Glossary: Key memes, counterfactuals, dog whistles, canards, euphemisms, innuendoes, insinuations, fake outrages, and obsessions in GOP language factories and fever swamps, July 13-17, 2018

we’re not going to put up with it any more

rhetorical claim: Trump is reported to have warned the allies that if they did not meet the 2 percent standard by January the United States would “go it alone.” To Stoltenberg he publicly warned that the United States was “not going to put up with it.” In his tweets, he asked, “What good is NATO” if Germany was paying Russia for gas? Why should the United States pay billions to “subsidize Europe” while it was losing “Big on Trade”? In his rallies, Trump describes America’s closest allies as “our worst enemies” and says they “kill us” on both security and trade. “We’re the schmucks,” he bemoans about America in its dealings with NATO and the European Union.

rhetorical effect: Making bullying great again. Designed to discredit the alliance in the eyes of Trump’s  faithful throng back home, these demands signal that Trump wants to destroy NATO, not shore it up. Trump is training his base to hate NATO and love Putin.  Disrupting NATO is not a means to an end, but an end in itself. As Robert Kagan argues

But even Trump must know the likely response in Europe. The insults and humiliations he inflicted on allied leaders will not be forgotten or forgiven. They will make it impossible for European leaders to win public support for the spending Trump disingenuously claims to want. What German leader after such a tongue-lashing could do Trump’s bidding and hope to survive politically?

Any student of history knows that it is moments like this summit that set in motion chains of events that are difficult to stop. The democratic alliance that has been the bedrock of the American-led liberal world order is unraveling. At some point, and probably sooner than we expect, the global peace that that alliance and that order undergirded will unravel, too. Despite our human desire to hope for the best, things will not be okay. The world crisis is upon us.

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one of the great acts of American generosity and charity

rhetorical claim: HHS Secretary Alex Azar described the administration’s treatment of immigrant children as “one of the great acts of American generosity and charity.”

rhetorical effect: taking credit for addressing a crisis they created in the first place; justifies kidnapping; turns the kidnapped children into a political hostage shield for administration propaganda purposes; densensitizes us to inhumane and cruel  public policy, etc. As Eugene Robinson put it, “tell me how adopting child abuse as a policy is supposed to Make America Great Again….Kidnapping children. Failing even to account for them. Sending families home to be killed. Give us your huddled masses, this administration seems to say, and let us kick them in their little faces.”

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pulling a stunt

rhetorical claim: at Thursday’s House hearing about the investigation into Clinton e-mails, the Dems pulled a stunt by bring up the forced separation of childen from their families.

rhetorical effect: labeling dissent a “stunt” reduces free speech to being considered a subversive act at best, and a hypocritical ploy to score political points at worst.

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the art of the deal

rhetorical claim: Trump’s negotiating strategy is clear: be tough with your demands, don’t get taken advantage of, be prepared to walk away if things aren’t going your way, and, above all, project power and unwavering commitment. You can’t reach agreement on a deal on your terms by playing nice.

rhetorical effect: Best explained by Paul Krugman:

It’s all of a piece. Whatever claims Trump makes about other countries’ misbehavior, whatever demands he makes on a particular day, they’re all in evident bad faith. Mr. Art of the Deal doesn’t want any deals. He just wants to tear things down.

The institutions Trump is trying to destroy were all created under U.S. leadership in the aftermath of World War II. Those were years of epic statesmanship — the years of the Berlin airlift and the Marshall Plan, in which America showed its true greatness. For having won the war, we chose not to behave like a conqueror, but instead to build the foundations of lasting peace.

When every policy, ethic, tradition, and accommodation–is considered nothing but a “deal”, the world is reduced to being a transactional, zero-sum Hobbesian universe of all against all.

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the war on poverty worked

rhetorical claim: The White House in a report this week declared the War on Poverty “largely over and a success,” arguing that few Americans are truly poor — only about 3 percent of the population — and that the booming economy is the best path upward for those who remain in poverty.

“Over the past 54 years since President Lyndon B. Johnson’s declaration of a War on Poverty, federal spending on welfare programs targeting low-income households has grown dramatically, contributing to a substantial reduction in material hardship,” the White House Council of Economic Advisers wrote, saying that poverty had fallen by 90 percent since the programs began.

“None of these statistics is intended to deny the ways in which millions of Americans sometimes struggle to make ends meet,” the economic advisers wrote, but “the vast majority of Americans are able to meet their basic human needs.”

rhetorical effect: an excuse to justify massive cuts in the social safety net and onerous new work rules as a condition for any federal aid, even health care and food; makes inequality a policy aim of the administration; claims success for a government policy that just weeks earlier had been called a total failure; turns the satisfying of “basic human needs” into a ceiling rather than a floor, sort of like counting ketchup as a vegetable. Undercounts the poor and underestimates the difficulty of climbing out of poverty, even in a robust economy. Most people who can work are already working or are looking for employment–the problem is that the jobs available to that group do not pay a living wage.

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cultural-Marxist panic

rhetorical claim: The modern American Left has no faith in the Constitution (in fact, it loathes it), and on its long march through the institutions it has sought to diminish our founding document via emanations and penumbras of phantom “rights” whose existence, like that of Planet X, can only be inferred but not proven. What the panicking Democrats see as a hijacking of their country is, in fact, a restoration of basic American principles that have been nearly Alinskyed to death via the practical application of critical theory—a cultural-Marxist battering-ram that has been used to lethal effect against such institutions as the family, religion, and patriotism.

rhetorical effect: the entirely misleading smear of calling liberal policies Marxist or socialist or Alinsky-like is thus revealed to rely on the notion that the Constitution only pertains to the family, to religion, and to patriotism, and that all other rights–women’s rights, civil rights, environmental rights, human rights–are bogus. The GOP, for all its talk of individual rights, sure seems to only believe in the rights of the collective–the family, the nation, religion, etc.

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liberal racism

rhetorical claim: Racism used to mean harming or disparaging people based on race.  The new standard is that white people are not allowed to disagree with or dislike any person of minority background, no matter how egregious or abhorrent his or her behavior.  The only exception is that liberals are allowed to attack black conservatives mercilessly because, well, they’re not really black. It’s also perfectly acceptable to disparage, condemn, and vilify all white people. The left has created a cult that rewards hatred, hypocrisy, delusion, and destruction of those outside the cult.  We are witnessing dangerous and psychotic mass hysteria.  Those of us who still live in the real world must be vigilant.

rhetorical effect: Everything becomes its opposite. Anyone defending racial equality or protesting police brutality or white privilege is called a hysterical, hypocritical, deluded racist. Believers in racial equality are called a cult. The left is psychotic. Thus anti-Trumpism is insane, and anyone calling Trump supporters racist is themselves a racist.

