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, Oct. 31-Nov. 6, 2017

dynamic scoring

rhetorical claim: the only reason the country thinks the GOP tax bill increases the deficit is that the Senate Parliamentarian won’t allow the GOP to use dynamic scoring, which shows that increased growth will erase the deficit.

rhetorical effect: makes magic beans the center of economic analysis: plant them and the beanstalk will grow all the way to heaven. In reality, Dynamic Scoring is making up growth numbers that will let you cut taxes for billionaires. When the bill comes due and the deficit spikes as a result, it’s time to…cut spending on things that help the middle class, of course.  Dynamic scoring, like “health care freedom” and “the free market”  is a euphemism wrapped within a panacea.


educational opportunity schools

rhetorical claim: charter schools are educational opportunities, and anyone who opposes them is oppressing the very students they would serve–especially minority students. It is a criminal act to keep pouring money into failing public schools.

rhetorical effect: demonizes public education as racist and devoid of any learning “opportunities”; justifies underfunding public schools for charter schools; supports vouchers–another subsidy for charter schools; acts as an excuse to close public schools.


shame politics

rhetorical claim: Progressives are doubling down on their major political miscalculation of relying on shame politics and bad-faith messaging about immigration, identity politics, and trade. By demonizing Trump policies as biased, racist, and isolationist, they further alienate populist voters.

rhetorical effect: stokes populist resentment; brands all Trump opponents as manipulative liars whose main motive is to ridicule Trump supporters as deplorable, racist morons.


coddling the terrorists

rhetorical claim: According to Sarah Huckaby Saunders, the media’s reckless defense of terrorists and immigrants only deepens the jihadi threat to America. Trump did not politicize the deaths of eight people in Lower Manhattan because the immigration complaints that he almost instantly raised were ones that he had raised before. The attacks were the fault of Chuck Schumer’s “soft on immigrants” policy-a real Chuck Schumer Beauty.

rhetorical effect: best explained by Frank Bruni, describing Saunders’ Daily White House press briefings, which are a form of constant moral inversion:

For some 20 minutes every afternoon, down is up, paralysis is progress, enmity is harmony, stupid is smart, villain is victim, disgrace is honor, plutocracy is populism and Hillary Clinton colluded with Russia if anyone would summon the nerve to investigate her (because, you know, that never, ever happens). I watch and listen with sheer awe.


political weaponization of criminal law

rhetorical claim: Trump should pardon any person caught up in the Mueller Russian collision” fake news investigation because criminal law should not be used to fight political battles. Congress is the proper venue for political battles, so Congress should investigate Russian meddling, especially the relationship between the Russians and the Clinton campaign. We need a politically accountable democratic process, not a partisan witch hunt.

rhetorical effect: shifts the focus from Trump to Clinton; trivializes clearly criminal GOP acts as “political” in nature; paves the way for a complete Congressional whitewash of Trump-Russia collusion; naturalizes the idea that Mueller is a political partisan.



rhetorical claim: as Trump tweeted after the Manafort indictment, “Sorry, but this is years ago, before Paul Manafort was part of the Trump campaign. But why aren’t Crooked Hillary & the Dems the focus????? Of course, there is no collusion. DO SOMETHING!

rhetorical effect: as explained on Salon:

Trump’s “DO SOMETHING” is also an example of what has been called stochastic terrorism, in which right-wing politicians, their toadies in the media and conservative opinion leaders repeatedly threaten violence against liberals, progressives and Democrats — and then act shocked when said outcome actually happens.

Psychologist Valerie Tarico explains the elements of stochastic terrorism in more detail:

  1. A public figure with access to the airwaves or pulpit demonizes a person or group of persons.
  2. With repetition, the targeted person or group is gradually dehumanized, depicted as loathsome and dangerous — arousing a combustible combination of fear and moral disgust.
  3. Violent images and metaphors, jokes about violence, analogies to past “purges” against reviled groups, use of righteous religious language — all of these typically stop just short of an explicit call to arms.
  4. When violence erupts, the public figures who have incited the violence condemn it — claiming no one could possibly have foreseen the “tragedy.”

