Glossary: Key memes, counterfactuals, dog whistles, canards, euphemisms, innuendoes, insinuations, fake outrages, and obsessions in GOP language factories and fever swamps, Sept. 27-Oct 9, 2018

no big deal

rhetorical claim:  the administration has decided it is really no problem to freeze federal fuel-efficiency standards, though this would increase greenhouse-gas emissions. Why? Because, the administration reasons, the planet’s temperature is already set to rise by 7 degrees Fahrenheit by the end of the century — so a little bit more warming will hardly matter. They also argue that radiation exposure is not as dangerous as it seems, and that a little bit of it may actually be good for us.

rhetorical effect: the “no big deal” ploy not only demeans any findings or policies they don’t like, but turns the logic of regulation inside-out: we shouldn’t regulate to protect because regulation causes even bigger problems without addressing underlying problems, which you can’t do anything about anyway. It’s a weird combination of fatalism and outright hostility toward regulation-as-protection. Moreover, they argue that “small differences” are not differences at all–so that you might as well not regulate guns since such regulation would make “no difference” in gun deaths.



rhetorical claim: Dr. Ford should be respected, not insulted, not ignored.

rhetorical effect: like the entire GOP  Kavanaugh campaign, this disingenuous plea for “respect” is self-contradictory: they “respect” her but claim she’s either a liar, a pawn of the vast left-wing conspiracy, or just plain confused. Call this cynicism or irony, but they clearly mean the opposite of what they say. In the same fashion, “hearing her out” means letting her talk until she shuts up; calling her testimony “compelling” means it’s really just a vivid lie, and saying she “shouldn’t be insulted” means humoring her to the extent of appearing to care about what she says but dismissing it from the start. False respect is like false outrage: manufactured emotion and smug condescension  designed to claim the high moral ground. “Respect” is thus an insult.



rhetorical claim: In July, Leonard Leo, executive vice president of the “constitutional originalist Federalist Society,” as RealClearPolitics phrased it, told Fox News:

Any Supreme Court confirmation is transformative. This is a court that is often equally divided. At the end of the day, I think what’s really important to remember is that there’s been a movement on the court toward being more originalist and textualist. In other words, the idea that law means something, it has determinate meaning. And that’s the trend that I think this president wants to continue.

rhetorical effect: as Charles Blow argues:

when I think of originalism, I think this: Many of the founders owned slaves; in the Constitution they viewed black people as less than fully human; they didn’t want women or poor white men to vote. The founders, a bunch of rich, powerful white men, didn’t want true democracy in this country, and in fact were dreadfully afraid of it.

Now, a bunch of rich, powerful white men want to return us to this sensibility, wrapped in a populist “follow the Constitution” rallying cry and disguised as the ultimate form of patriotism.

We have to learn to see everything around us, all that is happening on the political front, through that lens. This is what the extreme measures on illegal immigration and even the efforts to dramatically slash legal immigration are all about.


economic nationalism

rhetorical claim: as explained in The Financial Times

Eric Chewning, deputy assistant secretary of defence for industrial policy: “The US is strategically repositioning for [a] period of interstate competition. A competition that recognises the inter-relationship between economic security and national security.” As part of this, the Pentagon is having ongoing conversations with US multinationals about issues like IP theft, insourcing, and so on. “Based on our conversations, corporations recognise that the strategic conditions are changing,” says Chewing. “As China continues to pursue the objectives laid out in Made in China 2025 and actively distorts the economic playing field in favour of their national champions, western businesses will also likely need to re-evaluate their confidence in the long-term China business case.”

Translation: businesses may, by choice or by force, have to take sides in this new trade war/cold war. The same is true in China. I moderated an event last week at the China Institute in New York, with former Google China head and venture capitalist Kai-Fu Lee (pictured below). He told me he doesn’t expect to be able to make any further investments in the US, thanks to tighter rules around capital inflows. He believes that the US and China will develop their own separate technology ecosystems, with the big race being between Google, the company, and China, the country, in terms of who is able to develop the most sophisticated artificial intelligence systems.

rhetorical effect: total war between the US and China over trade, economic influence, and the spread of technology. The end of economic globalization, and a return to a Cold War mentality.


