Glossary: Key memes, counterfactuals, dog whistles, canards, euphemisms, innuendoes, insinuations, fake outrages, and obsessions in GOP language factories and fever swamps, May 27-June 6, 2018

the art of the deal

rhetorical claim: Trump was elected because he understands the art of the deal, and he is practicing it at the highest level now with North Korea and Iran.

rhetorical effect: Trump only understands the art of the con, as best explicated by Maureen Dowd:

Trump voters allowed themselves to believe they had a successful billionaire who knew the art of the deal when he only knew the art of the con. They bought his seductive campaign narrative, that the system was rigged and corrupt and only he could fix it. After winning by warning voters they were being suckered, he’s made them all suckers.

More depressingly, consider this further warning from Dowd, citing John Lanier, the father of virtual reality:

“We don’t believe in government,” he says. “A lot of people are pissed at media. They don’t like education. People who used to think the F.B.I. was good now think it’s terrible. With all of these institutions the subject of ridicule, there’s nothing — except Skinner boxes and con artists.”

Trump’s aggression has no strategy–it’s all just pure psychology–playing to his base. The art of the deal is a Darwinian, winner-take-all method, and needs an enemy to rhetorically prevail by stoking resentment. Never mind that the President’s “base” should be the entire American populace, but non-supporters aren’t part of “the deal”.



rhetorical claim: As Donald Trump tweets,

The 13 Angry Democrats (plus people who worked 8 years for Obama) working on the rigged Russia Witch Hunt, will be MEDDLING with the mid-term elections, especially now that Republicans (stay tough!) are taking the lead in Polls,” Trump wrote on Twitter. “There was no Collusion, except by the Democrats!”

rhetorical effect: any attacks on Trump or charges of collusion or obstruction of justice are reduced to being cynical political meddling with elections: opposition is thus equated with subversion.


the media is working overtime

rhetorical claim: the lyin’, dishonest media is working overtime to spread anti-Trump lies, conspiracy theories and witch hunts

rhetorical effect: simply doing their job gets transformed into working overtime to concoct and maintain conspiracy theories. Any negative story is thus tarred as part of this all-encompassing conspiracy in which everyone works tirelessly to overthrow the government. This conspiracy theory is in reality nothing more than a self-fulfilling prophecy, and cannot be proven false. Also, Fox News is never accused of “working overtime” (meaning propagandizing) to malign the Dems.


the carnivores of civil liberties

rhetorical claim: The Democratic Party, the investigative media, and liberalism itself are now weirdly on the side of the reactionary administrative state. They have either downplayed or excused Watergate-like abuses of power by the former Barack Obama Administration. They have become the carnivores, rather than the protectors, of civil liberties.

rhetorical effect: legitimizes the false Deep State Spygate narratives–totally manufactured out of one part paranoia and two parts Orwellian inversions of words and concepts such as civil liberties. The very liberty to challenge Trump is at stake, and the right to free speech is at stake. Note the dependable rhetorical tactic of table-turning: it’s purportedly the Dems, not Trump’s protectors, who are abusing power and being “reactionary.”


left-liberal moral triumphalism

rhetorical claim: as explained by the WSJ’s Daniel Heninger:

The late 1960s saw the beginning of left-liberal moral triumphalism. The opposition was no longer just wrong. It was morally suspect. For a new generation of Democrats, which increasingly included the theretofore politically neutral press, the Vietnam War was opposed as, simply, “a bright shining lie.”

A kind of political religiosity infused matters of sex, race and even foreign policy, and pushed the parties apart. The 1968 Kerner Commission Report on the urban riots in 1965-67 announced that America was “moving toward two societies.”

Some 10 years later, inevitably, the religious right emerged. And here we are today, fractured by politics and technology into myriad cultural subsets of separations that began in 1968. The Trump divide was a long time coming.

rhetorical effect: a morally triumphalist denunciation of liberal moral triumphalism. While purporting to be neutral and bi-partisan by hearkening back to a supposed national consensus on civil rights, it actually blames the left for our current political dysfunction. Reducing equal rights, sexual autonomy, equal justice, and peace abroad into matters of “political religiosity,” belittles them as lockstep groupthink, as if liberals are a zombie cult of robotic true believers.


we’re all racially-prejudiced

post-racial society

I’m not a racist

rhetorical claim: We are living in a post-racial society where everyone has an equal opportunity to succeed. Minorities have no one but themselves to blame for their lack of success. I’m personally not a racist, and feel that I’ve been discriminated against by affirmative action “rules.”

