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, Oct 14-19, 2017

speech codes

rhetorical claim: According to The Federalist, 

Campuses, offices and businesses increasingly have strict codes—written or unwritten—dictating what can be said and what can’t. Colleges especially have widely adopted speech codes restricting speech that is considered offensive or that creates a “hostile environment,” as judged by the feelings of people who don’t like what you have to say.

In recent years, these formal codes have been challenged in courts and frequently struck down, so they have been replaced by “Bias Response Teams”—what the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education calls “speech police in a quite literal sense.” Two professors writing in The New Republic worry that BRTs will “degrade education by encouraging silence instead of dialogue, the fragmentation of campuses into groups of like-minded people, and the deliberate avoidance of many of the most important—and controversial—topics across all academic disciplines.”

The remit of these teams is broad and vague:

A bias incident can occur ‘whether the act is intentional or unintentional,’ meaning that ‘microaggressions’ (subtle, often unintended slights) are squarely within bias incident territory. All ‘verbal, written, or physical’ conduct is fair game, whether it transpires in actual spaces such as cafeterias and classrooms or in the endless virtual world of social media. Examples include ‘symbols, language, and imagery objectifying women’ (University of Utah); ‘name calling,’ ‘avoiding or excluding others’ and ‘making comments on social media about someone’s political affiliations/beliefs,’ (Syracuse); ‘I don’t see skin color,’ ‘I was joking. Don’t take things so seriously,’ and ‘Thanks, Sweetie.’ (University of Oregon). Given the expansive definitions of bias incidents, it is no surprise that some dubious complaints are filed: Last month, at the University of Michigan, a hall director reported a ‘phallic snow object.’ ‘It is the height of privilege and entitlement to be obsessively concerned with utterly inconsequential events such as this,’ a member of the university’s residential staff said.

This is the best kind of dystopian speech police: the kind that operates without any written code and can decide to target you arbitrarily for imaginary infractions.

rhetorical effect: confuses hate speech with free speech.



rhetorical claim: academic, government and business cultures have produced a wholly new species that devours American free speech and competitiveness: the diversocrat. Fed by discredited “implicit bias” theory, this invasive species hires and promotes based on gender and race rather than merit, thus creating a culture of mediocrity. Not only is “implicit bias” an unproven because unverifiable theory, but statistics actually show that women and other alleged victim groups already have a natural hiring advantage over men because of political correctnesss.

The only thing that the academic diversity racket achieves is to bid up the salaries of plausibly qualified candidates, and redistribute those candidates to universities that can muster the most resources for diversity poaching.

rhetorical effect: props up the enduring discriminatory hiring practice of white men first; assumes that judgements of “merit” have no built-in cultural biases; assumes that women and minorities are naturally inferior to white males, so the hiring gap can never be filled.


socialist superstate

rhetorical claim: According to the American Thinker website,

The Democrats, America’s de facto leftist party (note how a sworn socialist, Bernie Sanders, is effectively exercising leadership of the party without anyone so much as blinking) have lost over 1,000 offices nationwide in the past year. The GOP controls nearly two-thirds of all governorships and nearly half of state governments. The left’s political presence and influence is negligible across vast areas of the heartland. They have abandoned the working class, the bedrock of any leftist movement, in favor of representing transsexuals, ball club millionaires, and noncitizen criminals, not a strategy with much of a future, on the face of it.

We look back on an eighty-year period in which the elite attempted to replace America’s representative democracy with a socialist superstate by a process of accretion – putting in place, one at a time, policies that removed only one single aspect of society from the hands of the people while at the same time building up an interlocking system of control and manipulation. Their error lay in the fact that you can’t put in socialism gradually, but only in a single action, a revolutionary coup de main at the point of a gun, as Lenin, Mao, and Castro all knew. Gradualism gives the individual programs time to fail, to reveal how empty the effort is, exactly as has happened here. There is not a single socialist policy, from social security to affirmative action to ObamaCare, that is not nearing collapse.

