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, April 6-10, 2017


cleaning up the voter rolls

rhetorical claim: the GOP cleaned up the voter rolls in many states by requiring voter i.d. and other measures designed to stop widespread voter fraud.

rhetorical effect; rather than “cleaning up” the voter rolls, these voter suppression acts have either purged qualified voters or prevented qualified voters from registering. There was nothing to “clean up” because there was no voter fraud to begin with. The only thing that got “cleaned up” was Democrats’ voter turnout.



rhetorical claim: As Hirshi Ali explains, so-called Islamic terrorism is in reality Dawa, the  ceaseless, world-wide ideological campaign waged by Islamists as a complement to jihad. It is the greatest threat facing the West and could well bring about the end of the European Union as we know it. Islam the religion, in Ms. Hirsi Ali’s view, is a Trojan horse that conceals Islamism the political movement.

It is “conducted right under our noses in Europe, and in America. It aims to convert non-Muslims to political Islam and also to push existing Muslims in a more extreme direction. The ultimate goal is to destroy the political institutions of a free society and replace them with Shariah. It ends when an Islamic utopia is achieved. Shariah everywhere!

We need to get away from this game of jihadi Whac-A-Mole and confront “the enemy that is in plain sight—the activists, the Islamists, who have access to all the Western institutions of socialization. They’re there, in families, in schools, in universities, prisons, in the military as chaplains. And we can’t allow them to pursue their aims unchecked.

America needs to be on full alert against political Islam because its program is fundamentally incompatible with the U.S. Constitution—with religious pluralism, the equality of men and women, and other fundamental rights, including the toleration of different sexual orientations. When we say the Islamists are homophobic, we don’t mean that they don’t like gay marriage. We mean that they want gays put to death.”

rhetorical effect: an outright ban on all Muslim immigrants, or an ideology test for all would-be visitors from Muslim countries; increased surveillance and detention of  all Muslims in the US, regardless of citizenship.


health insurance market forces

rhetorical claim: the less involvement government has with health insurance, the more efficient the market will be in providing the kind of insurance people actually want.

rhetorical effect: puts all Americans at the mercies of the insurers. Holds out the illusory promise of better care for less money, while all the while diluting actual coverage. Will return health care in the US to being a protection racket for insurance and drug companies and hospitals, rather than a “free” market. The only “choice” consumers will have is how sick they can afford to be.


conflict is attention

attention is influence

rhetorical claim: these two favorite phrases of alt-right blogger Mike Cernovich perfectly capture the heart of Trump’s rhetoric of outrage. Perpetual conflict keeps the spotlight on Trump, stoking the fires of rage in his core supporters.

rhetorical effect: this war against the world can never end and will always demand fresh victims to stoke the fire.


the First Amendment

rhetorical claim: an impediment to effective counter-jihad techniques. Protection of free speech in this case is not American exceptionalism, but, rather, exceptionally handicapping in the war against jihad.

rhetorical effect: the “temporary” suspension of all First Amendment rights as part of a counter-terrorism campaign.

microscopic news coverage

rhetorical claim: the mainstream media’s obsession with the phony Russian election hack story has led them to round-the-clock, microscopic coverage of a non-story.

rhetorical effect: any reporting at all is demeaned as witch-hunting, and any details are pejoratively called “microscopic,” as if they are not visible to the human eye. To merely report new developments in an ongoing story is thus defined a delusional obsession.



rhetorical claim:  Dems castigate Trump cabinet nominees for making profitable investments in the industries they will be regulating. The logic of stigmatizing this experience as a conflict of interest even if the nominees agree to divest escapes all logic.

rhetorical effect: confuses experience with the public regulation of companies with the experience of profiting from their stock. As Betsy DeVos proved, having profited from an industry is no substitute for not knowing anything about policies and regulations governing that industry.


countering Chinese adventurism

rhetorical claim: apologies, acquiescence, disinterest and passivity are terms that no longer describe or apply to Washington’s leaders.  This shift to an “America First” strategy should be demonstrated to the Chinese.

rhetorical effect: any compromise or acknowledgement of China’s core strengths and policies is demonized as an “apology” and a fatal weakness. Peace through strength is an illusion–it just means weakness through bluster.


“I don’t show my hand”

rhetorical claim: President Trump does not tip his hand when it comes to foreign policy–he is a doer, not a talker or apologist, drawing phony “red lines.”

rhetorical effect: this myth of shrewd poker player who never tips his hand provides cover for Trump to erratically lurch from one reactionary policy to its diametric opposite on the turn of a dime. He doesn’t show his hand because he doesn’t have a plan except for the frightening thought of a reactionary military response to any foreign policy threat or slight. The effect of this policy of no policy is explained by The Atlantic’s Eliot Cohen,

Sooner or later, someone needs to explain what Trump’s foreign policy is beyond the macho swagger expressed by Mulvaney, whose hard-power experience has consisted chiefly of earning the enmity of John McCain for trying to slash military budgets as a congressman. At the moment there is no Trump foreign policy doctrine, no coherent explanation of the world as seen by the Trump team, and the broad outlines of their policy for dealing with it. There are threats leveled at North Korea, which will either have to be backed up by force or retreated from in humiliation. There is a far warmer reception for an Egyptian dictator than for a fairly elected German chancellor. There is foreign policy conducted as though the United States government were a Middle Eastern court, where the ruler’s family counts for more than the sovereign’s foreign minister. And there is the invocation of America First, a slogan with a rancid history, as the president knows very well.

