Home | About | Donate

Understanding Trump's Use of Language


Understanding Trump's Use of Language

George Lakoff

This piece is a follow-up of a Lakoff's article, Understanding Trump, published by Common Dreams last month.

Responsible reporters in the media normally transcribe political speeches so that they can accurately report them. But Donald Trump’s discourse style has stumped a number of reporters. Dan Libit, CNBC’s excellent analyst is one of them. Libit writes:


To summarize this long-winded analysis: Trump speaks in code and dog whistles.

Now, tell me something I don't already know.


I get it, Trump is a BS artist and he's speaking to that "sucker born every minute" who actually believes that they understand what he's saying.

Hasn't the oligarchy done a fabulous job dumbing down our citizens?
Clearly what's being taught in our schools has contributed mightily to this overall dumbing down.
But the teachers are not at fault in all of this, because they've been dumbed down too.

Trump will lose this election because there aren't enough "low-educated" white voters going to the polls to offset the "low-educated" 'all other groups' of voters going to the polls to vote for Hillary.


Whatever he is doing, it seems to be a lot more effective when he talking to people who did not attend college. Even with degrees from Penn and Harvard he seems to be at a loss when it comes to communicating with college-educated voters.


Lakoff provides an excellent analysis of Trump's very effective speaking style. Trump's latest ploy, a supposed appeal for black votes, fits the same pattern. He, in effect, tells his white audiences what losers and criminals all blacks are while giving himself an out by saying how he, the great white father, would help the ignorant brutes if only they would obey him.

Lakoff is correct that Trump is never off topic, which is obvious only when you understand that his sole topic is why he should be the authoritarian ruler of the world. AndTrump's style is likely to make him "the winner" of upcoming debates with Hillary. He will certainly have the best lines and absorb all the media attention, no matter how fragmented and incoherent his language is. Poor Hillary will be like Mondale in 1984, smart and well informed but overwhelmed by one good line from Reagan. (Mondale lost 49 states and he was an honest man without any hint of Clinton-style corruption.)


So, first up is a genius who attempts to trivialize what Mr. Lakoff laid out.

Then "Imhotep" shows up (what, as formerly John Tredea?) to turn the issue of framing by persons in positions of power into the problem of:

  1. The sucker born every minute
  2. The lousy public education system
  3. The lousy teachers who are a product of said education system
  4. The low-educated voters

Notice how this entire discourse pushes a Blame Citizens meme. It is the #1 message conveyed in these threads and it's a daily given.

Who would such a message favor?

I can think of two dominant sources:

First, the military--which has an increasing influence over U.S. foreign and domestic policy--would prefer this meme since it takes the spotlight off the growing fascism that determines the fate of citizens by insisting that citizens have chosen this fate.

Second, The Koch Brothers and other proponents of privatizing ALL public assets have an interest in pushing the idea that schools are failing. That's the pretext for taking over these precious assets.

It is a well-known FACT that military and private corporately funded think tanks DO pay posters to post in comment threads.

What astounds me is that this forum holds so many who HATE Democrats and HATE Mrs. Clinton and lately HATE Sanders while giving everything that Trump says, does, represents, and is supported by a total PASS.

What's striking about this preponderance of pro-Trump "opinions" is that this is supposed to be a Progressive site; and its own recent survey states that 57% of readers are females and there are more Democrats than not.

Nonetheless, those who have no (other) jobs and post here starting early in the morning... fall into consensus on things like blaming public schools, minimizing the influence of racism and sexism in our nation (and much of the world), and ALL push the blame voters-citizens Talking Point.

THAT is not a coincidence.

Like ALL dis-information and propaganda tactics, there are kernels of truth around which all sort of bull-shit, prejudice, and authoritarian ideas are wrapped tight. Some reach too quickly for the apparent kernel of truth and swallow the lies, unexamined.

I will continue to point out the ways that deception weighs in, hardly honestly or organically, in this forum.


One problem we face is that of pervasive electronic media for advantage/profit. It has emerged from its print version thoroughly saturated with the Bernaysian manipulations necessary to maintaining extremely exclusive and narrow focus. This was and is intentionally shaped precisely to constantly drive institutional (aggregated power) advantage rather than being informative in a healthy manner.

Lakoff's citing of an identity, a self-identification of the "Strict Father Morality" also finds its counterpart in most politicians today. I doubt we will ever see an equally detailed analysis of Hillary Clinton from Mr. Lakoff.

Another dog whistle aspect must be added, that of White Male "Christian" (sic), not as a dedicated personal practice of Christian values, but as a rationalization for abusive SELF IDENTITY. The ethics, moral values and practices of an insinuated Christianity are elided, obfuscated and abused as a rhetorical bludgeon.

This is a longstanding bludgeon. In the US this started with the Christian Doctrine of Discovery derived from the 15th century papal bulls of Pope Alexander VI. The 'identity' of the dominator demanded that the millions of native peoples of Turtle Island be regarded as "savages", "heathens" who must be subjected, enslaved, their lands taken... the list that was and still is used to rationalize abuses of power across the board goes on and is self-perpetuating in its destructiveness if not resisted, clearly and concisely disabused in order that what is naturally healthy, inclusive and sustainable flourish.

