George Soros Conspiracy Theories
One sad aspect of any conversation about conspiracy theories is that it's impossible to avoid anti-Semitism. Adding the element of racism makes any conversation distasteful, and it sadly runs rampant through much of the conspiracy theory community. Thus we see this hatred and these claims condense around prominent Jewish figures, none more so than George Soros, the billionaire investor and major donor to liberal and progressive politics and causes worldwide. His was the very first pipe bomb sent to liberal figures nationwide by an alt-right activist in 2018. It's not hard to find just about any horrific claim you want about Soros, everything from being a Nazi to financing pedophilia rings to having the opponents of Bill and Hillary Clinton murdered. Today we're going to study these beliefs, and see if we can learn why claims that are easily debunked are still widely believed.
As of this writing, Soros is currently being accused of being the bankroll behind just about every protest against white nationalism and the alt-right; but as is our practice on Skeptoid, we're going to avoid current events that are likely to be forgotten tomorrow and focus on those conspiratorial claims that are perpetual and will be just as relevant years in the future.
A couple of things to get out of the way. It's impossible to do a fact-based episode about George Soros without being accused of a few things, and such accusations will constitute the bulk of the feedback this episode receives. I'll be called a deep state operative. I'll be called a left-wing extremist. I'll be called a Zionist, a "jewtard", and a terrorist. The reason for this is that Soros' antagonists are largely the believers in alt-right conspiracy theories, who created the concept of the "deep state" — a secret government that they believe wields control from unseen in the shadows, and operates with impunity. Generally these believers are overtly anti-Semitic, though they often disguise this by using the term globalists in reference to Jews. Soros is something of their ultimate globalist. The logical contradictions scream out, but nevertheless this is the pattern of belief that we observe.
But more generally, as Soros is unavoidably associated with liberal political causes, I'll be accused of being political with this episode, something I'm cautious to never do with any episode. A careful listen will make it clear that I do no such thing. This episode is no more or less than a fact-based exploration of conspiratorial charges made against one prominent person. If calling it politically motivated is the best criticism leveled against this content, well then that's a pretty good endorsement of its verity.
At a basic level, Soros' connection with the political left plays the same role in far-right conspiracy theories as the Koch brothers play in far-left conspiracy theories. As author Joseph Uscinski notes in his book Conspiracy Theories & the People Who Believe Them:
It's rare that we get opposing left-wing and right-wing conspiracy theories that mirror each other so well. This one is about as spot-on as it gets. An article in The Atlantic noted:
Soros, however, is Jewish; and that places him squarely in the crosshairs of anti-Semitic groups. This is not limited to white nationalists; it extends to a worldwide network. In the 1990s Soros once made such enormous trades of Malaysian currency that it actually caused a significant devaluation, a consequence he regretted and has since warned against. At the time, the Malaysian prime minister said:
The blame was not on Soros the currency trader or Soros the reckless investor, but Soros the Jew. So keenly is Soros aware that he bears this identity first and foremost that in 2003, he told a gathering at the Jewish Funders Network in New York:
Born in Budapest in 1930, Soros and his family survived the Nazi occupation of Hungary. After the war he moved to London to study economics and earned degrees in philosophy. He began working at investment banks and moved to New York in his twenties. Following an economic theory he developed called reflexivity, he made himself a multibillionaire. His rise included several very public surges, such as when he profited a billion dollars by shorting the British pound on Black Wednesday in 1992.
From events like that and his Malaysian adventure, it was a certainty that he'd come to be regarded as evil by some. He cemented that reputation in 1993 when he founded what is today the Open Society Foundations, a twenty billion dollar grantmaking network to fund progressive causes worldwide, second only in size to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. He is also one of the largest contributors to American liberal politicians. Put that all together and you've got a perfect villain for far-right conspiracy theories. Let's now take a look at a couple of those.
Soros the Nazi
The most pervasive piece of misinformation about George Soros is that he was a Nazi or a Nazi collaborator in Hungary. One meme attaches his name to an old photograph of a young uniformed Nazi. It's said that Soros rounded up Jews in Hungary, confiscated their possessions, and served them with notices deporting them to Auschwitz. It is often claimed that Soros has called this period "the happiest time of his life" and that he remains guilt-free and unrepentant to this day.
One does not need extraordinary amounts of common sense to suspect that claims like this are likely as untrue as they sound. Soros was 9 when the war began, and 13 when Nazis first occupied his native Hungary. To protect his family, Soros' father changed their name from Schwartz to Soros, purchased papers identifying them as Christians, and once sent his son George to pose for several weeks as the Christian godson of a man who was in a safe position, a minor Hungarian official named Baumbach, who was protecting a number of Hungarian Jews in similar ways. One of Baumbach's forced duties under the Nazis was to inventory seized properties, and on one occasion only, he took young George with him as it was a three-day assignment. The Nazis had seized the large estate of a prominent Jewish aristocrat, and while Baumbach logged all the furniture and artwork, George hung out with the estate's large staff, and learned to ride horses among other amusements. This was the total extent of George Soros' "collaboration" with the Nazis, according to his own words and everything turned up by every biographer and researcher.
Soros does indeed say that he is guilt-free and unrepentant, simply because he never did anything to feel guilty about. And he did say that his days under Nazi occupation were the happiest time of his life — he said it in the foreword to his autobiography:
Incidentally, the photo of Soros in a Nazi uniform isn't him at all. It's easily revealed by a reverse image search to be Oskar Groening, a clerk at the Auschwitz concentration camp who was convicted of war crimes in 2015.
Soros is the ultimate power behind the far left
Although his reputation among the alt-right is that he is as alt-left as is possible to be, his actions and words tell a very different story. A 2018 New York Times interviewer wrote:
He's been outspoken against such far liberalism on many occasions, including about the exploitation of the #MeToo movement for political gain, and said that he would love to financially support moderate Republicans if not for the fact that association with him would hurt them politically. And indeed his largest philanthropic investments have been not in liberal politics, but in pouring hundreds of millions of dollars into the emerging economies of Eastern Europe through mass privatization of industry — typically a conservative economic principle.
So how probable is it that George Soros is actually out there financing child pedophilia rings for the pleasure of the Democrats, or that he pays protesters to shout things in elevators, or that he's trying to convert the world into a fascist Nazi state? Does he really have nothing better to do?
Returning to the comparison between Soros and the Koch brothers, it is true that the world's largest philanthropists generally pursue their own agenda. But these are also the world's most visible people who are more entangled with prominent citizens and industries and governments than anyone else, and can scarcely lift a finger without reporters noticing and articles appearing in the New York Times. The connections between their foundations and their companies, who they fund, and how the money is spent, is not only legally a matter of public record but also the laserlike focus of investigative reporters everywhere. That either Soros or the Kochs are secretly doing things that are hidden — escaping the notice of even the world's most motivated investigators — strains credibility. One way to approach the conspiracy theories about both is to separate any ideological predilections and biases from the known biographical information, and then seek out information that you're predisposed to disagree with rather than turning to confirming sources like YouTube conspiracy theory videos or heavily biased consumer publications. You're likely to end up with a much more realistic impression of these major philanthropists — and it's not likely to include pedophilia.
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