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Why does the far-right blame everything they don’t like on George Soros?

The far right hates George Soros because he is pretty much the perfect embodiment of everything they hate more generally. Thanks to their conspiratorial worldview, he is an excellent face for their nonsense conspiracy theories, which mostly serve to explain why they’re all such failures by their own definition. He is also pretty much perfectly suited for their propaganda and recruitment efforts, which they use to normalize their own indecencies.

This is going to go long, because in order to understand why the far right hates George Soros, we have to understand the far right, and we have to know stuff about George Soros. Along the way, we’ll be debunking some conspiracy theories and explaining the intricacies of currency trading. I’m sorry, I don’t want this to be thousands of words, but it is, and you’ve got about 2000 words to go before I even write “Soros” again.

I. The Entitled Dickishness of the Far Right

At its base, far right ideology believes in the inequality of people. Everything ultimately comes back to this: that people are not created equal, and therefore they should not be treated as such. The far right posits that inherently superior exist and that they should have more rights and privileges than inferior people. In other words, far right wing ideology posits that you should have power, and your neighbor should shut the hell up or suffer the consequences. It is a hierarchical and authoritarian system: those with fewer rights have little-to-no redress against people with more rights.

The obvious rejoinder to this is to point out that the far left also engages in authoritarianism — look at Stalinism for an example. This is where we get to a question of beliefs versus tactics. Stalinism engages in horrific totalitarianism because it posits that this is the only possible way of bringing about a communist society where everyone is and is treated as equal. The ultimate goal of far left authoritarianism, at least nominally, is equality and democracy. This line of thinking never bears fruit — the authoritarianism of neither the Soviet Union, the People’s Republic of China, or the Khmer Rouge brought about the communist state of affairs they promised to — but authoritarianism is not the goal state of far left ideology. It is the goal of far right ideology. In other words, you can have non-authoritarian far left ideologies[1], but this just isn’t going to happen with far right ideology: authoritarianism isn’t just the means there, it’s also the ends.

Now, since we’re talking about authoritarian, hierarchical systems — in other words, systems with levels of people where the people on the lower levels can’t question those on the higher levels — we need some form of justifying the hierarchy. There are hierarchies that are trivial to justify to the majority of the population. For example, most people would agree that, in a boot-making operation, the people with proven track records of making good boots should probably be running the show. However, this also means that if someone loses their knack for making good boots, they should probably stop running the show. This is a hierarchical system, but there’s at least theoretically some redress and mobility. The far right does not want this. The far right, as we recall, views power as both ends and means, which means that if you have it, then it is because you should have it, and therefore the people who do not have it should shut up and do what you say.

What this means is that nothing as justifiable as ability is going to define the hierarchy in a far right ideology. Common choices include race, religion, caste, and social class.[2] We’re going to focus pretty much exclusively on race here, partly because it’s what is most commonly associated with the far right, partly because you generally find some focus on race in any of the other choices,[3] and partly because it’s probably the easiest to follow along with.

So let’s take your average fascist. The average fascist is, of course, thoroughly authoritarian in outlook, and also believes quite strongly that it their membership in a given nation that makes them superior. Now, it’s vitally important to remember that, unless our fascist’s group is in power, this does not mean citizenship in a given state. The “nation” is going to be arbitrarily defined by the fascist, and when you’re dealing with most of the far right groups in the United States, that’s going to mean “white.” Whiteness is itself completely arbitrarily defined: it took until after the Second World War before the Irish, Polish, and Italian communities[4] of America would be viewed as white. This actually sounds like it would be deeply problematic for the far right: if whiteness is arbitrarily defined and its definition can change to be more expansive, then how on earth does it justify authoritarian hierarchy even in the minds of racist fascists?

The short answer is, it’s a feature, not a bug. The Irish, Polish, and Italian communities were extended whiteness largely in response to the Civil Rights Movement, which is to say, as a strategy to deny African-Americans potential allies (and gains in rights) in the 1950’s, 1960’s, and 1970’s. “Honorary whiteness,” “honorary Aryan,” “honorary membership of X nation” is a constantly recurring theme in far right movements. This honorary membership will, of course, be terminated when it is no longer useful to the non-honorary members.

But the better question here is: if membership in the nation means superiority, why aren’t the members of the nation as defined by the fascists already unquestionably in control? And, for that matter, if power justifies itself — as far right ideologies believe it does — then why should the fascists be in power if they aren’t currently? There are no honest answers to these questions, but that’s not a problem to our racist fascist. Racism itself doesn’t bear scrutiny: in every case, it is the result of choosing to hate, and then going from there. So if the fascist has already chosen an irrational worldview, it doesn’t matter that answering the questions I’ve just posed requires dishonesty and bad faith.

