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 30-May 4, 2018

Trump is genuine

rhetorical claim: we can believe Trump because he is genuine–he tells it like it is and doesn’t filter or lie, like the Fake News Media. Americans want action, and he’s giving it to them–draining the swamp.

rhetorical effect: as asserted by Michael Hayden, in the so-called “post truth era”:

Political partisanship in America has become what David Brooks calls “totalistic.” Partisan identity, as he writes, fills “the void left when their other attachments wither away — religious, ethnic, communal and familial.” Beliefs are now so tied to these identities that data is not particularly useful to argue a point.

Intelligence work — at least as practiced in the Western liberal tradition — reflects these threatened Enlightenment values: gathering, evaluating and analyzing information, and then disseminating conclusions for use, study or refutation.

How the erosion of Enlightenment values threatens good intelligence was obvious in the Trump administration’s ill-conceived and poorly carried out executive order that looked to the world like a Muslim ban….

These are truly uncharted waters for the country. We have in the past argued over the values to be applied to objective reality, or occasionally over what constituted objective reality, but never the existence or relevance of objective reality itself.

In this post-truth world, intelligence agencies are in the bunker with some unlikely mates: journalism, academia, the courts, law enforcement and science — all of which, like intelligence gathering, are evidence-based. Intelligence shares a broader duty with these other truth-tellers to preserve the commitment and ability of our society to base important decisions on our best judgment of what constitutes objective reality.

The historian Timothy Snyder stresses the importance of reality and truth in his cautionary pamphlet, “On Tyranny.” “To abandon facts,” he writes, “is to abandon freedom. If nothing is true, then no one can criticize power because there is no basis upon which to do so.” He then chillingly observes, “Post-truth is pre-fascism.”

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we’ll see what happens

rhetorical claim: Trump’s fluid, transactional rhetoric keeps possibilities open while also making veiled threats–“we’ll see what happens.”

rhetorical effect: Leaves everything as open-ended and vague as possible for as long as possible to avoid accountability. As explained by Kathleen Hall Jamieson:

The occasions in which he’s made specific promises, like ‘we’ll build a wall and Mexico would pay for it,’ he has had trouble delivering. Instead of forecasting and being accountable for the forecast, he’s opening the possibility that there are a range of possibilities not anticipated for which he does not want to be held accountable.”

…In Trumpese, many people are saying” means “I wish many people were saying this because I want you to believe they are.” “People don’t know” likely means “I just found out,” and “believe me,” on some level, may signal “I have real doubts.”

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fighting and winning for the hardworking taxpayer

rhetorical claim: Donald Trump continues to fight and win for the hardworking American taxpayer against government overreach, fake news, trial lawyers, unions, and so-called “green” environmentalists.

rhetorical effect: fighting and winning for corporate interests; eroding wage standards, benefits, and workplace rights of workers, especially in the private sector; eliminating public services and the social safety net programs; eliminating workplace safety regulation; eliminating the regulation of clean air and clean water, and making sure the tax cuts go mostly to the wealthy. The “hard-working taxpayer” is generally not “winning”. For example, so far:

    • 9: Percent of the 500 major companies that make up the S&P 500 index that have paid employees cash bonuses since the passage of the Republican tax plan.
    • 109Billions of dollars in dividends paid to shareholders following the passage of the Republican tax plan, setting a new record for dividend payments.
    • 84: Percent of all stocks owned by the wealthiest 10% of households.

 

As argued by Gordon Lafer in The One Percent Solution:

The vast majority of American employees go to work every day for a private company, with no union protections. For these workers, it is not a union contract but state and local laws that shape working conditions and frame the balance of power between employers and employees. Corporate rhetoric around these laws sounds different from that aimed at public servants—rather than attacking overpaid employees, they stress the need for flexibility, the danger of government mandates, and the power of unrestrained entrepreneurialism to lift all boats. But the aim of these arguments is ultimately the same: to restrict, weaken, or abolish laws governing wages, benefits, or working conditions; to preempt, defund, or dismantle every legal or organizational mechanism through which workers may challenge employer prerogatives; and to block, wherever possible, citizens’ ability to exercise democratic control over corporate behavior.

