Glossary: Key memes, counterfactuals, dog whistles, canards, euphemisms, innuendoes, insinuations, fake outrages, and obsessions in GOP language factories and fever swamps, July 28-Aug 3, 2018

it continues to stain our country

rhetorical claim: as the President tweeted:

..This is a terrible situation and Attorney General Jeff Sessions should stop this Rigged Witch Hunt right now, before it continues to stain our country any further. Bob Mueller is totally conflicted, and his 17 Angry Democrats that are doing his dirty work are a disgrace to US

rhetorical effect: branding any criticism or investigation of Trump as a “stain” equates criticism with dirt, vermin, and filth: something easily dispensed with. As argued by Ruth Marcus:

Note to the president: “Our country” is doing just fine with the Mueller probe. Actually, the United States is benefiting from it. The country being stained by the investigation is the one that tried to interfere with our election on Trump’s behalf. One of the indictments that Mueller has produced alleged that Russian individuals and companies engaged in a sophisticated social-media campaign to help swing the election to Trump. Another accused Russian military intelligence agents of hacking into the emails of Democratic campaigns and operatives.

Someone needs to ask — or would ask, if the president ever took more than a few shouted questions from a few favored reporters — how bringing such cases is a “stain” on the United States. Rather, it is a defense of the country and its electoral system, which is more than we have seen from the Trump administration.

Leave aside the matter of whether Trump’s attacks on the Russia “hoax” represent potential evidence in an obstruction case against him. That is worth considering, but the focus on his tweets as obstruction in plain sight has obscured the even more concerning fact that the tweets offer incontrovertible evidence of a president who cares nothing about the well-being of his country and the integrity of its elections

A president who cared about this would be insisting that Mueller get to the bottom of what happened, not doing his best to undermine the special counsel’s legitimacy. He would not be ordering, or even suggesting, that his attorney general — his properly recused attorney general — shut it all down.

******

progressive regression

rhetorical claim: according to Victor Davis Hanson:

When Trump appeared on the national scene, an all-out assault on civil liberties followed, in a manner that is now irrevocable. The Left destroyed for good the idea that progressives are the protectors of constitutional freedoms.

If fear of Trump, some connected with the National Security Council under Obama helped to surveil American citizens, unmasked them, and leaked their names to the press. The press, hand-in-glove, complied in spreading such unsubstantiated dirt.

Former National Security Advisor Susan Rice flat out lied in her denial about her involvement in unmasking. The Obama FBI and Justice Department officials deliberately misled FISA courts, on the premise that spying on American citizens even with flimsy or fabricated evidence was OK—if it at least neutered the Trump candidacy and presidency. Had they just told justices something like, “We present, as justification for these warrants of surveillance, opposition research compiled on candidate Donald Trump, and paid for by Hillary Clinton during the present campaign,” they likely would never have been able to spy on American citizens.

No one again will have much confidence either in the FISA courts or any rationale for spying on any American citizen. They will logically assume FISA requests are political efforts to spread dirt on the opposition—in the fashion that we now have no idea, in the era after Lois Lerner, what prompts an IRS letter in our mail. The legacy of the Obama Administration is that if one is not progressive and loud in the public sphere, he may well be monitored, audited, or investigated.

rhetorical effect: tendentiously strings together a series of half-truths and distortions to make a case out of nothing substantial. Cherry-picks the news to use any potentially damning detail to “prove” a vast progressive conspiracy. Assumes the very thing it needs to prove: that any of these so-called violations of free speech in fact even exist or violate anything. For example, just because Lois Lerner met with Bill Clinton doesn’t necessarily mean that she promised him an exoneration of Hillary.

******

regimes

rhetorical claim: the regimes in North Korea and Iran are anti-America, anti-west, and anti-the Iranian people.

rhetorical effect: delegitimizes the enemy at the level of language. Calling it a regime rather than a government implies transience, authoritarian, strong-arming tactics to get and maintain power, and a lack of popular support.

******

fake news

rhetorical claim: “What you’re seeing and what you’re reading about is not happening,”according to the President.

rhetorical effect: the essence of Trumpian epistemology: trust no one but me because ‘I alone can fix it.” Since, by definition, everything the fake news media says about Trump  is a lie,  not only must we rely on Trump for the truth, but we have to accept the proposition that Trump never lies. Even if your own senses or all available evidence indicates that Trump is either wrong or lying, then you must ignore common sense and stubborn facts because they themselves are either deceptive lies or based on media lies.

