The spread of these ideas has helped shore up violence against people for a very long time.
Brewminate Editor Note: This article was written yesterday. Today, the FBI is investigating explosive devices sent to CNN, the Clintons, the Obamas, John Brennan, and Gov. Mark Cuomo.
A law enforcement official confirmed that the device was found near Mr. Soros’s home. It did not explode on its own, and bomb squad technicians “proactively detonated” it, the official said.
Soros, the billionaire philanthropist who supports civil society efforts and progressive-minded groups around the world, is the right’s favorite bogeyman, both in the U.S. and abroad. And as the midterm elections draw closer, his name is on the lips of President Trump and his supporters on the right, who spin phantasmagorical tales of his purportedly tentacled power, and cast him as the source of all evil.
Recent attacks against Democrats that invoke Soros’ name include assertions that he funded the protesters who flooded Capitol Hill during the final confirmation hearing of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, and the assertion, apparently plucked from thin air, that Soros is funding the caravan of migrants from Honduras and Guatemala who are walking to the United States in order to escape violence in their native countries.
Some of the wild allegations against Soros by right-wing figures echo the sort of tropes used against the Jewish communities of Europe throughout the modern age, as laid out in the fraudulent “Protocols of the Elders of Zion,” which first appeared in Russia at the end of the 19th century—around the time of early rounds of anti-Jewish pogroms in Russia and Eastern Europe. The spread of these ideas helped shore up Adolf Hitler’s genocide of Europe’s Jews, a fact of which Soros—a Holocaust survivor—is likely quite aware.
The ‘Puppeteer’ Trope
A campaign ad launched on Facebook against Andrew Gillum, the Florida Democratic gubernatorial candidate, by the Florida Strong political action committee (which took for itself the name of an existing Democratic organization in order to sow confusion, the Democrats allege), depicts Soros as Gillum’s “puppeteer,” employing a variation on the old anti-Semitic “puppet master” trope used against Jews for the last century. Shown in the ad as a fellow “puppeteer” is Tom Steyer, a billionaire who has contributed heavily efforts to elect Gillum, whose Jewish father was a prosecutor in the Nuremberg trials.
Anti-Gillum PAC ran an…interesting ad on Facebook over the weekend, targeted at Florida women. pic.twitter.com/OrwkKtcqmm
— Kevin Roose (@kevinroose) October 22, 2018
(Media Matters reports that Harris Media, the agency that made the ad, has been working with some of the far-right parties of Europe, including anti-Muslim ads for Alternatives fur Deutschland [AfD], the nationalist party implicated in the anti-Muslim riots in Chemnitz, Germany, this summer.)
The Soros-as-the-source-of-all-evil narrative has been kicking around for a while on the right (just look at RWW archives), but it’s kicked up to a higher level since the dawn of the Trump administration, and has been appropriated by such personalities as Fox News Channel host Tucker Carlson, who in April opened a segment of his eponymous show by claiming that Soros harbors an “anti-American agenda.”
In the U.S., the Soros-as-leftist-demon narrative was once relegated to the outer reaches of the right, such as Alex Jones’ InfoWars channel. (Jones claimed that Soros and Hillary Clinton instigated the violence conducted by neo-Nazis and white nationalists in Charlottesville, Va., last year in the aftermath of the police shutdown of the “Unite the Right” rally that had been planned there.) But now it’s entered into what passes for polite company these days.
The ‘Paid Protesters’ Trope
Today, it’s not just right-wing media that have picked up the theme, it’s national figures in the Republican Party—including President Donald Trump who, on October 5, suggested that those who came to the U.S. Capitol to protest Kavanaugh’s nomination were paid by Soros.
It began with Sen. Charles Grassley of Iowa who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee. In a clip posted at The Forward, Fox Business Channel host Maria Bartelromo asked the senator what he made of allegations that Soros paid the protesters, Grassley replied:
“I have heard so many people believe that. I tend to believe it,” the Iowa senator said in response to his thoughts on the Soros rumor in an interview with Fox News. “It fits in his attack mode and how he uses his billions and billions of resources.”
Trump might have been watching, because he soon chimed in on Twitter with the same allegation: “Paid for by Soros and others.”
The very rude elevator screamers are paid professionals only looking to make Senators look bad. Don’t fall for it! Also, look at all of the professionally made identical signs. Paid for by Soros and others. These are not signs made in the basement from love! #Troublemakers
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 5, 2018
The Caravan King Trope
But over the last week, the Soros-bashing has taken a new turn, after U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., charged that Soros was funding the “caravan” of migrants from Honduras and Guatemala who are walking to the United States to escape violence in their native countries, a claim he backed up with mislabeled video of migrants he was trying to depict as being recruited in Honduras to join the caravan. In truth, the video showed people who were already part of the migrant group at a stop in Guatemala, where local people were providing assistance. Gaetz breathlessly tweeted: “BREAKING: Footage in Honduras giving cash 2 women & children 2 join the caravan & storm the US border @ election time. Soros? US-backed NGOs? Time to investigate the source!”
BREAKING: Footage in Honduras giving cash 2 women & children 2 join the caravan & storm the US border @ election time. Soros? US-backed NGOs? Time to investigate the source! pic.twitter.com/5pEByiGkkN
— Rep. Matt Gaetz (@RepMattGaetz) October 17, 2018
The next day, Trump incorporated Gaetz’s video into a tweet of his own.
In its debunking of Gaetz’s claim, the website Snopes noted, “This tweet was replete with factual inaccuracies and baseless accusations.”
Nevertheless, Pat Robertson was happy to advance the story, telling viewers of the Christian Broadcasting Network’s “The 700 Club,” that the Justice Department must investigate Soros for allegedly cooking the whole thing up in order to embarrass Trump as the midterm elections approach. From Right Wing Watch:
“My suggestion is that the Justice Department needs to get a warrant to search the books of the Soros foundation to see if indeed they have been setting this thing up,” [Robertson] added.
The Antichrist Trope
Of course, even within the right, there’s the Overton window effect, where figures such as the professional Islamophobe Frank Gaffney, who were once thought of as kind of fringe, are now part of the acceptable crowd in the Grand Old Party, thanks to the ascendance of Trump to the White House.
As Right Wing Watched noted, on his October 11 “Secure Freedom Minute” broadcast, Gaffney asked:
Is George Soros the Antichrist? While former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani has put the question in play, theologians may be better equipped to debate it than politicians.
The decades-long record of this billionaire financier and philanthropist, however, is one of such malevolence and destruction that he must, at a minimum, be considered the Antichrist’s right-hand man.
The Anti-Soros Mash-ups
Right-wing radio host Dave Janda has married up the right-wing smear campaign against Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, who was apparently murdered in the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul, to the decades-long campaign against Soros. Janda, RWW reports, yesterday claimed via video that Khashoggi “was on the payroll of Soros.” (Perhaps Khashoggi contrived to be murdered in order to embarrass President Trump, who is great friends with the Saudi monarchs.)
In the right-wing mediasphere, in fact, the Soros tale is continually evolving. Rick Wiles, an End Times broadcaster, yesterday called for the arrest of Soros and the seizure of his assets. As reported by RWW:
“I don’t know why George Soros has not been named as an enemy of the state,” Wiles said. “His wealth should be seized. He should be arrested and imprisoned. He is working to collapse nations. He is a dangerous … he is a financial political terrorist.”
With the language of war, terrorism, spiritual evil and anti-Semitism all tarring Soros and flooding the right-wing media zone, it is sadly unsurprising that he’s been targeted for violence.
Originally published by Right Wing Watch, a project of People for the American Way, a program of Open Society Foundations, under the terms of a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported license.