the war on men

rhetorical claim: a culture of victimization has been foisted on America by angry, vengeful feminists. All of our sons, brothers, fathers and husbands–good men–are in mortal danger of having their lives ruined by one of these harpies.

rhetorical effect: turns victimizers into victims by presuming that all women claiming assault or either lying or mistaken.


angry mob

rhetorical claim: best described by Robert Costa:

The characterization evokes fear of an unknown and out-of-control mass of people, and it taps into grievances about the nation’s fast-moving cultural and demographic shifts that Republicans say are working against them. With its emphasis on the impact on traditional values and white voters, particularly men, it strikes the same notes as earlier Trump-fanned attention to immigrants, MS-13 gang members and African American football players protesting police treatment of young black men….

This time, the GOP’s foil is composed of leftists, elitists and feminists, of academics and celebrities, of Trump nemesis Michael Avenatti, philanthropist George Soros and Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.), who has called for the president’s impeachment.

The turn toward a culture war is also a tacit admission that many of the issues that Republicans had sought to run on, from tax cuts to the upbeat state of the economy, have not been enough to fan GOP voters’ enthusiasm and counter an electrified Democratic electorate.

“It’s aimed at firing up Fox viewers and the more strident elements of Trump’s base; it’s fearmongering,” said John Weaver, a longtime Republican strategist who is a frequent Trump critic. “I’m sure there is some little old lady in Iowa who now keeps her doors locked because she thinks there’s going to be some anarchist mob coming through Davenport….“They want to take the freedom to assemble and turn it into a negative,” Weaver said. “ ‘The mob’ is trying to dehumanize and belittle and dismiss the current activism that we’re seeing around the country.

Never mind that anti-Trump protestors are far from being a mob, and have as much right to be “angry” as Bart Kavanaugh. And also never mind that all Trump criticism is now being demonized, and protest itself could ultimately be punishable, as in Russia, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, etc.  Never mind that showing anti-Trump “anger” may soon be a hate crime or a sign of derangement. And, finally, never mind what it means to call a gathering a “mob” rather than a crowd. It’s OK to use deadly force on “mobs”, especially “angry” ones.


rape apologists

gender traitors

rhetorical claim: From American Greatness:

It’s hard to see the value of the Democratic Party picking a fight with the largest voting demographic four weeks before a crucial election. But the tactic is obvious: Democrats cannot sway white women based on their ideas for the economy or national security or tax policy, so they’re left with coercion and intimidation. They want to shame white women voters into electing more Democrats by implying if we vote for Republicans, we are enabling and empowering rapists.

It is a highly cynical, if not craven, ploy with major implications for the health and sustainability of our political system. It does nothing to ensure the consideration of real sexual assault victims, assigns automatic guilt to half of the population based on gender, and empowers the peddlers of despair and racial hostilities. And it unfortunately guarantees the nation will suffer through many more horrific periods like the past few weeks.

rhetorical effect: hyperbolic turning of the tables: now that all men are considered rapists, to even vote for a man makes a woman a “rape apologist.” While this is far from the more nuanced position of most women that sexual assault often goes undisclosed, unaddressed or unredressed, putting these words into feminists’ mouths turns “women’s rights” into cartoon parody of itself.


the new Dark Ages

rhetorical claim: In our own age, the disproven but still legendary tales of “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot,” the Duke Lacrosse fantasies, the Rolling Stone folktales, or Lena Dunham’s fictive memoir won out and became fact, inasmuch as such lies were not real lies given their service to progressive aims. And that is where we are now headed—the world of the Athenian popular court, the Inquisition, the Salem Witch Trials, the Star Chamber, the cycles of the French Revolution—except that in all those cases, reason and sanity eventually returned. Perhaps not now. We are entering a new Dark Ages.

If we to look to the universities for truth and courage we find increasingly medieval darkness, wherein matters of alleged sexual harassment there is no due process for the accused.

Free speech on campus vanishes if minority views are dubbed “hate” speech or declared merely “hurtful.”

There is little diversity of opinion and even less tolerance of any dissent from majority dogma. Obsequiousness so often is redefined as courage; real courage condemned as a crime against the people. Campus segregation becomes desirable, if privileged by “safe spaces.” Censorship is sensitivity and justified by “trigger warnings.” The apparent absence of bias becomes proof of bias if dubbed a “micro-aggression.” Racial discrimination in admissions affirms liberality.

rhetorical effect: lumps together vastly dissimilar things (college admisssions policies, false news stories, etc.) to tar them all with the same brush. Turns Trump critics into “haters” undermining civilization. Turns everything apocalyptic, and renders all Trump criticism null and void.