Perhaps this will end. Perhaps Secretary Tillerson will find a voice. Perhaps he will somehow lay out a vision of foreign policy that reconciles America’s interests and its values, that reassures allies and promises a steady hand in the years to come. Perhaps he will charm the press as some of his predecessors have. Perhaps he will come to be seen as primus inter pares in shaping U.S. foreign policy. For the moment, however, his silence is as dismaying and depressing as the chirping of Trump’s tweets and the sound of Mr. Mulvaney pounding his unbemedalled chest.

As The New York Times’ Charles Blow puts it,

“I don’t show my hand” isn’t a strategy to conceal a plan as much as one to conceal the absence of a plan.

His statements are all bluster and bungling and bosh. Our commander in chief is not in full command of his emotions or facts or geopolitics.

We may sometimes think that the absurdity of Trump’s endless stream of contradictions and lies ends at the nation’s borders, but it doesn’t. The world is watching, and the world is full of dangerous men who see killing as a means of maintaining and exerting power. They see in Trump a novice and know-nothing, and they will surely test his resolve.

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, April 1-5, 2017


rhetorical claim: crime is the new black entitlement. As long as black people are permanent victims of relentless white racism, cops should not chase them, juries should not convict them, judges should not sentence them, schools should not punish them, and white victims should not complain about the black crime and violence so wildly out of proportion.

This is what a growing number of lawmakers, professors and, of course, reporters are prescribing as a way to “improve the way our system serves justice.”

rhetorical effect: criminalizes being black; justifies all police violence against blacks; re-inforces the gross insinuation that blacks are dependent on the public dole and feel entitled to government support just because they are black.


teachers’ unions

rhetorical claim: the only group ever able to give America’s teachers a bad name.

rhetorical effect: extends the demonization of teachers as greedy hypocrites hungry for power and indifferent to education outcomes. In other words, accuses teachers of caring least about their students, whose welfare is ostensibly the only reason anyone would take on such grinding, unforgiving, low-paid work.


environmental extortion rackets

rhetorical claim: “global warming,” “climate change,” automobile fuel standards, scares over CO2 levels, almost all EPA regulations are all hoaxes and literally extortion rackets to fine corporations and force them to make outlandish financial investments in technology that can’t solve imaginary problems.

rhetorical effect: relativizes environmental regulation by either devaluing its causes or its effects. As is almost always the case, makes progressive environmental activists out to be power-hungry hypocrites.


the Democratic steno pool

rhetorical claim: the dishonest MSM has c0ncocted the entire Russian election hacking story to discredit the Trump administration. They are little more than stenographers of whatever false narrative Hillary Clinton Chuck Schumer, Elizabeth Warren and Susan Rice give them

rhetorical effect: seems to make it impossible to get at the facts–let alone the truth–of gettin of the extent of the Trump campaign’s collusion with the Russians. Reinforces the idea of a “post-truth” era, in which they challenge any assertion of fact. Yet they have it both ways because they also insist (see “rumor mongering,” below) that “the real story” is the Obama/Susan Rice monitoring of the Trump transition team. So none of te mainstream media news is considered real, and none of their news can ever be fake or self-serving.



rhetorical claim: states’ rights should guarantee flexibility is such broad areas as health care policy and mandates, environmental protection, public safety, birth control, gender discrimination laws, consumer laws, etc.

rhetorical effect: absolves the Trump administration from any of the political blame for inadequate or unaffordable insurance coverage, police violence against minorities, racial, sexual and gender discrimination, inadequate womens’ sexual health protections, air and water pollution, consumer fraud, etc.



rhetorical claim: any of the Russian election-hacking stories. The real story is Susan Rice and the Obama administration’s surveillance of the Trump transition team.

rhetorical effect: reduces facts to rumors–that is, unsubstantiated claims made for politically partisan purposes. Any criticism of Trump is trivialized as rumor or gossip. If this was a courtroom, it would be impossible for the prosecutors to present any acceptable evidence because they could not conform to the canons of evidence. It’s the Alice in Wonderland scenario:

“When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.’

’The question is,’ said Alice, ‘whether you can make words mean so many different things.’

’The question is,’ said Humpty Dumpty, ‘which is to be master — that’s all.”

Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking Glass


the war on fossil fuels

rhetorical claim: the “climate change” conspiracy has finally lost its war on fossil fuels now that the Trump administration has opened up oil and gas drilling, provided  regulatory relief, and more or less banned any climate change research.

rhetorical effect: denies the reality of harmful CO2 emissions; dismantles 50 years of environmental regulation; absolves corporations from any liability for harmful effects of their activities. Fossil fuels are now fighting a war on the earth.



rhetorical claim: America’s greatest cohering force. Religious freedom must be upheld.

rhetorical effect: the defense of religions at the expense of basic human rights–as in the cases of abortion, gay rights, gender identity, school curriculum, women’s rights, birth control, etc–not only sanctions prejudice but enshrines it as the cornerstone of national cohesion.