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ending the sexual revolution

rhetorical claim: Roe vs. Wade rests upon the foundations of the sexual revolution of the sixties that shattered and still shatters the lives of countless Americans. The overturning of the decision must also be the beginning of a restoration of marriage, the family, and faith if it is to be truly effective. It must signal the return to a moral law with a respect for God and His law. This represents a great challenge to those defending the unborn since the culture is decadent. The struggle ahead will still be great, but the rewards will also be substantial.

rhetorical effect: reinforces one of the Right’s main projects: to veto everything the Sixties accomplished: women’s right to control their own bodies, civil liberties, sexual freedom, gay rights, birth control, etc. (The other major project is to repeal the New Deal. Call it the Great GOP Time Machine.)

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the transatlantic ruling class

rhetorical claim: today the transatlantic ruling class has its own civilizational agenda, manifested by its subsidies for constituencies both business and cultural, ranging from “renewable energy resources,” to education, the arts, and lifestyle. Far from allied to safeguard and promote Western civilization, this ruling class treats its cornerstone, Christianity, as unmentionable at best and usually as the main feature to be extirpated from people’s lives. This class also regards self-rule, the capacity of people in towns, regions, or nations to decide by vote how they shall live, as among the evils to be done away with. It treats as enemy anything—thoughts, practices, institutions—that limit its own its own power and prestige. For their power and prestige, after all, are what it is allied to protect.

Since ordinary people in each and all of NATO’s countries pose the clearest and most present danger to that power and prestige, whenever any country’s people have challenged the  power or prestige of their local member of the club, the other countries’ ruling classes have treated it as an attack on themselves. Under this updated version of the famous Article 5, the allied transatlantic rulers have warned, on pain of horrid consequences, the people of Britain to stay in the EU, the peoples of France to elect anybody but Le Pen, the peoples of Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic, and most recently of Italy, not to vote as they did.

Nothing has equaled their fury against Donald Trump. This, of course, has little to do with Trump himself. Rather, it is the transatlantic allies’ reaction to their inability to bend the American people to their ways. The American people’s adherence to Western civilization, our inflexible desire to rule ourselves, is the negation of everything for which this class stands. And because America is what it is, the election of an anti-ruling class candidate has inspired European peoples to do likewise.

rhetorical claim: revives the old meme of Trump, the people’s billionaire, even as he consistently acts in the best interests of the 1% and harms the interests of the working class; stokes resentment against banks, corporations, the media, environmentalist–the list goes on. Manichean jihads like this keep America divided, Trump’s base festering with molten resentment and fury, and conspiracy theory dominating public policy debate.

 

Glossary: Key memes, counterfactuals, dog whistles, canards, euphemisms, innuendoes, insinuations, fake outrages, and obsessions in GOP language factories and fever swamps, June 30-July 11, 2018.

hysterical commentary

rhetorical claim: as Donald Trump put it, the Supreme Court’s upholding of his travel ban is, “a moment of profound vindication following months of hysterical commentary from the media and Democratic politicians who refuse to do what it takes to secure our border and our country.”

rhetorical effect: one lie and one distortion. The lie of course is that the Dems don’t care enough about America’s security to do anything to protect it.  The distortion is that any anti-Trump commentary is automatically “hysterical,”i.e. unhinged, desperate, frantic, hyperbolic and easily dismissed. Trump’s greed and grievance strategy keeps the inequality gap growing ever wider, and keeps his base at a perpetual boil. Talk about hysteria!

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progressive discrimination

rhetorical claim: we have replaced racial discrimination with progressive discrimination (aka, political correctness). The core of progressive training is demonizing normal Americans as deplorables. Once you tar opponents as evil racist-sexist-homophobes, you are justified in any mode of attack, from blacklisting to physical violence.

rhetorical effect: turns the victimizers into the victims. imperils free speech, equal rights, and concepts of justice.

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job-creating tariffs

rhetorical claim: Harley-Davidson’s threat to move production to Europe proves tariffs work. By raising the cost of importing American motorcycles, EU tariffs created a powerful incentive for Harley-Davidson to invest in Europe. They responded to this incentive. Now Europe will have its own slice of Harley’s pie—and benefit from the capital investment, jobs, and technical know-how that Harley will bring with them. Imagine that. But in the long run US tariffs will create more jobs than they will destroy, and limp-wristed Dems won’t be buying Harleys anyway.

rhetorical effect: counter-intuitively turns the tables, trying to make a virtue out of job loss. According to this theory, the more jobs that are lost, I guess, the more Trump’s plan is working. It’s kind of like that old joke “what we lose on each sale we make up in volume.”

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restoring public trust in the FBI

rhetorical claim: the FBI and Justice Department need to find a way to restore the public’s trust of them. Their partisanship, lies, evasions, and cover-ups have badly damaged them, and  they need a thorough housecleaning and mass firings before the public can trust them again. The entire Mueller probe must also be shut down since it is a poisoned tree. The Russian interference theme also gives coherence and motive to the story the Dems wish to ignore. This story concerns a consistent pattern of meddling in the race by our own intelligence agencies, using Russian intelligence as an excuse.

rhetorical effect: assumes the very thing it needs to prove: that the Justice Dept. and FBI engaged in behavior that merits the loss of public trust in them. So far, the evidence of their malfeasance or anti-Trump conspiracy is sparse to non-existent, as the IG’s report concludes. Merely repeating something over and over again (Benghazi! Benghazi! Benghazi!)–does not make it true.