 

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paycheck protection

rhetorical claim: tyrannous labor unions can no longer force workers to support politically correct causes they oppose. Their paychecks will be protected from forced payment of union dues.

rhetorical effect: paralyzes union political campaigns, thus severely limiting workers’ rights and freedom of speech.

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decoys

rhetorical claim: Starbuck’s protestors are decoys and dupes of the racial grievance industry.

rhetorical effect: charges of racism are themselves suspected of being inherently racist; concepts of racial equality are reduced to being hypocritical con games, played by suckers only. Racism is said to not only not exist, but to be an excuse for laziness and fraud. Grievances are commodified and reduced to being an “industry.”

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shareholder value maximization

rhetorical claim: government is a parasite on economic growth, and the only measure of value should be shareholder value maximization.

rhetorical effect: As explained by Martin Wolf:

That it is hard to see much wider economic benefit from the massive increase in the relative size and influence of finance over the past half century seems self-evident. Today, many western economies are, after all, burdened by high levels of private debt, high inequality and low rate of productivity growth. If this is success, what might failure look like?

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the Employment Protection Agency

the Employment Prevention Agency

environmental originalism

environmental stewardship

self-implementing regulation

stakeholders who care about outcomes

fuel diversity

cooperative federalism

rhetorical claim: the EPA’s confiscatory war on industry is over–no more regulatory overreach.We need a return to environmental originalism, in which the government practices environmental stewardship. not prohibition.  Regulations will be self-implementing and immune to wasteful lawsuits. The EPA is no longer what Trump called the Employment Prevention Agency; instead, it’s now the Employment Protection Industry. Power plants will now be allowed to implement their own compliance programs without the intervention of a permitting authority.

rhetorical effect: protecting jobs, not the environment; allowing unlimited mining and development on public lands; ending regulation of polluters.

Translations:

stakeholders who care about outcomes: often portrayed as “farmers and ranchers,” this label always applies to fossil fuel companies.

fuel diversity: cuts in alternative and green energy, thus the opposite of energy diversity policies

cooperative federalism: leaving environmental and workplace safety, policy and monitoring entirely up to the states, which are typically either reluctant to act due to political connections or lack the funds to act.

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collusion

rhetorical claim: federal workers who are members of the Democrat Deep State engage in a form of collusion they sometimes call ethics or the rule of law.

rhetorical effect: codes of ethics get reduced to being “collusion,” a sort of conspiracy based not on a moral bedrock but on partisanship.

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Deep State attempted coup

rhetorical claim: the Deep State’s attempted coup is being played out by Robert Mueller, and should be resisted.  According to the website American Greatness,

If you look at the categories of questions Mueller allegedly wishes to pose to Trump, you will notice they focus on exactly those areas of inquiry made possible by Obama and his henchmen through the NSA rule change. Among them are Michael Flynn and his contacts with Russia’s ambassador to the United States. A second group of questions has to do with the firing of Comey, the man who orchestrated the entire “special counsel” by writing memos and then leaking them to the New York Times through his friend, Columbia law professor Dan Richman—who just so happens to be on Comey’s legal team now. If you want to see real collusion in action, look no farther than the sanctimonious Comey and his rum crew.

By now, it’s clear that Mueller never had any intention of investigating Russian “collusion,” aside from issuing some meaningless indictments of persons over whom he has no legal authority. Rather—as the enemedia breathlessly hopes!—the inquiry has morphed into an “obstruction of justice” investigation into the firing of Mueller’s pal, Comey. And now we arrive at the heart of the matter.

The title of Comey’s book, A Higher Loyalty, gives the game away: higher than what? The Left is always nattering on about an “arc of history” that bends toward “justice,” but an educated populace should be able to see right through this classic example of Marxist cant. The purpose of such a meaningless phrase is to get you to believe that there is some authority—not God, God forbid!—“higher” than the laws of the United States, and that a true patriot’s allegiance belongs not to the Constitution but to some “higher” power.

