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 30-May 4, 2018

Trump is genuine

rhetorical claim: we can believe Trump because he is genuine–he tells it like it is and doesn’t filter or lie, like the Fake News Media. Americans want action, and he’s giving it to them–draining the swamp.

rhetorical effect: as asserted by Michael Hayden, in the so-called “post truth era”:

Political partisanship in America has become what David Brooks calls “totalistic.” Partisan identity, as he writes, fills “the void left when their other attachments wither away — religious, ethnic, communal and familial.” Beliefs are now so tied to these identities that data is not particularly useful to argue a point.

Intelligence work — at least as practiced in the Western liberal tradition — reflects these threatened Enlightenment values: gathering, evaluating and analyzing information, and then disseminating conclusions for use, study or refutation.

How the erosion of Enlightenment values threatens good intelligence was obvious in the Trump administration’s ill-conceived and poorly carried out executive order that looked to the world like a Muslim ban….

These are truly uncharted waters for the country. We have in the past argued over the values to be applied to objective reality, or occasionally over what constituted objective reality, but never the existence or relevance of objective reality itself.

In this post-truth world, intelligence agencies are in the bunker with some unlikely mates: journalism, academia, the courts, law enforcement and science — all of which, like intelligence gathering, are evidence-based. Intelligence shares a broader duty with these other truth-tellers to preserve the commitment and ability of our society to base important decisions on our best judgment of what constitutes objective reality.

The historian Timothy Snyder stresses the importance of reality and truth in his cautionary pamphlet, “On Tyranny.” “To abandon facts,” he writes, “is to abandon freedom. If nothing is true, then no one can criticize power because there is no basis upon which to do so.” He then chillingly observes, “Post-truth is pre-fascism.”

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we’ll see what happens

rhetorical claim: Trump’s fluid, transactional rhetoric keeps possibilities open while also making veiled threats–“we’ll see what happens.”

rhetorical effect: Leaves everything as open-ended and vague as possible for as long as possible to avoid accountability. As explained by Kathleen Hall Jamieson:

The occasions in which he’s made specific promises, like ‘we’ll build a wall and Mexico would pay for it,’ he has had trouble delivering. Instead of forecasting and being accountable for the forecast, he’s opening the possibility that there are a range of possibilities not anticipated for which he does not want to be held accountable.”

…In Trumpese, many people are saying” means “I wish many people were saying this because I want you to believe they are.” “People don’t know” likely means “I just found out,” and “believe me,” on some level, may signal “I have real doubts.”

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fighting and winning for the hardworking taxpayer

rhetorical claim: Donald Trump continues to fight and win for the hardworking American taxpayer against government overreach, fake news, trial lawyers, unions, and so-called “green” environmentalists.

rhetorical effect: fighting and winning for corporate interests; eroding wage standards, benefits, and workplace rights of workers, especially in the private sector; eliminating public services and the social safety net programs; eliminating workplace safety regulation; eliminating the regulation of clean air and clean water, and making sure the tax cuts go mostly to the wealthy. The “hard-working taxpayer” is generally not “winning”. For example, so far:

    • 9: Percent of the 500 major companies that make up the S&P 500 index that have paid employees cash bonuses since the passage of the Republican tax plan.
    • 109Billions of dollars in dividends paid to shareholders following the passage of the Republican tax plan, setting a new record for dividend payments.
    • 84: Percent of all stocks owned by the wealthiest 10% of households.

 

As argued by Gordon Lafer in The One Percent Solution:

The vast majority of American employees go to work every day for a private company, with no union protections. For these workers, it is not a union contract but state and local laws that shape working conditions and frame the balance of power between employers and employees. Corporate rhetoric around these laws sounds different from that aimed at public servants—rather than attacking overpaid employees, they stress the need for flexibility, the danger of government mandates, and the power of unrestrained entrepreneurialism to lift all boats. But the aim of these arguments is ultimately the same: to restrict, weaken, or abolish laws governing wages, benefits, or working conditions; to preempt, defund, or dismantle every legal or organizational mechanism through which workers may challenge employer prerogatives; and to block, wherever possible, citizens’ ability to exercise democratic control over corporate behavior.

 

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paycheck protection

rhetorical claim: tyrannous labor unions can no longer force workers to support politically correct causes they oppose. Their paychecks will be protected from forced payment of union dues.

rhetorical effect: paralyzes union political campaigns, thus severely limiting workers’ rights and freedom of speech.