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the dominance hierarchy

rhetorical claim: there is a natural dominance hierarchy that places men above women, and women like it that way. Order–not freedom–is a fundamental human need, one now foolishly neglected. The order today’s deconstructed society so desperately lacks can be reintroduced, even now, through a renewed engagement with the Bible and inherited religious tradition.

rhetorical effect: promotes a view of society as static and unchanging; mocks the very ideas of inequality or distributive justice; enshrines racism and sexism as the cornerstone of human nature, and prizes “might” above “right.”

the liberal order

rhetorical claim: the old liberal order–globalization, unfair trade agreements, phony environmental agreements, NATO countries sponging off US military power,etc– is dead. America is great again, and no longer the patsy and bankroller of carping, freeloading global elites.

rhetorical effect: best argued by Martin Wolf:

In the words of the King James Bible, “there arose up a new king over Egypt, which knew not Joseph”. That ignorant king is Mr Trump, who knows not those Americans who created the postwar order. He believes in transactions over alliances, bilateralism over multilateralism, unpredictability over consistency, power over rules and interests over ideals. He prefers authoritarians such as China’s Xi Jinping, Russia’s Vladimir Putin and even North Korea’s Kim Jong Un, to the leaders of his democratic allies. In his view, might makes right. Striking features of Mr Trump’s behaviour are his fabrications, self-pity and bullying: others, including historic allies, are “laughing at us” over climate or “cheating” us over trade. The EU, he argues, “was put there to take advantage of the United States, OK? . . . Not any more . . . Those days are over.” These are absurd claims.

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trade as national security

rhetorical claim: the US has weakened its national security through unfair trade deals that created huge trade deficits and let other nations walk all over us.

rhetorical effect: conflating trade with national security can only lead to endless crises, mounting trade wars, hostility, prolonged retaliation, and, ultimately, conflict and economic disaster. Confusing commerce with national security almost surely means that there will be no way to resolve economic conflicts except militarily, and military conflicts except economically–the opposite of a charmed circle–a lose-lose, winner-take-all world.

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mongrelization

control of our borders

rhetorical claim: Merely arguing that the United States enforce existing immigration laws is to be called a Nazi, heckled in public, and picketed at one’s home. But the pro-illegal immigrant, anti-native-born Left can vent their spleens and prosper. The open-borders crowd is losing the war, and the mongrelization of America is no longer a done deal.  America is not the common property of all mankind. It belongs to the Americans, and we alone get to determine who may—and who may not—become one of us. Immigration is not a human right. America must take back control of its borders. The open borders ploy is only part of the liberals’ assault on our history, customs, and traditions. Liberals and their illegal immigrant army of potential new voters  are the vandals who cannot abide something they had little or no hand in creating, and just want to see the world burn.

rhetorical effect: justifies racism and xenophobia; separates children from their families; creates permanent resentment toward and suspicion of all immigrants; furthers the national polarization; makes compromise on immigration policy impossible; perpetuates the myth that we are being overrun by illegal immigrants.

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freedom of religious discrimination

separation of church and state

rhetorical claim: in hiring, serving the public and health care, for example, people should be free to make choices based on their religious beliefs. The government should not be involved in these choices except to make sure to find ways to promote them. Separation of church and state is just a matter of political correctness.

rhetorical effect: As explained by Susan Jacoby,

The very meaning of the phrases “religious liberty” and “religious freedom”— traditionally understood as referring to the right of Americans to practice whatever faith they wish or no faith at all — is being altered to mean that government should foster a closer relationship with those who want to mix their Christian faith with taxpayer dollars. This usage can be found in numerous executive orders and speeches by Mr. Trump and his cabinet members. Changes in language have consequences, as the religious right’s successful substitution of “pro-life” for “anti-abortion” has long demon

Trump uses religious freedom to justify everything from environmental regulation to separating infants from their parents to tax cuts. Separation of church and state now means protecting the church from the government, not the other way around.

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letting Trump be Trump

rhetorical claim: Trump’s tweets are the purest expression of his leadership and instincts, and the more we let Trump be Trump, the better.

rhetorical effect: As Michiko Kakutani writes in her new book, “The Death of Truth”:

Trump, of course, is a troll — both by temperament and by habit. His tweets and offhand taunts are the very essence of trolling — the lies, the scorn, the invective, the trash talk, and the rabid non sequiturs of an angry, aggrieved, isolated, and deeply self-absorbed adolescent who lives in a self-constructed bubble and gets the attention he craves from bashing his enemies and trailing clouds of outrage and dismay in his path.

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sexual libertinism

rhetorical claim: the effects of the sexual revolution have led the West to the brink of social and economic ruin. Think of the inverse of “The Handmaid’s Tale”: no patriarchal dystopia but instead a bloated welfare state run into the ground by shrieking feminists and perpetually aggrieved outrage merchants justifying their own power by worsening the very problems they claim to be solving. Ongoing efforts by radical feminists and homosexual activists to demonize and dismantle the two-parent heterosexual family show how these movements are deeply intertwined with a dangerous growth in state power and bureaucratic intrusion. As Stephen Baskerville argues :

Feminists and more recently homosexual political activists have now positioned themselves at the vanguard of left-wing politics, shifting the political discourse from the economic and racial to the social and increasingly the sexual…These groups are pursuing a social and sexual confrontation with the private family, marriage, masculinity, and religion.

rhetorical effect: promotes gender inequality, traditional models of stay-at-home moms, homophobia and misogyny. Portrays sexual freedom as sexual slavery. Leads directly to the most extreme of culture wars, blaming progressives for the decline and fall of Western Civ.

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Constitutional relativism

rhetorical claim: as argued by David Harsanyi:

an increasing number of Democrats believe the Constitution must bend to the will of their policy preferences rather than preserve legal continuity, limited government, individual liberty, or enlightenment ideals.

Sure, some of the anger aimed Donald Trump’s nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court is partisan bluster meant to placate the activist base. Still, most Democrats were going to get hysterical about any pick, because any conservative pick was going to take the Constitution far too literally for their liking. For those who rely on the administrative state and coercion as a policy tool — forcing people to join political organizations, forcing them to support abortion, forcing them to subsidize socially progressive sacraments, forcing them to create products that undermine their faith, and so on — that’s a big problem.

Some, like former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, indulged in the histrionic rhetoric we’ve come to expect in the Trump era, claiming that Kavanaugh would “threaten the lives of millions of Americans for decades to come.” But almost none of the objections coming from leading Democrats were, even ostensibly, about Kavanaugh’s qualifications as a jurist or, for that matter, with his interpretation of the Constitution.

“Specifically,” prospective presidential candidate Kamala Harris argues, “as a replacement for Justice Anthony Kennedy, his nomination presents an existential threat to the health care of hundreds of millions of Americans.” Surely the former attorney general of California comprehends that “health care” is not a constitutional right, but rather a policy concern whose contours are still being debated by lawmakers, and probably will be for decades.

