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George Soros conspiracy theories surge as protests sweep US

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They say he hires protesters and rents buses to transport them. Some say he has people stash piles of bricks to be hurled into glass storefronts or at police.

George Soros, the billionaire investor and philanthropist who has long been a target of conspiracy theories, is now being falsely accused of orchestrating and funding the protests over police killings of Black people that have roiled the United States. Amplified by a growing number of people on the far right, including some Republican leaders, online posts about Soros have skyrocketed in recent weeks.

They have been accompanied by online ads bought by conservative groups that call on authorities to investigate George Soros for funding domestic terrorism and his decades-long corruption.

Soros, 89, has donated billions of dollars of his personal wealth to liberal and anti-authoritarian causes around the world, making him a favored target among many on the right. The Hungarian-American, who is Jewish, has also been the subject of anti-Semitic attacks and conspiracy theories for decades.

Such hoaxes can now travel farther and faster with social media.

Over just four days in late May, negative Twitter posts about Soros spiked from about 20,000 a day to more than 500,000 a day, according to an analysis by the Anti-Defamation League.

The Institute for Strategic Dialogue, a London think tank focused on extremism and polarization, found an even more pronounced jump on Facebook, where there were 68,746 mentions of Soros in May. The previous record of 38,326 Soros mentions was in October 2018, when angry posts alleged he was helping migrant caravans headed to the U.S.

The new wave began as nationwide demonstrations emerged over George Floyd’s death at the hands of Minneapolis police. Some insist Soros financed the protests, while others say he colluded with police to fake Floyd’s death last month. But all available evidence suggests the protests are what they seem: gatherings of thousands of Americans upset about police brutality and racial injustice.

I think partly its an attempt to distract from the real matters at hand the pandemic, the protests or the Black Lives Matter movement, Laura Silber, chief communications officer for Soros philanthropic Open Society Foundations, said of the theories. Its pretty demeaning to the people out there protesting when someone says theyre all paid. Its insulting.

A look at some of the claims:

Soros pays protesters. No evidence has been presented to suggest demonstrators were paid by Soros or his organizations. Its a new take on an old hoax: past versions claimed Soros paid for a long list of other events, including the 2017 Womens March held just after President Donald Trump’s inauguration.

Soros pays to transport protesters. Last week, a photo claiming to show two buses emblazoned with the words Soros Riot Dance Squad got widespread attention. The photo was cited as proof of Soros involvement in the protests, but it was bogus. The original photo showed two unmarked buses; someone later doctored it to add the language supposedly implicating Soros.

Soros organizes stashing piles of bricks near protests. Several false claims involving stockpiles of bricks have been debunked, and no evidence has turned up showing they were purposefully placed.

Experts who study conspiracy theories say the new claims about Soros are a way to delegitimize the protests and the actual reasons behind them. Some see anti-Semitism, or a new spin on the age-old hoax that a shadowy cabal of rich men whether it’s the Illuminati, the Rothschilds, the Rockefellers, Bill Gates or Soros is manipulating world events.

The theories have had real-world consequences. In 2018, amid news of caravans of migrants making their way toward the U.S.-Mexico border, online misinformation about Soros was linked to violence. Cesar Sayoc, a Florida man who was obsessed with Trump, mentioned Soros dozens of times on social media before mailing pipe bombs to newsrooms, top Democrats and Soros himself.

Despite significant scrutiny, no evidence was ever found to tie the caravan to Soros. Trump, however, helped fan the flames when asked whether Soros was involved.

I wouldnt be surprised. A lot of people say yes, the president said.

Still, some Republicans have begun pushing back on false claims of Soros connection to the protests and those spreading the rumors. After several Republican Party chairpeople in a Texas county shared posts claiming Soros was behind the demonstrations, the state party leader called on them to resign.

Experts say conspiracy theories can become a problem when they lead to threats of violence or cause people to lose trust in important institutions. They can fade into the background only to reemerge at times of crisis.

Conspiracy theories are like themselves viruses, said Josh Introne, a Syracuse University information studies professor who researches conspiracy theories. The characters may change a little, and the theory itself may mutate. But they stick around.


Klepper reported from Providence, Rhode Island, and Hinnant from Paris.

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Sanders and Schumer call on McConnell to hold hearings to fight election conspiracy theories – KTVZ

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Sanders and Schumer call on McConnell to hold hearings to fight election conspiracy theories - KTVZ

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Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer of New York are calling on Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to create a new bipartisan committee focused on election integrity and schedule hearings to reassure Americans over a process President Donald Trump has repeatedly sought to undermine.

