Glossary: Key memes, counterfactuals, dog whistles, canards, euphemisms, innuendoes, insinuations, fake outrages, and obsessions in GOP language factories and fever swamps Aug 12-24, 2017

foisted on the American people

rhetorical claim: as expressed by Laura Ingraham:

In some parts of the country, it does seem like the America that we know and love doesn’t exist anymore. Massive demographic changes have been foisted upon the American people, and they are changes that none of us ever voted for, and most of us don’t like. From Virginia to California, we see stark examples of how radically, in some ways, the country has changed. Now, much of this is related to both illegal, and in some cases legal immigration that, of course, progressives love.

rhetorical effect: perpetuates an us vs. them mentality; ignores the fact that Trump lost the election by three million votes; racial dog-whistle; encourages conspiracy theory paranoia about the Deep State, the  mongrelization of the white race, and disrespect of white people. Call this the art of the innuendo, never saying anything overtly racist, but only making sense (and having their intended outrage-stoking effect) if they are only abut race: akin to when Trump said “there are good people on both sides” or rails against NFL players taking a knee during the national anthem, or repeatedly calling black celebrities (LeBron James, Don Lemon, Omarosa)  “not smart.”


this is not what’s happening

the truth is not the truth

rhetorical claim: as the President said, “Don’t believe the crap you hear from these people — the fake new. What you’re seeing and what you’re reading is not what’s happening.” Or, as Rudy Guiliani put it, the truth is not the truth.”

rhetorical effect: Alice-in-Wonderland down the rabbit hole rhetric. Descent into a labyrinth of lunacy, delusion, nihilism,and moral relativity. Brainwashing insofar as it attempts to get voters to ignore the administration’s flagrant daily misconduct, venality and criminality, allowing Trump to establish a dishonest fake narrative. (Trump is the true source of fake news.) Also, as David Remnick argues:

Nearly every day, Trump makes his hostility clear. He refers to reporters as “scum,” “slime,” and “sick people.” They are cast as unpatriotic––“I really think they don’t like our country,” he says. They are “trying to take away our history and our heritage.” Trump has smeared critical news organizations as “fake news,” a term gleefully adopted by Putin, Bashar al-Assad, and other autocrats who are delighted to have their own repressive reflexes endorsed by an American President. Trump has threatened to sue publishers, cancel broadcast licenses, change libel laws. He betrays no sense of understanding, much less of endorsing, the rudiments of American liberty. During a visit from the Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, Trump told reporters that he thought it was “frankly disgusting the way the press is able to write whatever they want to write.”

By casting the press as an “enemy,” Trump is not merely joining a long list of Presidents who have bristled at criticism. He goes much further than his predecessors, including paranoiacs like Richard Nixon, who assembled a secret “enemies list” and raged in the Oval Office to his chief of staff about barring the Washington Post from the White House grounds. Trump’s rages are public. They are daily. And they are part of a concerted effort to undermine precepts of American constitutionalism and to cast his lot with the illiberal and authoritarian movements now on the rise around the world….

The assaults are part of his effort to cultivate—at any cost—a core political following, turbocharged by resentments, and thereby to boost his bid for reëlection.


First Amendment collusion

free press as an interest group

rhetorical claim: In a series of Twitter posts Trump wrote: “The fake news media is the opposition party. It is very bad for our great country…. but we are winning!

“The Boston Globe, which was sold to the failing New York Times for 1.3 billion dollars (plus 800 million dollars in losses & investment), or 2.1 billion dollars, was then sold by the Times for 1 dollar. Now the Globe is in collusion with other papers on free press. Prove it!

