Glossary: Key memes, counterfactuals, dog whistles, canards, euphemisms, innuendoes, insinuations, fake outrages, and obsessions in GOP language factories and fever swamps, June 21-26, 2018

child actors

fake news

rhetorical claim: To profess horror at the events taking place at the border, is to capitulate to those who care far more about foreigners than about their own people. It is to have lost the battle, and with it, the war. This is a matter of us and them, so don’t be fooled by child actors and fake news creating fake emotions to undermine a child-led human wave of illegal and vicious migrants. Progressives would make the entire population of Latin America into public charges for Americans, and ask Americans to nod and smile while it happens.

Should Congress and the president be manipulated by the social media outrage and the radical view that enforcement of the law is a totalitarian attack on democracy, they will be diminishing the essence of what it means to be a sovereign nation in a very fundamental way.

Without borders, there are no nations. Without a nation, there is no democracy, no civil society, and no liberal order.

These questions go to the heart of what it means to be a constitutional republic. How they are handled will determine, to a great extent, what kind of country America will be. Thus far, the national conversation largely has been driven by emotive images and grossly inappropriate Holocaust metaphors. This is not policy making, it is mob mentality. Our discourse, and our decision making, and the founding wisdom of our country deserve better.

rhetorical effect: talk about a slippery slope: if you don’t put families or separated kids in cages, you might as well kiss democracy goodbye. This reductio ad absurdum numbs us to the facts or even to the idea of the possibility of something–a word, an image, a video, a sound recording–being “real”; permits lies and distortions at all levels of government at all times; uses dehumanizing language to justify cruelty; gives people permission not to care, as argued by Megan Garber in The Atlantic:

The press conference conducted by Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen on Monday was, overall, dedicated to the proposition that the reporting coming out of the holding facilities along the American border—the audio, the video, the images of tiny bodies held in massive cages, as a portrait of the American leader looks on—is wrong. (“Don’t believe the press,” Nielsen said, echoing one of the core intellectual and emotional propositions of Trumpism.) The president himself has embraced the corollary idea to Coulter’s claim that the screaming families are actors: that the compassion for them is misplaced. The real tragedy here, he has suggested, is the one perpetrated by Congress/the Democrats/the fake news/an infestation—again, an infestation—of people who are not American and therefore do not deserve the same level of sympathy that Americans might. Crisis actors of a different sort. 
The White House press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, similarly dismissed the moral questions at the heart of the family separations by suggesting that there is a more sweeping moral code than the fickle workings of your own heart. (“It is very Biblical to enforce the law.”) The attorney general, Jeff Sessions, suggested the same. Humans, ever fallible, must practice humility, this logic goes; part of that practice must involve the recognition that even empathy must answer to a higher power. The higher power that insists, despite so much evidence to the contrary, “I alone can fix it.” And so: You are looking at the wrong thing, insist the current stewards of the national soul. You are caring about the wrong thing. Sleight of hand meets sleight of heart.

Or, as Hannah Arendt put it when writing about totalitarianism, “After a while, people come to “believe everything and nothing, think that everything was possible and that nothing was true,”

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the elite

rhetorical claim: “You ever notice they always call the other side ‘the elite’?” Trump asked. “The elite! Why are they elite? I have a much better apartment than they do. I’m smarter than they are. I’m richer than they are. I became president and they didn’t.”

rhetorical effect: such naked envy and resentment feeds like a poison into the bloodstream of Trump’s base, which is tormented (as Nixon was by the Kennedys) by the sense that they are always being sneered at. Of course, Trump–the billionaire– is the one doing the sneering at them instead. He will start calling them the true elite, the real Americans, the yeoman farmers etc.,  invoking a false nostalgia for an America that never existed.

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my people

rhetorical claim: Trump claims that his supporters (“my people”) are the real Americans, whereas liberals and progressives hate America, want open borders so gang members can flood into the country, and are actually opposed to the pursuit of happiness.

rhetorical effect: confirms that Trump’s base is not all Americans, as it should be for a President; implies that Trump loyalists are the only true “people”; creates a vigilante atmosphere; uses unfounded fear and bias to create a false sense of crisis; creates a sense of tribalism, as argued by David Brooks:

The problem is that Trump doesn’t base his belonging on the bonds of affection conservatives hold dear. He doesn’t respect and obey those institutions, traditions and values that form morally decent individuals.