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, March 18-31, 2017

Fifth Column

rhetorical claim: Every day brings new evidence that today’s media are engaged in clandestine fifth column activities involving journalistic acts of sabotage, media malfeasance, blatant disinformation or media espionage conducted by secret sympathizers. President Trump is engaged in a vicious counter-terrorism war with the media and the Democratic Party.  Yes, terrorism, for what is terrorism but violence or intimidation to achieve some political mean?  The Democrat Party, aided and abetted by their army of fifth column “journalists,” are waging a clandestine war against the heart and soul of America. They are fake Americans producing fake news.

rhetorical effect: discredits any mainstream media reporting; turns them into “the enemy of the people,” and Obama collaborators, and could eventually lead to relaxed libel laws that will muzzle the press and consolidate government power. Turns the Trump Administration into the true resistance movement.


virtue signalling

rhetorical claim: feel-good policies such as allowing men to use girls’ bathrooms and ruinous $15/hr. minimum wages are progressives’ way of signalling their virtue and political correctness.

rhetorical effect: reduces idealism, social justice, and equality to self-serving attempts at cynically holding power. Renders any claim of morality sound sanctimonious and hypocritical.


the Obama-Clinton pushover axis

rhetorical claim: why would the Russians hack our election when they had the feckless, incompetent Clinton/Obama apparatchiks doing their very bidding. Obama was recorded on a hot mic telling “Vladimir” he would have more flexibility after the 2012 election (and boy did he).   Obama/Clinton let them take Crimea and Georgia without a peep.  Obama/Clinton apparently (allegedly) signed over 20% of America’s uranium for some huge donations (said to be over 100 million dollars) to the Clinton Foundation plus mega dollars for Clinton speeches that were of no value.  The botched Russian reset button, the drawdown of our military, the total feckless weakened foreign policy of Obama/Clinton, and more; the list of reasons for Vladimir to love Clinton are legion.

Given all those facts, why in the world would Putin want to change from the easy marks he had to a bulldog, a fighter, a man of accomplishment who ran on toughness, a man who wanted to reassert America’s greatness, a man who promised to build the strongest military in the world, a man who wanted to vie, compete and beat Russia as a player in the energy markets?

rhetorical effect: this incredible string of lies and half-truths shifts the narrative away from Trump and back onto the Clintons and Obama.


reverse monitoring

rhetorical claim: In its final stages, the Obama administration ordered wiretaps on targets they knew that the Trump transition team would be speaking with. This subterfuge and deception was a backdoor way of mining the incoming administration for dirt

rhetorical effect: deflects attention away from the Russian election hack story; distorts events into a hurricane-strength dose of fake news; makes Obama sound like a traitor and a felon for authorizing these taps. Their claim that anyone who reveals names and details of this surveillance should go to prison also has a chilling effect on public disclosure and journalism.


hard power

rhetorical claim: the strong-power administration needs a strong military to overcome Obama’s perpetual “apology tour”and make America respected and feared again. Makes sure that no one “messes with us” (see below) ever again.

rhetorical effect: justifies enormous defense budget increase at the expense of domestic programs; makes our allies less likely to build up their military spending;  purity and patriotism carry the day over compassion and alliance-building; an increased likelihood of  state-based aggression in the form of American bellicosity , coercion, and military intervention, and, as Nina Burleigh explained in Newsweek,:

What Trump’s budget ensures is that the nation continues down the road that got him elected in the first place—poorly informed and sickly people, ill-served by unfunded public education, lacking decent health care, poisoned by pollution, eating food and using machinery whose safety is not ensured by public agencies, and slipping behind other countries in science and innovation


originalism and textualism

rhetorical claim: When interpreting the Constitution, judges should confine themselves to the words of the Constitution. Originalism says that if the words are at all unclear, then judges need to consult historical sources to determine their meaning at the time of ratification, and the correct application of these words to new cases should clearly  limit judicial discretion. As Justice Scalia argued, if judges are not bound by words and history, they will inevitably exceed the limits of their judicial authority and, like “activists” or “super-legislators,” make the Constitution say whatever they want.

rhetorical effect: guarantees conservative SCOTUS decisions because it does not take into account the modern meaning of terms such as “right,” “unreasonable,” “probable cause,” “due process,” “excessive,” “cruel and unusual” and “equal protection.”  Does not allow justices to consider context, the intent of the Constitution, contemporary circumstances, and the political and social effect of opinions. Also naively assumes that 250-year-old language is transparent, when clearly anyone attempting to channel the minds of the framers is herself interpreting. Interpretation is a speech act, and anyone reading anything is thus an “activist.”



rhetorical claim: Congress should do everything it can to dismantle government and eliminate regulation.Its mandate is not to use government to solve problems, but instead to treat government as the problem.

rhetorical effect: lets the private sector do whatever it wants, in effect making profit the sole government principle. Replaces a socially-oriented government–a public sphere– with a military-police operation.