Since the 1960s, that power has been the abstract (which is to say, unconstitutional) authority of the federal courts, principally the Supreme Court. To make this case—that the Court is the final judge of the constitutionality of just about everything—they’ve leveraged Marbury v. Madison and convinced the American public through a dazzling exercise in circular reasoning, that because the Court itself has said it is the arbiter of all things constitutional, it is therefore, under the Constitution, the arbiter of all things constitutional.

rhetorical effect: paranoid conspiracy theory run amuck–and even the Supreme Court is in on it. Defends the notion that the President is not subject to obstruction of justice charges because he represents and dispenses justice, and is only responsible to his interpretation of the Constitution. Turns the President into a dictator.

 

 

 

 

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, Dec. 9-14, 2016

entrepreneurial federalism

rhetorical claim: the economy most thrives when states compete to lure business. GOP state-level attempts to  oppose the Obama administration weren’t based on opposition to Obama’s policies, but to the usurpation of states’ right by the federal government. The Trump era heralds a new federalist revival.

rhetorical effect: amounts to a new industrial policy that does everything it can to unshackle business: provide direct subsidies, impose tariffs, cut or end all federal regulation, and effect what Lawrence Summers calls a transition from a rule-based economy to a deal-based economy, with the White house totally taking over:

Presidents have enormous latent power, and it is the custom of restraint in its use that is one of the important differences between us and banana republics. If its ad hoc use is licensed, the possibilities are endless. Most companies will prefer the good to the bad will of the U.S. president and his leadership team. Should that reality be levered to get them to locate where the president wants, to make contributions to the president’s reelection campaign, to hire people the president wants to see hired, to do the kinds of research the president wants carried out, or to lend money to those that the president wants to see assisted?

Going along with authoritarianism will come to be the norm for doing business.

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fake news hysteria

rhetorical claim: Dems’ mainstream media bootlickers, panicked over Trump’s election, have engaged in a hysterical witch hunt accusing every Trump claim of being “fake news” and part of some vast conspiracy theory. Even though they make up their own facts and spin stories their way, the mainstream media mendaciously is claiming the moral high ground and their exclusive claim to the truth. It is part of their rage against reality. “Straight news” has become an oxymoron. Every mainstram media news story is a “false flag.”

rhetorical effect: the suppression of the media and the undermining of any possibility of establishing the barest facts: did the Russians try to influence the US election? is there such a thing as global warming? are there any racists left in America? are fracking and other forms of energy exploration harmful to the environment? According to this doublethink strategy, the fake news stories are real and any critical news stories are fake. Calling the media “hysterical” is exactly what women are called when they object to male behavior or gender power relations. Hysteria is an irrational state based on a misapprehension of reality, an overreaction to an imaginary threat. The ultimate outcome of this branding of your political opponents as crazy can lead to the Stalin-era move to put political opponents in mental wards.

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very strong control

rhetorical claim: that Putin is a good model for leader who has “very strong control” over his country, and that Putin is “far more of a leader” than Obama ever was.

rhetorical effect: justifies authoritarian government, with claims of “leadership” justifying the suppression of  free speech and the media, and mass arrests and deportations.

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the real Americans

rhetorical claim:  the flyover country voters who elected trump are the real Americans, the honest Americans, the hard-working Americans. Liberal elites live in an elitist bubble that keeps them separated from America and makes them un-American.

rhetorical effect: labels anyone who criticizes Trump as un-American–free speech becomes a thought crime. When they said that without phony California votes, Trump would have won the popular vote, they were laying the groundwork for claiming that coastal elites are not welcome in Trump’s America.

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paycheck protection

rhetorical claim: mandatory union dues payments are a form of indentured servitude, and all states should adopt right-to-work laws that crush labor unions.

rhetorical effect: makes it sound like union dues are a form of robbery. Safety protection, environmental protection, wage protection are no longer considered, especially when the only real protection left will be profit protection.