So the fascist would answer the questions just posed by projecting. They will say that the state of affairs they desire — one nation ruling over everyone without any toleration of dissent or means of redress — is already in effect, except they’re not the ones doing it. Is this completely at odds with reality? Yes. Does this line of thinking even answer the question? Not remotely: it doesn’t explain how the natural order ceased to exist, and it doesn’t explain how that other group isn’t plainly superior for subverting the natural order. Usually, the answer you’re going to get regarding why the other group isn’t superior is that they’re implacably evil. Most of us would probably think that, outside the works of Tolkien, this explanation shouldn’t fly, but the point of this explanation isn’t to do anything beyond exist as an article faith.

This is how we end up with conspiracy theories like “white genocide.” Demographers project that the proportion of white people in the United States will drop below half sometime in the 2040’s. Most people are going to look at that statistic and think either “that’s interesting” or “who gives a crap?” This is not going to be the response of a white supremacist, however, because they associate “whiteness” with “goodness.” The country getting proportionately less white, therefore, is going to be a bad thing so far as they’re concerned. But how could such a thing happen if white people were superior in the first place? The white nationalist response is to say that someone is organizing a whole lot of transfers of non-white people into the country, because that will obviously dilute the white proportion and lead to the downfall of the country.

II. Yes, I Could Have Just Said “Jews”

I’ve been coy to this point regarding who the far right thinks is this implacably evil group. Some might think that the identity of the “evil group” varies from far right ideology to far right ideology. This is, to an extent, true; however, it is to a very small extent indeed, and really, 99% of the time, they’re talking about Jews. It’s not just Nazis, it’s pretty much all of them. There is a long history of antisemitism to draw from,[5] but most of what’s relevant to the contemporary far right’s hatred of Jews comes from a specific angle. During the Middle Ages, Christianity in Western and Central Europe banned charging interest on loans. Jews were not banned from doing this, but were frequently banned, both officially and unofficially, from numerous other trades. Since there was still a demand for loans, there was a demand for moneylending, which meant that Jews did, in fact, get into the business. The taxes on such loans were usually extremely high — this pushed interest rates higher, which didn’t blow back on the people collecting the taxes, just on the people charging the interest rates required to make any kind of living off of the loan. As such, there’s been over a thousand years of European traditions of calling Jews greedy and selfish, and of associating them with finance.

Most people do not understand finance in any great depth. People understand that it is important, and it is, but the guts of the thing are generally not very well understood. From the outside, it just looks like people being squirrelly with money and kind of dickish when you’re late with paying back your loans because your kid was in the hospital and that bill needed to be taken care of first. In other words, there’s no love lost for bankers and financiers in the first place, and if you can throw words like “crash” and “economic disaster” around, it’ll stick to them. Add in the association with Jews (and therefore with centuries upon centuries of antisemitic lies and slander), and yeah, it’s not that hard to sell the “Jewish bankers control the world” angle.

There is also a history of associating Jews with Bolshevism and authoritarian leftist politics. In Tsarist Russia, the government was officially virulently antisemitic: there were numerous restrictions on where Jews could live and what they could do, and there were numerous official and semi-official riots against Jews (pogroms) that left, per riot, hundreds of Jews dead for no reason beyond their having been Jewish. Unsurprisingly, this did not endear the Tsarist regime to the Jews of Russia at the time, who quickly flocked to various reform movements in a way that Russian Orthodox people did not — they had nowhere near as much cause. This led to the over-representation of Jews in these groups, and also of various other persecuted minorities within Russia, such as the Poles and the Latvians. Some of those were revolutionary in character, one of them, the Bolsheviks, managed to overthrow the government and put itself in power. This turn of events was subsequently reframed by Nazi philosopher Alfred Rosenberg as the Jewish, Slavic, and Asian revolt against the German monarchy,[6] which eventually was simplified to Jews overthrowing the Tsar, as Rosenberg’s formulation of the theory requires knowing some background history, and the more you know, the more inane his theory looks.

This leads us to the situation where antisemites hate Jews for being Marxist revolutionaries and, at the same time, being the ultimate power in the capitalist system. But, as we pointed out earlier, racism isn’t rational, and antisemitism is playing with a very, very similar playbook, so while this stuff is obviously contradictory and doesn’t make a lick of sense, it doesn’t have to, because the people who are making these points have abandoned sense completely in favor of feeling. Hating Jews feels correct to some people. They haven’t made a logical decision here, they’re pretty much entirely going on instinct and tradition. There’s also some degree of the just world fallacy going on here: there’s an unfortunate tendency in human psychology to think that one naturally gets what one deserves, which when combined with racism comes out to “if we’ve been hating these people for centuries, there must be a good reason for it.” This is also reinforced with the genuinely logical proposition of “if we’ve been screwing these people over for centuries, and they didn’t deserve it, then we and our ancestors have been monsters.”

III. George Soros — A Quick Biography

So knowing what we now know about the far right, let’s talk about George Soros.

