George Soros is no angel but he is not quite the bogeyman many make him out to be.
By Alex Dew
After George Floyd’s murder, thousands of Americans took the streets to protest in the loudest and largest outcry for civil rights most of us have seen in our lifetimes. To many people, protesting made sense; after centuries of institutional racism against the Black community, this country had finally reached the boiling point. But a small group of far-right conspiracy theorists thought there was someone behind the curtain, someone with a liberal agenda, orchestrating the entire BLM movement. George Soros is now being accused of funding the BLM protests, setting up buses to transport protesters, and even stashing piles of bricks in protest areas to be used against police. Some even suggest that the billionaire Hungarian-American investor was in cahoots with the police to fake George Floyd’s death, a notion that just defies basic logic. Why would the Minneapolis police want to portray themselves using excessive force to kill someone, subjecting them to universal opprobrium?
This newest round of conspiracy theories is the latest in a long series of unfounded accusations levied against Soros by the right. A Jewish man and a major donor to liberal causes, Soros has often been described as the left’s answer to the Koch brothers, making him one of the right’s favorite targets. In 2018, he was accused of funding immigrant caravans and wrongly held responsible for violence at the U.S.-Mexico border. No evidence was ever found tying Soros to the caravans, but that didn’t stop Trump from egging on conspiracy theorists. Following these accusations, Soros found an envelope containing a pipe bomb in his mailbox, left there by a Florida man “obsessed” with Donald Trump who held Soros responsible for a myriad of alleged evils such as Pizzagate. Soros also was blamed for violence that erupted at the Charlottesville protests in 2017. Again, there was no evidence of a link. Along with Bill Gates, he’s become one of the far-right’s favorite scapegoats. And these notions are not just shared by weird guys who still live in their mom’s basements: Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has accused him of being the head of a Jewish conspiracy to “divide” and “shatter” Turkey, former Italian Prime Minister Matteo Salvini said that he was trying to inundate the country with migrants because “he loves slaves,” and Nigel Farage, head of the U.K.’s Brexit party, said he was behind the second referendum to stop Brexit.
The hate for Soros transcends countries, but where does it originate from? Soros made his billions shorting currencies, first coming to fame in 1992 as “The Man Who Broke the Bank of England” when he engineered a short sale of $12 billion British pounds. Soros profited $1 billion from the deal, and England was forced to withdraw from the European Exchange Rate Mechanism, devaluing the pound. He allegedly bet against the Thai baht in 1997, and soon after, the value of the currency crashed, and the entire region found itself in an economic crisis.
These deals made Soros very wealthy and gained him a lot of enemies, who blamed him for the economic upheaval following his short sales. The earliest conspiracy theories about Soros didn’t come from the right, but from leftists opposed to globalization. In 1999, economist Paul Krugman wrote: “Nobody who has read a business magazine in the last few years can be unaware that these days there really are investors who not only move money in anticipation of a currency crisis, but actually do their best to trigger that crisis for fun and profit. These new actors on the scene do not yet have a standard name; my proposed term is ‘Soroi.’” While the impact of short sales on national economies is undeniable, Soros’ track record of philanthropy undermines the theory that he would purposely undertake them in a sadistic quest for “fun.” Soros donates almost 80% of his net worth to his charity, the Open Society Foundations, a group of international charities that provide refugee aid and public health services, referred to as the “Deathstar” by Breitbart News. Further, while Soros’ actions clearly contributed to the Asian Financial Crisis and the British economic recession during the 1990s, numerous other factors have been named as causes. To say that he single-handedly drove these countries into recession is inaccurate — many economists have pointed to the Lawson Boom in England and the actions of the British government as causing the recession, and the Asian Financial Crisis was also preceded by a series of bubbles. While Soros may have accelerated the occurrences of economic downturns, he alone did not cause them.
Some take issue with his involvement in the fall of communism in Eastern Europe. Soros funded various dissident groups in Poland, Czechoslovakia, and numerous other countries in the Eastern bloc. In an ironic twist of fate, the fall of communism in these countries gave rise to nationalist movements that now consider him public enemy number one. His support for dissident groups in Eastern Europe is perhaps where the current rumors over Soros’ funding protesters come from. But unlike these activities, there is no evidence of Soros’ involvement in the BLM protests, the immigrant caravans, or the violence at Charlottesville.
In the era of Trump, it is believable that at least part of the vitriol towards Soros comes from anti-Semitism. Anti-Semitic attacks on him have come from everyone from the man who put a pipe bomb in his mailbox to the Prime Minister of Malaysia. The current conspiracy theories about Soros rarely reference his Judaism, but that’s not surprising, as The Atlantic writes: “Soros’ Jewish identity is rarely explicitly invoked by his antagonists, but it doesn’t need to be: Every invocation of his “cosmopolitanism” and his essential foreignness serves as a dog whistle for those who savor the lineage of those slurs.” Not only is he Jewish, but he is liberal, a combination that automatically makes him a target for the far right. Further, he is rich, which makes him dangerous to the conservative agenda and engenders more conspiracy theories and attacks.
The economic effects of Soros’ short sales are undeniably troubling, and the fall of communism in the Eastern European countries Soros pumped money into has had mixed results in terms of human rights. But his philanthropic work since then is worthy of note. He remains one of the only American billionaires to donate the majority of his net worth to charities. He’s a major funder of the Democratic Party and spent $27 billion dollars trying to prevent George W. Bush from winning the election. And it is exactly his philanthropy that makes him an enemy of the right. Not only does he support causes the rightwing does not believe in, but people living in the current economy struggling to survive are apt to regard any vast acts of giving as suspect. Of course, it is wise to read up on exactly what philanthropists are donating to, rather than automatically celebrating their giving. In doing so, though, it is crucial not to fall for the conspiracy theories that feed off of anti-Semitism, racism, economic upheaval, and the post-facts attitude created by the Trump Administration. Soros is obviously not the “bogeyman” made out by the right, but simply a human whose enormous wealth has enabled him to change the world in both negative and positive ways.
Editor’s note: testset is in no way affiliated with George Soros and has not received money from any of his organizations. However, if he would like to send some, we are more than happy to ‘purify’ his money for him.