fashionable political statements

rhetorical claim: federal appeals judges blocking the travel ban are using fashionable political statements to undermine national security.and weaken America They should have no jurisdiction over national security judgement calls.

rhetorical effect: turns two of America’s greatest strengths–judicial review and the separation of powers–into a traitorous-sounding weakness.The GOP calls favorable judicial rulings “Constitutional originalism,” while unfavorable ones are demoted to being “political statements.” In what ways is the theory of original construction not a political statement in itself, since it is based on speculation, ideology and interpretation?


messing with us

rhetorical claim: Trump has promised to make the U.S. armed forces “so big, so powerful, so strong, that nobody — absolutely nobody — is gonna mess with us.” Purity and patriotism carry the day.

rhetorical effect: Purity and patriotism carry the day. As Katrina vanden Huevel put it in the Washington Post:

The question is whether we will continue to mess with them. A military that can go anywhere and do anything is called on constantly to go somewhere and do something. The problem with endless wars without victory is that they must be ended without victory. The challenge for a true America First policy is to reduce the lives and resources squandered across the globe in order to rebuild at home. Trump’s budget submission omitted plans for his promised rebuilding of U.S. infrastructure. Clearly the military buildup took priority. And that buildup — along with the doubling down on current policies in Europe, the Middle East, Korea and the South China Sea — suggests that once more the bipartisan consensus of the United States as the “indispensable nation” on duty across the world will betray the promise to rebuild our country.

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, March 8-14, 2017

The Right To Try

rhetorical claim: prolonged FDA drug approval policies are depriving sick patients of needed drugs and driving up costs. Therefore, the FDA should only approve drugs for safety, not efficacy. The market will determine which drugs succeed and fail.  Patients should get the right to try new drugs to more quickly discover what’s best for them.

rhetorical effect: makes anyone arguing that drugs need to be proven effective before approval seem like part of the administrative state that Bannon says is destroying America. Will end up wasting billions of dollars  on drugs that don’t work, and, in the process, making sick people sicker and causing a lot of false hope and disappointment. But, on the bright side, will greatly increase Big Pharm’s revenue and enormous profits.


health care reform

rhetorical claim: the American Health Care Act will force states to set priorities in patient coverage–including only the truly needy– and create a more vibrant insurance market through the low-cost policies that people actually want. It will bring freedom to he health care market. defederalizing, block granting, and capping

rhetorical effect: Translations: “setting priorities in patient coverage” actually means rationing; “the truly needy” will be an ever-diminishing pool of low income patients; a “vibrant insurance market” means the right to ever-cheaper, unregulated,  and useless policies; and “policies that people actually want” hastens in a new race to the bottom. People will only think they have policies they “want” until they actually have to rely on these policies to save them from financial catastrophe. As for freedom, here’s Gail Collins’ matchless description:

There’s freedom for wealthier Americans not to pay taxes that help subsidize health insurance for their low-income fellow citizens. Freedom for those who can afford coverage to refuse to buy it. Freedom for insurance companies to hike their prices for middle-aged customers. Freedom for the states to stop providing Medicaid-backed health insurance for maternity care, when nearly half of all the births in the country are currently covered by Medicaid.

“It gives power back to the insurance companies to discriminate against women’s health care, which is more expensive, obviously,” said Senator Patty Murray of Washington.


global community fantasyland

rhetorical claim: multilateral trade agreements and other international treaty obligations only promote the one-world globalists whose main aim is to supplant US sovereignty. This global community fantasyland threatens US courts and domestic democratic institutions. The era of global governance is rapidly passing.

rhetorical effect: excuses the US from participating in any international organizations or tribunals; makes the  “America First” mentality the sole arbitrator of our stance toward climate change, environmental justice, women’s health human rights, and labor laws.


messaging problems

rhetorical claim: the lamestream media is the enemy of the people and of the Trump administration, so naturally they portray all Trump policy initiatives as chaotic failures. This is laughably not the case as Trump systematically begins to tackle immigration, a border wall, health care, and deregulation. Any “chaos” around these efforts is simply a matter of the new administration’s messaging problem, amplified by a hostile media elite always poised to pounce.

rhetorical effect: blames the media for Trump’s obvious struggles; reduces bad governance to “miscommunication”–as if a little spin can turn a sow’s ear into a silk purse. Messaging problems can be tweaked; policy problems are irredeemable without major restructuring.



rhetorical claim: ironically, college campuses have become the new centers of intolerance and hate speech. This McCarthyite speech suppression has created  a hostile atmosphere toward controversial speakers, whose very expression of ideas has been called a “violent act.”