rhetorical effect:  denies the existence of systemic racism; creates false equivalencies between oppression of blacks and affirmative action denying whites their rights, allowing whites to claim they are the real victims of racism.  As Ted Thornhill, a Sociology Professor,  explains,

I think it’s predicated on their way of producing these false equivalencies. Many people, especially those who are harassing professors like myself, believe that racism, first of all, is not a structural phenomenon. It’s something that is limited to the level of thoughts and beliefs and attitudes. By me titling the course “White Racism,” I’m being very blunt in making a claim that you white folks and your ancestors and your white-controlled institutions are responsible for the gross differences and social outcomes between whites and folks of color. That’s just too direct for them to stomach.

One of the most salient things that I’ve learned so far from this experience is that we’ve had these courses called “Systemic Racism” and “Race and Class in American Culture” and “Race and Ethnic Relations” in sociology and other disciplines for a long time. It must be the case that these people who are protesting my class must be thinking that those courses were not focused on systemic racism and that they were simply focusing on this idea that we are all racially prejudiced. “You’re bad, I’m bad. We should all just be kind to one another and the world would be a better place.”


ordered liberty

rhetorical claim: Republicans believe that America is a great nation, and wants to preserve and continue its experiment in ordered liberty, limited government, and free market capitalism.  Democrats think America is a racist and sexist country that can only be “fixed” by socialism.

rhetorical effect: uses euphemisms to obscure the effects of what it is claiming: that liberty must be “ordered” (by whom? under what criteria?); that government must be “limited” (again, bu whom?), and that the free market trumps everything. This sounds like a recipe for American ideals, but is really the game plan for American corporate fascism.


social justice identity politics

rhetorical claim: climate change is no longer a pre-eminent policy issue. All that remains is boilerplate rhetoric from the political class, frivolous nuisance lawsuits, and bureaucratic mandates on behalf of special-interest renewable-energy rent seekers. Judged by deeds rather than words, most national governments are backing away from forced-marched decarbonization. You can date the arc of climate change as a policy priority from 1988, when highly publicized congressional hearings first elevated the issue, to 2018. President Trump’s ostentatious withdrawal from the Paris Agreement merely ratified a trend long becoming evident. The descent of climate change into the abyss of social-justice identity politics represents the last gasp of a cause that has lost its vitality. Climate alarm is like a car alarm—a blaring noise people are tuning out.

rhetorical effect: a rhetorical coup, posing as a triumphalist victory. Turns the tables by claiming that environmentalists are the ones who removed the science in climate change theory and politicized it. Also undercuts any hope of international agreements on climate change or any consensus on whether it exists or can or should be mitigated.


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. 28-Dec. 2, 2016

consumer protection

rhetorical claim: Borrowers need and want payday lenders, and the federal government should completely deregulate the industry,  and eliminate the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.  (editorial: “Consumer Financial Protection Rewrite”).

rhetorical effect: the belief that consumer “protection” distorts the free market and only protects the vested interests of progressives. Consumers are best protected by no protection laws whatsoever, since the market always sorts things out.



rhetorical claim: to the Dems, a liberator for the ages. Actually, a brutal dictator who killed millions. Dems consider Gitmo the ultimate symbol of moral barbarity, but what Castro was doing in the rest of Cuba was far worse.

rhetorical effect: relativizes the torture and mass violation of human rights going on at Gitmo.


rhetorical claim: the Dems’ all-purpose pejorative for everything bad.

rhetorical effect: excuses any private sector, for-profit public works. Pull up a chair and watch how fast the US economy gets privatized, Thatcher style. Roads, bridges, Medicare, prisons, water supplies, etc. will all be run by private companies. Government oversight will be minimal.


power grab

rhetorical claim: any progressive law or regulation based on theories of global warming, inequality, racism, etc. In the name of these fabricated boogie men, Dems use the law to exercise power, while all the while claiming the moral high ground.

rhetorical effect: undermines any moral authority for progressive causes, reducing them all to hypocrisy or an insatiable will to power. Dems are said to “grab” power, whereas the Tea Party/GOP  is said the exercise the will of the voters.


