Glossary: Key memes, counterfactuals, dog whistles, canards, euphemisms, innuendoes, insinuations, fake outrages, and obsessions in GOP language factories and fever swamps, Sept. 27-Oct 9, 2018

no big deal

rhetorical claim:  the administration has decided it is really no problem to freeze federal fuel-efficiency standards, though this would increase greenhouse-gas emissions. Why? Because, the administration reasons, the planet’s temperature is already set to rise by 7 degrees Fahrenheit by the end of the century — so a little bit more warming will hardly matter. They also argue that radiation exposure is not as dangerous as it seems, and that a little bit of it may actually be good for us.

rhetorical effect: the “no big deal” ploy not only demeans any findings or policies they don’t like, but turns the logic of regulation inside-out: we shouldn’t regulate to protect because regulation causes even bigger problems without addressing underlying problems, which you can’t do anything about anyway. It’s a weird combination of fatalism and outright hostility toward regulation-as-protection. Moreover, they argue that “small differences” are not differences at all–so that you might as well not regulate guns since such regulation would make “no difference” in gun deaths.

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respect

rhetorical claim: Dr. Ford should be respected, not insulted, not ignored.

rhetorical effect: like the entire GOP  Kavanaugh campaign, this disingenuous plea for “respect” is self-contradictory: they “respect” her but claim she’s either a liar, a pawn of the vast left-wing conspiracy, or just plain confused. Call this cynicism or irony, but they clearly mean the opposite of what they say. In the same fashion, “hearing her out” means letting her talk until she shuts up; calling her testimony “compelling” means it’s really just a vivid lie, and saying she “shouldn’t be insulted” means humoring her to the extent of appearing to care about what she says but dismissing it from the start. False respect is like false outrage: manufactured emotion and smug condescension  designed to claim the high moral ground. “Respect” is thus an insult.

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originalism

rhetorical claim: In July, Leonard Leo, executive vice president of the “constitutional originalist Federalist Society,” as RealClearPolitics phrased it, told Fox News:

Any Supreme Court confirmation is transformative. This is a court that is often equally divided. At the end of the day, I think what’s really important to remember is that there’s been a movement on the court toward being more originalist and textualist. In other words, the idea that law means something, it has determinate meaning. And that’s the trend that I think this president wants to continue.

rhetorical effect: as Charles Blow argues:

when I think of originalism, I think this: Many of the founders owned slaves; in the Constitution they viewed black people as less than fully human; they didn’t want women or poor white men to vote. The founders, a bunch of rich, powerful white men, didn’t want true democracy in this country, and in fact were dreadfully afraid of it.

Now, a bunch of rich, powerful white men want to return us to this sensibility, wrapped in a populist “follow the Constitution” rallying cry and disguised as the ultimate form of patriotism.

We have to learn to see everything around us, all that is happening on the political front, through that lens. This is what the extreme measures on illegal immigration and even the efforts to dramatically slash legal immigration are all about.

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economic nationalism

rhetorical claim: as explained in The Financial Times

Eric Chewning, deputy assistant secretary of defence for industrial policy: “The US is strategically repositioning for [a] period of interstate competition. A competition that recognises the inter-relationship between economic security and national security.” As part of this, the Pentagon is having ongoing conversations with US multinationals about issues like IP theft, insourcing, and so on. “Based on our conversations, corporations recognise that the strategic conditions are changing,” says Chewing. “As China continues to pursue the objectives laid out in Made in China 2025 and actively distorts the economic playing field in favour of their national champions, western businesses will also likely need to re-evaluate their confidence in the long-term China business case.”

Translation: businesses may, by choice or by force, have to take sides in this new trade war/cold war. The same is true in China. I moderated an event last week at the China Institute in New York, with former Google China head and venture capitalist Kai-Fu Lee (pictured below). He told me he doesn’t expect to be able to make any further investments in the US, thanks to tighter rules around capital inflows. He believes that the US and China will develop their own separate technology ecosystems, with the big race being between Google, the company, and China, the country, in terms of who is able to develop the most sophisticated artificial intelligence systems.

rhetorical effect: total war between the US and China over trade, economic influence, and the spread of technology. The end of economic globalization, and a return to a Cold War mentality.

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the war on men

rhetorical claim: a culture of victimization has been foisted on America by angry, vengeful feminists. All of our sons, brothers, fathers and husbands–good men–are in mortal danger of having their lives ruined by one of these harpies.

rhetorical effect: turns victimizers into victims by presuming that all women claiming assault or either lying or mistaken.

