Veteran philanthropist George Soros has been found making headlines of late, not for his generosity or gains in the foreign exchange market but rather for accusations that he is promoting violence in times of Black lives matter protests. The 90-year-old Soros, who is a survivor of the Holocaust, has been slammed by a number of influential people, including President donald trump, who called him an enemy of the people a few years ago. As per the Anti-Defamation League, Soros, whose philanthropic work is often alleged to be bribes to push his own personal agenda, has received a million tweets against him in one day which shows the kind of hate people harbor about him. Many of the tweets suggested that the man is behind the recent spate of protests in the US. The man also finds himself to be a target of anti-semitism and the Jews do not back him either.
But how did Soros come to be identified with America’s Antifa movement?
As unrest spread across cities in the US after another George Floyd faced a brutal death at the hands of police officers in Minneapolis in May, Soros faced accusations that he had been funding the protests against police brutality. The conspiracy theories claimed that he even hired protesters and buses to transport them to demonstration sites besides gathering bricks to target cops and engage in acts of vandalism. Though these claims had no evidence, the far-right joined the anti-Soros party, adding fuel to the tirade against the Hungarian-American billionaire on social media. As per Associated Press, the anti-Soros posts have also been accompanied by online ads bought by conservative groups that have sought an investigation against the man “for funding domestic terrorism and his decades-long corruption”. Soros has donated billions to liberal and anti-authoritarian camps around the planet and has often been targeted by the right.
Conspiracy theories against Soros are not new
This is not the first time that Soros has seen conspiracy theories targeting him. His practice of supporting liberal and democratic causes has made him unpopular with the right wing and it has invariably made him somebody acting in tandem with the Left. The first conspiracy theories about Soros surfaced in the early 1990s but it became a serious affair since he condemned the Iraq War of 2003 which was announced by then Republican administration of George W Bush. As Soros donated big money to the coffers of the Democratic Party, the right-wing camp started viewing him with more suspicion.https://bc2f11f3bfb423665cd0799653498238.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-37/html/container.html
The matter escalated after trump’s victory in 2016. In August 2017, when the Republican was just eight months into the office, clashes broke out between neo-Nazis and counter-protesters in Charlottesville, Virginia, which saw a White supremacist driving a car into a crowd killing a 32-year-old woman. The right-wingers at once claimed that the violence was organized and financed by Soros to tarnish the image of trump as a divisive president, according to a report in BBC. They also said that a man named Brennan Gilmore was key to the plot. He was said to have filmed the vehicle being driven into the counter protesters. Alex Jones, a right-wing radio host, claimed Soros paid Gilmore $320,000 a year and the latter was part of a deep conspiracy to derail trump. These claims could not be established, however. While it is true that Soros donated $500,000 to the political campaign of a Democratic candidate who ran for the governor’s post in Virginia in 2017 and for whom Gilmore had worked for, there was no proof that either Soros or his Open Society paid protesters at Charlottesville. Gilmore later took a legal step against Jones and others on grounds of defamation.https://bc2f11f3bfb423665cd0799653498238.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-37/html/container.html
The gap between Soros, who has also received a pipe bomb at his residence, and the right-wing camp has only widened since the 2017 clashes. In 2018, as thousands of migrants left Honduras to reach the US ahead of the midterm elections, Soros was blamed again. fox news claimed time and again that it was the entrepreneur who sought open borders and encouraged immigration. The BBC quoted Jack Kingston, a former Republican Congressman, as saying: “It is a very organised effort and somebody is behind this, somebody is paying for some of this and it would be typical of George Soros to get involved in that.” trump added to the claim by retweeting a video that claimed cash being distributed among people in Honduras to “storm the US border” and indirectly it was meant that Soros could be behind the act. While people traveled with the caravan did not agree, the video that trump retweeted was also found to be untrue.