“There is nothing that I would want more for our Country than true freedom of the press. The fact is that the press is free to write and say anything it wants, but much of what it says is fake news, pushing a political agenda or just plain trying to hurt people. Honesty wins!”

rhetorical effect: has a chilling effect on free speech; seems to be saying that the idea of liberty itself is a conspiracy theory, and that people are free to do and say anything as long as they agree with Trump; treats the media as an interest group, when the real interest groups are First Amendment and the United States. “Honesty” is not winning!


wandered into crime

rhetorical claim: as Phillip Rucker reports,

Trump has confided to friends and advisers that he is worried the Mueller probe could destroy the lives of what he calls “innocent and decent people” — namely Trump Jr., who is under scrutiny by Mueller for his role organizing a June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower with Russians promising dirt on Hillary Clinton. As one adviser described the president’s thinking, he does not believe his son purposefully broke the law, but is fearful nonetheless that Trump Jr. inadvertently may have wandered into legal ­jeopardy.Don Jr. may well have unwittingly wandered into crime by meeting with the Russians.

rhetorical effect: admits that he is guilty while arguing for his essential innocence. Justifies illegal chicanery.


white anxiety

rhetorical claim: Trump’s base of white voters  is increasingly anxious and resentful about global elites who scoff at the Trump supporters lifestyle, intelligence, and moral values.

rhetorical effect: constantly insists that character doesn’t matter, that winning is everything, and that might makes right. Gov. John Kasich (R), appearing on “Meet the Press” on Sunday, correctly identified a key problem for Republicans — they have become cloistered in their own world of white grievance. Claiming victimhood, they become more bitter and resentful by the day. (“I’m not for people who say the reason you don’t have something is because somebody else took your stuff. That’s called victimization.”) What’s missing is any largeness of spirit, any sense of what others are experiencing. The party they lead in turn becomes, as Kasich noted, “increasingly unwilling to put themselves in the shoes of somebody else. Even when you think about family separation at the border, some people say, ‘Well, you know, they had a choice. They didn’t need to go there.’ Well, many of them had to go there to save their kids’ lives, literally.”

Kasich reminded his fellow Republicans:

I think what’s fundamentally changed our country is that many people have not come to understand what faith is, which is loving your neighbor, elevating others, sometimes in front of yourself, putting yourself in other people’s shoes. And when we don’t do that, we lose the essence of our country. When my father and my uncle talked about the Great Depression, everybody pulled together. And what we’re seeing now is people pulling apart rather than coming together. And I think that’s an element of religiosity. If you’re a humanist, I love you anyway because, you know, you believe in making a better tomorrow. But we need the compass back.


a dog

a lowlife

rhetorical claim: “When you give a crazed, crying lowlife a break, and give her a job at the White House, I guess it just didn’t work out. Good work by General Kelly for quickly firing that dog!”

rhetorical effect: part of the Trump dehumanization cycle: first really like the person, then, when they criticize you, turn against them and call them either stupid or less-than-human. As Kathleen Parker  argues:

Trump should also know that dehumanization — or “othering,” to use current vernacular — leads to marginalization, which can lead to cruelty (say, separating young migrant children from their parents), which can lead to far worse…. it’s much easier to hurt, maim or kill another when you no longer see them as quite human. World history’s catalogue of atrocities confirms this. Which is why no one living today should be comfortable with the language of dehumanization, no matter how relatively minor the degree.


burdensome demands

rhetorical claim: according to Betsy DeVos, the government is making burdensome claims on for-profit colleges when it comes to asking them to account for the post-college careers of their graduates. Therefore, these colleges will once again be unregulated when it comes to accounting for vocational outcomes.

rhetorical effect: The end of consumer protection for student burdened by crushing loans for worthless degrees. Trump has no reservations about for-profit colleges that make grandiose promises to their students about future careers, while taking their money and preparing them for nothing whatsoever. When all  government accountability demands come to seem “burdensome,” how long will it be before the same can be said of the rule of law itself.


without this thinking

rhetorical claim: While economists cite an inverted yield curve as a precursor to a recession, U.S. President Donald Trump made his own economic prognostications, telling Fox News during an interview that his impeachment would result in a stock market crash. Furthermore, it would cause individuals to lose all their money.

“If I ever got impeached, I think the market would crash. I think everybody would be very poor,” President Trump said.

“Because without this thinking, you would see numbers that you wouldn’t believe in reverse,” Trump added. “I got rid of regulations. The tax cut was a tremendous thing.”

rhetorical effect: strongman effect: “Only I can fix it.” Leads the way to Trump becoming a dictator, a cult figure, a savior. Cuts out Congress’s ability to control the economy. Gives Trump credit undeserved credit for the economic boom, which a) started under Obama, and 2) is only a boom for the richest Americans, who are profiting from a soaring stock market.