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 used the events as an opportunity to unwittingly denigrate countries with lower per capita incomes and darker skinned inhabitants.

 

Consider journalist Leonard Greene, who responded to the January 6 events in the New York Daily News by saying, Welcome to America, a would-be third-world dictatorship. Or Republican Senator Marco Rubio, who Tweeted the same day that this is 3rd world style anti-American anarchy.

Liberals did the same thing, including Oregon democratic congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici, who described the Capitol events as something like a third-world country.

When people make references of this sort, they are basically doing the same thing Trump did when he said he didn’t want immigrants from “shithole countries.”

Trump’s term was vulgar, but when liberals use “third world” to refer to countries where conditions are horrendous, they aren’t behaving all that differently. Like Trump, they bifurcate the world into zones of impure savagery – places where others live – and zones of civilization, purer geographic spaces where “people like us” live.

This observation has a long history in academia, often at the expense of cosmopolitan projects such as international development assistance, human rights or peacekeeping.

When important US voices – including those of card-carrying liberals – make use of the same racist tropes Trump uses, you know the underlying ideas are deeply rooted.

This “third world” narrative operates subtly, lurking just beneath the surface of our conscious minds. As Azimuth Social Research advisor Ran Hassin has shown in experiment after experiment, the unconscious mind is a powerful force, fully capable of driving complex cognitive functions