What Harris probably means is that Kavanaugh is an existential threat to the practice of forcing Americans to buy products in the private marketplace against their will. Kavanaugh, incidentally, upheld Obamacare as an appellate judge for jurisdictional reasons even though it displeased him on policy grounds (he wrote that the law was without “principled limit”). He did this because he has far more reverence for the law than Harris does.

rhetorical effect: rhetorically argues that the Constitution is not a rhetorical document: that is, not a document open to interpretation, persuasion, or modification. Treats the Constitution like the stone tablets Moses found on Mt. Zion–forever fixed and foundational. Privileges the right’s interpretation of the Constitution as the only true law, thus making all opponents’ arguments heretical by definition. No need to even have courts any more–just a quasi-religious central authority that dictates all laws in strict accordance to a document that doesn’t really exist except in their own dogmatic minds.

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the alleged affronted

the social justice paradigm

rhetorical claim: Those who engage in the white privilege argument merely perpetuate racism under the spurious umbrella of compassion.  They are not to be trusted, believed, or promoted. Under the social justice rubric, being born white makes one evil, plain and simple. Everything is seen through the prism of race, since they very presence of whiteness is an affront to people of color.

If white people ask people of color to teach them how to say things correctly to avoid racism, this actually results in a burden on people of color to constantly educate.  Thus, you are damned if you do and damned if you don’t.

In fact, calling on someone to check his so-called privilege is an ad hominem attack.  In particular, this logical fallacy is guilt by association.  Being a part of the Caucasian race automatically makes a person guilty.

rhetorical effect: justifies racism, sexist, homophobia, environmental destruction, the end of affordable, comprehensive health care, etc. Turns everything into its opposite, so that claims of racism are themselves racist, feminists hate women, etc.

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leftist selectivity

rhetorical claim: The left of today are the founders of a new religion called selectivity. Every aspect of the left’s current extreme ideology involves being selective. Selective outrage, selective morality, selective media reporting, selective justice and selective “facts,” all have become the “go to” weapons of the radical left. All of the above are becoming vital characteristics one must exemplify if one is going to become a practicing member of this new leftist religious cult.

Every member of this leftist religious sect must take a solemn vow to always be selective when it comes to reporting on any kind of news, evidence or facts. All must be willing to advance the left’s radical agenda through any means necessary. Each member must learn to subscribe to double standards. Many of these cult members must learn to feign selective outrage on cue and even manufacture a crisis when necessary to aide their cause. The members must choose to exist within a life of illusion/delusion where perception and confirmation bias trump facts and evidence, and reality itself.

Sadly, the truth no longer matters to the modern day left. Their whole existence has basically boiled down to advancing a radical Marxist agenda, no matter what kind of damage it ultimately causes. Even if it means tearing down the country, dividing the citizenry and destroying Western Civilization. To the left, their nefarious ends will always justify their illogical means.

rhetorical effect: relativizes the truth in a way that undercuts all criticism of the Trump administration as partial and distorted. Makes political dissent, free speech, even contrary legal findings suspect and easily dispensed with. In other words, as in the above arguments about Constitutional originalism, fetishizes their own selective “truths” as inclusive and total.

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.

 

 

 

 

Glossary: Key memes, counterfactuals, dog whistles, canards, euphemisms, innuendoes, insinuations, fake outrages, and obsessions in GOP language factories and fever swamps, June 12-20, 2018

America First–European edition

rhetorical claim: ideas basic to the European project that Mr. Trump categorically rejects include believing 1) that the future will be one of interdependent, postnationalist states engaged in win-win trade; 2) that military power will become less relevant as progress marches on., and, 3) that international law and international institutions can, should or will dominate international life. Individual nation-states will remain, in Mr. Trump’s view, the dominant geopolitical force.

Mr. Trump therefore thinks the EU’s political establishment is just as blind and misguided as they believe he is. He thinks Europe is making itself steadily weaker and less relevant in international life, and that Vladimir Putin’s view of the world is almost infinitely more clear-eyed and rational than Angela Merkel’s.

rhetorical effect: The distillation of the idea that foreign policy is driven only by self-interest. This argument about ideals vs. realism goes back at least to Thucydides, with the realists almost always coming out the worst.  A perfect storm is brewing in the Atlantic. In personality and in style, Mr. Trump represents almost everything Europeans dislike most about American life. He is even more abrasive when it comes to matters of substance. The Trumpian mix of zero-sum trade policy, hard-nosed foreign-policy realism, and skepticism about Europe’s future leads him to think of Europe as both a weak partner and an unreliable one. Small wonder, then, that virtually every encounter between Mr. Trump and his European counterparts leaves the relationship under greater strain.

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affirmative action bias

rhetorical claim: In the upside-down thinking of affirmative-action advocates, academically rigorous schools should be more focused on achieving racial balance and less focused on maintaining high standards. Asian displays of academic excellence therefore become problematic. Asians are somehow to blame for outperforming others, and they are to be punished for the historical injustices that blacks suffered at the hands of whites. This is what happens when you try to reconcile what is irreconcilable: group preferences on the one hand and equal treatment of individuals on the other.

rhetorical effect: justifies racially segregated schools, the privatization of public education, and the destruction of teachers’ unions.

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foreign policy “experts”

rhetorical claim: thank God Trump isn’t a foreign policy “expert.”. Our increasingly miseducated rulers sought abstract impossibilities, the quest for “everlasting peace” over the last century has increasingly given us “never-ending war.” As Matthew Peteron argues:

Does Donald Trump have enough experience and expert wisdom to give away as much to North Korea as the American foreign-policy establishment, with all its experience, top-shelf degrees, and stratospheric test scores, has given away in the past 30 years?

Does Donald Trump have enough experience and expert wisdom to keep the hostile stalemate the American foreign-policy establishment created and fostered with North Korea since America first waged the Korean War?

For that matter, does Trump even have the experience and caste of mind to start a war, say, in the Middle East, that costs trillions of dollars and disrupts and inflames the region as President Bush and his entourage did? Does he even know how?

Does Trump have the expertise to take over the wreckage of such a war and support jihadist rebels, help create ISIS and a global refugee crisis, and give Russia the most power it’s had in the region since the peak of the Cold War, like Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton did?

The truth may alarm you. Trump has never even started a war before—not even a little one.

