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What you need to know about George Soros, center of conspiracy theories

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What you need to know about George Soros, center of conspiracy theories

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A Republican congressional candidate, Marjorie Taylor Greene, has repeatedly called George Soros an “enemy of the people.” 
Rudy Giuliani said Soros is “intent on destroying our government for some sick reason of his that goes back to his sick background.”

A Chicago Tribune columnist was demoted after blaming recent protests and riots on Soros. 

At one point, there were 500,000 negative tweets about Soros in one day. 

And that’s just the past several months. 

Soros, who turned 90 last month, has given billions of dollars to an array of progressive causes, becoming a bogeyman for Republicans and conservatives in the United States and across the globe. He’s also become perhaps the leading target of those who have used Soros as a stand-in for the age-old antisemitic trope of the rich Jewish financier who pulls the strings of politicians and political movements from behind the scenes. 

But conspiracy theories about Soros and his control have not stopped at the fringes. The past few years have seen conspiracies about Soros pushed by public figures like President Donald Trump, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban and Yair Netanyahu, son of the Israeli prime minister. 

Here are some basics on Soros, his philanthropy, why some people don’t like him and the sometimes blurry line between legitimate criticism  and antisemitism.

George Soros is a Hungarian-American Jewish financier who survived the Holocaust.

Soros is best known as a financier who has made billions through investments and currency speculation, and a philanthropist who has tried to spread his vision of a liberal “open society” internationally. 

Born in Hungary in 1930 to a Jewish family, Soros was 13 when the Holocaust came to his hometown of Budapest. Soros survived the genocide in hiding and moved to London and then New York, where he embarked on a successful Wall Street career as a hedge fund owner. In finance, he is known particularly for what is called Black Wednesday, when he successfully bet against, or shorted, the British pound in 1992. 

Soros’ work in finance is often cited in antisemitic invective against him, while another conspiracy theory about him falsely posits that he was a collaborator with the Nazis rather than a child survivor. For more detail on those theories, see below. 

Soros has poured billions of dollars into funding pro-democracy efforts, liberal causes worldwide and left-wing groups in Israel.

In 1979, Soros founded his charity, which has become the Open Society Foundations. He first donated to efforts against apartheid in South Africa. Later he gave to a organizations in Hungary and elsewhere in the communist bloc, promoting democracy, free speech and free markets. He founded Central European University in Hungary, a well-regarded school, and offered scholarships to promising students from repressive countries (including Orban, his future nemesis).

More recent, Soros has promoted left-wing causes in the United States. Beginning in the 2004 presidential election, he became a leading funder of Democratic politicians — though by no means the biggest. In the 2016 campaign, for example, he was the 12th-largest political donor to either party in the United States, according to the OpenSecrets database, and the fifth-largest donor to Hillary Clinton. This year, so far, he’s the 23rd-biggest donor to either party in the country.

He has also funded progressive candidates for district attorney across the United States, hoping to advance the cause of reforming the criminal justice system and anti-drug policies after concluding that US officials should treat addiction as a sickness rather than a crime.

Soros also has donated to a number of left-wing Israeli and Palestinian human rights groups that oppose Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and, in some cases, endorse the movement to boycott Israel known as BDS. In addition, beginning in 2008, he donated approximately $750,000 to J Street, the American liberal Israel lobby. 

Conservatives have criticized Soros’ activism for decades — and he’s stirred controversy among American Jews.

Because he is a noteworthy progressive philanthropist, Soros has become a bete noire for conservatives. Just as many liberals will criticize Sheldon Adelson or Charles Koch for their mega-philanthropy to Republicans, conservatives have called out Soros’ contributions to Democrats.

Soros has also drawn pointed criticism from American Jewish leaders for his views on Jewish affairs. Aside from his foundation’s philanthropy to left-wing Israeli groups, Soros rarely donates to Jewish organizations, and he’s departed from the American Jewish consensus on core issues like Israel and antisemitism. 

In 2007, Soros wrote, “I am not a Zionist, nor am I am a practicing Jew, but I have a great deal of sympathy for my fellow Jews and a deep concern for the survival of Israel.” In that same essay he criticized the “pervasive influence of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee,” charging the pro-Israel lobby with being “closely allied with the neocons” and “an enthusiastic supporter of the invasion of Iraq” — and claiming the group’s behavior lent “some credence” to the antisemitic belief in an “all-powerful Zionist conspiracy.”

Four years earlier, he spoke at a meeting of the Jewish Funders Network and said there was “a resurgence of antisemitism in Europe. The policies of the Bush administration and the [Ariel] Sharon administration [in Israel] contribute to that.”

The 2003 comments elicited outrage. Abraham Foxman, then the national director of the Anti-Defamation League, called them “a simplistic, counterproductive, biased and bigoted perception of what’s out there. It’s blaming the victim for all of Israel’s and the Jewish people’s ills.”

