Culver City Observer -

The New Political Lexicon Explained


December 8, 2016

Words are just words. You think?

While we may think we know what words mean, the stamina is in their associative power. (Think you know what stamina means? Please see below).

Fuzzy, friendly words are popping up in politics. We see them and our eyes glaze; we think we understand, yet the landscape changes nano-momentarily.

Here's a handy shortlist to test yourself.


It used to be "Truth justice and the American Way." Where is Superman when we need him?

We're not in Kansas anymore. If we send up the Bat-Signal in a forest, would anyone hear?

Post-truth is the Oxford Dictionary's 2016 international word of the year. It was used 2000% more often in 2016 than in 2015 in both the U.S. and the U.K.

Post-truth, objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief. It questions the role of facts, denying they count. It grew along with social media becoming the way people get news; it's powered by distrust of the establishment.

The word of the year is chosen for its lasting potential as a word of cultural significance.

That's really saying something. The 2015 word of the year? Emoji.

Xenophobia was the word of the year online at, defined as fear or hatred of foreigners, people from different cultures, or strangers.


This term sounds ever so much nicer than its meaning. Originally referring to people with extreme conservative views, the new name sounds

neutral, concealing extreme ideology. A rebranding of the new radical right that started growing in 2015 to seem more edgy and appealing.

Now suspiciously refers to white supremacists, who believe white people are superior to people of other races, so should rule politically, economically, and socially. Alt-right images are filled with unflattering references to blacks, Latinos, and other non-whites.

Some people think the alt-right movement is made up of people worshiping Hitler. A video of an alt-right National Policy Institute meeting was published by The Atlantic magazine, showing audience members apparently giving the Nazi salute.

President-Elect Donald Trump's transition team has denounced racism. Yet Trump named Steve Bannon, revered by the alt-right movement, as chief White House Strategist. Bannon headed the online Breitbart News, which while professing to be mainly conservative and anti-racist, is often associated with the alt-right.

The alt-right often spreads deliberately controversial ideas online.

dog Whistle Politics

Coded political speech, where a speaker uses code words to imply more than is said explicitly. Certain words seem to say one thing, while having hidden meanings meant to appeal to people believing in a specific set of ideas which may not be recognized as acceptable in politics. This refers to how dogs are the only ones hearing a dog whistle, alluding to a target audience who understands the real meaning of seemingly harmless words.

Judicial Activism

Explains how a judge makes decisions. People believing judges should be actively interpreting the Constitution want judges to consider what contemporary society needs; they feel judges should bring their personal views to decisions. Judicial restraint is the opposite; people wanting this restraint on judges believe laws should be based on a strict definition of the Constitution; they claim that was the original intent of America's founding fathers.

Sanctuary City

A city that limits when local law enforcement agencies comply with federal requests to hold undocumented immigrants for detention, and then to turn them over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Sanctuary cities may resist by not cooperating.

Over 500 counties and cities have policies limiting cooperation with immigration authorities, according to the Immigrant Legal Resource Center.

In 1979, Los Angeles became the first city to specifically bar officers from stopping people to ask about their immigration status, according to the New York Times.

Anchor Babies

Derogatory term for children born in the U.S. whose parents don't have legal permission to be here. Anyone born in the U.S. is a citizen; some accuse parents here illegally of using the child as an anchor, or basis to remain indefinitely in the U.S. Mainly used by opponents of illegal immigration.

Fake News

News that is fake is being published online as hoaxes and disinformation in order to drive people to websites. Many people are misled into believing this is news based on facts. Many fake news websites originate in countries outside the U.S., as well as in the U.S.

In the 2016 Presidential election the Washington Post accused Russian propaganda of creating fake news which was spread by other websites.

Facebook and Google have banned fake sites from ads.


This form of government where all power is held by only a few people, or by a dominant class. It's called "government by the few".

It also refers to the people ruling. During the 2016 Presidential election, accusations were made about the top 1% of Americans ruling everything.


Opposition or resistance to a plan or idea. Actively objecting to something could be described as pushback.

Walk something back

Retract a statement.


Mainstream media. These are traditional forms of mass communication (tv, radio, newspapers), contrasted with the internet. Includes NBC, CBS, ABC, CNN, the Washington Post, the New York Times, Wall Street Journal.

Many people believe mainstream media have bias and are not reporting news fairly; some think this may be due to corporate owners' views, or political beliefs of sponsors. Many MSM outlets have been accused of not reporting fairly in the 2016 Presidential election; some have publicly admitted their news was not fair.

Alternative media

This refers to other ways to get the news. Alternative media can be online, on radio, or on television. Often alternative media give non-standard news reporting, or unconventional views not seen on MSM. YouTube is considered alt media; there's even alt media art (graffiti) and performance art.

An example is the progressive news program Democracy Now!, which is on radio, tv, and the internet. It's on public television on KCET every weekday at 7:00 AM; you might take a look.

Cognitive Dissonance

Feeling anxiety when you're presented with beliefs that are incompatible. This could result from watching the news unobjectively reported by both MSM and alternative media.


Republican in Name Only. Used to criticize Republicans who often side with Democrats.

Pay to Play

Corruption, similar to payola in the music industry. A person or business pays money for political or monetary favors. It can also take the form of a benefit to a family member. Usually refers to the concern that an election can be bought.

News reports are now accusing Donald Trump of allowing pay to play in accepting contributions to the Inauguration in return for access to him and his family.


Currently used to mean having balls and testosterone.


A highly corrupt form of government where those in power exploit national resources and steal; rule by thieves.

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"The Holocaust did not begin with killing; it began with words."

The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum


©Carole Bell 2016 Carole Bell is a writer interested in everything.

You can write to her at:


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