Trump understands the other guy better, and read and dealt with him personally and politically, without the baggage of the silly and contradictory views of human nature absorbed by our elites at fancy schools and exposed in their hollow rhetoric.

rhetorical effect: belittles education and experience in foreign policy; makes Trump out to be an agent of peace whereas he is antagonizing almost every other country; lumps together apples, oranges and bananas (North Korea, ISIS, Russia)  in a crazy rhetorical salad

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a special place in hell

betrayal

rhetorical claim: Justin Trudeau’s betrayal of America on trade has earned him a special place in hell.

rhetorical effect: reinforces Trump’s “you’re either for me or against me”, winner-take- all siege mentality. Crisis is his brand, and he’s always under fire from “enemies” eager to “betray” him, any opposition no branded as a “betrayal” in this total war mentality. As Thomas Friedman argues, this idea that Canada is now an enemy

tells you all you need to know about how differently Trump looks at the world from any of his predecessors — Republican or Democrat. Everything is a transaction: What have you done for ME today? The notion of America as the upholder of last resort of global rules and human rights — which occasionally forgoes small economic advantages to strengthen democratic societies so we can enjoy the much larger benefits of a world of healthy, free-market democracies — is over.

“Trump’s America does not care,” historian Robert Kagan wrote in The Washington Post. “It is unencumbered by historical memory. It recognizes no moral, political or strategic commitments. It feels free to pursue objectives without regard to the effect on allies or, for that matter, the world. It has no sense of responsibility to anything beyond itself.”

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sitting up at attention

rhetorical claim: Trump on Kim Jong-un: “He speaks, and his people sit up at attention. I want my people to do the same.”

rhetorical effect: reveals Trump’s true aim: to become an autocractic dictator. He subsequently said this was a “joke,” which it is, in a Freudian way of giving away the game–revealing all in a thinly-veiled way. Americans do indeed need to “sit up at attention” when it comes to Trump’s further tyrannous maneuvers, lies and policies designed to criminalize debate and dissent.

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infest

rhetorical claim: America is being infested my immigrants who may well be murderers, gang members, rapists or whatever.

rhetorical effect: best explained by David Leonhardt of the New York Times:

continues his ugly pattern of describing illegal immigrants as subhuman. And “infest” is particularly stark, because it suggests that immigrants are akin to insects or rats — an analogy that Nazis frequently used to describe Jews, as Aviya Kushner notes in The Forward.
On the same subject, Slate’s Jamelle Bouie predicts that Trump’s dehumanizing language “will only get worse as November approaches.” Bouie adds: “To energize its voters, the White House plans a campaign of vicious demagoguery.”

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tender age facilities

rhetorical claim: the Trump administration has had to set up “tender age” facilities to house babies and infants who were being illegally smuggled into the US.

rhetorical effect: justifies what Jennifer Rubin calls:

moral madness, a betrayal of universal human values that marks the lowest point in the Trump presidency — or any presidency since the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II.

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bias

insubordination

rhetorical claim: the DOJ’s Inspector General’s report clearly shows anti-Trump bias and insubordination by James Comey and various investigators. It shows beyond any doubt that the DOJ was out to clear Hilary and fame Trump. The entire Hilary e-mail investigation and the entire Mueller investigation must themselves be investigated by a Special Counsel

rhetorical effect: a hall-of-mirrors: let’s investigate the investigation of the investigation. Similarly to Benghazi, this Clinton derangement syndrome will never go away. Anyone opposed to Trump is by definition both biased and insubordinate (see “sitting up.” above.)

Glossary: Key memes, counterfactuals, dog whistles, canards, euphemisms, innuendoes, insinuations, fake outrages, and obsessions in GOP language factories and fever swamps, June 7-11, 2018

very dishonest

rhetorical claim: Justin Trudeau betrayed America at the G-7 summit, and is a very dishonest person.

rhetorical effect: as usual, Trump accuses others of committing his own sins.

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cost-benefit analysis

overregulation

rhetorical claim: Barack Obama’s Environmental Protection Agency jammed through an average of 565 new rules each year of his Presidency, imposing the highest regulatory costs of any agency. It pulled off this regulatory spree in part by gaming cost-benefit analysis to downplay the consequences of its major environmental rules. The Trump Administration has already rolled back some of this overregulation, and now Administrator Scott Pruitt wants to stop the EPA’s numerical shenanigans, too.

rhetorical effect: “overregulation” is the new definition of all Obama-era regulation. Costs and benefits have now reversed position: what used to be called long-term social cost is now seen as a benefit; any inconvenient outcome or side effect is no longer factored into “scientific” assessment, so that negative consequences are no longer recognized at all.

America First

rhetorical claim: America will no longer be taken advantage of in trade deals. ‘”America First” means a return to American greatness and economic dominance. In a commencement address at the Naval Academy last month, President Trump told the graduates: “Winning is such a great feeling, isn’t it? Winning is such a great feeling. Nothing like winning — you got to win.” He later repeated the idea: “Victory, winning, beautiful words, but that is what it is all about.”

rhetorical effect: a post-multilateral, Darwinian world in which trade is transactional and predatory and America uses its size advantage to bully the rest of the world. The US will no longer have friends, just temporary alliances. Effects include: disruption of the global supply chain, confusion, increasing Chinese influence in the world economy, possible inflation, and a view of international infrastructure projects as wasteful spending. As Ruth Marcus put it in the Washington Post:

To him, none of the benefits of the post-World War II international architecture matter. It’s about his pride, his demand for attention, his ability to create havoc — and if he needs to take a wrecking ball to the Western alliance to convince himself he’s smarter than all his predecessors, he’ll not think twice about it.

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letting Trump be Trump

draining the swamp

MAGA

rhetorical claim: Trump being Trump is upsetting a lot of people, and the more he drains the swamp and makes America Great Again, the angrier and more desperate liberals get.

rhetorical effect: chaos, demoralization, the breakdown of the rule of law and  rules-based foreign policies, the end of civil liberties, and the entire repeal of the New Deal. As argued by Chauncy DeVega:

This is a version of what philosopher Hans Sluga has described as Donald Trump’s “empire of disorientation.” It is one of the most powerful outputs of the malignant reality that Donald Trump and other authoritarians have cast upon the land like dark mages.