I would submit that the tap root of cognitive clarity, of the synapses so active in attentive discourse, is the direct personal experience of our inextricable existence within nature. From the autonomic nervous system to instantaneous loving smiles, we either balance the struggle for real human evolution with conscious nurturing or lose the capacity of the tap root.


The way a tribe views God or Source plays a major role in the way a power structure is set up or tolerated.

In the past, I frequently quoted Riane Eisler since her chronicle of the type of civilization that predated patriarchy is so important... and rich.

While many Feminists use the premise of Matriarchy to point out the contrary values that form society's foundation when the Goddess--as life-giving maternal force is recognized as Source, Riane Eisler uses the frame of The Partnership Society.

It reflects and reveals that perfect architecture that would represent and retain the fundamental balance built into ALL creation and all sentient life: that of Yin and Yang.

The extreme emphasis on Yang alone--such that women have been subjugated, rape turned into a sport of war, porn ever present to denigrate the Other Half of Creation, and the vast majority of positions of power, influence, and authority (in corporations, govt., religious institutions, academe, the military) held by males... makes for the reckless imbalance that has literally sent the living world to the cusp of absolute ecological collapse.

There is a reason why the Indigenous Tribes of America worshiped the Great Mother Principle and why their teachings were demonized and denigrated to the point where Native American children were taken off their various reservations (in Canada, the U.S. and Australia) and taught to despise their own cultural teachings and traditions.

The dominance of the white male and his anglo-European forms of armed martial Christianity represent the way millions of people view the god-head: as an angry white male, a Trump or a Bush.

The fact that for centuries, the church of Rome has used war to further its own agendas and in so-doing, created travesties like this felonious assertion that GOD wants war or that War represents God's will... explains why the voice of Conscience, that which religion should exalt, instead has been put to sleep.

Until it's widely understood that a great blasphemy has long taken root and grown into a false concept of the God-head and through this delusion, the worst in persons applauded and the most destructive impulses in so-called civilized nations turned loose... talk of capitalism is insufficient as are the daily indictments of yes, very flawed politicians; but these alone are symptoms of a far greater cause.

At least you, Old Goat, in your respect for Indigenous cultures (as often reflected in your commentary) peel the layers deeper.

So many here take "reality" for the white man's version of events even though it is precisely THAT version which has nearly consigned the entire world to economic collapse (due to unfair business practices and global trafficking in weapons of mass financial destruction), the spreading of armaments as virtual guarantee of expanded "theaters" of war, and full-scale ecological implosion: a death to nature.

This MODEL must be challenged and the IDIOTS who daily insist that whatever is taking place is due to voters or American "sheeple" do not want the greater analyses to be aired or shared. They are pawns to the paradigm of existing power structures even though these serve a god of DEATH.


When I refer to the "oligarchy" who do you suspect I might be referring to? "Persons in positions of power?"

As for "Blame Citizens meme." Isn't it up to all of us citizens to become so involved in every aspect of our society, from the national government on down, that the oligarchy would not dare to rig elections or fight illegal wars or strip us of our rights for fear of rigorous retribution from us citizens?

I oppose Trump and the Republican and Libertarian privatization ideology.
I also oppose any Democrat, and Hillary's at the top of this list, who supports the concept of "free markets" and the spread of "democratic ideals throughout the world" through warfare.

Now who is deceiving whom with dogma and propaganda?


Do know what Yuga is?
Or the 24,000 year Cycle of Consciousness?
Who was the last important ruler who tried to bring the masculine and the feminine into balance?
What is the Huna Code?


"And believe it or not, I regret it." Here Lakoff missed the mark. He suggests that Trump is setting up his sincerity -- creating the conditions to believe in his sincerity -- but that is not it at all. He is telling his base that they don't need to believe that he regrets anything that he has said; a far more effective and powerful message.


Thank you for your four bullet points. I was ready to call out that poster because as a teacher I vehemently reject the false narrative about schools, students and teachers. Not only did you beat me to it, but you also stated it more succinctly.


Thank you for the support.

I imagine that those here to post Talking Points amenable with their check payers' interests are also handed alternative narrative points.

Also, as should be evident to any who read these threads on a regular basis, there are scripted-like screen name changes intended to disguise the fact that the same group of posters post daily.

I have a little file of my own based on all those who can't distinguish between a plural noun, "The Clintons' dog" and a plural name, "The Clinton's, the Saudi's, etc.

The pro-charter school group would use this evidence to claim that it's proof that public schools do a poor job with grammar. But I think it's actually the grammatical equivalent of a fingerprint identifying the same 1-3 posters who post under, by my count, upwards of 20 screen names.

And this is not in any way paranoid since it's a known fact that trolls ARE funded by certain groups to embed message threads with commentary that works to the advantage of their check-paying sponsors.