By 2008, when the liberal Israel lobby J Street received financial backing from Soros, the group did not disclose his involvement due to the controversy sparked by Soros’ prior activism, J Street President Jeremy Ben-Ami said in 2010. 

“It was his view that the attacks against him from certain parts of the community would undercut support for us,” Ben-Ami told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency at the time. “He was concerned that his involvement would be used by others to attack the effort.”

Lately, a lot of criticism of Soros has sounded antisemitic. 

In recent years, criticism of Soros has increasingly veered into antisemitism, suggesting that Soros runs shadowy, conspiratorial efforts to control people or accusing him, without evidence, of being the hidden force behind progressive causes. The accusations invoke an age-old Jewish conspiracy about Jews masterminding an international conspiracy to secretly rule the world through money. 

In 2010, right-wing commentator Glenn Beck aired a series of segments on Fox News accusing Soros of being a “puppet master.” President Donald Trump has also engaged in this kind of messaging, suggesting without evidence, for example, that Soros was paying for protests against then-Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. 

“The oldest stereotype of antisemitism is about Jews and money,” Foxman said. “It goes all the way back to Jesus being sold out for 30 pieces of silver. It’s there, it’s deep, it’s broad, it’s universal. What has happened in recent years is that Soros has been made the poster boy of this stereotype of the international Jew. He’s become an icon.”

Sometimes those accusations come along with memes showing Soros’ purported control that invoke antisemitic stereotypes. One, used by Beck, shows Soros with the handle of a marionette. Another shows Soros controlling people with octopus tentacles.

Another conspiracy theory falsely claims that Soros was a Nazi collaborator. In reality he was in hiding under a fake name with a Hungarian bureaucrat, and was once taken along with him on a survey of Jewish property under the Nazi occupation. He was a child at the time and is a survivor of the Holocaust, not a perpetrator. 

Sometimes it’s difficult to tell when the criticism is legitimate or bigoted.  

The distinction between legitimate critique of Soros’ activism and antisemitic invective is not always clear. Republican officials have sparked backlash from liberal groups by calling out Soros and other Jewish donors for financing Democratic campaigns. 

The officials, House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy and Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, do not have histories of antisemitism and did not identify the donors as Jews. The donors in question are in fact among the leading funders of Democratic campaigns. But critics said the statements nonetheless invoked the antisemitic trope of rich Jews using their money to control politicians. 

In October 2018, McCarthy tweeted, “We cannot allow Soros, Steyer and Bloomberg to BUY this election!” Michael Bloomberg is also Jewish, and Tom Steyer is of Jewish descent. The tweet also displayed a grainy, black-and-white photo of Soros. Steyer and Bloomberg were the top two Democratic donors in the 2018 cycle, while Soros was the fifth largest, according to the OpenSecrets campaign finance database.

McCarthy deleted the tweet days later because it had come days before a pipe bomb was mailed to the Soros home. The California lawmaker defended the tweet by saying it “had nothing to do about faith” and “All I was pointing out was money that Republicans and Democrats were spending to defeat one another.”

Last month, Collins ran into a similar issue when she accused the Senate’s Democratic leader, Chuck Schumer of New York, of being “motivated by power,” and called out two donors to her opponent’s campaign, Donald Sussman and George Soros. Sussman, Soros and Schumer are all Jewish.

“If you’re going to say that Soros contributed to a certain cause, be it Palestinian rights or be it criminal justice reform, that is not antisemitic, that is something that’s happening,” said Emily Tamkin, author of “The Influence of Soros,” a recent book on Soros’ philanthropy and the conspiracy theories surrounding him.

But when Soros is accused of things like hijacking American democracy, Tamkin said, it crosses the line into antisemitism. 

“You are stripping agency from the people who are actually doing work in those spaces and making them sound like they’re Soros stooges, which is insulting to them and also antisemitic because it’s like [Soros] is a puppeteer,” she said.

A Soros-inflected conspiracy about immigration has led to violence.

The far-right obsession with Soros appears to have accelerated with Orban, the right-wing nationalist Hungarian leader who has made Soros a target of his campaigns. Orban has blamed Soros for spurring refugees to enter the country and taken action against his projects. In 2018, Orban’s government forced Central European University out of Hungary through a protracted court battle. 

In 2017, Orban erected a series of billboards throughout Hungary emblazoned with Soros’ grinning face that read, “Let’s not allow Soros to have the last laugh.” The billboards were frequently defaced with antisemitic graffiti, and the Hungarian Jewish community decried them. 

For some on the far right in the United States, Soros has become the personification of an antisemitic conspiracy theory called the Great Replacement, which accuses Jews of bringing immigrants into white countries in order to weaken and replace white people. 

In late 2018, it was a man obsessed with hurting the perceived enemies of Trump who mailed the pipe bomb to Soros’ home. Days later, a gunman entered a synagogue in Pittsburgh and killed 11 Jews, blaming them for bringing immigrants into the United States. He had also demonized Soros on social media.



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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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