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FREAK Shots: Who Are You Calling Third-World?

Blog reader Nick Turner sent along this photo of a Body Shop ad in San Francisco:


He was surprised that the ad guarantees fair-labor conditions for workers in Italy:

I thought fair-trade protections were for third-world workers. I
wonder how the Italians feel about this designation.

The ad didn’t outright call Italy third-world; but if it had, the country would likely have taken offense — as have other countries, states, and even cities:

Australian cricket player Mathew Hayden angered India’s Board of Control for Cricket when he called India “third-world.”

A travel agency’s “Third-World Tour” of Appalachia upset the region’s tourism directors.

And Rep. Tom Tancredo incited anger when he called Miami a “third-world country.”

Cultural anthropologist Philip Herbst calls the term a “catchall” that risks stigmatizing certain geographic areas. still lists it as a synonym for the less-loaded term “developing nation,” but the Urban Dictionary’s reader-generated definitions are outright derogatory.

Has “third-world” turned into an insult or can it still be politically correct?