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 6-11, 2018

energy dominance

rhetorical claim: America is once again pursuing a policy of energy dominance rather than being beholden to foreign oil. This means unleashing America’s great energy potential through more mining, fracking, oil drilling, and offshore oil production.

rhetorical effect: this dominance comes at the expense of environmental safeguards and replaces the Obama-era policy of mixed use, and to put an end to all collaborative, locally-grounded land management. Reinforces the whole nationalist agenda of America First–the need to “dominate” a world much better suited to collaboration.

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American Greatness

rhetorical claim: throwing out the Iranian deal, cracking down on the Chinese trade cheaters and ending NAFTA , reigning in the North Koreans, and walls and Muslim travel bans are some of the moving parts of MAGA.

rhetorical effect: the nationalist narrative of American greatness: the highest profits and the biggest bombs. This populist narrative is grounded in 1) a core conspiracy theory of history: Obama is a secret Kenyan Muslim; foreigners like him and immigrants are trying to steal “our” elections, 2) the Koch brothers’ experiments in crushing labor unions, denying women reproductive rights, dismantling public schools, poisoning the water and the air, and disfranchising minority voters, and, 3) defending  the “real people” against their enemies by manipulating and pressuring the courts, the civil service, the Constitutions, and the media. The violence of Donald Trump’s verbal assaults on the media, the courts, and other institutions suggests a similar mindset, and he leads a political party that has repeatedly demonstrated its willingness to trample on institutional norms and bend the mechanisms of government toward undemocratic ends. That is the meaning of the GOP’s voter-suppression campaigns, aggressive gerrymandering, and theft of a Supreme Court seat in the name of letting “the people have a say.” With Trump leading the way, America’s ruling party is lurching down the road of  “damaged” or “illiberal” or “defective” democracy.

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left-wing NGOs

rhetorical claim: George Soros and his fellow travelers make up the left-wing NGO cabal, with its so-called human rights campaign masking greed, corruption, hypocrisy and lawlessness. They have become an extra-judicial paramilitary of their own.

rhetorical effect: spreads vast cynicism about any human rights campaign, labeling them “so-called” “extrajudiciary” and destabilizing of the rule of law. In most countries where Soros operates, human rights are endangered daily, and this smearing of the very concept of human rights turns them into their opposite. Any NGO championing basic human rights is now automatically tagged, Nancy Pelosi style, as “left wing.” Apparently human rights have become a solely liberal concept.

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failed socialist experiment

rhetorical claim: desegregation efforts are a failed socialist experiment, and that’s why HUD is now allowing local and state governments to continue receiving grants even if they don’t comply with the full requirements of the 1968 Fair Housing Act.

rhetorical effect: justifies and encourages residential segregation; makes the federal government itself an agent of discriminatory housing policies; allows states to look the other way when it comes to housing discrimination complaints. Equality is reduced to being a theory or “experiment”, human rights are made into a pejorative when branded as “socialist,” and the claim of failure is undefined and treated as a fact rather than an assertion.

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pulling out of the Iran deal

rhetorical claim: the US is pulling out of the Iran deal because it is so one-sided and does not guarantee that Iran won’t develop nuclear capability. It is the worst deal ever drawn up by anybody.

rhetorical effect: masks the fact that, since the agreement had no escape clause, the US is simply violating the agreement, not just pulling out of it. Even so, we continue to claim that the Iranians are the ones doing the violating, despite no supporting evidence. Trump claims that Iran is cheating on the deal, but his own intelligence directors have said there is no evidence of this claim whatsoever. The International Atomic Energy Agency has certified Iran’s compliance 10 times since the deal was signed. Secretary of Defense James Mattis testified to a Senate committee last month that, after reading the 140-page agreement three times, he was struck by how “robust” the deal’s verification provisions were.

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ornamental political correctness

rhetorical claim: liberals excel at promoting phony, ornamental, politically correct issues they know nothing about, such as the uncertainties of climate change theory

rhetorical effect: undercuts any liberal position as being unthinking, automatic and knee jerk. Delegitimizes liberalism by equating it with fake news, posturing, and ignorance.

