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, Sept. 16-24, 2017.

de facto eugenics

rhetorical claim: abortion rights are inseparable from Dem shibboleths such as women’s rights and economic and racial justice. But is it really racial justice to practice de facto eugenics by advocating abortion as an essential “right” for minority women?

rhetorical effect: likens a woman’s right to choose to murder, and undermines any calls for racial justice or equal rights.


taxes on the poor

rhetorical claim: social “safety net” programs (such as Obamacare), assumed by the Dems to help the poor, actually hold the poor back and impose an unfair tax burden on them. Obamacare substitutes  the government’s political preferences for individual judgment, and forces the poor to pay for benefits they don;t want or need,

rhetorical effect: turns the argument inside out by blaming poverty on the government. By this logic, the quickest way to prosperity for all is no social safety net, and the imposition of a “pure market economy” (see below). As usual, the best way to understand the rhetorical effect of a GOP claim to help the poor is to “follow the money” in the sense of seeing what this argument justifies–in this case, repealing Obamacare and taking millions of poor people off Medicaid.


tremendous business potential

rhetorical claim: Addressing African leaders at the UN, Trump said:

Africa has tremendous business potential, I have so many friends going to your countries trying to get rich. I congratulate you, they’re spending a lot of money. It has tremendous business potential, representing huge amounts of different markets. … It’s really become a place they have to go, that they want to go.

rhetorical effect: “congratulates” Africa for its neo-colonial status as a place to be plundered and exploited by Americans; makes business potential the sole criteria for national success. In a section on the African economy titled ‘Why Has Africa Failed To industrialist?‘, the UN’s own website sums up the West’s – i.e. Trump’s friends’ – approach to the continent, using a book by Ha-Joon Chang to illustrate the perspective.

In the book, “Bad Samaritans: The Myth of Free Trade and the Secret History of Capitalism,” Mr. Chang, whom The Financial Times describes as “probably the world’s most effective critic of globalization,” argues that rich countries have historically relied on protectionist approaches in their quests for economic dominance.

In its review of the book, The Publishers Weekly, a US-based news magazine on book publishing, says rich nations that “preach free market and free trade to the poor countries in order to capture larger shares of the latter’s markets and to pre-empt the emergence of possible competitors are Chang’s bad Samaritans.”

So it’s probably not something to brag about, particularly as leader of the world’s capitalist powerhouse.



rhetorical claim: in his “America First” UN speech, Trump made national sovereignty the core criteria for foreign policy.  Stressing self-reliance, as the National Review put it,

Trump sees the norm-based international order not as an end in itself but as a very high-order means by which the United States, and other democracies, defend their own safety and sovereign rights. That means he values the global system but is willing to accept or even create stress on it where necessary to protect important American interests.

rhetorical effect: as Gail Collins put it, ” it was a little like going to the first meeting of the PTA and repeatedly pointing out that you only care about your own kid.” This lone wolfism promotes the opposite of collective security– a Hobbesian (“the war of all against all”) , every-country-for-itself world (best expressed by E. J. Dionne:

The notion that “sovereignty” is in such danger that it demanded 21 mentions is absurd. No member state at the United Nations rejects national sovereignty, and many use it as a cover for dismissing the values of democracy and human rights, casting both as the impositions of outsiders.

No wonder Trump won applause when he said that “you, as the leaders of your countries, will always and should always put your countries first.” Selfishness is popular. Russia’s Vladimir Putin and China’s Xi Jinping no doubt nodded approvingly when they were briefed about Trump’s words.

But Trump was so selective and inconsistent in his application of sovereignty that the concept itself had collapsed before he finished. If sovereignty is the highest principle, what justification does he have for threatening to destroy North Korea (which asserts its sovereign right to nuclear weapons)?

Trump’s world is a stark state of nature.


principled realism

rhetorical claim: the Trump Doctrine–“principled realism”–combines resolve, national sovereignty and a principle of peace through strength.

rhetorical effect: ennobles bullying, swagger and threat into a “principle.” In foreign policy circles, “realism” used to mean non-ideological countervailing forces, diplomacy, and trade-offs, but now the only “realism” seems to mean “whatever America wants” .



rhetorical claim: the Steele dossier has been widely discredited, and is probably an FBI plant.

rhetorical effect: proves that a well-coordinated GOP talking point can take the place of reality and become its own reality, turning the Trumpian colluders into the victims. In this case, a few incorrect facts in the dossier are used to discredit the entire document, even though the vast bulk of it has been upheld by subsequent disclosures. In such a case, “widely” refers only to GOP echo chambers, and “discredited” means denied but not refuted. In their furious attempt to make the dossier itself the smoking gun in a Democratic conspiracy to rig the election, the GOP has turned reality upside down and inside out.



