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 25-29, 2018

transparency vs. “secret science”

rhetorical claim: Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt proposed a rule would only allow the EPA to consider studies where the underlying data is made available publicly. Such restrictions could affect how the agency protects Americans from toxic chemicals, air pollution and other health risks.

Pruitt and proponents describe the new approach as an advance for transparency, one that will increase Americans’ trust and confidence in the research on which EPA decisions are based. “Today is a red-letter day,” he told a group of supporters at agency headquarters. “The science that we use is going to be transparent. It’s going to be reproducible.”

…The American Chemistry Council praised Pruitt’s effort. “Our industry is committed to working with EPA to help ensure the final rule increases transparency and public confidence in the agency’s regulations,” its statement said, “while protecting personal privacy, confidential business information, proprietary interest and intellectual property rights.”

rhetorical effect: spells the end of the use of scientific studies to underpin clean air, clean water, and public health environmental regulations; in the name of “transparency” obscures any basis for EPA policies apart from industry approval; blocks the EPA from relying on long-standing, landmark studies on the harmful effects of air pollution and pesticide exposure. Such research often involves confidential personal or medical histories or proprietary information. Also, the idea of required replicability rules out relying on huge, long-term studies, since they can only replicated over the course of several years.; endangers confidentiality safeguards in scientific studies. Further giving the game away, the American Chemistry Council praised Pruitt’s effort. “Our industry is committed to working with EPA to help ensure the final rule increases transparency and public confidence in the agency’s regulations,” its statement said, “while protecting personal privacy, confidential business information, proprietary interest and intellectual property rights.” To translate, “transparency” now means total opaqueness and immunity from scrutiny, all in the name of property rights.


anti-Trump opportunism

threat to democracy

rhetorical claim: anti-Trump forces have no problems jettisoning objectivity, spying on US citizens, illegally leaking classified intelligence, disobeying legal statutes to maintain power, etc. Their sanctimonious political opportunism constitutes a greater threat to democracy than anything Trump is accused of doing.

rhetorical effect: legitimate, honest dissent is unmasked as mere opportunism; idealism is transformed into cynicism and self-serving; free speech becomes a direct “threat to democracy”.


pay to play

rhetorical claim: “We had a hierarchy in my office in Congress,” Mike Mulvaney, the head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau said Tuesday at the American Bankers Association conference in Washington. “If you’re a lobbyist who never gave us money, I didn’t talk to you. If you’re a lobbyist who gave us money, I might talk to you.”

He told the crowd that trying to sway legislators is one of the “fundamental underpinnings of our representative democracy.”

rhetorical effect: “swaying” here means bribing and extortion; justifies the “pay to play” culture that Trump said he wanted to end; turns votes into a commodity, up for sale. As argued by Jonathan Chait:

The levels of corruption in this administration are simply staggering, and they range from open self-enrichment to openly selling policy to the highest bidder. The completely accurate sense that Trump and his party are out to get themselves and their friends rich is the administration’s gaping vulnerability. What’s especially odd is that nobody in the administration seems to have taken even cursory steps to address or paper over this weakness. They’re all just grabbing as much cash for themselves and their allies as they can, while they can.


weaponizing political disagreement

rank partisanship

rhetorical claim: the Left is escalating contempt for their fellow Americans and the increasing tendency to turn political disagreement into political war, or what Kim Strassel calls “the intimidation game,” in which the Left seeks to “[m]ake political opponents pay a high price for expressing their opinions” through harassment from government agencies, followed by investigations and prosecution, and then blackmail. By using the justice system as a political weapon to attack the enemies of the country’s elite, Robert Mueller and his supporters in both parties are confirming what many Americans already believe…we are not all equal under one law. Restoring this core principle of civil liberty is a cause around which all Americans of good faith can and must unite. By its actions, the Left is proving it does not believe either in liberty or in equal justice under the law and they are willing to use the power of government against their fellow Americans to get their way.

