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.