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, April 17-24, 2018

competitiveness clause

rhetorical claim: The GOP should insert a competitiveness clause in any new NAFTA agreement. Such a chapter would bolster infrastructure, create more jobs and streamline the permitting process. Ending the crushing regulatory chokehold of the Obama years (see “bludgeoning,” below) would thwart future Democratic mischief if they re-take the House.

rhetorical effect: “competitiveness” becomes a weaponized euphemism for corporate malfeasance, environmental destruction, the end of labor rights, and all consumer protection.



rhetorical claim: the GOP is slowly repealing the worst regulatory rules of the Obama administration, rules that were used to bludgeon entire industries–coal, auto and payday lenders, for-profit colleges–into submission.

rhetorical effect: any policy the GOP disagrees with is seen as nothing but government coercion, as if any regulation is suspect and coercive because it is inherently based on  the hypocritical Dem will-to-power. Claims of public interest or the common good are ridiculed as anti-jobs and anti-American.


superfluous legal jeopardy

rhetorical claim: when we metastasize laws for criminalizing politics, we become more like Vladimir Putin’s Russia. The corrupt FBI has put Donald Trump into superfluous legal jeopardy. Mueller is framing his own investigation to justify the pre-election actions of the FBI.

rhetorical effect: undermines and poisons any Mueller indictments or claims of illegal acts. Transforms the rule of law into a pejorative, a form of “tyranny”.


bad science and statistical manipulation

rhetorical claim: the liberal worldview and policy framework are often based on junk science and statistical manipulation: irreproducible research is the rotten foundation of neo-liberal economic theory, concocted psychology research undergirds education policy, and, as Peter Wood and David Randall argue in the WSJ,

The whole discipline of climate science is a farrago of unreliable statistics, arbitrary research techniques and politicized groupthink….

The chief cause of irreproducibility may be that scientists, whether wittingly or not, are fishing fake statistical significance out of noisy data. If a researcher looks long enough, he can turn any fluke correlation into a seemingly positive result. But other factors compound the problem: Scientists can make arbitrary decisions about research techniques, even changing procedures partway through an experiment. They are susceptible to groupthink and aren’t as skeptical of results that fit their biases. Negative results typically go into the file drawer. Exciting new findings are a route to tenure and fame, and there’s little reward for replication studies.

rhetorical effect: part of the War on Science, turning the whole concept of  “government science” into an oxymoron.


reverse racism

rhetorical claim: liberal academics do not seek equality, but instead want to assert and maintain privilege. They thrive on racism, which they themselves help to perpetuate. It’s time to stop prattling about “race” altogether.

rhetorical effect: typical GOP inversion: anyone claiming X is actually perpetuating it: the poor keep themselves poor, the needy are actually parasites taking advantage of society via white guilt, minorities are the real racists, feminism turns women into victims, the courts, FBI and Justice Departments are actually undermining the rule of law, etc.  Call it the The World Turned Upside Down syndrome. While there is a certain twisted logic to this method, it rests on a poisoned, exclusionary  base of conspiracy theory (us vs. them).


Social Justice Warriors vs. western chauvinism

rhetorical claim: ultra-liberal Social Justice Warriors (SJWs) are out of step with the American people with their collectivist, globalist elitism. Instead, it’s time to practice making America Great Again,  time for the advent of sovefrign citizenship and  western chauvinism.

rhetorical effect: opposition to SJWs justifies misogyny, nativism, anti-Semitism, racism, the squelching of free speech, and the end of civil society. Undercuts the very oidea of social justice, reducing it from a moral imperative to a phony redistribution scheme.


unearned respect

rhetorical claim: as expressed by Victor David Hanson:

Washington’s self-righteous establishmentarians talk of professionalism when they act unprofessionally. They refer at length to their intellectual and professional pedigrees when they prove incompetent. And they cite their morality and ethics when they possess neither.

And then, adding insult to injury, when the public expresses abhorrence at their behavior, they accuse critics of unprofessionalism, a lack of patriotism, or reckless demagoguery.

A James Clapper can lie to Congress under oath about intelligence surveillance of U.S. citizens; a John Brennan can lie about CIA monitoring of U.S. Senate computers, or mislead Congress about the absence of any collateral damage in the use of drones. Yet we are supposed to give both further credence based on their emeriti titles or to believe their current Captain Renault-like outrage over President Trump’s lack of presidential decorum? But what in their past has earned them the moral high ground? Claiming that the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt was largely “secular,” or redefining jihad as “a holy struggle, a legitimate tenet of Islam”?….

For the next decade, the FBI, the Justice Department, and the federal judiciary will have to explain exactly why some Americans can lie to federal investigators, lie to the Congress, destroy subpoenaed evidence, leak classified documents, and face no consequences—while other Americans would have had—and have had—their lives and careers ruined for much less.

Had General David Petraeus told the FBI that his notebooks were accidentally lost, but no matter, because they simply documented his private family plans for a wedding and his own yoga regimen, would he have been indicted? The danger of the present age is not James Comey’s self-righteousness or Robert Mueller’s peculiar latest focus, but a massive distortion of the foundational principle of the United States: equality under the law. In some sense, it no longer exists….

Self-righteousness and self-referencing become fatal when combined with incompetence and malfeasance. James Comey is our touchstone to a morally confused age.

rhetorical effect: demonizes and undercuts the entire criminal justice system; turns allegations and molehills into mountains; criminalizes long-held federal investigative techniques and practices; undermines respect for the rule of law. All of this is designed to inoculate Trump against any Mueller findings or indictments.


welfare abuse

rhetorical claim: In our well-intentioned effort to remove the stigma attached to entitlement programs, the pendulum has swung so far in the opposite direction that some people are now flaunting their entitlements and creating an underground culture where blatant fraud is being committed.

The absence of oversight is easy to understand. These programs are funded by taxpayer dollars; therefore the government has no incentive whatsoever to root out waste. They can simply raise taxes when they run out of money and you and I are called heartless for denying aid to the poor and downtrodden if we dare to protest.

There is no better example of how liberal social policy is implemented. As Rush Limbaugh is fond of saying, we are not allowed to look at the results of these programs or their unintended consequences. We are only to consider the intention.

If the intention was honorable, it doesn’t seem to matter that we are making people hopelessly dependent on the government.

Sadly, in the mind of liberal politicians this dependency translates into votes.

rhetorical effect: criminalizes the mere acceptance of social safety-net monies as “abuse”; equates welfare recipients with moochers; assumes all welfare recipients are dependent on the government, no matter how many jobs they have, etc. Rules out any sense of compassion, justice, context, historical racism, etc. Justifies draconian cuts in  social safety-net funding. Undoes the New Deal.



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