Glossary: Key memes, counterfactuals, dog whistles, canards, euphemisms, innuendoes, insinuations, fake outrages, and obsessions in GOP language factories and fever swamps, Sept. 18-25, 2018

the progressive political apparat

rhetorical claim: the progressive political apparat has targeted Devon Nunes and Brett Kavanaugh in an all-out attempt to use hysteria to derail them.  Make no mistake: this is not so much “the voice of the people” as it is a last-ditch desperate shout designed to make Dem loyalist cattle stampede in one direction. The demonization of Nunes is especially a window into our times. We hunt for mythical Russian collusion while foreign collusion between Christopher Steele and his Russian sources is ignored. Progressives who claim an affinity for the middle classes demonize farmers as hicks. A supposedly noble press prints fake news and traces down someone’s long-dead great-grandmother to suggest divided loyalties. They exhibit an unthinking animus toward anything Trump-related.

rhetorical effect: makes Dems out to be tantamount to Bolsheviks; turns “progressive” into a slur, suggesting progressivism out to be a secretive cabal ; changes the Mueller investigation of Russian hacking into a non-existent investigation of Hillary.

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blacks for Trump

rhetorical claim: President Lincoln was not a Democrat, as they’d been led to think in school. It was not Republicans who were the party of racism, but Democrats. Blacks learned for the first time that Democrats were slave owners. Over and over, they share their surprise at learning the Democrats are the party of Jim Crow and the Ku Klux Klan. Democrats are the party that destroyed the black family. Bill Clinton set off the explosion of black incarceration. They are done permanently as Democrats. But many black men feel targeted by feminism. Others are appalled by the Democratic Party’s promotion of abortion, which disproportionately targets black communities. Black men and women are furious that illegal aliens seem to receive better treatment from Democrats than American citizens.  Intersectionality is failing to unite them with the other privileged grievance groups. These voters realize their interests are not identical or even similar to leftist politics.

rhetorical effect: divide and conquer rhetoric always drives a wedge between groups in a coalition even if those in the coalition have far more similarities than differences. The tired old chestnut that the Dems were responsible for slavery is one of those statements that, while factually true, is actually demonstrably false. Lincoln would not be a Republican today, and the Dixiecrats changed parties years ago. Ignoring, Trump’s defense of police brutality and he KKK, systematic stripping of all safety net program funding, environmental racism in the form of stopping the cleanup of toxic waste sites, calling African nations “shitholes,” etc., it’s impossible to believe that more than a handful of  blacks would ever vote for Trump. Black voters can’t be bought with a bogus “paychecks are up” argument, since they are more ensconced at the bottom of the food chain than ever.

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disreputable anonymity

rhetorical claim: the attempted rape allegations against Brett Kavanaugh raise a red flag: we will no longer have a free country or enjoy civil liberties and the safety of a Bill of Rights, if any American, at any time, can be ruined by an allegation of unproven sexual assault of some 36 years past, when the accused was a 17-year-old teenager, by an accuser who initially trafficked anonymously in such allegations, came forward only as part of a wider, more intensified and collective last-ditch effort to destroy the reputation of the accused, and yet has no clear memory of exactly where she was at 15, or the approximate date, when she claims that she was assaulted, or why she made no such accusation for 30 years—or when she raised the issue some six years ago privately during counseling, why her therapist’s notes of such revelations do not now match her current version of the incident…Anonymity has never become more disreputable—and legitimized. An unidentified source is the new American means that is to be justified by noble progressive ends, often in the context of somehow delegitimizing Donald J. Trump and anyone or anything remotely connected to him.

rhetorical effect: of course, these charges are no longer anonymous since Prof. Ford came forward, but, as with the Mueller probe, the GOP strategy is to go after the process by which the facts were generated and not so much the facts themselves.

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transparency

rhetorical claim: Trump has ordered the release of documents related to the Mueller probe because the FBI has run amok with its witch hunt and political vendettas. The Dem attempt to nullify the last election will fail because transparency reveals the truth–in this case the conspiracy among Trump haters who were running the FBI AND Justice Dept.

rhetorical effect: best explicated by the Washington Post’s Greg Sargent:

President Trump and his Republican allies in Congress are running a systematic campaign of harassment and disruption directed at legitimate law enforcement activity being conducted on behalf of the American people — with the active goal of protecting Trump and his cronies from accountability and denying the public the full truth about a hostile foreign power’s effort to corrupt our democracy.

The latest example of this, like the others that preceded it, is being justified with the laughably disingenuous falsehood that the goal is “transparency.” And this one, like the others that preceded it, will likely blow up in Trump’s face in spectacular fashion.

