Who’s Afraid of George Soros?
- May 14, 2019
There was a time, many years ago, when I knew of George Soros as the billionaire who made a billion from speculating on the Pound during ‘Black Wednesday’ in 1992. Since then I’ve often came across his name as a philantrophist associated with various progressive liberal and pro-democratic causes, and I once applied for a grant from his Open Society to write my book Fortress Europe ( Spoiler alert: I didn’t get it).
In an ideal world, issues such as democratic transparency, the empowering of civil society, migrant rights, developing independent media and social justice should not be dependent on the largesse of billionaire philanthropists, regardless of their intentions. But we are very far from an ideal world, and I can’t help thinking that a man who is loathed so universally by so many loathsome people and institutions must be doing something right.
Because there is no doubt that George Soros is loathed, across a spectrum that includes mainstream politicians like Trump, Salvini and Nigel Farage, rightwing media outlets and shock jocks like Glenn Beck and Alex Jones, and the Nazi Daily Stormer website.
All these groups and individuals have found Soros responsible for a range of evil acts. Soros has been held responsible for funding Black Lives Matter and the Ferguson protests – an allegation that translates in rightspeak to ‘funding hate’ or ‘funding riots’.
Soros has also been accused of staging the Charlottesville protests as a ‘false flag’ operation; of paying protesters to oppose the nomination of Brett Kavanagh; of seeking to destroy America, Europe, western civilisation, and Christianity in order to bring about ‘white genocide.’
In his native Hungary Soros has been the target of a vicious campaign by Viktor Orban’s ruling Fidesz Party, which has depicted him as the enemy of the Hungarian nation. In an interview with Austrian television Vladmir Putin denied Russian interference in US elections and told his interviewer to pay more attention to Soros as a ‘man who interferes in countries all over the world’.
Such accusations have made Soros the object of memes like this:
There is no record that Soros said any such thing. And if he actually thought such a thing he would have been very stupid indeed to say it in public. Though some groups connected to the Ferguson protests have received monies from the Open Society, these donations clearly do not correlate with ‘funding riots’ or ‘funding hate’.
Such hatred is partly due to the Open Society’s liberal ethos and the progressive causes it supports, and there is also the fact that Soros is Jewish. The depiction of Soros as the great puppetmaster, using his vast wealth to orchestrate world events, echoes older and well-established antisemitic tropes.
In polite discourse ‘Soros’ has become a kind of dog whistle code for ‘Jew’. This is what Viktor Orban’s government did in 2017, when it published posters exhorting Hungarians ‘not to let Soros have the last laugh’.
Further out on the fringes, the references are clearer. Far-right social media and websites teem with antisemitic references to Soros’s Jewishness. Last year posters circulating on US campuses included Soros amongst other Jews supposedly opposing Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court:
In October last year the main public broadcasting service in the Netherlands NOS NIEWS was forced to apologise after posting an article on its website referring to ‘The Jew Soros [who] supports organizations openly critical of governments and has tentacles’ in U.S. politics:
Prominent Jewish supporters of Israel have also referenced these ‘tentacles.’ In 2017, Yair Netanyahu posted the following image on Facebook, depicting Soros as the manipulator pulling the strings on his parents’ critics and political opponents.
No one should be entirely surprised that the son of the prime minister of Israel was praised by the KKK and the neo-Nazi Daily Stormer for sharing an antisemitic trope. That same year Benjamin Netanyahu himself supported Hungary in its campaign against Soros, and accused him of ‘continuously undermining Israel’s democratically elected governments,’ through the Open Society’s donations to the human rights group B’Tselem and the anti-occupation group Breaking the Silence.
Such unlikely interactions are another indication of the convergence between hard Zionism and the far-right in recent years. As a wealthy liberal philanthropist, Soros embodies everything the right detests. At the same time, the depictions of Soros belong to a tradition that Richard Hofstadter once observed in his seminal essay on the ‘paranoid style’ in American politics.
Hofstadter noted how the conservative/hard-right ‘paranoid’ imagination thrives on grand conspiratorial narratives that present historical events as the product of a ‘vast and terrifying enemy’ that was secretly controlling and orchestrating them. For Hofstadter:
The enemy is clearly delineated: he is a perfect model of malice, a kind of amoral superman—sinister, ubiquitous, powerful, cruel, sensual, luxury-loving. Unlike the rest of us, the enemy is not caught in the toils of the vast mechanism of history, himself a victim of his past, his desires, his limitations. He wills, indeed he manufactures, the mechanism of history, or tries to deflect the normal course of history in an evil way. He makes crises, starts runs on banks, causes depressions, manufactures disasters, and then enjoys and profits from the misery he has produced.
This is how Jews have often been depicted, and it is also how Soros is routinely depicted. This is why Trump’s lawyer Rudy Guliani described Soros as the ‘anti-Christ’ last year because he was supposedly paying the protesters who objected to Brett Kavanagh’s nomination.
It’s why the notorious Islamophobic neocon Frank Gaffney nonsensically observed that ‘The decades-long record of this billionaire financier and philanthropist…is one of such malevolence and destruction that he must at a minimum be considered the Antichrist’s right-hand man.’ It’s why the Center for American Security talks of ‘ George Soros’ truly demonic predations’.
On Sunday, the Observer listed various interviews and speeches from our own rancid national treasure Nigel Farage in a similar vein, in which Farage told Infowars’ Alex Jones that Soros was ‘in many ways the biggest danger to the western world’ and accused him of wanting ‘ to break down the fundamental values of our society and, in the case of Europe, he doesn’t want Europe to be based on Christianity’.
All this is barking gibberish. Farage was accused of recycling antisemitic tropes, and given that he once marched alongside the National Front’s Martin Webster in his youth, this would not be a startling discovery.
It would be a mistake however, to attribute such nonsense is an indication of antisemitism alone. For Farage, and for so many of his contemporaries, Soros has become the iconic ‘globalist’ – a powerful actor in an utterly evil conspiracy, in which powerful Jewish financiers, cultural Marxists, migrants, are all colluding to destroy the nation-state, the white race, Christianity or western civilisation.
Like the Illuminati, Jacobinism, the Jesuits, Freemasonry, Communism – and the Elders of Zion – ‘globalism’ has become a way of understanding world events and world history as the product of a dreadful conspiracy.
In transforming ‘Soros’ into the central character in this narrative, such theories offer a new version of Hofstadter’s ‘vast and terrifying enemy’ to be feared and hated – and a useful rallying cry for an array of cynical and downright disreputable agendas.
It’s a dirty, reckless and irresponsible game, but that’s the game that people like Farage and Orban are playing, and the sooner we realise it the better, because in the end the demonisation of George Soros tells us far more about the movement responsible for it than it does about Soros himself.