German original text by Kira Ayyadi (to read, click here)
Billionaire and philanthropist George Soros is not only attacked by nationalists in Eastern Europe: Soros is said to be the head of a world-wide conspiracy for the oppression of the West by means of the presumed ethnic replacement of local populations.
The extreme right-wing scene – the so-called “new” right, the alt-right, conspiracy ideologists and similar anti-emancipatory movements – disagrees on many issues. In one point, however, they are united: George Soros is responsible for all evil in the world.
Since 2017 alone, Soros supposedly feigned a chemical attack in Syria, organised and financed protest marches in Washington, forced a change of government in Macedonia, kicked important advisors out of the White House, and instigated a civil war in France. And most importantly, the 87-year-old has been working on a secret plan of ethnic replacement of local populations for years. All of these are of course conspiracy narratives. But how did it come to the point that Soros is held responsible for all this? And why is it he of all people is attributed this overpowering role?
Of no minor importance is the Jewish ancestry of the philanthropist. It serves conspiracy ideologists internationally to anti-Semitically discredit him and his work of promoting democracy.
Soros’ philanthropic motivation
Soros was born in Budapest in 1930 to an educated Jewish family. During the holocaust, they managed to escape the deportations and extermination of the Nazis. In 1947, the 17-year-old Soros emigrated to England where he studied philosophy and political science at the London School of Economics. There, he did his PhD under the famous Viennese philosopher Karl Popper. His ideas of an open society deeply shaped the way of thinking of the young academic and provided the ideational foundation for his later political activism. In 1956, Soros settled in New York and worked as a financial investor on Wall Street. His career reached its climax in the 1990s when he successfully speculated against the British pound.
To this day, Soros supports transparency, democratisation, and liberalisation, and opposes any form of authoritarianism and nationalism. For many heads of government of the former Eastern bloc states, this is obviously bothersome. And thus, the baiting of the advocate for an open society does not only take place in isolated right-wing and anti-emancipatory bubbles but also on the international stage. Here, it has to be pointed out that criticism of Soros’ actions and those of his organisations are of course not antisemitic per se. It “becomes antisemitism when anti-Jewish stereotypes are used in an open or encoded fashion. In relation to Soros, the antisemitic myth of the ‘Jewish world conspiracy’ is brought up in most cases. It is claimed that he is pulling the strings behind the scenes and is thus responsible for all evil in the world,” explains Jan Rathje, expert on the topic of conspiracy ideologies at the Amadeu Antonio Foundation in Germany.
Right-wing politicians draw on antisemitic conspiracies
For instance, Soros – born in Hungary – is an “enemy of the people,” declared the Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán at one point. During the election campaign in spring 2018, Orbán predestined the billionaire to be his most important political opponent – in place of a local opposition. The hate campaign against Soros and his dedication eventually went so far that the office of the Soros foundation was moved from Budapest to Berlin. Time and again, the investor is accused of intentionally throwing individual countries into turmoil by means of his financial support for civil society organisations.
After the fall of the iron curtain, Soros began to establish institutions in the countries of the former Eastern bloc. They were meant to help provide structures for young democracies. What initially started modestly with books, film subsidies, photocopiers, and scholarships – one of the scholarship holders was Viktor Orbán of all people – turned into one of the biggest political aid programmes led by a private person. Until the “Open Society Foundation” was eventually founded.
However, hatred against Soros is not only stirred up in the Balkan states. In Austria, too, high-ranking politicians of the FPÖ party spread antisemitic conspiracy narratives against the US citizen. The same goes for the far-right scene in Germany: Pegida, neo-nazis, the so-called “new right,” and parts of the Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) party all accuse Soros of being responsible for the influx of migrants in Germany. What unites them is the ridiculous delusion that Europe’s native population is going to be replaced by (Islamic) migrants. According to this, people are migrating almost solely due to a secret mission – one that is controlled by Soros.
Soros’ strident criticism of George W. Bush and his invasion of Iraq ultimately also turned him into a persona non grata among Republicans in his adoptive country. Since then, he has also become a target in the USA. According to Jan Rathje, “George Soros was grouped within the antisemitic myth with the Rothschild family. It might be the case that his social commitment fits well with the enemy stereotype of the “gutmensch” [do-gooder].” Hence, it is not surprising that especially Trump supporters, the alt-right, and conservative to extreme right-wing media chose Soros to be their bogeyman.