rhetorical effect: the elimination of all campus speech codes, designed to protect vulnerable and minority populations from hate speech and prejudice. Civil liberties  (the freedom to do things) will be privileged over civil rights  (the freedom from things) as the rights of minorities are suppressed. Discriminatory harassment–which  includes conduct (oral, written, graphic or physical) directed against any person or, group of persons because of their race, color, national origin, religion, sex, sexual orientation, age, disability, or veteran’s status and that has the purpose or reasonably foreseeable effect of creating an offensive, demeaning, intimidating, or hostile environment for that person or group of persons–will be permitted; marginalized, oppressed groups will become even more marginalized and oppressed;


our civilization

rhetorical claim: there is a clash of civilizations between Islam and the West, and we are committing cultural suicide by admitting Muslims immigrants. As Iowa House member Steve King puts it,  “culture and demographics are our destiny.  We can’t restore our civilization with somebody else’s babies.” National identity and racial identity overlap entirely

rhetorical effect: reinforces the claim that the GOP owns the “America” brand and so to oppose them is un-American. (Thus “our” is not an inclusive term.) Puts economic nationalism at the center of all US foreign and economic policy. Offers tacit support to racism, xenophobia, and and anti-religion violence. Defines civilization solely in terms of Western values and accomplishments.


deep state mischief

rhetorical claim: Democrats play to win, though this time with a perversity and desperation that’s downright scary. They’re trying to scorch the earth — and then rule among the ruins. Their efforts to overturn Trump’s election are not just politics as usual. Slandering Trump as Putin’s Manchurian candidate-turned-president is a gambit aimed at destroying the man and his movement.

Obama — formally or casually — sanctioning Trump Tower wiretaps without due process is criminal. Deep State mischief, in concert with Obama holdovers, threatens liberties. Loretta Lynch encouraging violence in the streets promotes lawlessness. Democrats’ silence at street violence is agreement. Democrats’ ploys are wildly irresponsible, promoting even greater divisions and conflict. This invites reprisals toward a future Democratic president. Does the nation survive if Democrats are fighting for a zero-sum win?

rhetorical effect: makes any opposition seem subversive and even treasonous; refutes any claims about Trump corruption, incompetence, or irrationality; makes Dems the opponents of liberty and the rule of law.


liberal issues

rhetorical claim: liberal virtue-signalling results in a sanctimonious testament of lies and self-serving hypocrisies. Their bullying lies and non-negotiable demands–black lives matter; women’s rights are human rights, science is real–are a form of political agitation and the suppression of free speech.

rhetorical effect: creates conditions for what Putin calls a “post-truth world” where power trumps reason and economic prosperity is the sole measure of political success.


black suffering

rhetorical claim: Truth-telling is agaon possible thanks to Donald Trump. This is especially true when it comes to telling the truth about inner cities and black suffering. As explained by Lloyd Marcus on The Federalist website:

Then, there is the black thing. Leftists say you had better not tell the truth about why blacks are suffering in cities controlled by Democrats — generational poverty, epidemic school dropouts, high out of wedlock births, over 70% fatherless households, high unemployment and record-breaking black-on-black crime.

All this black suffering is the result of Democrats pardoning blacks of all personal responsibility for their lives. Democrats claim all issues plaguing blacks are the fault of white racist America. This leftist poisonous lie robs blacks of their personal power by placing their success or failure in the hands of someone other than themselves. Leftists hate this truth. America is the greatest land of opportunity on the planet for all who choose to go for it! Period.

Despicably, leftists lie claiming cops routinely murder blacks. The truth is blacks are killing each other to the tune of 20, 30, and 40 every weekend in cities like Chicago and Baltimore, controlled by democrats for decades.

But Leftists forbid us from telling the truth about black lives. Doesn’t common sense suggest that if Leftists truly cared about black lives, they would relish an honest discussion? Leftists high-tech crucified white TV commentator Bill O’Reilly for compassionately daring to address the real reasons why blacks are suffering. For years, I have been routinely excoriated, called an Uncle Tom and a traitor to my race for simply stating truths; petitioning blacks to assume responsibility, which equals real black empowerment.

rhetorical effect: blaming the victim for institutional and historical violence and oppression; justifying the demolition of the social safety net; condoning police violence, and creating an overall atmosphere of racist hatred.


the Russia insinuation

rhetorical claim: the ignominious collapse of the Democratic claims and insinuations that Donald Trump was improperly connected to the Russian government has de-escalated the Democrats’ campaign against the president — from a frenzied assault seeking impeachment and removal for a cause to be named later, to guerrilla war. Russian collusion has vanished down the same deep hole as the charges of sexism, racism, and a will to autocracy.

rhetorical effect: trivializes and dismisses any talk of the ever-more-apparent Russia-Trump connection; renders Trump impervious to criticism; equates all critical media coverage as fake news.

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, March 1-7, 2017

military operation

rhetorical claim: that the deportation of undocumented immigrants will, according to President Trump, be carries out as a “military operation.” This definition of a mass-deportation military operation was later dialed back by General Kelly and Sean Spice as being selective only and not involving the military

rhetorical effect:  further undermines Trump’s rhetorical authority since his aides now say he actually meant “non-military” when he said “military.”  Also scares every immigrant and suppresses free speech.


no investigation is needed

rhetorical claim: Trump’s ties to Russia and Russian interference in the US election don’t need to be investigated because there is no proof that any crime was committed.

rhetorical effect: becomes the template for avoiding any independent investigations of the Trump administration. Establishes the absurd idea that evidence could possibly exist before an investigation.If you had proof, you wouldn’t need an investigation.