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, October 25-28, 2016

Clinton administration: in a Hillary reign, Americans will have two choices: salute the new federal overlords or be prepared to be sued by federal lawyers and called a racist or misogynist.

defense: when Donald Trump is forced to attack others because they have said something negative about him

It’s never Trump’s fault, and, like Putin, he frames his scurrilous attacks on others, like the wife-beater who says “don’t make me hit you again.”

facts: to the Dems, a means of social control. They manufacture so-called “facts” that are really just assertion–theories– global warming, Trump as sexual predator, the reliability of polls, evolution, etc.

The Tea Party/GOP pushes out story lines or narratives which combine to give a feeling of no reliable facts, thus making it impossible to arrive at any agreed-upon truth. For example, it’s impossible to prove Hillary isn’t a criminal, even though she has never been formally charged with a crime.

First Amendment: to the crooked and discredited lamestream media, an excuse to bloviate and slander.

horse-and-buggy regulations: any Obama admin rule or regulation that hinders the free market is outdated in the coming post-regulation era, when the market will be set free from the shackles of the past. Government will become passe.

legalized corruption: the hallmark of a Hillary administration.

NATO allies: chiselers unwilling to pay their fair share for their own defense.

patronage: what the US provides for ISIS. This sponsorship grows out of Iran’s bamboozling of the West. Obama and Clinton created, sponsor, and sustain ISIS.

post-freedom America: starts the day after Hillary is sworn in , when all the guns are confiscated.

racist cops: an urban myth. Everyone talks about them but no one has ever met one.

the System: the criminal conspiracy of the politicians, lamestream media, international banking community, federal bureaucrats, Hollywood, labor unions, school teachers and college professors, etc. The System’s failure is what will finally drive the People to take over their own government.

Garry Wills answers this rant best:

Hillary Clinton is the end product of the System (whatever that is). Donald Trump is outside the System (whatever that means). The System has failed (at something, or everything). To escape the System, we must vote for Trump (or anyone) outside it. What do we have to lose?

Everything, probably.

tradition: what corrupts the political system. Tradition, synonyms with convention and the status, is what prevents political change.

In the thoroughgoing disdain they hold for the GOP’s Burkean roots–the heart of conservatism, of preserving tradition– the Trumpkins are innocent of any sense of moral aspiration. When you nominate an arsonist to ‘”burn the house down” ,  you don’t have much to build on after the fire.

Glossary: Key memes, dog-whistles, canards, euphemisms and obsessions in the Wall Street Journal and other GOP language factories, August 29-Sept. 7, 2015

“can’t do-ism”: the Obama administration’s reflexive exculpatory refrain about why it can’t stop illegal immigration, grow the economy, make America energy-independent, defeat ISIS, create prosperity for the middle class, get the poor off welfare, etc. This “pervasive despondency and fear” is, according to Stephen Moore, the result of Obama’s ineptitude, not wider and deeper social, political and economic forces.

Note that this rhetorical move, similar to the “legal distinctions” one below, is actually a huge misdirection, a classic evasion by non-sequitur or stripping away all context. . Never mind that almost all of these conditions were created by the Bush administration, that no other country in the world economy has recovered from the Great Recession more thoroughly and enduringly than the US, that austerity has failed as an economic fix in Europe. Ignoring these mitigating circumstances is the only way they can get away with the standard litany of Tea party “fixes,” the Christmas list they’ve been peddling for the last 50 years: lower taxes, less regulation, market-driven, privatized health care, the end of the social safety net, etc. No matter how they couch their critique of the Dem scapegoat of the moment, be it Carter, Mondale, Dukakis, the Clintons, Gore or Kerry–it always comes down to the same solutions, even when these solutions are tried and fail disastrously.

chokehold: any Obama administration regulatory policy or practice. For example, the EPA is said to have  a “chokehold” over the economy.