Schwartz György[7] was born into a well-to-do non-observant Jewish family on 12 August 1930 in Budapest, Hungary. In 1936, his father, Tivadar, changed the family’s name from Schwartz to Soros, an Esperanto — a language Tivadar made sure his children spoke as a first language — word meaning “will soar.” The name change probably sounds like a “fun fact” that I should have relegated to a footnote if I was going to include it at all. However, there are several reasons why the name change is actually relevant to this discussion. First off, the name “Schwartz” in 1930’s Hungary was associated Jews, and since Hungary was pretty thoroughly antisemitic at that point[8] ditching the name meant getting a somewhat better level of treatment. However, the far right will simply point to it as evidence of Jewish dishonesty, which feeds into the “Jewish conspiracy” nonsense they’ve got going. Second, the far right hates Esperanto. Esperanto is a constructed language created in the nineteenth century by L. L. Zamenhof, himself Jewish, with the express goal of breaking barriers between people. Since the far right is all about impermeable borders between people, they obviously hate Esperanto.

I know this sounds petty. Welcome to the world of the far right.

In any event, Hungary joined the Axis Powers in 1940. Following the Axis loss at Stalingrad, the Hungarian government became increasingly convinced they’d backed the losing horse, and started negotiating a surrender with the Allies. The Germans were unsurprisingly pissed when they found out, stormed into Hungary in March of 1944, occupied the country, and threw out the prime minister who’d been doing the negotiations. When the head of state attempted to carry on those negotiations, the Germans threw out the Hungarian government altogether in October of 1944 and put their own puppet in place.

The situation of the Jews in Hungary had been bad before the Germans entered the country. It got substantially worse when the Germans entered, however — deportations to Auschwitz (where 90% of the close to half a million Hungarian Jews sent there were gassed immediately upon arrival) began almost immediately. The Soros family survived the Holocaust by pretending not to be Jews. György, who was fourteen years old, posed as the godson of a government official, and was once brought along when the official catalogued the confiscated estate of a rich Jewish family.

In 1947, György emigrated to the United Kingdom where he Anglicized his name to George, which, yes, the far right views as yet more proof of his dishonesty, and worked multiple jobs while attending university at the London School of Economics. In 1954, he started working in finance, moving to New York in 1956. Ten years later, he had enough clout that his then-employer let him set up a fund using their money. It was successful, as was his first hedge fund in 1969. He set out on his own in 1970, creating Soros Fund Management. Soros was an exceptionally successful trader, and since 1973, his main hedge fund has generated $40 billion in profit.

Generally, the far right has absolutely no problems with some people being fantastically wealthy and others being left in the dirt. This, indeed, strikes most on the far right as being a just and natural state of affairs: if people are fundamentally unequal, then they should not all enjoy the same quality of life. Additionally, we’ve seen countless times that, even when far right governments are nominally anti-capitalist, they don’t actually walk that walk: the Nazis may have had some anti-capitalist planks in their platform, but they purged the Strasserites who actually believed in them, and marginalized the main Nazi organization where anti-capitalist “beefsteaks”[9] could be found, the Sturmabteilung — and both of these occurred before the Nuremberg Laws of 1935. The bottom line here is that Soros being a wealthy hedge fund manager isn’t why the right wing hates him. If that were true, they’d also hate Robert Mercer, the billionaire hedge fund manager who backed Breitbart.

No, they hate Soros because of how Soros spends his money.

Soros spent his adolescence in Nazi-occupied Hungary and, for two years after the end of the war, the Second Hungarian Republic. The Second Hungarian Republic was theoretically a parliamentary democracy, but the presence of Soviet troops in 1945 meant that the Hungarian Communist Party was thrust into key positions in government despite winning less than a fifth of the vote and despite the Independent Smallholders’ Party (a right wing party) having won a majority. The Hungarian Communist Party would engage in a variety of dirty tactics to marginalize their opponents, and by 1947, had mostly taken over the government. In 1949, they ended the Second Hungarian Republic in favor of the Hungarian People’s Republic. Which is to say that Soros got to witness his homeland succumb to totalitarian regimes twice during his teens. The first time, he was lucky to survive. The second time, he got out. This has left him with a profound distaste for authoritarianism, and indeed, with strongly held liberal ideals.

Liberalism is less an ideology itself than a big tent of ideologies. However, liberalism’s founding documents are the works of John Locke, who believed the primary business of government was the protection of life, liberty, and property rights. Locke believed a capitalist economy (not that he would have called it that) with a parliamentary government was the best way of going about things, and pretty much all liberals agree with that idea — which is itself predicated on the belief that people are equal and should be allowed to do as they please.[10] This is completely contrary to the far right’s vision of how the world works and how it should be.