 collective bargaining

rhetorical claim: mandatory collective bargaining makes the government the unions’ automatic dues collector. In right-to-work states,  where collective bargaining has been all but eliminated, economies are thriving. Unions, especially public workers’ unions,  are the worst thing that ever happened to workers, state finances, educational quality, and economic growth. Cutting back public unions also guarantees that state taxes won’t rise every year. There is a nexus of of public-union donations and government officials.

rhetorical effect: demonizes public unions by making them sound as if their ultimate aim is to cripple the economy and bankrupt the states. This rhetoric never mentions union members’ benefits, and the tremendous gains unions have made for workers’ rights over the decades. This rhetorical technique is akin to only discussing the cost of environmental regulations without considering the benefits, such as health and safety. It’s a form of reductio ad absurdum argument.



rhetorical claim: as with school choice and vouchers, any top-down, government control over the choice of the people leads to disaster. Any coercive public policy that runs counter to the will of the people is a form of meddling.

rhetorical effect: attempts to unionize teachers, give more support to public schools, avoid the privatization of education, or set educational standards is now defined as meddling.  How long before policies based on principles of equity, justice, and social responsibility are themselves characterized as meddling?


social justice warriors

rhetorical claim: liberals, aka social justice warriors, champion tolerance and open-mindedness, yet are among the most intolerant of Americans, especially towards Christians.  They ostracize and demonize Christians; replace right and wrong with healthy and unhealthy; steadfastly maintain that the state, not God, defines marriage;  and consider faith to be worse than racism. As memorably explained by David French in the National Review:

With their trademark combination of arrogance and stunning ignorance, they’ll tear down your faith and replace it with a philosophical dumpster fire, a belief system that’s four parts emotional and physical impulse, two parts junk psychology, and one part corrupted intellect. It’s about desire and ambition only partially modulated and limited by consent. Do what you want with your body and your life, so long as you’re not harming anyone else and have the consent of your partners. Wait, that’s not entirely right. You can harm and kill your unborn child. You can rip your family to pieces pursuing your heart’s desires. You can leave spouses in the dust and children in their cribs if you decide you love a different person — especially if that person is of the same sex. Then you’re brave and courageous. At the end of the day, I suppose, the Left believes there’s really only one relevant rule of sexual conduct: Don’t rape.

rhetorical effects: legitimizes  religious intolerance of LGBT; assumes Christians are morally superior to non-believers; makes all progressives seem soulless and morally dissolute, caring only about desire and ambition; assumes social justice is inherently immoral and unchristian, and renews all the culture wars–abortion, gay marriage, even divorce and birth control–as once again fair game for social control rather than settled law or custom.


banning Islamic refugees

rhetorical claim: immigrants from”jihadi states” should ber banned from the US because of the risk of their being terrorists. Otherwise, you are arguing that the inevitable human death toll in America is the price we have to pay for compassion toward immigrants. Immigrants from jihadi states should have to prove that they are not terrorists.

rhetorical effect: demonizes all immigrants as terrorists-in-waiting, and places all Muslims in America under suspicion and scrutiny.


regulatory clarity and predictability

 rhetorical claim: infrastructure spending will be unleashed if there is regulatory clarity and predictability. The private sector will only take the investment risk if the government gets off their back

rhetorical effect: the overall strategy of privatizing public works and turning everything into a concession (toll roads, airport fees, etc.) depends on massive tax credits to lure the private sector. In order to loosen the reigns, government agencies are going to have to overlook or abrogate environmental, land use, and equity considerations when granting permits, as well as relinquish all oversight. “Regulatory clarity and predictability” has always been GOP shorthand for doing away with government regulation.


banking regulation

 rhetorical claim: Dodd-Frank turned banks into public utilities.It needs to be repealed to unleash the “animal spirits” of the market.

rhetorical effect: Making this exaggerated claim  requires the belief that any regulation of the financial sector is destructive and robs banks of any choice or agency. Consumer protection is just another form of socialism.


a functioning marketplace

rhetorical claim: American health care is teetering because it relies too much on government coercion. A functioning marketplace can deliver high-quality care at lower cost.

rhetorical effect: a “fully functioning market” presumes a fully dysfunctional government and regulatory apparatus. “Fully functioning” means fully unregulated.


 school vouchers

rhetorical claim: a market-based approach to improving the schools, give parents the choice over their own children’s school, and make public school teachers actually teach.

rhetorical effect: undermines teachers’ unions; guarantees the continual decline of public schools via underfunding; privatizes the education system.