Covfefe, Pizzagate, alternative facts: the Trump administration has brought a number of new terms into the American political lexicon. These consume the news cycle for a day or two before the next crazy utterance distracts us from our confusion and despair. The latest such term is actually quite an old one, “globalist,” which seems fairly innocuous until you start rummaging through its baggage.
Renewed interest in the word was sparked by the resignation of Gary Cohn, Trump’s chief economic advisor. Cohn, a former banker, is Jewish. He is also roundly disliked. The left hates him for refusing to resign after the President remarked, after a neo-Nazi drove his car into a crowd of anti-Trump protestors, that there are “very fine people on both sides.” The Trumpian right hates Cohn for attempting to dissuade the president from imposing protectionist tariffs.
Cohn’s failure in this regard is the ostensible reason for his resignation. This suggests that Trump’s apologetics about Nazis was not reason enough for Cohn to resign – it was his unwitting damage to the steel and aluminium industry that was the last straw.
Which brings us back to “globalist.” At Cohn’s final cabinet meeting, the President gave him a textbook backhanded compliment: “He may be a globalist, but I still like him.”
Now, globalism and globalist are terms that are used in so many contexts it has become almost meaningless.Nevertheless, because it brings with it charges of antisemitism, it’s important to pause and parse.
Globalism is often used in a value-neutral or even positive sense, as in this opinion piece in the Financial Times, which refers to Cohn as a “strong advocate of free trade.” Fox News and Breitbart — which essentially function as organs of state propaganda — use globalist as an epithet, due to their support of the president’s “nationalist” trade policies.
It gets even mushier when you consider the distinctly left-wing “anti-globalist” or “anti-globalisation movement,” which argues that the supposedly unfettered free trade or “neoliberalism” of multinational corporations brings poverty and unrest to poorer nations.
What’s interesting is that “globalism” is one of those terms where you see overlap between the far left and far right. Noted American conspiracy theorist Alex Jones rails against “banking cartels” seeking to enslave free nations under a “global government.”
Once they start talking about international banks, it’s a safe bet that antisemitism isn’t far behind. For the alt-right — aka, American neo-Nazis — the word “globalist” is pretty much a synonym for “Jews.” As in the Jews like George Soros who, they argue, want to install a global government, or the Jews who already pull the strings of the global government, depending upon which paranoid Jew-hater you’re talking to.
The real question — and the reason that Jews need to pay attention to such nonsense — is whether the President understands the dark connotations of the word. As with almost everything else that goes on beneath the president’s sheitl, the answer is, “Who knows?” It is however a safe bet that the president’s former advisor Steve Bannon is well aware of the antisemitic connotations and had no problem in introducing it into the White House.
What seems inarguable is that we once again we have an example of a president unwilling to distance himself from the worst elements of American society.
Gordon Haber is a journalist and author based in New York