‘Third World’ America’s First Felon? Trump Jr should wash his mouth out with soap

Rashmee Roshan Lall
3 min readMay 31, 2024

Why isn’t the so-called Global South making a noise about the “third world” slur that has been unnecessarily dragged into the debate over America’s First Felon, Donald Trump?

For those who aren’t au fait, Donald Trump Jr., the former president and First Felon’s eldest child, delivered a punchy defence of his father minutes after he was found guilty on 34 counts in the hush money trial.

The junior Trump’s defence of dad revolved chiefly around bad-mouthing the wider world, which he called the Third World. “The Democrats have succeeded in their years-long attempt to turn America into a third-world s-hole,” Mr Trump Jr. said in a statement to ABC News.

Geez. What brought on those fulminations? And why the “Third World” anyway? It’s kinda, sorta 1980s speak, when a second world, ie the Soviet bloc still existed and the first world seemed unimaginably rich and happy. Had Facebook existed at the time, the First World’s feed would’ve been an endless stream portraying perfect lives, perfect meals and perfect teeth.

The term Third World emerged in the 1950s when the Cold War was starting and a propaganda battle raged between western capitalism and Soviet socialism even as a clutch of decolonised countries stood outside either camp. In 1952, French demographer Alfred Sauvy wrote a piece on “Three worlds, one planet” in L’Observateur.

But the categorisation was always blurry other than a basic castigation of countries for being poor (and/or less than shining examples of democracy). In fact, historian B.R. Tomlinson argued in his 2003 Journal of Contemporary History essay “What Was the Third World” that it was a travesty to use so imprecise a term. He wrote: “Although the phrase was widely used, it was never clear whether it was a clear category of analysis, or simply a convenient and rather vague label for an imprecise collection of states in the second half of the 20th century and some of the common problems that they faced”.

As time moved on, the so-called First World itself did not show itself to be first in all measures. Stubborn pockets of poverty, lack of prospects and of hope exist in parts of the US and other western countries. White men in America are killing themselves in despair. Democratic decline is in view, not just in the US but in some parts of Europe.

Meanwhile, an attempt has been made to find other terms to refer to the so-called Third World.

First off, there came the worthy phrase “developing countries”.

Then the World Health Organisation started a data-based classification “low- and lower-middle-income countries”.

Each has had its problems, not least signifying a value judgement or not very much at all because it’s so imprecise.

Developing world suggests an hierarchy and the notion that building motorways and high-rises and consuming mass-market goods is the only metric of progress. As we now know, that’s hardly a sign of enlightenment!

And to say low- and lower-middle-income countries tells only part of the story. Countries in those categories are not homogenous. They too have regional or urban variations, just like the US, the UK or elsewhere. Consider this: Earlier this year, India’s business capital Mumbai became one of the world’s top 10 luxury real estate markets. But it also has Dharavi, the world’s biggest slum.

Now, the term “Global South” is in vogue and countries like India are embracing it. But that too is raising eyebrows — and questions.

Perhaps the best way forward then may be specificity rather than sweeping generalisations?

And for the junior Trump to wash his mouth out with soap.

Originally published at https://www.rashmee.com



Rashmee Roshan Lall

PhD. Journalism by trade & inclination. Writer. My novel 'Pomegranate Peace' is about my year in Afghanistan. I teach journalism at university in London