It ended with Obama, a man who embodied leftist incompetence, frivolity, and egomania in one package. For a few months in 2009, Obama had it all in his hands, and he frittered it away. Obama failed completely, left no legacy and no alternative. Obama was the last of the commissars. Now nothing remains.

rhetorical effect: frames the Left as being in total decline and as a failed ideology, and implies that the entire New Deal is  totally undone and will have no lasting impact. This magical, epochal thinking is an apocalyptic view of a Manichean world locked in perpetual war, an eschatological view of secular decline and of a coming kingdom of God.


careless dishonesty

rhetorical claim: the careless dishonesty and outright lies of the media has created Trumpism. The media’s bombastic rhetoric and doom-mongering have created a toxic DC atmosphere.

rhetorical effect: makes the Liar In Chief a victim of lies rather than a source of them; accuses the media of the very behavior they criticize Trump for–in other words, a classic inversion by labeling something the opposite of what it really is.


scare pollution

rhetorical claim: the global warming/climate change hoax is its own form of pollution–scaring people into believing a falsehood. The EPA HAS tried to justify crippling regulations by using scary scenarios that misrepresent actual costs and benefits.

rhetorical effect: undercuts any authoritative, evidence-based proof of climate change as part of a massive hoax, thus making climate change scientists out to be the true polluters–polluters of public discourse and honesty.



rhetorical claim: according to Nikki Haley, Trump’s decertification of the Iran nuclear deal was based on the concept of proportionality: the overall Iranian strategic  threat to the US is disproportionate to the offsetting meager gains the deal offers.

rhetorical effect: deflects the question of whether Iran is complying with the nuclear agreement, to a set piece about the “proportionality” of Iran’s threat to US security. But the “proportionality” provision in the 90-day review language has to do with containing the nuclear threat, not Iran’s state-sponsored terrorism. In fact, all Haley talks about are things irrelevant to the nuclear agreement. The agreement is not intended to be a comprehensive defanging of the Iranian threat; rather, it just slows down their nuclear progress. If that is the case, then the more Trump fulminates against and undercuts the nuclear pact, the likelier the possibility of Iran actually resuming their nuclear development. As usual, Trump is doing the very thing to himself that he accuses others of doing to him.


fix the Iran deal

rhetorical claim: the Iran nuclear deal needs to be fixed because it is a terrible deal for the US, protects the terrorist Iranian regime from sanctions, and actually hastens their path to nuclear weapons.

rhetorical effect: best explained in the NYT editorial:

By “fix” Mr. Trump means legislation to impose new conditions on Iran beyond the purview of the agreement and to extend its constraints indefinitely. That would put the United States, not Iran, in violation of the agreement and isolate Washington, not Tehran, around the world. It would allow Iran to resume its pursuit of nuclear weapons or to stick with the deal for its economic benefits, forcing the United States to sanction its closest allies for doing business with Tehran. It would provide a “we told you so” gift to Iranian hard-liners in their struggle with pragmatists. It would shackle, not advance, Mr. Trump’s ability to sign others on to his broader strategy to confront Iranian aggression. More broadly, it would undermine America’s credibility — and its ability to strike agreements that make the country safer in the future.


the father of daughters

rhetorical claim: “as the father of daughters, I condemn Harvey Weinstein.”

rhetorical effect: do the fathers of sons have less of a moral claim to criticize sexual predation? As Kate Lister argues in The Pool website:

All hail fatherhood – the watershed moment for women’s rights! What would feminism do without it? It’s hard to ignore the possessive enlightenment of the “I have daughters” response, in spite of the good intentions that might accompany the condemnation. Understanding sexual boundaries, championing women’s rights or, while we’re at it, expressing abhorrence at sexual assault, shouldn’t hinge on a man’s personal relationship to any woman – daughter, mother, sister, girlfriend or wife. Paternal prefaces in response to sexism or sexual assault says one thing before anything else: it matters more because my DNA is involved. It deflects from the sheer scale and magnitude of a violent reality that affects thousands of women every day.

I wasn’t the only one who grimaced reading Damon’s statement; Twitter collectively groaned, too. As Vulture staff writer E. Alex Jung joked, “I have a daughter” is getting up there with “thoughts and prayers”. The jibes didn’t stop there. ‘”As the father of 25 daughters, I’m starting to think women might actually be people,” another tweeter quipped. English actor Samuel West joined in with a gag of his own. “Now I have daughters, I’m fed up with men saying “I have daughters, so this matters to me”,” he tweeted before making a serious point to his followers. “Stop treating women by their relation to you; that’s the problem. Just don’t fucking sexually assault them. It’s a pretty low bar.”