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self-appointed ethics watchdogs

rhetorical claim: Trump can’t avoid conflicts of interest, and to ask him to divest his business interests and give up the Trump name is ridiculous. Only scolds and self-appointed hypocrites are worried about Trump’s conflicts of interest.

rhetorical effect: makes it impossible to draw any line between ethical behavior and  Trump conflicts of interest. Renders him completely above the law. Calling ethicists “self-appointed” also undercuts them and makes it appear they have no moral authority whatsoever because morality in a post-truth, post-ideology world is situational and political.

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soft despotism of government

rhetorical claim: according to William McGurn in the Wall Street Journal, the real authoritarian regime has been the “unelected and increasingly assertive class that populates the federal bureaucracy and substitutes rule by regulation for rule by law.” Federal agencies meddle in our lives, and we’d be better off without these social engineers imposing their values on the rest of us.

rhetorical effect: demonizes governmental regulation, thus making it impossible to enforce or interpret any laws. Gets Trump off the hook for any of his authoritarian acts by calling government bureaucracies the root of all evil.

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the Europeanization of the economy

rhetorical claim: Obama has entangled the US in financially ruinous international regulations, trade agreements, monetary policy goals and business taxation. This has lead to the weakest economic growth, the largest surge in government debt, the riskiest monetary expansion and the gravest deflationary pressures of the postwar era. This is part of a larger picture of centralized arbitrary financial powers, as explained in the Wall Street Journal by Michael Solon:

 After the 2008 financial crisis, the G-7 massively expanded international coordination. The Financial Stability Forum was expanded into the Financial Stability Board, charged with integrating the monetary policy of central banks and supervising financial institutions such as banks, insurers and asset managers. The G-20 worked to protect government revenues through the Base Erosion and Profit Shifting project.

The result? Since 2007 the public debt of the G-7 nations, excluding sober Canada and Germany, has leapt to 130% of gross domestic product from 52%, according to each nation’s own reports. The EU’s monetary base has doubled, the U.K.’s is up 350%, and

The U.S. government has helped itself in debt financing, paying almost the same interest costs today as it did in 2007, despite almost tripling the publicly held debt. At the same time, bureaucrats won arbitrary and self-serving power over financial services. International regulators now override national and state laws without authority or input, turning domestic “independent regulators” into puppets. Political commissars embedded in banks own no shares yet veto board decisions. Money-market rules burden equities and public-purpose bonds, but favor federal debt. So do swap collateral rules and Basel rules on liquidity and capital.

The list goes on: Dodd-Frank’s Volcker rule threatens liquidity in market-making operations but exempts U.S. government securities. Housing regulators again proclaim that the government-sponsored enterprises Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have a “duty to serve” low-income buyers by underwriting higher risk mortgages. International regulators direct insurers to invest in public infrastructure, proclaiming the profitability of these projects when experience demonstrates otherwise. Ubiquitous capital requirements force financial institutions to buy highly leveraged government debt that pays ultralow returns.

 Meanwhile, America’s punitive 35% corporate tax rate—the highest in the developed world—has discouraged U.S. firms from investing at home and sets a global tax floor to stabilize government revenues and foster government growth. The result is average U.S. GDP growth of only 2.1% since 2010—40% less than the administration’s projected 3.6%. According to my firm’s analysis of Congressional Budget Office projections, that dismal growth rate has taken a $9.5 trillion bite out of U.S. GDP since 2010—$29,400 on average for every American.


rhetorical effect
: removes all financial regulation (including liquidity requirements and “ubiquitous capital requirements”), justifies huge corporate tax cuts (as if tax policy isn’t “centralized, arbitrary authority”), discourages mortgages to minorities, etc.

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pro-Iranian tilt

rhetorical claim: Obama has abandoned American interests and allies in the Middle East by prematurely with drawing from Iraq and making favorable deals with the Iranians. He has thus allowed the Russians to dominate the region, confused our allies, and failed to differentiate between friends (Israel) and foes (Iran).

rhetorical effect: demonizes any agreements with the Iranians; makes war in the region far more likely, characterizes any criticism of Israel as being pro-ISIS.