The far right took some time to get on the “let’s hate Soros” train. In the 1970’s and 1980’s, Soros contributed large amounts of money to reform movements in the Eastern Bloc, including Solidarity in Poland and Charter 77 in Czechoslovakia. He founded the Soros Foundation Budapest in 1984, the first of numerous anticommunist ventures he founded. The far right is fervently anticommunist, so this was cool with them. However, with the collapse of the Soviet Union and communism in Eastern Europe more generally, Soros was no longer the enemy of the enemy of the far right — he was just advocating an ideology they hated. His foundations were no longer protesting communist regimes, they were working to solidify liberalism in the formerly communist states.

In some places, Soros’ foundations flat-out failed. Belarus is a former Soviet authoritarian state whose secret police is still called the KGB. The Belarusian government correctly views liberal non-governmental organizations as a threat to its power and has gone after them with a vengeance, fining them millions of dollars. After one such fine, Soros’ foundation in Belarus closed shop. The current Hungarian government, led by the far right Fidesz party, has applied similar pressure to various liberal institutions in that country, including Central European University, in what has been a mostly successful attempt to disrupt and eliminate competition.

Hatred of Soros took some time to export to the United States, largely due to Soros not having altogether too much presence there. Backing anticommunism in Eastern Europe isn’t something that gets you hatred in the United States, and neither is backing capitalism and democracy. However, starting in the mid-2000’s, Soros began to donate to various organizations affiliated either formally or informally with the Democratic Party. The far right already hated Soros, but that hatred wasn’t mainstream — Soros donating to the Democrats suddenly allowed a lot of mainstreaming to occur.

This has allowed the far right to mainstream their ideology more generally. We now have to move away from why the far right hates Soros to why the far right does not shut about Soros. To do this, we need to discuss the usual entry points to discussions of Soros from the right wing. In the United States, the right wing has a natural distaste for Soros as he donates money to the main left wing party in the country. In Eastern Europe, authoritarian governments can blame his foundations for obstructionism and therefore, for their own failures. But the world over, an easy entry point into hatred of Soros comes from what he has done while managing his hedge funds — because it is very, very easy to misrepresent what his trades have been and what they have meant.

IV. A Primer on How Currency Works, Where We Do Not Actually Discuss George Soros’ Trades

The big thing to remember about money is that it’s not special. We usually think about it as being different from other commodities, but it isn’t. Money obeys the same laws of supply and demand that any other commodity does: if we were to suddenly double the amount of silver in the world without changing anything else, silver would be a less precious commodity. If we were to halve the amount of aluminum in the world without changing anything else, aluminum would be a more precious commodity.

This is also true of money. If we look specifically in one country, if the government suddenly prints a whole lot of money without anything else changing, then what happens is that prices go up. There wasn’t a demand for more money, so each individual unit of currency becomes worth comparatively less. A dollar doesn’t go as far. This state of affairs is called inflation. This can be very bad — if people hold their wealth in cash, then the value of that cash decreasing makes people poorer. The reverse state of affairs is called “deflation,” and while it initially appears to be better, it is, surprisingly, significantly worse. Sure, it’s cool if the cash in your bank account becomes worth more just by sitting there, but if that’s true for everyone, then nobody in their right mind is going to spend money unless they absolutely have to, which leads to economic paralysis — the Great Depression is an example of what happens when you don’t nip deflation in the bud quickly.

Since the value of money fluctuates, it’s possible to make investments that essentially bet on the future value of money. For example, if you think the price of the US dollar is about to collapse, you might empty your bank account and buy as much gold as you can. If the dollar does collapse, you can sell the gold for far more dollars than you bought it for, and thus protected your net worth. However, it’s also possible to change your money for another currency and do the same thing. This is where we get into currency trading, and things are going to get complex quickly.

We’re going to simplify things here and pretend that there are only two countries in the world: Alpha and Omega. Alpha’s currency is the Abuck, Omega’s currency is the Obuck. Alpha is a wealthy country with a thoroughly industrialized economy, Omega is a poor backwater that hasn’t industrialized at all. This means that if someone in Omega wants to buy an electrical generator, they have to go to Alpha, change their Obucks for Abucks, buy the television, and then bring the electrical generator back to Omega. On the other hand, there’s pretty much nothing that Omega makes that anyone in Alpha needs, so there’s very little reason for anyone to change their Abucks into Obucks.

What this means is that there is a demand for Abucks in both Alpha and in Omega, while there’s no demand for Obucks in Alpha and significantly less demand for Obucks in Omega than for Abucks in Alpha. The Abuck is therefore going to be worth more than the Obuck. What this means is that the price of the Obuck is going to be a small number of Abucks, and the price of the Abuck is going to be a whole lot of Obucks.