rhetorical claim: Donald Trump is a great populist because he represents the will of real Americans, stands up to the elites, and is draining the swamp in Washington.

rhetorical effect: moralistic populist logic turns anyone opposed to Trump into an enemy of the people, since Trump represents 100% of the people–any opposition is thus immoral, corrupt and illegitimate, and even any negative poll or voting outcome is “rigged” or fake news. As Jan-Werner Muller puts it in his important book What Is Populism?

populism is always an exclusionary form of identity politics that is a danger to democracy…the idea of a single, homogeneous authentic people is a fantasy.

Even though they speak the language of democratic values, political populists will only be happy when their opponents are excluded. Opposition members are not considered proper members of the political community. Populists such as Trump have always already been the spokespersons of the real people, and anyone opposed to Trump simply doesn’t want America to be Great. Populists lay claim to exclusive moral representation of American values, so they cannot be proven wrong.

irresponsible policies

rhetorical claim: Dem social policies create dependency, irresponsibility, and a sense of entitlement. The welfare queen porch monkeys need to get off their butts, get off welfare, and get a job. Uncle Sam is your uncle, not your sugar daddy. As the Tea Party placard put it, “redistribute my work ethic.”

rhetorical effect: since the policies most often denounced as irresponsible always benefit the worst off, by definition anything that helps the poor actually hurts them.


direct representation

rhetorical claim: Trump’s tweets directly represent the will of the people, so he should not be vetted or restrained in making them.

rhetorical effect: makes it conceivable to have a representative democracy without  the majority being represented.


discriminatory legalism

rhetorical claim: not everyone is entitled to full protection under the law. For example, those who would undermine America, or are working actively against the people– criminals, illegal immigrants, suspected terrorists, Leftist thugs–should be harshly treated. Above the law stands the good of the nation.

rhetorical effect: translation: “for my friends, everything, for my enemies, the law.” The decline of the rule of law goes hand in hand with a lack of democratic accountability.


pure market economy

rhetorical claim: in a pure market economy, regulations wouldn’t exist, so any economic slowdown is the fault of regulation. Only free markets and limited government bring economic efficiency and clarity, and only the free market has the right to guide our civilization.

rhetorical effect: assumes that free markets are a fixed law of nature, so opposing them is unnatural or perverse. Government itself is framed as perverse because the only thing between us and permanent economic prosperity is government regulation. Also assumes that markets are “perfect” when left alone, because they self-regulate.


the New Segregation

rhetorical claim: coffee shops and restaurants displaying virtue-signalling ‘”All Are Welcome” signs are engaging in the New Segregation, as explained by the PJ Media website:

Let me interpret that for you, you low IQ dunce. These signs are to let you know, you hateful lover of law and order and restraint and decorum, that you are not welcome here. Contrary to “all are welcome,” you will notice that one group is decidedly missing. You. You think abortion is murder, so you don’t “stand with women,” even though half of those babies being killed are girls. You favor legal immigration, so you don’t “stand with immigrants,” which means allowing anyone including ISIS to just sally over the border willy-nilly as they please. You believe in traditional marriage and that children should not be denied a mother and father and so you do not “stand with the LGBTQWTF” crowd, even if you have no ill will toward them. Just the fact that you believe children have a right to their biological parents makes you a “hater.” You believe in biology and know that chromosomes don’t change because you want them to. This makes you “anti-science.”

You who believe that Black Lives Matter burning down cities and hurting people resembles domestic terror activities means you don’t like black people and so you can’t get a latte in this establishment, you cretin! And Allah forbid you should not believe the rallying cry that Islam is a “religion of peace,” even though it is drenched in the fresh blood of the infidel daily. YOU do not stand with “all” religions and so you are not welcome to do business with the super virtuous people inside this establishment. This establishment wants you to know they stand with “Our Community” and not yours. Got it?

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, Aug 23-29, 2017

This edition highlights the Trump administration’s populist war on truth. Conviction has replaced persuasion in the art of political rhetoric. No truths are any more self-evident. Information is no longer neutral, but is either for you or against you. Pop truths–that Sheriff Joe was just doing his job, removing Confederate statues is an attempt to erase white heritage, hatred and bigotry only exist on the alt Left, etc.–have more staying power than facts or truths. Yet who knew that the most-fact, post-truth culture would be populist? Populism always offers a cure worse than the disease. When truth becomes inherently political, how far are we from an Orwellian state?

just doing his job

rhetorical claim: Sheriff Joe Arpaio was convicted for just doing his job of protecting real Americans from illegal immigrant criminals and rapists.

rhetorical effect: In pure Roveian fashion, language is used to turn reality inside out: Arpaio was convicted for actually NOT doing his job, which is following the rule of law.


great American patriot

rhetorical claim: Sheriff Joe is a great American patriot.

rhetorical effect: as explained by the Washington Post’s Michael Gerson, this version of patriotism

includes extreme ethnic profiling, terror raids, and cruel and unusual punishment. A definition of patriotism that covers using internment camps in extreme heat, parading women and juvenile offenders for the cameras in chain gangs, and degrading inmates in creative acts of bullying. This is not patriotism; it is the abuse of power in the cause of bigotry…

Arpaio made a career of dehumanizing prisoners in his charge. His pardon sends the signal that some people are less than human. In one sense, this is perfectly consistent. Trump has employed dehumanization as a political tool from the start — of refugees, of migrants, of Muslims. By his pardon of Arpaio, he has metaphorically pardoned his own cruel and divisive approach to politics. It is a further step in Trump’s normalization and entrenchment of bigotry in our public life.


our history and our heritage

rhetorical claim: Opposition to President Trump is now taking the form of threats to obliterate our history and our heritage by removing statues of Confederate generals. Marxist true-believers understand that the transformation of any nation begins by systematically altering its history and obliterating its culture.  As the sanctioned march by the so-called “Alt Right” in Charlottesville was ostensibly to protest the potential removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee, the pretext was in place for the left-wing locusts to swarm and openly declare war on American history, symbols and institutions.   It was not just the fringe elements of the Left but many Democratic Party leaders and media figures taking up the cause.

rhetorical effect: promulgates an authoritarian version of national history in which “our” refers only to whites, whose manifest destiny is to rule America. Anything that has happened to non-whites (such as slavery) is whitewashed from this history. Thus Trump spends far more time criticizing journalists than white supremacists. Anyone who calls themselves neutral on any given issue is in collusion with the progressives.


angry toddlers

rhetorical claim: Trump’s supporters are the adults in the room, as compared to anti-Trump protestors, the angry toddlers in the room. Like toddlers, they are only absorbed in their own needs, cry until they get their way. As explained in The American Thinker,

They decline mental exercises that require objectivity, reason, and actual morality, because these do not bring the desired result, which is their presumed moral primacy over those their handlers seek to dominate and control, not to mention the wealth and property of those targets.  These people are not the most dangerous among us, but they run a close second because of their utter inability to process basic information and come up with a correct answer.  The most dangerous are those who manipulate such people to steal what they want while pretending to be making things better.

They are committed to eradicating the Bill of Rights for its protection of those they hate, those against whom they are deeply bigoted, those whose declared right to refuse to be owned by tyrants is the single biggest obstacle to their victory.  They have decided for themselves that violence, but only their violence, is acceptable, because their motives are so “moral.”  Their “morality” encourages violence to achieve peace, which is akin to encouraging rape to achieve virginity.  Such is the intellectual depth of the tools being manipulated by a communist movement to destroy capitalism and, with it, their own individual freedom.

rhetorical effect: this paranoid vision of anarcho-Communists not only conjures up the cold war, but sounds like a call to arms to defend America before it’s too late. It also substitutes the concept of “mobocracy” for the exercise of democracy. It also doubles as a pre-emptive charge of treason.


the mainstream media

rhetorical claim: The MSM is like the standard government propaganda machine found in all fascist states. Those organizations’ job is not to provide facts to enable the people to exercise their power through the ballot box but to help maintain the oppression of the people by the ruling elite. Whether it’s the media in North Korea telling the people how much better their lives are than the poor fools in South Korea, the media in the Soviet Union telling the people how great their lives are, the media in China explaining why forced abortions are a good thing, or the MSM saying that someone who once had lunch with Trump also talked to a Russian and that’s treason the song remains the same; the party we support is good, you should listen to what your betters tell you to do, don’t try and resist the establishment.

rhetorical effect: undermines the legitimacy of a free press by calling any anti-Trump claims mere “propaganda.”


hatred and bigotry

rhetorical claim: Remember what the left means when it says there are not two sides to hate and bigotry.  Leftists are actually saying it is hate and bigotry to resist them.  It is hate and bigotry to wish freedom for yourself and your children, to demand to keep what you earn, to live your life peacefully, and to reject totalitarianism.  It is hate and bigotry to live in white skin and not believe that it should determine one’s future any more than dark skin should, to refuse to be owned by those whose every word and deed is itself motivated by hatred and bigotry against us.  To them, refusal to accept the place in society they have reserved for us is the epitome of hate and bigotry.