In this moment, the possibility of violence is very real. Donald Trump is the champion of white supremacists, neo-Nazis and right-wing militias. These are groups which collectively have killed hundreds of people in the United States since 2007 and are considered by federal and other law enforcement agencies to be a greater threat than Islamic terrorism.


post-liberal world order

rhetorical claim: The West’s liberal world order is bankrupt and should be replaced by a Eurasian neo-conservative post-liberal world order, which defends tradition, conservative values, and true liberty.

rhetorical effect: this Bannonesque call to arms comes straight via the Kremlin, and merges Putin’s agenda with Trump’s. Assumes the demise of the liberal world order, the very thing it needs to prove. Normalizes the existence of a worldwide autocracy, disguised under the ultimate euphemism, “liberty.” Normalizes the weaponization of culture, language, information and history as political tools in the hastening of this new world order.


class realignment

rhetorical claim: the Dems lost the 2016 Presidential Election because they alienated the middle class by promulgating their self-righteous, elitist identity politics. Their blinding self-regard (they see themselves as the “sanity bubble”) is the best weapon Trump has for his re-election–a shield against popular support. As Matthew Continetti argues at the National Review website:

That is the mistake Hillary Clinton made when she decided that she could win the presidency without the support of a white working class mangled by economic stagnation, family breakdown, and drug addiction. And it is the same mistake the Democrats at the Obama Foundation and on Capitol Hill are making now, in real time, as they wrap themselves in the illusions that growing minority populations will carry them ineluctably to power, and that identity politics is somehow an electoral winner.

rhetorical effect: basically justifies the argument that Dems can only win if they stop being Dems by renouncing goals racial equality, diversity, equal opportunity; racial justice, etc. Assumes the working class is permanently alienated from the Democratic Party.


the judicial resistance

rhetorical claim: Obama holdover federal judges have joined the resistance in opposing any Trump policies. Rather than upholding the Constitution, they are taking justice into their own hands and legislating from the bench. of the law. They are political hacks and frauds  in judges’ robes.

rhetorical effect: As Dahlia Lithwik and Stephen L. Vladeck argue , this rhetorical strategy, “in the guise of dispassionate legal analysts, uses  the same kinds of language and tactics deployed by the president that his defenders claim not to be defending to attack judges and their rulings”. It delegitimizes any judicial dissent; assumes that any pro-Tump ruling is unconstitutional; and assumes that if Trump loses any legal battles it is because progressive judges are out to get him. ;

Much like criticism of all unflattering media reports as “fake news,” and attacks on the loyalty or patriotism of legislators who don’t vote in support of the president’s agenda, denouncing and dismissing all judges with the temerity to rule against Mr. Trump represents a direct attack on the independence and integrity of the entire judicial branch.

Glossary: an anatomy of key memes, phrases, canards, shibboleths and obsessions in the Wall Street Journal and other GOTP language factories, Jan 7-15, 2015

Note: GOTP=Grand Old Tea Party

canonization: what Dems do when they praise anyone for political or moral acts. See, for example, Edward Snowden. Also implies that anyone the Left champions is immune to criticism because of phony sainthood.

displayed:  When a particular image becomes controversial or toxified, it suddenly isn’t just “shown” any more, but “displayed.” The very use of this pejorative to restrain free speech raises the question of the sanctity of absolute “free speech.” (see “tolerance,” below).

dynamic scoring: the GOTP’s latest ploy to get the CBO to cook the books to mitigate the apparent fiscal impact of tax cuts.

environmental fastidiousness: any form of environmental protection or  regulation. In fact, any environmental policy is now called a “catechism”–the strengthening of dogma through ritual and language.

the fundamental transformation of America: what then entire Obama administration has aimed for: to change all necessary laws and traditions to redistribute wealth, promote racial divisiveness, and undermine the wealthy and middle class.

governance: any public policy that cuts taxes and reduces regulation.

lecture: what Obama, in all his pomposity and self-superiority, does whenever he makes a public statement.

limited government: in GOTP terms, “the government that governs least governs best”–unless it comes to tax breaks, abortion bans, electronic snooping, price supports, oil subsidies, etc.

obsession: any consistent Dem policy; see especially climate change.

peace through strength: an old rhetorical Cold War warhorse now being saddled up again to prepare for an aggressive new War Against Terrorism.

pro-free market: NEVER to be confused with pro-business”.

racism: anything that makes white people feel bad about being white; any use of the word “privilege” in this context.

Reducing Small Business Burdens: the highly euphemistic and misleading title of a recent House bill to deregulate the securities industry. Like any GOTP that purports to “make technical corrections” in tax or regulatory law, follow the money to understand the true effects of these “technical adjustments.”

tolerance: this term has become politicized in the wake of the Paris massacres. Just which statements of Islamic faith are “too radical?” Is the Left too careful (actually, too “craven”) to not “offend” Muslims? The GOTP asks, how much more can we mollify Muslims before we recognize them for who they are: America’s mortal enemies? In their terminology, tolerance is now called a “fetish”.