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 17-23, 2017

In this edition, Trump’s opponents are either grandstanders (the corporate community), anarchists (protestors), Mao-like revolutionaries out to destroy even the memory of American culture, or lying purveyors and protectors of hate speech (the media). These last few days have made it clearer than ever that Trump is only representing his base and considers the other 65-70% of Americans as the enemy. No President has ever had such an enormous enemies list.



rhetorical claim: Trump’s business council weasel advisers bailed on him when they encountered political headwinds. Their cowardice is only topped by their grandstanding hunger for accolades.

rhetorical effect: deters other business leaders from criticizing Trump out of fear of retaliation. This bullying projection dampens dissent and turns the moral calculus inside-out: Trump is, after all, the greatest grandstander of them all.


moral plane

rhetorical claim: Trump claims that he isn’t making false equivalencies because he “isn’t putting anyone on a moral plane.”

rhetorical effect: Exactly. Since Trump has no “moral plane,” he expects the rest of the country to also abandon morality in favor of social Darwinism, power, white  grievance-mongering and ethnonationalism.


nation building

rhetorical claim: America is no longer going to engage in nation building in Afghanistan or anywhere else. Our job is to kill the enemy and then get out.

rhetorical effect: removes the moral dimension from war and foreign entanglements, thus allowing for loosened rules of engagement. (see below). Allows Trump to engage in several contradictions: 1) that we will remain in Afghanistan indefinitely until we are we are  “attacking our enemies, obliterating ISIS, crushing Al Qaeda, preventing the Taliban from taking over Afghanistan, and stopping mass terror attacks against America before they emerge,”  yet we also have limited patience for a long engagement; 2) that in the end we will “win,” though it’s not clear what “winning” would look like; 3) that we will not tell other nations how to live–unless of course we don’t agree with how they want to live, as in the case of the Taliban and Sharia law; and, 4) that we don’t want to enable other nations to build stable democracies, yet we continue to euphemistically  engage in “capacity building,” “enabling” and “working by, through and with.” But the intent is the same: to create Afghan government institutions that can overcome the threats from the Taliban, the Haqqani network, the Islamic State, Al Qaeda and other Islamist terrorist groups active in that country. So we can neither afford to leave Afghanistan nor to stay there indefinitely. As a New York Times editorial put it,

“Having spent years criticizing America’s involvement in Afghanistan, he now appears inclined toward an open-ended commitment, but with no real ways to measure success and no hint of a timetable for withdrawal.argued in an


civil debate

rhetorical claim: The Dems’ scorched earth policy amounts to do or say anything to get Trump our of power. This isn’t self-government through civil debate. This is not the workings of a healthy society. This is will-to-power politics.

rhetorical effect: accuses the Dems of engaging in the uncompromising behavior that characterizes the Trump administration. “Civil debate” to the Trumpinistas means capitulating to their positions. The are the ones to engage in sheer power to get their way.



rhetorical claim: anti-Trump resistors are in essence anarchists, seeking to erase American culture, capitulate to terrorism and political correctness, and challenge any moral authority.

rhetorical effect: another rhetorical step in criminalizing dissent. Protestors are not just dissidents, they are enemies, “bad people” and now anarchists–opposed to any and all government or moral authority. This disparagement of dissidents is reminiscent of the 1960’s when anti-war protestors were likened to “hippies,” “bums,” “degenerates” and “outside agitators.” The opposition always has to be “other”–outside the fold. Support of Trump is thus inquestioningly absolute, shutting off all skepticism and investigation.


rules of engagement

rhetorical claim: we must loosen the rules of engagement in Afghanistan so our military does not have one hand tied behind their backs.

rhetorical effect: justifies the indiscriminate killing of civilians.


cultural cleansing

rhetorical claim: The ultimate goal is to disable rational thinking and to ensure the destruction of our history and our heritage.  Progressives’ ultimate aim is a Mao-like cultural cleansing, and the erasure of all historical memories. They want to cntrol the language, the narrative, and the past. As argued in The American Thinker:

There are, in short, ways to silence voices other than to not allow the opposition to speak. There is a way to make speech meaningless by rendering language meaningless; to annihilate the ability to think altogether — a sort of mental nihilism; a Sherman’s march through the brain.

America will not be cleansed of “original sin” and become purer if her collective memory is erased and she is made unable to speak intelligibly. She will not achieve salvation by targeting a race as inherently evil, be that race black, white, red or yellow skinned. She will not become good by erasing her history. Her purity will not be achieved until opposing voices are silenced and the opposition degraded to a social status of untouchables.  She will not attain utopia by ensuring every institution and every person is saying and doing the same things. She will not become righteous by memorizing the new leftist commandments while seeing to it the Ten Commandments are destroyed. She will not be made better by making her people mute.

rhetorical effect: this hysterical conspiracy-mongering makes any opposition to Trump sound subversive and totalitarian–in other words, pure projection on the part of the Trumpinistas. Part of their cultural war is to declare the Left of fomenting a cultural revolution. Note also that the emphasis is on “our” heritage and “our history,” as if Trump supporters are the only real Americans–and the only “heritage” worth preserving is the Confederacy.


hate speech

rhetorical claim: the lying media are actually engaging in hate speech everyday that they relentlessly attack the President. As President Trump put it in Phoenix Tuesday night, according to Breitbart

The only people giving a platform to these hate groups is the media itself and the fake news,” Trump said during his campaign rally in Phoenix on Tuesday.

The president challenged the patriotism of many of the mainstream correspondents, news anchors, reporters, and producers in the mainstream media, but clarified that there were a few “very good reporters” and “very fair journalists.”

“They’re bad people and I really think they don’t like our country,” he said. “I really believe that.”

The crowd booed the press at the rally and chanted “CNN sucks!” after Trump re-litigated his response to the protester violence in Charlottesville and spent 30 minutes trashing the media’s attempt to paint himself and his supporters as racist, white supremacists.

He criticized the media for failing to focus on issues important to the country, choosing to inflame racial tensions instead.

“If you wanted to discover the source of the division in our country, look no further than the fake news and the crooked media which would rather get ratings and clicks than tell the truth,” Trump said.

Trump said the media turned a “blind eye” to issues like gang violence, the failure of public schools, and the effect trade deals were having in middle America.

He also pointedly criticized the media for “unaccountable hostility against our incredible police, who work so hard and such a dangerous job.”

rhetorical effect: justifies suppression of free speech and the abrogation of the First Amendment.


principled realism

rhetorical claim: In foreign policy, especially in the case of Afghanistan, America must practiced principled realism, a clear-eyed, heard-headed, commitment to killing terrorists

rhetorical effect: makes the unprincipled Trump sound as if he has stumbled upon a set of principes, whereas, in reality, as asserted New York Times opinion writer Roger Cohen,

His presidency has been about unprincipled recklessness: allies shunned, dalliances with dictators, environmental sabotage. The man who earlier this month could not distinguish between neo-Nazi white supremacists with blood on their hands and leftist protesters calls for America’s soldiers to come home to a country that rejects bigotry and “has renewed the sacred bonds of love and loyalty.”