March 4, 2023

Toxic and Combustible: The Defamation of George Soros.

by Hal Gershowitz

Comments Below

There are those who like and who dislike George Soros. It depends on how they feel about the various causes he has supported or embraced. Fair enough. That’s perfectly rational.

Soros has supported many liberal causes and many liberal politicians. Those who support conservative causes and conservative politicians generally dislike him. Similarly, many who support liberal causes and liberal politicians dislike Charlie Koch. The late Democratic Senate majority leader, Harry Reid, speaking in the well of the US Senate, once calculatedly called Charlie and his brother, the late David Koch, “as un-American as anyone I can imagine.” Imagine that. Senator Reid appealed to our patriotism to vilify the Koch brothers.  

So, it is not surprising that so many on the far right have, for years, similarly been engaging in super high-octane calumnies demonizing George Soros. No, Soros didn’t fund immigrant caravans traveling to our southern border. No, he never said he wanted to bring down the United States. No, he has never supported open borders. No, he wasn’t a Nazi collaborator, and no, he never funded ANTIFA or any other violent group of protestors.

The concerted effort to hyphenate George Soros’s name with every dark cause imaginable cannot be attributed to the routine rough and tumble of politics. It is not normal. Not in America. Concerted and well-orchestrated Soros bashing is reminiscent of the darkest libels spread during history’s darkest periods by the darkest regimes. Soros bashing has metastasized into something exceedingly ugly and exceedingly dangerous. This is political avarice on steroids.

Rational Americans should be offended that millions among us have been, and are being, deliberately conned into hating and, indeed, vilifying George Soros for supporting, promoting, and embracing causes he has never supported, promoted, or embraced.

Toxic and dangerous fabrications about Soros have been carefully crafted and curated by the very worst among us; people who traffic in calumnies designed to inflame and inculcate abject hatred. These curated calumnies are toxic and highly combustible. We have seen them often in history, and sooner or later, they always result in violence and mayhem. Indeed, they have here in America. The shooter who murdered 11 Jewish worshippers in a Pittsburgh synagogue five years ago claimed he was protesting the assistance provided to immigrants by Jews. The Anti-Defamation League reports that antisemitic incidents are occurring at the highest level since the organization began tracking them decades ago.

We’ve seen it all before, always in history’s darkest hours. Soros hatred is nothing more than a carefully curated political strategy. It has a history. It didn’t materialize out of thin air. One of the most successful political operatives in modern political history conceived and curated it, the late Republican pollster and strategist Arthur Finkelstein.

Finkelstein was a favorite of many Republican strategists and aspirants for high office, including Barry Goldwater, Jessie Helms, Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, and many others. He also plotted on behalf of conservative foreign politicians, from Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu to Hungary’s Viktor Orbán. His perfection of negative political advertising is legendary. His trademark strategy for winning political campaigns was simply to serve voters something or someone to hate. Pols, who have worked in the trenches of political campaigning, had a name for the strategy, “Finkel-Think.”

The award-winning Swiss investigative journalist, Hannes Grassegger, writing in Das Magazin, described Finkelstein’s winning campaign strategy for his client, Hungary’s Viktor Orbán, as “…picking the perfect enemy and then going full out against that person, so that people are actually scared of your opponent. And never talk about your own candidate’s policies; they don’t matter at all,” Finkelstein advised his clients. He realized the best way to get Orbán elected was to find someone to demonize. Finkelstein selected George Soros. Soros was perfect, Grassegger wrote. “The very right hated him because he was Jewish, and people at the very left hated him because he was a capitalist.” Soros has replaced Rothschild as the symbol of the centuries-old, non-existent international cabal that supposedly pulls the strings controlling non-existent puppet politicians worldwide.

And so scurrilous right-wing politicians and the commentators who promote them have created an industry devoted to demonizing George Soros. To be sure, far-right politicians have ample reason to oppose George Soros, just as far-left liberals have legitimate reasons for opposing Charlie Koch. They both generously support candidates and causes that many on the right or the left strongly oppose. We needn’t have a problem with that. That’s the legitimate rough and tumble of politics.

But here’s the thing; when commentators or politicians construct or give credence to allegations they know to be falsehoods, they are not engaging in routine rough-and-tumble politics. They are, instead, engaging in vicious and dangerous calumnies that are destructive to the fabric of our democracy and abusive to those who unthinkingly pass along this carefully curated misinformation. They are also engaging in a very reckless and often deadly enterprise.

Michael Ignatieff, a Canadian intellectual and historian who has served on the faculties of Cambridge, Oxford, and Harvard, as well as the Central European University, which was founded by Soros over thirty years ago, calls the anti-Soros campaign “a faithful reprise of every single trope of anti-Semitic hatred from the 1930s. The whole thing is a complete fantasy,” Ignatieff says. “This is the politics of the 21st Century. If you haven’t got an enemy, invent one as fast as you can, make him look as powerful as possible, and bingo – you mobilize your base and win elections with it.”

Finkelstein started developing a political method that reads like a how-to guide for modern right-wing populism. Finkelstein’s premise was simple. Every election is decided before it begins; he would famously advise his clients. Most people know who they will vote for, Finkelstein preached. They know what they support and what they oppose. It’s very difficult to convince them otherwise, Finkelstein would tell his clients. “It’s a lot easier to demoralize people than to motivate them,” he preached. And thus, “the best way to win is to demoralize your opponent’s supporters.”

The Finkelstein strategy was always to polarize the electorate, to have each side at the other’s throat. To Finkelstein, fear was the fuel with which to energize political campaigns. “The danger has to be presented as coming from the Left,” a 25-year-old Finkelstein once famously advised Richard Nixon.

Whoever doesn’t attack first will be beaten, he argued. Finkelstein’s signature tactic was always to make issues personal. “Every campaign needs an enemy to defeat,” he would advise clients. He called his negative campaigning technique “rejectionist voting” — relentlessly demonizing the enemy until even the most lethargic voters would turn out on election day just to reject them.

Soros hatred was integral to Finkelstein’s political consulting. It was effective for Orbán’s Fidesz Party in Hungary, and it is proving effective for today’s Republican Party in America. Finkelstein said a dozen years ago in one of his last public speeches: “I wanted to change the world. I did this. I made it worse.”

Sadly, and perhaps, most troubling, the curated anti-Soros calumnies go hand-in-glove with antisemitic agitation here in America and abroad. Anti-Soros conspiracy theories have been a prelude to antisemitic outbursts and the predictable violence that follows them just as night follows the setting sun.

All comments regarding these essays, whether they express agreement, disagreement, or an alternate view, are appreciated and welcome. Comments that do not pertain to the subject of the essay or which are ad hominem references to other commenters are not acceptable and will be deleted.

Invite friends, family, and colleagues to receive “Of Thee I Sing 1776” online commentaries. Simply copy, paste, and email them this link—  –and they can begin receiving these weekly essays every Sunday morning.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *