President Trump and his followers have put on the public rhetorical agenda a supposed opposition between “globalist” and “nationalist” in which the first term connotes the long history of right-wing xenophobic delusions about “the international *** conspiracy,” at various times “Communist,” “banking,” “Jewish,” “world order,” etc. Trump has added the twist of other countries ganging up economically against the US, to be combated by tariffs, threats of military action, etc. Arousal of the right wing against immigration and Islamic terrorism further appeals to nationalist/nativist identity.
Another corollary is Trumpists’ disdain for “cosmopolitans” versus “real Americans.” Cosmopolitanism in the positive sense of worldly experience and knowledge becomes in Trumpspeak the straw-man target of anti-intellectualism and anti-elitism, as well as being equated with “globalism.”
Ignorance of Globalization
The American (corporate) media, in their usual willful cluelessness, have mostly just reported on these binaries without analyzing their equivocations and evasions—first and foremost, the erasure of the meaning of “globalist” as in economic globalization and its association with neoliberal ideology (which Trump and the Republican and Democratic leaders all love).
Globalization is certainly high among the causes of economic, political, and environmental disruption in our time, producing worldwide shifts of labor leading to spiraling inequities of income and wealth, political instability, corrupt dictatorships, the resurgence of fascism, civil wars, millions of refugees and hysterical reactions against immigrants. But American corporate politicians and news media fixates only on the effects of these forces, not root causes
So while these are quite real threats to the well-being of the American people, they need no conspiracy theory about straw man “globalists” and “cosmopolitans” to explain them. A better explanation might be the worldview incisively expressed by the arch-corporate-executive Arthur Jensen in Paddy Chayevsky’s 1976 screenplay for Network, chastising a network anchor who has dared to expose a takeover of its parent corporation by Arab investors:
You are an old man who thinks in terms of nations and peoples. There are no nations! There are no peoples! There are no Russians. There are no Arabs! There are no third worlds! There is no West! There is only one holistic system of systems, one vast and immane, interwoven, interacting, multi-variate, multinational dominion of dollars! Petrodollars, electrodollars, multidollars, reichsmarks, rubles, Yin, pounds and shekels. It is the international system of currency that determines the totality of life on this planet!
You get up on your little twenty-one inch screen, Mr. Beale, and howl about America and democracy. There is no America. There is no democracy. There is only IBM and ITT and AT&T and Du Pont, Dow, Union Carbide and Exxon. Those are the nations of the world now.
Network is soon to be a Broadway play with Bryan Cranston as Howard Beal. Let’s hope this scene is kept intact. A rare rupture of the taboo against addressing these realities was a byproduct of the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. President Trump admitted that he declined to apply heavy sanctions on Saudi Arabia because they might endanger our dependency on multi-million arms sales, oil purchases, and financing there. Oops, that went off the media radar fast, didn’t it?