This isn’t going to remain constant. Let’s say that the government of Alpha decides to print a whole lot of Abucks. This means inflation for the Abuck, which means it’ll be worth less, which means that the price of Abucks in Obucks is going to go down, and the price of Obucks in Abucks is going to go up. Or, for example, let’s say that Omega suddenly discovers massive vibranium deposits, meaning that people in Alpha now have a reason to buy stuff from Omega. That means more people from Alpha are going to go to Omega, change their Abucks for Obucks, and buy vibranium, jacking up demand for Obucks in the process, causing the price of Obucks in Abucks to rise and the price of Abucks in Obucks to fall. Similarly, since prices are generally lower in Omega, it may be worthwhile for some businessmen from Alpha to set up a factory in Omega and then sell the resulting wares back in Alpha. In other words, a weak currency — all else held equal — is a bit of an inducement for foreign investment, while a strong currency means you can cheaply import stuff.

This means there may be some “ideal” exchange rate between Abucks and Obucks from the perspective of the people of Omega. Now, what I’ve described so far is a system of “floating currency exchange,” and that ideal exchange rate happening is going to take the market agreeing that this is indeed the ideal exchange rate. But if the market doesn’t agree, the government of Omega can still make that exchange rate happen: all the government has to do is say that they will make any and all currency trades at a specific exchange rate, and then follow through.[11] If the market agrees that the Abuck-Obuck exchange rate the government has set is “correct,” then there’s no issue at all, and the government of Omega won’t really need a stash of Abucks or Obucks. If the market disagrees and there’s too much demand for Obucks, this isn’t too terrible of a problem — the government of Omega just prints more Obucks and keeps making the trades. However, if the demand for Obucks is less than what is implied by that exchange rate, then the government of Omega had better have a stash of Abucks large enough to last until demand for Obucks goes up — otherwise, it can’t make the currency trades, and the fixed currency exchange rate collapses.

V. Soros’ Currency Trades

George Soros’ hedge fund, Soros’ Quantum Fund, is a highly profitable fund that has consistently beaten the market. It has done so by showing a pretty big appetite for risk, which includes getting involved in currency trading. Let’s talk about the two that people generally bring up when talking about Soros.

In 1979, long before the euro existed, a bunch of European countries joined together to form the European Exchange Rate Mechanism, also called the ERM. The basic idea behind the ERM was pretty simple: everyone in it would keep their currencies within some narrow bands. Governments would only intervene in foreign exchange if their currencies were getting too strong or too weak. This was done mostly for the same reasons as the later creation of the Euro: to facilitate trade and make the creation of a common market that much easier. The UK didn’t join in 1979, largely because the then-Chancellor of the Exchequer felt that the scheme would benefit Germany far more than Britain, and would in fact keep the West German mark artificially low in comparison to the British pound.

Staying out was a controversial decision, one that the British would subsequently reverse. They joined the ERM in 1990, with the pound trading at 2.95 Deutschemarks to the pound. Government intervention (in the form of selling Deutschemarks for pounds) would be required if the exchange rate slipped below 2.773 Deutschemarks to the pound. This was a bad decision. First, Britain had a significantly higher rate of inflation than did Germany, even accounting for the contemporaneous reunification of East and West Germany. As we know from the previous section, this meant that, all else held equal, the exchange rate was going to drop over the long run. Additionally, Britain’s best tool for fighting inflation wasn’t ready for use. Usually, the best way of fighting inflation — an oversupply of money — is to crush the supply of money. You could do this by burning cash, but it’s far more efficient and effective to hike interest rates, meaning that far fewer people take out loans, which in turn means that once money goes into a bank, it’s more likely to stay put rather than be loaned out and sent back into the economy. In 1990, Britain’s interest rates were already at 15%, about as high as they’ve ever been.[12]

Even beyond that, 1990 was a bad time to join the ERM. German reunification profoundly changed the game in Europe’s economic system for a variety of reasons, some of them being short-term effects, and some being significantly longer term. The exchange rate spent the next two years trending downward, and a whole lot of people noticed. One of Soros’ traders at his firm suggested betting on the pound continuing to lose value and on Britain eventually leaving the ERM. Soros agreed with the analysis, but not with the recommended scale of the bet. Soros bet far larger than anyone else would.

There are a few ways to bet against a currency. One basic idea is that you borrow money in the currency you’re betting against, and exchange the borrowed currency for another. You wait for the currency you’re betting against to drop in value, exchange back, pay back your loan, and whatever remains is your profit.[13] This is mostly what Soros’ fund did, in this case to the tune of £6.5 billion. That is unquestionably a huge stack of cash from the perspective of an investor, but we’re talking about the value of a major world currency. Soros’ fund’s trading didn’t help the value of the pound, but it sure as hell wasn’t enough on its own to force it downward.

