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.
The NRA’s Wayne LaPierre’s recent speech to CPAC has garnered considerable attention in the US media, but not enough has been paid to its dog-whistle anti-Semitism. He warned his fellow culture warriors against a conspiracy of “European-style socialists” and “saboteurs” who have “infested” the Democratic Party along with law enforcement, the national-security establishment, and, of course, the IRS. “That should terrify every citizen who values the American ideal in this country of individual liberty,” LaPierre said. “Absolute control, in every corner of our government, is their ultimate dream. These intellectual elites, they think they’re smarter than we are.”
Who is behind this demonic plot? Well, George Soros, of course, but also Michael Bloomberg and Tom Steyer. Both men, like Soros, are Jewish-born, politically active, self-made billionaires. And who is their model for these “opportunists” who “wasted not one second to exploit tragedy for political gain?” Why it’s that old standby radical Jewish rabble-rouser whose writings, according to recent Republican legend, hypnotized both (that ball-busting lesbian socialist) Hillary Clinton and (the foreign-born Muslim socialist) Barack Obama into his evil schemes: Saul Alinsky.
What weapons do these demons deploy against patriotic peace-loving, assault-weapons-bearing Americans? Well, Hollywood and the media, of course; both professions where Jews are, let’s face it, decidedly overrepresented. Who else? Here’s a new one. LaPierre also blames jewelry stores. “It’s a bizarre fact that jewelry stores all over this country are more important than our children. Our banks, our airports, our NBA games, our NFL games, our office buildings, our movie stars, our politicians, they’re all more protected than our children at school,” he complained. “Do we really love our money and our celebrities more than we love our children?” (Next up on NRA firing line: kosher delis.)
LaPierre has run the NRA for nearly three decades and apparently has molded the organization in his image. Its spokesperson, Dana Loesch, made headlines when she said journalists “love” mass murder, but she first came to many people’s attention when CNN fired daytime anchor Rick Sanchez for his anti-Semitic attack on comedian Jon Stewart. Loesch’s tweet on that occasion: “I bet Rick Sanchez was fired by a Jew.”
If one were searching for an example of an American Jew whose actions are most consistent with the kind of vicious stereotyping that has dogged Jews for the past millennium, the obvious example would not be Soros, but gambling magnate Sheldon Adelson. He demands fealty to his far-right “pro-Israel” views for the millions he showers on Republican politicians—making them grovel in shame, for instance, if they ever refer to the West Bank as “occupied” rather than “disputed” territory. He, and the tens of millions he reportedly donated to Trump during the 2016 presidential campaign, also appears to be significantly responsible for the president’s decision to move the US embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, and thereby undermine what little hope remained for an Israeli/Palestinian peace deal (and with it, the possibility of a genuinely democratic Jewish state). Adelson is now reported to be offering to personally pay for the embassy move. Adelson is also involved in at least one of the myriad conspiracies that may, finally, chase Benjamin Netanyahu out of the prime minister’s office. And yet nobody would dream of ever denouncing him at CPAC.
Adelson deserves condemnation only for his actions, not his religion or ethnicity. But George Soros deserves to be defended for the reverse reason. The attacks on him, as with Bloomberg, Steyer, and even old Saul Alinsky, are attacks on the very possibility of decency in American public life. We must defend them, from The Nation to National Review.