George Soros is giving his $25 billion holdings, including his Open Society Foundations, to his son Alexander.
I explore how nationalists, populists, and antisemites used Soros as a scapegoat and bogeyman.
His legacy as a major benefactor to higher education, human rights, and the liberalization of Europe’s former communist countries has been tarnished by baseless conspiracy theories.
Soros, a Hungarian Jew, survived the Holocaust. He studied at the London School of Economics while working part-time in low-wage occupations after World War II. He got a U.S. citizen five years after immigrating in 1956.
Soros became a successful investor and hedge fund manager in the 1970s. By the 1990s, he had earned a fortune and become a leading banker.
Philanthropy and political freedom garnered him the greatest attention.
In the 1980s, Soros supported various Eastern European political and social organizations that attempted to overthrow communism. His encouragement helped many people fight injustice and promote human rights, recognizing the potential of grassroots movements and individuals.
He gave generously to education.
Soros began philanthropy in 1979 by funding Black students in apartheid South Africa. He funded Hungarian liberal thinkers’ trips to Western institutions in the 1980s to promote ideas in Communist Hungary.
He contributed $250 million to Budapest’s Central European University in 2001, the continent’s largest higher education endowment.
Soros created Open Society Foundations in 1993. Karl Popper’s 1945 book “The Open Society and Its Enemies” inspired this multinational grant-making network’s name. Popper believed that open societies allowed people to express themselves and test their ideas, whereas closed civilizations stagnated.
Soros’ charity supports tolerant societies with responsible governments that enable everyone to campaign, protest, donate, and run for office.
Soros’ foundations fund human rights organizations in over 100 countries. It targets public health crises and low economic growth in low-income nations.
As of 2023, Soros is among Bloomberg’s 500 richest individuals with a net worth above $7 billion. Without giving $32 billion to the Open Society Foundations since 1984, his fortune would have been much higher.
Conservatives who oppose progressive groups like America Votes and Demand Justice are furious at the Open Society Foundations’ backing.
Many conspiracy theories revolve around Soros’ riches and power. He’s vilified as a dark puppet master orchestrating world events for his own purposes. Hateful, antisemitic charges commonly target his Jewish origin.
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán accused Soros of supporting a “Islamic takeover of Europe” with Syrian refugees in 2015.
After the 2018 murder of investigative journalist Ján Kuciak and his fiancée, former Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico accused Soros for press freedom demonstrations..
In 2015, the far-right party All-Polish Youth burned an effigy of Soros dressed as a Hasidic Jew holding an EU flag, even though the philanthropist was raised by a secular family and has never supported Jewish causes.
In a book chapter about nationalism and populism, I emphasized that U.S. conspiracy theories had plagued Soros for years. Soros was accused of buying the 2018 midterm elections by House Speaker Kevin McCarthy of California. Wayne LaPierre, head of the National Rifle Association, accused Soros of plotting a socialist takeover of the U.S. in 2018.
Trump erroneously claimed that Soros was funding protests against Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court confirmation that year.
Extremists act on these erroneous theories: A far-right terrorist planned to assault the progressive San Francisco-based Tides Foundation in 2010. The guy was sentenced to 401 years in jail after a police gunfight interrupted his scheme. The radical wrongly claimed Soros utilized Tides “for all kinds of nefarious activities.”
Another fanatic mailed a pipe bomb to Soros’ New York City suburb house in 2018. The perpetrator received a 20-year sentence despite no injuries.
The 2022 supermarket killer used anti-Soros conspiracy beliefs to excuse his murder of 10 Black Americans.
Not all Soros criticism is antisemitic.
I admire Soros’ advocacy for freedom and empowerment of vulnerable populations, but I also question his money and how he got it.
The Soros family money, like all billionaires, perpetuates income inequality and concentrated political power. I think this massive power undermines democracy.
George Soros has supported democracy via charity gifts. However, his political donations to former U.S. President Barack Obama, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and President Joe Biden have made him a divisive figure.
Megadonors of any political persuasion may affect the agenda and corrupt democracy.
In his first interview as head of Open Society Foundations, 37-year-old Alex Soros told The Wall Street Journal that he is “more political” than his father and would likely donate to political campaigns that promote voting and abortion rights.
Soros’ son’s plan to end the family’s philanthropy’s demonization is unclear.