His tribalism is the evil twin of community. It is based on hatred, us/them thinking, conspiracy-mongering and distrust. It creates belonging, but on vicious grounds.

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cheating

rhetorical claim: In his remarks Tuesday before the National Federation of Independent Businesses, Trump suggested that many immigrants were “cheating” because they were following instructions from their attorneys.

“They have professional lawyers,” the president said. “Some are for good, others are do-gooders, and others are bad people. And they tell these people exactly what to say. They say, ‘Say the following’ — they write it down — ‘I am being harmed in my country. My country is extremely dangerous. I fear for my life.’ ”

rhetorical effect: following (and presumably also giving) legal advice is now akin to “cheating.” Soon anything or anyone opposed to Trump will either be a liar, a cheat, or a gang member.

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what we’re up against

rhetorical claim: non-stop media pummeling of Donald Trump should just remind us what we’re up against: a federal gvt deep state, the media, Hollywood, the scientific community, the universities and the sneering coastal elites and “cosmopolitan” globalists.

rhetorical effect: total culture war all the time; no possibility of retreat, compromise or reasoned debate; rejection of all inconvenient truth as “fake news”; raving paranoia, Biblical age and despair.

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Dominionism

anti-human environmentalism

rhetorical claim: humans have a God-given right, or even duty, to use natural resources without restriction, to eliminate government regulation, and also to subdue those who are enemies of this divine hierarchy. So-called “environmentalists” are anti-human, and anti-God.

rhetorical effect: Calling environmentalists anti-human and anti-God is probably akin to calling migrants vermin infestations. Neither characterization bodes well for the future of reasoned, evidence-based debate.

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civility

rhetorical claim: liberals are being uncivil and degrading the nation.when they shout people like Sarah Huckaby Sanders out of restaurants. They should expect similar treatment from Trump supporters.

rhetorical effect: as argued by Michelle Goldberg:

Whether or not you think public shaming should be happening, it’s important to understand why it’s happening. It’s less a result of a breakdown in civility than a breakdown of democracy. Though it’s tiresome to repeat it, Donald Trump eked out his minority victory with help from a hostile foreign power. He has ruled exclusively for his vengeful supporters, who love the way he terrifies, outrages and humiliates their fellow citizens.Sometimes, their strategies may be poorly conceived. But there’s an abusive sort of victim-blaming in demanding that progressives single-handedly uphold civility, lest the right become even more uncivil in response. As long as our rulers wage war on cosmopolitan culture, they shouldn’t feel entitled to its fruits. If they don’t want to hear from the angry citizens they’re supposed to serve, let them eat at Trump Grill.

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deductive (or reductive) higher education

rhetorical claim: as argued by Victor David Hanson, higher education:

aims to be deductive. We start with this premise that men are sexist, or capitalism destroys the environment, or America’s racist. Then you find the examples to fit that preconceived idea.

And the result of it is that we’ve turned out students that are highly partisan and highly mobilized, and even sort of arrogant, but they’re also ignorant … that came at a cost. They did not learn to write well. If you ask them who’s General Sherman, or what’s a Corinthian column, or who was Dante, all of the building blocks that they could refer to later in life to enrich their experience, they have no reference. And then they don’t know how to think inductively. So if you point out the contradictions in free speech the way they shout down some speakers and not others, or the way that they hate capitalism, but they love Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook, they’re not able … they haven’t been trained philosophically to account for that, because they’re indoctrinated. And it’s quite sad to see the combination of ignorance and arrogance in young people, but that’s what we’ve turned out. A lot of people who are indebted and they’re arrogant, and they’re ignorant and they’re not up to the task of moving the United States forward as a leading country in the world.

rhetorical effect: because higher ed is judged to be nothing but an indoctrination into political correctness and Trump hatred, justifies turning higher ed into vocational school, as in the proposed merger of the Departments of Labor and Education. Uses the very existence of free speech to stifle free speech and evidence-based inquiry.

 

 

 

 

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