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civil terrorists

rhetorical claim: gun control advocates are civil terrorists, The NRA has become the target of a cyber war, death threats and intimidation from the mainstream media. Gun owners’ civil rights have been trampled at least as much as blacks were under slavery and Jim Crow.

rhetorical effect: criminalizes any call for gun control as a civil rights violation. Uses the logic of social justice to justify violence and turn gun owners into victims. Part of the rhetorical attempt to equate dissent (aka, terrorism) with treason  and turn non-violence an act of violent aggression.

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the excellent Kim Jong -un

rhetorical claim: Kim Jong-un is, according to Donald Trump,  “honorable” and “excellent.”

rhetorical effect: If a mass murderer such as Kim is deemed “honorable” and “excellent”, what heinousness does it take for Trump to condemn human rights violations? Ignores Kim’s bloody, dictatorial rule, in which he rules a police state with no human rights whatsoever. As with strongmen ruling Russia, China, Turkey, Poland, Hungary, the Philipines, etc., Trump is willing to look the other way if he can somehow get a diplomatic “win”–even a symbolic one. Notice also that Trump’s very limited vocabulary seems to be rooted in meaningless superlatives such as excellent, great, incredible, etc., as if he has a 10-year-old publicist.

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disparate outcomes

anti-racism pc

rhetorical claim: Liberals maintain the unfounded assumption that “there would be no disparate outcomes unless there were disparate treatment,”  despite abundant evidence to the contrary. The knee jerk liberal charge of racism used to explain disparate outcomes is itself racist, and part of the grievance mentality that is holding blacks back from economic prosperity. Anti-racism has become a new civic religion, a kind of über pc. The relatively new legal standard of “disparate impact” disregards the American legal principle of “burden of proof.” Economic outcomes vary greatly across individuals and groups and concepts like “disparate impact” fail to take into account these variations.

rhetorical effect: strips the moral dimension from claims of racism and inequality, reducing them to mere opinions at best and kniving forms of cynical “grievance-mongering” at worst. Defies common sense by arguing that unequal effects have nothing to do with causes rooted in inequality and prejudice.

 

 

 

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, June 27-29, 2017

choice

rhetorical claim: Trumpcare will offer consumers more choices than Obamacare, with a wider variety of premium costs and  deductibles, better coverage to the neediest, etc.  This will put heath care in the hands of consumers, not the government

rhetorical effect: makes it sound like even Medicaid is a “choice,” with lots of alternatives–just another marketplace where consumers can make their own choices according to their own tastes and budgets, as they might at Whole Foods or Walmart,Of course, it isn’t—people forced off Medicaid will not have anywhere else to go and thus will be back to emergency room visits to cover all medical issues. ‘Choice” to the GOP always means being at the dictates of the supposedly flawless “free market,” which is ‘”free” only if you believe collusion, price-fixing, and obscene profits don’t exist. What will the concept of a “free market” mean when elderly Medicare recipients are suddenly priced out of their nursing homes? When the GOP says ‘”choice” they actually mean either unaffordability or ultra-skimpy insurance plans. As explained in the Washington Post:

It would make individual market premiums, even after including subsidies, prohibitively expensive, effectively locking millions out of the “choice” of individual insurance, too.

In fact, for some unlucky people, subsidized individual plans would disappear entirely. That’s because the Senate bill says that people offered any employer coverage would become ineligible for subsidized insurance on the exchanges — even if they can’t actually afford the plan their employer offers.

I suppose lots of sick people will newly have the “choice” of buying an expensive plan that covers none of the services they need. So there’s that.

When all’s said and done, there’s just one major Republican health-care principle this bill remains loyal to: tax cuts for the rich.

In the new GOP rhetoric, “choice” now connotes greed without shame, the neediest be damned.

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freedom

rhetorical claim: Trumpcare will finally give Americans the freedom to only buy the health care they want, and to stop subsidizing the unhealthy lifestyles of others.

rhetorical effect: The only freedom Trumpcare offers is the freedom for rich people to not be taxed. Oh, and poor people would have the freedom to buy insurance with a deductible they cannot afford. In this case, the best slogan  for Trumpcare, comes from Janis Joplin: “freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose.”

