How The Media-savvy Far-right Activists Spread Lies

How The Media-Savvy Far-right Activists Spread Lies One of the more destructive conspiracy theories paints Hungarian-American philanthropist George Soros as the puppet master of a vast left-wing and globalist elite. (AP Photo Manuel Balce Ceneta) Iga Mergler, McMaster University and Neil McLaughlin, McMaster University

Facebook recently banned several far-right extremists, including Canadian Faith Goldy, who made a failed bid for Toronto mayor last year. Far-right media darling Lauren Southern was denied admission to the United Kingdom last year because of her extremist political activities.

Goldy now protests in the streets and rants on American extremist Alex Jones’s TV show. Southern, along with the conservative media, is crying censorship on the YouTube release of her documentary this week — likely to create publicity.

These Canadian women are part of a new generation of extremists who use YouTube, Facebook and Twitter, as well as the documentary film format, to make white nationalism look attractive and spread conspiracy theories.

One of the more destructive conspiracy theories circulating globally paints Hungarian-American philanthropist, former currency speculator and hedge fund manager George Soros as the puppet master of a vast left-wing and globalist elite. This paranoid populism spreads lies about “white genocide” and Soros as a left-wing globalist running the world.

These attacks are thinly coded anti-Semitic propaganda. After the Second World War this rhetoric was mostly driven to the margins, but now has been moved dangerously close to the centre in political debates. Soros, who is Jewish, is being blamed for all sorts of evils by right-wing politicians in the United States, Hungary and Poland.

How did conspiracy theories about Soros travel from the margins to the mainstream? Why is he being targeted? What can Canadians learn from other countries dealing with Soros-phobia?

Young people with little hope

The use of social media in Poland by marginalized young adults shows what can happen when a tech-savvy economically desperate generation is lured by fear-mongering.

Young people are repackaging bizarre Soros conspiracy theories. They make them appear cool and attractive in slick YouTube videos. With little hope and few options, large numbers of young Polish adults vote far-right.

In Poland, these Soros conspiracy theories have been kept alive by fringe media outlets and this generation’s equally marginalized grandparents and parents. They were successfully exploited by opportunistic politicians running against the European Union’s agenda to accept refugees and Soros during the 2015 parliamentary elections.

We see a similar dynamic in Canada with photogenic, media savvy and ideologically far right-wing activists, like Goldy and Southern.

Their social media-based propaganda tries to make old-fashioned racism seem innocuous and hip.

Scapegoating Soros

Soros conspiracy theories are now central to the global far-right.

Donald Trump and his Republican base blame Soros for funding Black Lives Matter protests, the attacks on the nomination of now Supreme Court Justice Brent Kavanaugh, the arrival of Central American refugees in the U.S. and even the Mueller investigation.

The far-right nationalist government of Viktor Orbán in Hungary has run countywide anti-Soros campaigns with posters of his picture that echo the “laughing Jew” Nazi trope. The campaign blames him for the refugee crisis in Hungary. Orbán’s government has pushed the Soros-founded Central European University out of Budapest. The university’s chancellor, Canadian Michael Ignatieff, has argued that Orbán is a threat to academic freedom and university autonomy in Europe.

How The Media-Savvy Far-right Activists Spread Lies Jaroslaw Kaczynski, leader of Poland’s ruling right-wing party, gives a speech after announcing the first results of the European Parliament election, May 26, 2019. The poster on the wall reads ‘Poland heart of Europe.’ (AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski)

In Poland in 2016, the leader of the ruling party, Jarosław Kaczyński, held Soros and the European Union responsible for promoting multiculturalism, supporting refugees and undermining the nation-state.

Poles certainly have a right to question Soros’s involvement in the “shock therapy” of the 1990s during the country’s transition to democracy and capitalism. Depending on the source, Soros was either directly or indirectly involved in designing economic reforms for Poland that led to both economic growth and wealth for some and dire economic consequences for millions of Poles, pushing younger generations to emigrate.

These legitimate criticisms, however, have been replaced by indiscriminate attacks, often using covert anti-Semitic tropes in the public media and overt ones online. Some Poles now criticize a group of Solidarity leaders for allegedly selling out the country for pennies to people like Soros. Sometimes these arguments are lined with anti-Semitism.

Economic debates on the transition should not ignore Soros’s vital role in supporting dissidents in the 1980s in their struggle for democracy. Nor is scapegoating Jews acceptable.

Why is Soros a target?

Soros is a contradictory and influential figure, making him an attractive target for unprincipled attacks.

