Trump's Critics Use Racist Tropes
Updated: Jan 27
In the days since the attempted coup in Washington DC - which Azimuth Social Research advisor Chuck Call aptly dubbed a "self-coup" - many commentators have unwittingly resorted to racist tropes to critique Trump, implicitly denigrating the inhabitants of countries with lower per capita incomes and darker skins.
Consider journalist Leonard Greene, who wrote in the New York Daily News, "Welcome to America, a would-be third-world dictatorship." Or consider Republican Senator Marco Rubio, who tweeted that the events of January 6 were "3rd world style anti-American anarchy." Liberals unfortunately followed suit, including Oregon Democratic congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici, who described the Capitol events as "something like a third-world country."
When people use "third world" to refer to places where bad things happen, they aren't speaking all that differently than Trump when he said he didn't want immigrants from "sh**hole countries."
Trump's term was far more vulgar, but when his critics use "third world" to generalize about and stigmatize countries where political and other conditions are bad, they implicitly bifurcate the world into zones of savagery - the spaces where others live - and zones of civilization, where people like us live. Thus, when Trump's critics say of the January 6 events that "this doesn't look like America," they are implicitly saying, "white people like us don't live in the kind of places where poor brown or black people reside" It's part of the pure/impure binary common to most belief systems.
This critique has a long history in academia, of course, often at the expense of liberal, cosmopolitan "helping" projects such as international development assistance, universal human rights or international peacekeeping.
When leading US voices - including those of card-carrying liberals - criticize Trump and his supporters with the same racist tropes Trump himself uses, you know the underlying ideas are deeply engrained in our tacit view of the world.