Power  /  Etymology

The Origins of the 'Globalist' Slur

The anti-Semitic seeds of its use were firmly planted 75 years ago.
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After National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn announced his resignation last week, President Trump offered a back-handed compliment to his departing adviser: “He may be a globalist, but I still like him.” Mick Mulvaney, the director of the Office of Management and Budget, chimed in with his own statement: “I never expected that the co-worker I would work closest, and best, with at the White House would be a ‘globalist.’”

Despite the seemingly joking use of the term “globalist” by Trump and Mulvaney, many were quick to point to the word’s unseemly past as an anti-Semitic slur, embraced in alt-right circles before spreading into broader political discourse. As the Anti-Defamation League’s Jonathan Greenblatt put it, “Where the term originates from is a reference to Jewish people who are seen as having allegiances not to their countries of origin like the United States, but to some global conspiracy.” Greenblatt said it’s “disturbing” when public officials “literally parrot this term which is rooted in prejudice.”

While the latest round of “globalist” name-calling may stem from the likes of Steve Bannon and Alex Jones, the word has a history that long predates the Trump era. To understand the complex roots of the “globalist” epithet, let’s turn the clock back 75 years, to 1943.

With the U.S. deeply mired in World War II, “globalism” and “globalist” could, at least early on, be applied to Adolf Hitler’s rapacious expansionism combated by the Allied effort. Ernst Jäckh, a staunchly anti-Nazi academic who taught at Columbia University after fleeing Germany in the 1930s, published a book on the battle against “Hitlerism” titled The War for Man’s Soul. Jäckh used “globalism” to describe Hitler’s world-conquering ambitions:

Hitler … reaches out for the sun itself. He has set out to conquer the world to make the globe a German possession! He aims at more than military or economic and political conquest. He has embarked on a “holy war” as the God-sent leader of a “chosen people” bred not for imperialism but for globalism—his world without end.

Later in the book, Jäckh outlined the challenges of a “three-dimensional war” (fought on earth, air, and sea): “Thus men and countries are being shocked into the full realization of the implications of a three-dimensional war. Before it actually started, only globalist Hitler and Hitlerism were aware of its potentialities.”
But the targets of the “globalist” label—then as now—tended to be domestic ones.