There’s perhaps never a bad time to stretch or rethink one’s vocabulary.
The term “globalist” was used to describe an outgoing Trump administration official during Wednesday’s White House press briefing, raising eyebrows on social media because the term is increasingly used in xenophobic and anti-Semitic contexts.
The word came up when a reporter asked press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders whether a similar candidate will take the place of the outgoing director of President Donald Trump’s National Economic Council, Gary Cohn, who is Jewish.
“He was a noted free trader, a globalist. Will the president seek another globalist, another free trader?” Fox News reporter John Roberts asked.
Its use also came one day after Mick Mulvaney, director of the White House Office of Management and Budget, used the word “globalist,” in quotations, to describe Cohn in a statement that was posted by his department on Twitter.
Mulvaney’s statement also noted that he was surprised to get along with Cohn, who he said ended up being “one of the smartest people I’ve ever worked with.”
Twitter users, noticing this choice of language, didn’t hold back in expressing concern.
Though the term can be used to describe someone who has universal or open-world beliefs, in particular regarding trade or public policies, it can carry a more sinister meaning on the far right.
For the anti-Semitic and neo-Nazi members of the “alt-right” white supremacist movement, “globalist” is a euphemism for “Jew” and a reference to the longstanding conspiracy theory about an international Jewish cabal working to undermine the traditional white family and Western culture by pushing for immigration and diversity.
A glossary of extremist language published by The New York Times places “globalism” among terms like “alt-right,” “antifa” and “cuck.”
“For the far right, globalism has long had distinct xenophobic, anti-immigrant, and anti-Semitic overtones,” the article states. “It refers to a conspiratorial worldview: a cabal that likes open borders, diversity and weak nation states, and that dislikes white people, Christianity and the traditional culture of their own country.”
Figures such as conspiracy theorist Alex Jones and Trump have used the term as a dog whistle for their followers. Just before the 2016 election, Trump delivered a campaign speech in which he described Hillary Clinton as working with globalists to “plot the destruction of U.S. sovereignty.”
Its use on Wednesday, again on the national stage, led to renewed concern on social media ― in particular, that the word is being normalized or “mainstreamed.”