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, May 13-17, 2017

economic nationalism

rhetorical claim: economic nationalism, especially fairer trade deals, will lead to more jobs, more investment, and greater prosperity for all Americans.

rhetorical effect: conflates economic nationalism with free trade, even though they are polar opposites.

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peripheral and incidental

rhetorical claim: the fake Trump-Russia narrative is fueled by the constant, hyperventilating reporting of peripheral and incidental connections of the Trump campaign and business empire to Russia.

rhetorical effect: trivializes the possible collusion or else nonchalantly makes it sound like business as usual; discourages any attempts to connect the dots.

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one of the greatest electoral victories ever

rhetorical claim: Trump’s electoral victory was one of the greatest ever, and he actually won the popular vote if you discount the three million fraudulent Hillary votes.  He is overwhelmingly the people’s choice, yet the media continues to undermine his legitimacy.

rhetorical effect: this ridiculous claim represents Trump’s signature style: crude myth-making rooted in paranoia and cloaked in the language of democracy and the rule of law.

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opportunity

rhetorical claim: the Trump boom will create unparalleled economic opportunity for all Americans.

rhetorical effect: conflates opportunity with opportunism. Not only are Trump family members and cronies cashing in, but proposed tax cuts will mostly benefit the wealthiest Americans. Trump is the greatest opportunity ever for the richest Americans to get richer in the greatest redistribution of wealth in American history.

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negotiation

rhetorical claim: negotiating better trade deals for America will create greater prosperity and stop foreign nations from taking advantage of the US.

rhetorical effect: turns the reciprocity of negotiation into a zero-sum game with clear winners and losers. Equates winning with justice and equity.

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Trumpism

rhetorical claim: like racism and sexism, the media’s knee-jerk, eye-rolling response to Trump represents an inborn form of discrimination. It’s all about the “feigned pained look, the furrowed brow, the curled lip.”Or comments such as, “That makes no sense” or “You must be lying” that anchors make anytime an advocate of President Trump goes on television to defend him.

rhetorical effect: makes the media appear dismissive of Trump even when they are responding to the substance (or lack of substance)i of one of Trump’s tweets or one of his surrogates’ defenses. This attack leads to false equivalency (call it “on the one hand, on the other hand”ism). Makes them treat false facts and phony narratives as real, thus normalizing deceptions and creating an ultimately exhausting fog of confusion.

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pansy America

rhetorical claim: from The American Thinker website:

Americans have become a wilting, withering mass of weak, needy crybabies who have departed far and away from the strength of back, intellect, and character of America’s Founders, who created a system that none other has ever equaled.  Rather than follow along the path that made America a strong, economically thriving and prosperous nation, many Americans, especially Millennials, pursue petty and paltry pleasures, as would a sloth and a glutton, and claim their slightest whim to be a “right.”

Some things, like food, shelter, clothing, water, and health care, are critical to our lives.  However, they are not “rights.”  Even if they were made rights, this would set in motion a confiscatory requirement to satisfy that right at the expense of others, much as America currently chafes against our current welfare system.

More and more, Americans hear a clamor from their progressive countrymen of all rank and file, for wants and desires to be provided through government funds, the taxpayers’ dollars.  Now, not only do many across the nation demand health care as a right, but they also demand a $15-per-hour minimum wage and free university educations.

rhetorical effect: this diatribe demeans concepts such as health care is a right, workers deserve a living wage, the social safety net. etc. It posits a Darwinian world where the government is reduced to the military/police complex.

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Trump’s “hopes”

rhetorical claim: in Comey’s alleged memo, Trump is quoted as saying that he “hopes” Comey gives up the pursuit of Flynn. Note that he never directly orders Comey to do so. How can Trump be impeached for just “hoping” for something?

rhetorical effect: makes a thinly-veiled threat–an impeachable offense– sound like a reasonably honest wish or feeling–hardly an impeachable offense.

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economic equality

rhetorical claim: under Obama (and really going to back to FDR), individual Americans’ right to personal property has been taken away in the name of “equality” and “economic security.” This redistributionism will lead to the collectivization of rights and then the collectivization of property. Individual rights will be a thing of the past. The current political fight is over the future of the Bill of Rights.

rhetorical effect: turns equality into a pejorative term; privileges property over human needs; reframes the social safety net as an iron cage of fascism.

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misspoke

rhetorical claim: Trump and his spokespersons sometimes misspeak when tweeting, characterizing events or making statements. This is equivalent to a typo, but is seized upon by the mainstream media as proof of collusion or deception.

rhetorical effect: bait and switch: swapping a major sin (lying) for a minor one (tripping up on language, using a malapropism, etc.)

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obstruction of the executive

rhetorical claim: the mainstream media challenges Trump’s authority to manage the executive branch by obstructing his every statement and policy.

rhetorical effect: turns the phrase “obstruction of justice” upside down and inside out by making it appear that it is Trump who is being obstructed. Part of the master-meme to make the media the true threats to America.

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light-touch regulatory framework

rhetorical claim: we need to return to the light-touch regulatory framework of the Clinton and Bush years, where government more or less got out of the way of Wall Street, public utilities, mortgage lenders, and payday loan companies.

rhetorical effect: a euphemism for a non-touch regulatory framework; complete deregulation

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reciprocity

rhetorical claim: trade deals have to be reciprocal, otherwise America is getting taken advantage of.

rhetorical effect: conflates retaliatory tit-for-tat with matching concessions, so, instead of imposing, say, a 10% surcharge on a nation that has its own 10% surcharge on US exports, instead we charge 10% somewhere else in our trade portfolio with that country. In other words, the reciprocity should be impacts from initial conditions, not knee-jerk retaliation.

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appropriate

rhetorical claim: according to McMaster, what Trump said was “wholly appropriate to that conversation” and, “in the context of the conversation,” “wholly appropriate with what the expectations are of our intelligence partners,” and it is “wholly appropriate for the President to share whatever information he thinks to advance the safety of the American people. That’s what he did.” It was also “wholly appropriate given the purpose of that conversation and the purpose of what the President was trying to achieve”—whatever purpose he might have, it seems, and whatever he might be trying to achieve.

rhetorical effect: makes it seem literally impossible for the President to ever violate classification rules; makes appropriate behavior totally dependent on circumstances. Also, as Amy Davidson points out in The New Yorker:

“There are no sensitivities in terms of me,” McMaster said. He tried to return the reporters to what he, personally, considered the “real issue”: leakers. They were the ones endangering national security, McMaster said. It sounded like the coming attractions for the next episode of White House chaos: the bitter hunt for whoever on the inside was talking to the Post.

And yet it might be the leakers who are keeping the country safe. Government officials turn to reporters when there is something that strikes them as not right. The events of this week and last have gone to the heart of what it means to work for Donald Trump. The likelihood that one will be publicly humiliated may be the least of it; participation in policies that are not good for this country is a grimmer prospect. And so is the possibility that we might forget what we expect from a President, or from the people who work for him. It might be seen as improper for a member of the intelligence community to meet with a journalist, or out of line for a national-security adviser to publicly break with his boss. But there are times when it is appropriate to do so; there are even moments when it is necessary.

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