For instance, in a three-hour long special which aired in 2010 on 9 November of all days, Glenn Beck – former star at the conservative US-American TV channel Fox News – called Soros a devious “puppet master.” With his money, he supposedly manipulated unions, the president, indeed entire states, with the aim of creating a secret world government, reaping “obscene profits,” and bringing “America to her knees.” The TV baiter further claimed that Soros’ mother had been ashamed to be Jewish. Allegedly, disguised as a Christian boy, her son helped to kill Jews in fascist Hungary. It is a well-established antisemitic narrative that Jews themselves were responsible for the holocaust.
What exactly are the accusations against Soros?
Worldwide, nationalists accuse Soros of spreading chaos globally and destabilising states and regions in order to make financial gains. “Most everywhere Soros, and his investments, and his foundations have gone, trouble soon follows. For all intents and purposes, he is a one-man Illuminati machine,” claims the far-right YouTuber Black Pigeon Speaks in his video titled “George SOROS: The One-Man Illuminati Machine.”
For many right-wing as well as left-wing conspiracy ideologists, Soros is considered to be a symbol of a greedy financial elite that seeks profit regardless of the consequences. Furthermore, he is believed to be the head of the “New World Order” (NWO) – the alleged conspiracy regarding the subjugation of humankind by a totalitarian world government which is being controlled by the global elite. For conspiracy ideologists, the NWO is the evil master plan that underlies all conspiracy narratives.
The “Soros Plan?”
At the end of 2017, Viktor Orbán carried out a public opinion poll to assess the population’s opinion of the “Soros Plan.” Among other things, the Hungarians were asked whether migrants should receive milder punishments for criminal offences and whether European languages and cultures should be diluted in order to alleviate the integration of illegal migrants.
However, there is no such plan. It is true that Soros is a generous sponsor of refugee aid agencies and that he supports the EU’s plan of resettling Syrian refugees within the entire union, including Hungary. Nevertheless, conspiracy ideologists seem to find evidence for the “Soros Plan” in statements made by the billionaire regarding the European migration movement. And Orbán’s government, too, refers to citations by Soros made in different articles at different times that were taken out of context.
Indeed, Soros criticises the European refugee policy as chaotic. In the fall of 2015, at the height of the European migration movement, Soros suggested an annual intake of a million refugees. The following year, when the numbers declined considerably, via the website “Project Syndicate,” he advocated for a fixed quota of 300,000 refugees that EU states should admit each year. With a sufficient quota, real asylum seekers would have ample chances to be admitted, according to Soros. For this reason, they would not attempt to immigrate illegally. In that text, the billionaire states that the numbers of refugees would not diminish in the coming years. Among other things, he identifies the reasons for this to be the population decline in Europe, a strong population growth in Africa, and climate change. Conspiracy ideologists consider this to be evidence that Soros pursues the evil plan of the creation of a new world order.
After all, conspiracy ideologists believe that Soros is currently destabilising Europe by significantly facilitating and supporting the migration movement in the EU in order to implement the NWO. With this, Christianity is meant to be expunged from or at least suppressed within Europe and with it the “white, Christian race.” It is therefore unsurprising that Soros is portrayed as the personification of evil in many comment sections, memes, and videos. Some even believe that he did a deal with the devil. For others, he is the devil himself.
Old antisemitic clichés are transferred onto Soros
Already in early Christianity, “the Jews” were called the agents of evil and the allies of the “Antichrist.” With this role, Jews were held responsible for all sorts of crimes and depravities of the world. They were accused of secretly working against Christianity. They were considered to be evil incarnate.
Today, conspiracy ideologies always build upon dualistic world views: the good guys are fighting the bad guys (and in between are the ignorant). When it comes to naming the evil working in the shadows, societies with latent antisemitism will point to those characteristics which already marked Jews as the “agents of evil” in the past. Due to the historical formation of the stereotypical image of the Jews, some of these characteristics are considered to be synonymous with characteristics of evil. In other words, the labelling of the evil world conspirators is only one step removed from concretely identifying “the Jews.” In the case of Soros, this is pretty easy – after all, he is Jewish.
*Image descriptions (in order of appearance in article):
- Soros is a generous sponsor of refugee aid agencies and also supports the plan of the EU to resettle Syrian refugees within the union. (Source: picture alliance / AP Photo)
- The AfD, too, is spreading conspiracy narratives about Soros. Source: Screenshot Miro Dittrich.
- The manipulative “puppet master” who pulls the strings from behind the scenes is an age-old antisemitic cliché. Source: Screenshot YouTube.
- “George Soros is a Zionist. The Zionists want to enslave the world with their system of monetary interest.” – one of the more harmless comments under a German translation video of the Black Pigeon Speaks original. Source: Screenshot YouTube.
- Often, Soros is portrayed as a “reptoid.” Source: Screenshot.