Many people have been left exhausted and sickened by Trump’s lies and chaos, and by the anti-democratic agenda that has been so quickly normalized. But for his supporters this conjuring is a type of glamour where the gullible and desperate, the self-interested and mercenary, are made to believe that there will be a restoration of a mythic, glorious American past in the present which will somehow last for all time. This offers Trump and his followers a type of immortality by proxy. But despite the promises these grand designs are usually not very durable; they crumble; Adolf Hitler’s “thousand-year Reich” only lasted 12 years….

Historian Nancy MacLean explained this in a conversation with me for Salon last year:

In this Koch-donor dream, we are all responsible for ourselves from the cradle to the grave, unless there is a charity that happens to take an interest in us. We do not have federal laws to outlaw pollution or to prevent discrimination. Instead we trust everything to the free market and private property. This cause has pitted itself against the whole American model of 20th-century government. Regulation of food and drugs, the New Deal’s federal support for workers to organize and hold corporations accountable, the civil rights movement, the women’s and the environmental movements, all of these things are illegitimate in the eyes of these people on the right…

In an interview during the 2016 presidential campaign Donald Trump said that his effort to “Make America Great Again” would return the country to the 1940s and 1950s. This is a “Leave it to Beaver” American Whiteopia, which was also a nightmare for anyone who was not a straight white man. In reality, this was an era of Jim Crow white supremacy when women were treated as second-class citizens and gays, lesbians and transgender people were stigmatized as being “mentally ill,” “deviants” or “predators.”

But Trump’s “empire of disorientation” and its co-conspirators in the American right would be happy to bring America back much farther than to a mythic version of the 1950s or 1940s. They yearn to re-create the 19th-century Gilded Age, when there were few if any limits on the ruinous behavior of big business and the rich.

If Trump and his allies were to fully get their way, America could perhaps even be returned to the 19th century. A second Confederate States of America would be inaugurated where in its updated 21st-century version nonwhites — especially blacks — would “know their place,” women would be “properly submissive,” there would be no unions or labor laws, gays and lesbians would disappear back into the closet, right-wing Christianity would supersede secular laws and white men would rule for all time because that was and is “the natural order of things.”

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post-identity politics

rhetorical claim: the Trump era means we have entered a phase of post-identity politics. People can no longer expect to have an unfair advantage because they are women,  minorities or refugees or whatever. Political correctness is dead, and white people won’t be discriminated against any more.

rhetorical effect: obscures the fact that considering yourself white is itself a form of identity politics, a certain privileging. Rhetorically transforming whites from being oppressors to victims it itself a form of oppression

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politicization

rhetorical claim: As explained by Daniel Henninger:

The people who voted for Hillary still claim to be shocked and stunned that an electorate beaten down by the politicization of everything in life voted for the guy who makes a mockery of all that.

Donald Trump is a showman, who has been playing the media like a Stradivarius his whole life. Now he’s got Twitter, his own loud calliope.

In 2016, his Republican primary opponents didn’t recognize that we are living in an age of bread and circuses, an age Donald Trump didn’t create but into which he inserted his own circus. Curiosity seekers filled the tent and loved the show.

The sophisticates in the media thought they could beat Donald Trump at this game by burying him under waves of negative publicity. But he feeds off of it, just as he turned the Philadelphia Eagles’ White House no-show into a display of patriotic music, with the maestro at the center.

Now, fantastically, some Democrats are complaining that they can’t get their message out (the tax cut didn’t work, Medicare for all) because Donald Trump has blotted out the media sun. Gee whiz, whose fault is that?

The eclipse won’t end. The media has turned the Trump presidency into a phenomenon of constant self-absorption — their self-absorption in this one person. Donald Trump has become the biggest balloon in a political Macy’s parade of modern media’s own creation. They could let go of the ropes. But they won’t.

rhetorical effect: sarcastically blaming the media “sophisticates” for Trump’s bombast and constant dishonesty is classic turn-the-tables reframing or reversal of fact and truth, or transformation of presumption. . There is a difference between politicizing to make a moral point or an ethical argument and politicizing just to “win” at any cost, without any moral or ethical basis. Trump lacks an ethos.

Blame shifting would likely be the best term that covers this rhetorical sleight-of-hand. It is a rhetorical technique as old as leadership. Although often used to shift blame to scapegoats it could be used against your opponent as well. Such types of rhetoric are not new they were well practiced in ancient Rome. The four fundamental elements of all classical rhetoric were.

  • Addition (adiectio), also called repetition/expansion/superabundance
  • Omission (detractio), also called subtraction/abridgement/lack
  • Transposition (transmutatio), also called transferring
  • Permutation (immutatio), also called switching / interchange / substitution / transmutation

Language in the Age of Trump is a constant act of reversing known and observable reality, a kind of verbal conjuring in which all compass points are obliterated and everyone is thus perpetually disoriented and cut off from dependable, representational language.

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supplication

rhetorical claim: Mr. Trump has understood better than his predecessors that the U.S. can be in the strong position if it wants to be. His predecessors made themselves supplicants to the Kim family, much as the Obama administration made itself a supplicant to Iran. They put themselves in the position of begging an adversary not to take steps that would require the U.S. to carry out its threats.

rhetorical effect: Turns any attempt to compromise with North Korea or offer them incentives to an act of surrender, appeasement, supplication. Curiously enough, this is exactly what Trump ended up doing anyway: offering them everything and getting nothing in return.

Glossary: Key memes, counterfactuals, dog whistles, canards, euphemisms, innuendoes, insinuations, fake outrages, and obsessions in GOP language factories and fever swamps, May 27-June 6, 2018

the art of the deal

rhetorical claim: Trump was elected because he understands the art of the deal, and he is practicing it at the highest level now with North Korea and Iran.

rhetorical effect: Trump only understands the art of the con, as best explicated by Maureen Dowd:

Trump voters allowed themselves to believe they had a successful billionaire who knew the art of the deal when he only knew the art of the con. They bought his seductive campaign narrative, that the system was rigged and corrupt and only he could fix it. After winning by warning voters they were being suckered, he’s made them all suckers.

More depressingly, consider this further warning from Dowd, citing John Lanier, the father of virtual reality:

“We don’t believe in government,” he says. “A lot of people are pissed at media. They don’t like education. People who used to think the F.B.I. was good now think it’s terrible. With all of these institutions the subject of ridicule, there’s nothing — except Skinner boxes and con artists.”

