Donald Trump says "global special interests." Anti-Semites in the alt-right hear "Jews."
Even for Donald Trump, his Thursday speech in Palm Beach, Florida, was remarkable. He said the allegations that he sexually abused women were entirely false. He was defiant, lashing out at a myriad of groups — the media, banks and the political system — which he says the Clintons have helped to rig against him.
But a phrase forgettable to the untrained ear cropped up midway through Trump's speech: "global special interests."
Thursday was not the first time Trump put that phrase in a campaign event or statement. Trump said it in at least one different campaign rally last month. When Trump's campaign responded to a New York Times story, it accused the newspaper of being an extension of Clinton's "global special interests." His campaign even tweeted the term last month:
Trump's use of the phrase is not especially frequent. But its use throughout scripted campaign materials raises questions. In the alt-right corner of the internet, whose rabid followers swap racist and anti-Semitic conspiracy theories and rig polls in Trump's favor, "global special interests" and similar terminology are code for "Jews."
For the alt-right, a newly emboldened far-right fringe movement in America, "global special interests" denotes a belief among white supremacists, anti-Semites and other fringe conservatives that a secret Jewish cabal is leading a covert campaign to control the world.
At some level, Trump's Thursday speech jived with that worldview:
After his speech, as they have in the past, some of Trump's alt-right supporters — the Pepe the Frog avatars make them easy to spot — picked up on the language.
The ADL weighs in.
"It's tough to say that Trump explicitly used certain terms as a dog whistle for alt-right and white supremacists," said Oren Segal, director of the Anti-Defamation League's Center on Extremism. "Whether or not he intended it, this will be a field day for those folks."
Trump's use of language and symbols used by white supremacists and other hate groups is nothing new. Remember the "sheriff's star" meme he tweeted to call Clinton the "most corrupt candidate ever"? Like that Star of David, the references can be easy to miss. Trump can plausibly deny that this is just a phrase he's using to attack Clinton, not an attempt to rile up white supremacists.
But regardless of Trump's intentions, hate groups have noticed his messages.
"It's frankly another example of why the alt-right and white supremacists have been so vocal about their support for Trump," Segal said. "The gates have been opened."
A brief history of anti-Semitic "globalization" theories
Anti-Semites have long held a belief that members of the Jewish faith have a plan to rule the globe. The idea was first widely popularized in the 1903 book The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, a text disseminated as fact by the Nazis. Hitler argued people of the Jewish faith aimed to dominate the world and in the process, helped bring down Germany's economy.
As globalization has moved some American jobs overseas, a key issue of Trump's campaign, trade and travel between countries has become more open. Meanwhile, supporters of the alt-right, a term for believers in extreme conservative conspiratorial or bigoted ideologies, have argued this system has been pushed by "Jews."
As one supporter of this ideology posted on Reddit, people of the Jewish faith aim to use globalization of the world economy to "enslave" all races. "Hitler was the last chance. He failed. It's over," the commenter wrote. Noted Donald Trump supporter and white supremacist David Duke has a section of his website devoted to tracking the idea that a Jewish globalism movement is taking over the world.
"Images of Jewish people as being 'rootless' and 'globalized' hearken back to ideas of 'international banking' and other conspiracy theories," wrote Paul Musgrave, a political science professor at University of Massachusetts Amherst who follows alt-right conspiracy theories, in an email. "These ideas are contrasted with the rooted, solid, natural, traditional notions that nationalists — or racists or any other type of essentialists — ascribe to 'their own kind.'"
Trump and anti-Semitic trigger language
"Global special interests" are not the only references to globalization Trump has made. The Republican's campaign has been built around the premise that the U.S. must become more isolationist, skeptical of trade agreements and less open to foreigners.
While Trump has experienced a recent slump in the polls, his message has resonated with tens of millions of Americans. And while white Americans who have less interaction with people of other ethnicities are more likely to be Trump supporters, there is nothing to support a claim that any substantial number of Trump supporters are racist. (In September, Hillary Clinton called "half" of Trump supporters a "basket of deplorables," a comment she quickly apologized for.)
But there is no doubt Trump's platform and language has excited a small but vocal subset of the population: "Haters," as Segal calls them. "We want people to be careful about how they use their public platform and the language that they use," he said. "Alt-right types have felt particularly emboldened over the past several months."
What the new wave of hate looks like in 2016
Journalists are facing an unprecedented wave of anti-Semitic tweets, as noted in detail by a New York Times reporter who was the target of this hatred. Alt-right supporters of Trump have interpreted his language to mean he supports their mission to expose Jewish influence on the western world and to turn its nations into a utopia for the white race. Trump has defended his use of anti-Semitic symbols, even when he claimed they were used unintentionally, to the glee of his alt-right supporters.
"Regardless of what ends up happening on Election Day, I don't think that those white supremacist types are going to all of a sudden stop trying to gain attention to their ideology," Segal said. "I don't think there's an end game in terms of a need to combat their ideas."