Politiscripts, by Richard Roth

Political discourse consists of scripted, symbolic speech acts. The ends justify the memes and the memes justify the ends. Words become actions and actions become words.

Politiscripts, by Richard Roth

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, Apr 3-6, 2018

antisocial black behavior

colorblind standards

rhetorical claim: as Jason L. Riley argues in the WSJ:

Where King tried to instill in young people the importance of personal responsibility and self-determination notwithstanding racial barriers, his counterparts today spend more time making excuses for counterproductive behavior and dismissing criticism of it as racist. Activists who long ago abandoned King’s colorblind standard, which was the basis for the landmark civil-rights laws enacted in the 1960s, tell black youths today that they are victims, first and foremost.

A generation of blacks who have more opportunity than any previous generation are being taught that America offers them little more than trigger-happy cops, bigoted teachers and biased employers. It’s not only incorrect, but as King and a previous generation of black leaders understood, it’s also unhelpful.

Black activists and liberal politicians stress racism because it serves their own interests, not because it serves the interests of the black underclass. But neglecting or playing down the role that blacks must play in addressing racial disparities can only exacerbate them.

rhetorical effect: arguing that blaming blacks for racial disparities is the way to begin to ameliorate those racial disparities is typically topsy-turvy  GOP rhetoric. In Riley’s upside-down rhetoric, blacks are said to neglect personal responsibility and to blame racism for all their problems. This argument reduces the cause of these problems–racism–into a myth that then becomes labeled as an effect of black behavior. This inversion of cause and effect allows him to make such absurd claims as that  talking about racism only hurts the underclass, who–who knew?– have more opportunities than ever!

the cultural-Marxist Left’s war on language

rhetorical claim: from the American Greatness blog:

The cultural-Marxist Left’s war on Western civilization and American society is conducted on many fronts, including the courts and the streets, but also on a daily basis in the arena of public opinion, via the language. One prominent example has been their transformation of the two human sexes, male and female, first into “genders” (a term drawn from English grammar, and of which there are three, including neuter) and then into multiple genders. This of course demands a new set of pronouns which promptly are given “identity” characteristics, the better to tribalize and thus weaponize these hitherto unknown species of human beings.

Another example is the transformation of the words “immigrants” and “asylum,” which in the space of a decade or so have now acquired a host of subtextual signifiers of race and class in order to change their meaning. To those of us who are the descendants of the last great wave of genuine immigration, which ended around 1920, the words have a sentimental patina about them, recalling the great-grandparents from the old countries of Europe still glimpsed in sepia-toned photographs—the folks who arrived with nothing, worked hard, married either within or without their ethnic group, built houses, started families, moved up and moved out into the mainstream of American society and disappeared into history.

But for the racially obsessed Left, “migrants” now mean brown and black people, while “asylum” means the right of free and unfettered entry into the First World, with no end either in sight or even contemplated. If these continue to be the meanings of the terms, we are in for the most profound period of social and national disruption since the fall of Rome.

rhetorical effect: justifies the last stand of the white, heterosexual male. Categorizing all liberal policies as “cultural-Marxist” makes political compromise impossible since liberals thus pose an existential threat to American democracy.


the real jobs war

rhetorical claim: job losses caused by the tariff wars don’t matter because Trump won the real jobs war, which was with the Obama presidency’s eight years of economic stagnation.

rhetorical effect: changes the subject from harmful tariffs to past economic history, along the way totally distorting the fact that the Obama presidency saw at least six straight years of job growth after the worst recession since he Depression.


dangerous immigrant flows

rhetorical claim: we need to build a wall along the Mexican border to stop dangerous immigrant flows from illegal entry. The National Guard should be deployed for national security’s sake.

rhetorical effect: immigration rates are at a 15-year low, so the “dangerous flows” are a mythical exaggeration intended to whip up hysteria to justify a totally unwarranted military deployment.


cooperative federalism

rhetorical claim: as Scott Pruitt puts it, referring to California’s auto emissions standards, “Cooperative federalism doesn’t mean that one state can dictate standards for the rest of the country.”

rhetorical effect: as explained in an LA Times editorial:

Pruitt, a stalwart shill for the fossil fuel industry claims the Obama administration rushed the analysis of whether the regulations were feasible and set the standards too high. That’s mere pretext, given that Pruitt has used his tenure at the EPA to systematically attack responsible, science- and health-based regulations. Nor, apparently, is it enough that he’s weakened national environmental protections; Pruitt has suggested he may go after California’s essential air quality regulations and climate change program as well.

In the Trump era, both “cooperative” and “federalism” mean that the federal government gets its way and overturns all precedent for state and local action–see sanctuary cities, for example. Thus, as usual, te Trump-era label for something is actually the opposite of what it advertises: in this case, there is neither cooperation nor federalism.


rhetorical claim: Trump has reversed America’s steady march toward gender neutrality. His manly way of saying “Take It or Leave It” makes patriotism great again.

rhetorical effect: sanctions Trump’s bullying, swaggering bragging, lying, and corruption; puts all LGBTQ rights at risk; threatens the civil liberties of all Americans, and furthers Trump’s divisive white nationalism.


progressive political correctness

rhetorical claim: Trump has also reversed America’s progressive political correctness problem. Americans hate identity politics and being told that they are sexist, racist homophobes.

rhetorical effect: see above.



rhetorical claim: David Shulkin was sacked from the VA because he resisted offering Veterans health care offering choices, which always lead to better and more efficient health care.

rhetorical effect: paves the way for the privatization of the VA, euphemistically cloaking expensive and exclusionary market forces as “freedom” and choice.”


green virtue and phony fuel standard

rhetorical claim: liberals like to signal their green virtue with fake fuel standards that will never come to pass, run counter to the wishes of the vast majority of American car buyers, and, even if the did come to pass, would have zero effect on climate change. In other words, they are, like most liberal ideas, a cost without a benefit, or bureaucratic processes run amok. In fact, they actually pose a safety hazard, directly leading to about 4,000 extra auto accident deaths per year.

rhetorical effect: rhetorical inversion at its finest: fuel efficiency standards are not efficient; they incur costs with no benefits, and are actually a direct threat to the health and safety of Americans. Environmental standards in general are a threat to Americans, not a form of so-called “environmental protection.”

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