In September of 1992, the exchange rate hit the 2.773 DM/GBP rate. This left the Bank of England with two possibilities: leave the ERM, or start “defending” the currency by being willing to provide foreign currencies at exchange rates better than what the market would have normally done. The Bank of England chose the second option, hoping that trends would reverse themselves before they ran out of foreign reserves. This was highly optimistic, and the Bank of England was essentially the only actor in this drama that really thought that was going to be an option.

At this point, everyone who’d bet against the pound — a group including but by no means limited to Soros’ fund — smelled blood in the water. On 15 September 1992, numerous currency traders borrowed billions of pounds, went to the Bank of England, and had those pounds changed for other currencies. The result was that the Bank of England lost most of its foreign currency reserves, meaning it couldn’t make its trades. The Bank hiked interest rates by two points, hoping that would get some people to exchange their money for pounds, but nobody believed this would stick (an assumption that would be proven correct), and the run continued until Wednesday, 16 September 1992, when the Chancellor of the Exchequer announced that Britain was leaving the ERM, which of course caused the exchange rate to drop immediately. “Black Wednesday” cost the British government roughly £800 million from the trading. What really accounted for most of the government’s losses was the money the government would have made from its foreign currency reserves — the pound’s devaluation would have made those reserves worth more. The losses in that regard were about £2 billion.

Soros’ fund was unquestionably the largest investor in this game, and as such Soros was credited as “the man who broke the Bank of England.” This is overselling things. The exchange rate had trended downwards because of the monetary policies of Britain and Germany. Soros’ fund and others wouldn’t have been able to make the trades they did on 15 September without a whole lot of banks lending them the money to do it. A whole lot of people thought this was the sensible thing to do, almost all of whom weren’t George Soros.

Does that mean what Soros’ fund did was right? That depends on your sense of morality, but even if you view it as immoral behavior, these trades weren’t made in a vacuum. They were made in a system that facilitated them, and then richly rewarded the people who’d done them. Railing against Soros misses the point, and this sort of misplaced blame is why the Social Democratic Party of Germany referred to antisemitism as “the socialism of fools” during the nineteenth century. If you’ve set up a system where people are rewarded for behavior you deem immoral with ten figure sums, then congratulations, you have a crap system, and that’s where your anger should be.

The other currency trade we need to talk about is how Soros bet against the currencies of Southeast Asia, and in particular, the Thai baht and the Malaysian ringgit. In the years leading up to 1997, both countries experienced an economic bubble, which was fueled in no small part by “hot money” — outside investors looking for short-term gains using the comparatively high interest rates in Thailand and Malaysia. That money could have been used well, but by and large, it wasn’t. What happened next was something of a perfect storm of crap for Southeast Asia, but the bottom line is that their exports dropped, which also meant the value of their currencies did, too. Thailand attempted to prop up its currency by raising its interest rates — this mostly ineffective at drawing foreign investors, and caused a drop in borrowing in the country, which essentially translated to the economy seizing up.

Soros’ fund had bet against the ringgit and the baht. However, the fund did it very differently than it had bet against the pound. Here, Soros’ fund entered into a variety of forward contracts. These contracts state that on a given date in the future, two parties will exchange a set amount of currency at a specific rate determined when they enter the contract. These contracts are very common, and indeed, if you’re looking to find what the “three month forward rate for US dollars to Thai baht” is, you can do a quick internet search and find the rate about as easily as you can find what the US dollars to Thai baht rate for exchange right now is.

Forward rates are calculated on the assumption that everything will keep going as it has been going. If you do not expect things to proceed in such a fashion, you can use forward contracts to make that bet. So, if you have a whole lot of dollars and you think that the baht is going to crater in five months, you can enter into a forward contract so that in six months, you will pay someone X baht and they will pay you Y dollars. When the six months are up, you then exchange some of your dollars for baht and hand those over to the other party, and they give you the dollars that were promised at the beginning. If the baht has collapsed in the meanwhile, then you’ve made a profit.

This is how Soros’ fund bet against the ringgit and baht. What this also means is that, when Soros’ fund was actually trading ringgit and baht, it was actually exchanging dollars for the Southeast Asian currencies — in effect, propping them up to a very small degree when everyone else was exchanging them for other currencies. The truth didn’t actually stop anyone from blaming Soros, however. Soros was a convenient currency bogeyman after Black Wednesday, and blaming him rather than accepting responsibility for bad fiscal and monetary policy — not to mention governmental corruption in some cases — was a much nicer looking option for many in the governments of Southeast Asia.

VI. The Kool-Aid

So, as we’ve seen, Soros’ trading has been either pretty much in line with what everyone else has been doing, or actively counter to what people view as the undesirable effect. However, this misrepresentation of what Jewish people have done in finance is actually a pretty common trope in history. In 1815, when Napoleon left Elba and took over France again, Nathan Rothschild purchased a vast amount of gold bullion, figuring that he and his family would use that gold to help the anti-Napoleon coalition pay its soldiers, just as it had done in years past.[14] However, when Napoleon lost Waterloo and the War of the Seventh Coalition came to an end 111 days after it began, that bullion served no purpose at all and its price was bound to fall. Rothschild immediately used the gold to purchase government bonds, figuring that the government would slash interest rates soon after, which would send bond prices up. Rothschild was correct, and within two years had netted a 40% profit on his bond investments.

