More than ever, the concept of “fake news” has been at the forefront of the collective consciousness. Thanks to the internet, information can be exchanged more easily and effectively than ever. Unfortunately, this also means that it’s that much easier for patently untrue information to be passed around until it is perceived as the truth by the general public. George Soros is a great example of this phenomenon. The way in which someone reacts to that name says a lot about them. If they shrug and acknowledge that he’s a wealthy investor and philanthropist, they’re probably left leaning or at least not very political. If they all but call him the devil incarnate, they are undoubtedly conservative.
The political divide in the United States has widened into a gaping chasm in recent years. The election of Donald Trump only exacerbated the problem. These days, people feel pressured to take sides. Increasingly, expressing alignment with one political party or another means automatically supporting certain views. People who tend to get their news from right-leaning sources like Breitbart are continually fed stories about the terrifying power and influence of George Soros, so it comes as no surprise that so many who regard themselves as Republicans or conservatives visibly recoil upon hearing Soros’s name.
What is it about George Soros that ruffles people’s feathers so much? When the situation is looked at objectively, it makes little sense. In general, there tends to be far more super-wealthy supporters of right-wing causes than of progressive ones. In those circles, men like the Koch brothers are regarded as visionaries and as people who are to be admired. Like Soros, they possess unbelievable wealth, and they use it to support certain causes. The key difference here, however, is that people like the Koch brothers tend to funnel money into causes that financially benefit their interests while George Soros tends to support social causes that aren’t going to generate even more wealth for him.
Does this mean that George Soros is a better person than the Koch brothers? Not at all. It just means that it is ironic that so many people on the right view him as a boogeyman of sorts. After all, he is essentially doing the exact same thing as the Koch brothers, who are held in high regard by most of the same people who denounce Soros. In fact, he’s being far more altruistic about it than the Koch brothers since he’s more concerned with supporting social causes than with growing even more wealth.
In the weeks leading up to Trump’s election, various progressive groups started planning protests around the country. The March for Science and the Women’s March are the two most prominent examples, but there were plenty of others. Almost immediately, conservative news outlets like Breitbart and the Washington Times started reporting that these protests were overwhelmingly populated by people who had been paid to be there. Naturally, these outlets pointed their finger firmly at one individual: George Soros.
Indeed, despite overwhelming evidence that at least half of the country was unhappy with the election of the former reality TV show host, conservative media outlets tried to make it look like people had to be paid to participate in these protests. Soros is an easy target because he has long been derided by the right. He first became known for his opposition to the right when he funneled vast amounts of money into trying to prevent the reelection of George W. Bush in 2004. During that presidency, he was also very vocal in protesting the Iraq War. Needless to say, these actions didn’t earn him any admirers on the right.
To many, George Soros is the Koch Brother of the Left. The problem with this comparison is that people then project right-wing billionaire attitudes onto a left-wing billionaire, which is unfair. Their political leanings are incredibly different, and Soros has publicly used his Open Society Foundation to support a variety of causes that do nothing to increase his own wealth. Personally, he has also expressed clear support for the rights of migrants and refugees, and he has actively supported causes that promote criminal justice reform.
Sadly, there may be more to the right’s dislike of George Soros than standard political disagreements. Soros, who is Jewish, has been compared repeatedly through the years by Breitbart to an octopus. This may seem innocuous at first glance; after all, they’re merely suggesting that he has tentacles that he uses to control everything. However, this analogy has roots in Nazi Germany, when the government used images of octopuses to imply that the Jews “ran the world.” Unfortunately, then, the suggestion that Soros is working to control the world and all of its money has roots that are deeply seated in anti-Semitism.
To understand how truly troubling this anti-Semitic aspect of the opposition to George Soros is, you need to understand a bit more about him. Soros was born in August 1930 in Budapest, Hungary. He stayed in Hungary until 1947, when his family emigrated to England to escape the Nazi occupation. There is little doubt that these early experiences dramatically affected young Soros. In England, he attended the London School of Economics, where he earned a bachelor’s and then a master’s degree in philosophy. Early on, Soros was determined to make something of himself and to do something for those who are in need.
George Soros founded his first hedge fund, Double Eagle, in 1969. His rise to the top of the world of hedge fund management really started during the 1990s, when he decided to bet against the British pound. This move paid off well for him, as he came away with a profit of more than $1 billion. Later that same decade, he pulled off the same thing during the Asian financial crisis. These and other successes propelled Soros to prominence. The rapidity of his rise, not surprisingly, raised many eyebrows. Even back then, he was already being looked at askance by many on the right.
While George Soros is best known for his incredible investing acumen and amazing wealth–as of May 2017, he is estimated to be worth around $25.2 billion–he is also a generous philanthropist. Sadly, this side of the man is rarely reported. Through his organization, the Open Society Foundation, and personally, Soros has donated more than $11 billion since 1979. The Open Society Foundation primarily focuses on social justice, and the organization donated $1.6 billion toward the development of democratic governments in Europe and another $1.5 billion toward democratic reform in the United States. He isn’t perfect, but George Soros is not the demon that the U.S. Right would have you think he is.