You Won’t Understand The News Without These Words

These days, American politics is on everyone’s mind. There is so much going on, which means it can be hard to keep up … and it doesn’t help that there is so. much. jargon.

To help parse through all this lingo (and President Trump’s Tweets), we’ve put together some terms that just keep popping up.


Twitterstorm is a portmanteau of Twitter and storm, and it is a term used to refer to someone Tweeting a lot about a particular topic.

Twitterstorms, whether started by President Trump or not, are often political in nature. In the context of the 2016 campaign, Twitterstorms often involved catch phrases associated with Trump, especially his campaign slogan MAGA (Make America Great Again) and drain the swamp.

While the outrage fueling many Twitterstorms is short-lived, some have shown much more staying power. For example, during a 2016 debate when then-presidential candidate Donald Trump referred to fellow candidate Hillary Clinton as a “nasty woman,” it sparked a rebellious outcry from Twitter users who perceived his comment to be sexist. Other female politicians, such as Senator Elizabeth Warren, seized on this comment, reversing the meaning of Nasty Woman from a misogynistic comment into an anti-Trump feminist slogan. The Twitterstorm soon exploded into a national trend, with the slogan placed on merchandise, including mugs, t-shirts, and pillows.

fake news

And that leads us to fake news, of course.Fake news can refer to false new stories, often spread as propaganda on social media. It can also characterize any information that one finds critical about themselves, popularized as a catchphrase by Donald Trump after the 2016 presidential election. He first used the phrase on Twitter in December, 2016.Fake news spread in colloquial speech and writing for any information someone objects to, regardless of its truth value, and it can even be used ironically as a putdown (e.g., I didn’t eat the last cookie, Mom. Fake news! ). This development in meaning compelled the American Dialect Society to choose fake news as its 2017 Word of the Year.

Another spin on this fake news idea came from Trump spokeswoman Kellyanne Conway who said …

MSM and alternative facts

In a 2017 interview, Conway said that the administration wasn’t telling lies so much as reporting alternative facts that the MSM was ignoring. MSM means “mainstream media.” It is often used to describe media outlets, like newspapers and news shows, that are widely viewed and accepted by most people and that are generally seen as reliable and relatively centrist.

Many denounce the MSM for not covering stories they feel are important, distorting the truth, or actively campaigning for or against a political position.

The First Amendment

The First Amendment to the US Constitution lets the press write what they want, amongst other things. It’s a really important part of the US legal system: It’s the amendment that protects against laws prohibiting the freedom of religion, speech, and the press, as well as the right to assemble and to petition the government.

This amendment is part of the Bill of Rights, ratified in 1791. Even though the First Amendment is short, it’s very powerful. Cases about the freedom of people to practice the religion they want, publish what they want, and protest what they want come into the courts every day.

The courts, and particularly the Supreme Court, determine the limits of these rights. For instance, in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission (2018), the Supreme Court found that the Cakeshop owner’s religious beliefs not to make wedding cakes for a gay wedding could be infringed upon because they violated Colorado’s anti-discrimination laws.


Speaking of the Supreme Court …

The Supreme Court of the United States: SCOTUS. It isn’t a pretty-sounding nickname, but it’s useful shorthand. Calling the Supreme Court “SCOTUS” is a pretty Inside-the-Beltway thing to do.SCOTUS isn’t the only branch of the US government to get a nickname that sounds like a disease. There is also POTUS (President of the US) and FLOTUS (First Lady). And, when Bo Obama lived in the White House, there was even a FDOTUS (First Dog of the United States, of course).

Roe v. Wade

One of the most important SCOTUS decisions ever made is known as Roe v. Wade. Roe v. Wade is a landmark 1973 US Supreme Court decision in which restrictive state laws banning abortion were ruled unconstitutional.

A little quick math tells us that it’s been almost 50 years since the Roe v. Wade decision. So, why does it still come up so much in politics today?

Well, it’s one of the most polarizing decisions ever made. And, there is a consensus that the conservative majority on the Supreme Court will try to overturn or curtail Roe v. Wade. Whether you think that’s great news or a tragedy, there’s no doubt Roe v. Wade is just as important today as it was in 1973.

The Electoral College

Like SCOTUS, the Electoral College makes important decisions in the American political system.

The Electoral College is an indirect voting system in the United States in which electors from each state, appointed based on the popular vote, go on to vote for the president.

There is still fervent debate about whether the United States should switch to a purely popular vote system. These arguments heated up in 2016 when candidate Donald Trump lost the popular vote to rival Hillary Clinton by nearly three million votes yet won the presidency due to the Electoral College system. Trump is the fifth President to lose the popular vote, following John Quincy Adams, Rutherford B. Hayes, Benjamin Harrison, and George W. Bush (all Republicans, excepting Adams).


Alt-right (short for “alternative right”) is a catch-all phrase to refer to a collection of people with radical, often racially-motivated views. There isn’t total agreement as to what is or isn’t alt-right. But, it is generally agreed that the alt-right is a loosely coordinated movement that openly holds beliefs frequently characterized as white supremacist, antisemitic, misogynistic, homophobic, and otherwise reactionary.

WATCH: This Misogynistic Group Got Its Name From A Woman

The alt-right is firmly opposed to those who they see as promoting feminism, immigration, etc. They have all kinds of ad hominem insults for those they oppose, notably libtard, cuck, and snowflake. They don’t just hurl these insults at liberals, though. They also have a particular dislike of so-called RINOsRepublicans in Name Only—who they see as being insufficiently conservative.

The alt-right is the mortal enemy of the reactionary left, a group which calls itself …


Antifa (pronounced both an-tee-fah and an-teh-fa) is likely a shortening of anti-fascist. Antifa is a political group and movement that advocates the resistance of fascism as an ideology. Antifa may also refer to a participant in the aforementioned movement.

Anti-fascist movements had been around since at least the 1920s, in opposition to Mussolini’s dictatorship, but Antifaschistische Aktion, founded in 1932, was one of the first and most prominent organizations to use the term in their name. This group also gives the modern antifa movement its black and red flag logo.

Greater visibility and recent resurgence of antifa is a response to the concerns related to Donald Trump’s presidency and other world events.

white privilege

White privilege is a term used to describe unearned rights and benefits afforded white people in Western society because of the color of their skin. It’s sometimes also referred to as white skin privilege.

The first usage of white privilege is believed to have been in 1988 by Peggy McIntosh, a women’s studies scholar and founder of the National SEED Project on Inclusive Curriculum. In the years since, the term white privilege has come to be used to explain power structures inherent in American society that disproportionately benefit white people while putting people of color at a disadvantage.

What does that have to do with politics? Well, some believe that institutions like the Electoral College and the United States Senate were created to preserve white privilege by limiting the amount of influence urban majorities, who are largely people of color, can have in the political sphere. Dang.

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