George Soros name appears on their lips at odd moments, an epithet, a meme, an insider story meant to convey suspicion and evil conspiracy. “Those protestors were paid by George Soros. Soros bussed them in!” McMorris Rodgers tosses out “George Soros” in a debate with Lisa Brown, implying evil. About half the audience applauds, and it flies over the head of the other half.
The local king of wing nut conspiracy theory, Matt Shea (R, Legislative District 4, Spokane Valley and points north) [the bold is mine] asked on his podcast:
…if groups like Latinx advocacy organization UnidosUS (formerly La Raza) were working together with protest groups like Antifa and Black Lives Matter, [he] claimed that these groups were also cooperating with other groups and were funded by the billionaire George Soros. ‘They are working together, it’s happening. They are very well connected through their networks, and their networks generally lead back to one George Soros, as you know,’ he said.
George Soros has become the all-purpose boogyman for a broad range of nationalists, anti-immigration zealots,and right wing conspiracy theorists, Very few of these people have any idea of this man’s life and passions.
George Soros is wealthy, influential with a complicated life history. He is now 88 years old. Born in Budapest, Hungary, in 1930 into a non-observant Jewish family. As a teenager he survived the Nazi occupation of Hungary posing as the Christian godson of a collaborationist Hungarian government official (whose wife was jewish and in also hiding from the Nazis). (One of the gross distortions of Soros’ history labels him a “Nazi.” That’s how crazy the stories have become.) After the war Soros and his family made their way to England, where young George Soros attended the London School of Economics. There he earned a Bachelor of Science in philosophy in 1951, and a Master of Science in philosophy in 1954.
At age twenty-four in 1954, he set forth on a career in finance and banking in London, starting as a clerk in a merchant bank. He moved from London to New York in 1956, taking a position as an arbitrage trader. Eventually he accumulated a peak net worth of around 26 billion dollars through decades of hedge fund management. The arcane details can be combed through by visiting the wikipedia article and branching out from there. Some of his financial efforts were internationally controversial, especially his “shorting the pound” (the English pound sterling) in 1992, allowing Soros and his investors to take advantage of currency markets to make several billion pounds at the expense of the Bank of England. The “1992 pound short” made Soros internationally (in)famous, leaving a residual in the popular consciousness that would later be useful in making him into a target.
Soros’ investment fund management and wealth accumulation are also a convenient fit for a conspiracy theory that has been around for centuries. I was introduced to the “Rothschild conspiracy” as a teenager, the concept that a jewish cabal (in the relatively recent version, lead by the Rothschild family), control world governments through their manipulation of international banking. The section entitled “Economic Anti-Semitism” in the wikipedia article on “Antisemitism” is a must read for more background.
So that is Soros background that makes him a convenient target. Why is he a political target for the Christian and Far Right?
Soros, having personally experienced the Nazi occupation of Hungary as a boy, is an outspoken critic of totalitarian governance. He has used his considerable wealth to foster the growth and preservation of democracy. He opposed and opposes the autocratic regimes of the U.S.S.R., China, and modern day Russia. He supported the Solidarity movement in Poland, led by Lech Walesa in 1980 and the Chapter 77 movement pushing for free society in Czechoslovakia in the 1980s, In 1984, he founded his first Open Society Institute in Hungary with a budget of $3 million, the first of a number of Open Society Foundations around the world. Among the expenditures of the Open Society Foundation in the last 20 years are “$2.9 billion to defend human rights, especially the rights of women; ethnic, racial, and religious minorities; drug users; sex workers; and LGBTQ communities.” Are you beginning to understand why the religious right is anxious to demonize this man?
As was pointed out in The Business Insider by Veronica Bondarenko, Soros, as a wealthy, politically active liberal, stands out because there are so few uber-wealthy liberals. The right wing, libertarian wealthy are far more numerous and far more secretive, including the Koch brothers, James Mercer, the Bradleys, the Uhleins, the Mercers (James in particular), and the DeVoses, to name only a few. Possessing the wealth, they are inclined to invest their money in foundations and political causes that will defend it.
Keep to the high ground,
P.S. Note: Soros peak fortune, estimated at 26 billion, pales in comparison to the Koch brothers. Their combined fortune is estimated at 99.6 billion. The Koch’s money is further leveraged politically by an the extensive network of Libertarian/Republican donors they have assembled (as detailed by Jane Mayer in “Dark Money.” For more on “Dark Money” see below in the Reference box.)