Glossary: Key memes, counterfactuals, dog whistles, canards, euphemisms, innuendoes, insinuations, fake outrages, and obsessions in GOP language factories and fever swamps, Nov. 23-27, 2018.


rhetorical claim: the current unrest at the Mexican border provides fodder for Trump’s claims that the immigration is out of control.

rhetorical effect: Covers over the fact that this chaos demonstrates that Trump’s immigration agenda is a total and abject failure and that he is covering up this glaring reality with lies. There is no way what happened Sunday gives Trump “ammunition” to argue for any of those things. The border patrol claims it used tear gas only after migrants threw things at them, but at the same time, tear gas was used on groups that included children. The resulting horrifying imagery only underscores the deep disconnect between the root causes of the crisis and Trump’s “solutions” to it, which only highlights that the crisis remains intractable in the face of Trump’s fabled toughness.

not law

rhetorical claim: President Trump lashed out on Tuesday against the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, based in San Francisco, calling it a lawless disgrace and threatening unspecified retaliation.

“That’s not law,” he said of the court’s rulings. “Every case that gets filed in the Ninth Circuit we get beaten.”

“It’s a disgrace,” Mr. Trump said.

Mr. Trump’s remarks came after a federal trial judge ordered the administration to resume accepting asylum claims from migrants no matter where or how they entered the United States.

The ruling was issued by Judge Jon S. Tigar, of the United States District Court in San Francisco, and not by the Ninth Circuit itself, which hears appeals from that court and others in nine western states. The appeals court’s geographic jurisdiction is also sometimes called the Ninth Circuit.

“This was an Obama judge,” Mr. Trump said of Judge Tigar, who was indeed appointed by President Barack Obama.

rhetorical effect: even got under John Roberts’ skin, who spoke out infavor of impartial judges. Combined with the hostile takeover of the Mueller probe and his incessant attacks on the judiciary, Trump is laying the foundation for the complete abrogation of the rule of law. As Harry Litman argues:

But that stability is ultimately built on a foundation of shared political cultural norms, not laws. Especially today, it is entirely conceivable that an attorney general armed with a jackhammer might in fact come to destabilize it. It sounds like a sort of bad joke, but it also did when candidate Trump announced in the debate that if he were president, Mrs. Clinton “would be in jail.” Now that joke seems like it’s on us. Were it not for the coincidence of Mr. McGahn, she might well be.

The crazy and terrifying lesson of the order to prosecute Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Comey is not that our legal norms can withstand a despot; rather, it’s that within a matter of months we can find ourselves praying that they hold, and with little recourse if they don’t. Repairing the damage to our basic political culture will require many years and shared resolve across the political spectrum.


toning Trump down

rhetorical claim:All Trump needs to do is tone down his ad hominem invective and tweeting to reassure an additional 10 percent of independent and middle-class suburban women that his national security agenda, free-market prosperity, traditionalism, law-and-order, and national sovereignty policies ensure greater tranquility, safety, and opportunity—even if they are not packaged in the manner of his more mellifluous and vacuous “presidential” predecessor?

rhetorical effect: artificially separating Trump from his policies reveals why the GOP is willing to put up with this moral monster: they are accomplishing their entire GOP agenda.


the Progressive panoptican

rhetorical claim: as argued by Victor Davis Hanson:

Imagine the traditionalist as living in synopticon—a suspect that is the target of 24/7 viewing, indoctrination, and conditioning by progressive auditors. In other words, a 40-45 percent minority of Americans is relentlessly lectured, sermonized, demonized, and neutered by a 360- degree ring of prying institutional overseers.

There is no escape. There is no respite. There is no quarter given.

The media has become an extension of the progressive movement, partly because its farm teams are the universities and the upper-middle class suburban professional classes. Journalists, such as Jim Rutenberg and Christiane Amanpour, concede they can no longer stay neutral in the era of Trump—“neutral” in the sense that old partisans of a bygone age like Tom Brokaw, Peter Jennings, and Dan Rather were careful to mask their progressivism on the air.

Not now. The major networks and public affiliates are proudly overt in their efforts to oppose conservative traditionalism often defined (for now) as the agenda of Donald Trump—in 93 percent negative coverage fashion, as is the case with MSNBC/NBC and CNN according to the liberal Shorenstein Center.

Conservatives believe Fox is a powerful counterweight. It may be, but it is one that is surrounded and overwhelmed by liberal networks and state media. After all, Fox is only one of about six corporate conglomerates that control almost 90 percent of televised and print news.