That’s what actually happened. There are numerous lies about how Rothschild actually made his money. These lies usually wrongly claim that Rothschild tanked the bond market by lying about the outcome of the Battle of Waterloo, then made his money that way. That’s not what happened. What happened was he was planning on supplying the British and their allies with gold, it turned out that wasn’t necessary, so he bought bonds. And the reason I’m being so emphatic about what did and did not happen is that two hundred years later, people still hate the Rothschild family over this lie, and will claim it as evidence of a Jewish conspiracy in finance.

It is easy to hate someone who is obscenely wealthy who you do not believe came by the money honestly. Once you hate someone, it is very easy to believe the worst of them. And once you have started engaging in hate, you have started living passionately, not rationally, which means you are susceptible to other hatreds. The far right has been using this sort of thing as a gateway for literally centuries. Soros is simply the most recent iteration.

It starts off simply enough if you’re a far right propagandist: you lie or misrepresent Soros’ actions in finance. Most people don’t have the background required to understand where you’re wrong, so they’ll believe what you say. You then point out other figures who have acted similarly — and you’ve picked those other figures so that not only are they financiers, they’re also Jews. You’ve thus led the person you’re trying to convert to your cause to a point where they can decide for themselves — using your cherry-picked, mendacious sample — that the Jews are controlling finance and are stealing from everyone. It’s lies, of course, and you’ve led them up the garden path, but that doesn’t matter, we’re talking about what is essentially cult recruitment here.

So then your recruitment target starts wondering why, if this is true, why hasn’t it been stopped? And this is when you start pointing out that Soros is politically active. It doesn’t matter that plenty of billionaires are politically active going the other way, it doesn’t matter that many Jewish billionaires support right wing causes,[15] you’re going to cherry pick the data and present it as though it’s the whole. So now you’ve manufactured a Jewish left wing conspiracy.

It gets nastier and nastier. You hate non-white immigrants, and you want to make that a mainstream position. So now that you’ve got people thinking about this non-existent conspiracy, you start attributing other stuff to it. You say that there’s a caravan of refugees from Central America who are coming to the United States. The numbers tell us that maybe a thousand people are actually going to show up, and precedent tells us they’ll end up taking jobs you literally cannot pay American citizens to do,[16] but you’re going to lie and say this caravan is going to take jobs from hard-working American citizens, which is part of the conspiracy to undermine the power of the people, which will allow the ramming through of some far left policy. This is, of course, a lie in every respect, but importantly, it is a lie designed to essentially be the same thing as the lie of “white genocide” whilst still palatable to a mainstream audience.

At some point, however, you’re going to run up against the Holocaust. The Holocaust saw six million Jews murdered for the crime of being Jewish. The idea that Jews run the world is not compatible with this mass murder. Now, if you’re not a member of the far right, you might think that the Holocaust, and Soros being persecuted during it, is something to stay away from when you’re trying to brainwash people. However, that’s rational thought, not emotional thought — which is to say, it’s not far right thinking at all.

Holocaust denial isn’t about denying the Holocaust, it’s just doing damage control. The far right fully understands that the Holocaust isn’t a great look. It’s what they want to do,[17] but they understand that murdering millions of people is not something most people are going to sign up for with eyes wide open. There are thus several main tactics the far right uses to try and make themselves look less immoral:

  • Claim the Nazis were left wing. Usually, this is some variant of pointing out that the official name of the Nazi party was the “National Socialist German Worker’s Party.” We need only look at the first section of this answer to come to the inexorable conclusion that the Nazis were, in fact, far, far to the right.
  • Claim the Holocaust didn’t happen. It did. The Nazis themselves didn’t deny it. The camps stand. The documentation is largely intact. The survivors speak.
  • Claim someone else was responsible. Again, even the Nazis didn’t say it wasn’t Nazis doing it, they said that they were following orders from the senior hierarchy.

The far right has absolutely no problems using all of these strategies in the same breath, because it’s not as though they believe any of them, so the contradictions aren’t important. So what happens with the far right and Soros is that they claim he was a collaborator. Remember that time he went with his guardian while the guardian inventoried stolen property? That’s where they start, and then they start making up other claims. The point is to shift blame for the Holocaust from the Nazis and their allies to a Jewish child — to shift the blame from the perpetrators to the victims. Suddenly, their appointed enemy looks bad and we’re no longer discussing how the Holocaust is a natural outcome of far right policy. This is libellous propaganda, but it has proven effective time and time again, so the far right goes hard on this angle.