Trump’s aggression has no strategy–it’s all just pure psychology–playing to his base. The art of the deal is a Darwinian, winner-take-all method, and needs an enemy to rhetorically prevail by stoking resentment. Never mind that the President’s “base” should be the entire American populace, but non-supporters aren’t part of “the deal”.

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meddling

rhetorical claim: As Donald Trump tweets,

The 13 Angry Democrats (plus people who worked 8 years for Obama) working on the rigged Russia Witch Hunt, will be MEDDLING with the mid-term elections, especially now that Republicans (stay tough!) are taking the lead in Polls,” Trump wrote on Twitter. “There was no Collusion, except by the Democrats!”

rhetorical effect: any attacks on Trump or charges of collusion or obstruction of justice are reduced to being cynical political meddling with elections: opposition is thus equated with subversion.

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the media is working overtime

rhetorical claim: the lyin’, dishonest media is working overtime to spread anti-Trump lies, conspiracy theories and witch hunts

rhetorical effect: simply doing their job gets transformed into working overtime to concoct and maintain conspiracy theories. Any negative story is thus tarred as part of this all-encompassing conspiracy in which everyone works tirelessly to overthrow the government. This conspiracy theory is in reality nothing more than a self-fulfilling prophecy, and cannot be proven false. Also, Fox News is never accused of “working overtime” (meaning propagandizing) to malign the Dems.

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the carnivores of civil liberties

rhetorical claim: The Democratic Party, the investigative media, and liberalism itself are now weirdly on the side of the reactionary administrative state. They have either downplayed or excused Watergate-like abuses of power by the former Barack Obama Administration. They have become the carnivores, rather than the protectors, of civil liberties.

rhetorical effect: legitimizes the false Deep State Spygate narratives–totally manufactured out of one part paranoia and two parts Orwellian inversions of words and concepts such as civil liberties. The very liberty to challenge Trump is at stake, and the right to free speech is at stake. Note the dependable rhetorical tactic of table-turning: it’s purportedly the Dems, not Trump’s protectors, who are abusing power and being “reactionary.”

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left-liberal moral triumphalism

rhetorical claim: as explained by the WSJ’s Daniel Heninger:

The late 1960s saw the beginning of left-liberal moral triumphalism. The opposition was no longer just wrong. It was morally suspect. For a new generation of Democrats, which increasingly included the theretofore politically neutral press, the Vietnam War was opposed as, simply, “a bright shining lie.”

A kind of political religiosity infused matters of sex, race and even foreign policy, and pushed the parties apart. The 1968 Kerner Commission Report on the urban riots in 1965-67 announced that America was “moving toward two societies.”

Some 10 years later, inevitably, the religious right emerged. And here we are today, fractured by politics and technology into myriad cultural subsets of separations that began in 1968. The Trump divide was a long time coming.

rhetorical effect: a morally triumphalist denunciation of liberal moral triumphalism. While purporting to be neutral and bi-partisan by hearkening back to a supposed national consensus on civil rights, it actually blames the left for our current political dysfunction. Reducing equal rights, sexual autonomy, equal justice, and peace abroad into matters of “political religiosity,” belittles them as lockstep groupthink, as if liberals are a zombie cult of robotic true believers.

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we’re all racially-prejudiced

post-racial society

I’m not a racist

rhetorical claim: We are living in a post-racial society where everyone has an equal opportunity to succeed. Minorities have no one but themselves to blame for their lack of success. I’m personally not a racist, and feel that I’ve been discriminated against by affirmative action “rules.”

rhetorical effect:  denies the existence of systemic racism; creates false equivalencies between oppression of blacks and affirmative action denying whites their rights, allowing whites to claim they are the real victims of racism.  As Ted Thornhill, a Sociology Professor,  explains,

I think it’s predicated on their way of producing these false equivalencies. Many people, especially those who are harassing professors like myself, believe that racism, first of all, is not a structural phenomenon. It’s something that is limited to the level of thoughts and beliefs and attitudes. By me titling the course “White Racism,” I’m being very blunt in making a claim that you white folks and your ancestors and your white-controlled institutions are responsible for the gross differences and social outcomes between whites and folks of color. That’s just too direct for them to stomach.

One of the most salient things that I’ve learned so far from this experience is that we’ve had these courses called “Systemic Racism” and “Race and Class in American Culture” and “Race and Ethnic Relations” in sociology and other disciplines for a long time. It must be the case that these people who are protesting my class must be thinking that those courses were not focused on systemic racism and that they were simply focusing on this idea that we are all racially prejudiced. “You’re bad, I’m bad. We should all just be kind to one another and the world would be a better place.”

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ordered liberty

rhetorical claim: Republicans believe that America is a great nation, and wants to preserve and continue its experiment in ordered liberty, limited government, and free market capitalism.  Democrats think America is a racist and sexist country that can only be “fixed” by socialism.

rhetorical effect: uses euphemisms to obscure the effects of what it is claiming: that liberty must be “ordered” (by whom? under what criteria?); that government must be “limited” (again, bu whom?), and that the free market trumps everything. This sounds like a recipe for American ideals, but is really the game plan for American corporate fascism.

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social justice identity politics

rhetorical claim: climate change is no longer a pre-eminent policy issue. All that remains is boilerplate rhetoric from the political class, frivolous nuisance lawsuits, and bureaucratic mandates on behalf of special-interest renewable-energy rent seekers. Judged by deeds rather than words, most national governments are backing away from forced-marched decarbonization. You can date the arc of climate change as a policy priority from 1988, when highly publicized congressional hearings first elevated the issue, to 2018. President Trump’s ostentatious withdrawal from the Paris Agreement merely ratified a trend long becoming evident. The descent of climate change into the abyss of social-justice identity politics represents the last gasp of a cause that has lost its vitality. Climate alarm is like a car alarm—a blaring noise people are tuning out.

rhetorical effect: a rhetorical coup, posing as a triumphalist victory. Turns the tables by claiming that environmentalists are the ones who removed the science in climate change theory and politicized it. Also undercuts any hope of international agreements on climate change or any consensus on whether it exists or can or should be mitigated.