There is no end to production of journalistic materials — be it through social media posts or online pieces — accusing Soros of backing Antifa and Black lives matter with an agenda. But fact-checking efforts have found that there is a difference between perception and reality. PolitiFact, which is run by the Poynter Institute, Florida, has put the claims against Soros against fact-checking to find that the content of truth is quite low in them. All the claims that he is equipping the protesters with rocks, providing them with transport facilities and funding the chaos have been clearly debunked. An image was also shared on Facebook linking Soros with the protesters. It appeared to show a tweet from pro-trump actor James Woods who often comments on current affairs on the social media. “This man funds #ANTIFA,” the text says above two photos — one of Soros and one of a younger man in an SS uniform said. “He is a real #NAZI. His name is George Soros.”https://bc2f11f3bfb423665cd0799653498238.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-37/html/container.html
No clear evidence over who funds Antifa
PolitiFact also said that there was no evidence that Soros has funded “Antifa” or “anti-facist”, which is a broad and loosely affiliated coalition of Left-wing activists. The trump administration has blamed Antifa for the recent protests across the US but government intelligence, media and experts didn’t come up with any evidence supporting the claim. Soros’s Open Society Foundations have rubbished allegations that the billionaire philanthropist funds Antifa. In a statement, the foundation said the false claims “touch on longstanding, often anti-Semitic conspiracy theories”. Even Fox, which is known to be a trump sympathizer and came up with a report in June about Antifa and who funds it, could not reach a conclusion that Soros or anybody funds it.https://bc2f11f3bfb423665cd0799653498238.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-37/html/container.html
When fox Business published a story in June about antifa and “who funds it”, the story noted that it’s a difficult question to answer. “Little is known about who funds antifa activists, or how the groups get their resources. Antifa is not a single organization, and therefore, financial details, if any exist, are murky,” the report said. Mark Bray, a historian at Rutgers University who wrote “Antifa: The Anti-Fascist Handbook,” told PolitiFact that the Facebook post reflects “an anti-Semitic conspiracy theory that the right has launched at all kinds of radical organizing over the years.” Bray also told fox Business: “The radical left is much bigger than antifa— much, much bigger — and the number of people who are participating in the property destruction are much, much bigger than the radical left.”
Soros has his enemies not only in the US but also on the other side of the Atlantic. In countries like the UK, Italy, Turkey and even Hungary, his birthplace where he has even set up a university, the man is disliked by the right-wing camp. They have created an image of Soros which makes him look like the mastermind of a “globalist” mision and a Left-wing radical who wants to challenge the White order. A counter-narrative to demonize the old man has hence started. However, the constant targeting of Soros shows that he is not a lightweight. Steve Bannon, trump’s former White House adviser, told The New York Times: “Soros is vilified because he is effective.” Bannon is instrumental in boosting a far-right movement across the US and in Europe and it shows how much the right is touched to build a counter narrative to Soros’s influence.
“I only hope one day I’m as effective as he has been — and as vilified,” Bannon even said.
Soros fought Communism censorship in past
Soros’s history, however, doesn’t show him to be a stubborn Left-winger. While the right-wing attackers call him “Nazi” or “AntiChrist”, Soros has in the past fled Soviet control in Hungary. At the London School of Economics, Soros was influenced by the teaching of Australian philosopher Karl Popper who wrote about the consequences of “open” and “closed” societies — something that went on to impact Soros’s behavior as an investor and philanthropist in the later years. While he is being dubbed as someone who sympathizes with the radical Left, Soros had in the past worked towards building democracy in eastern Europe that was behind the Iron Curtain of Communism. His foundations backed groups and individuals who wanted to see the end of the red rule, including the Solidarity and Charter 77 movements in Poland and erstwhile Czechoslovakia, respectively.
In Hungary, Soros aided the fight against government censorship and even sponsored dissidents’ education in the West. Current Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, who is a populist leader now criticizes Soros, was also among those who received the latter’s support in his younger days as a liberal activist.
Once the Cold War ended, Soros funded poor Soviet scientists in Russia, paid for free school breakfasts for children in Hungary and set up the Central European University that irked the Orban government. In the US, where Soros gained citizenship in the 1960s, his efforts won bipartisan praise. Unlike what it is today, the GOP saw Soros, who was an admirer of former president Ronald Reagan’s efforts to defeat Communism in eastern Europe, as a fellow freedom fighter, the NYT report added. As Soros’s activities gained prominence in Europe, the conspiracy theories also started taking shape. As the man started funding drug reform efforts in the US, “he started being cast in the 1990s as a central figure in a shadowy Jewish cabal by extremist figures such as the fascist presidential candidate Lyndon H laRouche Jr and allies of repressive Eastern European leaders who were targeted by groups funded by Mr. Soros,” the NYT report added.
Initially, the attacks on Soros were more limited to the anti-Semitic tone even though he has been accused of being critical of Israel in the past. But he was drawn into the political battleground once he donated millions to the Dems to see Bush defeated and thereafter, he has only grown as a symbol of radical Leftism in the eyes of the Republican of the trump era.No tags for this post.