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mandate

rhetorical claim: Trumpcare will eliminate all government mandates and let the people choose their own healthcare.

rhetorical effect: obscures the true reality of Trumpcare, which is itself a gigantic mandate to take an entitlement away from the poor and give a tax cut to the rich. Survival of the richest! Also obscures the latest Trumpcare mandate: the “tweak” that fines those who go without insurance for six months.

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upgraded state insurance markets

rhetorical claim: Trumpcare will give states the flexibility to upgrade insurance markets.

rhetorical effect: “upgrades” will entail reduced coverage, higher deductibles, annual and lifetime caps, and restricted access to Medicaid. The only thing upgraded will be insurance company profits. Synonyms for “upgrade” include “choice”, “enhanced”, “efficient”, “unleashed” and “patient-centered.”

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enhanced understanding

rhetorical claim: Due to the so-called “enhanced understanding” of liberal federal  judges, progressives smugly think that unelected judges know best when it comes to issues best fitted for federalist (that is, state)  solutions, such as abortion and marriage. More proof that they believe the American public can’t be trusted.

rhetorical effect: pits progressives against “the people,” thus making populists out to be elitists.

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job creators

rhetorical claim: eliminate regulations protecting workers, consumers and the environment are job-creation measures. This is just trickle-down economics in another form: Whatever fulfills the desires of the most-privileged sectors in our society is declared to be good for everyone else. But God forbid that government do anything to help the non-rich directly.

rhetorical effect: as A.J. Dionne argues,

This is just trickle-down economics in another form: Whatever fulfills the desires of the most-privileged sectors in our society is declared to be good for everyone else. But God forbid that government do anything to help the non-rich directly.

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welfare reform

rhetorical claim: Medicaid is a form of welfare, not social insurance. According to OMB Director Mick Mulvaney,

For years, we’ve focused on how we can help Americans receive taxpayer-funded assistance. Under President Trump’s leadership, we’re now looking at how we can respect both those who require assistance and the taxpayers who fund that support. For the first time in a long time, we’re putting taxpayers first. Taking money from someone without an intention to pay it back is not debt. It is theft.

Mulvaney goes on to reach out to core Trump supporters:

So if you left for work this morning in the dark, if you came home after your kids were asleep, if you feel lucky to get overtime pay to support your aging parents or adult children, if you’re working part-time but praying for a full-time job, if your savings are as exhausted as you are, you have not been forgotten.

rhetorical effect: By calling Medicaid welfare rather than insurance, this argument justifies decimating the social safety net by vilifying all government aid recipients as deadbeats, frauds and even criminals. Divides Americans between the makers and the takers, and justifies social darwinism. The only larceny being committed is the GOP taking away social insurance.

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energy dominance

rhetorical claim: America no longer just wants energy independence–we want energy dominance.

rhetorical effect: best explained by Gail Collins:

Remember the good old days when all we wanted was energy independence? It’s a new era and you don’t want to be just skipping along the independence trail when you could be right up there on the mountaintop with your foot on the rest of the world’s throat. Leaders, shmeaders. We’re going to be dominators.

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the war on truth

rhetorical claim: the mainstream media produces endless qualities of fake news in an attempt to overturn the 2016 election results. They have started a war on truth.

rhetorical effect: Trump’s notion of truth is whatever he can get away with, at any given moment, for any given purpose. To Trump, truth is a series of wants and wishes, and is totally removed from any facts. This rhetorical strategy was first devised by Richard Nixon, As explained by Jonathan Schell in his 1975 classic, The Time of Illusion:

But whether the Administration was saying one thing in public while doing the opposite in secret or was saying one thing in public while doing the opposite also in public, and whether it was cloaking liberal programs in conservative disguises or cloaking conservative programs in liberal disguises, and whether it was framing policy that was meant to succeed or framing policy that was meant to fail, the one constant was that it had broken the unity of word and deed which makes political action intelligible to the rest of the world.