health care populism

rhetorical claim:  deregulated, competitive health insurance markets are the most fair and efficient way to the health care markets people really want. Key to fairly managed markets is the right of patients to cost consciousness. Innovative contracts offering limited and selective  kinds of coverage, and shifting more responsibility onto the patients, are the wave of the future. It would be a case of “moralistic overreach.” (see below)

rhetorical effect: turns health care from a human right into a consumer-driven obligation, thus paving the way to blame the victims for their own illnesses.  Will lead to vastly reduced coverage; exclusions for preexisting conditions; huge increases in both the uninsured and the under-insured, and record profits for unregulated insurance companies and providers.


political extortion

rhetorical claim: A special prosecutor is the worst possible way to inform Americans about the Russia episode. He’d operate in secret with a goal of criminal indictments when what the U.S. political system needs is information about what happened. Democrats have made many allegations but fear there may be nothing to find. A special prosecutor would let them continue to claim for months or years that the 2016 election was stolen even if no indictments were ever handed up.

rhetorical effect: makes any investigation of Trump’s Russian ties seem politically-motivated, inevitably biased, and nothing more than Dems’ revenge for a lost election. Saying that the American people “just want to know what happened ” without  a “secret” Special Prosecutor issuing indictments is to rule out findings of criminal conspiracy and even treason.



rhetorical claim: progressivism is the true believers’ conspiracy against government by the people. Progressives want to dispose rights through the administrative state, not allow these rights to be disposed by “The laws of  Nature and Nature’s God.”

rhetorical effect: normalizes and reifies  Trumpism as a “popular revolt” bubbling up from the people and not an administrative coup engineered by progressives. Demonizes progressivism as elitist, authoritarian, and unnatural–a pure, naked power grab justified by a bogus sense of historical inevitability.


moralistic overreach

rhetorical claim: appointing Special Prosecutors–or even creating the FISA Court in the first place– circumvents the natural process of letting the Justice Dept. gather the facts and instead constitute an act of moralistic overreach on the part of the Dems.  Judges should not be involved in the surveillance equation.

rhetorical effect: removes judiciary oversight of the Justice Dept., allowing it to bury or ignore evidence. “Moralistic” is of course a pejorative term in itself, suggesting prying scolds and hypocrites. This phrase delegitimizes any independent investigation of US intelligence, surveillance, or political connections with foreign powers. It also makes the concept of morality itself seem suspect.


tax competition

rhetorical claim: Obama had a taboo on lowering taxes through tax competition, which made efficient corporate tax planning very difficult. Relegitimizing tax competition will be a powerful economic stimulant.

rhetorical effect: tallows for a race to the bottom in terms of corporate taxation. In the name of efficiency, will lead to drastic cuts (always now called “trade-offs”) in social spending. Competition in this context always means efficiency, never collusion or monopoly power.


white guilt

rhetorical claim: according to Shelby Steele,

the Trump election suggests an exhaustion with the idea of white guilt, and with the drama of culpability, innocence and correctness in which it mires us. White guilt is an anachronistic  mock guilt, a pretense of real guilt, a shallow etiquette of empathy, pity and regret. It’s only aim is moral authoritarianism….When America became stigmatized in the ’60s as racist, sexist and militaristic, it wanted moral authority above all else. Subsequently the American left reconstituted itself as the keeper of America’s moral legitimacy. (Conservatism, focused on freedom and wealth, had little moral clout.) From that followed today’s markers of white guilt—political correctness, identity politics, environmental orthodoxy, the diversity cult and so on.

This liberalism evolved within a society shamed by its past. But that shame has weakened now. Our new conservative president rolls his eyes when he is called a racist, and we all—liberal and conservative alike—know that he isn’t one. The jig is up. Bigotry exists, but it is far down on the list of problems that minorities now face. I grew up black in segregated America, where it was hard to find an open door. It’s harder now for young blacks to find a closed one.

Let’s stipulate that, given our history, this liberalism is understandable. But American liberalism never acknowledged that it was about white esteem rather than minority accomplishment. Four thousand shootings in Chicago last year, and the mayor announces that his will be a sanctuary city. This is moral esteem over reality; the self-congratulation of idealism. Liberalism is exhausted because it has become a corruption.

rhetorical effect: the laughable claim that we now live in a “post-racist” era and that there is no longer any reason to believe in liberal causes makes it a “corruption” to even be a liberal. Mired in self-esteem issues and apologizing for America, liberals are now “the enemy of the people.”





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, Feb 20-28, 2017

deconstructing the administrative state

rhetorical claim: The long-standing critique on the right not just of the Obama and Clinton years but of the entire thrust of U.S. government since the Progressive Era and the New Deal. Critics of the administrative state — “the vast administrative apparatus that does so much to dictate the way we live now,” as Scott Johnson, a conservative lawyer and co-founder of the Power Line blog, put it in 2014 — see it as unconstitutional because regulatory agencies make and enforce rules based on authority they claim was illegitimately ceded by Congress. Deconstruction actually means dismantle or destroy.

rhetorical effect: best described by E.J. Dionne:

this is a war on a century’s worth of work to keep our air and water clean; our food, drugs and workplaces safe; the rights of employees protected; and the marketplace fair and unrigged. It’s one thing to make regulations more efficient and no more intrusive than necessary. It’s another to say that all the structures of democratic government designed to protect our citizens from the abuses of concentrated private power should be swept away.