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angry mob

rhetorical claim: best described by Robert Costa:

The characterization evokes fear of an unknown and out-of-control mass of people, and it taps into grievances about the nation’s fast-moving cultural and demographic shifts that Republicans say are working against them. With its emphasis on the impact on traditional values and white voters, particularly men, it strikes the same notes as earlier Trump-fanned attention to immigrants, MS-13 gang members and African American football players protesting police treatment of young black men….

This time, the GOP’s foil is composed of leftists, elitists and feminists, of academics and celebrities, of Trump nemesis Michael Avenatti, philanthropist George Soros and Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.), who has called for the president’s impeachment.

The turn toward a culture war is also a tacit admission that many of the issues that Republicans had sought to run on, from tax cuts to the upbeat state of the economy, have not been enough to fan GOP voters’ enthusiasm and counter an electrified Democratic electorate.

“It’s aimed at firing up Fox viewers and the more strident elements of Trump’s base; it’s fearmongering,” said John Weaver, a longtime Republican strategist who is a frequent Trump critic. “I’m sure there is some little old lady in Iowa who now keeps her doors locked because she thinks there’s going to be some anarchist mob coming through Davenport….“They want to take the freedom to assemble and turn it into a negative,” Weaver said. “ ‘The mob’ is trying to dehumanize and belittle and dismiss the current activism that we’re seeing around the country.

Never mind that anti-Trump protestors are far from being a mob, and have as much right to be “angry” as Bart Kavanaugh. And also never mind that all Trump criticism is now being demonized, and protest itself could ultimately be punishable, as in Russia, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, etc.  Never mind that showing anti-Trump “anger” may soon be a hate crime or a sign of derangement. And, finally, never mind what it means to call a gathering a “mob” rather than a crowd. It’s OK to use deadly force on “mobs”, especially “angry” ones.

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rape apologists

gender traitors

rhetorical claim: From American Greatness:

It’s hard to see the value of the Democratic Party picking a fight with the largest voting demographic four weeks before a crucial election. But the tactic is obvious: Democrats cannot sway white women based on their ideas for the economy or national security or tax policy, so they’re left with coercion and intimidation. They want to shame white women voters into electing more Democrats by implying if we vote for Republicans, we are enabling and empowering rapists.

It is a highly cynical, if not craven, ploy with major implications for the health and sustainability of our political system. It does nothing to ensure the consideration of real sexual assault victims, assigns automatic guilt to half of the population based on gender, and empowers the peddlers of despair and racial hostilities. And it unfortunately guarantees the nation will suffer through many more horrific periods like the past few weeks.

rhetorical effect: hyperbolic turning of the tables: now that all men are considered rapists, to even vote for a man makes a woman a “rape apologist.” While this is far from the more nuanced position of most women that sexual assault often goes undisclosed, unaddressed or unredressed, putting these words into feminists’ mouths turns “women’s rights” into cartoon parody of itself.

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the new Dark Ages

rhetorical claim: In our own age, the disproven but still legendary tales of “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot,” the Duke Lacrosse fantasies, the Rolling Stone folktales, or Lena Dunham’s fictive memoir won out and became fact, inasmuch as such lies were not real lies given their service to progressive aims. And that is where we are now headed—the world of the Athenian popular court, the Inquisition, the Salem Witch Trials, the Star Chamber, the cycles of the French Revolution—except that in all those cases, reason and sanity eventually returned. Perhaps not now. We are entering a new Dark Ages.

If we to look to the universities for truth and courage we find increasingly medieval darkness, wherein matters of alleged sexual harassment there is no due process for the accused.

Free speech on campus vanishes if minority views are dubbed “hate” speech or declared merely “hurtful.”

There is little diversity of opinion and even less tolerance of any dissent from majority dogma. Obsequiousness so often is redefined as courage; real courage condemned as a crime against the people. Campus segregation becomes desirable, if privileged by “safe spaces.” Censorship is sensitivity and justified by “trigger warnings.” The apparent absence of bias becomes proof of bias if dubbed a “micro-aggression.” Racial discrimination in admissions affirms liberality.

rhetorical effect: lumps together vastly dissimilar things (college admisssions policies, false news stories, etc.) to tar them all with the same brush. Turns Trump critics into “haters” undermining civilization. Turns everything apocalyptic, and renders all Trump criticism null and void.

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