and, in these cases, a lie, into a speech act. No one should be “protected” by the law when lying, so this argument is absurd on its face. Calling lying protected speech is a non-sequitur.


the Trump-Russia collusion narrative

deep state revenge

rhetorical claim: If you wish to see the deep state at work, this is it: anti-Trump journalists using First Amendment immunities to collude with and cover up the identities of bureaucratic snakes out to damage or destroy a president they despise. No wonder democracy is a declining stock worldwide. The goal is to break Trump’s presidency, remove him, discredit his election as contaminated by Kremlin collusion, upend the democratic verdict of 2016, and ash-can Trump’s agenda of populist conservatism. Then, return America to the open borders, free trade, democracy-crusading Bushite globalism beloved by our Beltway elites.  As soon as Trump was elected, the Dems unleashed the phony Trump-Russia collusion narrative as a virus or a Trump antibody. In reality, the Dem’s fantasies of Trump-Russia collusion are nothing but a revenge drama. Trump’s only crime was to win the election.

rhetorical effect: labeling it a mere “narrative” or revenge drama automatically makes it out to be more fiction than fact, so the mere labeling itself is an attempt at persuading. This attempt, however, is never persuasive because stubborn facts keep emerging. Calling it a virus or an antibody, on the other hand,  makes it sound sinister, threatening, and posing a direct threat to democracy.



rhetorical claim: New National Security Advisor John Bolton is uncompromising on U.S. national security interests. For him, the sine qua non of U.S. security is for us to be prosperous and well-armed in order to stave off aggressors and guarantee an international system we built and that serves us.

rhetorical effect: “uncompromising” really means inflexible, vengeful, rash, and rabidly ideological. Rhetorically, though, calling someone “uncompromising” is intended to ennoble them as principled, measured, and consistent. Good luck trying to sell John Bolton as any of those things!


gun control propaganda

rhetorical claim: According to The Federalist website, :

The gun control lobby is borrowing the playbook from one of the most effective propaganda campaigns in history: anthropogenic global warming.

From engaging celebrity activists to bullying private industry to portraying opponents as murderers, the well-funded and highly-orchestrated gun control lobby is copying the same approach that has been successfully deployed by the international climate change movement to sell the dubious claim that humans are causing global warming. Textbooks are filled with bogus scientific “studies” about global warming and dire warnings about its consequences.

Schools commemorate environmental holidays like Earth Day, so they can push climate dogma. Teachers are encouraged to tag climate change in every subject area from science to health to history. And whoever disagrees, or even mildly objects, is portrayed as a child-hating monster. After all, who wants to deny a safe future for our kids? Climate crusaders are even using children as litigants in lawsuits to sue the federal government for violating “the youngest generation’s constitutional rights to life, liberty, and property, as well as fail[ing] to protect essential public trust resources.”

If you oppose either gun control or climate change, you are a killer. Republican lawmakers, NRA members, and regular citizens who oppose stringent gun control laws are accused of having “blood on their hands.”

The end-game of both the climate change and gun control movements are the same: subverting individual rights and choices while empowering the state. It has nothing to do with “the children,” no matter how many phony marches and scripted interviews they organize.

rhetorical effect: rebrands gun control advocates as conspiratorial fanatics creating fables and using children to get their way. Implies they are child molesters.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s