He is an icon for capitalism, a former hedge fund manager and currency speculator who made billions while weakening the economies of several countries.

Soros has also contributed to bringing down communism in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe while also promoting liberal political causes and human rights activism. After Sept. 11, 2001, he gave Democrats millions to oppose conservative Republicans.

Unquestionably, there is far too much money behind politicians and policy debates in the United States on both the liberal left and the right. There is far more conservative money in American politics than Soros is responsible for, but he is part of the problem.

Democratic socialists, prostitution abolition activists and supporters of fully funded public higher education have a right to be critical of Soros’s views on markets, sex work legalization and the funding of the Central European University as a private university.

Principled conservatives also have a right to disagree with the liberal capitalist politics of his open society philosophy and his views on Israel. None of these political differences justify spreading lies and conspiracy theories about Soros.

How The Media-Savvy Far-right Activists Spread Lies This photo taken in 2017 in Budapest, Hungary, shows an anti-Soros campaign reading ‘99 percent reject illegal migration’ and ‘Let’s not allow Soros to have the last laugh’ The Federation of Hungarian Jewish Communities asked Prime Minister Viktor Orban to immediately end the political ad campaign targeting Hungarian-American investor and philanthropist George Soros. (AP Photo/Pablo Gorondi)

Canadian writer Anna Porter has written Buying a Better World (2015), an excellent book that raises questions about the effectiveness of Soros’s philanthropy. Porter argues that Soros has been unsuccessfully attempting to buy a better world with grand and expensive schemes for social reforms that have made very little real world difference.

Yet there are also reasons to be sympathetic to Soros’s Open Society Foundations. Soros has spent billions on addressing mass incarceration and the war on drugs in the United States and promoting of Romani and LGBTQ rights around the world. And Porter argues the Central European University is a major accomplishment.

A real debate about Soros’s influence should be about the larger issues of money in politics, philanthrocapitalism and the broader political questions that divide left, right and centre.

Extremism in Canada?

Canada has generally not seen much anti-Soros paranoia, partly due to his lesser involvement in political activism and philanthropy here.

Former Sun TV host and Rebel Media right-wing provocateur Ezra Levant has tried to create anti-Soros hysteria. Levant claimed that Soros was a Nazi collaborator as a young boy; the Toronto Sun retracted his vicious lie about Soros, who is a Jewish survivor of Hitler’s occupation of Hungary.

Despite being widely discredited, Levant is back at it trying to argue that Soros has sold Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on an allegedly “open borders” immigration policy. These kinds of smears masquerading as half-truths and gross exaggerations have been consigned to the margins of political respectability in Canada. For now.The Conversation

About The Author

Iga Mergler, PhD Candidate in Sociology, McMaster University and Neil McLaughlin, Professor of Sociology, McMaster University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Related Books

enafarzh-CNzh-TWdanltlfifrdeiwhihuiditjakomsnofaplptruesswsvthtrukurvi

follow InnerSelf on

facebook-icontwitter-iconrss-icon

 Get The Latest By Email

{emailcloak=off}

POLITICS

Why Australian Labor’s Climate Policy Is Too Little, Too Late
Why Australian Labor’s Climate Policy Is Too Little, Too Late
by Will Steffen
Opposition leader Anthony Albanese’s announcement on Friday that a Labor government would adopt a target of net-zero…
Stories Of When Your Kids Make You Feel Old! | The Curls
Old Conservative White Men: Pass The Football To Someone Who Will Try To Score
by Robert Jennings, InnerSelf.com
We have had important US elections but this one in November 2020 is undoubtedly the most important. Why? America and…
A Military Perspective On Climate Change Could Bridge The Gap Between Believers And Doubters
A Military Perspective On Climate Change Could Bridge The Gap Between Believers And Doubters
by Michael Klare
As experts warn that the world is running out of time to head off severe climate change, discussions of what the U.S.…
Revolutionary Change Needed To Stop Unprecedented Global Extinction Crisis
Revolutionary Change Needed To Stop Unprecedented Global Extinction Crisis
by Michelle Lim
Nearly a million species face extinction if we do not fundamentally change our relationship with the natural world,…
Countering Climate Denialism Requires Taking On Right-wing Populism.
Countering Climate Denialism Requires Taking On Right-wing Populism
by Richard Calland
History may in due course record 2019 as the year in which the penny finally dropped about the climate emergency…
Yes, More Carbon Dioxide In The Atmosphere Helps Plants Grow, But It’s No Excuse To Downplay Climate Change
Yes, More Carbon Dioxide In The Atmosphere Helps Plants Grow, But It’s No Excuse To Downplay Climate Change
by Vanessa Haverd, et al
The alarming rate of carbon dioxide flowing into our atmosphere is affecting plant life in interesting ways – but…
How CEOs, Experts And Philosophers See The World's Biggest Risks Differently
How CEOs, Experts And Philosophers See The World's Biggest Risks Differently
by Christopher Michaelson
We live in a world threatened by numerous existential risks that no country or organization can resolve alone, such as…
Reliance On Coal Divides European States
Reliance On Coal Divides European States
by Kieran Cooke
Two European states with a traditional reliance on coal are taking radically different paths as the climate crisis…