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decoys

rhetorical claim: Starbuck’s protestors are decoys and dupes of the racial grievance industry.

rhetorical effect: charges of racism are themselves suspected of being inherently racist; concepts of racial equality are reduced to being hypocritical con games, played by suckers only. Racism is said to not only not exist, but to be an excuse for laziness and fraud. Grievances are commodified and reduced to being an “industry.”

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shareholder value maximization

rhetorical claim: government is a parasite on economic growth, and the only measure of value should be shareholder value maximization.

rhetorical effect: As explained by Martin Wolf:

That it is hard to see much wider economic benefit from the massive increase in the relative size and influence of finance over the past half century seems self-evident. Today, many western economies are, after all, burdened by high levels of private debt, high inequality and low rate of productivity growth. If this is success, what might failure look like?

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the Employment Protection Agency

the Employment Prevention Agency

environmental originalism

environmental stewardship

self-implementing regulation

stakeholders who care about outcomes

fuel diversity

cooperative federalism

rhetorical claim: the EPA’s confiscatory war on industry is over–no more regulatory overreach.We need a return to environmental originalism, in which the government practices environmental stewardship. not prohibition.  Regulations will be self-implementing and immune to wasteful lawsuits. The EPA is no longer what Trump called the Employment Prevention Agency; instead, it’s now the Employment Protection Industry. Power plants will now be allowed to implement their own compliance programs without the intervention of a permitting authority.

rhetorical effect: protecting jobs, not the environment; allowing unlimited mining and development on public lands; ending regulation of polluters.

Translations:

stakeholders who care about outcomes: often portrayed as “farmers and ranchers,” this label always applies to fossil fuel companies.

fuel diversity: cuts in alternative and green energy, thus the opposite of energy diversity policies

cooperative federalism: leaving environmental and workplace safety, policy and monitoring entirely up to the states, which are typically either reluctant to act due to political connections or lack the funds to act.

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collusion

rhetorical claim: federal workers who are members of the Democrat Deep State engage in a form of collusion they sometimes call ethics or the rule of law.

rhetorical effect: codes of ethics get reduced to being “collusion,” a sort of conspiracy based not on a moral bedrock but on partisanship.

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Deep State attempted coup

rhetorical claim: the Deep State’s attempted coup is being played out by Robert Mueller, and should be resisted.  According to the website American Greatness,

If you look at the categories of questions Mueller allegedly wishes to pose to Trump, you will notice they focus on exactly those areas of inquiry made possible by Obama and his henchmen through the NSA rule change. Among them are Michael Flynn and his contacts with Russia’s ambassador to the United States. A second group of questions has to do with the firing of Comey, the man who orchestrated the entire “special counsel” by writing memos and then leaking them to the New York Times through his friend, Columbia law professor Dan Richman—who just so happens to be on Comey’s legal team now. If you want to see real collusion in action, look no farther than the sanctimonious Comey and his rum crew.

By now, it’s clear that Mueller never had any intention of investigating Russian “collusion,” aside from issuing some meaningless indictments of persons over whom he has no legal authority. Rather—as the enemedia breathlessly hopes!—the inquiry has morphed into an “obstruction of justice” investigation into the firing of Mueller’s pal, Comey. And now we arrive at the heart of the matter.

The title of Comey’s book, A Higher Loyalty, gives the game away: higher than what? The Left is always nattering on about an “arc of history” that bends toward “justice,” but an educated populace should be able to see right through this classic example of Marxist cant. The purpose of such a meaningless phrase is to get you to believe that there is some authority—not God, God forbid!—“higher” than the laws of the United States, and that a true patriot’s allegiance belongs not to the Constitution but to some “higher” power.

Since the 1960s, that power has been the abstract (which is to say, unconstitutional) authority of the federal courts, principally the Supreme Court. To make this case—that the Court is the final judge of the constitutionality of just about everything—they’ve leveraged Marbury v. Madison and convinced the American public through a dazzling exercise in circular reasoning, that because the Court itself has said it is the arbiter of all things constitutional, it is therefore, under the Constitution, the arbiter of all things constitutional.

rhetorical effect: paranoid conspiracy theory run amuck–and even the Supreme Court is in on it. Defends the notion that the President is not subject to obstruction of justice charges because he represents and dispenses justice, and is only responsible to his interpretation of the Constitution. Turns the President into a dictator.

 

 

 

 

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