Our Linguistic Self-Defence Guide Against Antisemitism teaches people how to spot and resist manipulation when they come across antisemitic speech. We use real-life examples, detected by Get the Trolls Out monitors, and reveal the subtle rhetorical tricks that are typically employed to brainwash the public into hating and discriminating against Jewish people.
By Anna Szilagyi
Two family names come up frequently in Get the Trolls Out media monitoring: Soros and Rothschild. By referring to these, some speakers use an old rhetorical trick which allows them to voice anti-Jewish hatred and deny antisemitism at the same time.
This figure of speech is what rhetoricians in ancient Greece called synecdoche. Even if you have not heard of this trope before, it is very likely that you encounter and use it frequently in your daily life. Synecdoche makes it possible for us to talk about the whole by referring only to a part of it. For example, instead of “a person” (the whole), you can talk about “a face” (the part): “She saw many familiar faces at the concert.” Similarly, instead of “a car” or “a motorcycle” (the whole), you can refer to “wheels” (the parts). Or, instead of a “glass of wine” (the whole), you can simply say “a glass” (the part).
Although normally there is nothing special about using synecdoches, this trope can be misused. In antisemitic speech, for instance, synecdoche is a popular tool for manipulation. One among all: the reference to George Soros and members of the Rothschild family.
George Soros is a billionaire businessman. Members of the Rothschild family are also among the world’s wealthiest people. It is widely known that both Soros and the Rothschilds are of Jewish decent. Of course, their Jewish background does not automatically make antisemitic any criticism towards the business and other public activities of Soros and the Rothschilds. However, being affluent and influential individuals, the references to Soros and the Rothschilds can be misused. First of all, they may strengthen the clichés that all Jews are rich and powerful. Additionally, in antisemitic speech, Soros and the Rothschilds most often play the role of the part which stands for the whole (Jews in general). In this way, the references to Soros and the Rothschilds can function as synecdoches and reinforce different anti-Jewish stereotypes.
In Greece, a book has been published with the title “The Jewish-Zionist vampire Soros is thirsty for Greek blood." In this case, the synecdoche is combined with a ritual murder charge, a historically developed stereotypical accusation against Jews. Furthermore, the Greek far-right newspaper Eleftheri Ora , last December published an article with the headline: “Rothschild snatched our money”. Here, the reference to Rothschild reinforced the clichés of Jewish business-mindedness and fraudulence.
Another example comes from the UK: in November 2015, the Green Party’s foreign affairs spokesperson said in an interview: “There are British oil companies such as Genel Energy, run by Nathaniel Rothschild, one of George Osborne's friends, who are making money, who are buying oil from ISIS, who are putting money into the pot, allowing ISIS therefore to fuel their evil across the world.” In this false accusation, Nathaniel Rothschild stood for Jews in general, and the synecdoche supported the antisemitic cliché that Jews are criminal world conspirators.
This antisemitic stereotype is particularly often evoked by synecdoches which involve George Soros. Since the businessman provides significant financial support to political causes and civil society initiatives, the references to Soros often help evoke images of the rich and power-hungry Jew who engages in clandestine conspiratorial activities to manipulate, exploit, undermine, and destroy innocent communities. A recent mainstream Hungarian newspaper article, for example, argued that George Soros “took advantage of the good faith and naiveté of the European Union” to bring migrants to the EU.
If you say “face”, “wheels” or “glass”, people will perfectly understand that you actually mean “a person”, “a car”, or “a glass of wine”. If you say “Soros” and “Rothschild” and evoke antisemitic clichés, it will be similarly clear for many that you are actually talking about Jews in general. However, in such cases, the synecdoche protects from accusations of antisemitism as speakers can claim that they are not talking about Jews in general, but about Soros and Rothschild in particular.