A few days ago, the news featured an exchange between Trump adviser Stephen Miller* and CNN White House reporter James Acosta, in which Miller dismissed Acosta's questions as evidence of "cosmopolitan bias." (Cosmopolitan, by the way, means "familiar with and at ease in many different countries and cultures," as opposed to provincial or nationalist.) For much of America, the story came and went. Neo-Nazis and the alt-right erupted with glee. Those of us with somewhat longer memories, especially those whose families perished or narrowly escaped either the Holocaust or the pogroms of the early 20th Century, or Stalin's persecution of Jews (among others), we were horrified.
"Cosmopolitan" is a coded insult, aimed at Jews (and others), in much the same way veiled references to The Protocols of the Elders of Zion (a document now proven to be forged, used to drum up animosity against Jews in pre-Revolutionary Russia and then Nazi Germany and still circulated in alt-right circles today) or white hoods and burning crosses are.
Jeff Greenfield of Politico provides some historical background:
One reason why “cosmopolitan” is an unnerving term is that it was the key to an attempt by Soviet dictator Josef Stalin to purge the culture of dissident voices. In a 1946 speech, he deplored works in which “the positive Soviet hero is derided and inferior before all things foreign and cosmopolitanism that we all fought against from the time of Lenin, characteristic of the political leftovers, is many times applauded.” It was part of a yearslong campaigned aimed at writers, theater critics, scientists and others who were connected with “bourgeois Western influences.” Not so incidentally, many of these “cosmopolitans” were Jewish, and official Soviet propaganda for a time devoted significant energy into “unmasking” the Jewish identities of writers who published under pseudonyms.
Greenfield focuses on the way the term has been used to target anyone suspected of not putting nationalistic loyalty above all. The word "cosmopolitan" implies citizenship and loyalty not to any one nation but to a global community. In Trump's highly divisive world-view, anything that detracts from lock-step patriotism (and personal loyalty to him, has he has demanded of his nominees) amounts to treason. But let us not forget that this was yet another tactic in the underlying persecution of Jews. The "canary in the mine" warning of impending crackdown on anyone who dares to think, speak, or belief in ways that threaten the tyranny of the administration may be Jews this time. Or blacks or transgender people. Or immigrants or Muslims. Make no mistake, an attack against one is an attack against us all.
Terms like "cosmopolitan" serve as a surrogate identity test, separating "us" from "them," the "us-we-can-count-on" who are "just-like-us" versus the "them-who-don't-conform." In the way Miller used the term, it was also an ad hominem argument. That's the "you're only saying this because you are/believe x" method of invalidating another's opinion. It doesn't address the issue itself, it discredits the speaker instead. Even without the history of the term "cosmopolitan," such a response from a government official would be outrageous. It is a mark of the breakdown of civil discourse that a reporter's question be negated by such tactics.
This administration has become notorious for its scorn and animosity for the press. It is by far not the first to be the object of scathing editorials and even more devastating investigative journalism. But always before there has been a recognition of the essential role of journalism in a thriving democracy. In 1954, President Dwight D. Eisenhower declared that "no institution is more necessary to our way of life than a free press." Trump, through his surrogate, has placed his own vanity above the health of the nation's political life. Now journalists' questions are not only an affront to his self-image, they are at risk of becoming the brands of treason. Not to the United States or its people, but to a petty child aspiring to be Stalin's pale echo.
In summation -- Do we really want the representative of the President of the United States using the same hate speech that Stalin did?
*Stephen Miller is now also under consideration for White House communications director.