demeaning: any Dem policy trying to maintain expanded voting rights. Limiting voting as much as possible through voter i.d. laws, shortened polling windows, registration restrictions, etc., is thus seen as “borderline racist” because it assumes that the disadvantaged black voters are too stupid or lazy to figure out how to vote. Thus, by GOP logic, Dems demean blacks by fighting for their rights.

difference happens:  An argument by non-sequitur: the argument against the “disparate impact” theory, claims that, just as some continents have deeper rivers than others, so too will differences emerge among different races and genders, like a force of nature. Never mind the substantive arguments that politics, economics and culture have shaped those outcomes and can be malleable, this “difference happens” argument is the ultimate complacent haven of the privileged–a form of Social Darwinism.

diversity: something to be overcome.

epidemic: inordinate black illegitimacy, crime, drug use, rap vulgarity, social service dependence, and the romance of the violent cult of the male”.

Astonishingly enough, this patronizing caricature of Black culture comes from Tea Partiers trying to argue that the GOP will do more for the Blacks than the Dems.

facts vs. rhetoric: all Tea Party arguments are fact-based, whereas Dem arguments are dismissed as sheer “rhetoric”–concocted and calculated language aiming to deceive in order to persuade.

Never mind that the Tea Party’s so-called “facts” themselves are concocted, partial and designed to deceive. This false dichotomy is the most subversive of all because of its naive assumption that language is merely a reflection of reality and not a generator of realities.

“I’m not saying…”: classic rhetorical tactic: villification by innuendo rather than direct assertion. So, for example, you say, “I’m not calling you a liar, but the truth isn’t be told here.” A current example from Matthew Continneti at The National Review:

I am not saying that the president or the Democratic party is anti-American in ideology or rhetoric or intent. What I am saying is that the net effect of President Obama’s actions has been to legitimize, strengthen, and embolden nations whose anti-Americanism is public and vicious and all too serious.

Revealingly, even the article’s own title calls Obama an “anti-American President.”

legal distinctions:  as in the phrase, “obviously, there are legal distinctions,” as used in The Federalist.

This weasel phrase is usually used to try and subordinate, trivialize or slip past a devastating difference that exposes the fundamental duplicity of your argument. In this case, author David Harsanyi is attempting to make a moral equivalence between Kentucky county clerk Kim Davis refusing to follow the law and Obama using executive orders or federal regulations to circumvent GOP Congressional opposition to nearly all of his policies. Even though executive orders and regulatory authority are legal, and have been used by all past presidents, Harsanyi nonetheless accuses them of “contempt of the rule of law.” In true Rovian fashion, the very crime Davis is jailed for–“contempt for the rule of law” is actually being attributed to the Dems. Masterful bait-and-switch, using a false equivalency. A similar non-sequitur is the argument against the disparate outcome theory, that, just as some continents have deeper rivers than others, so too will differences emerge between people. Difference happens, in other words. Never mind the substantive arguments that politics, economics and culture have shaped those outcomes and can be malleable, this “difference happens” argument is the ultimate complacent haven of the privileged–a form of Social Darwinism. Another variation on this theme is to dismiss Davis’s overt breaking of the law with the “entrenched criminality” of the Obama administration, especially the IRS, Justice Department, Hillary’s e-mail criminality, etc.

martyr: any Tea Partier jailed for not following the law. Similarly-jailed Dems are called “scofflaws” or criminals.

political stunt: any Obama policy issue or declaration. Aka, gimmick, ploy, cave-in, fiat.

praetorian defenders: the lapdog mainstream media that protects Hillary from criminal indictment by not reporting the “facts” of such “scandals” as Benghazi and the e-mail server. Like Whitewater, Travelgate and Vince Foster’s suicide, these so-called “scandals” will never go away in the minds of the Tea Party.

shackling: any Obama regulatory policy or action. In effect, any federal oversight does nothing but constrain the natural animal spirits of capitalism and stymie the natural freedom that is the birthright of all “original” Americans.

unfeeling opportunist: anyone advocating immigration reform or a “path to citizenship.” The assumption is that such liberals only care about immigrant and minority votes and not about the minorities themselves. Just as anyone advocating for racial justice is a “racist chauvinist,” and anyone calling for progressive social change is a “political manipulator.” Ultimately, the meme is that all so-called liberal “compassion” is a fraudulent cover for opportunism.