The word “bizarre” does not begin to capture the everyday craziness of our politics in the Trump era. Here’s the opening paragraph of a column in National Review, titled “An Epidemic of Dishonesty on the Right,” by bona fide right-winger Kevin D. Williamson:
First it was the Holocaust, now Parkland—is there any act of depravity to which the less respectable right-wing media cannot imagine a connection for George Soros?
David Clarke, the sheriff of Fox News, insisted that the Florida students’ reaction to the shooting ‘has GEORGE SOROS’ FINGERPRINTS all over it,’ idiotic capitalization in the original and, one assumes, in his soul. The idiots at Gateway Pundit suggested that one of the student survivors was a fraud because—get this—he’d been interviewed on television before about an unrelated incident.
Had I written the above in The Nation, I would not change a word, except perhaps to add that, roughly simultaneously to all of the above, the head of the Missouri Republican Party was blaming Soros for the indictment of the state’s governor, Eric Greitens, who is accused of taking surreptitious nude photos of his mistress for the purpose of blackmail.
The desire to attach Soros’s name to virtually everything that Trumpists seek to denounce of late is inextricably tied to the fact that the liberal Jewish billionaire/philanthropist has been turned into a bogeyman for anti-Semites the world over. Soros is today’s stand-in for the time-honored anti-Jewish slanders sensationalized in Europe and elsewhere in the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. That’s why Prime Minister Viktor Orbán of Hungary practically turned Soros—whom he blames for “destroy[ing] the lives of millions of Europeans”—into his opposition party in that nation’s recent elections. It’s why, in Macedonia, a group called Stop Operation Soros, or SOS, emerged to try to defend that nation’s corrupt right-wing party. It’s why Poland’s ruling party leader, Jarosław Kaczyński, said he believes that Soros views cosmopolitan societies as “extremely easy to manipulate.” Right-wing idiots have been setting fire to effigies and portraits representing Soros in rallies from Warsaw to Tbilisi.
One of the gifts that Trump and his “alt-right” acolytes have brought to American politics is the mainstreaming of this particular political poison. It’s no coincidence that the most recent report by the Anti-Defamation League showed a nearly 60 percent spike in anti-Semitic incidents in the US in 2017. “The president’s retweeting of white supremacists and anti-Semitic memes during the campaign and, more recently, sharing tweets from a UK racist group—those are alarming. Those tweets and rhetoric have emboldened and given encouragement to the worst anti-Semites and bigots,” said Jonathan Greenblatt, the CEO of the Anti-Defamation League.