rhetorical effect: projects the alt-Right’s hatred and bigotry onto the anti-Trump forces, thus both absolving themselves of any taint of hatred and bigotry, but also turning the Left into the bigots and tyrants.



rhetorical claim: to the Left, bring “presidential” means being acceptable to coastal and foreign elites.

rhetorical effect: lowers the bar for qualifying as “presidential” to the mere occasional display of decency, compromise, consistency, and rationality



rhetorical claim: The Southern Poverty Law Center is unfairly branding anyone who disagrees with them a “hate group.” As explained by Kimberly Strassel in The Wall Street Journal:

The press is still obsessing over President Trump’s incompetent handling of the violence in Charlottesville, Va., and that has suited some profiteers just fine. The notorious Southern Poverty Law Center is quietly cashing in on the tragedy, raking in millions on its spun-up reputation as a group that “fights hate.” Apple CEO Tim Cook informed employees that his company is giving $1 million to SPLC and matching employee donations. J.P. Morgan Chase is pitching in $500,000, specifically to further the SPLC’s “work in tracking, exposing and fighting hate groups and other extremist organizations,” in the words of Peter Scher, the bank’s head of corporate responsibility.

What Mr. Scher is referring to is the SPLC’s “Hate Map,” its online list of 917 American “hate groups.” The SPLC alone decides who goes on the list, but its criteria are purposely vague. Since the SPLC is a far-left activist group, the map comes down to this: If the SPLC doesn’t agree with your views, it tags you as a hater.

rhetorical effect: In pure Karl Rove and Frank Lunz fashion, the fright quotes not only subvert the terms they bracket, but actually make them mean their opposite. So, for example, groups that fight hate become hate groups; “tolerance education” becomes intolerance; “white nationalists” become defenders of American liberty, and the SPLC becomes simply “notorious.”  This opprobrium undermines any of their policies or positions.



rhetorical claim: Donald Trump is a true populist, the voice of the people. The silent majority is no longer silent.

rhetorical effect: equates populism with democracy and pluralism, though it isn’t necessarily composed of either. Populists–with their “my way or the highway” mentality– actually despise pluralism and don’t mind bending the rules of democracy. Without pluralism, democracy loses its foundation.



Glossary: Key memes, dog-whistles, canards, euphemisms, fake outrages and obsessions in the Wall Street Journal and other GOP language factories, March 17-23, 2016

Alinski playground: what the American streets will turn into this summer as Trump gets nominated. Bill Ayers will be rumored to showing up everywhere.

“bad things would happen” and “there would be riots”: Trump’s thinly-veiled threats to unleash his attack dogs if he doesn’t get the GOP nomination. A brilliant rhetorical move, speaking in the third person and passive voice, while all the while saying he himself wouldn’t condone any such violence. Like Henry II asking “Will no one rid me of this troublesome priest?”,  or Shakespeare’s Mark Antony, washing his hands of the very violence he is inciting. These rhetorical moves are a variant on his earlier threat to ban all Muslims from entering the US “until we know what’s going on”: simultaneously open-ended, justificatory and direly threatening.

hacks: any Obama administration official, especially in the Justice Department– ultra-partisans, by definition.

justice: getting even with those responsible for the malaise, for America “always losing.” What to do with the people with whom something needed to be done? Justice/revenge as the sees of brutality and supremacism.

overwhelming force: the Trump Doctrine. Crush all “enemies” with violent militarism, torture, and intimidation. Thus violence becomes not a means to an end but an end in itself–as seen on TV.

political correctness: the primary cause of terrorist attacks.

the pc glass ceiling: the schoolmarms’ restraints on free speech that Donald Trump has shattered. The end of moral relativism. Everyone is now entitled to be as offensive and racist as they wish.

populism: the driving force behind Trumpism. The voice of the will of the people. This glib characterization effectively glosses over the fact that most of Trump’s positions—across-the-board tax cuts for corporations, small businesses and individuals,  reducing the capital gains tax, , hamstringing the IRS, gutting federal regulatory oversight, ending state regulation of the insurance industry, etc– will only help the very wealthy. Call it pluto-populism: popular with the plutocracy.

protests: at Trump rallies, criminal acts perpetuated by Marxist agitators/ISIS sympathizers and anarchists.

white working class: the most reviled and disadvantaged Americans.