It’s a very strange moment. Trump and Bannon are happy to expand the reach of the state when it comes to policing, immigration enforcement, executive-branch meddling in the work of investigative agencies, and the browbeating of individual companies that offend the president in one way or another. The parts of government they want to dismantle are those that stand on the side of citizens against powerful interests.



rhetorical claim: “America First” means putting our economic and political interests ahead of the interests of the rest of the world

rhetorical effect: the end of multilateralism; the return to the zero-sum game of blood-and-soil xenophobia; narrow, tribal paranoia; brinksmanship and bellicosity. Creates an “us vs. them” rhetorical climate in which any internationalism is considered traitorous.



rhetorical claim: according to Paul Ryan, “Freedom is the ability to buy what you want to fit what you need. Obamacare is Washington telling you what to buy regardless of your needs.”

rhetorical effect: reduces the definition of freedom to economic activity (is freedom more than “the ability to buy”?); assumes that  people know their health “needs” even before they need substantive insurance, which will not exist under Trumpcare; does not address what happens to people who lack the ability to “buy what they want”, despite tax credits or medical savings accounts; in essence confuses (or “replaces”) “affordable” with “cheap”. Freedom to Paul Ryan is the right to get fleeced by insurance companies.


hate crime laws

rhetorical claim: hate crime laws are designed to divide America, criminalize the Bible, and protect gay pedophiles.

rhetorical effect: criminalizes LGBT and directs all nationalistic anger and hostility at the LGBT community. Will eventually lead to the reversal of all discrimination laws.


globalist covenant

rhetorical claim: those opposed to Trump’s travel ban see immigration law as a globalist covenant, not a mater of national sovereignty. They would open the immigrant floodgates, thus greatly threatening national security.

rhetorical effect: makes any multilateral p olicy suspect because it isn’t part of Trump’s “America First” economic nationalism. Makes it seem that foreign powers are dictating US immigration policies and practices, which certainly is not the case. “Globalist” has become one of the great pejoratives of Trump’s administration.


lawyer-centered lawsuits

rhetorical claim: frivolous class-action lawsuits have long served as a revenue source for litigious attorneys, whose main interests are paydays, not their clients’ well-being. Class action suits have clogged the court system and cost billions in lost productivity. It’s time to make these suits  fairer in order to maximize recoveries by deserving victims and weed out unmeritorious claims that would otherwise siphon resources away from innocent parties.

rhetorical effect: in the name of “fairness,” severe limitation on all class action lawsuits, as explained here

Critics warn that proposed legislation designed to “reform” class action lawsuits, appears to be engineered to block consumers from joining together to pursue claims against corporations and big businesses. 

The legislation, H.R. 985, was introduced by Republicans in the House of Representatives on February 10, and has been referred to the Judiciary Committee.

Known as the “Fairness in Class Action Litigation Act of 2017”, the bill seeks to add new requirements for plaintiffs attempting to bring a class action lawsuit, where they are seeking damages on behalf of a large number of individuals.

The proposed new requirements place the burden on plaintiffs to identify each class member, forbids class representatives from being a previous client of the class action lawyer, and prevents attorneys from being paid until all class members have been paid. In addition, each class member must prove they suffered the same “type and scope” of injury.

The bill would also require every class representative to describe the circumstances by which they were included in the complaint, and would force them to reveal any other class action lawsuits where they played a similar role.

The bill would not only affect class action lawsuits, but would impact multidistrict litigation (MDL) procedures as well, where similar lawsuits are consolidated for pretrial proceedings, yet are still considered individual claims. The bill would require every plaintiff to present evidence of injury before being allowed into the MDL, which may counter efforts by judges to streamline filing procedures and move the litigation forward efficiently.

Critics say that the bill’s measures are designed to be prohibitively restrictive, and will have a major effect on the ability of consumers to hold companies accountable for wrongdoing that results in damages for a number of individuals. For example, they note that proving the same type and scope of injury is almost impossible in discrimination cases and many similar claims. They also point out that prohibitions on being a previous client of the class lawyer more or less prevents class action lawsuits by investors, who may use the same attorney for investment lawsuits

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, Feb 13-19, 2017

back to basics

rhetorical claim: when it comes to climate change, getting away from so-called “climate change” science to simply reducing pollution, on a voluntary basis.

rhetorical effect: removes objective data from the “discussion” about environmental regulation–in other words, turns evidence-based policy debates into matters of opinion. In such a case, the “basics” are always subordinated to economic growth


cooperative federal-state relationships

rhetorical claim: turning environmental regulation, education, labor laws, Medicare and other programs over to the states will put the states and federal government into an equal partnership, rather than the feds’ command and control stranglehold.

rhetorical effect: removes federal oversight, allowing states to starve programs and policies they don’t like. At best, this will constitute  benign neglect of the letter and spirit of federal laws.


racial civil rights

rhetorical claim:  pc identity politics that turns race into divisiveness and hatred.

rhetorical effect: by characterizing any civil rights argument as prejudiced, stigmatizes the very act of making racial distinctions.



rhetorical claim: a hypothesis to be explored, not a fact beyond dispute.

rhetorical effect: see “racial civil rights”, above


predictable insurance markets

rhetorical claim: health insurance will be unaffordable until the market is deregulated so insurers can operate it in stable, predictable markets and not be subject to the whims of federal bureaucrats.

rhetorical effect: the only things predictable in this scenario are ever-higher higher rates for ever-skimpier and restrictive coverage.


