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, fake outrages and obsessions in the Wall Street Journal and other GOP language factories, July 21-25, 2016

America’s best days are behind us: according to Hillary Clinton, adhering to the Obama status quo of no growth or slow growth. This is a straw-man argument if there ever was one: no politician would ever argue that America is a has-been country.

the art of the deal: a zero-sum game.

campaign contribution financial disclosure: harassment and intimidation.

desert: what the real Americans have coming to them again: respect and opportunity. (See “respect,” below.). Migrants, liberals, the “pc” crowd, the media elite, etc. all have gotten respect they don’t deserve. This assertion of entitlement is however based on a fabled country that, paradoxically, at once has passed and never existed in the first place. Trump’s cruel conjuring trick is to summon the djinn of  hope to people who need anything but magical thinking and a false messiah.

elitist:  the default attitudinal starting point  of any Dem argument against Tea Party/GOP ideas. By definition, Tea Party opponents are not only wrong but “othered” as effete, condescending fools. “Elite” here doesn’t refer to quality, but to attitude: they only think they’re better than everyone else, but there is nothing distinguishing about them except their smug ignorance of how the world really works.

grating: Hillary ‘s voice any time she opens her pie-hole. Aka, “shouting,” “hectoring” and “scolding”.

gutting: what Dems want to do to the First and Second Amendments–see “muzzling, ” below.

justice: law and order. On the surface, Trump’s invocation of the need for law and order seems self-evident.  But, rather than being reassuring and inclusive, in Trump’s hands, “law and order” becomes threatening, ominous and divisive. The “order” Trump refers to is the old order of white privilege, and his “law” is Old Testament law, based on outrage, retribution and revenge. Old Testament law and desert are unaccommodated things without the restorative cure of New Testament love and healing.

mocking: the Dem elites’ attitude toward average Americans. Every Dem criticism of Tea Party dogma is  a case of “mocking, “moralizing” or talking down.”

muzzling. Any Dem attempt at campaign finance reform. The pc crowd wants to muzzle free speech.

progress: part of Donald Trump’s vision of order:

Our goal is justice for every American. If we are to have respect for law in America, we must have laws that deserve respect. Just as we cannot have progress without order, we cannot have order without progress, and so, as we commit to order tonight, let us commit to progress.

respect: Donald Trump’s promise to those who feel marginalized or dispossessed that they will get their country back. As David Frum argues,

Trump’s country is divided in a different way: between those who have lost a status they deserved—and those who have gained a status they do not deserve.

restless: what the blue-collar voters are this year, which is why Pennsylvania, Ohio and Michigan are in play.

 servant: what Donald Trump will be to “the people,” of whom he is the “voice.” More likely is that he is the puppet-master and his followers the puppets, being jerked around by a phony populist (a so-called “blue collar billionaire”) and someone pretending to not be political.

speaking from the heart: Trump’s straight-ahead, ‘tell it like it is” style that differentiates him from”the politicians” and their “political correctness.” Actually a euphemism for Trump’s unfiltered vendettas and racist, sexist or xenophobic insults. As Virginia Heffernan puts it in the NY Times,  “Casting Mr. Trump’s incitements to xenophobia and violence as heartfelt evidently makes them slightly less terrifying,” going on to add:

It’s become impossible for Mr. Trump’s supporters to lend reason or logic to his vendettas, daft misogyny, thoroughgoing racism and bloodlust. Instead, they advertise it as lovable.

theory: Dems’ “facts.” In John Oliver’s already-classic characterization, in which Trump supporters claim that candidates can create feelings,  feelings are as valid as facts,and thus candidates can create facts.

unelected judges: those appointed by Dems. Any Tea Party/GOP (unelected) appointees are called just that, never “unelected.” This rhetorical sleight-of-hand implies that Dem picks are always elitist and not the will of the people. This flirts with the argument that such judges are illegitimate because they are “unaccountable.”

unleashing innovation: the free market unleashed, the animal spirits of capitalism, unabated creative destructionism. But when has innovation ever been leashed? More likely is that fraud, greed, and

the very survival of the American Dream: imperiled by Hillary. Part of the apocalyptic , hyperbolic, baleful rhetoric of the 2016 GOP Convention.