US President Donald Trump promoted a conspiracy theory when responding to the protests against Supreme Court nominee (now confirmed) Brett Kavanaugh. The latter’s nomination to a judgeship has been strenuously opposed by women’s groups, because Kavanaugh faces claims of perpetrating sexual assaults. Trump, in dismissing the protesters, claimed that they have been paid by Hungarian-Jewish billionaire and philanthropist, George Soros.
It is interesting to note that Trump chose to deploy a George Soros conspiracy theory when defending his preferred nomination to the Supreme Court. Such conspiracy theorising, with Soros at the centre of a multifaceted sinister plot to manipulate global events, has been doing the rounds among the feverish swamps of the white supremacist Right for decades.
Trump was not the first Republican politician to use the “Soros paid them” trope to malign his critics. The conservative camp attacked the protesters who attended the March for Science, the feminist women in pink demonstrators – among others – as paid dupes of Soros-owned organisations.
Writing in the Al Jazeera article entitled “Who is George Soros?”, Patrick Strickland writes:
Alexander Reid Ross, author of Against the Fascist Creep, explained that “Soros conspiracies have always been a marker for the radical right as opposition to mainstream conservatism”.
Strickland says that:
Today, the 87-year-old billionaire, philanthropist and founder of the Open Society Foundations (OSF) NGO, is the favourite obsession of right-wing and far-right politicians, conspiracy theorists, white supremacists and neo-Nazis across Europe and North America.
From Charlottesville to Budapest, Soros has loomed in the rhetoric of leaders and controversial figures, replete with accusations placing the philanthropist behind everything from Black Lives Matter to migration.
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, a right wing anti-immigrant politician, blamed Soros for the influx of Syrian refugees in recent years, and accused Soros of orchestrating mass Muslim migration into Europe to dilute its Christian character. Orban has run anti-Semitic campaigns in Hungary, and has targeted Soros as the central villain in attempting to undermine Budapest’s authoritarian government.
In his election campaigning, Orban has spoken of immigration – particularly from Islamic nations – as an existential threat. Soros, Orban believes, is responsible for increasing such immigration in an effort to subjugate Hungary to the globalist New World Order. Orban has cleverly deployed Islamophobia and anti-Semitic themes in one hit. He compared his government’s struggle against the alleged Soros (Jewish) conspiracy as a defence of Hungarian sovereignty, similar in intent to the nationalistic struggles against the former Ottoman Turkish empire, the Hapsburgs, and the USSR.
Extreme right wing figures throughout Eastern Europe have advocated the Soros-puppet master conspiracy theory. Shaun Walker of the Guardian newspaper highlights that Soros has become a lightning rod for the conspiratorial-obsessed far right:
Not just in Hungary. In Romania, the chairman of the ruling Social Democratic party, Liviu Dragnea, said Soros and his organisations have “fed evil” in the country; while a Polish MP from the ruling conservative government has referred to Soros as “the most dangerous man in the world”. The US right has also joined in: in a semi-coherent rant, radio host and Donald Trump supporter Alex Jones claimed Soros heads a “Jewish mafia”.
How did George Soros become a lightning rod for conspiratorial theorising, and why is the white supremacist Right – known today as the Alternative Right – targeting him?
George Soros – the updated version of the anti-Semitic Rothschild conspiracy
The demonisation of Soros has its roots in the historic anti-Semitic conspiracy theories that have been recycled and promoted by the white conservative Right over the centuries. The template of a rich Jewish figure heading up a vast tentacular conspiracy, manipulating current events for direct profit is an old and long-standing tactic of the Right, particularly in times of economic and political crisis.
Spencer Ackerman, writing in the Daily Beast, states that the idea of an all-powerful Jewish financier manipulating political and economic events for financial profit has its origins in the atavistic European hatred – anti-Semitism. Soros is just the latest incarnation of this particular template of hate. In the nineteenth century, the role of Jewish manipulator was taken – in the anti-Semitic imagination – by Nathan Rothschild.
The latter, allegedly present at the Battle of Waterloo (he never was), rushed back to England, and deliberately lied to the London Stock Market that Wellington had been defeated. The stock market crashed, and Rothschild took advantage of the ensuing chaos to turn a profit. This fiction was put forward in an anti-Semitic pamphlet years after the events, and Nathan Rothschild had passed away. But the slur stuck, and it has been circulating for many years.
The nefarious Rothschild banking conspiracy has been debunked numerous times. All the elements of what has been a long-standing pattern of anti-Semitic theorising – a wealthy Jewish financier, using insider knowledge to manufacture a crisis, and leveraging that crisis to make a profit. Since the rise of European Christendom, the Jewish presence was regarded as alien – the eternal outsider taking advantage of cosmopolitan toleration in order to make money.
Anti-Semitic hatred evolved to respond to the changing political and economic circumstances of capitalism – the financial power of the everlasting Shylock could be used not only to explain the crises of capitalism, but also the rise of socialist and communist doctrines. The Russian Revolution of 1917 has attracted its fair share of conspiratorial fanatics – the Tsarist regime, undergoing a crisis, looked to its traditional scapegoat to blame, the Jews. As the Bolsheviks succeeded in Russia, the propaganda of anti-Semitic fanatics evolved to adapt their hate to the new circumstances, connecting Bolshevism to the universal bogeyman, international Jewry.
No less a figure than Winston Churchill, a scion of the English ruling class, believed that the Russian Revolution was the result of the sinister machinations of Jewish manipulation. He helped to provide credibility to the notion of an international cabal of Jewish financiers masterminding a vast conspiracy – only this time, it was not to strengthen capitalism, but to overthrow it. The Jewish financial conspiracy has metastasized from one of domineering capitalism to one of a Judeo-Bolshevik mutation.
Not every person who circulates George Soros conspiracy memes is a hateful bigot. In this day and age of social media, it is easy to share content that we do not necessarily fully understand. But make no mistake, the language, imagery and pattern of targeting George Soros are steeped in the bile of anti-Semitism. Portraying a powerful Jewish individual as a malign puppet master who manipulates the naive, and unsuspecting population for their own profit gives credence to the ancient prejudice.
Philanthropy and liberal capitalism
George Soros is well known for his philanthropy, and his Open Society organisation has promoted a version of liberal capitalism, primarily in the former Eastern bloc. Soros is not the only billionaire philanthropist – Warren Buffet, Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, Richard Branson, Elon Musk – billionaires promote their self-image by engaging in philanthropic endeavours around the world. They buy political influence, push their agendas in the corporate media, buy multi-million dollar advertising to spread their messages, and influence public political debates.
None of the aforementioned billionaires is targeted with such viciousness from the Alternative Right. It is Soros in particular who attracts the ire of the conspiratorial far right because of his Jewishness, and promotion of allegedly ‘left-wing’ causes. Soros has written books and articles advocating a ‘liberal capitalism’ of free markets and easier immigration within Europe. His criticisms of unrestrained capitalism, and his stance against what he sees as authoritarian regimes, has made him a particular hate figure of the ultra-right.
The current article has gone on for long enough, so it is time to conclude. However, the exploration of this subject is far from over.
In the next part, we will examine the role of Soros, the Open Society organisation, corporate philanthropy and how that relates to the financialisation of capitalism. The operation of hedge-fund capitalism, and the role of billionaires, can be examined without any reference to malign Jewish conspiratorial influence. Stay tuned.