The masters of our social media and Internet universe are the most insidiously partisan. Open your laptop or power on your smartphone, and you meet their shadow personas nonstop. It is not just that the smug class of Menlo Park and Palo Alto censor and disallow posts, podcasts, and messaging along partisan lines, or that a search engine’s headers and footers are advertisements for a new progressive America. It is that social media has also been on the vanguard of redefining the Democratic Party, from Hubert Humphrey’s old workers party to a pyramid of the very wealthy overseeing a government-subsidized underclass.

rhetorical effect: unbridled paranoia, linking together entirely disparate villains, from the Silicon valley to ESPN. Serves to further Trump’s bunker mentality and further divide the country.


the tearing down of values

rhetorical claim: Today’s younger generation of Americans is to be pitied, for many reasons:

  • The unconscionable debt we are leaving them.
  • The obliteration of male and female as separate and distinct categories—and the sexual confusion that is left in its wake.
  • The emasculation of men and the de-feminization of women.
  • The undermining of the value of marriage.
  • The lack of God and religion in their lives—and the consequent search for meaning in the wrong places.
  • The receiving of indoctrination, rather than education, in most schools from elementary through graduate.
  • The inability to celebrate being American.

Tragically and ironically, each one of these was brought on by the very group many young people identify with: the left. If you do not understand the left is a wholly destructive force whose primary mission is to tear down the leading institutions and individuals of the Western world, you do not understand the left.

rhetorical effect: misplaced nostalgia for an America that never existed.


my decision is not based on that

maybe he did and maybe he didn’t

rhetorical claim: “Representatives of Saudi Arabia say that Jamal Khashoggi was an ‘enemy of the state’ and a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, but my decision is in no way based on that,” said President Trump.

rhetorical effect: use of this rhetorical ploy, called paraleipsis (saying something by professing not to say it) is one of the many ways Trump prevaricates, dodges, and denies, thus making it impossible to pin him down on any one statement. It’s probably an old legal habit of never saying anything that could be used in court against you against you. As Jackson Diehl argues,

The Khashoggi affair similarly confirms several fundamental truths about Trump. The first and most obvious is that his narrow, idiosyncratic and sometimes personalinterests take precedence over the defense of traditional American values and even the expectation of honest treatment by an ally. Not just Mohammed’s fellow Arab rulers but despots everywhere will study this case and conclude: If you heap flattery on Trump, court him with exotic entertainment, patronize his family businesses and promise to buy American, you can get away with outrages that would once have ensured censure and sanction from Washington.

If the facts are irrelevant, America can easily be fleeced so long as Trump insists that the opposite is happening. The hard-nosed determinations of interest that traditional foreign policy realists so admire are calculated by an alternative math in which only the president’s sentiments count. If there is no truth, there is no trade-off between accountability for crimes and other American interests. “Maybe he did and maybe he didn’t” becomes the new cover for any dictator — provided he gives Trump cause to say, “He likes me.”


fake science

rhetorical claim: The climate scare “experts” have an obvious financial and emotional stake in global warming doomsday scenarios. If the global warming doomsday is shown to be imaginary, the experts will lose their financial support and in many cases their jobs. The global warming scare is used to provide ideological support for wind and solar energy. Billions of dollars have been wasted on useless wind and solar energy. Wind and solar are not even effective for reducing CO2 emissions.

The corruption of science has its roots in the political funding of science by the federal government. Somehow we have to make it less profitable for scientists to make up science. Peer review is a joke and doesn’t work. Certainly it would help if the public and the media were skeptical about any scientific theory that predicts a disaster unless we do what the scientists and their allies want us to do.

rhetorical effect: keeps the nation in denial of the climate change crisis and allows Trump to get away with saying there is no hard evidence of man-made climate change.


the Russia hoax

rhetorical claim: Bad as it may have been, the worst of the Russia Hoax was not the abuse of the FISA electronic surveillance regime for political purposes. Nor is the worst even the patent involvement of our intelligence agencies — and in particular the FBI and CIA — in electoral politics. No, the worst aspect of the Russia Hoax is that our intelligence agencies, including elements of DoJ and the State Department cooperating with the Clinton campaign, enlisted the intelligence services of foreign powers — first in their effort to defeat the candidacy of Donald Trump and, when that effort failed, turning their efforts to what can only be described as an attempted coup against the elected President of the United States.

Shockingly, these later stages of the Russia Hoax have included members of the Legislative Branch who, in the face of clear evidence that the true collusion with foreign powers was that of the Clinton campaign, have worked to delay and to ultimately obstruct Congressional oversight and investigation of the entire Russia Hoax.

rhetorical effect: deepens the myth of the Deep State. Chronic paranoia run amok. Laying the groundwork for spurning any damaging charges from the Mueller probe. Turns the criminals into law enforcement agents. Classic rhetorical table-turning; creating a hoax that the other (truthful) side has created a hoax.