The Origins of the 'Globalist' Slur

The Origins of the 'Globalist' Slur - Ben Zimmer

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. While Americans united behind the country’s entry into the war after Pearl Harbor, Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Republican critics cautioned against international policies that might put national sovereignty at risk. On February 9, 1943, Clare Boothe Luce made her mark in her first speech as a member of Congress, rebuking Vice President Henry Wallace’s suggestion that American airports might give the world’s airlines free access after the war. “He does a great deal of global thinking,” she said, “but much of what Mr. Wallace calls his global thinking is, no matter how you slice it, still globaloney.”

Luce’s “globaloney” may have encouraged other opponents of “global thinking” to come up with their own turns of phrase. The Republican Party at the time was splintered between the internationalist approach of the 1940 presidential candidate Wendell Willkie and isolationists who saw Willkie as no different from Roosevelt. Willkie’s book One World, published in April 1943, set out his vision of global cooperation, helping to lay the groundwork for the United Nations. One anti-Willkie group in Chicago, calling themselves the Republican Nationalist Revival Committee, held a rally on May 20. The featured speaker was a leading isolationist, Senator Gerald P. Nye of North Dakota, and he titled his speech “Globalitis.”

“Present day globalistics are extremely difficult for me to comprehend,” Nye said in the speech, and with a nod to Luce, decried “this abundance of baloney, or global thinking … that can exist only in a dream world.” He denied that “the talking of the globalists is reflective of common thought in the Congress,” and he posed a series of “questions ignored by globalists,” leading with an appeal to xenophobia as a wave of European refugees loomed: “How many Americans do you presume are ready to let down the immigration bars which have played so large a part in American economy in the years gone by?”