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, Nov. 18-21, 2016

making America great again

rhetorical claim: Donald Trump has a green light to restore American pride and dominance, unimpeded by progressives, activist judges, and lifer bureaucrats.

rhetorical effect: Creates the expectation (probably really just a self-fulfilling prophecy) that Trump will waive his magic wand and transform America overnight.In reality, of course, as The Economist points out, Trump will be faced with daunting obstacles, restraints, precedents, complexities, and least-bad-choice decisions:

Take his policies first. After the sugar rush, populist policies eventually collapse under their own contradictions. Mr Trump has pledged to scrap the hated Obamacare. But that threatens to deprive over 20m hard-up Americans of health insurance. His tax cuts would chiefly benefit the rich and they would be financed by deficits that would increase debt-to-GDP by 25 percentage points by 2026. Even if he does not actually deport illegal immigrants, he will foment the divisive politics of race. Mr Trump has demanded trade concessions from China, Mexico and Canada on threat of tariffs and the scrapping of the North American Free Trade Agreement. His protectionism would further impoverish poor Americans, who gain more as consumers from cheap imports than they would as producers from suppressed competition. If he caused a trade war, the fragile global economy could tip into a recession. With interest rates near zero, policymakers would struggle to respond.

Abroad Mr Trump says he hates the deal freezing Iran’s nuclear programme. If it fails, he would have to choose between attacking Iran’s nuclear sites and seeing nuclear proliferation in the Middle East (see article). He wants to reverse the Paris agreement on climate change; apart from harming the planet, that would undermine America as a negotiating partner. Above all, he would erode America’s alliances—its greatest strength. Mr Trump has demanded that other countries pay more towards their security or he will walk away. His bargaining would weaken NATO, leaving front-line eastern European states vulnerable to Russia. It would encourage Chinese expansion in the South China Sea. Japan and South Korea may be tempted to arm themselves with nuclear weapons.


economic nationalism

rhetorical claims: “America First” when it comes to trade pacts, currency  controls, fiscal policy, and tariffs. America’s greatness is best measured by economic prosperity.

rhetorical effect: normalizes the hard-edged  (Manifest Destiny, Lebensraum, etc) concept of nationalism  a fraught concept–far more threatening than “patriotism,” and, with the ascension of Stephen Bannon, linked to “white nationalism.” So making it innocently mean only economic autonomy is a way of laundering it.


rhetorical claim: Islam is a malignant cancer, according to General Michael Flynn, who has also claimed that Sharia law is about to overtake the country.

rhetorical effect: literally demonizing the very name of a religion is a bedrock Goebbels rhetorical maneuver.  This accomplishes two goals: 1) delegitimizes Obama’s reluctance to use the term “radical Islamic terrorism,” out of fear of needlessly antagonizing and alienating Muslims worldwide, and, 2) paves the way for mandatory registries for Muslims, and eventually detention camps, especially if there is another terrorist attack in America.


media hysteria

rhetorical claim: mainstream media attacks on Trump are “fake news” and amount to hysteria over his election. Most Americans are jubilant about it, but don’t demonstrate in the streets or break windows to prove it. Any lamestream media critique of Trump amounts to hysterical overreaction, scaremongering, crying wolf, etc.

rhetorical effect: paves the way for new libel laws, widespread media suppression, and, eventually, the criminalization of free political speech. If Trump critics are, by definition, hysterical,  they should be ignored and put away for their own good, just as women used to be.


onerous fuel mileage  standards:

rhetorical claim: federal fuel mileage standards cripple the auto industry and thus cost jobs, effectively serving as a politicized, domestic tariff on car makers. The market will determine what mileage standards the American public can live with.

rhetorical effect: makes any mileage standard sound unreasonable and only existing as a political payoff to the “greens.” Undercuts any attempts at clean air regulation or environmental planning. Any regulation, in fact, is at bottom “onerous” because undue and punishing. Also makes it easier to argue for making higher-profit SUVs rather than smaller, more fuel-efficient vehicles.  Also makes profitability the sole criterion for measuring prosperity, ignoring the costs of dirty air.


individual ratings

rhetorical claim: that individual health care rates will be the ultimate expression of a free health care market, with quality, patient-centered, affordable health care.

rhetorical effect: leaves patients at the mercy of insurance companies. The myth is that a pure free-market approach to health care is reasonable, fair, and transparent, whereas the truth is that such an approach cannot succeed because the market will squeeze out low income patients and anyone with pre-existing conditions.  Vouchers will only go so far, and subsidies will be necessary in order to offer everyone affordable insurance. Thus the “repeal and replace” ploy will only lead to either a soaring rate of uninsured or to re-inventing the Obamacare wheel, several years henceforth.


patient responsibility

rhetorical claim: health care costs will come down only when working families take responsibility for rationing and paying for health care. Until then, they live heedless of health outcomes because they assume that their employers are paying the bill.

rhetorical effect: Blames individual patients for their medical conditions, and will inevitably lead to rationing, which is  inevitable in any insurance scheme because everyone can’t be covered for everything. In Ryancare (or Trumpcare), individuals will get the blame for unaffordable insurance rates. Anyone not healthy will be labeled “irresponsible”.


boorish and self-c0ngratulatory demonstrators

 rhetorical claim: bringing up issues of diversity and equality , as the cast of Hamilton recently did to Mike Pence, is rude and condescending. Tolerant and decent Americans don’t need lectures from race-baiters.

rhetorical effect: even bringing up race and redistribution will become politically toxic. Racism and bigotry will become so normalized that they will either disappear as concepts or become their opposites.


political violence

rhetorical claim: that anti-Trump activists are thuggish brownshirts, anarchists, and hypocrites as they indulge in the same behavior they chastised Trump for when he as a candidate.

rhetorical effect: potentially criminalizes dissent by calling it violence, a tactic right out of the Nixon playbook


fast-track drug approval

 rhetorical claims: drug approval by the FDA should be based  on safety and efficacy, not long-term outcomes. The Internet of Things will make sure that consumers and physicians can make their own decisions about long-term effects  because the market is always the most efficient source of informationt puts the public

rhetorical effects:makes it seem perfectly reasonable and even advantageous to get drugs to market as quickly as possible, regardless of long-term effects. This inevitable outcome of insufficient proofs of efficacy puts the public at  risk while all the while increasing drug company profits.