The gold medal for satire, however, goes to the New Statesman this morning. ‘While I feel no empathy for women at the moment, I believe that this would change were I to produce female offspring of my own,’ wrote Jonn Elledge. ‘That is because my daughter would not simply be a woman: she would be my own, miniature woman, grown from the seed of the homunculi which lie waiting in my loins.’


the culture

rhetorical claim: Confronted with allegations of serial sexual abuse and rape, Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein said: “I came of age in the ’60s and ’70s, when all the rules about behavior and workplaces were different. That was the culture then.”

rhetorical effect: As Eugene Robinson explains,

Blaming the 1960s and 1970s has become the first refuge of abusive creeps. But those of us who lived through that time can recall — yes, perhaps through a slight haze — that “the culture” never approved of the kinds of things Weinstein is accused of doing.

That era was about personal liberation, the biggest component of which involved women’s empowerment. The sexual revolution gave women options that had been forbidden to them, but it never took away the option of rejecting unwanted advances. And never did “the culture” give men the moral right to use money and power to coerce sexual favors — or the legal right to commit sexual assault.


values voters

rhetorical claim: Steve Bannon told the Values Voters Summit that economic nationalism “is the centerpiece of values voters.” As good Christians, they fight for the supremacy of the Judeo Christian tradition in a new holy war against the GOP,  liberals, the media and globalists, and have made jobs the centerpiece of their values.

rhetorical effect:  Somehow the religious right has hijacked the notion of “values” for themselves because apparently anyone who doesn’t share their fundamentalism has no values whatsoever. As Michael Gerson argues in The Washington Post,

Do religious right leaders have any clue how foolish they appear? Rather than confidently and persistently representing a set of distinctive beliefs, they pant and beg to be a part of someone else’s movement. In this case, it is a movement that takes advantage of racial and ethnic divisions and dehumanizes Muslims, migrants and refugees. A movement that has cultivated ties to alt-right leaders and flirted with white identity politics. A movement that will eventually soil and discredit all who are associated with it.

The religious right is making itself a pitiful appendage to this squalid agenda. If Christian conservatives are loyal enough, Bannon promises that they can be “the folks who saved the Judeo-Christian West.” All that is required is to abandon the best of the Judeo-Christian tradition: a belief in the inherent value and dignity of every life.

Rather, the religious right is an interest group seeking preference and advancement from a strongman — and rewarding him with loyal acceptance of his priorities. The prophets have become clients. The priests have become acolyt

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, Oct 7-13, 2017

implicit bias

rhetorical claim: the implicit bias theory, which argues that 90 percent of white people are prejudiced against blacks, has removed the concept of individual agency from law. The need to plumb the unconscious to explain racial gaps arises for one reason: It is taboo to acknowledge that socioeconomic disparities might be caused by intergroup differences in cultural values, family structure, interests or abilities. The large racial gap in academic skills renders preposterous any expectation that, absent bias, blacks and whites would be proportionally represented in the workplace. And vast differences in criminal offending are sufficient to explain racial disparities in incarceration rates. 

rhetorical effect: establishes the “reality” that blacks are disadvantaged relative to whites because blacks are inherently inferior and immoral. (see “bourgeois norms”, below.) Basically argues that there is no such things as implicit bias, but, oif there was such a thing, it would be justifiably based on reality.



rhetorical claim: the Harvey Weinstein cover-up reveals the hypocrisy of progressives and Hollywood liberals, whose false self-righteousness justifies their war on American norms and values.

rhetorical effect: self-righteously equates any progressive moral claims with sanctimonious hypocrisy, im[lying that progressives have no moral foundation and certainly no righteousness.


bourgeois norms

rhetorical claim: the race grievance industry falsely claims that what constitutes “normal” is different for whites and blacks. They make the racist claim that white “bourgeois norms” are an offense against black culture. In other words, they argue that blacks should not be held to standards of personal responsibility, self-restraint, delayed gratification, marriage, and a strong work ethic. As usual, black critics are the real racists.

rhetorical effect: distorts serious black criticism of what moral values by making morality synonymous with being white; marginalizes any criticism of white culture as uncivilized; overtly links blackness to laziness, sexual promiscuity and irresponsibility.


sincerely-held religious beliefs

rhetorical claim: companies or organizations with sincerely-held religious or moral beliefs against birth control should not be forced to cover contraception in their health insurance policies. health. The Trump administration’s new policy on excluding contraceptive coverage from insurance coverage was, according to Paul  Ryan, ” a great day for religious liberty”.

rhetorical effect: It was not a great day for the liberty of women who sincerely believe in birth control.  As Gail Collins re-framed the issue:

It was a tough day for the First Amendment, for the people who’ve been struggling to make unwanted pregnancies, and abortion, as rare as possible.