The only real question about the Mueller probe is  not Trump’s role but how we were conned into naming a Special Counsel in the first place.

rhetorical effect: criminalizes dissent; undermines the rule of law; makes it a crime to even investigate the Trump administration; uses the concept of “civil liberty” to give the Trump administration liberty to do and take anything they want; equates any criticism of Trump as a “smear.”

fair press

rhetorical claim: As expressed by Sarah Huckaby Sanders:

We support a free press, but we also support a fair press, and I think that those things should go hand in hand. And there’s a certain responsibility by the press to report accurate information. I think a number of people in this room do that every single day, they do their very best to provide fair and accurate information. Certainly support that and that’s one of the reason I’m standing here taking your questions. And a lot of times taking your questions in a tone that’s completely unnecessary, unneeded and frankly doesn’t help further the conversation or help the American people get any more information in a better way, which is your job and my job, and that’s what I’m trying to do.

rhetorical effect: qualifying the concept of a “free” press by saying it must also be a “fair” press opens door to justifying the stifling of a free press in the names of such nebulous concepts as accuracy, objectivity,” and “responsibility.”


American Political Prisoner

rhetorical claim: As West Virginia GOP Senate challenger Don Blankenship explains, the smear campaign against him has turned him into The American Political Prisoner:

Over the past thirty years I have been threatened with death several times: had urine thrown on me: had eleven bullet holes shot into my office: had two cars smashed with ball bats and clubs while I was in them: been continually lied about: been the subject of several false books: been branded with multiple derogatory names: been sued numerous times: been slandered on national television many times: been subjected to continued ridicule by newspapers: been falsely accused of causing the Upper Big Branch (UBB) tragedy: been falsely arrested: endured a trial where I faced thirty years in prison for made up charges, and been put in federal prison for a misdemeanor.

 This booklet is the right thing to do. It is the right thing to do because all Americans deserve a fair trial, and not one like I had. It is right to do this booklet because coal miner safety is more important than political correctness.

Lies about accidents and improper prosecutions are serious matters, as they prevent worker safety improvements and deprive people of their basic human rights.

rhetorical effect: furthers the “fake news” meme;  sets up a false dichotomy between coal mine safety and political correctness, arguing that political correctness somehow undermines mine safety; turns himself into a victim despite the fact that he is actually the one who has been convicted of criminal negligence; covers over some inconvenient facts about Blankenship, as reported in The New Republic:

There are a lot of people who loathe Don Blankenship, the former head of Massey Energy. Start with the coal miners, 29 of whom were killed in 2010 when an explosion ripped through Massey’s Upper Big Branch mine in West Virginia. Then there are the employees who have accused him of verbal and physical harassment; neighbors whose drinking water was poisoned by Massey’s improper disposal of hazardous waste; rival businessmen Blankenship squeezed into bankruptcy; and Appalachians whose health has been impaired by the disastrous environmental effects of mountaintop removal, an extractive technique Blankenship helped pioneer…. “Massey ran on three principles: fear, intimidation, and propaganda,” said Stewart, repeating a line he used in testimony before a federal court and a congressional committee. All three stemmed from Blankenship. During his nearly 30-year stint at Massey, Blankenship broke a violent labor strike, devoured competitors, bought a state court of appeals seat, normalized the use of mountaintop removal mining, and regularly flouted environmental and workplace standards. That all might once have made him persona non grata among national Republicans. But in Trump’s Republican Party, Blankenship’s record is a selling point.


criminalizing the exercise of presidential power

rhetorical claim: Presidents cannot obstruct justice while exercising core executive powers, so Robby Mueller’s witch hunt has no constitutional basis. The judiciary cannot question the President’s motives–otherwise, we would no longer have separation of powers.

rhetorical effect: reinforces the concept of the unitary executive; moots all criticism of Trump, removes him from being subject to the rule of law. In other words, this is the legal foundation of a looming coup d’etat.


bland welfare corporatism

rhetorical claim: the Dems are once again pedalling their stale brand of bland welfare corporatism and globalist elitism.

rhetorical effect: reduces Dem principles to cynical ploys to keep the poor addicted to welfare while caving in to corporate power.


the value of pushback

rhetorical claim: Americans are pushing back against liberal sophisticates’ political correctness, no longer accepting asocial behavior, a culture of grievance and victimhood, law breaking, sexual perversity, or unfettered “free” speech. Lax morals have created social mayhem in America

rhetorical effect: condones bullying, the abrogation of constitutional rights, the suppression of a free press, and authoritarianism.



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