There is growing anxiety among Democrats, and some Republicans, that Trump will not only continue to sow doubt over the legitimacy of the coming election but throw the subsequent count into chaos by declaring victory before all the votes can be tallied, including the millions that will arrive by mail.

In a letter to McConnell, Sanders and Schumer quote back the Kentucky senator’s own words, in which he attested to the reliability of mail-in voting by citing its successes in Oregon, Washington and Colorado, which have been using the system for years.

Trump has repeatedly questioned the validity of mail-in voting, promoted conspiracy theories questioning election security, called on supporters to act as unsanctioned “poll watchers,” and suggested that the absence of a clear result by the evening of November 3 would in some way cast doubt on the eventual outcome. Key allies in powerful positions, like Attorney General Bill Barr, have followed suit. Barr has persisted in puffing up a debunked claim that ballots received by mail would somehow strip the sender of their privacy — ignoring well-established safeguards.

By escalating the matter now, Sanders and Schumer are responding to growing concern, in partisan and nonpartisan spaces, that Americans are not adequately prepared for the potential of a longer-than-usual wait for results or Trump’s willingness to short-circuit the democratic process if he smells defeat.

“Democrats and Republicans in Congress must come together to ensure that we have a free and fair election where every vote is cast and counted without intimidation,” Sanders told CNN, “where no one has to put his or her health in danger to cast a ballot, and where we have full confidence in the results.”

The proposed hearings would invite a cross-section of election officials from across the country to testify to the security and reliability of mail-in, early- and in-person voting — subjects on which Sanders and Schumer, again, referenced McConnell’s own words.

“Despite the clear security of our vote-by-mail system, some have continued to undermine it with unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud,” they wrote. “As you have correctly said, people ‘can vote early, you can vote on Election Day, or you can drop it in the mail,’ and that voters should ‘not worry about your vote not counting.’”

The minority leader and Sanders, an independent who caucuses with the Democrats, also want more detailed discussion about the fraught hours, or days, after the polls close and a real-time watch of the election horse race potentially swings from one candidate to another.

“We know a number of states may well be counting ballots for a period of time after Election Day, and that those votes may be determinative in this election,” the senators wrote to McConnell. “To avoid disinformation, conspiracy theories, and suspicion about results, we must understand the likely timeline for this process.”

The letter goes on to reference the recent war games-style preparations conducted by a group called the Transition Integrity Project, a bipartisan gathering of operatives and academics that made headlines when some of the outcomes of their exercises — including “both street-level violence and political impasse” — were reported on in late July.

“A bipartisan group of experts and officials have studied multiple scenarios where the outcome of the election was not immediately known. Some of these scenarios resulted in unrest and even violence,” Sanders and Schumer wrote, suggesting the Senate should elevate similar discussions and familiarize the public with the uncertainties ahead. “We would like to hear from the most knowledgeable people in the country as to how we can do everything possible to make sure that the election and the period afterward is secure and peaceful.”

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HHS official sorry for conspiracy theory video

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HHS official sorry for conspiracy theory video

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HHS supported Caputo, with a statement that called him a critical, integral part of the presidents coronavirus response, leading on public messaging as Americans need public health information to defeat the COVID-19 pandemic.

There was no immediate statement from the White House.

Attempts to reach Caputo were unsuccessful.

On Capitol Hill, Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., called on Azar to fire Caputo, accusing the spokesman of trying to interfere with CDC reports to the medical and scientific community, as well as the public at large. And Senate Minority leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., called on Azar himself to resign, citing interference with the CDC as one example of what he termed the administration’s failures.

Officials at CDC have privately complained of recent efforts by political appointees at main HHS to try to edit or press for changes in the agency’s weekly MMWR publications, a go-to resource for public health professionals.

MMWR articles are technical, but they reveal telling details. One published earlier this year noted that while Trump’s travel restrictions dramatically reduced travel from China in February, nothing was being done at that time to restrict travel from Italy and Europe, where the coronavirus was spreading widely and rapidly. Analysis of virus samples from hard-hit New York in March suggested it was introduced there from Europe and other parts of the U.S., the CDC article reported.

Caputo is an unswerving Trump loyalist. His recent book, The Ukraine Hoax, claims the presidents phony impeachment was rooted in a vast conspiracy.

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unwinona:This is exactly what conspiracy theorists and anti-vaxxers have done with their HIV/AIDS…

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unwinona:This is exactly what conspiracy theorists and anti-vaxxers have done with their HIV/AIDS...

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My RSS Feedunwinona:

This is exactly what conspiracy theorists and anti-vaxxers have done with their HIV/AIDS and Polio narrative (among others), only we’re seeing it escalated to weeks and months instead of years or decades.

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