It worked really well, though, for the hypocrites who want to kowtow to the religious right without any concern for the inevitable consequences.

This phrase is not about deeply-held moral and religious beliefs–which art not being challenged–but, rather, the right to impose those beliefs on non-believers. It was an unforgiving assault on freedom of choice. Sincerity is not a trump card, so to speak, that can be used to deny the rights of others. After all, white supremacists can’t discriminate against non-whites just because they sincerely believe non-whites are inferior to them.


principled entrepreneurship

rhetorical claim: business is not the enemy of ethics, and the free market has a moral dimension. The best expression of this may be he Koch Foundation’s definition of “principled entrepreneurship”:

A principled entrepreneur:

1. Makes decisions in the long-run best interest of the company based on facts, reality, and reason.
2. Creates win-win relationships with both customers and suppliers, engaging in exchanges that are in both the long-run best interests of the company and the customers and suppliers; and trading value for value in the marketplace.
3. Manages their employees in a manner that rewards productivity, holds people accountable and responsible, encourages independent thinking, and fosters teamwork and mutual respect.
4. Conducts business relationships with honesty, integrity, and lives up to the promises they make and contracts they enter into.
5. Respects and competes with other businesses in the marketplace by providing customers with higher value at lower costs.

A principled entrepreneur does not:
1. Seek to gain an advantage over their competition by using or supporting government policies that restrict competition in the marketplace or harm their competitors.
2. Seek or accept government subsidies or bailouts as the route to business success or survival.
3. Evade the facts of reality when making decisions.
4. Attempt to take advantage of their customers or suppliers, engage in deception or fraud, nor pursues short-run profits at the detriment of the long-run best interest of the company

rhetorical effect: eliminates all government regulation over businesses. Defines Social Darwinism–a zero-sum, winner-take-all struggle–as the basic “fact of reality.”


judging political bias

rhetorical claim: Judges should not be involved in drawing state electoral borders because  gerrymandering is a political act and human judges will always lose their credibility when they inevitably act with political bias. Inherent political controversies such as redistricting  are best resolved by the political process. Proportional representation would lead to a European-style Congressional makeup, a perfect recipe for identity politics and gridlock.

rhetorical effect: makes it impossible to even legally challenge racially discriminatory, and maintains the US as a permanent  non-majority government. Baldly partisan redistricting. Shifts the analytical focus from outcomes (de facto segregation) to processes. After all, the GOP is not shy about accepting favorable Supreme Court opinions. Playing the “European” card is an always-reliable way to discredit a policy they don’t like, since Europe seems to be politically toxic, in the same way Nancy Pelosi is.


honoring the Confederacy

rhetorical claim: the Dems’ demanding the removal of Confederate statues are dishonoring America’s past and ignoring our history.

rhetorical effect: the upside-downness of this is astonishing, As Frank Bruni puts it, “Funny how people who accuse their rivals of being unpatriotic worship men who engaged in armed rebellion against the United States”.


Black Identity Extremists (BIE)

rhetorical claim: Amid a rancorous debate over whether the Trump administration has downplayed the threat posed by white supremacist groups, the FBI’s counterterrorism division has declared that black identity extremists pose a growing threat of premeditated violence against law enforcement.

“The FBI assesses it is very likely Black Identity Extremist (BIE) perceptions of police brutality against African-Americans spurred an increase in premeditated, retaliatory lethal violence against law enforcement and will very likely serve as justification for such violence,” reads the report, marked for official use only and obtained by Foreign Policy

rhetorical effect: As expressed in The Daily Kos:

While this is isn’t new, it is incredibly scary and we should remain very vigilant. This has important implications as to how the Trump administration plans to carry out a program to demonize and target black activists—and activists of color more broadly. With Jeff Sessions at the Justice Department, who knows what kind of laws they’ll come up (or even break) to surveil and jail folks? It’s also yet another demonstration of their clear commitment to advancing a white nationalist agenda. So far they’ve identified Muslims as a terrorist group, identified Latino immigrants as a threat and now blacks. Who’s next?


the war on coal

rhetorical claim: by repealing the Clean Power Act, EPA head Scott Pruitt has ended the War on Coal.

rhetorical effect: deepens the war on the planet and public health.