That's why this poster chose a mystical name and tries to one-up me on the meaning of a Yuga and other "Jeopardy" style questions

Thank you for the validation. In this era where the walls between investment banking and Wall Street speculation, those between alleged Defense and Wars of Aggression, and those intended to separate church from state interests are fast fading, some people MUST defend public schools.


“Although the Second Amendment people, maybe there is.”

Everyone is leaving out the comma.

“Although the Second Amendment, people, maybe there is.”

This is how I heard it. Which is not merely pointing out and defining some group of people as if they were not in the room, but directly addressing them, suggesting they ponder what the Second Amendment means to them, and what "maybe there is" there is. I had never heard of the term "Second Amendment people" to describe gun rights advocates before this, and I don't believe that's how he intended it to come out of his mouth.


Oh it's paranoia alright.

And if you don't know the answer to a question just say so and I'll be glad to provide you with it.

So stop with the one-step nonsense, this isn't a school yard playground.


Siouxrose accuses every person on this website of being a "paid troll" at one point or another. It's just part of the culture here. Welcome to Common Dreams.


You're a rank amateur and out of your league, soldier boy.


No, I do not.

I point out those who repeat the same comments using alternative screen names along with those whose job--it would appear--is to protect Power, the status quo, the 1%, the MIC, the corporate moguls, and the System.

Of course, it works to HIDE the operations of the Troll Brigade when posters like yourself present a FALSE assessment of my comments.

You creeps have tried to silence me here for 9 years yet often I still get large numbers of "likes" for my comments.

You cannot silence Truth and those who work to subvert it will be called to the mat.

I have a good ear for liars, poseurs, the same paid posters posting under multiple screen names, and those who are too stupid to recognize their own contribution to the kind of world that puts lives, liberty, and the land itself into jeopardy.

When so much depends upon Truth, those who tell false stories and repeat Official Narratives are NOT my friends.

I have had HUNDREDS of principled debates with a variety of posters.

And you know damned well that there ARE trolls paid by both corporations and adjuncts of the MIC in this era of "total information awareness" and full spectrum surveillance.


You have accused dozens of posters, including myself and pretty much everyone who has ever voiced an opinion contrary to your own, of being an impostor and you are regularly called out for it and you have never provided a shred of evidence aside from a citation of your peculiar perceptiveness. People don't upvote you because of your McCarthyesque denunciations, they upvote you because you say say thoughtful things.

It is obnoxious. But more than that, it is exactly contrary to your purported goals of maintaining dialogue and establishing the progressive community which this website is supposed to be.

It is a well-known fact that law enforcement infiltrate activist circles and it is a well known fact that corporate interests infiltrate online communities. That is why people develop security cultures. That is why people are proactive in protective their identities and their communications and their plans, etc. Infiltration is nothing new. Your method of hyping up distrust and suspicion is not the way you deal with the threat of infiltration. In fact, it's pretty much exactly what infiltrators want. You're sowing discord.

It is not acceptable to flippantly toss out accusations whenever you don't like what someone says. In the real world, the kind of accusations you throw around here on a daily basis would not be tolerated by any group. You can't just make those kind of accusations lightly, and yet you do it every day. Calling someone an imposter is a serious accusation and you do it based on literally nothing. That kind of shit tears communities apart.

It doesn't make the community stronger, it makes the community weaker. Please stop doing it.

P.S: The word 'troll' does not mean what you think it means. Trolls are people who stir up controversy and discord online for the fun of it.


You are a liar.

You are characterizing 9 years of comments as if I was not under massive attack.

Then you take the nature of those attacks and invert them onto me--as if it was ONLY about me accusing countless posters.

The basis of this accusation, in fact, assumes there are countless posters. To the contrary, there is an embedded group who, through their access to sophisticated I.T. technology utilize MANY screen names. THAT is the group that I address by whatever screen names du jour they use.

C.D.'s site monitors posted messages that 100% backed this allegation.

The site itself tried a number of routes to diminishing the influence of these trolls.

ONLY one was publicly outed: "Ham, Bacon, Eggs" who the site monitors explained had used upwards of 50 screen names.

So this idea that I randomly accuse people, or accuse ALL posters is 100% bogus.

It's the defense used by people like yourself who no doubt are protecting this group. This group, incidentally, represents what you attributed to me--the type of infiltration notably utilized by the FBI.

These days, private corporations deploy groups of message posters to protect their reputations.

Thus if someone like myself critiques Monsanto, I might be attacked for doing so.

A true Progressive would understand why I point out the site embeds. Instead, by attacking me and posing FALSE arguments (that I attack everyone & that everyone is an honest poster) you do your best to HIDE the truth.

I am done here.

Since YOU have no doubt used many prior screen names I don't recall much (in the way of context) on posts by Diogenes. I think you posted favorably towards Trump lately, but I don't recall. And without Disqus, I have no means to track that. If so, it would explain your behavior here... as accuser.