Alinski tactics

rhetorical claim: the media’s barrage of fake news and anti-Trump hysteria is wearing out its welcome with the American people. The media is turning into a 24/7 pile up accident.This technique of personalizing, polarizing and vilifying your opponent into submission is borrowed directly from socialist “community organizer” Saul Alinski.

rhetorical effect: turns dissent and political activism into smears, which by definition are dishonest and calculating. Part of Trump’s strategy is to turn everything into a zero-sum game, with winners and losers. Thus there is no problem with breaking every norm and tradition and govern by any means necessary. Turns lying into a rhetorical strategy, as explained by John Podesta:

We now see a toxic overlap between sensationalist politics and media manipulation. Each presidential stroke of bombast plunges the media, the administration and the public into a frenzied scramble for the truth, with the phrase “fake news” nonchalantly thrown around, adding a heaping spoonful of cynicism to the whole mess. These episodes distort our understanding of reality and put us in danger of experiencing an information void like Russia.

If Trump succeeds, something fundamental will be lost. Russians hear something on TV and assume it’s a lie. That attitude of reflexive cynicism makes it impossible to know the death toll from an industrial accident or a terrorist incident, or the risk to their kids of drinking the water, or even the results of the last election. It ruins everything.


sleeper cells

rhetorical claim: according to Breitbart,

Many other potential Yateses—holdovers from the Obama administration who have found their way into spots throughout the Trump administration—await throughout government.

“They’re hiding like sleeper cells everywhere,” one source said.

White House and other government sources say there are as many as 50 of them throughout government, and Priebus has full knowledge of their whereabouts, who they are, and what potential for damage they may cause. He is not doing anything about it, these sources add.

rhetorical effect: career federal workers’ civil service protection could be endangered if they are likened to terrorists.


restoring science to its rightful place

rhetorical claim: EPA diktats are based on junk science that cherry-picks the “facts”, relies on biased, subjective “modeling,” and has many detractors.  The EPA is less a government bureau than a secular church enforcing the dogmas of climate change. Science’s rightful place  is not to politicize and distort the facts, but just  to report them objectively.

rhetorical effect: makes all scientific research seem arbitrary and relative; creates cynicism toward all refereed publications; makes the “facts” opinion-based rather than evidence, in which case the only opinion that matters is that of the energy industry.


street-based progressives

rhetorical claim: hysterical demonstrators, calling themselves the resistance, react to any Trump initiative as fascist or racist.

rhetorical effect: equates progressivism with violence and reaction, and makes anti-Trump demonstrators sound like hooligan armies of anarchy let loose in the streets.


the dignity of the Office of President

rhetorical claim: according to Kellyanne Conway, media coverage of Trump lacks “respect for and recognition of the dignity for the Office of the President.”

rhetorical effect:  likens any dissent to a personal attack on Trump’s character. “Respect” and “dignity” are master rhetorical tropes encompassing society’s deepest values, so any attack on Trump is framed as an attempt to undermine the country. It’s hard to equate master-tweeter Trump with any notion of dignity as he disgraces the Presidency daily.


financial independence

rhetorical claim: in June, the House Financial Services Committee released a proposed bill to dismantle the DFA and reform the CFPB. Titled the Financial CHOICE Act and introduced by Republican Congressman Jeb Hensarling, the bill aims to replace the DFA and restructure the CFPB. In his statement at the release of the Bill, Hensarling asserted his opinion that the DFA was “a grave mistake” that “has failed.” The proposed Financial “Creating Hope and Opportunity for Investors, Consumers and Entrepreneurs” (CHOICE) Act is intended to empower Americans to achieve greater financial growth “with real reforms that work.” Most significantly, the Bill changes many of the provisions that now enable the CFPB:

  • The new organization would get a new name, the Consumer Financial Opportunity Commission, or the CFOC.
  • The fundamental mission of the Bureau would change, with the addition of facilitating competitive markets along with assuring consumer protections.
  • The Office of Economic Analysis would perform a cost-benefit analysis of proposed agency rules before their adoption and implementation.

rhetorical effect: by substituting “opportunity” for “protection,” this becomes a right-to-be-fleeced agency, and would make it impossible to even gather consumer fraud information, according to The Washington Post.


moving on

rhetorical claim: now that General Flynn has resigned, the nation needs to “move on” to more pressing matters.

rhetorical effect: exactly what didn’t happen in Watergate, despite Nixon’s best efforts to demote it to a “two-bit break-in.” Not denying the facts, but twisting and trivializing them has the effect of confusing the public, changing the subject, and making critics sound hectoring and vindictive.