Trump has ordered the Justice Department to release numerous classified documents related to the Russia investigation. A White House statement claims this is in the interests of “transparency.” One of Trump’s most dutiful servants in Congress, Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida, insists this release will “reveal to the American people some of the systemic corruption and bias” at “the highest levels of the DOJ and FBI.”

In reality, this is an effort at obfuscation, concealment, deception, and the weaponizing of the oversight process for “partisan political ends.” If recent precedent is any guide, the release itself will broadly confirm this — even though Trump and his allies will lie uncontrollably to the contrary.

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Set-Up

rhetorical claim:  the desperate, last-minute slur against Brett Kavanaugh has all the hallmarks of a set-up: unprosecuted, unproveable, and largely unremembered misconduct, toxic to even talk about politically without alienating women voters, and a ready-made excuse to delay Kavanaugh’s confirmation until after the mid-term election. It’s a continuation of the war against Kavanaugh that was earlier fought with aggressively provocative, politically loaded questions and shouting. It is tantamount to a political mugging. It is a disgrace that this should happen in this republic, and in connection with the courts, which are not supposed to be political forces, but which have been converted into an uber-political institution that progressives are desperate to control.

rhetorical effect: forecloses on the possibility of any sober investigation of the claims; victimizes the alleged victim by calling her “mixed up”; turns any criticism of Kavanaugh into a nearly criminal act: a “mugging”. Alternatively, any critical question is potentially a “set-up”, a perjury trap for Trump, a habitual liar.

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fairness

rhetorical claim: Kavanaugh deserves a fair hearing to clear his name.

rhetorical effect: exactly the problem: “fair” to the GOP only ever means “winning.” “Fairness” never entails evidence, reason, justice or any moral position, but just allowing them time enough to generate as much smoke as possible. For example, they use the concept of fairness to justify racism, sexism, and homophobia. In this sense, in their rhetorical universe “fairness ” is synonymous with “transparency” and “tolerance” as deceptive master-tropes.. Moreover, they aren’t “hearing” Kavanaugh’s accusers, since they seem tone-deaf to their shame, anger, pain, and candor.

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descent into political madness

rhetorical claim: best described by the Victor Davis Hanson:

The progressive street is leading fossilized Democrats into a sort of collective madness.

The dinosaurs of the party desperately seek relevance by sounding crazier than the new unhinged base that disrupts Senate hearings, loudly pronounces a new socialist future, and envisions octogenarian Maxine Waters as more the future of the party than is septuagenarian Nancy Pelosi. The spectacle is right out of Euripides’s Bacchae, as the creaky old guard of the polis, Tiresias and Cadmus, dress up in trendy, ridiculous ritual costumes to stumble along after the racing and frenzied young maenads in their lethal courtship of suicidal Dionysian madness.

rhetorical effect: makes it impossible to seriously debate any political issues because one of the parties is unhinged, so must be treated as either mentally deranged or as children. (Note how the GOP goes from calling Dems deranged and adolescent to calling them unscrupulous, calculating hypocrites who have an insatiable will to power and a plan to seize it. Surely both charges can’t be true!)

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socialism

rhetorical claim: According to Jonah Goldberg in Commentary:

Socialism has never been a particularly stable or coherent program, a point I made in these pages in 2010. It has always been best defined as whatever socialists want it to be at any given moment. That is because its chief utility is as a romantic indictment of the capitalist status quo. As many of the defenders of the new socialist craze admit, socialism is the off-the-shelf alternative to capitalism, which has been in bad odor since at least the financial crisis of 2008. “For millennials,” writes the Huffington Post’s Zach Carter, “‘capitalism’ means ‘unaccountable rich people ripping off the world,’ while ‘socialism’ simply means ‘not that.’”

As a matter of practical politics, socialism’s durability as a concept owes almost nothing to economics and almost everything to the desire for power—power for the poor, for the left-out, for the “workers of the world”—and for the intellectuals who claim to speak for them. In countries experimenting with what Friedrich Hayek called “hot socialism,” the transfer of power from one set of elites to another was bloody and total (and no one, save those at the top of the new system, experienced much of the freedom Robin describes). In countries that have pursued “soft socialism” of the Western European varieties instead, power shifted primarily to bureaucrats and politicians—but these managerial classes managed to work well enough with other elites and recognized that their long-term interests were best protected by subsidizing not the poor but middle-class voters instead, mostly in the form of trade unions and government workers. The cost for this kind of socialism is typically a few points of GDP growth and the sort of sclerotic, corporatist economy that invites populist uprisings at the mere hint of reform and makes integration of immigrants much more difficult.

rhetorical effect: undercuts any social cohesion by giving preeminence to individuality and laissez-faire competition–substitutes Social Darwinism for cooperation and social justice. Labels any attempts at cooperation, from labor unions to the *Me Too movement, as subversive, fatuous and ultimately doomed to failure.

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