As argued by Charles Blow:

It is simply not healthy for the country to have a president stuck perpetually in attack mode, fighting enemies real and imagined, pushing a toxic agenda that mixes the exaltation of grievance and the grinding of axes.

The president’s recent rallies have come to resemble orgies for Donald Trump’s ego, spaces in which he can receive endless, unmeasured adulation and in which the crowds can gather for a revival of an anger that registers as near-religious. They can experience a communal affirmation that they are not alone in their intolerance, outrage and regression.

At these moments, the preacher and the pious share a spiritual moment of darkness.

Such was the case again this week at a Trump rally in Florida, at which his supporters aggressively heckled and harassed the free press that Trump incessantly brands with the false descriptor of “fake news.”

In fact, there is no such thing as fake news. If something isn’t true, it isn’t news. Opinions, like mine here, are also not news, even if printed in a newspaper or broadcast by a news station. There may be news in such opinions, but the vehicle is by definition subjective and a reflection of the writer’s or speaker’s worldview.

This “fake news” nonsense isn’t really about the dissemination of false information. If it were, the administration could demand a correction and would receive one from any reputable news outlet.

No, Trump has made a perversion of the word “fake,” particularly among his most ardent supporters, so that it has come to mean news stories he doesn’t like, commentary that is unflattering to him and inadequate coverage of what he views as positive news about him and his administration.

Trump doesn’t want a free press; he wants free propaganda.

******

economic nationalism

rhetorical claim: Trump’s standing up to China is a prime example of his willingness to put America in his policy of economic nationalism.

rhetorical effect: according to Adam Posen in Foreign Affairs:

President Donald Trump’s hostility to globalization is ruining the United States’ attractiveness as a place to do business. Sometimes, after all, it takes just one bad landlord to destroy a whole neighborhood’s desirability. This year, net inward investment into the United States by multinational corporations—both foreign and American—has fallen almost to zero, an early indicator of the damage being done by the Trump administration’s trade conflicts and its arbitrary bullying of companies and governments. This shift of corporate investment away from the United States will decrease long-term U.S. income growth, reduce the number of well-paid jobs available, and reinforce the ongoing shift of global commerce away from United States. That shift will subject the entire world economy to greater instability.

******

the envy of the world

rhetorical claim: Donald Trump is making America great again economically and militarily, just in the 1950s, America is once again the envy of the world.

rhetorical effect: As Alan Stephens argues in the Financial Times:

Today’s nostalgia has become an engine of nationalism. It thrives on the economic and cultural insecurities thrown up by globalisation. We look backwards for a safe identity. No one has been so adroit as Mr Trump in exploiting these emotions. When the US president promises to make America great again, he underlines the “again”. Coal miners head a hierarchy of blue collar heroes embracing metal bashers, auto workers and truck drivers. They are all white. The president’s promise is to take them back — another favourite word — to the glory days of the 1950s….

A fascinating report by the London-based think-tank Demos observes that recent elections in France and Germany, as well as the British referendum, show the “pervasive extent” to which language that plays up the status, security and simplicity of the past has infiltrated political culture. People who have lost faith in the future are seeking solace in old, imagined, certainties. The lesson for mainstream politicians should be evident. The nationalists will always win when the argument is framed by nostalgia. Progressive politics need a message about the future powerful enough to reclaim the voters’ collective gaze. They could make a start by explaining how to ensure our children are better off than their parents.

******

the forgotten men and women

rhetorical claim: Trump is a spokesman of regular folks. “The forgotten men and women of our country — people who work hard but no longer have a voice: I am your voice,” he said during the acceptance speech for his nomination at the Republican National Convention just over a year ago.

rhetorical effect: paranoid QANON conspiracy theory among the most radical Trumpinistas. Reinforces their permanent state of grievance and unquenchable thirst for revenge As explained by Molly Roberts in the Washington Post:

This anxiety also ties into a more amorphous sense among these voters that, though the Republican Party controls Congress and the executive, the country is still rigged against them. Trumpism has always been about insecurity: As a candidate, the president played on the paranoia of Americans who thought the country they knew was being taken away from them — by immigrants, by an overreaching government, by adversaries overseas.

The “forgotten men and women of our country” didn’t stop feeling forgotten when their self-proclaimed avatar walked into the White House. There was too much dissent, too much doubt cast on his (and, by extension, their) legitimacy and ability to lead. Now, they’ll only be assuaged by the destruction of everything and everyone that stands in their way, through the mass arrest of those who they say connived against them and the installation of a state filled only with loyalists.

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