LATEST VIDEOS

How These Three Financial Firms Could Change The Direction Of The Climate Crisis
How These Three Financial Firms Could Change The Direction Of The Climate Crisis
by Mangulina Jan Fichtner, et al
A silent revolution is happening in investing. It is a paradigm shift that will have a profound impact on corporations,…
PBS Nova's Polar Extremes
PBS Nova's Polar Extremes
by PBS
In this two-hour special, renowned paleontologist Kirk Johnson takes us on an epic adventure through time at the polar…
A huge iceberg just broke off West Antarctica’s most endangered glacier
A Huge Iceberg Just Broke Off West Antarctica’s Most Endangered Glacier
by Madeleine Stone
Huge blocks of ice regularly shear away from Antarctica’s ice shelves, but the losses are speeding up.
The Rise Of Solar Power
by CNBC
Solar power is on the rise. You can see the evidence on rooftops and in the desert, where utility-scale solar plants…
World's Largest Batteries: Pumped Storage
by Practical Engineering
The vast majority of our grid-scale storage of electricity uses this clever method.
Hydrogen Fuels Rockets, But What About Power For Daily Life?
Hydrogen Fuels Rockets, But What About Power For Daily Life?
by Zhenguo Huang
Have you ever watched a space shuttle launch? The fuel used to thrust these enormous structures away from Earth’s…
Fossil Fuel Production Plans Could Push Earth off a Climate Cliff
by The Real News Network
The United Nations is beginning its climate summit in Madrid.
Big Rail Spends More on Denying Climate Change than Big Oil
by The Real News Network
A new study concludes that rail is the industry that's injected the most money into climate change denial propaganda…

LATEST ARTICLES

Why Australian Labor’s Climate Policy Is Too Little, Too Late
Why Australian Labor’s Climate Policy Is Too Little, Too Late
by Will Steffen
Opposition leader Anthony Albanese’s announcement on Friday that a Labor government would adopt a target of net-zero…
How These Three Financial Firms Could Change The Direction Of The Climate Crisis
How These Three Financial Firms Could Change The Direction Of The Climate Crisis
by Mangulina Jan Fichtner, et al
A silent revolution is happening in investing. It is a paradigm shift that will have a profound impact on corporations,…
Green Ammonia Could Slash Emissions From Farming And Power Ships Of The Future
Green Ammonia Could Slash Emissions From Farming And Power Ships Of The Future
by Bill David
For the past 100 years, a simple molecule has had an immensely positive impact on our world. Ammonia, which comprises…
Ideal US Cities To Survive Climate Change
Ideal US Cities To Survive Climate Change
by Johnna Crider
Climate scientists have shared where they think would be an ideal place to live in the United States in order to avoid…
Stories Of When Your Kids Make You Feel Old! | The Curls
Old Conservative White Men: Pass The Football To Someone Who Will Try To Score
by Robert Jennings, InnerSelf.com
We have had important US elections but this one in November 2020 is undoubtedly the most important. Why? America and…
How Tiny Microbes Are Revolutionizing Big Agriculture
How Tiny Microbes Are Revolutionizing Big Agriculture
by Mathew Wallenstein, Colorado State University
Walk into your typical U.S. or U.K. grocery store and feast your eyes on an amazing bounty of fresh and processed…
Uk’s Nuclear Future Hangs On Electricity Tax
Uk’s Nuclear Future Hangs On Electricity Tax
by Paul Brown
The new British prime minister, Boris Johnson, must soon decide whether to save the UK’s nuclear future with an…
Extreme Weather Could Push The U.S. Into Recession
Extreme Weather Could Push The U.S. Into Recession
by Karen Nikos
Physical climate risk from extreme weather events remains unaccounted for in financial markets, a new paper warns.