It is undeniably true that not everyone who believes lies about George Soros is going to become a fascist. However, it is also true that not everyone who uses an opiate will become a heroin addict. Just as the over-prescription of painkillers in the United States has led to a spike in heroin overdoses, so too the spreading of lies about George Soros has served as an effective means of turning far right talking points into something more mainstream than anyone might have thought possible even twenty years ago. These lies are undeniably dangerous.

VII. Some Closing Thoughts

None of this means you have to like George Soros. It’s perfectly natural to think that the people who are financially backing your political opponents are doing a bad thing. Just as I wouldn’t expect any left winger to like the Kochs, I wouldn’t expect any right winger to like Soros. And really, that’s fine. But this is far beyond a simple, reasonable dislike.

Similarly, we’re at the point where these aren’t only far right talking points. The term “far right” implies something outside the bounds of politics as usual. These terms are relative, so while Barack Obama was on the left side of American politics, he probably would have been in the leftmost contingent of a right wing political party in the UK, France, or Germany. And the truth of the matter is that, because these talking points are so thoroughly normal in American political discourse at this point, to the point where you can tell the caravan lies discussed in the previous section on television and not lose your job or advertisers over it, this is no longer something we can associate only with the far right. It’s increasingly how right wing politics generally are in the United States.

We know where this road goes. We’ve seen it. It is bloody, it is terrifying, and it is the end of freedom. You should now have a very basic idea of what to be on the lookout for. You should now have some basic idea as to how to decode far right dog-whistles. You’re going to need to be on the lookout from here on. Be careful, educate yourself further about this, and don’t let the far right win — the odds are that neither you nor I will survive that unscathed, if at all.

[1] Here’s an example: Harold Kingsberg’s answer to How would you describe Anarcho-Syndicalism to a layman?

[2] This last is essentially the defining feature of anarcho-capitalism, a system that claims to be voluntary but actually engages in wage slavery — “take the job or starve” — and where being born to wealth in effect entitles one to power and continued wealth. Anarcho-capitalism is as much a flavor of anarchism as a baker’s dozen is twelve, which is to say, not at all. (For those unfamiliar with the term, a “baker’s dozen” is thirteen.)

[3] Ayn Rand, for example, was racist as all get-out, and seems to have genuinely believed in the natural superiority of Europeans over Arabs and Native Americans, among others.

[4] It is not a coincidence that these communities were mostly Catholic.

[5] Discussed in great depth here: Harold Kingsberg’s answer to Why do anti-Semites hate Jews?

[6] The Russian royal family at this point had been marrying German royalty for years, and there almost certainly wasn’t any descent from Mikhail Romanov to Nikolai II thanks to Ekaterina II — herself a German immigrant — having an affair and probably barely having had relations with her husband, Pyotr III.

[7] Hungarian name order puts the family name first.

[8] It had been for centuries. This was nothing new. There are going to be assholes who will blame the ethnic Jews who were part of the leadership of the Hungarian Soviet Republic for subsequent Hungarian antisemitism, but again, Hungarians had been treating Jews like dirt and worse for centuries, and the HSR’s government was far from entirely Jewish.

[9] So called because they were socialists sympathizers (reds) in brown shirts.

[10] What it means to do as one pleases accounts for most of the differences between various schools of liberalism.

[11] There are two basic ways of doing this. Either the government imposes “capital controls” and puts laws on how much exchanging people and companies can do at any given time, or the government doesn’t do any such thing and just takes the trades as they come. There are advantages and disadvantages to both strategies, but we’re going to be looking at the “no capital controls” model.

[12] This paragraph is, admittedly, written with the benefit of hindsight. When one country has higher benchmark interest rates than another, it usually props up the currency of the country with the higher interest rates. The reason for this is that people in the country with the lower interest rates want a higher return on their money, so they exchange their money for the higher interest rate country’s currency, then buy bonds there. The British in 1990 were clearly hoping the higher interest rates would help prop up the currency in this fashion.

[13] You technically don’t need to borrow the money, but if you’re betting a currency that isn’t the one your assets are already in, then how do you get the currency you’re betting against in such fashion that you’re not cancelling out your subsequent bet?

[14] This was a win-win situation: the Rothschilds could charge delivery fees, and the British government did not have to worry about the gold being seized en route to its soldiers and allies. Had the gold been seized whilst en route without the Rothschild delivery service, the British government would have been out the gold, but with the Rothschild delivery service, the Rothschilds could either make good on the delivery themselves or never see another contract — which meant that gold always got to where the British needed it.

[15] Steve Wynn, Larry Ellison, and Sheldon Adelson are three who immediately come to mind.

[16] The wages one would have to pay American citizens are sufficiently high that it would be a net loss to hire them.

[17] Mass violence is inevitable in the creation of an ethnostate or any similar construct.