 

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, May 20-26, 2018

civilizational struggle

rhetorical claim: Trump is conducting a civilizational struggle against the Deep State, waves of foreign invaders, elitist environmental activists, activists judges, trial lawyers, and redistributionists who would rob real Americans of their income. They criticize the validity and relevance of everything Trump does and says.

rhetorical effect: with no less than civilization at stake, every Trump policy and action becomes a blow for good against evil, and opposition becomes both subversive and futile. There is no room for individual freedom or civil society in an apocalyptic world. It is a Hobbesian universe of winner-take all. Everyone must take sides. This is where Trump’s betrayal narrative–always needing fresh scapegoats– merges with his messianic narrative–“only I can fix it”.

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witch hunt

rhetorical claim: the entire Mueller probe is a witch hunt because there is no collusion and the only “obstruction” Trump has committed is fighting back against false charges.

rhetorical effect: the tweet is father to the deed: just calling it a witch hunt creates the perception that it is a witch hunt.  As explained by Virginia Heffernan:

When word and deed become one — when speaking is acting — we are often in the presence of what philosophers of language call “performative speech acts ,” as opposed to “constatives.” Part of what’s so disorienting about Trump is that he uses speech in a relentlessly performative way.

Constatives are utterances that describe the world, and are responsive to fact-checking. Performatives, by contrast, are a show, and when you utter them, you enact — rather than describe — something in the world. Performatives are a subset of speech acts such as orders, threats, promises, and warnings.

It’s pointless to fact-check an order. “Shut up,” for example, is neither true nor false

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economic patriotism

rhetorical claim: MAGA translates into economic patriotism: putting American business interests first to check the unrestrained virus of globalist elites turning the world a single neo-liberal market.

rhetorical effect: sanctions and routinizes kleptocracy, nepotism, consumer fraud, and labor busting. The channeling of state resources to favorable businesses becomes routine, and the watering-down, non-enforcement or outright elimination of all regulatory laws somehow comes to be branded as “patriotic.” More idiotic than patriotic.

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tax cut stimulus

rhetorical claim: the 2017 tax cuts have  created unprecedented economic prosperity for the American people, with an average of $3,200 going right into the pockets of the taxpayers.

rhetorical effect: this is a vast statistical lie, designed to cover over some inconvenient facts:

1. one-time bonuses–the political stunt many companies have pulled– are not nearly as long-lasting as permanent pay increases.

2. wage growth has been anemic since the tax cuts.

3. since the cuts, companies have spent record amounts of money buying back their own stock, and thus rewarding shareholders. They are not sharing the wealth with employees.

4. the tax cuts are creating larger deficits than expected, and these deficits are now being used as a pretext for cutting spending on the poor.

5.the tax cuts remain unpopular, and many Republicans have ceased campaigning on them.

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Spygate

rhetorical claim: Just a few days after a weekend Twitter meltdown that featured a call for the Department of Justice to investigate whether the FBI “infiltrated” his campaign for political purposes, President Trump on Tuesday night and Wednesday morning fired off another torrent of tweets about the same subject. He even decided on a nickname–Spygate–which he says could be one of the biggest political scandals of all time. He tweeted that it could be “bigger than Watergate!” , and blamed on the Deep State. Then it was the “all time biggest political scandal!” While fielding questions from reporters Tuesday afternoon, he said “it would make probably every political event ever look like small potatoes.”

rhetorical effect: More fake Trumpian situational outrage. Covers over the fact that there is no spying and that the use of an informant is standard DOJ operating policy. Not to mention the fact that the Deep State is a unicorn–it doesn’t actually exist, as explained by Gideon Rachman:

The Trump world’s accusations about a “deep state” plot to destroy the president are now increasing in volume, with the revelation that the FBI used an informant to probe connections between the Trump campaign and Russia. Mr Trump himself has greeted this news as further confirmation of an establishment plot to undermine him. But the fact that a theory is popular does not make it true. There is no evidence that the FBI, nor the “deep state”, was intent on destroying the Trump campaign. On the contrary, the FBI director, James Comey, did Mr Trump a favour by publicly re-opening an inquiry into Hillary Clinton’s mishandling of official emails — while keeping quiet about FBI suspicions of links between the Russian state and the Trump campaign. The fact that an FBI informant was probing evidence of these links is not, as Mr Trump would have it, the “all time biggest political scandal”. It is exactly what an intelligence service should be doing.

The “deep state” controversy may be phony. But it is still significant. For it reveals the extent to which paranoid fantasy has now entered the mainstream of American political discourse — fanned by the president himself. The theory that there is a “deep state” behind the scenes manipulating politicians and controlling the course of events is traditionally most prevalent in countries that are poorer than the US, with lower levels of education and weaker democratic traditions.

In places like Turkey, Pakistan, Egypt, Thailand and Indonesia, the notion of a deep state is far from fanciful. All these countries have experienced military coups (sometimes repeatedly) when the armed forces moved against elected politicians. Those scarring experiences leave a legacy of fear about the connections between business, the military and the intelligence services. That kernel of justified suspicion often then creates a political culture, in countries such as Turkey, in which conspiracy theories are rife — something that is corrosive of the trust in institutions that is crucial to a functioning democracy. It should not need saying, but American political traditions are very different from those of Turkey or Pakistan. The US has no history of military coups. And America has an entrenched tradition of an independent civil service that obeys the law and the constitution.

The Trump administration’s problems come not from an insidious, undemocratic ‘Deep State’ but simply from the state — the large, complex hive of people and procedures that constitute the US federal government.

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great-power competition

rhetorical claim: There is a crisis of European weakness. In a world increasingly defined by great-power competition, Europe is finding it increasingly hard to defend its preferred model of multilateral decision-making and soft-power diplomacy. As Mr. Trump decided to make his U-turn on Iran, he looked to other American allies: Israel, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates.

rhetorical effect: justifies American bullying; weakens multi-lateral decision-making and soft-power diplomacy. Rather than “leading from behind,” America no longer cares about moral leadership, just about brute domination. The ‘Shining city on a hill” has become a fortress empire, something to be feared, not admired.

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constitutional crisis

rhetorical claim: Democrats and their media allies are again shouting “constitutional crisis,” this time claiming President Trump has waded too far into the Russia investigation. The howls are a diversion from the actual crisis: the Justice Department’s unprecedented contempt for duly elected representatives, and the lasting harm it is doing to law enforcement and to the department’s relationship with Congress.

rhetorical effect: part of the pre-emptive strike against the Mueller probe; creating something out of nothing, and then calling this nothing a threat to the Constitution when the only threat to the Constitution is this mythic deep state conspiracy and attempt to undermine the criminal justice system.