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Sad! Here are the worst political catchphrases of 2016

THE X-PAT FILES - Scott R. Garceau - The Philippine Star
Sad! Here are the worst political catchphrases of 2016

Unlike Kim Kardashian’s 2014 threat to “break the Internet” with her derriere, 2016 was the year the Internet actually struck back: through fake news and leaked hacked files, the interwebs broke democracy, and possibly the free world.

Well, maybe not. But the use of political language to disrupt and deviate the masses from what was once thought of as civilized discourse is now at levels that would amaze even George Orwell (back in the 1930s, you may recall, he came up with the term “doublespeak” to describe deliberately euphemistic language — the kind of terms used in his novel 1984).

Now, though, we are in an age of “post-truth”: various tribes throughout the planet subscribing to whichever oratory oracle — whether online, on CNN, on Fox News, Twitter or Facebook — that floats their boat, or their version of reality. Poor old Orwell must be spinning in his grave like a lotto wheel about now.

“Brexit.” The UK’s vote to withdraw from the European Union last June looks, in retrospect, not only like a really rash idea on Britain’s part, but a hint of what was to come for America and the Philippines. Angry reaction to foreigners surging the shores? Check. Economic fear of losing jobs? Check. A sense of satisfaction for voting for a perceived strongman solution? Check, check, check.

“Post-truth.” The biggest takeaway from the Trump-Clinton election race was that we are no longer bound by established norms of what is “true” and “not true.” Years ago, Stephen Colbert spawned the term “truthiness” to call out the wobbling of the truth tree; now somebody’s taken a McCulloch chainsaw to the truth tree, and we are enjoying/suffering the fruits of that change in politics. (See: “Fake news.”)

“Fake news.” Not a political term, but a political tool, fake news is the spreading of deliberately untrue reports online, ginned up with photos and fake attributions (if they can even be bothered), and dutifully spread as fact by gullible FB and Twitter users. A month or so ago, a North Carolina man kissed his family goodbye and drove north to Washington, DC with an assault rifle, reportedly to “free” sex slaves he’d read were being kept in the basement of the Comet Ping Pong pizzeria. He shot up the pizzeria, fortunately not injuring anybody, before the FBI arrested him. He’d been fed this story through social media — tweets shared even by Michael Flynn, who has been tapped by US President-elect Donald Trump as head of National Security — and took it to be gospel truth. Multiply this kind of effect by millions and you see how Trump got so many votes.

“Walk back.” In the Philippines, the term has been regularly associated with President Rodrigo Duterte, though not by the President himself. He has a team of presidential advisers and spokespeople to “walk back” the “truthiness” of his daily outbursts — whether they concern the efficacy of Hitler, a raised finger at the EU, or comments favoring martial law — usually presented with a chuckle and advice by said spokespeople to “not take literally” what the President says.

Putang ina mo! We can thank President Duterte for bringing such colorful Filipino expressions to worldwide attention… well, maybe not.  Possibly the President’s favorite insult, it got widely overused very quickly. (Not even Quentin Tarantino uses the same foul language movie after movie.)

“I’m no American puppet.” Puppetry was a frequent theme of political language in 2016, with President Duterte rightly claiming he was not “a puppet” of any outside power, particularly the US. Disavowing one’s strings became such a popular political fad that presidential nominee Donald Trump even interjected the phrase “No puppet!” several times during a debate with Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton when she accused him of being under Vladimir Putin’s control.

The phrase is perhaps an improvement over “running dog,” the preferred socialist dis for a leader who kowtows to a foreign power, much used in the ‘60s. From dog to puppet: that’s political evolution for you.

“EJK.” Very Orwellian, indeed. Means “government-sanctioned murder.”

“Pivot.” This was the operative phrase the US employed in its somewhat-belated attention to Asia under President Barack Obama. The “Asian pivot” was not a dance move, as many Filipinos might have hoped for, but a series of summits and meetings with Secretary of State John Kerry and the US President himself. It suggested Asia was more or less an afterthought. And it became the impetus for other leaders — notably Duterte — to “pivot” away from the US and towards China and Russia.

“I disavow.” This was nominee Trump’s half-assed way of distancing himself from unsavory supporters, including former Ku Klux Klan Imperial Wizard David Duke, who gave him a hearty thumbs up. When pressed by CNN, Trump sort of denied any support for the causes espoused by Duke. But the phrase “I disavow” lacks a crucial direct object. He could be disavowing support for anything — like Taco Bell, or brown shoes. Early on, Trump showed a talent for steamrolling over any controversy by denying reality. He is clearly a new species of politician for the End Days.

“Alt-right.” Not to be confused with alt-rock, alt-country, or alt-shift-delete, the American alt-right are a group of whitists — people who believe those of white European descent deserve to control everything in the US, not all those immigrants (and slaves) who came to its shores to work. The reality of this belief will be challenged in future elections as immigrants and non-white faces outnumber white voters in greater numbers.

“Sad!” It’s, indeed, sad to give Trump the lion’s share of entries here, but when you’re hot you’re hot: “Sad!” — always with an exclamation point — ended most of Trump’s tweets about anything he found lacking, whether it was Alec Baldwin’s impersonation on an SNL skit or the FBI’s withdrawal of a case against Hillary Clinton. It goes along with a whole nest of phrases that were interchangeable for Trump, useful at both rallies and as Twitter hashtags. These included “Lock her up!”, “Bigly” (or was it “Big league”?), “Low energy” and “Huge” (often pronounced “Yuuuge”).

“Basket of deplorables.” An unfortunate term used by Hillary Clinton to describe “half” of her opponent’s supporters that might’ve backfired. They say an optimist is someone who looks at the basket of deplorables as half full. Turns out she was too optimistic.

“Unpresidented.” This was the Twitter typo that gave liberals one last dose of hope, or at least comic relief, as Trump fudged the spelling of “unprecedented” and proved to the world that he may have Third Reich tendencies, but he’s certainly no Grammar Nazi.

“Servergate.” (Aka “emailgate”) This was the issue of Hillary Clinton’s stolen private email files — reportedly hacked by Russian-controlled groups and spread via Wikileaks — an issue trumped up to Metallica-level decibels by Republican critics, loud enough to convince millions of voters that Clinton was both “shady” and “crooked.” Will people remember or care years from now that the files contained little of interest to any Internet troller? No, but they will always remember when Trump called his opponent…

“A nasty woman.” The phrase was muttered under the breath by Trump during the third televised presidential debate, and while it raised some charges of sexism, it also led to a hashtag brigade of self-described and united “nasty women” — among them Katy Perry — who urged women to get out and vote for Hillary. (It probably will not become a US campaign slogan in 2020.)

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