Glossary: an anatomy of key memes, phrases, canards, shibboleths and obsessions in the Wall Street Journal and other GOTP language factories, Jan 24-Feb. 9, 2015

(GOTP= Grand Old Tea Party)

consumers: “the consumer is king,” but only as far as the “free market” allows. So when it comes to a regulatory crossroads such as “net neutrality,” (see “hoary regulations”, “innovation” and “micromanaging,” below), consumers are said the be the ultimate victims of government regulation. However, when it comes to tax breaks, set -asides, subsidies, lobbying, and the hobbling of financial reform, all the power flows to the corporations. The “consumer” card is only played when consumers are at the most risk from the private sector.

crony capitalism: how government works under the Dems, who are portrayed as totally corrupt. When the GOTP does it, it’s called “public policy” or “regulatory reform” or “tax reform.”

gambit: any Dem strategic move or policy statement. Worse than a “talking point.”

hoary regulations: any existing statute or policy that “throttles” the “animal spirits” of the “free market.” Regulation is thus seen as the old model of governance, deregulation as the future of governance.

innovation: in the GOTP rhetorical imaginary, a sanctified term, standing for everything that the guvment wants to either control or stifle. Innovation only happens when individuals are left alone–never mind the advent of the internet, the space program, the federal highway system, etc.

micromanaging: any statute or regulation that affect business. Guvment cannot “manage,” but only “micromanage,” because it simply wants to run (=ruin) everything.

nebulous: any Obama statement of idealism, hope or social justice. To believe the GOTP, Obama is incapable of making a principled or idealistic statement that has any coherence whatsoever–he lives in a fogged-in rhetorical  fairy land.

the political class: any Dems in power or in the public eye. GOTPers in the public eye are called “reformers” or “political leaders.”

populism, Koch-style: like “consumers” (see above), in the topsy-turvy world of GOTP rhetoric, words mean the opposite of what they’re assumed to mean, and the very people meant to be protected are left at the mercy of the corporations and super-rich. So, for example, the Koch Brothers have the audacity to claim the mantle of “populists” when they talk about how they’re going to spend a billion dollars influencing the 2016 Presidential election because they speak “for the people” and “free speech,” (though obviously paid political speech is obviously far from “free” in any sense of the word.)

power grab: any Dem law or regulation

unending spectacle: shorthand for the ragtag combination of unending scandals and ineptitudes of the Obama administration that the GOP has invented as a kind of general miasma that envelopes everything Obama does. This universal field theory links uop everything Obama does or that has happened in his administration. It gets recited as an ever-growing inventory: from Fast and Furious to Benghazi to the :reset” with Putin.

weakened US security: anything Obama says or does, especially any foreign policy. By definition, he can only do damage to America as Commander in Chief because he is on a perpetual “apology tour.”

weird and unbecoming: any criticism of America, persecutions by Christians, etc. Obama is thus “othered” in exact proportion to the severity of his criticism of any so-called “core American values.”

Republicans’ War on Green Energy and Their Curious Born-Again Populism

While the last couple of weeks have been absorbed with gun control and the “fiscal cliff,” the Wall Street Journal editors have also been uncommonly obsessed with energy issues, mostly contrasting “green energy” with fracking.  The five editorials between Dec. 17-Jan 4 on these two subjects paint the usual Manichean world of growth vs. regulation, and “market-driven” natural gas investments vs. “trendy eco projects”. The key editorial in this sequence, “The Jackson Damage” (12/27), lays all the blame for high unemployment at the feet of retiring EPA Director and she-devil Lisa Jackson, whose “aggressive and punitive” regulators have “contributed to business uncertainty and stole dollars otherwise available for private investment.”

At the beating heart of this robbery are Obama’s “repressed green id” and the risible Democratic bias toward “racial justice and economic redistribution”. This bizarre psychoanalysis of the environmental movement seems confused insofar as it pits the desire for social justice, labeled as elitist and “anti-growth”, against American workers’ best interests.

A further twist of this inverted logic occurs in the Jan. 2 editorial, “Crony Capitalism Blowout,” which summons Republicans to a “new populist message” based on–wait for it- less corporate regulation, fewer constraints on corporate profit, lower taxes and less government. In this brave new populist America, “the social service planners who can’t run health care, education, or public housing” will be eclipsed by small businesses, investors, and the affluent. The ants (“those who save their money”) will triumph over the grasshoppers (“those who spend their money”).

But the ants are also due a huge tax break because the $5 million exemption on the estate tax is a “pittance for 50 years of work and thrift”, and should be raised. Only in GOP la-la-land is $5 million a “pittance”. Populism spreads to the 1%!